Friday, January 22, 2010

Google, Baidu, and Censorship in China

Just read a really good article about the role Google plays in China in a story from AP headlined "Even a censored Internet has opened up a world for Chinese users." It uses the example of doing a search for the word "Dharamsala,"which is the name of the town in India where the Dalai Lama has his headquarters, and China the Dalai Lama, of course. AP ran the word through both Google's China search engine at and the most popular search engine in the country, Baidu, a domestic search engine, at AP found that Google returned 9.48 million results, while Baidu returned some 119,000 -- a relatively paltry amount compared to Google's. Put another way, for every 1 result from Baidu, there were over 7,966 from Google.

Curious, I repeated the AP experiment. I guess the troops manning the Great Firewall of China read the AP article I'm talking about here. Google China returned only 780,000 results -- way below 10% of what the AP got. And on Baidu, I got only about 13,200, or 11.1% of what AP got. I should point out I ran my search from Thailand. I assume -- but don't know -- AP ran its from the U.S. I also don't know if that makes any difference.

The article is well worth reading -- and I'm about to have my piece here translated into simplified Chinese (the type used in mainland China proper, but not Macau or Hong Kong) so it's more accessible to Chinese in China than would be the case were I to post this in English only.

Fun, fun, fun!!!

只要读一本有关谷歌在中国的角色扮演来自美联社的故事很好的标题:“即使审查的互联网上开辟了中国用户的世界。”它使用了这样一个词“达兰萨拉,”这是在印度城市的名称,达赖喇嘛的总部就设搜索的例子,中国达赖喇嘛,当然。美联社都贯穿着谷歌的中国搜索引擎在字和在该国,百度,国内搜索引擎,最流行的搜索引擎在。美联社认为,谷歌返回9480000的结果,而百度产生一些119,000 - 相对微不足道的数额相比,谷歌的。换句话说,从百度的每1个结果,共有超过7966来自谷歌。

出于好奇,我重复美联社实验。我想,部队驻守的中国长城防火墙阅读美联社的这篇文章,我这里所说。谷歌中国只有780000返回结果 - 低于10的AP什么方式得到%。和百度,我只得约13,200名,或11.1%得到什么美联社。我要指出,我跑到我从泰国的搜索。我相信 - 但我不知道 - 美联社从美国跑的,我也不知道是否有什么差别。

这篇文章值得一读 - 我要在这里有我的一块成简体中文(中国大陆的正确,但不是澳门或香港使用的类型转换),因此它更容易在中国中比在本案中我后只在英文本。


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Will President Obama Announce We Have Contact -- and Have Had -- for Years? Some Say "YES!"

Okay, I guess I should start by stating my own position. I believe,

(1.) There is likely intelligent life somewhere in the universe besides Earth.
(2.) The most likely level of intelligence is low; the next is intelligent, somewhere on a human scale; and the least likely is intelligent beings advanced well beyond us.
(3.) It's conceivable Earth has been visited at least once or twice.

In other words, if you accept my starting point (1.), then I suppose you'll agree my view is fairly conservative, scientifically speaking. However, even that starting point is strongly challenged by some people of strong religious faith, such as members of the three Abrahamic religions, i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to name just three, though that starting point is also beyond the pale for other major and minor religions, too. I can't debate faith, so won't.

Over the past couple of days, quite by coincidence I have run across a rash of stories on the Internet speculating that President Obama might announce sometime this year we have had decades-long contact with intelligent extraterrestrials, direct, face-to-face contact. Other stories claim we, the U.S., have bases and personnel on Mars. Still others claim inhabitants of a planet in the binary star system Zeti Reticuli have visited Earth -- and that humans have visited there. (Zeti Reticuli is in the Southern Hemisphere skies, and is part of a minor constellation, Zeta Reticulum. Zeti Reticuli's two stars are similar to the Sun, and lie "only" about 39 light years away -- practically our backyard, in galactic terms.)

Obviously, these are sweeping claims indeed.

And there are other stories. For instance, there's one story that then-President Reagan secretly visited a base to see an extraterrestrial's body, perhaps from Roswell, New Mexico, when an alien disk had allegedly crashed near the town, complete with alien corpses, in mid-1947. In fact, soon after the Army Air Corps in Roswell announced exactly that -- only to have that report rebutted by the Commanding General of the Eight Air Force, who said the recovered debris came from an experimental, classified weather balloon experimental program.

The "Roswell Incident" remains one of the most controversial in UFO lore. For instance, no less a personage than NASA Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and 6th man to walk on the Moon, believes an alien craft was involved. Yet Mitchell himself has been controversial since his Apollo 14 mission, after which his life changed drastically and he moved into areas of research best described as "unconventional."

The Air Force and the larger government response has been badly mishandled, at best, in a number of incidents. For instance, Project Blue Book was a formal investigation into the Air Force commissioned in the 1950-60's to investigate the UFO phenomenon, as public interest was very high at the time and the public was demanding explanations. The Air Force collected some 12,600 reports, and said most of them were, basically, cases of simple incorrect identification or outright hoaxes. However, about 700 could not be explained. The Air Force's response? It shut down the program and trying just to move on.

One point needs to be made: there are countless instances of people seeing UFO's -- unidentified flying objects -- every day, all over the world. But it is a mighty leap from saying "I saw a UFO" to saying "I saw a spacecraft from another world." Even experienced pilots can incorrectly identify something in the sky. But that doesn't automatically mean they saw a spacecraft from another world.

So, where does that leave President Obama (and any other leader)?

Let's leave aside the obvious cases of mistaken identity and hoaxes a moment.

Imagine this scenario: the President calls a press conference and announces we do indeed have contact with, say, Mars -- and introduces the Martian emissary.

Now -- it's not a big step to global panic, is it? If the U.S. can't protect its own skies, who on Earth can?

It gets worse if he says we're in contact, face to face, with representatives from Zeti Reticuli.

And both cases get much, much worse if humans are there -- courtesy of the advanced aliens.

Think about the impact on religion, too. I can't think of a single one that wouldn't be greatly affected by such a revelation.

Would would I do were I President? Well, unless I could definitively say the aliens represented absolutely no danger to us and that our military could handle them, this is what I would do: lie, loud and every time.

If President Obama is in possession of such information, I have no idea what he may decide to do, or not do.

Interesting question, huh?