Yosemite is Beautiful (or "How We Were Stupid and Hadn't Visited Yosemite Until Now")

My wife and I went to Yosemite for a 3 day vacation this past weekend and I can't believe we've lived in California for 11 years and hadn't visted yet. It's every adjective that you would guess it is - Majestic. Grand. Awe-Inspiring. Marvelous. Huge. Impressive. Fantastic.

Yosemite Valley as seen from Tunnel View. Canon 6D Mk II 42mm 𝑓/4 1/6000 ISO 100
Yosemite Valley as seen from Tunnel View.
Canon 6D Mk II 42mm 𝑓/4 1/6000 ISO 100

I was pleased to see pretty much everyone wearing masks and being very pandemic-friendly. That's not to say there went a bunch of people -- there absolutely were, but everyone was playing by the rules really well.

This was essentially a first-pass scouting mission. We went on only one hike, a small one, to Lower Yosemite Falls and investigated everything in Yosemite Valley to find out where we'd like to camp, hike, take photos and generally relax on what I can only imagine will be our many visits in the future.

Lower Yosemite Falls with a rainbow. Canon 6D Mk II 35mm 𝑓/8 1/320 ISO 100
Lower Yosemite Falls with a rainbow.
Canon 6D Mk II 35mm 𝑓/8 1/320 ISO 100
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The news of the collapse of the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico wasn't a surprise to many. Over the past decade or so it has become inceasingly damaged from the high winds of many hurricanes. I personally, however, always assumed that it would be repaired and life would move on. It had even secured additional funding to continue operating through 2024. Because of the continued deterioration when I read that it collapsed I wasn't completely surprised by that. What I was surprised by was the lack of attention that has been paid to the telescope for over a decade. It feels like a harbinger for the state of science focus in the US, and that is also sadly not surprising. Lets hope that my fear is unfounded.

A colorized image of The Arecibo Message
The Arecibo Message, sent via the Arecibo Radio Telescope in 1974 to the globular cluster Messier 13
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Eight Technologies: Did They Change the World?

Eighteen years ago I wrote a blog post about an article in Business 2.0 that I read, entitled Eight Technologies That Will Change the World. I thought sufficient time has passed, and it would be interesting to revisit this article and see how things have changed.

Biointeractive Materials

The big idea: High-tech sensors for living systems

Technology in this area hasn't moved forward much, at least for materials embedded into living beings. However, wearables have become the quickly evolving area where biointeractivity has come into play. Beginning with digital devices keeping track of our steps (there were many non-digital versions for decades before), to wearables keeping track of our location, heartrate, EKG... and with the announcement of Apple Watch Series 6, our blood oxygen levels this technology is now advancing at a break-neck speed.

It may not be the embedded devices we were all imagining, but these devices are monitoring us in real time.

Biofuel Production Plants

The big idea: Replacing oil with fuels from genetically engineered crops

The biofuel space has continued to grow considerably over the past 18 years, with multiple types of diesel fuel, ethanol and other alcohol fuels being produced. Most of us are probably driving with ethanol in our tanks, at least partially (around 10% in most places in the United States), and because of this it is likely the most popular biofuel. This popularity is in part of the US Government's subsidy of corn production, making ethanol very cheap to produce.


The big idea: Artificial systems to replace lost or disabled body parts

Bionics may be the are that has had the most profound advancement. We now have fully functional artificial hearts, cochlear implant devices, and of course biomenchanical replacements for arms and legs. Some of these even controlled in part my the brain.

There are many more advancements in progress such as silicon-based retinas, red blood cells, stem cells and other tissues.


The big idea: Computer-aided telekinesis

Up until a couple of years ago, and then more info a few weeks ago, I would have said cognitronics hasn't moved at all, but then Elon Musk announced Neuralink. Prior to this there had been research of course, but none so public or definitive as this.

Combinatorial Science

The big idea: Combining statistical analysis and massive computing power to cut research time

This is one area that there have been massive leaps in. Between computation power continuing to increase at the speed Moore predicted, and the advancement in managing what we now call "Big data", data analysis capabilities have exponentially increased in the past 18 years.


The big idea: Classifying people based on their genetics

Genotyping, as everyone is probably aware, is well developed an commonplace at this point. 23 and Me certainly popularized personal DNA testing, and with the 2019 holiday season, spread it even further. Both companies (and others) can reveal lots of information about your ancestry as well as health issues that you may have based on your genome. This data is not always 100% accurate, but the accuracy will increase over time.

Molecular Manufacturing

The big idea: Building complex structures, atom by atom

The idea of nanorobots was all the rage in the 1990s popular culture, and there has been some continued research in that area as well. However there hasn't been any substantial advances, although nature itself invented walking protiens long ago.

Quantum Nucleonics

The big idea: A portable, safe, nonpolluting source of nuclear power

This is another pie-in-the-sky technology that has never made it out of the research phase, although it certainly makes for an interesting read, and should really be the base for a sci-fi book (I imagine it probably is already)

I hope you enjoyed a little stroll through memory lane. Technology always advances at a snails pace, and at break-neck speed at the same time.

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Goodbye Aaron Swartz.

About 13 years ago or so I logged onto IRC (as I had many times before), and found a group of guys in a room that I felt like I fit into. Aaron Swartz was one of those guys. I was fairly active there for a couple years, but as jobs and priorities changed I wasn't able to socialize there as often as I might otherwise have wanted. Aaron, although young, was brilliant. His insight into the inner workings of the mind, and politics specifically was simple and smart. He made quite an impression on me, which is why I (to this day) host one of the mirrors of I felt it was something I had the resources to supply in his quest for freedom of all sorts.

I never met him in person. I hadn't talked to him in years, except for the occasional pleasantry, yet I saw him excel in the thing he was great in - fighting to keep things free that should be free, whether it was technical specifications, democracy, or publicly funded journals. He was quite amazing at these things.

I always felt that his interests and activities should be important to everyone. I always struggled with being active in those things myself because I felt the importance, but life always seemed to get in the way. I did what I could.

Aaron committed suicide today. We might not ever know the reason why, although many of us will suspect. He will certainly be missed long into the future, and will hopefully be remembered as a person that fought for freedom.

I'm really unsure why I'm writing this except that this seemed the most appropriate place (more that 140 characters, and published in RSS especially), and there is some cathartic feeling.

Aaron was a star that shone very brightly. I regret that I didn't know him more. Maybe I could have helped in the end, but who knows.

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Quick Update:

Recently we moved to California in April, and I am now working for Apple.

For those of you using my apps, I'm looking at options, and will keep you all informed.

In related news, I will be at WWDC this year! We should meet -- message me on Twitter

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Frank Gehry in conversation with NYT culture reporter Robin Pogrebin. Touring the acclaimed architect's Los Angeles studio, passing models of small residential projects as well as enormous urban developments, the exchange touches on several completed and ongoing Gehry projects that have also made...

Frank Gehry: enjoying architecture at 92
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