Tag Archives: media

The Expanse

Early in January I found out that the SyFy channel has a new TV series coming this year, called The Expanse. It’s a story that takes place 200 years in the future. Humanity has colonized Mars, which has become independent, and set up mining / science operations on a number asteroids and moons. It’s all based on a series of books that started publishing in 2011.

I decided to not wait for the series to air, and dive in on the books. 4 have published so far, and they all follow a narrative style, where the chapters flip back and forth between different character’s perspectives. The first book is two character perspectives, all the later ones are four. Some people that have distinctly small sub roles in early books become a main point of view later. The way it’s done makes it feel like a rich environment, you’ll never know when players will return in the future.

I’ve really enjoyed the series so far, can’t wait for book 5 to come out this summer. There are lots of really neat ideas in the books so far. The time delays on communication throughout the solar system, and what that causes. The “spinning up” of Ceres and Eros to provide centripetal artificial gravity on the inside. The use of Ganymede as both a Farming Planet, and where all the Belters go to carry their children to term (because it has a magnetosphere). And many more really interesting ideas that provide spoilers to  the big story arc.

Definitely worth a read.  And check out the trailer below for this coming to TV later this year.

How to manufacture facts like a champ

“Boomerang kids: 85% of college grads move home,” blared a headline on CNNMoney.com. “85% of college grads return to nest,” echoed the New York Post. “Survey: 85% of New College Grads Move Back in with Mom and Dad,”said Time magazine’s website.

Recently, the 85 percent figure emerged in the presidential campaign, in an ad from the Republican group American Crossroads that blames President Barack Obama for the boomerang.

We rated the claim False, but as we dug into the number, we found the media had repeated it with little scrutiny. Journalists were content to copy a number from other news reports without verifying it — or even asking when the survey was conducted.

If the reporters had looked deeper, they would have found some oddities about the firm that claimed to have conducted the survey, a Philadelphia-area company called Twentysomething. The company’s website had an impressive list of staffers, but when we checked on them, we found several who either didn’t work for the company or appeared to be fictional.

The whole story is even weirder than you might imagine, and cane be seen over at Politifact. Moral of the story, news without public citations is suspect.

With all the crap wikipedia gets on accuracy, they are quite good about creating a culture of “citation needed”. We need more of that.


Journalism Warning Labels

These are brilliant:

It seems a bit strange to me that the media carefully warn about and label any content that involves sex, violence or strong language — but there’s no similar labelling system for, say, sloppy journalism and other questionable content.

I figured it was time to fix that, so I made some stickers. I’ve been putting them on copies of the free papers that I find on the London Underground. You might want to as well.

Maybe it’s time to take a statistics class

From Wired’s Why We Should Learn the Language of Data:

Statistics is hard. But that’s not just an issue of individual understanding; it’s also becoming one of the nation’s biggest political problems. We live in a world where the thorniest policy issues increasingly boil down to arguments over what the data mean. If you don’t understand statistics, you don’t know what’s going on — and you can’t tell when you’re being lied to. Statistics should now be a core part of general education. You shouldn’t finish high school without understanding it reasonably well — as well, say, as you can compose an essay.

It goes on to explain a whole number of policy issues that are being argued with badly understood data.

On a related note: It’s dark out, that is proof the Sun has been destroyed.

Maybe it’s citizen anchors, not citizen journalists

I found this really insightful.

We like to say new media is allowing us all to be journalists. But it’s
probably more accurate to say it lets us all be anchors. Sure, the
Internet also allows people with local knowledge or serious expertise
to speak directly and be picked up by a wider audience, but it doesn’t
fundamentally do a whole lot to increase the population of those people.

And I love his proof point of Palin as the main example

That makes Palin the perfect post-postmodern politician, in a way: A
totally self-contained text, a signifier with no referent. You don’t
really need to know anything to love her or to hate her, because she’s not about
anything except… Sarah Palin. Obligingly, she places no demands on
either her supporters or her detractors, because what they decide to
think of her is all they need to know to decide what to think of her.
At the center of her media narrative is… the media’s narrative about
her, bouncing down an infinite corridor of mirrors. If Jorge Luis
Borges had a talk show on a cable channel run by M.C. Escher, it would
look like CNN right now. Welcome aboard the Goodship Palin, now sailing
from the desert of the real.

I’m looking at you, Audible.com

This comics comes timely as I attempted to figure out how to make Audible.com work on Linux this weekend, and gave up.  I don’t get why vendors don’t switch from DRM to watermarking (like a lot of people doing eBooks now).  Watermarking makes your customers part of your enforcement, as their name gets badly spread around if their files get out in bittorrents, and it doesn’t prevent your customers from using their purchased items in all the legitimate ways they want.

Dubner, do some research next time.

I really enjoyed Freakonomics, as it provided a much more interesting look at the world. But I’m quite sad that Dubner posted this Chewbacca argument on local foods. Some how, the fact that he can’t make sherbert effectively, means that local foods don’t make sense.

The logic is flawed all over the place. From the fact that “my sherbert sucked, so locally grown food definitely isn’t tasty”, to the complete gloss over on nutrition (which has a USDA study behind it), to using meat production cost vs. transportation to say that producing anything locally has the same balance (think for a second that most apples sold in NY state come from China, when one of NY’s big crop exports is apples). It’s really a hack all around. It’s pretty much the classic “I’m sounding really smart, so don’t actually try to follow my logic” kind of post.

While there are some good arguments against localization of food production, Dubner doesn’t actually state any of them. There is also an assumption that behavioral patterns don’t change when you start localizing your food, and that you are still buying tomatoes in the winter. That really isn’t true. Even going back to store bought lettuce in November was depressing, as it’s really that much worse. Nothing that’s supposed to have as much flavor as a tomato is even bearable off season.

I do realize he’s not actually the economist part of the team, he’s just the writer. But it would be nice if he did some actual research before posting stuff like this. It’s just embarrassing. 🙂