Tag Archives: science

Long day’s journey into bitly

…with apologies to Eugene O’Neill.

For the past two years, I have checked in from time to time with bitly and added to my posts about what I found. What started as an amusing projection — how could the URL-shortening service evolve as they began to run low on 6-character hash strings? — turned somber, morbid, even sepulchral. Most recently, I wrote in The bitly dea(r)th watch that, because of Twitter’s DIY shortener, t.co,

…it was [now] less a matter of when bitly would run out of unique hash strings and much more a matter of when the world might run out of bitly. Would the dearth become a death, not to put too fine a point on it?

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Higgs confirms Gutting

Start with the composite photo above — left to right, the galaxy Messier 82 (M82) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope; the tip of a pine branch in Upstate NY taken by me; and a putative Higgs event from the Large Hadron Collider modelled by the CMS collaboration at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Now ask yourself this: Could you explain to anyone else what is happening in each of these?… Yeah, I couldn’t either, though it wouldn’t stop me from trying! But really explain? No, not at the galactic or human or sub-nuclear scales. And yet as a species we know an astonishing amount about all three. How can that be? The answer is that there are two kinds of people involved, and we have learned to trust them both — scientists who dream up experiments, create measuring devices, and carefully analyze the results; and philosophers who help the first think about what it means to know something with confidence. More about one member of the second group later.

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