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Showing posts from December, 2006

Sites that revolutionized the Web

I compiled a list of the websites that have changed the way information is produced, handled, or distributed over the Internet. Many of these sites have something in common: they enable users (human or software) to judge the relevance of their content, to provide "interesting" information to others. This has been called distributed cognition or collective intelligence: like diligent ants, the small contributions of many people or sites lead to great achievements and sources of information.
Google. The most effective search engine for several years now. It judges the relevance of a webpage (its PageRank) by the PageRank of webpages that link to it. Thus, if many webpages link to a certain site, this should be interesting. And even more if those webpages are interesting themselves. Google has become an empire of free web-based utilities (in some cases buying other companies):GMail. One of the most flexible free web-based mail providers, it gives users almost 3Gb of disk space a…

Do you need a tech update???

You need a technological update if...
you still connect to the Internet with gopher
your mobile phone weights more than 200 grams, or you can't receive SMS
you still use pine to check your e-mail and lynx to surf the webyou still use floppy disks
you still use vi to edit your codeyour monitor is monochromatic or CGIyou don't use Google to search the webstill have a hotmail account instead of a gmail accountburning a CD takes you more than twenty minutesyou still use Wordstaryou still listen to tapes in your walkman
you have never heard of Linuxyou prefer documents in ps over pdf
your camera is not digitalyour are proud of your laserdisc collectionyou or your children play with Intellivision or Atari 2600your company still praises COBOLyou don't know what a blog is...

Pandora: a new way to listen music

Our friends Chris and Antonja showed us Pandora. It is the outcome of the Music Genome Project, which started with the turn of the century.

They have analyzed songs from more than ten thousand artists (and counting), and graded them according to different properties, such as melody, harmony and rhythm. Making their huge database available to the public, it enables the personalization of radio stations. For example, if you like Led Zeppelin (In this world, there are two kinds of people, those who like Led Zeppelin, and those who haven't heard them), you can easily create a "Led Zeppelin station". Unlike Radio Netscape, it doesn't play ONLY Led Zeppelin songs 24/7 (which is not bad...), but will randomly give you to listen songs from and similar to Led Zeppelin's, e.g. Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, etc...

This is great not only for listening music you like, but also to discover artists you never knew about...

Pandora has more functionalities I will let the interested r…

PhD thesis: first version finished!

After two busy months, I have the first complete version of my thesis (I need to thank Nadia for her great patience!). Now it will be reviewed by the members of my thesis comission, and in a couple of months I would give the private defense...
Let's hope that I'm not requested to change more than half of it!

Please feel free to send in any comments.

Design and Control of Self-organizing SystemsPhD Dissertation presented byCarlos Gershenson(to be defended in 2007)Abstract Complex systems are difficult to design and control. There are several particular methods for coping with complexity, but there is no general methodology. In this thesis I propose such a methodology. This is based on the description of the system as self-organizing. The methodology proposes a series of steps to follow to find proper mechanisms that will promote elements to find solutions by actively interacting among themselves.A general introduction to complex thinking is given, since designing self-organizing sy…

Art vs. Science???

Last weekend, Nadia and I went to the Symposium "Where do we go from here?", to celebrate the launch of the Brussels Platform for the Arts. With all the educational reforms going around the European Union, Belgium decided that it was time for an academic Doctorate in the Arts.

For some people involved in the event, academics = science, and they defended that they had nothing to do with each other, arguing that science is cold and methodical, and that it suffocates creativity. Other people, such as Jean Paul Van Bendegem (well, actually the ones who have a hands-on experience with science), defended that there are more things in common than differences between the arts and sciences.

I think that both need creativity and hard work. Nobody in science really follows the scientific method: you need inspiration to explore new avenues and ideas. And art is not only about liberating the spirit: without hard work, you won't do anything relevant.

Sciences, not even the hardest ones,…

New president(s) in Mexico...

On December 1st, Vicente Fox stepped down from Mexico's presidency, while Felipe Calderón started his six year period. Since Calderón "won" the elections using electoral fraud plus other dirty manouvers, the civil unrest surrounding all of his events is noticeable.

Usually, the exchange of presidential powers is made before the Congress. Everybody says speeches, promise everything will be better, and so on. However, there had been a strong militarization around the Congress building in Mexico City fearing civil demonstrations, especially after Vicente Fox was unable to give his last presidential report (to my mind for the first time in our history), and when he had to move the celebrations of the Independence day and "cancel" those of the Revolution, knowing how many people would reming him of his mother if he shows himself in public. (Not to worry, the government of the City took care of both celebrations).

So, how things went: Exactly at midnight of Dece…