All posts by Jakke Mäkelä

Physicist, but not ideologically -- it's the methods that matter. Background: PhD in physics, four years in basic research, over a decade in industrial R&D. Interests: anything that can be twisted into numbers; hazards and warnings; invisible risks. Worries: Almost everything, but especially freedom of speech, Internet neutrality, humanitarian problems, IPR, environmental issues. Happiness: family, dry humor, and thinking about things.

Is aviation safety a shameful thing?


“Why do airlines stay so silent about safety issues? “

By almost any measure, flying is the safest way to move long distances. Most airlines make massive investments into safety. Yet to our surprise, we have found that it is difficult for a casual outsider to find out precisely what the airlines are doing with that invested money.  All airlines have a safety culture, yet this culture is opaque to outsiders. I found that only 35% of airlines even wish to mention safety on their web pages.

Silence certainly does not benefit the customers of an airline. Customers should be able to make informed choices, and this includes understanding the safety record. How can the average person find such information? It  doesn’t benefit the airlines either. In a culture of silence, safety only becomes visible when disaster strikes. The easiest way for an outsider to understand the airline’s safety culture is to read accident investigation reports on how it failed (from NTSBAAIBOTKESSHKBEA, and the like). This is hardly positive advertising.

I asked a simple question: just how opaque do the airlines want to be?  To answer, I went clicking through the web pages of 83 major airlines. The scanning was purposely quick, to simulate an ordinary customer who wants to know what general attitude the airline has toward safety. If a company provided concrete safety information, it was marked as “safety-positive”. Full report (pdf): Airlines are safe; why try to hide it.

I found only 35% of airlines to be safety-positive. To put it another way,  almost 65% of airlines try to downplay the role of safety, to the level of ignoring the question altogether in their communications.

I made some further analyses to determine what might lie behind this fact.  It is important to realize that the essential safety standards around the world are quite similar. All of the airlines in this sample fulfill some standards that could be legitimately used to show that there is a safety culture in place. It is very much a communications decision whether or not the airline wishes to emphasize this point.

I gave the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.  A sentence on a “safety as our priority” means nothing. However, any attempt at a more concrete desciption (even a clumsy one)  was credited. Information on engineering, maintenance, or safety-related technology was considered safety-positive even if the term “safety” was not used explicitly. Such information at least gives the impression that aviation is a technical activity requiring technical care. The analysis is not about how slick the presentation is; it is about whether a good-faith attempt is made.

This is crucial when comparing airline to airline. A poor airline may have just one page of information about the company. If that single page contains a single paragraph about the safety standards that the company follows, then the airline is safety-positive. At the other extreme, a large airline may have dozens of flashy pages on issues like corporate social responsibility, environment, and sponsorships. If such a company fails to even mention safety as a topic, it is deliberate.

The call was surprisingly easy to make. Airlines seem to either put a heavy emphasis on safety, or else avoid the topic altogether; there is not much middle ground.  The results were somewhat surprising. Only 35% of airlines even mentioned safety or technical issues. The majority essentially try to paint an image of aviation as a non-technical activity that entails no risk. Some other key findings (more extensively discussed in the report):

  • 65% of the safety-positive airlines are from developing countries with poor track records of safety. Africa and the former Soviet Union were heavily represented.  Quite clearly, concrete safety actions are clearly used to to improve trust in the airline’s safety.
  • Safety-positiveness is not just a “weapon of the weak”; large and successful airlines such as British Airways, Air Canada, Air Berlin, and All Nippon Airways all had extensive safety sections.
  • Two airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Pakistan International Airways, have briefly been on the EU blacklist of airlines banned from flying to the EU due to poor security. Interestingly, the safety sections of these airlines were among the most extensive in the sample.
  • Only 2 low-cost carriers out of 16 (12%) were safety-positive. The web page information for many low-cost carriers is extremely scanty in any case, so there may be a general attitude toward minimal communication. However, the two counterexamples (Norwegian and Pegasus) suggest that a low-cost structure does not fundamentally require such reticence; those two companies have a very strong focus on safety.
  • A striking feature is that US companies seem to be the most averse to safety-positiveness; of the 9 US companies studied, none mentioned safety at all.
  • A similar reluctance was seen in Middle Eastern companies, where only one of six companies had any safety information.

These results do not imply anything about what airlines should do; they simply point out what the airlines are currently doing. However, the scatter in the results does suggest that there is no fundamental reason to keep safety information hidden; transparency about safety is a communications and business decision.

Since the results from this initial study were so intriguing, we have launched a new Zygomatica project to find out more.

Data transparency in shipping safety: good or bad idea?


Radical transparency is an intriguing school of thought, with the philosophy that the best society is a transparent society. In other words, all data that can be opened should be opened. I find such transparency an interesting concept, and in many cases probably worth aiming for. The key question is: what is a realistic environment in which to begin experimenting with it? I focus here on one tightly restricted area: data transparency in shipping safety. [Finnish version: Click here]

For a slightly perspective on this issue by Niko Porjo, see here.

At the moment,  international standards require large ships to transmit AIS information. At minimum, this information contains, in standardized format, the ship’s identity, location, speed, and bearing. The AIS information is transmitted in the clear and its purpose is to help ships maintain positional awareness of other traffic.  Internet distribution of the data originally raised some controversy, but in practice the controversy is over: the AIS information is public.

It is quite sensible to ask a further question: should even more information from the ships be openly available? There are good reasons to ask this question; above all, in an emergency it would make the passengers active participants rather than passive subjects. It would also help to show up poor safety practices that would remain invisible in a closed environment. The technical problem can be stated quite simply: should the information currently collected by the black box  be available and public (although not necessarily in real time)? More radically, it is technically feasible to make all the information that is available on the bridge available to the public. Should it be made available?

Unfortunately, I tend to arrive at a pessimistic outcome for this specific case.  Openness would benefit the overall system. Unfortunately, it would not benefit any of the individual players, at least in the beginning stages. The problem with transparency in this particular area is that the first adopter ends up taking most of the risk. Although radical transparency is a good concept to aim for, shipping security does not seem like a reasonable platform in which to start experimenting with it.

The authorities cannot be bossed around

In practice, security is defined and enforced by national or international authorities. In a democratic system, it is in principle possible to force the authorities to make good decisions. Unfortunately, in a democratic system this is also painfully difficult in practice. Authorities are dependent on what  legislators decide. Legislation in turn is a slow process, undergoing massive lobbying from established interestes, and requiring a significant push from citizens.  Based on the lukewarm reception these issues are getting, it does not seem that there is any real  political push in this direction.

Laws and directives change most rapidly through major accidents, which lead to security recommendations.  Even then, the new directives may or may not be followed adequately, especially if they require significant amounts of money. Waiting for the authorities to act requires patience and (unfortunately) often new accidents. This path does work, but is not likely to lead to rapid or radical solutions.

Anonymization does not work

In order to balance between data transparency and personal privacy, security-related  information should be anonymized.   Unfortunately, this does not work in the Internet age, where all information (whether correct or not) will be on Twitter within minutes of an accident. The most tragic failure of anonymization is the  Überlingen air accident  of 2002, in which two aircraft collided. The  investigation report concluded that it was a system-wide problem, and no single individual was to blame. Nevertheless, a man who  lost his family in the accident blamed the air traffic controller, found out his identity and home address, and murdered him.

The Überlingen case is extreme, but in an open system there is no automatic mechanism to protect those initially blamed for the accident. It is a serious scenario is that in any accident, the people potentially responsible will be identified immediately, they will be blamed by the media, their personal information will be found immediately, and Internet mobbing could start immediately. The risk may look small now, but already cyber-bullying in South Korea shows that a risk exists. How many people would be willing to work under such circumstances?

Data without metadata is nothing

The technical problems are considerable. The AIS parameters are standardized tightly and are easily understandable.  If more generic information is to be transmitted, then its interpretation becomes problematic. Raw data is just rows of numbers;  processing, interpretation, and displaying are what make it into information.  Someone must do this, must be paid to do it, and must be responsible for quality control.

Some parameters will be considered trade secrets by the shipping companies (or at least in a gray area). Realistically speaking,  any shipping company will either not want to do such an analysis, or will want to keep the results secret. It is certainly possible to force a company to make the raw data available. Without extra incentives, it is barely realistic to expect the company to make the data available in a form which could be easily utilized by competitors.

Transparency benefits the unscrupulous

Transparency is an equalizing safety factor when all parties have the same information on all parties.  If one party stops sharing information, it creates a business advantage for itself (even more so if it begins to distort it). No idealism can change this fact; surveillance and enforcement are needed. The enforcement needs to be global. It can be argued that for technologies such as nuclear energy such a global enforcement system already exists; that is true, but nuclear energy was born in completely different historical circumstances than shipping, and was in fat able to start from a clean table.

Open real-time information also makes piracy easier. More information means more opportunities to plan attacks. Merchant ships near the coast of Somalia will certainly not be willing to participate in experiments in radical transparency.

Terrorism is invoked too easily, but it cannot be ignored. Any transparency model must accept the brutal truth that there are destructive entities. The sinking of a large passenger ship might not even be the worst-case scenario; societies can recover from large losses of life very rapidly, even though the scars are horrible.   A more worrisome scenario might be an  Exxon Valdez-type massive oil leak event next to a nuclear power plant.

What can we do?

Many people reflexively oppose this type of radical transparency, whether with good reason or by knee-jerk reflex. How could they be motivated to at least try?  Even if calculations clearly show that transparency is useful for the whole system in the long run, people are irrational and think in the short run. Given that the early adopters take a risk, how would this risk be compensated to them?  Shipping has a long history and legacy practices which are difficult to overcome. Radical transparency is something that absolutely should be tested in a suitable environment. However, I am forced to conclude that shipping safety is simply not a sensible environment in which to start.  


Tiedon avaaminen laivaliikenteessä: hyvä vai huono idea?

Radikaali avoimuus on koulukunta, jonka mukaan paras yhteiskunta olisi läpinäkyvä yhteiskunta: lähes kaikki informaatio olisi saatavilla ja vapaasti jaettavissa.  Itse pidän radikaalia avoimuutta kiinnostavana ajatuksena, ja ilman muuta kokeilemisen arvoisena. Olennainen kysymys kuuluukin: mikä on sopiva ympäristö kokeilujen aloittamisen?  Keskityn tässä yhteen konkreettiseen tapaukseen: avoimuuteen laivojen turvallisuustekijänä. [Link: English version].

Niko Porjon kirjoitus samasta aiheesta, hieman eri lähtökohdista: klikkaa tästä.

Tällä hetkellä kansainväliset standardit vaativat suuria laivoja lähettämään tilannetietojaan  AIS-järjestelmän kautta. Tieto kertoo minimissään laivan tunnuksen, paikan, nopeuden, ja suunnan. AIS-tieto on käytännössä julkista, koska se lähetetään salaamattomana ja sen tarkoitus on nimenomaan helpottaa tilannekuvan muodostamista. Tiedon vapaa Internet-jakelu sen sijaan on herättänyt polemiikkia, mutta käytännössä AIS-tieto on jo julkista ja reaaliaikaista Internetissä.

On perusteltua esittää jatkokysymys: tulisiko tietojen olla vielä laajemmin julkisia ja avoimia? On esitetty perusteluja sille, miksi näin voisi olla.  Ennen muuta datan avoimuus tekisi hätätilanteissa matkustajista aktiivisia toimijoita passiivisten uhrien sijaan.  Lisäksi avoimuus paljastaisi sellaisia toimntakulttuurin ja -tapojen ongelmia, jotka suljetussa järjestelmässä jäisivät piiloon. Teknisen kysymyksen voi muotoilla näin: pitäisikö laivan mustan laatikon tiedon olla avointa ja julkista (vaikkakaan ei välttämättä reaaliaikaisesti saatavilla)? Puhtaasti teknisellä tasolla olisi jopa mahdollista, että avointa olisi kaikki se tieto, joka komentosillalla on käytettävissä. Kannattaisiko sen olla jakelussa?

Tässä nimenomaisessa tapauksessa päädyn vastentahtoisesti melko negatiiviseen lopputulemaan: Kokonaisuuden kannalta avoimuudesta olisi hyötyä. Jokaisen yksittäisen toimijan kannalta avoimuudesta on kuitenkin etupäässä riskejä ja haittaa, varsinkin alkuvaiheessa.   Avoimuuden ongelma tässä tapauksessa on se, että kenenkään ei oikeastaan kannata olla ensimmäinen.  Laivaturvallisuus ei siis käytännössä ole ensimmäinen kokeilualusta, jossa radikaalia avoimuutta kannattaisi lähteä testaamaan.

 Viranomaisia ei voi määräillä

Viime kädessä avoimuus- ja turvallisuusasiat vaativat viranomaismääräyksiä. Periaatteessa ratkaisu on yksinkertainen: pakotetaan viranomaiset määräämään oikein. Demokratiassa tämä on jopa mahdollista. Valitettavasti se on demokratiassa myöskin piinallisen hidasta. Viranomaiset toimivat niiden valtuuksien varassa, jotka lainsäätäjä niille antaa. Lainsäädäntö taas on hidas ja monimutkainen prosessi, altis eri tahojen lobbaukselle, ja vaatii merkittävän työnnön kansalaisilta.  Realistisesti katsottuna ainakaan Suomessa ei tällaista työntöä ole.   Tämäntyyppisiä asioita Suomessa ylipäätään selkeästi ajavat lähinnä EFFI (1500 jäsentä) sekä Piraattipuolue (3000 jäsentä, äänimäärä eduskuntavaaleissa n 15000 eli 0.5%). Eduskunnassa teemoja käsitellään varsin niukasti. Aihealue on poliittista marginaalia.

Nopeimmin lait ja turvallisuussäädökset muuttuvat suuronnettomuuksien kautta; niissä annetut turvallisuussuositukset pyritään ottamaan vakavasti. Toisaalta  silloinkaan ei ole mitenkään selvää, että suosituksia todellisuudessa halutaan toteuttaa, varsinkaan jos ne maksavat jotakin.  Viranomaisratkaisujen odottaminen vaatii kärsivällisyyttä ja (valitettavasti) hyvin usein uusia onnettomuuksia. Tämä polku kyllä toimii, mutta kovin nopeita ja radikaaleja ratkaisuja siltä on turha odottaa.

 Anonymisointi ei suojaa

Toimijoiden oikeus- ja henkilökohtaisen turvan takia kaikki tieto tulisi anonymisoida ennen julkistamista. Tähän onkin pyritty nykyaikaisessa onnettomuustutkinnassa.  Käytännössä se ei Internetin aikakaudella toimi. Traagisin esimerkki on Überlingenin lento-onnettomuus vuonna 2002, jossa kaksi konetta törmäsi ilmassa. Tutkintaraportin mukaan onnettomuuden aiheutti pitkä tapahtumaketju, jonka takia vuorossa ollut lennonjohtaja ei ollut varsinainen syyllinen tapahtumaan. Onnettomuudessa  perheensä menettänyt mies kuitenkin piti lennonjohtajaa syyllisenä, sai hänen osoitetietonsa selville, ja murhasi hänet.

Überlingenin on ääritapaus, mutta avoimessa järjestelmässä ei ole automaattista mekanismia, joka kykenisi suojelemaan syytettyjä.  Mikäli tiedon avoimuus entisestään lisääntyy, on vakavasti otettava mahdollisuus että oletettu vastuuhenkilö tunnistetaan  välittömästi, hänen tietonsa ovat saatavilla, media ruokkii hysteriaa, ja Internetissä (ja ehkä myös sen ulkopuolella) alkaa ajojahti.  Tällä hetkellä tämäntyyppinen riski voi näyttää pieneltä; esimerkiksi Etelä-Koreassa se ei kuitenkaan ole ennenkuulumatonta.  Kuinka moni on valmis työskentelemään tällaisessa ympäristössä, ja millä ehdoilla?

Data ilman metadataa ei ole mitään

Tekniset ongelmat eivät ole ylipääsemättömiä, mutta ne ovat kuitenkin huomattavia. AIS-järjestelmässä parametrit on määritelty ja standardoitu tarkkaan, ja ne ovat selkeästi ymmärrettäviä.  Mikäli tietoa sen sijaan jaetaan laajemmin, sen tulkinta teettää todellista työtä. Raakadata yksinään on vain kasa numeroita. Sillä ei yksin tee mitään, vaan se täytyy pystyä prosessoimaan jotta se olisi käyttökelpoisessa muodossa. Jonkun täytyy tämä prosessointi tehdä ja siitä vastata.

Osa parametreista, esimerkiksi polttoaineekulutus, menee selkeästi alueelle jonka laivanvarustamot katsovat liikesalaisuuksiksi. Joka tapauksessa on suuri määrä tietoa, joka on harmaalla alueella.  Monien refleksiivinen tahtotila on tiedon salaaminen. Yhtiöt voidaan ehkä pakottaa antamaan raakadata käyttöön. Sen sijaan on vaikeampi tarkkaan määritellä, mitä tarkoittaa “käyttökelpoinen muoto”. Tämä pätee silloinkin, jos yhtiöt toimivat täydessä yhteistyössä; mitä monipuolisempaa dataa halutaan esittää, sitä vaikeampaa sen standardointi on. Standardointi ei myöskään ole ilmaista. Kuka maksaa tämän työn?

Avoimuus suosii häikäilemättömiä

Avoimuus toimii parhaiten turvallisuustekijänä silloin, jos kaikilla on käytettävissä sama tieto kaikista. Jos sen sijaan joku toimijoista panttaa tai jopa väärentää tietoa jolla on kilpailullista merkitystä, toimijalla on helposti suora kilpailuetu.  Mikään idealismi ei tätä faktaa poista.  Käytännössä on oltava sekä valvonta- että rangaistusmekanismit joilla huijaaminen voidaan estää. Näiden pitää lisäksi toimia kansainvälisellä tasolla. Esimerkiksi ydinvoimalle tällainen kansainvälinen kontrollijärjestelmä on olemassa. Ydinvoiman historiallinen tausta on kuitenkin täysin erilainen; ydinvoiman kanssa päästiin käytännössä aloittamaan puhtaalta pöydältä. Laivaliikenteellä tätä mahdollisuutta ei ole.

Avoimuus suosii myös helposti rikollisuutta. Mitä enemmän tietoa on saatavilla, sitä helpompi on suunnitella hyökkäyksiä. Suomen oloissa ajatus kuulostaa kaukaiselta (joskin myös täällä on ollut Arctic Sean kaltaisia tapauksia). Muualla maailmassa riskit sen sijaan ovat aivan toisenlaiset.  Somalian merirosvoalueilla eivät yksinkertaisesti päde samanlaiset avoimuussäännöt kuin Itämerellä.

Terrorismiin vedotaan liian herkästi, mutta unohtaa sitä ei voi.  Avoimenkin mallin tulee lähteä siitä inhorealistisesta lähtökohdasta, että ympärillä on tahoja jotka haluavat tuottaa tuhoa. Ristelyaluksen upottaminen ei tässä tapauksessa ole edes pahin skenaario.  Monen tuhannen ihmisen hengen menetys olisi toki valtava tragedia. Yhteiskunnat toipuvat kuitenkin valtavistakin menetyksistä, vaikka arvet jäävätkin.  Sen sijaan esimerkiksi Exxon Valdez-tyyppinen mutta tahallinen öljyvuoto vaikkapa ydinvoimalan vieressä aiheuttaisi merkittävää tuhoa.

Mitä voidaan tehdä?

Monet ihmiset ja yritykset  vierastavat tämäntyyppistä avoimuutta, joko hyvin perustein tai ilman. Miten heidät saisi tästä kiinnostumaan?  Vaikka laskelmat osoittaisivatkin, että avoimuus on pitkällä aikaskaalalla eduksi, lyhyellä skaalalla avoimuus näyttää tuottavan etupäässä riskejä. Miten nämä korvataan riskin ottajalle? Käytännössä radikaaliin avoimuuteen pyrkiminen vaatisi laivaliikenteeseen niin suuria yht’äkkisiä muutoksia, etten näe realistisena olettaa sellaisia. Radikaalia avoimuutta on järkevä testata jossakin ympäristössä. Laivaturvallisuus tuskin on sopiva ympäristö, vaan on järkevämpi hakea testialustaa muualta.

Being rigorous at being what?


Can the Zygomatica blog serve any useful purpose, when we have made a conscious decision to not focus on anything for any significant periods of time?

I do not speak for the other members of Zygomatica, although they have peer-reviewed this posting (see below). This is my own question, and my own answer.

Most bloggers have no need for such a question. If writing a blog is something that comes naturally and causes real joy, then no question: just do it.  For me, writing does not come naturally and is not a real joy. It is difficult. The Zygomatica team has a policy of internally peer-reviewing every posting, meaning we are lucky to end any given day on speaking terms. What, then, is the point?

The point, as I see it, is to maintain and develop my skills of rigorous thinking. It would be exhilarating to create something that people actually enjoy reading, of course. But above all this is an exercise in self-discipline. But self-discipline to what purpose?

A famous paper  (Ericsson et al 1993) notes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve exceptional proficiency in any task, meaning 10 years of more or less obsessive practice started at childhood.  That is completely excessive though. I have no desire to operate at the “grandmaster level” of thinking. Collegiate level perhaps.

At slightly less obsessive levels, Cal Newport has argued that one should focus tightly on exceeding at one skill at a time, rather than diluting one’s focus. An interesting example is provided by an analysis of the skills of comedian Steve Martin:

“But when you study people like Martin, who really do live remarkable lives, you almost always encounter stretches of years and years dedicated to honing craft.”

Somewhat depressing. I do not have a passion or dedication for any particular craft. On the other hand: neither do I desire to lead a “remarkable life”. Feeding my family, being an passable father and husband, and dying more or less content is enough. But for me a content death requires some intellectual stimulation, which I think requires skill. And even a minimal level of skill does not come easily.

In addition, my idea of fun intellectual stimulation is not exactly shared by normal society. Apparently, I would bore a Vulcan. But a commentary by Cory Doctorow on the concept of “too much time on his hands” warms my heart:

“‘That guy has too much spare time’ is one of the most odious, intellectually dishonest, dismissive things a person can say. It disguises a vicious ad-hominem attack as a lighthearted verbal shrug…..  [T]he slur brooks no possibility that the speaker has failed to appreciate some valuable, fulfilling element of the subject’s hobby.”

I love the attitude. An Asperger-like stubbornness to do what you do and ignore the ridicule is something that I admire and respect very much. Genuinely. But I do not have such a clear-cut hobby. (Nor do I exactly have very much time on my hands).  Coming closer to home, John D. Cook writes optimistically of the concept jack of all trades and a master of none.

“Calling someone a jack of all trades could be a way of saying that you don’t have a mental category to hold what they do.”

The negative connotations might come from the fact that some seemingly unfocused people have skills that are simply not recognized. This is potentially reassuring. In a similar vein, Venkatesh Rao writes on the  “calculus of grit”. A crucial passage:

“So what does the inside view of grit look like?…. It simply feels like mindful learning across a series of increasingly demanding episodes that build on the same strengths.“

I would like to take some comfort from this. My career interests seem to have no coherent pattern at all (space plasmas; memory optimization; temperature sensors; lightning detection; other stuff). But in fact there is a unifying theme. Any problem, literally any problem, can be attacked by the basic tools given by a scientific training — but with a catch.  A perfect metaphor for half my thinking is the study on the fastest lane in the supermarket by Dan Mayer. The following line resonates:

“This problem has obsessed me for years. It’s my DaVinci code. It’s my love for math, for mathematical reasoning, for the relentless deconstruction of something that seems simply intuitive into data, models, and computation.”

I love the quote, but it is only half the truth.  Meaningful real-world phenomena cannot be reduced to simple mathematical/scientific models. You can always prune down the problem until it can be modeled. But at some point the model is too simple to describe the original problem statement. To me, only half the work is done when the math is done. The other half is to evaluate whether the solution actually has any relevance to the problem. As often as not, it does not, and then it is back to the drawing board.

Perhaps that is what makes Zygomatica a meaningful exercise. Using rational methods to skeletonize a seemingly intractable problem into a scientifically solvable one; trying to solve the problem; and then relentlessly and ruthlessly deconstructing whether the solution has any real-life meaning whatsoever. That is actually a skill set that is not taught at university. This is a mindset that I have applied to problem after problem, project after project, year after year. And that plodding is just perhaps what separates Zygomatica from being a mere exercise in dilettantism.

I may be overoptimistic and covering for an inner insecurity. On the other hand, this is where an Asperger-like attitude comes in handy: I really do not care if this sounds ridiculous. It is my thing. And the Zygomatica thing.

Zygomatica blog and web site launched


The web site has now been launched. In brief: is a demonstrator for thinking differently.

Please see Who we are to see what the team is about. This blog is bilingual in Finnish and English, depending on the subject matter. Materiaali on joko englanniksi tai suomeksi, aiheesta riippuen.

The group has four general interest areas. Blog postings will made quasi-randomly, whenever any member has anything interesting to say (or anything in general). When a question becomes particularly interesting, we may launch a collaborative project around it, inviting others to join. We have four interest areas. One blog posting has already been written for each area.

  • Creativity. The light side of Zygomatica. These are the “problems in search of a solution” of the title. Any projects in this area will be quick and short. First blog posting: Catapult camera. We present an example of a solution which did not find a problem.
  • Opacity. Addresses our value “anything can be a source of information, if properly interpreted”. These will mostly be case studies on how to  mine out information from sources which look opaque. Blog posting: “Onko Google ainoa järkevä suomenkielinen hakukone / Is Google the only useful Finnish search engine?” Yritämme selvittää, johtuuko Googlen 98%:n markkinaosuus siitä, että se olisi hakukoneena valtavasti parempi kuin muut. Pikatutkimuksemme löytää jotain hypoteeseja, mutta lähinnä nostaa esiin jatkokysymyksiä ja -tutkimuksen aiheita. Ennen muuta esitämme kysymyksen, pitäisikö yhden yhtiön monopoliasemasta olla huolissaan. //////////////////   We study whether Google’s 98% share in Finnish search is justified by a uniquely high search quality. Our quick study develops some hypotheses, but mostly raises issues for further study. Above all we ask whether a 98% monopoly by a single company should be cause for national concern.
  • Security. The serious side of Zygomatica. Security is a complex issue that benefits from unconventional thinking. First blog posting / kirjoitus:  Laivaonnettomuuden analyysi, osa 1Näkemys Costa Concordian laivaonnettomuudesta ja ennen muuta sen nostattamista systeemitason kysymyksistä. Myöhemmissä artikkeleissa tullaan käsittelemään artikkelin esiin nostamia uusia kysymyksiä tarkemmin, erityisesti avoimemman datan arvoa turvallisuustekijänä.    //////// A system analysis of the Costa Concordia accident [In Finnish]. Future postings will answers questions raised in this essay, in particular the possible value of information transparency as a safety factor.