You call that a silver lining?

According to Prof. Bill Dally, chair of the computer science department at Stanford, Wall Street’s collapse may be computer science’s gain.

The collapse of Wall Street may help make computer science and IT careers attractive to students who abandoned these fields in droves after the pop of the last big bubble, the dot-com bust of 2001.

“Many thought they could make more money in hedge funds,” Dally said. He said students are returning to computer science because they like the field and not because it can necessarily make them rich.

That’s right. Those kids better not believe they’ll get rich with a computer science degree.

If the dot-com meltdown wasn’t enough, offshore outsourcing also scared away students from technology. In 2004, Carly Fiorina, then CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., summed up the offshore trend this way: “There is no job that is America’s God-given right anymore.” Fiorina is now an adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain in his bid for the White House.

Hedge funds retreat to cash

The end of the BSD

The dirty little secret of the late boom? Many of the people who succeeded most flagrantly did so not because they were great at figuring out ways to make huge amounts of money. Rather, they scored because they were great at figuring out ways to make small amounts of money and then magnified their returns through the massive use of debt.

The Securities and Exchange Commission this week issued an order banning the short selling of several hundred financial stocks. As a result, many hedge funds are pulling in their horns and running for safety. […] The BSDs are investing like grannies who survived the Great Depression. Riding out the storm by parking assets in cash is a smart strategy for a hedge fund that has already scored big gains for the year. But most hedge funds haven’t. Earlier this week, it was reported that, globally speaking, only one in 10 hedge funds is earning performance fees—i.e., the 20 percent of the fund’s gains that the managers keep as compensation.

The cynical appeal of drilling

Making America Stupid

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. “Typewriters, baby, typewriters.”

Of course, we’re going to need oil for many years, but instead of exalting that — with “drill, baby, drill” — why not throw all our energy into innovating a whole new industry of clean power with the mantra “invent, baby, invent?” That is what a party committed to “change” would really be doing.

Customizing ARM for Iphone

New iPhone Chip Will Cost an ARM and a Missile

Wei-han Lien, the senior manager of Apple’s chip team, [says on LinkedIn] he’s busy at work crafting an ARM processor for the next-generation iPhone.

PA Semi had assembled an all-star cast of chip engineers, including Lien, and Apple confirmed that it bought the company for that talent. In a June interview with The Times’ John Markoff, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs went one step further, saying the PA Semi team would work on designing brand-new processors for future iPhones and iPods. The only question was which kind of processors. […]

By developing its own ARM variant, Apple could create a processor that meets the specific needs of the iPhone and iPod, building support for functions such as the touch screen or scroll wheel into silicon and possibly savings on costs by reducing the number of processors needed in each device. […]

Stay away from open windows

Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; Merrill Is Sold

In one of the most dramatic days in Wall Street’s history, Merrill Lynch agreed to sell itself on Sunday to Bank of America for roughly $50 billion to avert a deepening financial crisis, while another prominent securities firm, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection and hurtled toward liquidation after it failed to find a buyer.

Last week was traumatic. But the crisis is still a long way from resolution.

Bankers with two or three decades of experience used the words “scary,” “terrifying” and “horrible” to describe the situation.

Northern Campaign

Prime Minister Stephen Harper just called a federal election for October 14. So Canadians will have to endure a 5 week long political campaign. Compare that to the seemingly endless campaign cycle in the US.

On the other hand, this is also the 3rd Canadian election in 4 years. Canada has been struggling with minority govermments since the Liberal party collapse in 2004.

What’s the matter with Canada?

Canada’s political system is in turmoil. […] Canada is quietly becoming a political basket case, and this latest election may make things even worse.

Overheard at CERN

Large Hadron Collider Switch-on Fears Are Completely Unfounded

“Each collision of a pair of protons in the LHC will release an amount of energy comparable to that of two colliding mosquitoes, so any black hole produced would be much smaller than those known to astrophysicists.” They conclude that such microscopic black holes could not grow dangerously.

Wait a minute. Crossing proton streams. End of the world scenarios…
Haven’t we heard this one before?

Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Spengler: It would be bad.
Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr. Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.


Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the particle flow through the gate.
Venkman: How?
Spengler: [hesitates] We’ll cross the streams.
Venkman: ‘Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Stantz: Cross the streams…
Venkman: You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance, before she became a dog…
Spengler: Not necessarily. There’s definitely a *very slim* chance we’ll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! LET’S DO IT!

I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You

Clive Thompson has written a very interesting piece for the NYT magazine about how social networking has changed people’s relationships to friends and acquaintances: I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this article – Thompson actually makes the best case for micro-blogging services like Twitter that I’ve ever seen.

Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting.

The article says that even with all this technology, people still can only really keep track of so many close friends – our “Dunbar number”. Social network users say that their relationships to those close friends have become deeper and richer as a result of these tools. And they’ve also greatly really increased the number of “weak ties” to loose acquaintances that they can call on from time to time.

The flip side of the coin is that most kids these days have no choice but to participate in social networks. They’re living in the equivalent of a small town, where everyone is talking about everyone else. If you don’t make a regular appearance, and try to express yourself, others will define you against your will.

“You know that old cartoon? ‘On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog’? On the Internet today, everybody knows you’re a dog! If you don’t want people to know you’re a dog, you’d better stay away from a keyboard.”

Of course, people often act far worse online than they would ever behave in person. We see that in email discussions and message boards. That additional degree of separation allows people to act without considering the consequences. And when those actions are broadcast for all to read, it can really be destructive. Just imagine if people behaved in person like they do on Facebook.

Palin Pun

A friend was watching the Republican Convention:

“Boy, Palin is good!”

Me: “You thinking of changing sides?”

“No, but I am still amazed at her delivery.”

Me: “No wonder. She’s had lots of practice with deliveries.”

Thank you, I’ll be here all week…