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Comment But it did not kill all! (Score 5, Insightful) 59

Half the population survived and got immunity to it. These pathogens traveled along the trade routes by land to three large population centers, India, China and Europe, Arabia and the Silk route forming land trading routes. They will leave behind an immunized population but sustain themselves by hitting these population centers and rebounding some 20 years later to find fresh unimmunized populations. And several such iterations strengthened the immunity of all the inhabitants of the old World. In each iteration these pathogens got more and more lethal. When the sea routes opened these pathogens "seeded" multiple locations simultaneously in Europe creating very virulent outbreaks.

When Europeans arrived to colonize the New World, their small population should have been wiped out by the diseases unfamiliar to them in the New World. But they were not. Instead the much larger (than the colonists) New World population got devastated by the Old World diseases.

This explanation came out as a 12 page (The arrow of disease) article by Jared Diamond in 1992 in the Discover magazine. Later it was expanded into a Pulitzer winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel

Comment Drunk driving, FAA and police (Score 1) 126

One of the tenets in FAA rule making is: "If a rule is violated repeatedly and frequently, there is something wrong with the rule. Must find the root cause and fix it."

The way police "fight" drunk driving is by creating very heavy punishment, but enforce it lackadaisically. The probability of getting caught is low, but if you do get caught the punishment is severe. The ExpectedCost = Sum over the driving population (probability of getting caught * severity of punishment). This leads to widespread rule violation, gaming the system, using apps to minimize getting caught etc. Add to it the conflict of interest due to the fines being used as revenue source for the municipality.

FAA approach would be: Something along the lines of "all drivers who drove drunk must file an incident report voluntarily". You will be surprised how much FAA relies on voluntary disclosure from all the parties, airlines, pilots, ATC, maintenance logs etc. It would collect the reported incident data and try to get to the root of the problem. It would not set up a single blood alcohol limit for all roads and all locations. It would eventually classify roads as Class A, Class B etc with different blood alcohol levels. Will encourage a combination of public transport or shared transportation of drunk passengers through Class A and Class B thoroughfares to park-and-ride lots accessible by Class C and Class D thoroughfares. The drunks would be allowed to reach their homes on their own. They really don't want to kill you or damage their cars or die in accidents. They just want to go home. It is as much in their interest to avoid an accident as it is yours. Will allow drunk drivers to install "I'm driving drunk" warning lights on their cars to alert others and voluntarily install speed limiting devices.

Of course FAA will not get any financial incentive in punishing the drunk drivers. It would beg for handouts from the government for its operating budget. The free market fanatics would attack it continuously and hamper it in every possible way.

Comment Were you endangered? (Score 5, Insightful) 126

SkyPan operated the 43 flights in the New York Class B airspace without receiving an air traffic control clearance to access it, the FAA alleges. Additionally, the agency alleges the aircraft was not equipped with a two-way radio, transponder, and altitude-reporting equipment. The FAA further alleges that on all 65 flights, the aircraft lacked an airworthiness certificate and effective registration, and SkyPan did not have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the operations. SkyPan operated the aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger lives or property, the FAA alleges.

If you have flown to New York and Chicago between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014 you might have been endangered by this company. It operated drones which were not airworthy, it operated drones without the transponder to alert the ATC about its altitude, location and speed. These machines are too small to show up in radar. Without a transponder they are nearly invisible to radar.

New York is where both engines of USAir flight were hit by soft bodied geese weighing less than 20 pounds each and forced the plane to crash land in the Hudson river. The drones have hard metal parts and hard plastic. They would do far more damage to the plane.

Comment Air safety relies on enforcement of rules (Score 5, Interesting) 126

Air safety is achieved by rigorous enforcement of rules. One can not show the lack of adverse consequences for a violated rule as defense for violating the rule. At the time the rule violation happened, the violator did not know it would have no adverse consequences.

It did not matter the Air Traffic Control violated 1 km horizontal separation and 1000 feet vertical separation without a mid air collision. If the rule was violated the incident report must be filed. All rule violations must be filed. Accidents are too infrequent to infer statistically significant conclusions.

Among the federal agencies FAA has a very good track record of amending the rules and regulations to help improve safety. It does not simply issue fines for incident violations. When some rule violation becomes too frequent it analyses the situation and comes up with a solution too.

For example, when the pilots go through the check lists, if it gets interrupted, the rule is to start from the top all over again. Pilots should NOT try to remember what was done and continue from the middle. But this rule was getting violated too often. They analyzed and found that the check lists were getting too long and it was quite tedious to start from the top. They broke the check list into sections, and amended the rule "Start from the top of section. Each section should start in its own page. No section should have more than so many checks". This is how we achieved the safety in air travel. It might hurt the free market fanatics to accept it, but FAA is one federal agency that is doing its job right.

May be a little too slow to respond, and may be it has some conflict of goals in its charter, "to promote safety" as well as "to promote air travel". It is high time we remove the requirement for it to promote air travel and make safety its single goal.

In fact its procedures draw universal acclaim and some medical researchers are arguing for check lists for surgeons for their procedures.

If FAA says this drone operator flew their machines with reckless disregard for safety, they did. They should pay the fine.

Comment Next disproving Mythcal Woman Month. (Score 1) 269

The latest report from my organization (please click on all the links and give me loads of personal information to sell) has disproved mythical woman month. The original myth holds that you can not get nine women pregnant and get a baby in one month. The absolutely latest and greatest agile methodology with Kanban technology and our copyrighted and patented bullshittology technique has totally disproved that theory. Come one, click, gimme my money. What are you waiting for?

Comment The biggest break through... (Score 1) 36

The biggest break through in the treatment of parasites comes when there is only one manufacturer left in the world for a generic drug that is some 60 odd years old. I takes a particularly sharp eyed man to see the opportunity, buy the company and jack up the price by 7500%. That is a break through.

Slogging your balls off working in a lab for three decades and hoping there is a chance some foreign committee in Sweden would see your work and throw you a bone 7500% smaller than the new price for the generic drug... That is a fools game.

Comment Monster cable already supports it (Score 1) 176

You need to have solid gold conductors to support this kind of quality in display. Sure, it is digital transmission with automatic error correction, but with the $7999 per meter Monster HDMI cable every one is a perfect straight line and every zero is a perfect circle. True videophiles can tell the difference. If you don't pay for it, you are just confessing your inferior vidophilabiltiy.

Comment Capital one is actually one of the better ones... (Score 1) 341

I always make it a point to let Capital One know before I use the credit card in India. They send me texts when the card is used.

Last year I told them I was traveling to Europe and India for two weeks. Found out in London that all their retailers use credit cards with pin numbers. American credit cards without pin numbers are authorized by the discretion of the retailer. Apparently if I use the card and deny making the charges, the merchant is in the hole in UK. Not sure if this is true, this what the pizzaria near Trafalgar Square told me. Anyway there were tons of fraudulent charges from London, mostly airline tickets bought from London to African destinations. Capital reversed ALL the charges from London. Had to call back and tell them the bonafide ones, I didn't want the legitimate businesses to suffer.

So far all the experience I had with credit card companies (Citi, Capital One) or debit cards (Schwab) were uniformly good.

The only minor negative experience was when Citi left a fraud alert phone message that let the cat out of the bag about a surprise Las Vegas trip I had planned for my wife.

Comment Re:fair competition (Score 1) 218

What you say is very valid, but that is exactly how free market operates.

Free market is like evolution, it does not plan ahead, it gets stuck in local minima.

In a city for someone hoping to open a new bar, established areas would need very heavy capital. With a taxi system without surge pricing such a bar owner would strike new ground and may be eventually that area would grow and thrive as another established area. This is how load balancing would work in free market. But with Uber and surge pricing, it would strengthen existing high traffic areas and corridors would not let alternate areas to develop.

The solution to free marking cherry picking only the profitable sectors of an essential service has always been publicly funded government provided services. Post office is the perfect example. Contrary to popular opinion, the Post Office is extremely efficient. Private companies in USA would not even tell you time of the day for 50 cents. USPS will deliver a first class mail anywhere in the USA, even if it has to fly a single engine float plane for 150 miles from Anchorage, Alaska to Noname, Middle-of--nowhere county, Alaska.

So if Uber takes hold, the bar owners will convince government to provide a Post Office equivalent of a taxi service. Price will be low, but it will be a single bus that takes all the patrons from that area, travel all around the town and drop them in their homes over the next six hours.

Comment Re:fair competition (Score 1) 218

Once you remove the quota, and the natural competition drives the price low, most of the honest intelligent taxi drivers will exit the profession. There is always demand for honest people looking for decent wages. At that point very few honest people will be driving the taxi. They will be honest only to the extent the honesty could be thrust on them.

Comment It is "hctaw s'yelaP" argument. (Score 2) 41

A generation before Charles Darwin, Paley explored the question of origin of species. Some of his lines of arguments in favor of divine creation resonate to this day. He was an inspiring figure to Charles Darwin. His argument was: "If you come across a watch in the woods, you would instantly recognize it is not natural, the way components fit together, the purposefulness of the components etc would clearly convince you that it was not a naturally occurring object". This argument is called "Paley's watch" argument.

In this case the scientists are arguing the way the components of a natural are disassembled the way they are disarticulated shows the evidence of human hand. This is the reverse of Paley's watch, it is hctaw s'yelaP.

Comment But they will always have a place in ... (Score 4, Informative) 565

... the trunks of police cars. According to widely circulated "facts" about cola one thing I still remember is, "Every police car in America has a two liter bottle of coke in their trunks. It is the best thing to dissolve blood stains off asphalt" and "put a chicken bone into a bottle of coke, and it will dissolve completely in six days"

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM