Wednesday, October 28, 2009


As the new year approached last year I reflected on how I didn't readily know how long homo sapiens have been around in a post. What was most amazing to me wasn't just the 250K years of progress, but the exponential explosion that has occurred in just the last 470 years since the arrival of the Gutenberg printing press. A while after making that post I created the chart below to highlight this remarkable acceleration in the pace of innovation.

Some time later I realized that I also didn't really know the history of life, the earth, the sun, or even our place in the timeline of the universe. As a space nerd I did know that the universe was over 13 billion years old, but I had no idea where we sat in its history. After a little more Wikipedia research and some rough approximations in Power Point I created the image below that puts some of this info into view. With the universe exploding into existence some 13.7 billion years ago, it then took 8.7 billion years before our sun formed. Then in just 500 million years the earth formed, in another billion years the most simple life emerged. For the next 3.27 billion years life would evolve until the rise of the Dinosaurs, which would rule the earth for an astounding 160 million years. It would be another 65 million years before Homo sapiens arrived on the scene with our measly 250,000 years of history.

So why do I think this kind of information is so important? It's a matter of perspective. As advanced as humans are, we will never fully see reality but instead perceive it through our windows into the world. Understanding the implications of this explains a lot about human behavior. If we were to experience all of reality we'd simply be overwhelmed and unable to make sense of any of it. Instead, through the windows of our senses we sample just a piece of the world at a time. Through our collective we have extended our senses to allow us to see further into reality, be it the depths of space or the smallest of particles, yet we will always be limited to a view through a window. This shouldn't belittle our existence, but rather emphasize both our uniqueness and our belonging to something that is incomprehensibly larger than our perceptions.

As we struggle through each day to solve our problems big and small, a little perspective might help us all understand what is really important and what is really quite special in our tiny spot in the universe.

Why the $300 Verizon Droid is fantastic deal even before the rebate

I've been waiting as patiently as I could the last three years for the smart phone market to develop and I'm thrilled that my wait may finally be over. The Verizon Android based phone, the Motorola Droid is the first to deliver on all the features I've been waiting for. As I waited I never bought an mp3/media player, I didn't get a GPS, I got the most out of my 4mp point and shoot camera, I didn't get a Flip or similar mico HD camcorder, and I didn't buy a PDA. Let's see what I might have spent if I did get all these devices, and to be fair I'll only look at similar spec items. For an MP3/media player, lets go with the 4th Gen 8GB iPod nano for $120. Granted the newest can capture video for only $30 more, but this is more about being an early adopter. The Droid also has 16GB of storage, but I'm going to say that half of that will easily be consumed by other things. For GPS I chose the Magellan RoadMate 1430 with traffic for $150. Note that there is monthly fee for traffic, though I couldn't easily get a price. I'll exclude that since you'll have to have a Verizon subscription regardless. A 5mp basic point and shoot camera is pretty obsolete right now, so I'll instead go ahead and combine the camera and video functionality in the Wolverine MM100R for $100. Finally a PalmOne Zire for $150. This brings the total to $520, a full $320 more after the $100 Droid rebate. It is true that I could have had at least some of this functionality for several years now instead of waiting, but I probably would have spent even more since each device started out well over what you can get them for now. The iPhone was certainly very close to what I wanted and I was actually willing to let my Verizon contract expire, but I still wasn't quite happy with the 3G coverage and GPS aspect. When the TomTom iPhone app came out it solved one issue, but still cost even more. Now with Android 2.0 Google has rolled out a kick as turn-by-turn navigator with 3D and satellite views plus traffic and street view where available. Being web enable it's also constantly updated, no map purchases and the ability to find up to date events. Best of all, it's free. Check out the video below to see it in all its glory.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Playing for Change

A while ago I bookmarked the playing for change website. In revisiting it I found some of the episodes deeply moving, perhaps worth buying the DVD. It's a unique project producing songs with musicians around the world. Their mission of peace through music is quite the challenge, but if people of such different cultures who have never met can make something so beautiful, why can't we all? Below is my personal favorite. Stand by Me is also very good.