Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Google Engineers do for Fun: Computerized Lego Art Project | The

How many people do you know who can take a picture and turn it into a LEGO build-by-number project?

I just can't help but imagine how much money I could have made from my fellow students if I had done this back in elementary school. But that is why I am not a lead engineer at Google.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Real Trekkie Tricorder Invented | LiveScience

Real Trekkie Tricorder Invented | LiveScience

I don't need you anymore, Spock! Although we aren't at the point where we can imbed this in an iPhone, it is a fantastic step forward to get medical technology in the remotest parts of the world. A great step forward.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Little Secret in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board

I have to thank Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy for finding this. The news this week coming from the Supreme Court was about Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Indiana Voter ID law under review. The court voted 6-3 to support Indiana's law. In the majority decision writing by Justice Stephens, he added this footnote, which I wish to include in its entirety:
Three comments on JUSTICE SOUTER’s speculation about the non-trivial burdens that SEA 483 may impose on “tens of thousands” of Indiana citizens, post, at 1 (dissenting opinion), are appropriate. First, the fact that the District Judge estimated that when the statute was passed in 2005, 43,000 citizens did not have photo identification, see 458 F. Supp. 2d 775, 807 (SD Ind. 2006), tells us nothing about the number of free photo identification cards issued since then. Second, the fact that public transportation is not available in some Indiana counties tells us nothing about how often elderly and indigent citizens have an opportunity to obtain a photo identification at the BMV, either during a routine outing with family or friends or during a special visit to the BMV arranged by a civic or political group such as the League of Women Voters or a political party. Further, nothing in the record establishes the distribution of voters who lack photo identification. To the extent that the evidence sheds any light on that issue, it suggests that such voters reside primarily in metropolitan areas, which are served by public transportation in Indiana (the majority of the plaintiffs reside in Indianapolis and several of the organizational plaintiffs are Indianapolis organizations). Third, the indigent, elderly, or disabled need not “journey all the way to their county seat each time they wish to exercise the franchise,” post, at 29, if they obtain a free photo identification card from the BMV. While it is true that obtaining a birth certificate carries with it a financial cost, the record does not provide even a rough estimate of how many indigent voters lack copies of their birth certificates. Supposition based on extensive Internet research is not an adequate substitute for admissible evidence subject to cross-examination in constitutional adjudication.
[emphasis mine]

Translation: Souter made his decision based on a lot of research on the Internet, and Stevens is saying that such research cannot replace information that perhaps should been submitted to the court as evidence but wasn't. In this case, Souter found (and cited in footnotes) the number of branches of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in various counties taken from the Indiana state web site. He also cited a page from the American Public Transportation Association.

This is huge, and great. Why? Several reasons.

It is fine to use the internet to research the proper flowers for your garden, to gather information for politics or study, or anything that involves your personal life. But a judicial case must be determined based on the evidence presented in court and not by a judge doing his own research. Once a judge writes a decision based on such personal research, he has become a confederate for that side of the argument. It maintains a high standard that claimants must meet in order to present evidence in court. It must be evidence, not speculation on web pages.

And let's add: It continues the good tradition in effect in most reputable colleges and universities and book publishers that internet research generally cannot be considered a viable source. The biggest problem in this area is Wikipedia, regardless of the work taking place now by the Wikipedia folks themselves to try and make it a more stable source.Justice Stevens has done us all a service.