Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Big Blackouts are Inevitable

A couple of days ago, I complained about electrical power reliability and that the government should be doing something about it. Today, in IEEE Spectrum there is an interesting article on the problem. If anyone should know about electrical power, it is the IEEE, and their prognosis is not good.

There are a number of competing theories, but the bottom line is that large blackouts will continue to happen, and that is that. The section of the article on Chaos theory (remember the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park), almost seemed to suggest the idea in Asimov's Foundation that some day we will predict the future by writing mathematical equations.

Anyway, even if large blackouts are going to occur every 35 years or so, that is no reason to let the politicians off the hook. After all the reason we elect them is to look after our interests so lets make them do it!

(Update 11/22/2008 fix link to article)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Search Alone

George Chitouras of Inxight Software gave a talk to the Emerging Technology SIG of the SDForum on "Search Alone is Not Enough". I had seen it before, but it is always fun to see the combination of natural language analysis, search and user interface that Inxight has pulled together. This time he also showed us the Time Wall which is another neat visualization tool. Someone in the audience was so bowled over by the display of search features that he asked whether Inxight would mean the end of Google. Apparently he was going to discuss Google with his broker the following morning.

Inxight does not compete with Google, they sell search software products to corporate and government users. George made the good point that search for them is different than search on the internet. Most importantly there is much less cross reference between documents, so it is difficult to establish reasonable page rankings. Instead, Inxight proposes semantic analysis of documents and placing them in a user defined taxonomy which is easy to access through their StarTree. The TimeWall allows easy graphical search of documents arranged by time. Other semantic information extracted from the documents can be displayed along with the search results to help with further refinements of the search.

I want a version of their system on my PC to help me manage email and other documents. Unfortunately, Inxight is not going in that direction, however there are other projects that while they may not be so capable, are more affordable.

As predicted by an audience member there were heated discussion after the talk on various topics raised. I partook in a discussion on whether a taxonomy had to be a directed tree or whether it should be a graph. Although I argued both sides at the time, I think on reflection that a taxonomy is easier to use and less confusing when it is a tree., and that this is worth more than the generality of a graph taxonomy.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Reliable Electical Power?

This morning I was online reading a news item on electricity reliability when a power blip caused my PC to reboot. Such irony. When I tried to to back to the news item, it required a subscription, and I had to scrabble around to find another version of the story.

Electricity reliability is exactly the kind of thing that the government should be able to sort out. How hard can it be? If your elected representative cannot get something simple like this right, it is time to be thinking about change.