Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Audio Books & Online Libraries

Is anyone out there a fan of Audio-Books? I’m not talking about a replacement to paper books; audio will never give the same experience as paper. Personally I’m a huge fan of them for commuting to work or staying awake on a long drive or exercising (not that I do much of that). I have a huge collection of audio books (99 days worth of audio and growing) that I'm slowly chipping away at, including conference talks, the standard works and education week lectures. It guarantees that I’ll always have something that will be fun to listen to, and there’s always music if I get tired of spoken word :) Suffice it to say I’m a huge fan of iPod’s. How else could you organize all thes books and music? Who all out there has an mp3 player? I’m hooked on them. Anyway our library recently adopted online downloads for audio books. I’m sure most big city libraries have that option. It’s much better than trying to rip scratched CD’s from the Library onto yor iPod to listen to.

Along the same lines as audio books being made available at online Libraries, Google is in the process (fighting publishing companies along the way) of digitizing huge libraries of books. The project is called Google Books and is an awesome idea for research. Imagine having the world’s greatest libraries available to goggle. Imagine being able to scour millions of books for a quote or topic. For fun go to the link above and type in "seer stone" (quotes included) and browse through some of hundreds of books available. Some books (publishers) will let you see a few pages surrounding the search string, others won't, but it’s a start. Legally I don’t see how the publishing companies are fighting Google on this, it’s definantly not illegal to quote a book in a report and that's essentially all they’re doing. Google doesn’t make the full book available just the page your information is found on, though some full books are available.

Friday, August 25, 2006


The International Astronomical Union officially demoted Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet." That means that we now have eight planets (according to the scientists), three dwarf planets, and thousands of "small solar-system bodies." Out of 2,500 astronomers from 75 nations that attended the conference (where Pluto was demoted) only about 300 voted. It will be sad if 300 “scientists” can really shift cultural thinking as easily as arbitrarily redefining planets. The new definition is "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." I vote we keep it and add the other 2 as well. 11 planets is better than 8.

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