Gongol.com Archives: February 2024

Brian Gongol

February 27, 2024

Computers and the Internet Would you Bing that?

Microsoft apparently offered to sell the Bing search engine to Apple for use effectively as a private-label search tool, but Apple never took them up on the offer. The decision may have hurt at the time, after Microsoft had invested a fortune in Bing and never gotten really anywhere against Google. ■ But concerns are growing that Google's search results are deteriorating in quality because of the complex encroachment of artificial intelligence tools both within the search experience and as a major polluter of the content being searched. And it's difficult to see how Google will be able to successfully navigate those troubled waters without attracting lots of unwanted attention from regulators in the United States and abroad. ■ Being the dominant incumbent in a market is usually fun while it lasts, but no such quasi-monopoly lasts forever (just ask fallen legends like Netscape Navigator, which once had a 90% market share for web browsers, or Sears, Roebuck & Co., which was once so big it could move GDP figures). How a company manages the arrival of new competitors in a changed market determines how well (and whether) it survives. ■ The advent of mass-scale artificial intelligence may be that turning point in the search-engine market. Microsoft or some other competitor may be able to finally break off a piece of Google's massive 82% share of the pie. With the terms of the competition under such significant pressure to change, it may well turn out to be Microsoft's lucky break that it never managed to unload Bing when it wanted to.

Weather and Disasters Modern satellite imagery is a marvel

Satellite views of the continental United States are granular enough to catch the minute-by-minute eruption of grass fires

Weather and Disasters Don't fall for the "chemtrail" nonsense

An otherwise sensible observer in Central Iowa wants to know why he's seeing dark shadows below the vapor trails visible behind high-flying aircraft, musing aloud (to the Internet) that he thinks something is suspicious about what he's seeing. ■ The phenomenon is easy to explain without the aid of any conspiracy theories. Airplanes quite frequently travel at altitudes of 35,000 feet and even higher. There are always a few overhead. And when wispy cirrus clouds form at lower altitudes (like 25,000 feet, where clouds were overhead all morning in the region), then the contrails formed at 35,000 feet simply cast shadows on the clouds 10,000 feet below them. No need to believe in conspiracy theories over "chemtrails" or any other such nonsense: It's just the Sun and the clouds. ■ There is no shortage of people who are willing and eager to presume that the contrails formed behind high-altitude aircraft are evidence of something sinister. The problem with letting it go on is that self-government depends quite heavily on the judgment of ordinary people. We don't have to be experts, but we do need to know how to evaluate evidence and apply sound reasoning. An unattended gullibility that opens the door to wild conspiracy theories is a dangerous social weakness, because it invites bad actors to introduce malicious misdirection into the public mind.

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