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Comment Re:Assumptions (Score 1) 184

The premise behind these simulations is that giving directions to crowds will improve flow of people.

It's a mighty big assumption that the folks in the crowds would follow a signal to "slow down". Between the culture in general (ever see a tidy British style queue in the middle east?), and the general human dynamics of large crowds of people, I don't have much hope of this being a success...

...The activity of the crowd is determined by a very weak signal, if you can give them a strong signal instead they'll probably follow it.

Imagine you have a bunch of giant LED billboards overhead showing everyone in the crowd "SLOW DOWN" or "STOP" or "TURN RIGHT AT 42nd STREET".

A baffle sends a strong signal that is impossible to ignore. Cylindrical pillars seem to be among the most efficient at transmitting this signal in the right directions through the crowd so that it slows them in time to prevent crush injuries without panicking anyone into a stampede. Forget cultural stereotypes and objective cultural differences, at this scale all Muslims, Christians, Soccer fans, British Royals, bipeds, quadrapeds... behave as particles in a non-Newtonian fluid. If these particles encounter a barrier faster than the signal from the barrier can propagate against the flow of the fluid, you get a shock-wave not unlike a sonic boom.

Comment Re:Assumptions (Score 1) 184

Correctly placed barriers can significantly REDUCE the chance of "crowd crush" and stampedes, it's a common and well-understood technique that is often used to control "mosh pits" at large concerts and similar events. The basic principle is no different to putting baffles in a petrol tanker truck to stop it sloshing about uncontrollably and derailing the truck, a crowd has a "pressure" that is related to it's density, volume, and overall direction of motion. A larger space can build up much higher "spot" pressures than a small space with the same density and motion. As I understand the problem in TFA, the sheer number of people makes it impossible/expensive to simulate the effect of crowd control measures in real time. However the basic principles of "crowd baffles" are well understood and have significantly reduced the likelihood of tragedy over the last few decades that they have been in use. If you find that hard to believe, try obtaining public liability insurance for a large event without having a credible crowd control plan.

The stoning columns probably served this purpose until they were replaced with walls to prevent pilgrims from stoning other pilgrims. Essentially they replaced the pillar "baffles" with a solid barrier. The solution to the stray stone problem may have led to the stampede deaths.

Comment Just look at Irish Water (Score 2) 99

Irish water's smart meters block several digits of each consumer's water meter. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to see their own utility usage. The data is sent via an unpublished protocol to Irish water's meter readers. When consumer's receive a bill, they must believe and pay it, or face fines, legal action and jail.

Some consumers are concerned by the exposure to an unknown amount of RF from the unknown protocol. Others are concerned by the safety of the haphazardly installed meter system or the possibility that the poorly installed meters might be causing leaks or mis-configured meters causing artificially high bills.

The Irish government supports this private company intervening between public water and private users. So if a consumer's remote control or outdoor thermometer on the crowded 433Mhz or 900Mhz bands interferes with the unknown protocol, they are likely to be charged with hacking.

An open protocol would have allowed independent companies to develop inexpensive consumer-focused smart meters which would have helped with the goal of reducing water wastage. As it is now, Irish water decides if and when consumer have access to their own consumption patterns, they will decide what to charge for meter-readers and they alone will determine the accuracy of the flow meters which determine their revenue.

Petrol stations don't regulate their pump's flow meters. Grocery stores don't calibrate their own fruit scales. Butchers don't calibrate their own weighing scales.

So why do we let utilities decide how their product is measured?

Comment Techinal S/N ratio -100dB (Score 1) 662

Most reasonable people agree that some adult authority figures made serious mistakes. These mistakes suggest a combination of islamophobia, teenagemalephobia, plain old racism and technophobia. For Ahmed, our binary political rhetoric collapsed into two states and since Ahmed's accusers were wrong, then Ahmed must be right.

I can't think of any of my science or engineering friends who would have made it through school in the 70s and 80s under such a zero tolerance system. But I do have a number of questions: Does Ahmed deserve the praise he is getting or is he merely being used as a political campaign? Put another way, if you had done something like this and Obama stood up and declared you brilliant and innocent, would you feel worthy or would you feel a tiny bit of guilt over the fact that you lie somewhere on the spectrum between guilty and genius?

With all that has been written on Ahmed and his clock, I have a number of unanswered technical questoins:

  • What noise did it make? Was a ticking sound also part of its functionality?
  • Was the 110V cord plugged in during English class? Why?
  • Why was the briefcase/suitcase described as a pencil case? Every pencil case I've seen is large enough to hold no more than a few dozen pencils. Ahmed's seems like it could hold 1000.
  • When was the pencil case purchased? Was it a reuse of an old case or was it purchased purposely for the clock? If it was purchased for the clock, why not use a case which would allow the clock's display to be seen from the outside.
  • Cool clock? Seriously? Is assembling this really exceptional for an American kids of his age? I work with younger kids at a coderdojo, I've met kids at makeshops and science fairs. Most are capable of far more complex, interesting and scary inventions. A volcano or potato clock might even be more interesting.
  • Taking apart, reusing and "hacking" existing devices would have been far more impressive, though potentially much more illegal under DMCA and other draconian federal laws.
  • Where was Obama, the tech industry and the press when 14-year old Domanik Green's faced felony cybercrime charges instead of internships and invitations to the Whitehouse?

Comment Beos/Haiku+AmigaDOS+OpenSolaris+VMS+Osx+Ubuntu (Score 1) 484

Start with the OpenSolaris rock stable (since the early 1992-2010?) ABI, add ZFS for its efficient support of flash, snapshots, encryption, RAID-z... Add BEOS/Haiku's user-meta-data indexed filesystem and AmigaDOS's backward/forward linked file allocation "table" (To turn off the computer, you switch it off, no fscking "start->shutdown" nonsense.) Graft OSX's time-machine onto ZFS's efficient copy-on-write snapshots for an improvement on VMS's auto-versioning files. Use Ubuntu's package manager, huge application repository and ATK accessibility features. Glitz it up with OSX's Quartz extreme GUI.

Comment 3 words, Rental Backed Securities (Score 5, Informative) 940

An Irish language documentary broke the news on the US Mortgage Backed Security driven property bubble back in 2005 so why doesn't it surprise me that another foreign news source is the first to piss off US real-estate corporations and reveal that rental backed securities are also teetering on the brink of disaster? Here we go again, another replay of tulip madness. In the words of Yogi Berra, it's Deja-vu all over again.

The real problem is that boom-bust cycles driven by loose monetary policy (whether it be Reagan's trickle down or Greenspan's helicopter drops) help those with deep pockets. Playing with matches around the global economic gas-tank eventually causes an explosion and as John Maynard Keynes put it, "Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent." (unless you happen to be a corporate slumlord.)

Comment Re: Social mobility was killed, but not this way (Score 1) 1032

The average college graduate has around $30,000 of debt, hardly hundreds of thousands. The average trade school graduate has $10,000 of debt. Given that college grads have significantly higher salaries, and significantly more horizontal and vertical movement potential, I'd hardly say that a college degree is not worth it. ...

You must be talking about the US. In Europe I'd be surprised if the average university debt is even 1/4th of that. The last time I checked Oxford medical school had almost exactly the same tuition as MBTI (before their financial scandals saw daylight.) Asian, South American and African Universities cost even less and techies (unlike some tradesmen) are competing in this global market. Yes, your college degree is worth something but first consider that in India there are tens of millions of middle-class people with PhDs in whatever you think you're an expert at. In Spain, Brazil, China there are hundreds of millions of highly-educated and unemployed university graduates.

If I were a chancellor or comptroller of a state or alumni-subsidized university I'd be worried that people will find out that many US universities don't even give a fiscal ROI, much less a societal one. They are morphing into either trade schools or glorified country clubs.

Those with money focus on the fraternity aspect, rub elbows with wealth and push themselves into a cushy job with friends. They can major in some of the useless esoteric degrees (believe me, philosophy and psychology are quite practical compared to some college curriculum.) The others are channeled down the "trade- school" quick fiscal ROI path. They get a degree in Management Information Systems, Accounting, MBA or Computer Science and hope what they learned is relevant for at least as long as it takes to payoff their student loan.

Yes your college degree is worth something, so is a house, so are dot com stocks, beanie babies and tulips. But it isn't worth as much as most people believe it's worth.

Comment Re:VIC-20 Apple keyboard and data sensor. (Score 1) 258

I was using a Vic-20's resistive analog joystick ports for potometry of a solar eclipse in the mid 1980s but the more hacky invention was my setup for numerical analysis class. The teacher cared about algorithms, not the details of what OS or hardware we were using but the code and results had to be printed out. So I used a pair of transistors and an optocoupler to interface the Vic's TTL RS232 port to a BELL R33 current loop teletype machine. The Vic wasn't terribly fast so the printer would chug out a result every minute or two which I could hear from anywhere in the house. 3.14159265358979...

And that was the most reliable printer I've ever owned.

Comment My first Wintel PC... (Score 1) 258

A (New) Coke bottle, toilet roll tube, floating styrofoam bernouli ball to redirect the power supply fan's airflow over the hot running 386 CPU card on Zenith's passive backplane. This was all strapped to a 1960s era portable reel-to-reel tape recorder case with duct tape. Lots and lots of duct tape.

Comment Re:Germany should pay war reparations for WWII (Score 1) 743

Countries that go to the IMF expecting to have to make the sort of changes to their economy that Western nations would expect in order to consider them for a "payday loan" level credit offering will do just fine. Just like a "payday loan" if you can survive without it, you should...If an IMF loan isn't going to force a country to do what it doesn't want, and be fiscally responsible...I'll bet if Germany had kept that money, they would have spent some of it on investments that have a real return...

German citizens were saving too much money. I saw the posters urging people to dig the Deutchmarks from their back yards and exchange them for Euro. Yes saving is good, but Euros buried in back gardens to not lead to new businesses or a vibrant economy. So Germany used their influence and encouraged the ECB to print money and lower interest rates. This worked brilliantl... for Germany. Their sluggish economy began to pick up. But the one-size-fits Germany fiscal policy punished savers and rewarded debt in all Euro countries including Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. All this free money was floating around the EU, punishing savers in Greece and Ireland and blowing asset bubbles all over Europe. By time young Irish people had 10% down of a mortgage, the house had doubled in price. Everyone knew this was a bubble but saving was punished so severely that even those who opted for the fiscally responsible path are in worse shape then the 90% who spent money at a time when ECB policy punished fiscal responsible behavior.

The ECB, US Fed and other central banks use their tools to help themselves and those with first access to the money (wealth, banks, corporations). A wiser economic policy in the computer age would allow for a variety of currencies in different economic zones within a country. Lower Alabama and East Saint Louis should not have the same monetary policy as Manhattan and Beverly Hills. Germany shouldn't have the same monetary policy as Greece. The fictional fiscal world we create is punishing the young and poor The austerity already adopted by Ireland (the EU's golden-child) has a severe mis-allocation of public resources, rapidly increased homelessness and deaths. The fact is that people were punished for saving and then later punished for not saving.

"Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent." -John Maynard Keynes

Comment Re:What the fuck are you talking about? (Score 1) 385

I would have to say the technological part was not so bad, but we played with Hitler's love of the occult in 1954 and that ended the separation of church and state, it has been a downhill run ever since here.

OK so Godwin's Law holds true. I was going to send this link to a highly intelligent friend who constantly doubts his self worth but this whole tangle of threads proves that any mention of intelligence on Slashdot soon evaporates into a singularity of shallow thoughts about politics and religion.

I'm depressed not because I'm intelligent but because the world must face such vast infinities of stupid...

Comment Shortwave frequencies = over-the-horizon snooping? (Score 2) 449

Unfortunately, peak fraud is ahead of us with the widespread adoption of a poor implementation of RFID. The EU and ROW were wise to jump to chip and pin while the US dragged its feet for a decade with cashiers expected to be CSI signature verification specialists. But the move to pinless RFID rolls security back to the days when cashiers were expected to peer through lists of bad credit card numbers. Actually it's worse than that because card dup information is conveniently broadcast on 13.5 MHz, in the 22 meter amateur radio band. This is a great frequency for over the horizon broadcasting in summer. Not so good for secure communication over a distance that is supposed to be in the range of a few centimeters.

Its sad because properly implemented RFID has the potential for enhancing the security of paypoint transactions. This implementation will have so much fraud, people will forever associate RFID with fraud.

Comment Music and mathematics (Score 1) 210

How would you explain the relationship between music and mathematics? How can this relationship be leveraged to help reduce innumeracy? (For example a two dimensional touch screen can be used as a visual theremin where each axis plays a frequency. The frequencies can be continuous or as steps in integer ratios corresponding to chromatic, pentatonic, pythagorean, blues, arabic and other musical scales.)

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen