May 2008

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gas price map

From gasbuddy.com:

Now you can see what gas prices are around the country at a glance. Areas are color coded according to their price for the average price for regular unleaded gasoline.

Here is the US map.

[via infoesthetics]

gridrepublic – distributed supercomputing

Remember hearing about SETI@home? Check out, and download, Gridrepublic.org:

GridRepublic members run a screensaver that allows their computers to work on public-interest research projects when the machines are not otherwise in use. This screensaver does not affect performance of the host computer any more than an ordinary screensaver does.

By aggregating idle resources from users around the world, we create a massive supercomputer.

Gridrepublic is built on the system that started as SETI@home, which was turned into a general distributed computing platform BOINC. Gridrepublic is a central place for all projects using this distributed platform, where you can dowload & install the system and even better, choose which projects your computer’s idle time will be supporting, including:

Einstein@home: you can contribute your computer’s idle time to a search for spinning neutron stars (also called pulsars) using data from the LIGO and GEO gravitational wave detectors.

BBC Climate Change: The same model that the Met Office uses to make daily weather forecasts has been adapted to run on home PCs. The model incorporates many variable parameters, allowing thousands of sets of conditions. Your computer will run one individual set of conditions– in effect your individual version of how the world’s climate works– and then report back to the research team what it calculates. This experiment was described on the BBC television documentary Meltdown (BBC-4, February 20th, 2006). Note: workunits require several months of screensaver time; faster computers recommended.

Rosetta@home: needs your help to determine the 3-dimensional shape of proteins as part of research that may ultimately contribute to cures for major human diseases such as AIDS / HIV, Malaria, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Proteins@Home: investigating the “Inverse Protein Folding Problem”: Whereas “Protein Folding” seeks to determine a protein’s shape from its amino acid sequence, “Inverse Protein Folding” begins with a protein of known shape and seeks to “work backwards” to determine the amino acid sequence from which it is generated.

Quantum Monte Carlo: Reactions between molecules are important for virtually all parts of our lives. The structure and reactivity of molecules can be predicted by Quantum Chemistry, but the solution of the vastly complex equations of Quantum Theory often require huge amounts of computing power. This project seeks to raise the necessary computing time in order to further develop the very promising Quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) method for general use in Quantum Chemistry.

Donate here.

Science in the Open

Science in the open: An openwetware blog on the challenges of open and connected science… about:

This blog contains the thoughts of Cameron Neylon on the technical and social issues involved with ‘Open Science’. Most people would agree Open Science includes freely accesible literature or perhaps making raw data available. Others might think it also involves people working on collaborative documents such as Wikis or the freedom to re-use the published literature or data. At its logical extreme Open Science includes making all the science we do freely available as it happens. Many people find this scarey. Some, perhaps a growing number, find it tremendously exciting.

This blog is a place for me to think through the technical problems and issues involved in electronically recording our work for publication on the web and the other social and logistical issues that are raised by making the science we do more immediately available and more connected to the world outside the laboratory.

Crown Copyright – Who benefits?

Michael Geist has a new post about crown copyright, including all the good arguments that it should be killed. But this gem really takes the cake:

Beyond the policy reasons for abandoning crown copyright, internal government documents reveal other concerns. Financially, the federal crown copyright system costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Documents from Public Works and Government Services Canada, which administers the crown copyright system, reveal that in the 2006-7 fiscal year, crown copyright licensing generated less than $7,000 in revenue, yet the system cost over $200,000 to administer.

Not only does crown copyright mean citizens face unnecessary restrictions on use of government data and documents they paid for with their taxes, it ALSO means that they have to pay EXTRA to not have free access to the data & documents. (Though note, both 7k and 200k are drops in the bucket of federal budgets). But still, if it’s a money suck as well as everything else, what’s the point of it? Here’s one answer:

For example, an educational institution request to reproduce a photo of a Snowbird airplane was denied on the grounds that the photo was to be used for an article raising questions about the safety of the program. Similarly, a request to reproduce a screen capture of the NEXUS cross-border program with the U.S. was declined since it was to be used in an article that would not portray the program in a favourable light. Although it seems unlikely that crown copyright authorization was needed to use these images, the government’s decision to deny permission smacks of censorship and misuse of Canadian copyright law.

Does anyone have any compelling arguments in favour of crown copyright?

[thanks Sara!]

feds kill info access registry

OTTAWA–The federal Conservatives have quietly killed a giant information registry that was used by lawyers, academics, journalists and ordinary citizens to hold government accountable.The registry, created in 1989, is an electronic list of every request filed to all federal departments and agencies under the Access to Information Act.Known as CAIRS, for Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System, the database allowed ordinary citizens to identify millions of pages of once-secret documents that became public through individual freedom-of-information requests over many years

Alasdair Roberts, a political scientist at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York, built a version of the database by requesting the CAIRS electronic records through an Access to Information Act request, and updated the site monthly. CBC journalist David McKie took over the work in 2006 using another publicly accessible website (http://www.onlinedemocracy.ca).

Articles & Posts about this issue:

canada & electric cars

From the economist, with the emphasis added:

IN THESE times of high petrol prices and worries about climate change, you might think that any country would be proud to enjoy a lead in manufacturing electric cars. Not Canada, it seems. Two Canadian companies, ZENN Motor Company and Dynasty Electric Car, make small electric cars designed for city use; a third, which will use new battery technology developed by Exxon Mobil, plans to launch a model later this year.

But almost all these “low-speed vehicles” (or LSVs) are exported to the United States because Canada refuses to allow their use on public roads. Transport Canada, the regulatory agency, questions their safety. It doubts they would stand up in a collision with a delivery truck or a sport utility vehicle. Officials say they crash-tested one which didn’t fare well, though they refuse to release the data. The agency wants LSVs confined to “controlled areas”, such as university campuses, military bases, parks and Canada’s few gated communities. Its advice has carried weight with the provinces, which make the rules of the road

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