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Comment: It's called 'bundling'. (Score 2) 267

by Behrooz (#47762959) Attached to: Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

I get the "bought" part, that is after all how lobbying works (it's not a secret), but how does one "sell" a politician? Do you mean that political parties are pimping out their people?

It's called 'bundling'., where existing wealthy donors who have already contributed the legal maximum 'sell' the candidate to their friends and business associates, effectively leveraging their personal connections and access to shepherd more funds to the campaign.

What has more political clout than one maxed-out contributor when it comes time to make policy? A fucking cartel of maxed-out contributors.

Given that your average congresscritter spends ~20% of their working hours trolling for contributions just to have a decent shot at getting re-elected, you can imagine how influential successful bundlers are.

Makes you wonder just how much we'd save by spending a couple billion a year on public financing of elections.

Comment: Why worry about skyscrapers? (Score 4, Insightful) 190

by Behrooz (#47743703) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

I'm not sure I'd want to be in a skyscraper in Memphis or St. Louis during a replay of the New Madrid quakes of 1811-1812,

Almost certainly safer than anywhere else. Skyscrapers are pretty much universally steel-framed structures which are relatively resistant to seismic loading, subject to stringent building codes, by definition need massive foundations driven to a solid base, and already need to resist dynamic wind-loading forces with resonance effects. Even mid-rise 6-10 story buildings are likely to be quite safe given the inherent seismic benefits of steel-frame construction and attention paid to building codes in the USA.

Has any modern skyscraper ever experienced significant structural failure resulting in loss of life as a result of an earthquake? Ever? Even in areas known for less-than-enthusiastic enforcement of building standards?

United Kingdom

UK Police Warn Sharing James Foley Killing Video Is a Crime 391

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-pass-go dept.
An anonymous reader points out that UK authorities have warned that sharing the video of the James Foley murder could lead to prosecution under anti-terror laws. Scotland Yard has warned internet users they could be arrested under terrorism legislation if they viewed or shared the video of James Foley's murder, as Twitter and YouTube attempted to remove all trace of the footage from the web. Twitter suspended dozens of accounts that published the graphic footage while YouTube tried to remove several copies of the video, which was first uploaded on Tuesday night. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted: "We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you." The unprecedented social media clampdown came as the Metropolitan police warned that even viewing the video could constitute a criminal offence in the UK. The force said in a statement: "The MPS counter-terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation."

Comment: Re:How accurate is the Eurekalert article? (Score 1) 116

by Behrooz (#47687583) Attached to: Fukushima's Biological Legacy

The difficulty with any study of low-level radiation doses on exposed organisms is that ecosystems are messy and complicated, and the actual low-level biological mechanics for low-dose exposures are entirely conjectural, so observed effects have a very, very low signal to noise ratio.

Setting up controlled studies with a large enough scale to make statistically significant judgements greatly exceeds available resources for researchers in the field, leaving statistical analysis of effectively uncontrolled real-world populations as the only option.

So, the conclusions are only as reliable as the observations and the statistical analysis. This becomes educated guesswork, and for the most part educated guesswork based on the theoretical model that is being tested.

It's all very well and good to throw out statistics like:

Many other cell types and tissues have been shown to be affected by Chernobyl contaminants. Møller, Bonisoli-Alquati, et al. (2013) demonstrated that the frequency of visible tumors on birds was significantly higher in radioactive areas, presumably reflecting elevated mutation rates in somatic tissues. Visible tumor rates in birds from Chernobyl were in excess of 15/1000 birds while tumors have never been observed in Danish populations despite extensive surveys (0/35000 birds observed) (Møller, Bonisoli-Alquati, et al. 2013). ...unfortunately, the former USSR as a whole exhibits levels of persistent organic pollutants several times greater than observations in even industrialized areas of Western Europe. POPs are rather easier to study, and are definitively linked to tumor formation.

Attempting to control for various effects in real-world populations is a black art, often practiced and seldom practiced effectively. Often, before you can even start to evaluate the reliability of an article, you'll need to jump several citation links back just to see what assumptions a study is based upon. ...and that is why we still lack conclusive evidence about any long-term negative effects of low-dose radiation exposure.

Comment: Re:The Parachute Will Work (Score 4, Interesting) 55

The parachute that brought the latest rover to Mars also disintegrated during testing. However NASA proceeded with the design knowing that the atmosphere on Mars is not nearly as dense as it is on Earth.

They got it working in testing after that initial failure - and even that failure provided extremely useful high-speed video of its deployment.

Note the colossal wind tunnel. This latest, flying saucer tested parachute is way larger than that Curiosity parachute - so they've figured out a whole new testing regime. One that helpfully more closely matches conditions in the Martian atmosphere, too.

Comment: You want references? LNT isn't a useful model. (Score 1) 230

by Behrooz (#47495751) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

The difficulty being, your references are estimates based on what dose threshold?

Well, you have to go three citations deep to reach the original model they're working off of. Which turns out to be a conservative application of Linear No Threshold. Which... isn't actually testable for any reasonable value of statistical significance over the populations they're attempting to apply it to.

The BEIR VII risk models are a combination of excess relative risk (ERR) and excess absolute risk (EAR) models, both of which are written as a linear function of dose, depending on sex, age at exposure and attained age. The BEIR VII risk models were derived from analyses of data on the Japanese atomic bomb survivors for all cancer sites except breast and thyroid; for the latter, they were based on published combined analyses of data on the atomic bomb survivors and medically exposed cohorts.40, 41 To estimate risks from exposure at low doses and dose rates, a dose and dose-rate effectiveness factor (DDREF) of 1.5 was used for all outcomes except leukemia.

The biological effects of acute radiation exposure >1 Gy are reasonably well-known, are the basis for the linear-no-threshold model, and completely inapplicable to this sitation, as even the most-exposed workers at the Fukushima accident site did even approach this dose, despite the multiple situations where workers were exposed to doses in excess of legal limits.

The biological effects of short term dose less than 0.05 Gy or low-dose long-term exposure are also reasonably well-known, in that there is no statistically significant effect.

Unless you're dealing with the aftermath of a global thermonuclear war, the linear-no-threshold model is nearly useless from an epidemiological perspective, and so are conclusions reached using it.

Comment: Re:Is this new? (Score 1) 702

I travelled with a large external hard disk as well, once - which also got taken to one side and swabbed for stuff. Internal monologue: OH NO MY PRECIOUS DATA ... Oh, it's just the possibility of it being a bomb they're worried about.

On another occasion, I had fun with my home-made, Arduino-powered dSLR timelapse gadget - it got thoroughly inspected by the TSA. I'd already opted out of the backscatter X-ray whatsit, only for a swab-for-explosives test to give a (false-)positive. Eek. Cue being taken to one side, where they looked in my bag and found the timelapse-o-tron...

To give the screeners their due, they let me go after a few minutes - after I'd heard their complaints about the potential radiation doses they and the passengers were receiving from the backscatter X-ray thingers, and after I'd provided advice on what sort of camera to look into buying for a budding photographer.

Security fun elsewhere: carrying a plastic bag of loose change through the Eurostar security in Brussels (it basically looked like an amorphous, completely opaque lump on the X-ray) - and a random customs check at a UK airport giving a (false-)positive swab for some sort of illicit drugs. Eek.

Comment: Re:The worlds largest optical/near-IR telescope (Score 2) 76

The worlds largest single dish telescope is still the Green Bank Telescope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bank_Telescope), which at 100m is ~6x the size.

World's largest fully-steerable single-dish telescope - the Arecibo Observatory is larger still at a diameter of 300m! (Impressive Arecibo exploration video here. The thing's sodding enormous.)

I went looking for the largest diameter multi-dish radio telescope. It looks like the biggest terrestrial 'telescope' is the Global VLBI system created by combining the European VLBI Network with the US Very Long Baseline Array - it's like some massive team of superheroes combining to save the Earth from some terrible secret of space. Or whatever. Apparently they can also add space-based telescopes when that just isn't enough. Which, quite frankly, is showing off...

My thoughts when seeing one of the beautiful, 10m diameter Keck optical telescopes up close a few years ago? I've had full control of a telescope bigger than that.

Radio Astronomers: Compensating For Something.

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