Five short links

pentagonalwell

Photo by Harshvardhan Dhawan

The county problem in the West – This is a brilliant example of why you need to understand some GIS basics to sensibly use even the most basic geographic statistics. The large size and arbitrary boundaries of western US counties mean that the default view of historical settlement is muddled, and only by switching to alternate spatial partitions can you understand what was actually going on.

The cost of satisfaction – Patients who are  satisfied with their doctors are more likely to die than the malcontents! This appears to be a real effect, judging by the statistics, and I wonder if it’s because picky patients are more likely to push for more information and second opinions? Whatever the cause, it’s a good reminder that even the most obvious metrics might not match up with the goal you’re trying to achieve.

Don’t mix threads and fork – The complexities of getting threads to play nicely with fork() are mind-boggling, and in practice seem insurmountable.

Free GIS data – An impressive list of free-as-in-beer geographic data. As the page recommends, do look into the licensing terms for any you want to use. You might be surprised at the requirements for something like the Open Database License if you use OpenStreetMap files for example.

Signals from the void – A blend of the inspiring vision of picturing the black hole at the center of our galaxy with the mundane grind of performing research from bleak mountain-tops, at the mercy of the weather and unreliable equipment. This story rings very true, especially around the chaos behind the project and the personalities of the people who are attracted to the quest.

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