2012-08-25

US Readership's Election Heat Map 2012


With the election day on November 6, and in a very interesting move, Amazon is providing an interactive heat map analyzing its best selling books in each US state, by assigning the label "red" (for Republican), "blue" (for Democrat) or neutral.
We classify books as red or blue if they have a political leaning made evident in book promotion material and/or customer classification, such as tags.

The map is updated on a daily basis.
We compute percentages, updated daily, for each state and the US by comparing the 250 best-selling blue books during the time period against the 250 best-selling red books during the same time period, including new book launches.

Interestingly, the map shows a growing interest in "red" book. If this can be of any significance, Republicans are more favored to win the elections than Democrats. But as the description by Amazon insists:
Books aren't votes, and a map of book purchases can reflect curiosity as much as commitment, but we hope our 2012 Election Heat Map will provide one way to follow the changing political conversation across the country during this election season.

Personally, I hope this is not an indicating criterion, because it demonstrates a rise of conservatism, and potentially extremism and fundamentalism, in the United States (a nation with a big role in the political events of the world).

 Joseph.

2012-08-06

NASA's Curiosity Successfully Lands on Mars

The US NASA has managed this morning to successfully land the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover onto its destination in Mars.

First image from Curiosity on Mars (credit NASA)
A new technical achievement or the American space agency (and subsequently to humanity) which allowed it to place a car-sized nuclear powered robot (ironically landed on the same day the A-Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945) using a "sky crane" mechanism, making it the largest vehicle to study the potential existence of life on Mars; the rover will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still, an environment able to support microbial life, as described by NASA.

Artist's concept of Mars Science Laboratory entry, descent and landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The rover has on board a variety of devices:

- 3 Cameras: MastCam for general monitoring, Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) for the robotic arm monitoring and Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) for descent monitoring.
- 3 types of spectrometers: ChemCam, Alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) and  the Chemistry and Mineralogy (ChemMin) instrument.
- The Sample analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite consisting of The Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (QMS), The Gas Chromatograph (GC) and The Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS).

Posts to twitter (tweets) about the progress of the mission are expected on the account @MarsCuriosity.

Joseph.

2012-08-02

A Society's Phenomena

NoteTV kills your brain. Read more often.

"What I don't understand is why do they keep inviting her to TV shows?", I said to my dad, watching the notorious Maryam Nour, making a scene on TV, "she's obviously out of valuable content and keeps making up fights and throwing curse words on TV, calling everybody an ignorant for refusing her delusions, and that's not entertaining anymore."

In fact, this whole scene of Maryam Nour's (which she's apparently repeating on many other shows and many other occasions), emphasizes many trending phenomena that must be noted.

Battle of Money Sacks and Safes (2006 - Credit: Sergey Tyukanov)


The amount of TV this nation is watching, is dramatically high, regardless of the nature of the content. It's also notable that pointless entertainment takes a major part of the programming we are consuming (not based on any information source but rather an empirical observation by yours truly). What's sadder is the obvious attempt of spicing up TV shows with flagrant marketing cliches, for the sole purpose of reaching a bigger audience and higher ratings hence more advertisers and more money, never caring about the content (الجمهور عايز كده؟), with a clear consent from the viewers who instead of punishing such shows, keep encouraging them by giving them part of their time. (A previous post handling similar subject: Joe Maalouf And The New Low In Morality).

But that's not the end of it, we are shifting, as a society, and fast, into blind consumption. This is reflected in a major part in the superficial type of conversations we tend to have (again no statistics, but empirical observation to various "social" platforms). We value the complaints that share our world views, yet don't come up with revolutionary ideas. We consume ideas, defend them and never criticize them (unless of course they're opposite to our world view, and criticism is more like hate). Pointless small talk is taking a huge part of our social interactions. (Of course, there's the huge trend of geekism nowadays, but, in fact, intellect is relatively superficial in this phenomenon, and the image of a geek is mainly a consumption of concepts that are tailored by marketers). Knowing more stuff has replaced thinking.

Which brings up the careerism and the trend everybody is trying to follow to make more capital, and as fast as possible. A job is no longer a valued work or an interesting social role, but rather the necessary mean for a better consumption. This is displayed in the imbalance in the various work sectors, and the sudden surges in certain areas and lack of interest in others. We can't all be entrepreneurs, or work in the same high profile multi-national companies.

Worse, the loss of interest in the public life is being hailed, as an alternative to constant political/social/economic debates, and due to the lack of change power that the system offers, and escaping to consumption of entertainment (regardless of the quality) and a life of denial. I tend to believe that such involvement is a national duty, and the collective is responsible (as much as affected) for social/political/economic outcomes. (Previously discussed in: My Comrade and A good Lebanese citizen must not vote).

It's not too late, change towards a better society, critically thinking and deciding its own fate can be achieved. We only have to be ready to give up on the old habits, and accept to make certain compromises. We have to care about the nature of culture we receive, be more critical towards our collective well-being, as much as the individual one and promote innovative efforts and ideas instead of running towards globalist cliches.

Joseph.