Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poincare's beauty of science

A friend (Woody Hill) recommended a quote by Henri Poincare regarding the beauty of science and the delight of scientists who spend their lives in the pursuit of discovery.

I thought the quote was a bit simple.  Poincare was a polymath, a genius and I'm not.  So my criticism should be treated with some suspicion.

But I thought about science and beauty and all that and decided to try my hand at describing a feeling that we both share.  Here's what I came up with.

"The Scientist, armed only with curiosity and experiments to tease truth from Nature, is driven to make sense of the world for himself as he pushes back the shadow of ignorance on behalf mankind.  With each discovery, he assembles a part of a vast puzzle; the whole of which can never be known to one man, but the significance of which is core to our ambition as a species.  When, by chance, a part is thought to be 'understood', (whether by the scientist alone or an entire culture,) Nature exchanges joy for mystery and at their nexus beauty is born."

How do you think I did?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

E-Mail Roach Motel

Are you the target of too many e-mail newsletters?  I receive 5-7 a week.  These appear during the day.  They momentarily distract my attention.  Many of them are from companies and people I like.  But I don't have time to read them when they arrive.

In the past, I'd let them accumulate in my in-box to read later.  Then the torrent of e-mail (even after filtering) left anything delivered in the morning hidden by the pile that arrived in the afternoon.  I stopped reading any of them.

I try to politely unsubscribe.  Have you noticed that some e-mail newsletters make it hard to unsubscribe?  I hate it when they make you send an e-mail; to which they reply with a questionnaire!  The worst is when they make you login to unsubscribe.  How many logins have you accumulated with how many variations of passwords?  It just turns out to be too much work so I give up.  

It's not like I'm wasting paper - but nevertheless I have the feeling that I'm contributing to wasted energy on the Internet.  All those network bits, all those spinning hard drives - let alone the admin utilities, database programs and operating system components cranking out countless trillions of charge reversals - just so I can get an e-mail newsletter I don't want.  It just sounds so un-ecological.

This morning I found a great way to eliminate the e-mail quickly - if not my guilt.  There is a free service called Mailinator.com that acts like an e-mail Roach Motel.  It can get in but it can't get out!

Instead of using your real e-mail address for subscriptions, give the sender a Mailinator e-mail address.  Creating one is free.  It can be specific and personal, like 'kjb-marketing-newsletter@mailinator.com'  or completely random.  You make up this address before you even go to the Mailinator website - they accept e-mail for any address that goes there.  When and if you care about the contents of that newsletter you simply go to Mailinator.com and login with the address you chose - no password required.  The service keeps them for a few days.  But really, what are the chances you will care after that?

You may have a hard time imagining all the uses to which this great service can be put without actually trying it.  So just try it.  Next time you get a newsletter you can't remember reading for several weeks, change the e-mail address you gave them to a Mailinator address.  Next time you are asked to register for anything or subscribe to a newsletter give them a Mailinator address.  Visit the Mailinator website occasionally, enter your manufactured e-mail address (no password required!) and find out what you missed.  You can create dozens of special-purpose e-mail addresses that are dedicated to different uses.   

Then you can watch the junk flow to your nom de plume while your real inbox gets some relief!  Amazing!