Sunday, September 29, 2019

Twins, digital and mythological

A comment piece in Nature this week talks about mirror worlds (cf. RF mirror worlds), though the authors use the currently-fashionable term “digital twins” rather than Gelernter’s “mirror worlds.”

It’s a technocratic and manufacturing-oriented perspective. There’s more to be said about the substance of the piece, but right now I’d rather think about the cultural underpinnings.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Molding humans

Two stories from the Research Highlights section of a recent Nature podcast got me thinking about the wide range in human behaviors, e.g. extraversion and introversion, risk appetite and aversion, optimism and pessimism.

It seems that selective breeding has shaped dog behavior (duh). For example, brain regions involved in movement and navigation were bigger in dogs bred for coursing, such as Greyhounds, than in dogs bred for companionship, such as the Maltese. Presumably Homo Sapiens has shaped its own behavior (and thus brains) in the same way.

There are no optimal traits though, so variability will persist. Researchers found that white barn owls have more hunting success during the full moon -- but brown ones did better the rest of the month, explaining the large variability in owl color.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second thoughts on statistics and chaos

I argued in the last post, Mythology, old and new, that modern times call for a new god of uncertainty; I felt that neither Tyche nor Dionysus quite fit the bill. After Susan Tonkin’s private feedback, I’ve become less certain. (Her help with this whole series has been invaluable.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Mythology, old and new: Some patterns and implications

I’ve been exploring the intersection of technology and mythology recently (Techno-Loki, Greek Technology Gods, Spectro-Loki, and Afterthoughts). This post starts to pull together some of the threads: why gods are useful, candidate gods (not Gods) in modern life, and technology as god(s).

Friday, January 18, 2019

Afterthoughts: Norse & Greek Technology Gods

In recent posts, I explored patterns in Norse and Greek mythology that might help me understand technology. Before I attempt to draw conclusions, here’s a rag-tag bag of afterthoughts.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Spectro-Loki: The trickster in radio spectrum

In Techno-Loki, I argued that the Norse trickster god is a good metaphor for technology. I described how tech, like Loki and his exploits, has to be coerced into doing the right thing; follows impulse, skipping from one thing to the next; produces effects both good and bad, which are sometimes hard to distinguish; and is a shapeshifter. The examples in the previous post were a grab-bag of technologies; here are some from my current specialization, radio and spectrum.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Greek Technology Gods: Hermes, Hephaestus, Prometheus

As I wrote recently, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology prompted me to think of Loki as a god of technology. However, it’s not so simple in Greek mythology where there are many candidates, notably Hephaestus, Hermes and Prometheus. Their similarities and differences offer new perspectives on how to think about tech as a supernatural force.

Friday, December 21, 2018


In his wonderful Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman says that the trickster god Loki makes the world more interesting, but less safe. He explains that it was Loki’s fault that the gods got their greatest treasures, and sums him up this way: “You resented him even when you were at your most grateful, and you were grateful to him even when you hated him the most.”

That sounds a lot like technology to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A quiet and compelling voice

Dallas Taylor recently did a Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast about sonic branding. I was taken by the voice of Walter Werzowa, founder of Musikvergnuegen and the creative behind the Intel Inside sound, among many others.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Odysseus, Master of Fake News

I’m listening to the Odyssey at the moment (Dan Stevens reading the Fitzgerald translation, and I’ve realized Odysseus is a chronic liar. He tells people whatever he needs them to believe – he’s a master of fake news.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Ofcom's DECT guard band award as a club good auction

Toby Youell (@tobyyouell, linkedin) pointed out to me that Ofcom’s 2006 sale of DECT guard band licenses was an auction of spectrum club goods (cf. my blog post). It’s a great insight, and a helpful comparison.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Satellite Constellation Spectrum as a Common Pool Resource

The radio allocations of satellite constellations in non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) are an FCC-managed commons. In an earlier post, I explored how the bands allocated to NGSO constellations could be managed by assigning private rights by auction. I envisaged a set-up where operators could pay for priority protection, creating an interference protection ranking. In this post, I explore the possibility of treating NGSO allocations as a common pool resource.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Auctioning non-exclusive mmwave licenses

Petri Mähönen, Ljiljana Simić and I recently filed comments in the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, FCC Docket No. 14-177 (filing page, pdf, docket on ECFS). We argued that the operating and propagation characteristics of mm-wave systems mean that non-exclusive licensing – meaning in this case, a limited number of large-area licenses assigned by auction – is an appropriate middle path between exclusive large-area licensing (which may lead to under-utilization) and unlicensed (which may not provide sufficient interference protection).

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Microcosms: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “Mani”

Man is a universe in little

Visualize a map of Greece, a fore-arm and paw stubbed into the Mediterranean from the rump of Eastern Europe. The paw ends in three claws stretching towards Crete. The Mani – subject of my current obsession, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese” (1958) – is the middle and narrowest of the three, just 15 km wide and 50 km long.
Die boek is gebaseer op Leigh Fermor se omswerwinge in Griekeland na die Tweede Wêreldoorlog met sy reisgenoot en later vrou, Joan. My pa, vyf jaar jonger as Leigh Fermor, moes omtrent dieselfde tyd daar gewees het.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Resulting field strength rules: New reasons for an old idea

Current transmit power limits don’t provide sufficient constraints on interference, particularly when applied to modern systems (such as in the millimeter-wave bands) that deliver signal levels that change dramatically and rapidly from moment to moment, and place to place. I believe that limits on resulting field strength, rather than transmitted power, will be necessary in new allocations, particularly in the millimeter-wave bands.