Where is Io progress

I’ve made some more progress on what will be my first Android market application – “Where is Io”.  I’ve learned a lot about sqlite performance on the phone, which isn’t bad as long as you limit the number of database opens you do.  I’m also trying to make the interface more self explanatory to even those with less astronomy knowledge.  Here are the current screen shots:

I’m not going to explain anything else on the interface, but I would love questions / comments in the blog if this seems confusing.  My “must do” task list probably puts this at about 2 weeks away from publish into the market.  Fortunately, Jupiter is only just coming out of the Sun now (with a missing belt!) so as long as I get this out in the next month or so it will be useful to folks.

The Onion: EPA – Stubborn Environment Refusing To Meet Civilization Halfway

“For 40 years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of our natural environment,” a visibly angered EPA administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters. “But this can only work when it’s a give-and-take. If the environment won’t even meet us halfway by regenerating a rain forest or two, or pumping out some clean air and water every once in a while, then what’s the point of us trying?”

I love the Onion.

A Git epiphany, a journey in 3 acts

There have been a series of posts about Git in the last week over at The Reinvigorated Programmer. It’s fascinating to watch someone come to terms with Git that’s also a brilliant writer, and gets to the heart of the challenges so quickly. If you’ve ever struggled getting over that hump with Git, I encourage you to read the three posts, in order, and see if it helps you on your journey.

Act 1: Git is a Harrier Jump Jet. And not in a good way

Act 2: Still hatin’ on git: now with added Actual Reasons!

Act 3: You could have invented git (and maybe you already have!)

The new “pick two”

I think that the whole Facebook dust up around privacy really has brought us a new pick any two triangle diagram:

The New Pick Any Two

When it comes to some kind of online services you only get to pick two of: privacy, no effort, and no cost.  With free services, that you don’t have to manage yourself, it should be no surprise that you have to give up privacy.

I’m sure there is a better wording for the pyramid, or even a better distillation of the legs.  If you’ve got any thoughts on that front, please post a comment.

Why there is Ice forming a mile down in the ocean

News reports of the failed attempt to contain the oil-spewing equipment on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico have referred obliquely to things like “ice crystals” or an “icy slush” clogging the hardware that was intended to cap the leak. Anyone who is paying attention would recognize that there’s a bit of a problem here, in that, even at the temperatures and pressures of the ocean at the site, the water there is very much in its liquid phase, as are the hydrocarbons that are spewing through the leak. The methane that caused the original explosion remains gaseous down to -161°C. The “ice” that’s forming is actually a solidified mixture of methane and water called a clathrate. Clathrates have also been in the news because of a potential role in climate change, so it seems like an opportune time to explain what they are.

Ars Technica goes on to explain the chemistry of these Clathrates, and how they can exist at the bottom of the ocean.

And, on the subject of the oil breach, it’s a damn shame that it’s going to take the destruction of most of the marine industries in the Gulf, and large parts of the ecosystem, for people to realize off shore drilling, in both safety and trade offs, is a more complicated issue then “drill, baby, drill.”

More fun with statistics, beware your kitchen appliances

Via Bruce Schneier, there is this quite good write up on risk assessment in the government.  Apparently, most government agencies actually have explicit risk metrics when allocating resources based on the chance of things causing human fatalities:

An unacceptable risk is often called de manifestis, meaning of obvious or evident concern — a risk so high that no “reasonable person” would deem it acceptable. A widely cited de manifestis risk assessment comes from a 1980 United States Supreme Court decision regarding workers’ risk from inhaling gasoline vapors. It concluded that an annual fatality risk — the chance per year that a worker would die of inhalation — of 1 in 40,000 is unacceptable. This is in line with standard practice in the regulatory world. Typically, risks considered unacceptable are those found likely to kill more than 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 per year.

At the other end of the spectrum are risks that are considered acceptable, and there is a fair degree of agreement about that area of risk as well. For example, after extensive research and public consultation, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided in 1986 that the fatality risk posed by accidents at nuclear power plants should not exceed 1 in 2 million per year and 1 in 500,000 per year from nuclear power plant operations. The governments of Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom have come up with similar numbers for assessing hazards. So did a review of 132 U.S. federal government regulatory decisions dealing with public exposure to environmental carcinogens, which found that regulatory action always occurred if the individual annual fatality risk exceeded 1 in 700,000. Impressively, the study found a great deal of consistency among a wide range of federal agencies about what is considered an acceptable level of risk.

This falls down when it comes to terrorism:

As can be seen, annual terrorism fatality risks, particularly for areas outside of war zones, are less than one in one million and therefore generally lie within the range regulators deem safe or acceptable, requiring no further regulations, particularly those likely to be expensive. They are similar to the risks of using home appliances (200 deaths per year in the United States) or of commercial aviation (103 deaths per year).

Hmmm… I’m going to have to start keeping an eye out on my dishwasher.  I’m pretty sure it has it in for me.