Max Romantschuk's weblog – March 2007 archive
Food chemistry — What's hot and what's not
When someone says chemical, most people tend to think of something dangerous. I ask you, would you drink a glass of dihydrogen monoxide? (Actually, if you drink lots of distilled dihydrogen monoxide you will get a form of poisoning, so don't.) For those who didn't look a the link, dihydrogen monoxide is also known as water.
My point is, chemicals are what we all are made of, and so is the food we eat. For today's post i've picked a few more interesting chemicals: The ones responsible for "hotness" in chili peppers, peppercorns, garlic, and wasabi.
The goods, nicked straigt from Wikipedia:
- Piperine, the active piquant chemical in black pepper
- Capsaicin, the active piquant chemical in chili peppers
- Allicin, the active piquant flavor chemical in uncooked garlic and onions (see those articles for discussion of other chemicals in them relating to pungency, and eye irritation)
- Allyl isothiocyanate, the active piquant chemical in mustard, radishes, horseradish and wasabi
I never really did like chemistry in school, but none the less these are interesting substances. Did you know there's even a scale for rating the hotness of chili peppers: The Scoville scale.
Nature is a fascinating thing
Check out Neatorama's 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World. Well worth it.
Nope, I've got nothing more to say for now... move along then, people!
An open letter to Steve Jobs: Drop DRM in iTunes.
I already submitted this to Slashdot, but there's no telling if it will get posted. Anyway, music-lovers: unite for a good cause.
In the wake of the recent EU stance on digital music and consumer lock-in, political pressure finally seems to be building up against DRM. Steve Jobs even claimed that he prefers DRM-free music. The EFF's DefectiveByDesign.org campaign has written an open letter to Steve Jobs. This excerpt pretty much sums it up:
It has been three weeks now since you published your pledge to drop DRM, and there have been many responses from commentators who have outlined actions you could take to back up your words. The fact that you have not taken any action leads us to ask the question: How genuine is your pledge?
Help the EFF fight DRM. Sign the letter and let Mr Reality Distortion Field know that you care about DRM-free music.
Yet another reason why Free Speech is important
Michael Crook didn't like that an image of him was posted on the Internet, and tried to bully sites into taking it down using bogus copyright legalese. Fortunately what had worked before finally backfired, and dear Mr Crook was forced to apologize, and take a course in copyright basics. Keep this one in mind in case you suddenly find yourself on the business end of a copyright violation claim. Censorship is baaad, 'mmkay?
Replacing Windows: ReactOS in 2017
There has been a an open source operating system project called ReactOS for quite a few years by now. From the site:
ReactOS is an advanced free open source operating system providing a ground-up implementation of a Microsoft Windows XP compatible operating system. ReactOS aims to achieve complete binary compatibility with both applications and device drivers meant for NT and XP operating systems, by using a similar architecture and providing a complete and equivalent public interface.
So, who would want to replace Windows with, well, open source "windows"? Right now: probably very few. In five to ten years from now: quite a few. Let me explain...
One of the better things Windows Vista does is sacrifice backwards compatibility for innovation. This is something Apple has done with OS X, and rightly so. But by the time Microsoft drops support for Windows XP there will still be thousands (if not tens of thousands) of Vista-incomatible custom built in-house application in use in companies all over the world. So when that old accounting-special-reports PC breaks down and XP will no longer install because Microsoft won't activate it, keep in mind that the ReactOS team was working on a solution back in good old 2007.
Microsoft Photosynth - photo organization for the 21st century?
One really major challenge for technology in the coming years is finding stuff. I've taken around 20 000 images with our digicam, but they're not much to have if you can't find the images you want. I've long felt that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the way to go, because it's much to tedious to tag images manually.
The Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth project may well be a good approximation of searching in the future. From the site:
Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.
Basically you take a bunch of images from the same location, and it's turned into something intuitively three-dimensional. Check out this Photosynth demonstation video, it's so worth it.
I'm usually pretty critical of Microsoft, and I sure won't say what I think about their pricing of Vista retail, but this looks like a very interesting project. One can only hope this idea won't get to generally patented preventing others from creating similar technology.
Thoughts on (cultural) globalization
I like making predictions. Some times I even document them. Here's one: Cultural globalization is a prerequisite for world peace.
Let me explain myself. I'm an idealist myself, and I hope and want to believe that some day world peace will be attainable. This may not happen for hundreds or even thousands of years, but I still like to believe it will. What I don't believe is that it will ever happen until the cultures of this planet are more homogenous. Values and beliefs among different cultures and religions are currently too incompatible for everyone to just get along.
When people talk about globalization it mostly revolves around the concept of big corporations becoming far too powerful. Cultural globalization on the other hand can be seen both as a good and as a bad thing. Patriots seem to hate the idea of taking on customs from other countries, but I feel that we're better off more alike if we end up fighting less in the process.
One Laptop Per Child
One project which I feel may have a huge cultural impact in the third world over the next fifty years if the One Laptop Per Child -project (introduction here). It's been getting rather little press in the mainstream media, but I suspect that there is true potential for a knowledge revolution here. I've been casually following the project since it was first announced, and I'm seriously considering getting these for my own kids. It should be possible to "buy two, get one" (the other unit going to a kid in the third world) eventually.