Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Basketball's Moneyball

Surprisingly hard-hitting article on the NBA draft coming out of ESPN.com today. In the piece, John Hollinger proposes a statistical system for judging incoming collegiate basketball talent, an approach reminiscent of the Oakland A's draft strategy, as discussed in Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

It's a great study - Hollinger really breaks down the draft and assembles an algorithm that does a great job rating the players - better than the market does (based on comparing results from the system applied to previous drafts with how the drafts themselves played out). It's by no means a quantum leap, but it still does appear to do a significantly better job.

I guess it's just further proof that market efficiency rears its (pretty? ugly? you decide) head everywhere. It'll be interesting to see how, if at all, these rankings affect how the draft actually goes down...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Penn-er Tearing Up the Blogosphere

Specifically, Emily Smith, a friend and classmate. She's interning at the DNC and is a contributer on the DNC blog (I know, how cool is that). You can read one of her recent posts here. Keep checking back, as I'm sure she'll be tearing it up through the summer and beyond. And Em - get a dedicated blog so you can tell us how crazy the world is 24/7.

It's amazing how the web is changing the way campaigns are run. Good luck to her and all those embracing it:).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why I Love Technology

Just thought I'd continue the "Why I Love" theme. I've got a meeting with Scott Rafer in a few hours, and he said we should meet at a coffee shop on Union Square, as we'd be here for Supernova anyway. I said sure, but asked him which one. He responded by saying he had no idea what the name was, but sent me a picture. I got on Google maps, switched into street view, and scanned for a coffee shop that matched the picture. It took all of 30 seconds. That's why I love technology.

Why I Love the Valley

I'm here at Supernova, but I've got a completely unrelated story I wanted to share. On the way here this morning, I took Caltrain and decided to walk here to Union Square from the SF station in SOMA. I've walked it a bunch before, but I was a little curious how many blocks it was. So, I turned and asked the person walking next to me. Our conversation:

"Hey, how many blocks is it to Union Square?"
"No idea, I work a couple blocks from the station and don't really walk all the way there."
"Oh, where do you work?"

How cool is that. I love how I can walk down a street here and randomly meet a guy working for one of Silicon Valley's most hyped companies. Though we tend to hype quite a few ventures, some of the hype inevitably translates to revolutionary companies that change the way we live. Maybe Powerset isn't one of them, but maybe it is, and it's cool that it started here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Supernova, June 21-22

Just wanted to let you all know I'll be at Supernova at this Thursday and Friday (June 21st and 22nd). Supernova is a tech/business conference put on by the Wharton School with a bunch of pretty cool speakers and whatnot, and it'll be at the Westin St. Francis hotel in Union Square. If you want to meet up there or in the city at any point Thursday and Friday (and possibly Wednesday), drop me a line.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blogger Bug?

Not a huge one, but an annoying one. When you start a post and save it as draft form, Blogger saves the time/date you started the post, and, when you eventually put the post up, attaches the saved time/date to the post, rather than the time/date at the time of posting.

Most of the time, this isn't a big deal. However, I'm a fan of starting posts and then leaving them in draft form to revise or finish later - not an entirely uncommon drafting method.

Well, with Blogger, say you start a long post, save it in draft form, and then put up a short post about a random thought the next day. When you come back to the first piece and finish it, it appears below the second post on your blog, even though it was posted later.

So, if you want the post you just finished to be the first one on your blog, you have to copy the text to a new post. Not hard, just annoying.

The above also explains why my Facebook Platform post says it went up May 30th when, in reality, it was posted June 10th. Like I said, not a huge bug, but odd that Google hasn't thought of or noticed it...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Nuclear Power

Today's article in the Merc got me thinking. The piece was the second of a two part series on green energy. The first focused on the usual suspects (solar, wind, water, etc.), but today's discussed some of the pros and cons of nuclear power, touting it as the "alternative-energy dark horse."

My first thought was a deep one: "Duh." I've often wondered what happened to the promise of nuclear power, especially as greentech companies have been getting more and more funding over the past couple of years. Decades ago, nuclear power was touted as the answer to our energy problems. But here we are today, putting more stock in the sun, water, and wind to power our future.

And I don't really understand why. In my mind, nuclear power is clearly the future. My math might be fuzzy here (or I could just be wrong, feel free to call me out), but I'm pretty sure nuclear power holds a magnitude or two (or more?) more promise than other forms of alternative energy. Quite literally, nuclear reactions release much more power than those that take place in solar cells and windmills. Take a basic quantum class and you realize E=
mc2 means you can get a ton of energy out of a relatively small amount of mass.

Granted, nuclear power is not without its drawbacks. The technology behind current plants, fission reactions, creates radioactive byproducts and is generally hard to control (though many plants have done so successfully). However, as the article points out, these products are limited to small amounts and probably do less damage than all the carbon we're emitting into the atmosphere.

Furthermore, fission power is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Anyone remember SimCity 2000 (circa 1995ish)? Remember speeding up time so you could get the fusion power plant? Granted, an actual fusion power plant is still far in the future (I think the game put it as being available in 2040), but I'm fairly sure we'll see on in our lifetime. As some of you know, fusion is fission's stronger, cleaner big brother.

(Quick physics lesson being done from memory - correct me if I'm wrong: Fission takes an atom, usually uranium, and pulls it separates it into two atoms while fusion combines two atoms into one. Both reactions release energy corresponding to the loss in mass, according to E=mc2.)

Point is, at the quantum level, energy is abundant. Harnessing these powerful reactions safely is the key to unlocking the potential they hold. Nuclear power is one great example of this, and others will surely emerge as research is done. Perhaps someday, mega-powerful reactions like combining matter and antimatter (referenced in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons) will be commonplace sources of energy.

For the time being, searching the world around us for natural forms of energy is a noble goal. But, in the long run, we're going to need to think small to find the energy we need - so shouldn't we start putting money there now?