Friday, August 20, 2010

Whatever happened to the Big Crunch?

According to this news story, 'scientists' now believe that the universe will continue expanding forever.

How things change. When I was a physics student (about 20 years ago), the dominant theory was that the universe was expanding, following the Big Bang, but was decelerating in its expansion. The theory went that at some (future) time the universe would reach its maximum size and then begin collapsing in on itself, eventually ending up in the opposite of the Big Bang - the Big Crunch.

At the time it was taught to us as 'fact'. Now it appears that it was wrong and we have a new 'fact'.

"'A thousand years ago we thought the world was a bowl,' he said. 'Five hundred years ago we knew it was a globe. Today we know it is flat and round and carried through space on the back of a turtle.' He turned and gave the High Priest another smile. 'Don't you wonder what shape it will turn out to be tomorrow?'"
Terry Pratchett, 'The Truth'

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I love the look and size of the new Amazon Kindle.

I like the idea, and the cost seems reasonable. But I have some doubts. So I'm weighing up the pros and cons... your opinions are appreciated.

Pros: Compact, portable, user-friendly, good battery life, large (and growing) selection of titles available, bookmarks in lots of books, no more piles of books cluttering up cupboards and wardrobes in my house, it now views PDFs natively, (some) titles are (a bit) cheaper than buying a physical book, instant purchase and read anywhere - no more 'I have nothing to read tonight'...

Cons: DRM, you can't lend books to other people, approx 2/3 of the books on my current Amazon Wishlist are not on Kindle, e-books aren't (on the whole) that much cheaper than physical books, some are even approx the same price as physical books, which is just cheeky...

One of my biggest concerns is related to the DRM. With my iPod, i'm still one of those people who buys the physical CD and then transfers DRM free mp3 to my iPod. That means that all my songs are on my current iPod, and I can transfer them to my future iPod, or future non-iPod mp3 player, etc. And even the DRMed downloads I have from the iTunes store are physically on my computer (with licenses), I can back them up to disc and keep them safe should anything go wrong.

I believe you cannot do this with the Kindle. Kindle titles are 'backed up' online by Amazon, so I have no control of my own media. If they muck up (which might not happen to me, but statistically is highly likely to happen to someone) then they'll lose the books that have been paid for. Potentially, you could end up paying for nothing. Also, I was reading into it and the book licenses are limited to a finite number of devices. OK, I don't need my books to be on many devices at once, but what if I upgrade the reader every couple of years? At some point there will come a time when I cannot add a book I have paid for to a new device that I own, because all the licenses have been used up on previous devices. A book on my shelf will never expire in this way, although it could get worn out by over-reading and need replaced.

But is this an important issue? I don't know. Its all hypothetical.

Update: just compared prices of all the books on my wishlist which are on Kindle...
If I bought all of them on Kindle compared to real books, I'd make a saving of £27.12, or 22% of the real book price. One ('hard to find') book in particular has a Kindle price of only 36% of the real book price. But then again, one on the list was more expensive on Kindle than in paperback, only by 45p, but hey.

Still undecided.

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