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Comment: Snowden (Score 5, Insightful) 496


Cohen speculates that the massive leaks by Edward Snowden of national security secrets, which began in June 2013, could also have been a factor in NSF’s decision. “If it’s a matter of weighing the employee’s statement against what the investigator says he has found, agencies will resolve it in favor of national security,” Cohen says. “That’s just how it is, especially after Snowden.”

Confirmed my suspicion when I first read the summary. THIS will be the lasting legacy of Snowden's actions. Not increased government accountability or transparency, but a hellbent determination to make sure they will never be caught with their pants down again. Sigh.

Comment: More Complicated Than That (Score 2) 211

by Baby Duck (#47872609) Attached to: Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life

a key property that distinguishes living from non-living systems: their ability to store information and replicate it almost indefinitely.

As Douglas Hofstadter pointed out, it's actually more complicated than merely indefinite replication. It has to allow variance while still retaining the ability to replicate. Sure, there are clones everywhere, especially outside the animal kingdom, and they still considered "living". So the quote is still technically true. But it doesn't capture how immensely more difficult it was for life we observe here on Earth to come about. It also raises an interesting question. Did non-varying life have to come about first, in order to saturate the environment with organic compounds? Did the varying life then come about later, piggy-backing on this enriched environment? Or can you go straight from an abiotic world to varying life?

Comment: Consensus Has Its Place (Score 1) 761

by Baby Duck (#47853015) Attached to: How Scientific Consensus Has Gotten a Bad Reputation

Hard Science is fairly limited in what it can do to prescribe actions humans should or should not be taking to address perceived problems with climate or the environment. There is no "Second Earth" we can use as a control group. It's closer to "healing" done by medical doctors than it is science. A doctor will tell you, "try eating this, try swallowing X mg of this Y times a day, try exercising like this, avoid chemical triggers like that, etc. Come back in 2 weeks, we'll see how you are doing, and then we'll make adjustments." Sure, doctors spanning decades through time and countries across the globe can temper their advice from longitudal studies and statistics across populations. But chances are those any double-blind experiments haven't been done on your unique body, health conditions, and living environment. Often the best they can do is "close enough, you are still a human, after all" and then make adjustments. They don't PROVE to you a particular pill or a particular dosage will work for YOU before they ask you to take it.

Something as nebulous as The Environment needs a similar "healing" approach. "Let's try cutting automobile emissions by X% and see what happens." If we absolutely require scientific proof 100% of the time before we take action with environmental policy, the consequences of such timidness can be disastrous. We don't always have that luxury.

Scientific "consensus" therefore still has merit. I can understand if you want to educate people on the difference between consensus and proof. But to say consensus alone should never spur action is fool's play.

Comment: Database Identity (Score 2, Insightful) 724

It's outdated database security models that cause me the most grief. I don't want jsmith logging in from to be considered a DIFFERENT HUMAN BEING that jsmith logging in from I want to say, there's ONE PERSON, John Smith, username jsmith, who is allowed to login from BOTH domains with the SAME PASSWORD and GRANTS. Nope. Can't do it. Newer versions MIGHT allow you to swap in your own authentication module instead, but NOT the authorization piece, so I'm still screwed!

Comment: Not A Maxim (Score 1) 637

by Baby Duck (#47616881) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

Those grads are merely inferior for tasks where memory management is paramount, that's all. Just like someone who graduated with a database class would be inferior for database programming. It doesn't make them inferior all around. Java is just easier to teach AND learn with, really.

I remember doing all these exercises in C about storing multiple "strings" in the same character array. Most programming jobs out there wouldn't deign themselves to be concerned with such low-level solution-space details. Even when I had to deal with "packed arrays" in C++, Java, and JavaScript, the first thing I did was write a class around it to abstract all those details away.

Comment: FreeIPA (Score 1) 98

Since you are on Fedora already, I'd recommend FreeIPA. It'll give you more than your LDAP+PAM for centralized authentication and authorization, like Host-based Access Control, centralized sudoers policy, DNS, etc.

However, it wouldn't accomplish any of the tasks you specifically asked for out-of-the-box. I was thinking you could write some of these tasks as FreeIPA plugins.

Comment: Re:Wormholes + a flat universe (Score 1) 358

by Baby Duck (#47166545) Attached to: The Disappearing Universe
You are correct insofar that the visualization model of a bowling ball on a trampoline is misguided and misrepresentative of nature. However, the Universe Is Flat claim is not addressing spacetime "curvature" and its relation to gravity. Think of a complex 3-D configuration of eletrical charges. If you zoom way out, you can treat the cumulative electrical field as if it's a one-dimensional, singe point of charge. Similarly, if you zoom way out from the observable universe, it's overall shape inside the unobservable universe tends towards being co-planar. Observable "stuff" tends to clump along a plane and the metric expansion of the universe tends to also move along this plane. There is nothing to stop energy/matter or metric expansion from moving or existing further along a Z-axis, but from all observations, it just tends not to (on a cosmic scale).

There can be no twisted thought without a twisted molecule. -- R. W. Gerard