at your fingertips“

Currently, there’s the Wikimania running in Frankfurt. That made me think about a few things. Lately, I’ve realized that the web offers a wealth of information „at my fingertips“:

I can look at places with Google Maps or Google Earth, can amaze people that I can quote verbatim from books using Amazons Search Inside, draw up on online references with Wikipedia, Google or Leo and get consumer reviews and prices online.

For those who know how to search, nothing is impossible to know, it seems. There are howto’s for countless things.

The question is, does that actually make me smarter ?

Or does it only make me appear smarter. Worse, might it make me lazy and dumb even? Back in school, thoroughly reading and learning something helped to memorize it. It created additional skills one could use later. Only by actively working with something, one can learn it. Simply drawing up a reference might degrade knowledge to trivia. I don’t actually bother to memorize how to write a proper MySQL syntax anymore. There’s a good online reference that I can use. And as I don’t write MySQL every day, that’s probably acceptable. But a few years ago, I probably would have sat down, and really learned these things.

Ultimately, I’ll leave these questions to those who have an actual knowledge about how the human mind works. This fear won’t leave me though; that in just gathering knowledge and making it available to everyone freely, we’re actually making people less educated than before.

Let there be light

Fiber Optics Bring the Sun Indoors . Someone has come up with a (really brilliant in my mind) idea. The basic premise is to capture light on a roof, and directing it into the rooms beneath it. That alone doesn’t sound too spectacular, the hitch here is that they do it without simply installing a skylight, but using fibre optics, and also filter out UV and infrared in the process. 

The result is a more or less ordinary looking lamp on your ceiling, which gives out actual daylight, and even changes color as the sun does. If it gets too dark outside, a sensor automatically activates conventional lights to keep the light constant in your room. 

I assume there’s a lot of issues to be tackled still (for instance, having an ever-shifting light is probably not so nice, and I doubt that this would ever be implemented in cloudy and rainy Hamburg), but the concept is really the sort of neat and elegant thing I love.

The Tipping Point

Warum fahren plötzlich alle auf diesen Silberrollern rum? Wieso ist die Verbrechensrate in New York so drastisch gesunken? Was war das Erfolgsgeheimnis der Sesamstrasse?

The Tipping Point liefert auf unterhaltsam-spannende Weise einen möglichen Erklärungsansatz. Ein schönes Sachbuch, wie ich es immer wieder gerne lese. 

Hans

Hans ist so ein Farngewächs. Oder etwas ähnliches. Ich hab von diesen Dingen keine Ahnung, bin kein Botaniker. Auf jeden Fall habe ich Hans von meiner Patentante zum Geburtstag geschenkt bekommen (Nicht nur Hans natürlich, aber der war eben auch beim Geschenk mit dabei)

Naja, im Gegensatz zu meinem Vater habe ich leider überhaupt keinen grünen Daumen. Ganz im Gegenteil eigentlich: Meine Daumen sind für die meisten Pflanzen düstere Vorboten des Verderbens! 

Allerdings bringe ich es nicht übers Herz diese unschuldige kleine Pflanze wegzuwerfen. Also versuche ich es noch einmal eine Pflanze länger als zwei Monate ihr Grün zu erhalten…

Update: Inzwischen ist Hans leider schon recht lange verschieden…