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Joel Webber
Works at Monetology
Attended Georgia Institute of Technology
Lives in Atlanta, GA
6,086 followers|1,268,457 views
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6,086 people
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Senior Bit Twiddler
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  • Monetology
    Founder, 2012 - present
  • Google
    2005 - 2012
  • Lotus Development
    Intern, 1991 - 1992
  • Pixel Technologies
    1992 - 1994
  • Heuristic Park
    1995 - 1997
  • Holistic Design
    1997 - 2000
  • AppForge
    2000 - 2002
  • Innuvo
    2002 - 2005
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Atlanta, GA
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153 Ponce de Leon Ct Decatur, GA 30030 USA
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Dad. Software Geek. Xoogler. Reformed Game Programmer. Drummer.
Education
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
    Computer Science, 1990 - 1998
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Male
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February 3
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Joel Webber

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Dear god, yes. Using CSS animations from code is a bloody trainwreck, that usually ends up being far more trouble than it's worth, involving a bunch of random setTimeout() hacks to make the CSS animation engine do what you want it to.

When we talk about "rationalizing the web platform", this is what I have in mind. Declarative abstractions are nice, but most emphatically not at the lowest level of the stack. These simple, imperative systems are what belong at the bottom. Build declarative systems on top of that.
 
Blink: Intent to ship element.animate(), part of the JavaScript API for Web Animations

Demo: http://jsbin.com/webanimations-animate/1/edit
Intent to ship: https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/forum/#!topic/blink-dev/SWxBI0uPvUE
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Oliver Wilkerson's profile photoJoel Webber's profile photoGarry Boyer's profile photoOjan Vafai's profile photo
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+Ojan Vafai Oh god, I always forget about the property read trick -- I'm so used to optimizing compilers (even if I'm not using one at the moment) that I have a hard time not seeing that as dead code.
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Joel Webber

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TIL that Revolution released, late last year, the first installation in a two-part continuation of the old Broken Sword adventure series. And it looks like a nice old-school 2D adventure, which a genre I thought dead as a doornail (but for which I still retain an enormous soft spot).

And because there's an Android version, I can crank down the brightness on my N7 and play it in bed while my wife sleeps :)

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.revolution.bs5
http://store.steampowered.com/app/262940/
Episode 1 - Paris in the spring.Shots ring out from a gallery… a robbery… a...
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Thanks for sharing. I only recently discovered two Broken Sword titles on my iPad, but hadn't heard about this release.
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Joel Webber

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/facepalm

Teacher suspended for supervising projects involving "imitation" weapons -- i.e., a small air cannon and a rail gun powered by a 9-volt battery.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people? Projects like this have been staples of high-school science projects for fucking ever. And even if they hadn't been, any idiot with two spare brain cells to rub together can tell at a glance that they're not dangerous.

Is this really the lesson that we want to teach budding scientists and engineers? That you best stay away from anything that could be remotely construed as dangerous by utterly-clueless-but-powerful onlookers?

When I was in high school, we built a lot more dangerous things than this. My best physics professor at Georgia Tech (ironically named Dr. Stanford) was legendary for blowing shit up and causing general mayhem. As was Tesla.

For god's sake, we need to allow kids just a little bit of controlled mayhem, or we may as well give up on the next generation inventing anything interesting...
 
Teacher removed for 'dangerous' science projects; supporters rally -- this is where we see the loony left and loony right joining forces in their campaign to bring on the Endarkenment.  And don't you lefties DARE to use as an excuse the fact that the right is crazier!  That may be true (it wasn't, fifty years ago) but it is no excuse.


http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-teacher-suspended-20140409,0,1851167.story
A popular Los Angeles high school science teacher has been suspended after students turned in projects that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom.
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+Michael Bunnell: By conducting a ritual for scaring the risk away every day.
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Joel Webber

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So I just stumbled across the most amazing blog on "formal order, rhythm and pattern in architectural design", by +Graham Shawcross, while looking for information on texture tiling:

  http://grahamshawcross.com/

It covers patterns of all kinds, from architecture and design, to the I Ching, Sanskrit poetics, music from Penrose tiles, to... damned near everything. I think I'm going to be reading this all weekend.

+Kelly Norton will almost certainly get sucked into it as well :)
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Joel Webber

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I really hate it when an amazing band comes and goes in the blink of an eye. I stumbled across Fields in 2007 in a CD insert in Paste (remember CDs?), and loved them immediately.

Sadly, they released one album and an EP, then broke up when they lost their contract, apparently due to financial difficulties at their label. That sucks, because this is really a great album. Here are my two favorite songs:

Song for the Fields:
  Fields - "Song for the Fields" Black Lab Records

If You Fail, We All Fail:
  If You Fail, We All Fail

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fields_(band)
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Also, the full album's on Grooveshark: http://grooveshark.com/#!/profile/Fields/22488273
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Have him in circles
6,086 people
 
Damn it, why the hell did they disallow comments in the JSON spec? Isn't one of the advantages supposed to be that It's human-readable? Most of the time, this isn't a problem, but it sucks very much badly when you're trying to debug a problem with a giant json file, and you want to add notes to it as you go.

Yes, you can add crap like { _notes: "Stuff about this object" }, but thanks to Javascript's lack of multiline strings, you end up spending half your time trying to make your notes conform to the damned spec. And it's still really ugly to annotate individual fields.

Ugh. Might as well be debugging ASN.1 or something.
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#pragma is a good example. When I heard the reason, my mind went to PHP, where frameworks have taken to using comments for annotations in lieu of them being a language feature. Stuff like declaring data structures for ORM in comments instead of code.
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Thank you, +The Economist, for unraveling the mess that is the anglophone press' wild misreporting of what turns out to be just one union contract in one industry (and then failing to understand even that one contract, apparently making facts up from whole cloth, like the whole "6pm" thing).

I mean, even the whole "35 hour week" thing is wildly misreported and misunderstood in the anglophone universe. As I understand it, it only defines when overtime starts for workers on hourly contracts. I can tell you from experience that it doesn't apply to (or is completely ignored by) programmers!

http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2014/04/frances-6pm-e-mail-ban

Also worth reading for francophones (or those that can operate Google Translate):

http://www.slate.fr/economie/85825/employes-google-facebook-france-mails-deconnexion
WHEN a new French law banned employees from checking work e-mails after 6pm, it was bound to grab headlines. It fit all too neatly the image held by les anglo-saxons...
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Thanks !
Although I'm french, I didn't know where all of this was coming from. So now, I know :)
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Couldn't agree more with this view of "science fiction". In fact, if go a bit further and suggest that "speculative fiction", in whatever form it may take, is one of the most effective ways to escape the trap of "telling the same damned stories over and over again".

While it's obviously not the only function of literature, I would argue that one of its most useful functions is to help us understand the world as it might one day be, rather than just to understand what already is.
 
"Not all science fiction is good, or serious, but the science-fictional mode is as capable of generating great works as any other." http://theatln.tc/1iV14ge
Why do so many readers still look down on the genre of Orwell and Atwood?
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+Joel Webber: With the exception of hipster cons, where the metairony warps the coolness.
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Joel Webber

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Following up on a conversation with +Alan Kay about DNA visualization from a while back.

I saw Alan Kay give a talk once where he was extolling the virtues of visualization in teaching complex subjects like molecular biology. He pointed out that most static images in biology textbooks show what look like neat, reasonably simple, processes by which "locks" fit in "keys" and everything proceeds apace.

The problem with this picture, according to Kay, is that it completely fails to address how all these things actually come into contact -- and that this only works because of the incredible velocities and frequencies involved. There are obscenely large numbers of these things moving with incredible velocity and oscillating millions of times per second, and it's only at these rates that biology works at all -- because they rely on millions or billions of chance encounters!

This video appears to do a much better job showing just how important brownian chaos is to the functioning of biochemistry. It also makes it immediately clear why biology functions in such a narrow temperature band -- a little more or less energy and all these structures seem likely to fall apart!
 
Amazing new Harvard-XVIVO animation on "Protein Packing". Following on the footsteps of the classic Inner Life of a Cell video, this animation strives to more accurately septic the molecular chaos in each and every cell, with proteins jittering around in what may seem like a random motion.

From NYT article:  "In this movie, we enter a neuron by diving through a channel on its surface. Once inside, we’re instantly surrounded by a swarm of molecules. We push through the crowd until we reach a proteasome, a barrel-shaped molecule that shreds damaged proteins so their components can be used to make new proteins.

Once more we see a vesicle being hauled by kinesin. But in this version, the kinesin doesn’t look like a molecule out for a stroll. Its movements are barely constrained randomness."
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BTW, BBC has a quite incredible show BBC Our Secret Universe The Hidden Life of the Cell 2 that also has some pretty cool, if somewhat less detailed and realistic, visualizations.  Part 2 above shows attacks on common cold virii. The full documentary is here: ((HD)) Secret Universe The Hidden Life of the Cell BBC
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Joel Webber

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What. The. Hell.

I really should stop being amazed that ideas this dumb perennially fail to die out completely. Or even that some idiot has the time and resources to spend producing slick material to support their absurd world views (Ken Ham, Adnan Oktar, etc.).

But who are the people doing all the professional work producing these things? Are they all acolytes of insanity, or are they just random people getting paid to do a job? And if so, do they not feel any compunction about contributing to this garbage?

Followup from Krauss and others on how the hell they ended up being there in the first place: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/04/08/300609595/why-physicists-are-in-a-film-promoting-an-earth-centered-universe

Funny side note: A Google search for "crazy turkish anti-evolution guy" brings up the Wikipedia page for Adnan Oktar as the first result :)
 
Engage

As I write this, it’s 10pm at the end of a long day.  I have an 8am class to teach tomorrow, and I would much rather be reading a book or watching Game of Thrones than writing yet another post on astrophysics.  So why do it?  Because it matters. Because if scientists don’t tell the story of science, someone else will.  With the rise of online media, it is increasingly easy for anyone to present scientific ideas in ways that are entertaining and engaging. This can lead to TV shows like Cosmos, and it can also lead to documentaries such as  The Principle.  If you haven’t heard of it, The Principle claims that we live in a geocentric universe.

By geocentric universe I really mean the idea that the Earth is the center of the universe and doesn’t move.  The idea that Galileo demonstrated was false 400 years ago.  This is not just a YouTube video someone edited in their bedroom.  The film was funded by Robert Sungenis, author of the book Galileo Was Wrong The Church Was Right, where he argues in favor of geocentrism. It features Michio Kaku and Lawrence Krauss, and has a slick trailer narrated by Kate Mulgrew.  Krauss and Mulgrew have issued statements that they disagree with the geocentric claims, but already the trailer has gone viral.

You might argue that such an incredulously ridiculous film should just be ignored.  Don’t feed the trolls, as it were.  Unfortunately it isn’t alone.  There’s the electric universe, young Earth creationism, anti-evolution, anti-vaccines, global warming skepticism, ancient aliens, mermaids are real, and the list goes on.  Presented to you by talented and beautiful people, often enhanced with slick computer graphics.

Central to all of these is the claim is that what you have been told about the universe is wrong.  That scientists don’t really know.  They don’t really understand the universe.  All they have is just a theory.

There are lots of things scientists don’t know, but there is a great deal we do know.  We know, for example.  That the planets do not move around the Earth.  We know from the phases of Mercury and Venus that they orbit the Sun (http://goo.gl/oirGkJ).  We know from a simple experiment you can do at home that the Earth rotates on its axis, and can even measure the rate of rotation with a simple pendulum.  We know that there is a universal law of gravity that holds the Earth and other planets in orbit with the Sun (http://goo.gl/6HU7Y8).  We know that the Earth moves around the Sun because we observe the parallax shift of nearby stars.  We know very, very clearly that geocentrism is wrong, and we’ve known this for centuries.

A recent study by the National Science Foundation found that 25% of Americans think the Sun moves around the Earth.  That’s 1 in 4 Americans. It is easy to write off more than 50 million people as just being stupid, but as the documentary A Private Universe demonstrated, even Harvard graduates held the misconception that the seasons are caused by Earth moving closer to and farther from the Sun, rather than being due to the tilt of Earth’s axis. Scientific ignorance can’t be blamed on a lack of intelligence. It is due to misconceptions that haven’t been broken.  Misconceptions that are fed by The Principle and other pseudoscience media.

Every time I see a slick pseudoscience video I’m reminded that scientists need to up their game.  We need to be more active in communicating science. We need to engage with the public and make it clear that we really can understand the universe.  We need to convey the wonder and awe of scientific understanding, and demonstrate how science can bring out the best in humanity.

So at the end of a long evening I’m writing a post about geocentrism and how it is provably wrong.  And about why communicating science clearly and honestly matters.  Because if scientists don’t tell the story of science, someone else will.
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+Bruce Johnson Downey didn't measure network effects. I bet coming out as an atheist has an impact on one's social network, even on those without internet. Coming out in general has also increased in popularity in the 90s and 2000s.
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We've been going to carpe diem since it opened, and have always loved it. I don't know where reviewers who didn't like the food went, but it must not have been the same restaurant. We've never had a problem with the service, either.
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
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