So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn't until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. They see and act on premises not yet apparent to others. In the computer industry, these are the folks I affectionately call "the alpha geeks," the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they "roll their own" when existing products don't give them what they need.
The inconstant constant: on the evidence which seems to indicate that the fine structure constant (alpha), which is derived from the charge of an electron, the speed of light, Planck's constant, and pi, has changed over the history of the universe.
Network in a dust storm: Berkeley scientists, led by Kris Pister, are working on distributed computing technology involving "smart dust", processing nodes the size of a few cubic millimeters. [via Nanodot]
Back in December, Eric Drexler of the Foresight Institute gave a talk on the dangers of nanotech at an AAAS symposium on the effect of the WoT on science. The audio of that talk, as well as the others that day, is now available. [via Nanodot]
Hawaii's Wake: scientists using the QuikSCAT satellite have discovered the Hawaiian Lee Counter Current, the disturbance in the Pacific Ocean's currents caused by Hawaii, extends just a bit more than the 300 kilometers previously thought. Instead, the wake extends almost 8000 kilometers.
Every year, engineers are handed more and more content to churn through their game engines, often with the files numbering in the thousands and filling up multiple CD's. Designing a file system to efficiently deal with this kind of quantity will take some careful planning. It will have a significant impact on memory footprint, load times, and general game play chunkiness. Plus, during development it will affect the overall production process, the frustration level of the team, and the tightness of the feature-to-bug-to-fix loop. This paper describes the requirements of a "good" file system and then details how to design and build one. Topics covered include: resource packages, proper use of memory mapping, integrating filters and compression, building tools for packaging, and production process gotchas that proper planning can easily solve.
The second of STS-110's spacewalks is scheduled to start this morning at 10:34 Eastern. They'll be continuing to work on the new S0 truss they attached to the station on Thursday.