In the News 27.01.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Friday 27th January, 2017
Vanishing Point: The Rise of the Invisible Computer
In 1971, Intel, then an obscure firm in what would only later come to be known as Silicon Valley, released a chip called the 4004. It was the world’s first commercially available microprocessor, which meant it sported all the electronic circuits necessary for advanced number-crunching in a single, tiny package. It was a marvel of its time, built from 2,300 tiny transistors, each around 10,000 nanometres (or billionths of a metre) across – about the size of a red blood cell. A transistor is an electronic switch that, by flipping between “on” and “off”, provides a physical representation of the 1s and 0s that are the fundamental particles of information.
In 2015 Intel, by then the world’s leading chipmaker, with revenues of more than $55bn that year, released its Skylake chips. The firm no longer publishes exact numbers, but the best guess is that they have about 1.5bn–2 bn transistors apiece. Spaced 14 nanometres apart, each is so tiny as to be literally invisible, for they are more than an order of magnitude smaller than the wavelengths of light that humans use to see.
Read the rest of this article at The Guardian
The Hollywood List Everyone Wants to Be On
In the age of the gargantuan blockbuster, it wasn’t immediately clear that the story of a suicidal mathematician in wartime England would make for a successful movie. In fact, it wasn’t clear that it would make for a movie at all.
In 2010, Graham Moore was a precocious 28-year-old author who had just written a novel about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At a cocktail party in Los Angeles, a producer named Nora Grossman mentioned to him that she and her producing partner were interested in making a film based on a biography of Alan Turing—the English scientist who is credited with developing the first computer but was punished for his homosexuality. Moore was immediately intrigued; he’d been interested in Turing’s story since he was a teenager. “I have to be the one to write this!” he told Grossman
She and her partner, Ido Ostrowsky, agreed, and Moore set to work. After he finished the screenplay, he called his agent. “ ‘Hey, I have this script about a gay English mathematician who killed himself,’ ” Moore deadpanned to me, recalling that—because of the subject matter—he didn’t expect it to be an instant success. But his agent loved the script, recognizing that Moore had managed to turn what could have been a morbid biopic into a riveting thriller. A few months later, Warner Brothers bought a one-year option to make the film.
Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic
The $99 Billion Idea
In January 2009 the three founders of a little-known website called Airbedandbreakfast.com decided at the last minute to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama. Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk were all in their mid-20s and had no tickets to the festivities, or winter clothes, or even a firm grasp of the week’s schedule. But they saw an opportunity. Their online home-sharing company had limped along for more than a year with little to show for it. Now the eyes of the world would be on the nation’s capital, and they wanted to take advantage.
They found a cheap crash pad in D.C., an apartment in a drafty three-floor house near Howard University that, like so many other homes during that desperate time, was in foreclosure. The rooms were unfurnished save for a pullout sofa, which the three founders gave to their friend and adviser, Michael Seibel, who ran the streaming-video site Justin.tv. At night they crowded onto the hardwood floor on inflatable beds.
Their host was a tenant waiting for eviction. He lived in the basement apartment and had used the AirBed & Breakfast website to rent out the empty first floor and, to three other guests, his own bedroom, living room, and walk-in closet. Sensing a promotional opportunity, Chesky e-mailed the staff of Good Morning America about the closet, and a producer included it in a roundup of unusual accommodations for the inauguration.
Read the rest of this article at Bloomberg
Maps in the Head
In Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876), the hapless snark-hunting crew found themselves presented with a navigational challenge by their captain, the Bellman:
He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
Refreshingly uncluttered, the Bellman’s map had nothing on it:
‘Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank’
(So the crew would protest) ‘that he’s bought us the best –
A perfect and absolute blank!’
Even a perfectly blank map, however, could be useful if it had a grid reference, something to indicate compass direction, a scale, and a marker for current position. Sadly, the Bellman’s map had none of these things:
‘What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?’
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
‘They are merely conventional signs! …’
So, the map was truly blank and not much use for navigating.
Read the rest of this article at aeon
The Twilight of the Liberal World Order
Brookings scholars have identified the biggest issues facing the country and provide ideas for how to address them.
The liberal world order established in the aftermath of World War II may be coming to an end, challenged by forces both without and within. The external challenges come from the ambition of dissatisfied large and medium-size powers to overturn the existing strategic order dominated by the United States and its allies and partners. Their aim is to gain hegemony in their respective regions. China and Russia pose the greatest challenges to the world order because of their relative military, economic, and political power and their evident willingness to use it, which makes them significant players in world politics and, just as important, because the regions where they seek strategic hegemony—Asia and Europe—historically have been critical to global peace and stability. At a lesser but still significant level, Iran seeks regional hegemony in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, which if accomplished would have a strategic, economic, and political impact on the international system. North Korea seeks control of the Korean peninsula, which if accomplished would affect the stability and security of northeast Asia. Finally, at a much lower level of concern, there is the effort by ISIS and other radical Islamist groups to establish a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. If accomplished, that, too, would have effects on the global order.
However, it is the two great powers, China and Russia, that pose the greatest challenge to the relatively peaceful and prosperous international order created and sustained by the United States. If they were to accomplish their aims of establishing hegemony in their desired spheres of influence, the world would return to the condition it was in at the end of the 19th century, with competing great powers clashing over inevitably intersecting and overlapping spheres of interest. These were the unsettled, disordered conditions that produced the fertile ground for the two destructive world wars of the first half of the 20th century. The collapse of the British-dominated world order on the oceans, the disruption of the uneasy balance of power on the European continent due to the rise of a powerful unified Germany, combined with the rise of Japanese power in East Asia all contributed to a highly competitive international environment in which dissatisfied great powers took the opportunity to pursue their ambitions in the absence of any power or group of powers to unite in checking them. The result was an unprecedented global calamity. It has been the great accomplishment of the U.S.-led world order in the 70 years since the end of the Second World War that this kind of competition has been held in check and great power conflicts have been avoided.
Read the rest of this article at Brookings