Isreali/Palestinian Conflicts on Second Life

The biggest news over the last week has been Israel’s bombing and subsequent invasion of Gaza to try to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel.

Israel’s response has led to outcry from countries sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight and local protests in the Arab world, London and Florida, among other places.
Now, these same protests have made their way to Second Life.  For those who don’t know, Second Life “is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using voice and text chat.”  Users create avatars and can live a complete “second life” online, complete with land ownership, jobs and virtual currency.
A blogger from New World News, a Second Life blog, recently interviewed the creator of Second Life Israel to see what all of the commotion was about.  He found that:

“Lots of people yelling,” Beth Odets, the creator of Second Life Israel, tells me. “They were going on and on with slurring obscenities about murderous Israeli forces, etc.” She gives me a screenshot taken during the incursion, festooned with anti-war or pro-Palestinian signs, some depicting dead Arab children.

She ended up closing SL Israel to all outsides for a few days so that things could calm down.  Later, she reopened it and while there has still been some protesting, many people are talking about their experiences on both sides of the conflict.  This positive dialogue may someday lead to more understanding between the two sides.
Hopefully, this virtual dialogue will be a tiny step toward creating understanding and empathy between both sides of the conflict so that a solution can happen.

How Much Pollution do your Google Searches Generate?

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Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist and owner of, claims that every two Google searches uses as much energy as boiling a kettle of water.   I have no idea if this is correct, but it seems very high to me.

Experts have also claimed that the Internet industry produces about as much carbon emissions as the aviation industry.  Server farms produce huge amounts of carbon because they are running 24/7 and have to handle huge amounts of calculations at all times.  
Wissner-Gross claims that Google is a big offender because of the way searches are handled.  When you submit a search, Google sends the information to multiple servers competing against each other for speed.  This procedure makes the site very fast, but wastes the server capacity for the requests that are not displayed to the searcher.
He has set up a website that allows companies to “make their sites carbon neutral.”  Its a similar idea to a company that two UW students have started: Powered Green.
Powered Green sells stickers to put on laptops that advertise that the computer is “Powered Green.”  The proceeds from the stickers fund alternative energy projects that offset the energy used over the life of the laptop.
I really like both of these ideas and it will be interesting to see if this type of personal environmentalism continues to catch even as the price of energy continues to crash.

Floating Plastic Island 2x the Size of USA

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No, its not science fiction.

I just finished reading the Economist’s special report on the world’s oceans.  Its really good, worth the read, and best of all, its free on the Economist website.
One of the articles describes an area in the Pacific ocean 2x the size of the United States that is completely full of plastic.  Can you imagine walking across the USA, surrounded by plastic the entire time?  Apparently, water currents pull most of the world’s discarded plastic into this zone, creating a floating wasteland of plastic.  Another study found that for every square kilometer of ocean, there are 18,000 pieces of floating plastic.  Another found that the average Dutch seabird has 44 pieces of plastic in its stomach when it dies.
Check out the special report at

Would you Delete 10 Facebook Friends For a Free Whopper?

While I probably haven’t eaten fast food in at least six months, Burger King is my favorite burger chain solely based on its innovative marketing.

They are at it again with their Facebook application Whopper Sacrifice. says:

What would you do for a free WHOPPER?  Now is the time to put your fair-weather web friendships to the test.  Install WHOPPER Sacrifice on your Facebook profile and we will reward you with a free flame-broiled WHOPPER when you sacrifice 10 of your friends.

When a Facebook user defriends someone, Whopper Sacrifice notifies the defriended person with a notice that the person likes Whoppers more than them.
This is by far my favorite Facebook Application so far.  It fulfils an actual need, food, and makes fun of all of the quasi-friends that everyone has on Facebook.  It’s incredibly sticky and extremely viral: one user turns into at least 10 users very quickly.
As of today, over 30250 people have been defriended in favor of the Whopper and it is going up fast.  I am surprised that Facebook has allowed this app to continue, as it eats away (pun intended) at its user base.  Even if the Facebook team decides that this app violates the terms of service, it is a publicity coup for Burger King and a strategy that other web companies should emulate.