Everything Decays

I'm not being morbid. I'm being realistic about media. David Pogue has a great email column today about the cost and quality tradeoffs in transferring old visual media, like home movies, to something a bit newer. You can have crappy or expensive--take your pick! But he notes at the end, the real problem. While many people are having home movies transferred to VHS at a cost of $700 per hour converted, rather than DVDs, there's nothing inherently "better" about DVDs in terms of knowing their longevity.

Years ago, a colleague suggested that a company be started to automate data transfer from media to media. You'd send them a bunch of disks or backups or what have you, and they would make many copies stored in multiple locations on different media. Every interval (year or what have you), they'd migrate your media from one format (like CD) to another (like DVD). Multiple, separately stored copies would prevent destruction due to most disasters, and loss of data due to a single copy failing. Transferring media to newer formats would prevent obsolescence. Doing this well within the media's lifetime (say within two years, not 8, for DVDs) would prevent constant media failure.

That reminds me. I'd better see what's on my 44 MB SyQuest disks.

Give Me Copy!

Parse this sentence from this article:

"Lawyers for Mr. Grasso, who contend that the judge is biased against their client, and from the office of the New York State attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, which filed the complaint, began arguments yesterday before a state appeals court in Manhattan."

Rather,

"At a state appeals court in Manhattan yesterday, lawyers for Mr. Grasso and from the office of the New York State attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, presented arguments. Mr. Spitzer's office filed the original complaint against Mr. Grasso."

Whew.

I had to read the first sentence about seven times to get the meaning.

How Science Magazines, TV Are Pushing Back on Evolution

After the recent years of debate over the appropriate role of creationism-cum-intelligent-design teaching in public schools, it's very clear that there's a conspiracy at National Geographic! Or, perhaps, an effort to educate people as to what evolution means as opposed to how evolution is depicted as a cartoon strawman by those who like to pretend it's a rough "theory." (As Garry Trudeau explained, if you're a creationist, you might want to reject antibiotics that treat evolved strains of tuberculosis and other diseases.)

Biblical literalists can't be swayed by any evidence that the world is older than 5,000-odd years, so there's little opportunity for them to do anything but renounce their faith if they can appreciate the logical consistency in astrophysics, anthropology, geology, or biology. It seems a rigid faith that requires that.

National Geographic has written quite a lot lately about evolution in not too subtle terms. Their latest effort is a TV special that will run on their cable channel in December called In the Womb: Animals. It looks super cool, for starters, showing dolphins learning to swim in the womb and elephants using their trunks before birth. Here's the key point, though: "And watch as fetal features reveal their evolutionary path of these animals when the elephant develops ducts normally found in freshwater fish, and when dolphins show early signs of legs."