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Comment Re:MOOC = Massive Open Online Course (Score 1) 107

MOOC is not a commonly used term. The ones you mentioned are. Do you understand the difference?

You are correct that it isn't exactly the most common term. But it's sort of weird how EVERY TIME this acronym comes up on Slashdot (and it's pretty often), there is this same flamewar over how nobody seems to know what it means. To wit:

December 2012
September 2013
January 2014
January 2014
March 2015
May 2015

Etc., etc. I could go on, but I'm tired of reading through old threads.

Also, there's a headline about MOOCs on Slashdot at least once per month or so, and there has been for more than 3 years.

Is this a "common" acronym for everyone? Perhaps not. Does it appear on Slashdot on a VERY regular basis? Yeah.

Do we have these annoying exchanges about people who can't be bothered to look up an acronym every time the topic comes up? Pretty much.

Comment Re:A remarkable number of people are idiots (Score 5, Insightful) 350

This is why I'm seriously advocating that the weight of one's vote should be proportional to his knowledge + intelligent. People should be asked to take a test and the weight of their individual votes should depend on how well they do on the test.

The problem with proposals like this is that whoever is in power will design the "test" to disenfranchise other people. In case you're unaware, poll "tests" were common in the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s: they were widely used to prevent black people from voting in many areas. The "tests" claimed to be about literacy or whatever, but they were made arbitrarily difficult so that blacks couldn't pass. In fact, whites couldn't pass either, but they were literally "grandfathered" in (i.e., if their grandfather who was eligible to vote, they didn't have to take the test... blacks mostly had slaves for grandfathers, so they wouldn't have been eligible to vote -- this is where the phrase comes from).

Anyhow, if we were to reinstate some sort of poll test, it may not be used to disenfranchise according to racial lines, but you can be sure that whoever is in power will find a way to stop others from voting or to make their vote count less. It's probably impossible to design a system that couldn't be manipulated once you start disenfranchising people. Who gets to define the relevant "knowledge"? How do we measure " intelligence"?

Comment Re:Usage changes meaning (Score 1) 130

For example, "literally" has now come to mean "figuratively", due to the excessive hyperbole that most people seem to engage in these days.A complete reversal of meaning which seems stupid to me.

Just to be clear here, by "now come to mean," you are referring to about 150 years ago, correct? That's roughly when people started complaining about how "everyone" was misusing "literally" to mean its opposite.

It's unclear why the pedants are so up in arms about "literally." There are plenty of other examples of similar words that shifted to their opposite. For example, "apparent/apparently" and "probable/probably." To Shakespeare, an "apparent villain" was someone who was clearly a villain -- it was obvious. To us, an "apparent villain" is someone who usually is NOT a villain, but maybe appears to be so at first glance. To Shakespeare, something that was "probable" was able to be clearly proved, i.e., it was certain to be the truth. To us, something that is "probable" is likely but definitely uncertain.

It's weird once you actually start investigating which words the "grammar squad" decides to go after. Most of these things originated with people who randomly started bitching about certain words back in the mid-to-late 1800s. Some common usages were fine, others were singled out to be deplored. Who knows why....

(By the way, I don't use "literally" to mean "figuratively," which strikes me as a bit silly too. But that's only because one can still use "literally" to mean "literally." If it ceases to mean that in most contexts, I'll just stop using the word altogether.)

Comment Re:Usage changes meaning (Score 1) 130

So yeah, it does happen. But as a cranky old word-Luddite, I'd prefer to use "devastated" in place of 'decimated'.

I personally avoid using the word "decimate" at all, because no matter how you use it, some member of your audience will either be confused or annoyed.

Maybe in 50 years when I'm happily dead and buried the word will be uniformly accepted as having the same meaning as "devastated". :)

Well, that time of "uniform acceptance" was around the year 1700. It's had that primary meaning since then. It was only in the 1860s or so that classicizing grammarians got annoyed with that usage and started trying to stamp it out... they obviously haven't been very successful, though they have convinced a lot of people (like you) that a usage which has been around for about 350 years is "new" and "incorrect."

Comment Re:Math is fun (Score 2) 130

2. historical - kill one in every ten of (a group of soldiers or others) as a punishment for the whole group.

Just to be clear -- pedantic lunatics have been arguing about this word for years, but in modern English it basically never meant the same as Roman decimatio regarding military practice, except in specific historical discussions.

Go ahead -- look up examples of people using the word back 300 years ago. You'll find that when the word is used to refer to destruction or killing, it means a LARGE AMOUNT, not just 10%. It never primarily meant decimatio in English, no matter how much the pedants want it to. (The word only became common in English in the mid-1600s, and by the late 1600s it clearly meant "to destroy/kill a large portion of" in most English usage.)

Moreover, if you actually trace the early English usage of the word (back in the 1600s), you'll find that when it did mean 1/10th, it didn't necessarily refer to killing at all -- it came from the medieval Latin decimatus, which referred to a TITHE (i.e., 1/10th of your income donated to the church or to taxation). "Decimation" entered English in the 1500s as a synonym for tithing, and though there are a couple military references to "decimate" in the 1600s, the two dictionaries from the time that define the word both include the tithing sense (with only one mentioning the military sense).

From the usage of tithing (and a few examples of a military sense), it rapidly turned into a word for large amount of destruction. Outside of a few random military quotations, it never had a primary English usage equivalent to the Roman army practice. It wasn't until about the 1860s -- over 200 years after decimate came to mean "destroy a large portion of" -- that wacko grammarians decided there was something "wrong" with that usage and have been complaining about it ever since.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 191

Harvard's a *legacy* school!

Only 10-15% of Harvard's undergraduates are "legacy" students.

You don't go there for an education, you go to make "contacts".

To some extent, that's true of any well-known university. Employers like a "recognized brand." People also tend to like "alumni networks" of known quality. You can guess what a "B+" GPA means at your home institution and evaluate a candidate somewhat. You have less idea of what the standards are at Upper Bucksnort State Bible College when they show up with a "B+" average for their degree.

Anyhow, this is all separate from the educational quality issue. Let me be clear about Harvard -- it is true that it's harder to "get in" than it is to "get out" (i.e., you probably have to do some pretty stupid stuff to fail out). But those who are there have access to really high quality faculty and other resources, and if they CHOOSE to work hard, they can get one of the highest quality educations in the world.

It's basically just a papermill for rich kids to buy degrees, and you expect them to be educated? LOL - the whole reason they're buying a degree from a legacy school in the first place is so they don't have to do any work.

I know quite a few people who went to Harvard (as grad or undergrad) or taught at Harvard, and I agree that there is a certain percentage of Harvard undergraduates that this is true for -- perhaps as many as 1/4 or 1/3 (if you want to be really cynical). But the majority of them work really hard... because frankly for the 85%+ of non-legacies to get in they often needed to work really hard (acceptance rate for non-legacies is only around 5-6%), and they just don't know how to behave differently.

Comment Re:Much more interesting (Score 1) 54

Making your musical instrument a graphing calculator :-)

Fun fact -- for a couple thousand years there were these devices called monochords in use as scientific instruments that connected mathematical proportions visually and geometrically to music.

While they were generally used to understand musical intervals and to build musical scales from math, they could also be "used in reverse" to demonstrate certain kinds of mathematical relationships from the standard positions of musical intervals.

Not exactly a "graphing calculator," but there's a reason why music theory used to be studied as an advanced science/math at universities up to the early 1700s or so.

Comment Re:Why would anyone be shocked? (Score 4, Interesting) 204

I just realized my post was slightly unclear -- the vast majority of "unsuccessful replication" had to do with problems with public access to data or data analysis methods.

But there were also about 1/4 of those studies which "failed replication" which failed due to errors in the data or the analysis of that data. In any case, no new data was collected here -- but "failure" here was mostly about lack of access.

(Of course, whether full access would have allowed successful replication is another question. Regardless, they weren't actually collecting new empirical data and "running experiments" again in the usual scientific sense.)

Comment Re:Why would anyone be shocked? (Score 5, Insightful) 204

But at the same time the Austrian School (not that I subscribe to them) gets dismissed for not relying on studies and poorly supported models.

That's a bit of an understatement, don't ya think? It's not that they don't "rely on studies" and "models" -- they actually fundamentally deny the possibility of empirical study! To wit:

Mises stated that praxeology could be used to deduce a priori theoretical economic truths and that deductive economic thought experiments could yield conclusions which follow irrefutably from the underlying assumptions. He claimed conclusions could not be inferred from empirical observation or statistical analysis and argued against the use of probabilities in economic models.

I'll give you that the field of economics is a mess. But the "Austrian School" denies the fundamental existence of SCIENCE. They believe that one can just "make a priori assumptions" and do "thought experiments" and they will always get the right answer. But -- if they are honest about it -- they have no way of ever proving themselves right, because they deny the ability of using empirical data to support any argument.

That may be a good methodology for a theoretical system of pure logic or for a religion, but if you deny empiricism, then there's simply no way your system could have any contact with the real world!

Comment Re:Why would anyone be shocked? (Score 5, Insightful) 204

Economics is a "science" in the same way that a pickle is "candy".

The best that can be done is to make some generalized guesses based on hazy metrics and barely-understood past events.

While that may be true, that is not the problem with these studies.

TFS is misleading here in referencing the problems in other disciplines, because there the replication problems often had to do with other scientists running an empirical experiment, collecting new data, and seeing whether the same trend occurs.

In THIS study, the "replication" problems were solely due to insufficient documentation. The categories for reasons that studies could not be replicated were listed as: (1) missing public data or code, (2) incorrect public data or code, (3) missing software, or (4) proprietary data.

There were no empirical "experiments" re-tested here. All they did was try to replicate data analysis, and "replication failed" when they couldn't access the relevant datasets or analytical software.

This is still a significant problem in economics, but the failure in "scientific" methodology here was of a VERY different kind -- it just had to do with access to research tools, not new data that conflicted with previous findings.

Comment Re:This is why you call your bank before tourism (Score 1) 345

Nor should this be a problem for the consumer, or a burden to call "ahead of time".

Let me put this another way. Would you think it normal or necessary to contact your ISP ahead of time should you choose to start surfing secure websites outside of your country?

Does your ISP provide your service for FREE? Do they send you money periodically if you use a lot of internet service?

I have unquestionably profited many thousands of dollars in "rewards" over the years from credit cards. I only once paid a fee of $30 or something (due to an unusual situation where I screwed up the timing of a transaction).

Yes -- I know most credit card users carry a balance either continuously or once in a while. Yes, I also know that credit card companies charge merchants for transactions, though in 98% of places I buy things, there is no price advantage for paying cash, so it's actually in my financial interest to charge and get some reward money back (thereby partially rebating the merchants fees to myself, which I would have paid for in cash anyway most places to subsidize those who do use cards).

Thus, I have a "magic card" that I swipe when I go to stores, which provides me with a convenient record of most of my financial transactions -- and they're nice enough to pay me a couple hundred dollars per year or so for using it.

So -- I'm not going to complain too much if I have to make a 2-minute phone call once in a while. If fraud levels are high, credit card companies lose more money, and that means they probably don't pay me as many rewards or fees go up or whatever. So, it's to my benefit to help them prevent fraud, too.

I can see your complaint if you have to pay for a premium card with an annual fee, or if you already feel like you pay a lot to your card company in interest or fees. I don't. And any sane person who lives within his/her means doesn't pay interest and fees (except if they are in a dire financial situation -- in which case, why are they taking so many trips?).

The burden of securing transactions should be within the framework that provides it.

If there's an easy and cheaper way to do it, fine. But I'm not going to complain too much about a convenient service I don't have to pay for (and which sends me checks periodically). If more businesses offered cash discounts that would be greater than my rewards, I might change my mind (and behavior).

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 1) 570

By the way, don't believe me. Refer to the professional scientific consensus:


Is HFCS less safe than other sweeteners?

FDA receives many inquiries asking about the safety of HFCS, often referring to studies about how humans metabolize fructose or fructose-containing sweeteners. These studies are based on the observation that there are some differences between how we metabolize fructose and other simple sugars.

We are not aware of any evidence, including the studies mentioned above, that there is a difference in safety between foods containing HFCS 42 or HFCS 55 and foods containing similar amounts of other nutritive sweeteners with approximately equal glucose and fructose content, such as sucrose, honey, or other traditional sweeteners. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit consumption of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

American Heart Association:

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.

(FYI -- that daily limit for sugar for men is approximately one 12-oz. can of soda. It's less for women. And that assumes you don't consume ANY added sugars in anything else you eat that day, which is nearly impossible if you consume any processed foods.)

Review article supported by the American Medical Association:

Because the composition of HFCS and sucrose is so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose does. . . . At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to ban or otherwise restrict use of HFCS or other fructose-containing sweeteners in the food supply or to require the use of warning labels on products containing HFCS. Nevertheless, dietary advice to limit consumption of all added caloric sweeteners, including HFCS, is warranted.

You can find plenty more things like this if you look, because there are dozens of studies that back up such a position. After decades of looking, we so far have only a handful of studies measuring significant differences with HFCS metabolism. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep looking... but it's important to see those Princeton findings in context.

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 1) 570

And yet, the research. Maybe high-fructose corn syrup has more differences than just the fructose/glucose levels?

Yes, let's talk about "the research." I've been following this fairly closely for a decade.

About a decade ago I got into an argument with a friend over the overconsumption of sugar. I, like you, assumed with all the bad press about HCFS (even back then) that it was terrible for you. So, I started looking for reliable, clear studies that proved it.

The problem was: THERE WEREN'T ANY. Since then, there have been a few, but given how many people are shouting about how terrible HFCS is, it seems surprisingly hard to prove it.

Let me summarize the state of current research:

(1) Pure fructose vs. glucose -- there are dozens of studies showing that pure fructose screws up metabolism in rats and humans much worse than glucose.

(2) Pure fructose vs. sucrose -- there are dozens of studies showing that pure fructose screws up metabolism in rates and human much worse than sucrose.

(3) HFCS (~50/50 mixture of fructose and glucose) vs. sucrose -- until about 2010 and that Princeton study, there were basically NO STUDIES that showed a statistically significant difference between consumption of HFCS vs. sucrose (table sugar). To the contrary, there are at least a dozen or so studies out there if you look where they tried looking for a difference and didn't really find one.

This surprised me, given what I had been told about HFCS, but it also makes sense given that HFCS is basically about 50/50 fructose/glucose, which is very close to what sucrose becomes very early in the digestive process.

The vast majority of people who are shouting "HFCS is terrible!" tend to cite the studies in categories (1) and (2). You did precisely that in your quote from the Journal of Clinical Investigation. A number of studies in the past which tried measuring pure fructose and found significant differences found that there were little to no measurable differences when they substituted HFCS for the fructose.

I'm very interested in the studies in category (3). They include your Princeton citation, as well as a more recent study out of the University of Utah. There was also a bit of attention given to recent population-based study which claimed to find a correlation between diabetes and HFCS availability in different countries. (These sorts of population studies are always notoriously difficult to do well statistically, since there are always a ridiculous number of confounding factors, but I mention it because it's one of the few such things out there.)

The problem is that these HFCS studies are fighting an uphill battle -- as I said, prior to 2010 there were studies that measured HFCS vs. sucrose and tended to find no significant differences. Which also leads to the question now about whether the Princeton and Utah studies could be an example of publication bias -- we only tend to see them because those studies show an effect which hadn't been observed previously, but perhaps those effects are due to random chance or unintentional changes in study design. (And since HFCS had been branded as bad long before any rigorous scientific evidence was available, there are probably a lot of groups looking for effects... and yet we only have 2-3 studies.)

Despite what the powerful corn lobby in the US would have you believe, corn is just not all that good for you in large amounts. And with the amount that goes into HFCS, drinking soda pop is getting corn in large amounts.


To be clear: I think HFCS is terrible, and the whole corn growers industry needs to be rethought, since our agricultural subsidies for corn are distorting the economy and our food production network. But the problem with HFCS is that (1) it's cheap due to the subsidies, and (2) it's liquid, so it can be blended easily, leading to companies throwing it randomly into all sorts of foods where it really isn't needed.

I think the concern about metabolic differences is much lower on the list of things to be worried about, at least until we get a stronger scientific consensus about how bad HFCS might be compared to sucrose. (Another notable thing: honey is often touted as a better substitute by "natural foods" people, but it basically has a composition very similar to HFCS with a few trace nutrients. I'd think a comparative study with honey vs. sucrose vs. HFCS might also be informative....)

I thoroughly agree with you that we should stop subsidizing HFCS production. But as to the question of whether drinking a soda with 10 teaspoons of sucrose is "better for you" than drinking a soda with 10 teaspoons of HFCS -- I think the scientific "jury is still out."

But I also think the scientific "jury" can tell you one thing clearly: Americans eat too much sugar in general. Switching all that sugar from HFCS to sucrose may be slightly better, but it's NOT going to solve our obesity problem.

Comment Re:Coca Cola (Score 1) 570

Switch back to cane sugar. Fuck the sugar cartel. Throw them all in prison.

You do realize it's not the fault of a "sugar cartel," but rather our crazy agricultural subsidies in the U.S., right? If we weren't encouraging so many people to grow corn to make corn syrup, it wouldn't be as cheap, and cane sugar or beet sugar would likely be more widely used. These subsidies of corn production also arguably led to the U.S. crazy of adding corn syrup to everything, even plenty of food products that have no need of sweetener... but corn syrup is easy to blend and shelf stable, so why not?

It's the politicians you should be blaming. (Not that it makes a huge difference nutritionally -- the amount of sugar in Coke is terrible, whether it's made from cane or corn.)

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 2) 570

If it was "sugar" it wouldn't be so bad.

Sorry, but YES it would be. Having a 12-ounce drink with something like 9-10 teaspoons of sugar in it is just ridiculous. It has no nutritional value other than the easiest form of energy for your body. Unless you're starving to death and simply need the extra calories, there's simply no reason to consume plain sugar.

The stuff they use to sweeten soda pop is some lab-accident shit, but it sure ain't sugar.

Uh, you do realize how much processing goes into making white cane sugar? Just because they started doing it several generations ago doesn't make it any less of "lab accident" crap than corn syrup.

Do you have any idea how many FEET of sugar cane you'd have to consume to get the equivalent of the amount of sugar in a (Mexican) bottle of Coke? Even if you did eat enough sugar cane to do so, you'd have also consumed so much fiber that it would completely change your digestion and metabolism of what you ate.

You wanna taste sugar in soda pop, you gotta find the good stuff bottled in Mexico.

I have. Yeah, it tastes different. Still terrible and sickeningly sweet. Sometimes I actually like a little bit of sweetness in a drink -- although I don't usually do this, sometimes I add a teaspoon of sugar or so to a 12-ounce mug of coffee or tea. NOT TEN TEASPOONS.

The quantity of sugar in soft drinks is absolutely insane. Suggesting that somehow it wouldn't be "so bad" for you if it were cane sugar is just nonsense.

Mirrors should reflect a little before throwing back images. -- Jean Cocteau