June 22, 2012

The Silicon Valley Meme: Coming to a Technology Cluster Near You …

Oracle by (nz)dave

Oracle Inc. Headquarters, Silicon Valley, California. CC-licensed Picture by (nz)dave on Flickr.

… if it hasn’t done already

In California the streets aren’t paved with Gold, they are paved with Silicon. Many a Californian has made their fame and fortune from Silicon-based commerce. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Oracle, Apple the list goes on and on. Silicon paves the streets of Silicon Valley.

Silly Valley is often imitated but rarely bettered. Here is a small selection of imitators from a fully blown stamp collection of silicon valley places in wikipedia:

  • Silicon Alley, New York
  • Silicon Fen, Cambridge UK
  • Silicon Roundabout, London
  • Silicon Glen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Bonnie Scotland
  • Silicon Gorge,  M4 Corridor-ish (Bristol, Swindon, Oxford etc)
  • Silicon Mill, Manchester and North West England
  • Silicon Shipyard, Newcastle, Middlesborough etc

If you don’t have a Silicon Valley cluster near where you live, there’s an easy part and a hard part to creating one. The easy part is, just prefix the name of your local area with the magic S word Silicon. Easy. The hard part is building the universities, businesses, technology, communities, start-ups and investment that makes a technology cluster like Silicon Valley successful [1,2,3]. How can it be done?


  1. Mietek Jaroniec (2009). Silicon beyond the valley Nature Chemistry, 1 (2), 166-166 DOI: 10.1038/nchem.173
  2. Paul Graham (2006). How to be Silicon Valley paulgraham.com
  3. Chris Vallance (2012). Silicon Britain: Inside the country’s tech clusters BBC News

June 28, 2006

Marginal Power

Filed under: Uncategorized — Duncan Hull @ 11:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Garage doorLISP Hacker and Painter Paul Graham writes entertaining essays about technology. His latest piece, discusses how important and sometimes lucrative ideas usually come from the “garage” outside rather than the inside, what he calls The Power of the Marginal. His essay rambles a bit in places, but has some interesting observations that are relevant to bioinformatics. For example…

“…if you’re an outsider you should actively seek out contrarian projects. Instead of working on things the eminent have made prestigious, work on things that could steal that prestige.”

Paul did a PhD in Computer Science and has fond memories of being a student which will ring true with anyone who has been there:

“That’s what I remember about grad school: apparently endless supplies of time, which I spent worrying about, but not writing, my dissertation.”

PhDs and obscurity go hand-in-hand and according to this essay, obscurity and marginality is good for you. It doesn’t taste as good as junk food but is allegedly “good for you”. Pauls personal choice of marginality is the relatively obscure language called LISP, and the people I’ve met who use this langugage are either crazy or at the top of their game, sometimes both. Does LISP turn people crazy or are crazy people attracted to the obscurity of LISP?

Either way, Paul Grahams occasionally crazy essays are worth a read if and when you have a moment to spare. Even better, read them when you don’t have the time and are procrastinating writing your PhD thesis or next Bioinformatics paper.

Further reading

  1. Structure and Interpretation of LISP programs
  2. Most grad students are stuck on problems they don’t like
  3. Startups and garages in bioinformatics: The effect of software patents
  4. Garage Genomics and bio-hackers
  5. Lisp as an Alternative to Java by Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google

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