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Comment: It's called 'bundling'. (Score 3, Informative) 341

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) 191

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: 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:speed of light (Score 1) 374

by Behrooz (#46352425) Attached to: Report: Space Elevators Are Feasible

Technically, 29.9792458N Latitude constitutes a ~1cm band around the northern hemisphere. The Grand Gallery is oriented roughly north-south, and at 46m long in itself occludes 0.00043 latitude-- so you'll miss almost all of it.

Fortunately, there is a much more useful application for random decimal numbers associated with SI constants. If you happen to be flying over Africa and become lost, follow your GPS to the scientific notation of the Planck constant degrees east, then fly north, and you'll eventually reach Mohamed Boudiaf International Airport in Algeria.

Moon

NASA Now Accepting Applications From Companies That Want To Mine the Moon 251

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-some-cheese dept.
cold fjord writes "The Verge reports, "NASA is now working with private companies to take the first steps in exploring the moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals. Initial proposals are due tomorrow for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program (CATALYST). One or more private companies will win a contract to build prospecting robots, the first step toward mining the moon. Final proposals are due on March 17th, 2014. NASA has not said when it will announce the winner."
Shark

Many Lasers Become One In Lockheed Martin's 30 kW Laser Weapon 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ready-main-phaser-array dept.
Zothecula writes "In another step forward for laser weapons that brings to mind the Death Star's superlaser, Lockheed Martin has demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber laser produced by combining many lasers into a single beam of light. According to the company, this is the highest power laser yet that was still able to maintain beam quality and electrical efficiency, paving the way for a laser weapon system suitable, if not for a Death Star, for a wide range of air, land, and sea military platforms."

Comment: Fuck the 'rule of law.' (Score 1) 822

by Behrooz (#46086757) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Does Edward Snowden Deserve?

I think you have a misunderstanding. In our society, the 'rule of law' is based more on color, wealth, politics, connections, and whether the justice system 'likes' you than on innocence or guilt.

*fuck* the rule of law. Laws have no judgement, rationality, and are subject to incredibly selective enforcement by cops, prosecutors, and the coercive apparatus of the government as a whole, entirely at the whim of officials who have no accountability or responsibility.

You really want a system where innocence or guilt is decided based on social class and race? Because that's where we're at right now.

If you'd like to talk about the rule of law, we can talk about our broken court system, where innocent until presumed guilty is a legal fiction, and better than 90% of crimes are resolved with a plea-bargain rather than a trial.

It's all a sham, and 'justice' is entirely illusory unless you're wealthy, educated, and connected enough to game the system. This is one of the (relatively few) places where the tea party and libertarians really have a solid point.

Privacy

Ask Slashdot: What Does Edward Snowden Deserve? 822

Posted by samzenpus
from the naughty-or-nice dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made government whistleblower Edward Snowden a very peculiar offer last week: plead guilty, and the U.S. government would consider how to handle his criminal case. That seems an inverted way of doing things—in the United States, the discussions (if not the trial) usually come before the guilty plea—but Holder's statement hints yet again at the conundrum facing the government when it comes to Snowden, a former subcontractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who leaked secrets about that group's intelligence operations to a number of newspapers, most notably The Guardian. It's unlikely that the U.S. government would ever consider giving full clemency to Snowden, but now it seems that various officials are willing to offer something other than locking him in a deep, dark cell and throwing away the key. If Snowden ever risked coming back to the United States (or if he was forced to return, thanks to the Russians kicking him out and no other country willing to give him asylum), and you were Holder and Obama, what sort of deal would you try to strike with everybody's favorite secrets-leaker?"
Bug

Tesla Model S Has Bizarre 'Vampire-Like' Thirst For Electricity At Night 424

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bug-in-acpi-specification dept.
cartechboy writes "The Tesla Model S, for all its technical and design wizardry, has a dirty little secret: Its a vampire. The car has an odd and substantial appetite for kilowatt-hours even when turned off and parked. This phenomenon has been dubbed the 'vampire' draw, and Tesla promised long ago to fix this issue with a software update. Well, a few software updates have come and gone since then, and the Model S is still a vampire sucking down energy when it's shut down. While this is a concern for many Model S owners and would be owners, the larger question becomes: After nine months, and multiple software updates,why can't Tesla fix this known issue? Tesla has recognized the issue and said a fix would come, yet the latest fix is only a tiny improvement — and the problem remains unsolved. Is Tesla stumped? Can the issue be fixed?"

Comment: Re:Arrested . . . but will he be charged? (Score 1) 670

by Behrooz (#45522783) Attached to: Driver Arrested In Ohio For Secret Car Compartment Full of Nothing

Unless there is dope residue in the car, there is no way that any prosecutor would ever charge this because there is no way they could prove the intent element.

Because the opportunity cost for the prosecutor to file charges is so high, and innocent people never plea-bargain to avoid the threat of trumped-up charges that could put them in jail for the rest of their life if the trial goes badly because their overworked public defender is unable to mount a successful defense.

Prosecutors will happily charge anything that they think will work as leverage for a plea-bargain. That's their job, that's how the system works, and that's how all of the incentives are set up.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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