Saturday, November 27, 2010

But what if the TSA scanning machines were *in* Denver?

A few more things today. A comment to a blog entry about the TSA scanner talks about exposure:
Just for fun, I'm expressing the Reported Dose from a typical body scan in an adult (2.6 microRem) in terms of Time Spent in Denver. The answer? Atmospheric annual exposure in Denver (Not including Radon!) = 1.8 mRem or about 1,800 microRem per year. Calculate: (1800 microRem/ year) x (1 year/365 days) x (1 day/24 hrs) = 0.2 microRem per Hour for just standing around in Denver. So the scanner gives you about half of a day in Denver- now you've got something to think about during your layover. ;)
The Frontal Cortex post "The cognitive cost of expertise" reminded me of expert-novice differences when it comes to working with images such as schematics and visual programming languages. The author says "Now for the bad news: Expertise might also come with a dark side, as all those learned patterns make it harder for us to integrate wholly new knowledge." Novices experience the opposite of this -- they can't see the patterns and are lost in details, or misidentify patterns. A great summary is Marian Petre's "Why looking isn't always seeing: readership skills and graphical programming" from the June 1995 issue of Communications of the ACM or the always popular "Visual Depiction of Decision Statements: What is Best for Programmers and Non-Programmers?" by Kiper, Auernheimer, and Ames published in Empirical Software Engineering.

Just two more things: Did you know that the unnecessary "camera sound" made when you take a picture is called a skeuomorph? The author of "Is realistic UI design realistic" says
There’s no complex mechanical mirror assembly swinging upward when the shutter opens. No matter, though. The cigarette box sized camera burps out a faux ka-click anyway. The mechanism producing this noise was quite necessary for its predecessor, the SLR/DSLR camera, but now functionally irrelevant in the newer point-and-shoots. This design cue (audible in this case) inherited from an ancestor is referred to as a skeuomorph, and they can be found everywhere in our daily lives — air intakes on the electric Chevy Volt, window shutters that don’t shut, copper cladding on zinc pennies, nonwinding watch winders. Even the brown cork-pattern on cigarette tips is a holdover from the days when cork was used as a filter.
I thought the camera-sound was part of the "Cell phone predator alert act" (see Wired's take). Did it become law?

And finaly, Danny Hillis, the Long Now Foundation clock guy, works at a great place, see this article - scroll down to see the illustrated "Nerdvana". Pretty cool.