Monday, November 28, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
When the Kindle Fire first shipped a couple weeks ago, the reviews were mixed. Uncle Walt calls it good, but not great. David Pogue at the NYT thinks it is “sluggish,” lacking “polish or speed.” But the Kindle Fire is still selling like hotcakes. Some reviewers are disappointed that it is not an iPad, but that is the wrong way to look at it. The Fire is a standout media tablet that does a few things very well and I am going to tell you what they are.I’ve been using a Kindle Fire for the past two weeks (that is, when my kids or wife haven’t absconded to another room with it). The device passes my first test: my family fights over it. The Fire is kid-tested, and mother-approved. Fruit Ninja is the new obsession with my young children...
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On my way to attending an Endeavor Summit this summer, I had the following conversation with a customs officer upon arriving in the U.S.:
Immigration officer: What do you do for a living?
Me: I work at a startup, and I’m here to meet people from my industry.
Immigration officer: Ok. How long have you been at your current job?
Me: We started around five years ago.
Immigration officer: Five years! And you still call yourself a startup?!
This interaction has stayed with me because it seems to me to be a great example of the discrepancy between the reality distortion field that is Silicon Valley — and the reality almost everywhere else. Even the immigration officer at the San Francisco airport was of the opinion that five years is too long for a company to consider itself startup.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The world's largest atom smasher, designed as a portal to a new view of physics, has produced its first peek at the unexpected: bits of matter that don't mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts.
The discovery, if confirmed, could rewrite the known laws of particle physics and help explain why our universe is made mostly of matter and not antimatter.
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile (27 km) circular particle accelerator underground near Geneva, Switzerland, have been colliding protons at high speeds to create explosions of energy. From this energy many subatomic particles are produced.
Now researchers at the accelerator's LHCb experiment are reporting that some matter particles produced inside the machine appear to be behaving differently from their antimatter counterparts, which might provide a partial explanation to the mystery of antimatter. [The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]
Scientists think the universe started off with roughly equal amounts of matter and antimatter. (Particles of antimatter have the same mass of their twins but an opposite charge.) Somehow over the ensuing 14 billion years, most of the antimatter was destroyed, leaving a leftover universe of mainly matter.
One potential explanation for this outcome is called "charge-parity violation." CP violation means that particles of opposite charge behave differently from one another.
The LHCb researchers found preliminary evidence that this is happening when particles called D-mesons, which contain "charmed quarks," decay into other particles. The whimsically named charmed quarks, like many exotic particles, are so unstable, they last only a fraction of a second. They quickly decay into other particles, and it is these products that the experiment detects. ("LHCb" is short for LHC-beauty, another flavor of quark.)
From the experiment, the researchers found a 0.8 percent difference in the probabilities that the matter and antimatter versions of these particles would decay into a particular end state.
Ruling out a fluke
When it comes to particle physics, it's all about the quality of statistics. Measuring something once is meaningless because of the high degree of uncertainty involved in such exotic, small systems. Scientists rely on taking measurements over and over again — enough times to dismiss the chance of a fluke.
The new finding ranks as a "3.5 sigma" result, meaning the statistics are solid enough that there is only a 0.05 percent likelihood that the pattern they see isn't really there. For something to count as a true discovery in particle physics, it must reach a 5 sigma level of confidence.
"It's certainly exciting, and certainly worth pursuing," LHCb researcher Matthew Charles of England's Oxford University told LiveScience. "At this point it's a tantalizing hint. It's evidence of something interesting going on, but we're keeping the champagne on ice, let's say."
By the end of 2012, Charles said, the Large Hadron Collider should have collected enough data to either confirm or reject the result.
If the finding is borne out, it would be a big deal, because it would mean the reigning theory of particle physics, called the Standard Model, is incomplete. Currently the Standard Model does allow for some minor CP violation, but not at the level of 0.8 percent. To explain these results, scientists would have to alter their theory or add some new physics to the existing picture.
In either case, the LHC would have begun to claim its birthright.
"The whole driving purpose of the LHC is to discover and understand new physics beyond the Standard Model," Charles said. "This sort of analysis is exactly why I joined LHCb."
One possible example of the kind of new physics that might explain such CP violation is called supersymmetry. This theory suggests that in addition to all the known particles, there are supersymmetric partner particles that differ by half a unit of spin. Spin is one of the fundamental characteristics of elementary particles.
So far, no one has found direct evidence of supersymmetry. But if supersymmetric particles exist, they might be created instantaneously and disappear again during the particle-decay process. That way they could interfere with the decay process, potentially explaining why matter and antimatter decay differently.
Charles reported the LHCb team's findings this week in Paris at the Hadron Collider Physics Symposium.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
November 15, 2011
by Zoe ChaceMark Lennihan/AP
If you wanted a tablet but thought the price of an iPad was too steep, Amazon has a message for you. You can't afford NOT to buy yourself a Kindle Fire.
The new tablet sells for $199 — less than half the price of an iPad.
Amazon can sell for such a low price partly because it's willing to sell each Kindle Fire for less than it costs to produce.
Amazon hasn't said exactly how much it costs the company to make each Fire. But Andrew Rassweiler of the research firm IHS iSuppli has a pretty good idea. He added up the price of the components in the tablet and came up with a cost of $209.63 for materials and manufacturing per tablet.
And Rassweiler's estimate doesn't include the licensing deals Amazon cuts to stream content, or the marketing to promote the Fire.
Why does Amazon sell a product at a loss? Because, for Amazon, the Fire is a book store, and a movie theater, and a record shop. And (of course) Amazon is the one selling books, movies and records.
Once you're inside Amazon's ecosystem, there are a whole bunch of ways they can make money off you. You buy Amazon's books, movies, and music. You buy Amazon's apps. You see Amazon's ads. There's no Apple store on an Amazon device. You're locked in.
This is the model printer manufacturers often use. You can buy a decent printer for $40 — less than it costs to produce. That's because printer companies make all their money selling ink cartridges to go in the printers.
The ink in those tiny cartridges goes for a ridiculous $4,731 per gallon, according to Eduardo Porter, the author of a book called The Price of Everything.
Unlike, say, Apple, Amazon didn't start out as a computer company. For Amazon, the computer is simply a means to an end.
"Amazon was a store that just happened to be online," Porter says.
And though Amazon sells basically everything now, it's the company's identity as a bookseller that drove it to make tablets, according to Porter. They realized that more and more reading was going to happen on this devices, and if they wanted to stay in the book business, they had to move onto this new platform.
Amazon is acting like bars in the mid-nineteenth century United States that offered a free lunch — if you paid for drinks. "There was a lot of salt in the meal," Porter says.
The Kindle Fire's not free, but it's certainly cheap. And if having a Fire makes people thirsty for more Amazon products, then the low price pays off for Amazon.
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Monday, November 14, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
A bi-polar see-saw of emotional thought into reason...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Hackers have used a security flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to infect computers with the the Duqu virus, Microsoft has admitted.
“We are working diligently to address this issue and will release a security update for customers,” Microsoft said in a statement.