Delicious geohashes … mmmm … tagging *drool*

Since I got a new toy for Christmas, I’ve become interested in geolocation and the fun things you can do when you have an internet-connected GPS-enabled device in your pocket. I’m also a compulsive delicious tagger, so I quickly discovered the existing practice for geotagging delicious bookmarks.

Essentially, this seems to be: add the tag ‘geotagged‘, along with the tags ‘geo:lat=X.xxx‘ and ‘geo:lon=X.xxx‘, where the X.xxx‘s are the latitude and longtitude numbers that are likely to come straight out of your GPS, in decimal degrees (WGS84).

This is all very nice, but the problem with tags in this format is that there is no easy or efficient way to use them to retrieve all items tagged for a particular locality. Sure, if I’m standing right on top of the Eureka Tower at -37.821362,144.964213, I can search for tags geo:lat=-37.821362 and geo:lon=144.964213 to find all the geotagged links for that exact location, but what if I’m standing 50 metres across the street looking up at the tower and want to search for links near my current location ? Continue reading

Naming in molecular biology: get comfortable with meaninglessness !

I noticed an interesting post over on BoingBoing: “Comfort with meaninglessness the key to good programmers“. It outlines some research by Dehnadi and Bornat on attributes that can predict aptitude in computer programming. They conclude that a “deep comfort with meaninglessness” is an important predictor of programming aptitude.

I think comfort with meaninglessness is an important skill in studying biology (and probably other sciences too). Many times, during the description of a system, various acronyms are thrown about as labels for entities (or ‘actors’) in that system. An important skill of the scientist is being able to follow how all the actors in the system relate to each other, without necessarily knowing anything about the specific properties of those actors. There are lots of protein and gene names which often bear very little meaning relative to the biological entity that they label, and fixating on what ‘the name’ means simply distracts from the true nature of the entity.

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