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Comment: Re:Well, sort of. (Score 2) 109

by Baloroth (#47381709) Attached to: Can the NSA Really Track You Through Power Lines?

It may be just noise, but is it different noise between different power lines (and if so, consistently different)? If so, it's a fingerprint. Noise can be information if you're looking for a specific kind of noise. Not all noise is identical, and if you can fingerprint that noise, you can use it to determined the source.

Granted, that's a pretty big "if". I have no idea if powerline noise is consistent enough to be fingerprinted, different enough for a useful comparison, or strong enough to be picked up by standard recording devices. But it could be possible, in theory.

Comment: Re:Science by press conference (Score 2) 127

by Baloroth (#47293885) Attached to: Big Bang Breakthrough Team Back-Pedals On Major Result

Planck has yet to release their polarization data, so BICEP2 couldn't use it. To be clear, they also didn't use just the Planck data: the paper lists five different models for dust polarization, only one of which (DDM1) was constructed from what little Planck data they had available. All of them showed fairly tiny amounts of polarization from dust compared to their signal, hence the conclusion that it was a cosmological polarization (there were other reasons for that conclusion as well, of course). They published the conclusions they had based on the information they had available. That's how science works. You publish the results you got (with the uncertainties you calculated), the community looks at it to see if you made obvious errors, then tries to replicate or disprove it.

Comment: Re:180 satellites... (Score 2) 170

by Baloroth (#47147119) Attached to: Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

I can't find an exact altitude for these satellites, but O3b (whom Google is working with on this project) is putting satellites in orbits 5,000 miles above Earth, which is definitely not LEO. That's lower than conventional geosynchronous communications satellites (which sit ~22,000 above Earth), but well above the low-Earth orbit cutoff (which is roughly 1,000 miles and below). At 5,000 miles, the atmosphere is thin enough to be considered non-existent. Now, Google might be looking at lower orbits for these newer satellites, but they haven't said yet.

Comment: Re:icewm (Score 1) 611

by Baloroth (#47124821) Attached to: Which desktop environment do you like the best?

Hey, of course you don't have crazy stuff like wobbly windows, but all desktop effects are fully smooth on all those low-power 10" netbooks under Windows. I have done extensive testing and know this. Under Linux, you put there KDE/GNOME/MATE/Unity and even the simple window minimize/restore animation is choppy.

You've got a software problem there. I have a Eee 901 netbook, which used to drive a 1080p monitor under GNOME 2 (with some eye candy on: window transitions, workspace transition effects, that kind of thing) quite smoothly. It was (and still is) running an old Ubuntu version (12.04 I think?), that may have something to do with it, but either you've got a software problem or the distro you're running it on is bloated.

Comment: Re:Why not just self-driving? (Score 2) 73

What is brain controlled?

It's replacing the physical flight controls with directly brain-controlled flight controls. As to why: a large part of learning to fly (not the biggest part, certainly, but a significant piece) is learning how to use the fairly complicated controls. If you can simplify or even remove that interface, it makes the process of flying easier to learn.

Since this is Slashdot, someone is undoubtedly going to say that that learning difficulty is a good thing, since it sets a higher bar for pilots. There may be a bit of truth to that, but it's an artificial boundary that doesn't actually pertain to flying ability. It's like having to learn to use a Dvorak layout before you let anyone code: learning Dvorak probably won't make you a better coder, it'll simply make learning to code a more difficult process. Likewise, the complex controls that planes have doesn't make pilots better at flying, it simply makes learning to fly more difficult. So, while complicated controls might keep out lazy pilots, it won't keep out bad pilots (that's what the licensing requirements are for).

Comment: Re:can or cannot compute (Score 3, Insightful) 422

by Baloroth (#47104507) Attached to: Why You Shouldn't Use Spreadsheets For Important Work

if it can execute the operation needed for the research then it is acceptable...if not, then no

You could probably write this computational code in a shell script, too. But it would still be a terrible idea. Why? Because it's the wrong tool for the job. Simple as that. It doesn't matter what you can and cannot do, it matters what you should do, and you shouldn't use spreadsheets for anything complicated. It's simply too easy to make stupid mistakes that are difficult to trace and correct (or even notice).

you can't blame a spreadsheet for a poorly devised *can* blame a researcher for using an inappropriate statistical *cannot* criticize the method of analysis as long as it is physically capable of the computation

TFA isn't blaming the spreadsheets, he's blaming the people who use them for using them. It's not acceptable to use a tool that works poorly and is highly susceptible to mistakes, and no one should listen to anyone who does so unless that person is damned good at that tool: yes, it is possible that someone is so fantastically good with spreadsheets they can use them for massive data analysis with no problems. They are, however, the exception, and I would generally be inclined to disbelieve the results from anyone who does large work with spreadsheets (simply because of the possibility for errors and the lack of concern for accuracy that using spreadsheets demonstrates). So, the conclusion is that you shouldn't use spreadsheets for important work. You absolutely can criticize an analysis if it uses a tool that is highly likely to introduce errors, and that's fundamentally the point (and it's underscored by the fact that that is precisely what happened in Piketty’s case).

Comment: Re:Frosty (Score 1) 483

by Baloroth (#47078131) Attached to: Botched Executions Put Lethal Injections Under New Scrutiny

Per the Constitution, the acceptable error rate is 0% false positives and any amount of false negatives.

No it isn't. In fact, it's easy to see that any justice system that accepts only a 0% false positive rate would convict absolutely no one of crimes whatsoever: it's simple Gaussian statistics. No matter how confident you are that someone committed a crime, it's impossible to be 100% positive, even if you saw them do it with your own eyes, which means that any standard of evidence no matter how high will yield a non-zero false conviction rate, so you couldn't convict anyone under such a high standard.

No, what the US follows for convictions is "reasonable doubt", which will inevitably lead to some false convictions. The alternative is to leave all crime unpunished, which is even more unacceptable than to have some innocent people end up in prison. It may sound "barbaric", but letting the guilty get away with their crimes is vastly more barbaric, and a society that did so would quickly collapse.

Comment: Re:2 tons? (Score 1) 56

by Baloroth (#47033393) Attached to: SpaceX Cargo Capsule Leaves Space Station For Home

Pounds are both a measure of weight and mass, and the USA Today article uses pounds (not tons, Slashdot did that conversion) because, for better or worse, the US population is more familiar with US customary units than metric units, and USA Today is marketed at a US audience (the name is a bit of a clue). NASA also uses US units for some mind-baffling reason (maybe it likes destroying Mars Orbiter missions?) so the US units make sense in this story.

Comment: Re:PS4 hardware (Score 1) 152

by Baloroth (#47032855) Attached to: The Technical Difficulty In Porting a PS3 Game To the PS4

There's absolutely nothing weird on PowerPC being used on videogames.

No one is saying using a PowerPC-based chip was stupid. Virtually everyone is saying using a Cell-based chip was stupid. You automatically lose performance relative to your competitors on games that don't take full advantage of the Cell architecture, which is precisely those multi-platform games where people can directly compare performance on the PS3 with performance on the Xbox. This article is a testament to the code specialization required to take full advantage of the architecture, and game developers simply weren't willing to put in that kind of effort (especially for a console that sold more for it's ability to play Blu-ray discs than it did for it's gaming capabilities). Often, even PS3 exclusives didn't utilize the Cell properly: it simply took too much work on an architecture few developers were familiar with (while PowerPC based, the SPE co-processor design means you have to use radically different techniques than you would for a normal PowerPC system).

Car analogy time: it's like giving a bunch of drivers who don't know how to use manual transmissions a manual car. Yes, manual transmission is faster than automatic, but if your drivers don't know how to use it properly, it's always going to end up being slower in practice.

Comment: Re:it's explained in the study (Score 4, Interesting) 86

by Baloroth (#47029817) Attached to: Static Electricity Defies Simple Explanation

How difficult would it be to re-run the same procedure with fully dehydrated particles? Is this a 'just bake them under a modest vacuum for a bit' situation, or are these values of 'small' and 'adsorbed' the sort of thing where getting the water out would be a moderately heroic endeavor?

Difficult, you'd need to run the entire process under an ultra-high vacuum. For reference, you to get water monolayer formation times greater than a second, you'd need pressures of roughly less than 10^-7 torr, or 10^-10 atmospheres. For reference (if WolframAlpha is to believed), the ISS is exposed to a pressure of about 10^-11 atmospheres. Molecular/ion pumps can get that low a pressure, so it's not impossible, just difficult.

Comment: Re:Huge flaw? (Score 1) 450

by Baloroth (#47026981) Attached to: Robbery Suspect Tracked By GPS and Killed

That requires the robbers to take time to inspect the bottles, or develop some quick method of identifying them (which is probably very difficult). Either way, it makes committing a robbery more difficult, which is the real point. You can't stop crime, not without truly draconian measures. You can, however, make it difficult enough for it to not be an enticing prospect for criminals or potential criminals.

Comment: Re:Sure, give that a try (Score 5, Interesting) 196

by Baloroth (#46973685) Attached to: Anti-Surveillance Mask Lets You Pass As Someone Else

When the laws were created is irrelevant to the reality that protecting your privacy is made impossible in many places by government thugs.

Wearing masks in public is not a protection of your privacy: you're in *public*: everyone can see you, and what you are doing. That's part of the whole concept of a public place. No, wearing masks preserves *anonymity*, which is different from privacy. As is, you have and should have limited rights to privacy in public (can't force people not to look at you, for example). You have no right whatsoever to anonymity in public.

Comment: Re:Nuclear waste (Score 1) 281

by Baloroth (#46856081) Attached to: Waste Management: The Critical Element For Nuclear Energy Expansion

But even then, you'd still have the expense of the Delta-V to get it to fall into the Sun. It almost certainly would be cheaper to send the stuff to Alpha Centuari than to the Sun.

I've done the math. It would (IIRC, it's actually more fuel efficient to almost escape from the Solar System, then fall back into the Sun, than it is to try directly falling into the Sun from Earth). However, you wouldn't have to send the waste into the sun, merely "not Earth" would be enough (still very expensive, though). It's not going to hurt much floating in orbit between here and Mars, for instance.

Comment: Re:Only in America... (Score 2, Interesting) 311

by Baloroth (#46747231) Attached to: Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi

I hate to break it to you, but the ancient term "America" refers to the whole continent, Canada included.

Nope - that would be "North America."

Hey, if you're going to be a pedant...

Ok, since we're being pedantic: technically, "America" refers to the entire landmass (made up of the continents of North and South America and associated islands). Still includes Canada, though.

"You tweachewous miscweant!" -- Elmer Fudd