Is the Tablet Market Growing or Shrinking?

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1. What's up with tablets these days? Apple's earnings report today will tell us a little something: how many iPads they've sold and whether that number is growing or shrinking.

"In fact, nearly half of the 34 Apple analysts we've heard from so far -- 21 Wall Street professionals and 13 amateurs -- expect the company to report next week that unit sales in fiscal Q2 2014 declined year over year. The consensus estimate, at 19.3 million, would represent a 0.7 percent decline, with the pros slightly more optimistic (at 19.4 million) than the amateurs (19.2 million). Dragging down the amateur numbers is the 15 million estimate submitted by the Braeburn Group's Matt Lew. Tugging in the other direction is Horace Dediu's 21.8 million. One represents a year-over-year decline of 23 percent, the other an increase of 12 percent."

 

2. The microbiome: a thing almost no one had ever heard of ten years ago, and maybe the key to the suite of post-modern illnesses.

"Since World War II, we've seen big rises in a number of diseases: asthma, allergies, food allergies, wheat allergy, juvenile diabetes, obesity. ... These are all diseases that have gone up dramatically in the last 50 or 70 years. One of the questions is: Why are they going up? Are they going up for 10 different reasons, or perhaps there is one reason that is fueling all of them. My theory is that the one reason is the changing microbiome; that we evolved a certain stable situation with our microbiome and with the modern advances of modern life, including modern medical practices, we have been disrupting the microbiome. And there's evidence for that, especially early in life, and it's changing how our children develop."

 

3. You know how awful it is to get a cold right before a big event [in space]

"1968: After launch of Apollo 7, mission commander Fred Schirra develops a head cold, which quickly spreads to crew members Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. On re-entry, the sick astronauts kept their helmets off to try to clear their sinuses. (Mucus doesn’t drain in zero gravity.) Experts now think that the three might have actually had space sickness, the dizziness and nausea commonly experienced by many astronauts. "

 

4. Artifacts from the Uranium Rush. (Not design fiction.)

"It was advertised as the largest rush, even larger than the gold rush! The government had paid over $2,000,000 in bonuses for uranium discoveries in the past two years in 1955. Some prospectors were being paid over $150,000 per month. The fever in uranium prospecting could be illustrated from the many magazine covers of the period. As early as 1949, popular science magazines started highlighting the uranium prospecting as a hobby. The U.S. Atomic Energy Agency would analyze samples free of charge."

 

5. This diary of the chat wars between AOL and Microsoft also happens to be one of the finest pieces I've read on what it feels like to code (abstraction, problem-solving, power)

"The pieces then came together. Normally, these protocol messages sent from the server to the client are read and understood as data, not as code. But AOL’s client had a security bug in it, called a buffer overflow. The buffer is a place where a program temporarily stores data while running some operation. However, it’s all too easy in lower-level languages to allow in more input than the buffer can actually accommodate. In this case, very large protocol messages could flood it, overwriting the client code and arbitrarily controlling the functioning of the client program—this is why it’s called a buffer overflow, and it’s a huge security hole, since it gives the server control of the client PC. In the wrong hands, the server can choose to shut down or corrupt or do other terrible things to your computer. AOL knew about this bug in their program and now they were exploiting it!"

 

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip

beau geste. A fine gesture; a display of magnanimity. But see FRENCH WORDS, & GESTURE.

 

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Even Larger Than the Gold Rush

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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