Friday Four

Friday, July 27, 2012

1. Yesterday, Google Fiber launched in Kansas City, and the new gigabit ISP plans to be profitable. According to tech writer Stacey Higginbotham, three cost-cutting innovations in particular make this feasible to the point that it may well "pummel" existing broadband ISPs when it expands to other cities. For example:

[T]o reduce the cost of the actual last mile to users' homes it's telling people in Kansas City that if they want to be the first to get fiber, they'll have to convince their neighbors to sign up. The goal is to get a critical mass of between 5 percent and 25 percent of the homes in a given neighborhood (Google calls it a fiberhood) committed to signing up for Google Fiber before ever sending out technicians. Residents have until Sept. 9 to get their fiberhood on the leaderboard before Google starts rolling out its fiber.
Google also seems to have found a way to make its equivalent of the cable box cheap and painless to install.

2. I found this article about the Chinese wheelbarrow interesting. These strange-looking carts with one huge wheel in the center are more ingenious than they might at first look to Western eyes.

3. Valve CEO Gabe Newell makes the following amusing speculations about possible future computer input devices:
There's some crazy speculative stuff. This is super nerdy, and you can tease us years from now, but as it turns out, your tongue is one of the best mechanical systems to your brain, but it's disconcerting to have the person sitting next you go blah, blah, blah, blah... I don't think tongue input will happen, but I do think we will have bands on our wrists, and you'll be doing something with your hands, which are really expressive.
If you are, unlike me, a computer gamer who thinks, as I do, that Windows 8 is a catastrophe, you will be pleased to learn that Newell wants to support Linux now.

4. The world is on the cusp of a new milestone in medical history: the first parasitic disease to be eradicated.
[G]uinea worm is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode roundworm Dracunculus medinensis. It is the only disease transmitted solely by drinking water, and humans are its only reservoir, says James Hughes, professor of medicine and public health at Emory University. The disease spreads when villagers consume water containing fleas that harbor guinea worm larvae. The larvae grow to maturity inside the human body and emerge after a year as a fully grown two- to three-foot-long worm that often exits through the leg or foot. It is an excruciatingly painful process, and individuals often immerse the limb in water to cool the burning sensation, which starts the cycle all over again.
Filters for drinking water in the poor regions where the disease is endemic have caused the following dramatic reduction in the number of cases. "In 1986 there were 3.5 million cases, as compared with only 1,060 in 2011 and a mere five as of the first few months of 2012."

-- CAV

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