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Submission + - Berkeley Earth: 2015 Warmest Year on Record (

Titus Andronicus writes: According to a recent report from Berkeley Earth, 2015 was the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record, exceeding the prior record-holders 2014, 2010, and 2005 by roughly 0.1 deg C, or about 0.2 deg F. NASA, NOAA, the UK Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Agency have yet to release their respective reports, but their findings are expected to be similar. 2016 might be even warmer, as the current El Nino event in the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean is expected to continue for several more months.

Submission + - Why Procrastination is Good for You writes: Over 80 percent of college students are plagued by procrastination, requiring epic all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators. But Adam Grant writes in the NYT that while we think of procrastination as a curse for productivity, procrastination is really a virtue for creativity. According to Grant our first ideas are usually our most conventional but when you procrastinate, you’re more likely to let your mind wander giving you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns. "When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it’s in limbo, it stays active in our minds." Jihae Shin designed some experiments. She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters rated how original they were. The procrastinators’ ideas were 28 percent more creative. When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity. It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.

Even some monumental achievements are helped by procrastination. Grant says that according to those who knew him, Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly, Bill Clinton has been described as a “chronic procrastinator” who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches, and Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, Wright's masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind “Steve Jobs” and “The West Wing,” is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking.”

Submission + - Human Rights Watch Blasts TPP for "Serious Rights Concerns" (

Dangerous_Minds writes: Freezenet is reporting that Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization, has blasted the TPP over what they call "serious rights concerns". Among the concerns are privacy rights as well as the implications the trade deal would have on free speech. Already, some are expecting all 12 countries to sign off on the TPP next month.

Further reading: Human Rights Watch press release and TPP Q & A.

Submission + - How fast do gravitational waves travel? 1

StartsWithABang writes: When Einstein’s theory was first proposed as an alternative to Newtonian gravity, there were a number of subtle but important theoretical differences noted between the two. Einstein’s theory predicted gravitational redshift, time delays, bending of light and more. But what was perhaps most remarkable is that unlike Newton’s gravity, Einstein’s general relativity predicted an entirely new phenomenon: gravitational radiation. Much like how charged particles moving in a magnetic field accelerate and emit radiation in the form of photons, masses moving in a gravitational field accelerate and emit radiation in the form of gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of space itself. Even though these waves move at c, the speed of light in a vacuum, the expanding Universe carries them even farther, as these ripples ride atop the fabric of our expanding spacetime.

Comment Happiness is relative (Score 5, Interesting) 729

Psychology studies show it's not the absolute material wealth that makes you happy and content but the relative, in comparison to others in your social group. That's why top executives have spiraled up their pay packages, and why the middle class never lowered their work time below what is filling your day.

When Volkswagen experimented with 4-workday weeks 20 years ago, local plumbers and carpenters fell on hard times because everyone now used the extra day to fix things themselves, or even work on the side on that extra day. While the unions keep telling you that workers would relax during the extra time resulting from reduced work, in reality everyone tries to make a little extra on the side.

Also, having a job gives meaning to your life. Being told that you will be needed less is like telling you that you are a burden - nobody wants to hear that. That is also why today both parents work, even though they could enjoy the standard of living of a single-earner household of 50 years ago. But to keep up with the Joneses and to feel better for themselves both are now working, and the downside of less parenting seems to be generally accepted.

Submission + - New digital pen works without special paper (

Aviation Pete writes: German penmaker Stabilo had a stand at CES Unveiled today showing off its forthcoming Digipen product, offering digital handwriting recognition with a simple Bluetooth-connected ballpoint pen.

The Digipen includes sensors for measuring acceleration and rotation, position and movement along with a 2048-level pressure sensor. The result is a Bluetooth-connected pen that can transmit your written notes in plain text, allowing you to take notes in meetings and more in a more natural way.

Comment When a theory influences the subject (Score 1) 375

how can that be science? By definition, experiments cannot be repeated and theories cannot be proven. As soon as somebody in economics comes up with a new theory, the subjects of his studies change their behavior to alter the dynamics of the economy, invalidating the theory in the process. It should be obvious that such a system cannot be the basis of science. If those self-styled scientists would try to include the behavior-altering effects of their work, the system in turn will find ways of exploiting the new finding and to circumvent it.

In the end, it is science-envy by a faculty which does interesting and valuable work, but which is not science. Economists, get over it already.

Comment It's worse in China (Score 1) 137

It seems that most US citizens have at least some intuitive feel of what is appropriate, even if they sometimes forget their manners.

Contrast that with China: My experience is that there it is totally normal in meetings to answer the cellphone when it rings, and if someone is tasked to contact someone else, they think nothing of dialing the other side right away. In the middle of the meeting. To appear eager seems to be more important than focussing on the meeting.

Comment Re:Bad news for recovery of the black boxes (Score 1) 89

Uh, no autopilot has the ability to land a plane (intact) on water.

Only if the engines are running, driving the generators and hydraulic pumps. An autopilot set for cruise will maintain altitude as long as possible (read: Until all fuel is exhausted), and then run for some time on battery power. If the Ram Air Turbine is not deployed quickly (and the autopilot by itself is incapable of doing this), the hydraulics will soon fail to work and whatever commands the autopilot sends will be ignored by the control system. Bottom line: The plane will descend uncontrollably. Not land, but crash.

Comment Re:Bad news for recovery of the black boxes (Score 1) 89

The inside of the flaperon is vented so that air pressure changes will not cause additional stress. There is no sealed inside volume, and full of water the flaperon should sink quickly. Somehow the venting holes must have been above the waterline most of the time. It is pure luck that it drifted so long, and most of the other stuff from the plane should since long rest at the bottom of the ocean.

Comment This is just hot air (Score 1) 238

Spike Aerospace is just a tiny outfit working out of an office in Boston with no track record in aircraft design or manufacturing. And the article has so obvious inaccuracies - Mach 1.8 at altitude is just 1900 km/h. No sensible design would try to fly supersonic at sea level, the only altitude where Mach 1.8 equals 2200 km/h.

We have seen many proposals for supersonic business jets, and none of them was viable. Why should it be different this time?

Comment Re:Abject Terror? (Score 1) 45

So...not very much terror?

"abject" means "sunk to or existing in a low state or condition." It does not mean "an extreme amount."

... which is appropriate, given the pelvis design of crocodiles. Humans can run much faster than this bipedal croc ever could. If it had been running on all four legs, it might have been faster, but upright - no way!

Comment Oxo-degradable plastics should be banned, (Score 1) 98

because they break down to tiny particles in sunlight, and if those end up in water, they will keep many toxins like insecticides and fungicides in the food chain for much longer. Normally that stuff sediments, but in the presence of tiny plastic flakes from ox-degradable foils those toxic molecules will attach themselves to the plastic and stay suspended in water, to be digested by all aquatic lifeforms. This is long known, and burying these plastics is actually the second-best you can do to them after incineration. Once they end up in the water, however, they become an ecological nightmare.

And there is nothing "bio" about this process. Those hoped-for microorganisms which are supposed to digest the plastic do not exist in nature.

There are real biodegradable plastics, but they are not made of polyethylene, but from polylactic acid, starch or cellulose. There are even synthetic, biodegradable plastics which decompose just as well as the biopolymer-based sort. But they cost more, so this oxo-degradable variation of polyethylene was invented.

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