Friday, January 12, 2007

Why? ... because we've always done it that way!

Unashamedly nicked from Alec:

Monkey Experiment Proves Corporate Policy Process

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a
banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a
monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As
soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with
cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the
same result, and all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water.
Pretty soon the monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and
replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to
climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys
attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he
tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with
a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The
previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm!
Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a
fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most
of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not
permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the
beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all the original
monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with
cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs
to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that's the
way it's always been done around here.

And that, my friends, is how a company policy begins.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Moon

If you look to the right hand panel on this page, you should see a link to the Astronomy Picture of the Day - one of the places I go every day for a fix of fascinating pictures of the universe around us.

I must say, however, that today's picture is even more fascinating than usual. It shows the last 20 full moons in a mosaic (and links to a movie version too!), with all the images to the same scale. It demonstrates that the apparent size of the Moon really does change over time, as the mutual Earth-Moon orbital system varies. Actually, the mosaic takes some examination to see this effect, but movie is much clearer.

I knew that the distance between the Earth and the Moon varied, but I've never seen it presented so graphically before.

If you like this one, you should also try the one from 28th December 06 as it also shows the Moon, but to the same angular scale (size in the sky) as the Andromeda Galaxy. Normally the galaxy is much, much fainter than the Moon, so this kind of image can only be seen in composite, but I'd never realised just how large a galaxy like Andromeda is when viewed from the shared viewing platform we call the Earth.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

Well, that was an interesting year. Was it really the year of Web 2.0 and 'community generated content'? (as suggested by the BBC) Or, as I would suggest, it was more a case of the media finally figuring out what has always made the Internet more interesting than just the news sites... the long tail that's been there ever since people have had their own spaces on bulletin boards, their homepages, or news group communities.

YouTube, facebook, MySpace and the rest are simply higher bandwidth, better publicised, better financed and more widely used versions of the things the Internet has thrived on since it's inception in the early seventies.

After 30 years, it's about time the conventional media finally figured this out, but you know journalists. As soon as you read a news report about something you actually know about (through expertise or personal involvement), you see countless glaring errors. Makes you wonder about the rest of the news they report!