Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yum Yum: yeah right

In library-land the ability to enter the mind of a cataloguer and be at one with the universe used to be an essential skill. To the uninitiated where the most noble order of L.S.S might put an item and why could often be a mystery. But there was logic to it. A science even. Thanks be to you, St Melvin of the Blessed Dewey. Armed with a system constructed according to a series of precisely understood relationships, it was possible regardless of how expert you were in a field to end up on the same page as someone else way more informed about the subject. I'm not sure that this is entirely the case with or other social bookmarking sites where there are in fact no agreed terms, no prefered headings, no rules, no guidance, no accepted way of looking at a thing or an idea or a belief about the world. Seems to me if access to what you want to find out about is contingent upon loose, informal arbitrary associations then hooking into the widest possibilites of what might really be out there is likely to be limited by the myopia of personal perception. In this sense irrespective of where the search begins the subject no matter what it is, will always be the subjective.
Hardly or good for the promotion of a balanced approach to information nutition and health.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

News for Parrots: as it happens, when it happens whether you want it or not

Apparently the question this week is, "What do I like about newsreaders and R.S.S (that's Really Simple Syndication for any parrots out there still on the perch)". Other than Michael Palin's sideboards - not much. Being bombarded with non-stop information however swift and free of advertisment is exhausting and in my view not particularly enlightening. Too much information, too little opportunity to engage especially given the tyranny of a workroom roster that allows your average, "customer services officer" labouring away in library-land during a busy weekend a meagre one slot a day for off-desk activity. Much as I'd like, when am I supposed to clear my already overloaded in-box and process this relentless deluge of web excitement for use in the workplace exactly? On the job there is no real investment in the need to critically reflect. At the moment an occasional reviewing journal or two and the most recent copy of The Listener over a hurried cup of afternoon tea is the best I can manage in an effort to stay in the loop, be informed and maintain an acceptable level of professional reading.

So give us a break. No more RSS feeding eh, just time to digest.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Space: the final frontier - accessible from a backyard near you

Cheryl the 304mm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, Molehill Astronomical Observatory, Glenfield


Operated from Ohio State University MicroFUN is a global e-community of astronomers whose primary scientific objective is the collaborative observation of high-magnification microlensing events in order to detect extra-solar planets.

Made possible by an insight derived from Einstein's theory of general relativity where gravity is seen to be able to bend space, the MicroFUN Microlensing Project recognises that when light passes by the presence of a massive object such as a star, rays of light do not travel in straight line as we expect but warps or bends according to the gravitational pull of the object it has encountered. This effect can be measured so that when a planet happens to pass in front of a star the planet's gravity will behave like a lens focusing the light rays causing a temporary sharp increase in the brightness and apparent position of the star. These changes are then documented and recorded by both professional and amateur astronomers all around the world including several scientists working here in New Zealand who via the Internet can share their data as soon as they receive it. New information is now instantly available to any one who asks.

In practical terms projects like MicroFUN demonstrate how technology is redefining our world. In ways never imagined the Internet allows us to seriously embrace the visionary mission statement of the starship Enterprise. Science fiction has become science fact. Here the spirit of co-operation and goodwill really does ensure that by acting together human beings can explore strange new worlds; seek out new life and new civilizations; and boldly go where no man has gone before.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Famous for 15 Minutes

The declaration in 1968 by American pop artist Andy Warhol that, "in future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes", anticipates the fleeting condition of celebrity where length of media attention is determined by the attention span of the audience.

Warhol's comment recognises the ability of the media to produce short term disposable celebrities where the otherwise ordinary and unspectacular are turned into transient "superstars".

A recent recontextualisation of Warhol's observation, reflecting the questionable achievments of online social networking such as blogging, asserts "On the Web, everyone will be famous to fifteen people".

Legend in your own lunchbox.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Gallileo is way cooler than Bill Gates

Astronomer with astrolabe 15th century woodcut

The astrolabe is an ancient astronomical computer used for solving problems relating to time and the position of the Sun and stars in the sky. To use an astrolabe an astronomer drew the sky on the face of the instrument and marked it so positions in the sky can be found. The moveable components of the astrolabe were then adjusted to the required date and time. Once set, the entire sky, both visible and invisible, was able to be represented allowing a number of astronomical problems such as the calculation of time during the day or night, the timing of celestial events like sunrise or sunset to be accurately figured in a very visual way.

And all in a world without Microsoft.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

That's One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap in Libraryland

Giant steps are what you take
Walking on the moon
I hope my legs don't break
Walking on the moon
We could walk forever
Walking on the moon

from Regatta de Blanc by The Police, 1979

Forty years ago today, (well 39 to be precise, give or take a week) on 21 July 1969, watched by a global television audience of millions, Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the lunar landing module, Eagle and bounced into the pages of world history. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", he said. Clear as anything I remember the black and white photograph of the surface of the moon imprinted with an astronaut's boot mark on the cover of National Geographic magazine which I read, unsupervised in the "Adult Area" at the Porirua Public Library. Fascinating. Walking on the moon. Imagine that. Having the ability to negotiate and then explore an unknown world.

The adventure in libraryland begins.