Thursday, 6 January 2005

Cable HD TiVo on the way

Steven Taylor links to news that TiVo has announced plans for an integrated high-definition digital cable tuner/DVR using the newish CableCard standard, to reach consumers sometime in 2006. I’d say I want it, but first I’d need that HDTV I’ve been lusting for.

Tortured Reading

Both James Joyner and Glenn Reynolds recommend this post at Belgravia Dispatch regarding the whole Gonzales-Gitmo-Abu Gharib flap. My general point of view (similar to that expressed here a couple of weeks ago by Robert) is when you’ve resorted to semantics—“stress positions” versus “torture” and the like—you’ve already lost the battle in the court of public opinion, even if legally you might be in the right.*

On Gonzales in general, I have to say that I never thought I’d favorably compare John Ashcroft to anyone else (although it could be argued he was at least an upgrade from Janet Reno), but at this point I’d rather have the Prude over the Enabler any day.

* I’d term this the Clinton Rule, after our former president’s efforts to marshall semantics to his defense when accused of lying under oath, regarding such terms as “alone,” “is,” and “sexual relations.”

And the left reads Mother Jones, why?

The Economist has apparently been getting a lot of criticism from the left in recent years. The following is a letter to the editor from this week's issue on an article from last week:
SIR – According to critical theory, The Economist engages in a narrative designed to persuade its audience of the virtues of capitalism (“Capitalist, sexist pigs” December 18th). A consistent finding of social-psychological research is that people tend to read, watch and listen to things that reinforce their political predispositions. The Economist does just that for its affluent readers as they head out to work, confirming that free markets are more efficient, and, as an added bonus, telling them their profession helps the plight of the world's poor. That way, they believe their profession not only makes themselves better off but is saving the world's downtrodden from famine, disease and even war. That's a feel-good publication.

Dave Townsend
Washington, DC

Why do people on the right, or of the classical liberal persuasion, read The Economist rather than Mother Jones? The same reason that people on the left prefer to read Mother Jones rather than The Economist: it conforms to their world view.

I’m a little amused that Mr. Townsend thinks that people that work for a living aren’t improving the world. I would argue that they are; they’re improving their own little part of it and, in doing so, are adding to the well being of the world.

The article that the letter is about is here, and an excerpt follows:

In a newly fashionable effort to quantify claims about how power is transmitted through words and images, Yana van der Meulen Rodgers and JingYing Zhang, of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, have analysed The Economist’s photographs. Their paper, “A Content Analysis of Sex Bias in International News Magazines”, asks, first, how often are women portrayed compared with men? Second, how often are men and women depicted in a sexual way? For answers, they looked at all the issues of five news magazines, including The Economist, in 2000, and the photographs in The Economist in even-numbered years from 1982 to 2000.

All the magazines studied contained an over-representation of women depicted in sexual ways. But The Economist, apparently, had more frontal nudity in its photographs than all the other magazines combined. When it came to “partial breast exposure”, it was at the top of the league. Particularly curious to the authors was our use of sexual content to illustrate stories on topics such as finance and technology. A photograph of three bikini-clad beauty contestants, used to illustrate a story on financial regulation, with the caption “Pick your regulator”, was both emblematic and problematic.

As for myself, I love The Economist. Since Reason’s demise, under the editorship of Nick Gillespie, The Economist is the most prominent classically liberal magazine in print and a personal favorite of mine. I hope it stays that way.

Update: For a different view of The Economist, look here. I generally agree with Cass, but not this time. The Economist is a British magazine and they can toot their own horn a bit if they want. We do the same. They can similarly be critical of America and I won't be bothered by it up to a point. It's worth noting, on the article she quotes, that they have said many favorable things about the U.S. higher education system in the past and have used it to criticize the British system for relying on too much government funding.

100 years of Einstein

George Will has a good column on the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s publication of his articles that changed physics (and the world):

Einstein’s theism, such as it was, was his faith that God does not play dice with the universe—that there are elegant, eventually discoverable laws, not randomness, at work. Saying “I’m not an atheist,” he explained:

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is.”

Seems like a pretty good way of looking at the universe.The Economist has a more in-depth treatment of the subject (I believe it's a free link):
For this reason, physicists postulated the existence of the aether—a substance, otherwise undetectable, through which light travelled. But if the Earth was orbiting the sun, and so moving through space, it must be moving through the aether, too. Measure the speed of light in the direction of the Earth's motion, and perpendicular to it, and you would get different answers, the line of reasoning went. This is what Michelson and Morley did. But they found that the two speeds were, in fact, precisely the same.

The experiment was explained by Henrich Lorentz, a Dutch physicist, who came up with the mathematics required for the answer—that there was a contraction in the direction of the Earth’s movement, just enough to make the two speeds seem the same. Lorentz could not explain how this contraction occurred, though. He speculated that perhaps forces were at work inside molecules, which were, at the time, still hypothetical entities.

What Einstein realised, without adding any new mathematics, but in a profoundly new way nonetheless, was that there was no seem about it. Space really was contracting, and time was slowing down. It is just this that Pais was referring to when he said that Einstein was good at picking invariance principles. Everyone had thought that time was invariant. It is not. No one thought the speed of light was. It is.