Eyewitness Account of the Delhi Attacks
Meanwhile in the comments section of this post on Indiadaily comes this eyewitness account:
My wife and I witnessed the bombing in Paharganj. The explosion happened on a very busy intersection on Main Bazaar St. The streets were soaked in blood and several body parts could be seen. The police and emergency rescue teams seemed to be on site immediately. It was a bad scene. We were only 50 meters away and had just walked through the same intersection 30 seconds prior.
That's from two American holiday-makers John and Clara from Baltimore. John and Clara must have been looking forward to seeing the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. I've only ever experienced Diwali in England as it is celebrated by the Anglo-Indian community; there it runs close to November 5Th, aka Guy Fawkes night, a celebration of a foiled act of "terrorism". It reminds us that fanaticism nearly always ends in failure and the ridicule of future generations.
DARPA Grand Challenge Podcast
DARPA Grand Challenge: Finally the podcast, more a soundseeing tour, of the DARPA Grand Challenge, the $2million race for "robotic" cars. Motoring history was made on Sat. October 8th as a converted Volkswagen Touareg became the first vehicle to successfully navigate itself round the course, 131.6 miles of the Mojave desert. DARPA, the advanced research wing of the US Department of Defense organised the race, but didn't directly fund any of the teams who entered the challenge. Given the obvious applications of robot vehicles in Iraq and elsewhere, in research teams the race delivered " a lot of bang for their buck" and I suspect will be a model of its kind.
So what's next? The USAF already has robotic flight well under development with unmanned planes like the Predator; though these are remotely controlled the time-lag in relaying commands means they posses a small degree of autonomy already. Autonomy on the ground is hard to accomplish..there will always be too many variables for much more than routine applications - or "leader follower" type systems where a human is in the loop directing a convoy. To my mind the obvious next step is the Navy. Under the sea, even at shallow depths, the terrain is pretty uniform, obstacles are few and easily avoided with the same 3 dimensional possibilities available to aeroplanes. Transport ships should be the first to be replaced by robotic "liberty ships" or for hi-value assets ,robot submarines. Next expect an anti-ship version of the Predator; a small nuclear powered robot submersible. Without a human crew it shouldn't need to dock or surface, and should be capabable of diving to much greater depths. And it will be much less expensive to build than conventional submarines.
We Don't Own the News
On the pods and blogs segment on BBC Radio Five we interviewed Richard Sambrook, blogger (internally within the BBC only at the moment) and international news supremo, his official title being Director of the BBC's World Service and Global News division. His remarks at the We Media conference that "we don't own the news" have attracted significant attention. particularly from advocates of citizen journalism. His view as expressed in one interview is that journalists will increasingly become news "facilitators" i.e. filtering and evaluating content primarily provided by the public. I'm sure what he has to say on this will be of interest to bloggers and podcasters alike. An archive of the interview can be found here.
Video iPod Announced
So for all those of you fooled by Apple's cunning double, double bluff we've had the announcement of a new video Ipod.
"The new video iPod has a 2 1/2-inch color display and is an update of the classic white iPod, Jobs said at an event in San Jose, California, that the company had dubbed ``One more thing'' on its invitations." Source Bloomberg
This shouldn't have come as a surprise to those who noticed the increasing number of video podcasts being listed on itunes. I found one last week offering panoramic views of cathedrals in Italy. But I wonder why keep the display so small? I hope there'll be a video out so you can connect to a better means of viewing video - for my part I want some trendy Apple style VR gogles. Update: Think Secret says there will be - but you'll have to pay for it.
By an odd co-incidence I heard about the announcement at the same time a friend was pointing me to this excellent piece of vlogging by Dissident Vox. Let it be the first thing you download to your new machine.
Update: More info at Pocket-lint.co.uk there's also some previews at the Apple homepage now. And it looks as though they are using it to plug PIXAR stuff too. I know that my partner who is an animator is really excited about the potential that this has to allow short film-makers to actually find a market.
Earthquake proofing the future
Clearly inspired by his blogs namesake, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who said " Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing." He's been trying to draw attention to the work of Brian E Tucker who has been working jointly with American and Indian researchers to help improve the earthquake resistance of buildings in India, particularly the schools.
Tucker also joined the programme and spoke eloquently about the relative inexpense of building with earthquake resistance in mind, a 5% increase in cost, and of the great tragedy of children often being legally compelled to attend schools that are not up to code.
One thing that Tucker said intrigued me; his claim that earthquake preparedness, particularly for schools was a vote winner.
A quick flick through the property pages in LA will show that properties in good areas easily sell for over a million dollars; that strikes me as odd given the likelihood a major quake will hit Los Angeles sometime in the next 50 years. But humans are irrational about future risks. In economics there is the concept of discounting..to illustrate it ask yourself a question: which would you rather have, $50 now or $50 in 5 years time? If you say $50 now, you've discounted the value of the future $50. In other words it's the economic term for the old addage a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Most of us discount the future heavily, as the value of property in Los Angeles clearly shows. We build towns like Naples on the side of not so dormant volcanoes, or we approve major redevelopment plans on or near flood plains as in London. Governments similarly discount the future, firstly because the public do, and secondly because they are in office for limited periods of time - a decade would be exceptional. Politicians have little incentive to worry more about the future than the electorate, nor to worry about what might happen when they are no longer in power. Threats from low probability disasters, such as major earthquakes will, therefore, tend to be underestimated. Simply, there aren't that many votes in protecting the public from something that may happen at some point of the next 100 years, but has no great probability of occuring within a term of office. So future threats are discounted.
But none of this is true outside a true democracy where terms of office can be indefinite and leaders remain in power in spite of popular feeling. So, Perves Musharraf who isn't subject to elections in the usual sense might in fact have more reason to enact the kind of change in building programmes Tucker wants and to take a longer term view.
More from DARPA
I've not been able to post much because of work commitments. There's a news-online article that I wrote here which has more news from the DARPA Grand Challenge. We're still waiting for TerraMax a mighty six wheeled truck to make it's way here. Although I think it's fair to say the Stanford team must be favourites to win the competition we won't know the result until midday here as logs from the cars will have to be analysed. Merely finishing the race first, though an achievement in itself isn't sufficient to secure victory as teams had staggered starts and were paused by race officials.
Update: We'll I'm finally back, rested and watered from the destert. When my broadcast commitments are done I'll put a podcast with some of the amazing voices from the competition - and some thoughts about the technology.
DARPA Grand Challenge
I'm at the DARPA Grand Challenge, the $2million desert race for self-navigating cars. I'll be pretty busy so blogging will be light. Updates from DARPA here They've just announced the course - it's131.6 miles, entirely within Nevada and the mojave desert; a couple of tunnel have been included with the intention of depriving teams of GPS data. Having had a look at the teams I'd say we're much more likely to get a result - last year you may recall the furthest distance travelled was 7.4miles. The picture is of team members putting the finishing touches to JackBot last night
History of Pinball Podcast
Just behind the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City lives PJ's Pinball Museum. It's a heavenly place if you like your gaming to be a bit more physical than a Nintendo. Computer games are ultimately the product of dusty logic, whereas the parabola of the silver ball in pinball seems beautifully and irreducibly Newtonian; and the sounds of the buffers and the flippers are like the clanking progress of a train. PJ doesn't have every machine ever made..but he does have the game played by the Fonz in Happy Days, and a machine designed for the drummer of Sheffield's finest Def Leppard who only has one arm. Because of music rights issues this podcast doesn't start with The Who though if I could choose any piece of music to intro a podcast on pinball it would have to be The Pinball Song from Sesame Street
Scoopt: A photo agency for citizen journalists?
Scoopt is a new photo agency, aimed at citizen journalists. Its creators claim that by letting them handle the sale of your cell/mobile phone snaps of celebs/disasters/celebrity-disasters you'll get a better deal than if you go straight to the papers. Having met a few tabloid snappers myself I'd say there was something to that. It's almost certainly true that they'll look at your pictures with a much keener journalistic eye and maybe spot a really newsworthy angle to a photo which you might have overlooked. But ethical issues abound - will this encourage invasions of privacy? Or risk taking (instead of fleeing the burning building do you stop to take a few quick snaps on the nokia?) Certainly some UK organizations have "slammed" the use of citizen snaps as "irresponsible" ..but then they have a vested interest in professionalism. More telling I think are the remarks of a head honcho from AP at a recent We Media event who, in essence, said, "heh..nothing new we've been using ordinary folks pics for years", and that's something the more evangelical advocates of "citizen journalism" might like to remember when they next tell us that the revolution will be shot on a mobile phone. Still perhaps all the hype is finally helping people get a decent wedge for their newsworthy photo's rather than being ripped-off by unscrupulous picture editors. Anyway back to the pod and my interview with Neil Michael of Scoopt - which first aired on BBC Radio Five Live's pods and blogs segment
Turning radio into a podcast
Thanks to Andy Bowers Slate podcast round-up I see there are a number of programmes out there that let you turn streaming radio output into mp3's for later consumption. Here's his informative guide