conformal cyclical cosmology

Something in the news here today, referring also to Penrose’s paper from several years ago.

In my limited understanding, Penrose suggests that the universe goes through these cycles of what can be interpreted as infinite expansions “followed by” big bangs, where the cycle renewal “happens” in a mathematical sense: in the way spacetime is metrized. He says that in the infinite future, when all massive particles will have evaporated, we will be returned to a situation without a notion of space or time (since all things are lightlike, I suppose). From this, the very large scale of the given final universe can be reinterpreted as the very small beginning of the next universe. It’s an interesting thought.

times square scammer

In the news today,

NYC police: Officer kills Times Square scammer

NEW YORK — A plainclothes cop chased a Times Square scam artist through sidewalks crowded with holiday shoppers and tourists Thursday, exchanging gunfire that shattered Broadway theater and gift shop windows, before killing the suspect near a landmark hotel, police said.

The slain man was not immediately identified. Officers suspected him and his partner were working a scam in which they would approach tourists, ask them their names, then write their names on the CDs and demand payment of $10.

I’m so glad I didn’t take any of those CD’s hawked to me every morning in times square last summer.

virtual economies

Old news that I never digested from about a year ago.

At first I wondered, well what exactly is being produced in game economies that are of productive value? Then, I thought, wait, what is being produced in real economies that are of productive value? Especially the “service sector.” Lots of things can be dismissed as having no productive value, but as long as there is demand, there is value, and where there is value, there is an economy waiting to develop. I guess that’s the first lesson.

Secondly, there is no way Anshe Chung would have been as successful in the real world without the virtual world existing. Not only would she not have pursued some of the, erm, career opportunities, let’s say, nor would she have been given the kind of opportunities such as real estate “development” to amass the starting capital as easily — most opportunities in the real world have been taken or have strong players already firmly entrenched. It puts a new kink in the argument of work vs. luck in terms of financial (or general) success in life, and it highlights the fine boundary between obeying social constraints vs. giving up on risk taking.

synthetic genome

all over the news today.

Scientists have built the first synthetic genome by stringing together 147 pages of letters representing the building blocks of DNA.

The researchers used yeast to stitch together four long strands of DNA into the genome of a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. They said it’s more than an order of magnitude longer than any previous synthetic DNA creation. Leading synthetic biologists said with the new work, published Thursday in the journal Science, the first synthetic life could be just months away — if it hasn’t been created already.

“We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, on Thursday during a teleconference. “What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome … is to boot this up in a cell.”

This is what they actually did. Looks like an interesting application of TAR cloning in yeast (another link) — normally used for sequence selection — which itself is a significant extension of the YAC toolset.

I guess small artificial genomes are a practical reality now, but TAR cloning is really the key here, allowing a less restrictive abstraction of the join operation to be implemented. Nice.

What’s up with AT&T?

Old news but news to me.

Cingular, which just a year or two ago acquired AT&T Wireless and changed everything to the orange color scheme, will change everything back to AT&T again.


The newly reborn AT&T, fresh off of digesting BellSouth, plans to turn off the lights on their Cingular Wireless brand by next year and name it AT&T Wireless.


Cingular originally was unconnected to AT&T; it was a joint venture between SBC and BellSouth.

Subsequently, AT&T sold its wireless assets to Cingular; AT&T proper remained a separate company, and “AT&T Wireless” ceased to exist.

Last year, SBC acquired what was left of AT&T, but they adopted the AT&T corporate name (due to its much stronger brand recognition). This made Cingular a joint venture of AT&T and BellSouth.

Now AT&T intends to acquire BellSouth. Once again, the AT&T brand will survive the takeover, meaning that AT&T will own 100% of Cingular.

Thirty-odd years after the break-up of AT&T, it is piecing itself back together… hoho, the regulators of the 70s must be rolling in their graves… or wheelchairs, whatever.