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Comment In other news... (Score 1) 734

Inside the shadowy world of birth tourism at ‘maternity hotels’ - The Washington Post

"In luxury apartment complexes in Southern California and in grand, single-family homes in New York, “maternity hotels” are brimming with pregnant women and cooing newborn babies.

For wealthy foreign women, the facilities offer the promise of a comfortable, worry-free vacation complete with a major perk: a U.S. passport for their newborn."

Maybe they should have a friendly talk with the IRS...

Comment Re:How? (Score 1) 516

IIRC old pal Albert Einstein once said that the most abundant elements in the known universe were Hydrogen and Human Stupidity (and he was _mostly_ sure about Hydrogen!)...

What I find disturbing is, having to live in a society that must rely on collective stupidity to perpetuate itself - maybe I am a closet masochist, but some days I would rather deal with the consequences of a sudden resurgence of common sense! (And it is not impossible, just unlikely - see clam666's post in this thread about how this kind of attitude can spread.)

Thanks for the feedback ;-)

Comment Re:How? (Score 1) 516

1. I totally agree with you. I am actually putting most of those guidelines into practice, and they work.

2. You are obviously aware that, if _everybody_ eventually shared your (our) point of view, our current economic system (that is driven by consumerism) would collapse in a rather short time. (Eventually it would be replaced by something different, the likes of which I cannot imagine yet; also, the transition phase should be... interesting - like the "interesting times" from the Chinese proverb.)

3. [quote]"You don't need [...] to have a spouse or to have children."[/quote] Same here... However, if _everybody_ eventually shared your (our) point of view, the whole world is going to look a lot like Japan (or China 25 years from now). Somewhere along the way, we forgot that, to survive as a species, we need to raise the next generation, and to do it so that they are able to adapt to changes. Geological sediments are full of those who failed to do that.

4. Unwanted consequences from items (2) and (3) are probably coming anyway, so maybe we should just not care...

Comment Just reading this today... (Score 2) 476

High-frequency trading is bad for normal investors, researchers say - Quartz

Also includes some details on how high-volume arbitrage (the actual issue at stake) works.

My quotes:

"Although the term “high-frequency trading” (HFT) is often used loosely to describe trading at high speeds by computers, in this case we mean something specific: high-volume arbitrage activity, which plays on small, temporary differences in price between, say, a security trading both on the New York Stock Exchange and DirectEdge.

[...] By anticipating future NBBO [National Best Bid and Offer price], an HFT algorithm can capitalize on cross-market disparities before they are reflected in the public price quote, in effect jumping ahead of incoming orders to pocket a small but sure prot. Naturally this precipitates an arms race [...]

[...] HFT doesn’t actually make markets more efficient. It’s great for those who practise HFT, but it reduces profits to everyone else, because in those few milliseconds before the NBBO is calculated and disseminated, the high-frequency traders carry out deals at a price that favors them.

In fact, [...] the difference between investor bids (offers to buy) and asks (offers to sell) is wider when arbitrageurs get into the mix, meaning neither sellers nor buyers in the non-HFT world are getting the best price they could."

Comment Prior art :-) (Score 1) 146

If I remember correctly, there was something like that in one of the classic Tom Swift novels - maybe "Tom Swift and His Sky Train; or, Overland Through the Clouds" (1931). It was actually better - Swift's airship would drop from the sky and grab his train car from the rails while running...

Anyone who got the book can confirm?

Submission + - Mental health: NIMH distances itself from DSM-5 (newscientist.com)

Big Nemo '60 writes: The world's biggest mental health research institute is abandoning the new version of psychiatry's "bible" – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, questioning its validity and stating that "patients with mental disorders deserve better". This bombshell comes just weeks before the publication of the fifth revision of the manual, called DSM-5.

On 29 April, Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), advocated a major shift away from categorising diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia according to a person's symptoms. Instead, Insel wants mental disorders to be diagnosed more objectively using genetics, brain scans that show abnormal patterns of activity and cognitive testing.

Comment Re:batteries are not rechargable (Score 1) 247

Well, aluminium is also known as "solid electricity", I guess this just gives the expression a new meaning...

I wonder how efficient would be the process of recycling the spent aluminium plates, compared with recharging a conventional battery of comparable power. We should also take logistic costs into account - that is a lot of mass to collect from service stations, recycle, and then redistribute to service stations. I guess you could use electric trucks for that. I also wonder how that would compare with the logistics of fossil fuels distribution.

Having to stop for adding water sounds odd, even if this is an experimental rig. Why not have a water tank and a pump? (OK that could get interesting in winter, I doubt you can add antifreeze to the water that goes into the battery...)

Energy density is what makes this interesting - after all, energy density is the Holy Grail of battery technology for electric cars. 8 kWh/kg are 28800 kJ/kg (if my math is right!), that really seems a lot - according to Wikipedia, energy density for Li-ion batteries is 460 kJ/kg - that is a 60 to 1 ratio! (I still think there is something wrong with my math!) Battery weight should also be taken into account when evaluating overall energy efficiency of such a system - after all, an electric car must also carry around the weight of the battery.

Besides that, this sounds fun. Refuelling would be similar to swapping batteries into a toy car, just much bigger.

Comment Learning "useful" skills (Score 1) 1006

The Connecticut policeman mentions an interesting detail. Apparently, Lanza replaced the magazine of his rifle every time, before entering another room, even if the magazine in the rifle was not empty yet. The policeman suggested that he had learned this trick by playing first person shooters. While this would be difficult to prove, it sounds plausible. Playing FPSs may not have made Lanza a killer, but might have made him a somewhat more effective one.

That said, while I do not condone gratuitous violence in video games (or other entertainment media for that) I do not believe censure would do any good (news media covering this kind of events probably are much more harmful); I also believe that more effective controls over the acquisition and possession of firearms would be appropriate, regardless of these tragic events (the existing rules are way too easy to circumvent), but I do not really believe this would stop a determined psychopath.

While we are at this, I also believe better mental health services should be put in place, also regardless of these events, nevertheless I expect most mass shooters would just "fly under the radar" (I can not find it right now, but someone pointed out that, according to current criteria, most of the mass shooters involved in recent episodes would *not* qualify for compulsory psychiatric treatment *before* they went on a killing spree.)

So... does anything work? Can we "fix" this just by changing some rules? I would say no. Rules cannot fill in for the loss of moral values.

As another poster mentioned, this is society eating itself. Sometimes I really wonder whether it is still redeemable.

Comment Law Enforcement (Score 1) 409

I can not find it right now, but I remember an anecdote by a traveller - maybe Jacques-Yves Costeau? - returning to an island in the Pacific he had visited years before. He was surprised to find a police station, that was not there on his previous visit.

As he remembered the natives being the nicest and most peaceful fellows ever, he asked a police officer "Do you really mean, there is crime here now?" The candid answer was, "Of course sir, there is law enforcement now, there must be crime as well."

Comment Re:Let us look at this the other way (Score 1) 848

So uh, what you're saying is that if you were profiting from the situation, even if everyone and their mom was telling you that you were evil scum, you would spend any amount of money to avoid believing them?

Actually, this sounds like a pretty good definition of "denialism".

Now look, if one or two people tell you that someone is an asshole it might be bias, but if everyone tells you they're an asshole, it's probably true — even if they're talking about you.

Totally agree.

Comment Let us look at this the other way (Score 1) 848

Disclaimer: I am convinced that this civilization is going the way of Easter Island and nobody can stop that.

Let us look at this the other way: "Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network" to me sounds more like "Bogus Scientists Organize Network To Sell Climate Denial Propaganda to Desperate Billionaires".

If I were an oil tycoon, and 97% (1) of the damned "scientists" were saying that the whole planet is going to Hell and it is my fault, and a guy in a lab coat showed up and told me he can prove otherwise, I would start signing checks even before asking myself whether the guy is the genuine article or not.

So the guys are selling Bogus Science to Uncle Pennybags - not a big deal, right? Unfortunately, Uncle Pennybags pays the guys to propagate their "discoveries" as Good Science. Also unfortunately, in a technological civilization, where people are supposed to make informed choices, a very large number of people (if not the majority) are still unable to tell Bogus Science from Good Science. Hilarity ensues.

(1) I just made this up.

Comment Re:It's backwards (Score 2) 171

Believe it or not, before purchasing my current smart phone, I actually looked for an arrangement like that - a very small (5" max) Android 4.x tablet with Wi-Fi (no 3G) and a small, sturdy phone that could also work as a Wi-Fi hotspot (which cheap Android phones seem to handle pretty well now, btw).

Eventually I gave up because (a) I could not find a tablet smaller than 7" of acceptable quality (this may have changed - I did not check again after I eventually purchased a smart phone) and (b) where I live (somewhere in Europe) network operators charge you extra if you use your cellphone to connect other devices to the 'net (it is actually a separate service from the smart phone data package).

If I could overcome these issues I would still go that way. I would expect much better battery life for both devices (like when I carried a Palm TX and a cellphone) and I would not be a bit surprised if the two devices together would be cheaper than a high-end smart phone. Fringe benefit, I would expect to be able to upgrade each device separately when needed. Also, when I do not need the tablet I could leave it at home.

Details to be defined: where the GPS receiver should be (I'd say in the phone, even if the map app should obviously run on the tablet), what to synchronize between the two (I'd say only the contacts, the tablet being the master).

I am a bit of a Star Trek fan, and I always considered how Starfleet officers carry two devices - a communicator (always) and a datapad (when needed). OK make three devices with the Phaser ;-)

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The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan