An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on global warming starring Al Gore, opened this week in New York and California. I saw it last night and, though Ive attended several academic conferences related to global warming and its effects this year, this film presents the scientific consensus on the real and significant effects of climate change in the most straightforward and compelling way Ive seen yet.
Of course, there are still some people who dont think theres a problem—for instance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank funded in part by the oil industry. Its commissioned a couple 60-second advertising spots that are now airing in 14 U.S. cities and on its Web site. The tagline of the ads: Carbon dioxide: They call it a pollutant. We call it Life. Huh?
Anyway, if youre the type who values science over spin, you might want to calculate your own contribution to the problem at climatecrisis.org (click on Take Action, then Your Impact). There are quite a few of these carbon calculators available on the Web, although this one ups accuracy by adding in your airline miles—which may make some of us holier-than-thou, public-transportation-loving urbanites feel a little less smug.
The hope is that we start thinking about our own CO2 emissions the way we think about our calorie intake (not that we Americans have such a great track record in that area either). You know, like realizing that huge hunk of chocolate cake is a full 600 calories and deciding to split it with your date. Its the same thing for your drive from Boston to Burlington. Ride with someone else, and your impact is half as much.
OK, OK, so carpooling alone wont solve global warming. But getting people to consider their own emissions on a daily basis would be a decent start to building up the political will to take on the problem for real. Need more motivation? Check out these simulated Google maps of the warmer, flooded future.—Kalee Thompson
I'm addicted to Web 2.0 apps—those interactive Ajax-scripted Web sites such as Backpack and Remember the Milk. The release of a new one reminds me of the pre-Web days when a new version of Mac OS or Quark would suddenly appear and you got to waste your whole day fiddling with new features. 30 Boxes is my latest obsession—a supersmart online calendar that could finally be the free solution to shared scheduling we've been waiting for. The beta just went public Sunday and so far I'm very impressed.
Besides its slick, easy-to-use interface, 30 Boxes' schtick is that it integrates into the social Web scene, importing photos from your Flickr account, sites from your del.icio.us feed and content from several other sites. But it also lets you share your calendar with others in a very customizable way. Invite a "buddy" to join 30 Boxes, and decide what you want them to see—all or some of your appointments (you can set up individual filters), your bookmarks or Flickr photos, etc—and see theirs on your calendar. So you could share all your appointments with your spouse, only the weekly poker game with one set of buddies, and birthdays with all the relatives. Whenever you add something it shows up automatically on their calendars and vice versa. You can even drop Google maps into an appointment just by entering its address in brackets. Like any shared app, it requires everyone to participate to take full advantage of its potential, but even if none of your family and friends are on the Web 2.0 train yet, it's worth using just for your own schedule. —Mike Haney
Most complex events in today's computer games-a stack of boxes tipping over, an avalanche-are just prerecorded animations that give you the same outcome every time. But design a game with physics processing, and suddenly it's like the real world: The boxes fall differently depending on how they're hit, and the avalanche may or may not knock you off the mountain.
Imagine having a 10-gigabyte hard drive in your cellphone or a terabyte of space on your laptop. Perpendicular recording, a new way of writing data to
a hard disk, creates the possibility for these kinds of capacities, just as we're approaching the physical limits of traditional recording methods.
Hard drives store information by changing the polarization of microscopic magnetic bits aligned end-to-end on a surface called a platter. But you can pack in only so many bits before they interfere with one another, randomly switching orientation and turning your data into noise.