Month: May 2005

NASA’s mixtape for aliens

Mathematical definitions

I am kind of a science geek, but really this is about being a sociology geek.

In 1977, NASA launched two “intrepid” Voyager spacecrafts. Their primary purpose was to photograph distant planets from ranges never before achieved. It succeeded beautifully, but of more interest to me is the secondary purpose of this mission.

After passing Pluto (or Neptune?), what’s left to do with the most distant object we’ve sent into space? Obviously, propel it to a speed of one million miles per day and hope it reaches some alien society. But what do you send to an alien society?

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A Flat Hierarchy for Subjective mp3 Tags

I’ve always been anal about the way my mp3s are tagged. Before the iPod, Audioscrobbler, and foobar2000, it was an irrational obsession, since I keep my music well-sorted on my hard drive. But there’s something so “official” about mp3 tags that I find appealing.

A few years ago this fixation extended to a program called MoodLogic, which applies a user-maintained database of really specific information about songs to construct playlists to match particular moods. In the end it proved more work than it was worth for me, so I abandoned it, but I’ve always wished for a similarly intuitive method of music browsing and playlist creation (come on, alphabetically?).

The genre tag has always been the most elusive. The subjective if not totally baseless distinctions between “Pop/Rock,” “Rock,” and “Pop” are enough to aggravate even the mildest case of OCD. I never bothered with this kind of categorization until recently when I realized that foobar2000 can handle multiple values for one tag field. Interesting…

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