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Comment: Re:There has not been any radioactive terror to da (Score 1) 66

by Artifakt (#47661101) Attached to: Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials

If a group of unaffiliated individuals attack a country, that country has no recourse for nuclear retaliation.

Some governments, at least including the US, various UK states such as Canada and Australia, the PRC, and some continental European powers, have had agents working full time on just getting samples of radionucleotides from various fission plants, and analyzing those samples so that, if those nucleotides turn up in a dirty bomb or worse, an actual fission device, they can tell just where they were made by differences in various isotopic ratios, trace elements, and such. Knowing the source does not always mean those nations would retaliate against an attack from a group of apparently non-affiliated individuals, but it's certainly one piece of evidence in building a case for retaliation that would satisfy at least part of the international community. Nations have some interest therefore in reporting thefts of materials internationally, and various governments have some interest in setting up conditions for such reporting (i.e. in some cases, assuring the reporting country this will be classified and not released, and so hopefully not available for political candidate's uses.)
        I'd say that against groups such as you describe, it may not be possible to respond with nuclear retaliation, or recourses may be limited. It may also be desirable to respond with something less damaging to innocent bystanders, other nations, and the environment, even if a nuclear option is possible. This could go anywhere from a use of actual boosted fission devices within hours of the first event, to a much more measured response, possibly weeks or even longer after the first event.
          By the way, probably the most workable term for 'unaffiliated individuals' in US sources is "non-state actors", relatively short, straight-forward and to the point. In the US, emergency response teams called NEST would be responsible for the first stages of gathering samples from a dirty bomb incident or similar event, but their primary purpose is to stop such events before there is a detonation or risk to the public, if that's still possible when they become involved. NEST now stands for Nuclear Emergency Support Team, but in some older sources, the S stood for Search instead of Support. Calling one a NEST Team is redundant, but occasionally done by the media. NESTs are authorized to respond to incidents both inside and outside US borders, but just what that means in practice is unclear..

Comment: Re:And this is the same for copyrights. (Score 3, Interesting) 239

by Artifakt (#47652889) Attached to: Patents That Kill

The problem I see with any life+ based duration, is it selectively rewards people who have a big hit that keeps coming back into print early in their careers, and then live a long time afterwards, and the converse of that is it punishes the author who doesn't have much success until late in life, or worse, gets his or her career cut short by a fatal illness. You've suggested a system that (sort of) fixes the later case, but it doesn't address the first half of the problem. Also, any life plus system is going to look like a better deal if the author has heirs he or she cares about, and less of a deal if they don't. If the whole goal under the Constitution is to provide an incentive, we have to look very carefully at how some people may or may not feel "incentivised".

          To show you how your system might have worked if it had been in effect all along, lets take two Fantasy/SF/Horror authors:

          First, H. P. Lovecraft. His first real hit of a story was 1926, with Call of Cthulhu. Just about everything that got reprinted when he first gained posthmous popularity was written after that. Then he died of Bright's disease, in 1937. Under the system of that time, most, if not all, of his work was still in copyright. But, it was still the great depression, and after that, there were the wartime paper shortages, so Life +10 would leave his work coming out of copyright just about when there starts being a chance of it getting printed. With your 40 year clause, some of his original copyrights would have lasted until about 1974, by which time he was starting to be reevaluated, and effectively expired just about the time his work finally caught on. Under the system actually in effect, most of his work was still under copyright until well after the first film adaptation (Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee in the Dunwich Horror). He did not have any direct heirs, and probably would not have believed as he wrote his last works that there was any chance he was leaving a literary estate that might actually become worth more than the cost of a cup of coffee. His closest heirs were a pair of aging aunts, and by the time there were payments, they went to very distant relatives indeed.

        Second, Michael Moorcock. He starts writing professionally at 15, and some of his biggest successes were written by the time he was 20. In his 70s now and still going strong, he'd enjoy life +10 on most of his work, and it's not inconceivable that Life +10 might apply even to his most recent books. I don't know if he even has direct heirs, but he has been married a couple of times and had some living relatives, so I suppose it's at least somewhat likely there are children, or perhaps nieces or nephews. Under the existing system, he would theoretically have a longer period of protection, but that may not matter in practical terms. The older US or British systems, current law, or your system are likely to leave him about the same, financially, but current law is, in theory, better for him. However, it's a mystery to many people why his work hasn't been optioned more by Hollywood, to the point of a completed film or six. Your system just might ding him financially, if there are people who are hoping to get film rights cheap after he dies - they could just wait 10 years and let copyright on such Characters as Elric of Melnebone expire completely. Rationally, a shorter term may matter not at all or a great deal to him, but not just for the money.


Comment: Re:I don't get it. (Score 2, Interesting) 537

by Artifakt (#47648745) Attached to: Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

First, you can take sample populations that 'exclusively possess" a particular feature, and they turn out not to. That is, it may be common for Danes to be blonde, but you can look at a large group of people from Denmark and see many people who don't have blonde hair, or otherwise don't fit whatever model of how that group should look someone is offering. You can try to filter your sample, for example, looking only at people who have records of descent from natives to that area going back five or ten generations, and that still will give you a population that has many exceptional examples wo don't have all the features you think make up a race. This happens near universally - you can go to more isolated villages or look at whole regions where it is believed the inhabitants lived cut off from other races, and you will still find that there are lots of exceptions. You can test this with 'extreme' examples - If you look at 100 Zulus, maybe half will look like stereotypical Zulus, and there will be 10% that are atypically short, lighter skinned, broader faced, narrower nosed or even with a "roman" nose, etc. (And it won't be the same 10% for each feature). Yeah, you're probably not going to find a blonde Zulu with epicanthic folds that stands 4" 3" as an adult in a sample of just 100, but you will find a lot of people who look not quite like what the standard model Zulu (or Polynesian Islander or Aboriginal Australian is supposed to be.

        Second, those physical racial features have mostly evolved over periods as short as 10,000 years. You can find cases where they may have had longer periods of isolation, but even those are pretty short as regards human evolution. For example, the best estimate for when proto-Asiatic ancestors of the Native Americans crossed the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska might be as high as 20,000 years, but most ethnolgists think that, a) people kept following along on that same route until much more recently, and b) the various Pacific peoples also made it to the New World sometimes by oceanic routes. So, even the differences between a 'typical' North Korean and a "typical" Cherokee probably accrued over less than 10,000 years. (And the differences between "atypical" ones of each group? They took the exact same total time. Try to visualize that.). That's set against an evolutionary history of roughly 100 times as long for the development of tool use, fire, and other innovations that show original thinking, invention, creativity, general intelligence and what some people still call progress. The genes that let some of our ancestors figure out how to make a better clay pot than the last design have been steadily circulating among populations and leaving behind artifacts in all cultures. If those genes are still very rare, then the claim is that genes for being smart, creative, and adaptable don't have any better survival value than the others, as they get into populations the same ways as the genes for short Zulus, but somehow, they are not being selected for, over periods 100's of times as long. In fact, it's a claim that creative intelligence has negative survival value.

The reason this "science" on racial differences is nothing but good old fashioned racism follows from these two points. The argument becomes "Intelligence has no survival value. Nature selects against it except under very special circumstances such as Ice Ages. Inferior genes water down the superior ones unless the superior ones are kept isolated from them." Ultimately, this becomes the "one drop of black blood makes you black" argument of the Civil War era American South. And none of that, from the claim that bad genes can water inherently good genes down until they vanish, to the echoes of apologetics for American slavery, is science.

Comment: Re:It may be too late, (Score 1) 252

by Artifakt (#47643249) Attached to: <em>Babylon 5</em> May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

I hope audiences are not too tired of "dark", because Guardians set audiences up for one of Marvel's darkest ever story lines. "Darker" than the "Dark Phoenix Saga"? Try darker than 14 year old Kitty Pride with inoperable ovarian cancer.

Warning - Spoiler below, but about an old comics series, not about this movie

Jim Starlin loves to draw comics where Death is the punch line. In the Star Reach underground line, he wrote a story titled "The Birth of Death", and one called "Death Building", Marvel gave Starlin the opportunity to reboot a heroic character one time, and he brought Adam Warlock back as a character who swiftly learns that, within a few years at most, he will kill most of his friends and then die by suicide, in the process of creating a timeline where the schizophrenic anti-messiah he will otherwise become doesn't end up creating the most spectacular genocide evah! ).

End of spoiler

Comment: Re:Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People A (Score 2, Insightful) 390

by Artifakt (#47605213) Attached to: "Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

One of the points of classical Capitalist Econ 101 is that, if a particular sector of industry consistently makes more than the average profits of business as a whole, tremendous, inexorable, possibly literally transhuman forces, (sometimes called the invisible hand) will push it back into line with the rest of the economy.

When a sector is making a 20% profit against an average for businesses of only about 3.4%, then classic Capitalism would say the forces trying to steer that sector back into line with the rest are about like a bunch of Mind Reading Giant Anime Robots, piloted by D&D 23rd level wizards and led by the Archangel Gabriel, doublewielding Nuclear Powered Uzis and riding the love child of Samatha Stephens and Hellboy.*

          Which makes it really bizarre to see people defending the sector's record profits as though they believe fervently in this free market/invisible hand stuff, but think the problem can be solved by debating with those people on Slashdot who 'just don't understand'. Yeah, shooting straw wrappers at him will stop Godzilla, too. How does it feel when the same theory that tells you it's morally right to defend this enormous profit margin also says the forces acting to take it away are literally more powerful than the combined nuclear arsenals of all the nations?

        Of course, you could believe that Adam Smith missed something there, but if that's so, where does this sense of absolute moral rightness, and the resulting tremendous need to fix all the people who disagree, come from?

* to use a metaphor that should be clear to the typical Slashdot reader.

Comment: Re: Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People (Score 3, Informative) 390

by Artifakt (#47605141) Attached to: "Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Technically, aspirin is a generic name in the USA, plus Australia, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Jamaica, Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, because (no kidding) Germany lost World War 1. In countres where it is still trademarked, the word should be written with a capital A, as Aspirin, the way you used it. The correct way to write the trademarked Johnson and Johnson wound care product is Band-Aid, with the dash.

But surely, even if some of the ACs above are a bit confused, that's not because someone still spends money on marketing brand names like 'Band-Aids". Surely they don't spend anything much on them, Let's see, for 2012, Johnson and Johnson claimed consumer wound care products resulted in sales of about 1 Billion US dollars, even, out of about 67 billion totak. Total advertising was 2.3 billion, so if we assume consumer wound care doesn't get a disproportionate share, that's 'only' approximately 34 million dollars a year. I don't think I'd call that next to zero. I will leave researching the budget Bayer spends for advertising Aspirin to most of the world, and specifically Bayer brand Aspirin (as it's described in the US and some other nations to get around that pesky genericness) as an exercise for the reader, but I have done the math, and it's actually larger than for Band-Aids.

Comment: Re:ROI for drug development (Score 0) 390

by Artifakt (#47603951) Attached to: "Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

You do understand that many Christians believe that God is good,and if he commands them to do good things for other people it's because He has that sort of goodwill, and wants them to learn to feel goodwill too if they don't instinctively feel it, or express it if they already do. You make it sound like non-Christians doing this sort of charity actually feel goodwill, and the Christians don't, but do it for fear of punishment or displeasing an arbitrary source of commands. I know some Christians who are mostly driven by fear of an angry God, but I'd bet that most of the doctors, nurses, and other volunteers in a program like this are driven by a genuine desire to do good, and when they have moments of fear it's more about the risk of death than anything else. That goes regardless of belief systems, Christian, Islamic, or Secular Humanist.

Comment: Re:ROI for drug development (Score 5, Informative) 390

by Artifakt (#47603847) Attached to: "Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Here's a good, reliable page on Ebola, Reston variant: (this assumes you don't think Stanford is a cheesy school, or in on the vast conspiracy to supress all conspiracy theories, or whatever).

from this page
"twelve of the 186 people tested had serological evidence of infection with EBO-R. 22% of the workers at Ferlite Farms had positive IFAT (indirect fluorescent antibody test) titers, which was significantly higher than at the other three export facilities."
              Those infection mumbers are low for a virus that normally attacks humans, like Ebola Marburg, in a setting with no precautions at all and lots of hosts, but the fact that humans have no significant symptoms from it says that the Reston variant virus does not colonize humans at all well, and so are at least marginal support for it being exceptionally likely to survive in the environment, compared to the more human lethal types. This just might indicate that Reston is airborne, but probably just indicates it survives a bit longer on surfaces or takes a little more exposure to some disinfectants to destroy than the commoner Ebola virus types. So you're halfway right about that - Reston is not presumed to have become air vectorable, it's just been raised as a possibility in discussion, and is still rated as less likely than some alternatives.

this particular shipment of nonhuman primates had a far larger number of deaths in Room F than would normally have been expected.
              And there goes your record - Reston is deadly to simians, at least to cynomolgus macaques. Unless you want to stand on your obvious spelling error (yeah, it doesn't kill "semians" - I hear not even Kryptonite kills them), the poster you are "correcting" was correct.

      Given a 25% accuracy rating and four spelling errors and two grammer errors in four sentences you would have a hard time persuading people to reject the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump's hairpiece is an Venusion Brainslug invader.

Comment: Re:Others?? (Score 1) 790

If this was found because the exact image is already on file with law enforcement, and his copy was detected by some hash function (MD5 maybe?), then it seems very, very likely there are other people passing that photo around. Whether guilty or not, this guy deserves to get a jury that will be able to understand that point, so his lawyer can raise relevant questions such as "If you weren't targeting my client before you had any evidence, how come you didn't find any of these others?". What are the chances that the jury will understand if there are any odd holes in the prosecution's case, even if the accused gets a lawyer who will try.
        People have all sorts of theories about the O J Simpson case, but one thing most of them have not heard is that the prosecution went back several times asking for larger and larger hair samples, but couldn't explain why to the jury. The prosecutor's expert witness told the jury that six hairs was enough to get 1 billion to 1 odds that it wasn't anyone else, or a billion to one against it matching the accused if he was actually innocent, and that more hairs would not be any more accurate. Then, the witness couldn't explain why they got those six hairs and then asked for a 36 hair and eventually a 200+ hair sample. In a high profile case with powerful lawyers, this sort of thing comes out, but would it in a case like this?

Comment: Re:Well at least they saved the children! (Score 3, Insightful) 790

I see a bigger problem with Google acting as unpaid law enforcement. It puts their own employees at risk. Criminals, particularly the sort we are now calling terrorists, will not see any sharp line between a company that acts to aid law enforcement, especially without even needing a subpoena, and the government itself, and the one big distinction they will see is that the company does not have heavily trained, firearms wielding personnel in large numbers.
          It's only a matter of time before somebody attacks one of these companies and issues a statement that it was a blow against the hated government. A smart company realizes that a court order gives them plausible deniability when they are accused of starting a criminal investigation or being over zealous in making accusations. They can say they were only doing what the law required, and the investigation was already ongoing, neither of which makes any sense as an excuse if they become extremely and seriously proactive. A smart company realizes that making their typical employees into soft targets is not fair to the employees.
          More simply, if you are an employee, and your company is asking you to do things that may leave a criminal wanting revenge against you, or a whole group of political nutcases targeting you, do you get the pay, equipment and training of an FBI agent or US Marshall? Does your workplace have the security of a federal office building? Does your health insurance have the same clauses a cops or soldiers does? Do you get paid to stay in shape on employer time in case your environment becomes a combat zone? Would the company use its legal department to protect you if the criminal sues you? Even if your management and you both really want to help catch the criminal, do they mean it enough they will back you up for your part, if that criminal is now carrying a grudge against you? Could you even expect your company to keep track of when a guy like this gets out of prison and warn you, or send a lawyer to his parole hearing?
      It's easy to cooperate with anything law enforcement asks, and harder to think rationally about the whole concept of blowback. It's easy to feel good about helping catch a particularly scummy criminal such as a pedophile, and harder to allocate the resources to properly protect your people from that potential blowback. And what happens at your company if you helped catch some guy everyone agrees deserves it, and now the government wants you to help catch all sorts of other criminals, who may be doing something you don't think should be a crime at all?

Comment: Re: The Red Queen (Score 2) 138

by Artifakt (#47596619) Attached to: Study: Dinosaurs "Shrank" Regularly To Become Birds

Does sexual selection actually work at all? Less controversially, does it accomplish anything regular natural selection can't, or is is an explanation that is simply redundant to natural selection as a whole?
          For example, there are some species, such as Walruses, where there are extreme differences between males and females, and we use Sexual Selection to explain how those evolved. The problem with that is revealed by Bighorn Sheep, among various other species. There, we have both a lot of dimorphism, and males acting very competitively in displaying themselves for the female, but it turns out that the famales aren't 'selecting right'. Female Bighorns seem to go off with the loser as often as the winner, or sometimes take up with a mate who isn't engaging in the head butting displays at all. Unlike Walruses, the males don't seem to have any way to keep females in a harem unless they can be convinced voluntarily, and since all a sheep has to do to signal unwillingness to mate is stop standing perfectly still, opting out seems to be the female's choice. Most recent studies either show no real pressure at all or a rather mild form of selectivity that doesn't seem like it's enough to explain major size and feature difference unless they could also be explained by non-sexual selection pressures. In other words, winning at head butting doesn't really seem to increase a male's chance of mating, so it's now unclear both why males butt heads, AND whether there as been any sex-based selection, at least in sheep, to cause the behavior.
            Something like this also shows up in African lions, where the male's size and mane can probably be explained by them being the part of the tribe that fights off Hyenas and Baboons just as well as sex based selection.

Comment: Re:Makes Perfect Sense (Score 4, Interesting) 138

by Artifakt (#47596549) Attached to: Study: Dinosaurs "Shrank" Regularly To Become Birds

There's also the argument that wings evolved from smaller structures which were held angled down to in turn hold the running bipod proto-bird (or advanced dinosaur) down when making sharp turns at high speeds (like automotive spoilers) . Strange as that idea sounds, if this actually worked, then it helps explain what's otherwise a pretty large gap - evolving flight. Arms races, as this one where the predators would be trying to outcorner their fleeing prey, and the prey would be trying to evade ever more agile predators, are often considered as explanations for complex evolutionary paths, and may well be true in this case, but it also means we would have an even harder time matching feathers to any specific climate data - as we don't know whether insualtion was the major advantage of the structures just because the animal didn't have the wing surface for actual flight..

Comment: Re:I didn't realize (Score 1) 409

I don't count as an expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn when I took my first Nuke-Bio-Chem defense course as an NCO, and I did manage a few updates and more advanced courses in subsequent years. All my professional training is from before 2001 however, and I'm sure some of it is obsolete. There are some people posting to this thread who really do know a thing or two, even if there are some others who are either channeling the spirit of Tom Clancy or just winging it.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang