Winter May Be Ending
As everyone around here agrees, this has been a long winter. And just this week we had warnings of another snow storm on April 1st. Fortunately this turned out to be just a bit of rain here.
So, I turned to the back yard, the parts not run over by backhoes during our sewer project, and found signs that Spring is upon us. It remains a mystery how these plants survive the cold nights. Last week we had temperatures in the teens.
Then, I recall from Cambridge that there are flowers that pop up right in the middle of the snow sometimes at the end of February and more usually in the first two weeks of March. Here are Snowdrops on March 8, 2004 in front of our old house in Cambridge.
In counting the number of tiles in a Scrabble game (preparation for the Hudson Area Library Scrabble Tournament) I found this distribution (picture left). Could this really be the frequency of the use of letters in English? Off to Google land. From the Oxford English dictionary website came this interesting chart: Continue reading
The other night I was catching up on the latest world news from my prime TV journalists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Colbert interviewed Riley Crane (take a watch of this six minute clip), an MIT postdoc who lead a team that won a DARPA Network Challenge to find ten red balloons on display at all locations at 10:00AM (ET) until approximately 4:00 PM (local time) on Saturday, December 5, 2009 scattered around the US in the shortest time.
The winning team found all of the balloons in 6 hours 52 minutes. The team used a cascade of financial incentives; they shared the $40,000 prize among those who helped find the balloons. To drive the social network, those who referred those who found a balloon received part of the winnings. Listen to Riley Crane on Colbert Nation and look at the team’s website for more about how it worked.
I think that we need to seize on this social invention to solve some pressing matters in our recent history. For instance, why not use this technology to find, for example:
- evidence of crimes or egregious unethical behavior committed by Dick Cheney
- managers of sub-prime mortgage companies who intentionally targeted people who could not financially support home ownership, those who created low-doc and no-doc mortgages.
- members of the defense and spy establishment who knowingly foisted the WMD strategy on the world to support Bush’s craziness
- what happened to the $billions in cash disbursed in Iraq during the early years of the Bush War?
How would this work? Well, some ideas will lead directly to real money, others will require some wealthy folks with interest in the question to put up some short change to invent the discoveries. Then, we just sit back and watch the social web work.
There is a problem here, that is fairly obvious and not without some risks. The same social discovery process can be used by anyone with a little cash and access to the web. We will see a tsunami of questions from a less desirable portion of the world.