Internet freedom under attack in Italy

From the Official Google Blog regarding the recent Italian court case that found Google executives guilty of violating the privacy of a student that was bullied on a video that had been uploaded to YouTube.

European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.

A Question for Bobmo

I’ve been involved in a conversation at* about agnosticism. This is what Bob has to say about the subject:

Coined by English biologist Thomas Huxley in 1860, the word agnostic has taken several forms over the years. Agnosticism typically addresses the knowledge of God’s existence, but most agnostics don’t stop there. They often take a position on the existence of objective truth as well. One agnostic will say, “I don’t know, but you don’t know either,” or, “I don’t know, and I can’t know. And, neither can anyone else.” Others say, “I don’t know now, but maybe some day there will be more evidence and I’ll know then.”

So I have a question for anyone who is an agnostic. How do you know that agnosticism is correct?

If you say, “Well, I don’t know,” then, why are you agnostic if you have no basis for it? Or maybe you say, “In the absence of any convincing evidence, agnosticism is the best position to take.” But how do you know that agnosticism is the best position to take in the absence of any convincing evidence? Where’s your evidence for that?

It seems that, no matter how you slice it, agnosticism is a claim to knowledge.

My question for Bob is this: If there is no justification for saying, “I don’t know”, then on what basis would anyone say, “I know”? Under what circumstances is one justified in saying, “I don’t know.” Maybe the correct position to take is one of silence. If you don’t know, then maybe you should remain silent.

*A question for agnostics. Here is the link to the article itself, but to get to the comments you have to go here.

VTK – Visualization Toolkit

I like to fool around with Blender, the 3D modeling and animation software. For the most part, in Blender you have to create your own content by sculpting and painting things from scratch. But what if you have a bunch of scientific data that you want to visualize? Evidently you can use VTK and other computer programs that are built upon it. I haven’t used VTK myself but it seems to be widely used in the scientific community.

The Visualization Toolkit (VTK) is an open source graphics toolkit. It is a platform independent graphics engine with parallel rendering support. VTK has an active development community that includes laboratories, institutions and universities from around the world. VTK has several large collaborations between Kitware and national organizations such as Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos, and Livermore National Labs, who are using VTK as the foundation for their large data visualization research efforts. –

Ludwig Boltzman

The scientist asks not what are the currently most important questions, but “which are at present solvable?” or sometimes merely “in which can we make some small but genuine advance?” As long as the alchemists merely sought the philosopher’s stone and aimed at finding the art of making gold, all their endeavors were fruitless; it was only when people restricted themselves to seemingly less valuable questions that they created chemistry. Thus natural science appears completely to lose from sight the large and general questions.

– Ludwig Boltzman (Taken from The Mind’s Sky by Timothy Ferris)