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Comment What would it be like to be close to this event? (Score 1) 428

When these two black holes merged, three solar masses worth of matter got turned into pure energy, in the form of gravity waves. Compare that to a nuclear bomb, where a mass of about one pea gets turned into pure energy. It's hard to wrap my mind around the scale of this event. But adding to that problem is that this is not your ordinary explosion with a bright flash. So what would happen to objects in the vicinity of this gravity wave "explosion"? Would it tear apart our bodies? Would it destroy planets? Would everything heat up from the friction of relative motion? Or would these waves just pass through us without us noticing?

Comment Re:Good for consumers? (Score 1) 73

Battery usage depends on the chipset, with newer chipsets using less power. For example, I've had a misbehaving app leave on the GPS on my Nexus 5X, and I still got battery life of about 8 hours. That's not good battery life, but the power consumption was low enough that I didn't notice the phone heating up in my pocket, and I was able to get through a day at work before it went into power saving mode.

My impression is that the real killer with the map app is screen usage. If you leave the map in the foreground, it will leave the screen on, and that drains power like crazy. Even if you hit the power button to turn the screen off, it will keep updating what it's showing on the screen, and that will continue to eat a lot of power. You can save a lot of power by going back to the home screen or another app, which lets you get voice prompts but avoids the power drain from the screen rendering.

Comment The blurb is plagiarised - this has to stop! (Score 4, Informative) 156

Unless user Zothecula is actually Colin Jeffery, the author of the article, then it is disgracefully misleading to represent the content of the blurb as something that "Zothecula writes". Those words were instead lifted directly from the Jeffery's article, and no indication was made that this was done. Where I teach, anyone who shows this little regard for proper attribution gets a failing grade for plagiarism, and a second offense gets you expelled. It's depressing that a for-profit journalistic outlet could be so indifferent to plagiarism. If the article must be quoted in the blurb, then fucking quote it. You have a tag for that, and you also have the power to use quotation marks.

Comment Benefits seem pretty contrived (Score 1) 25

I read TFA and it struck me that this is the invention of salesmen who are working very hard to find a rationale for their product. The two examples they came up with, where the benefits of their system are supposed to be maximally evident, are just not convincing. In the case of the mice who are kept awake at night: Wouldn't the test group and the control group of mice both be equally affected by the noise? If the thing being tested for really was making a difference, shouldn't that difference still be visible? This sounds an awful lot like: We went into the experiment knowing what results we wanted, and we twiddled knobs and kept discarding "bad" data under the thinnest pretenses, until we finally got them. And that's not how you do science.

When it comes to the researchers whose polymer was being degraded by UV photons from normal daylight... I'm sorry, they just don't sound very smart. I have to wonder if their situation would have improved if they had installed this monitoring system. What would it have told them? "Your experiment is occurring at room temperature, earth gravity, normal daylight, air of terrestrial composition, yadda yadda." Are the salesmen suggesting that these bumbling scientists would have looked at all this "data", slapped their foreheads and yelled: BY GOD, WE JUST LEARNED THAT OUR EXPERIMENT IS OCCURRING IN NORMAL DAYLIGHT!

Comment A welcome improvement in the age of PC stagnation (Score 4, Insightful) 73

I've been building PCs long enough to remember a time when things were improving so quickly that it made no sense to keep a computer for more than 4 years. But since then, the progress in CPU performance has reached a plateau. People like me, who bought a good Sandy Bridge system in 2011, still have a system that doesn't come close to feeling crippled and lazy. We don't have much reason to envy the people who bought the latest generation of i5/i7 systems. Five years used to mean an order of magnitude improvement in performance. Now it's not even a doubling. I've sometimes wondered when I will finally start feeling the urge to upgrade my system.

These SSD latency numbers are the first thing I've seen that gave me the feeling that there is some truly worthwhile trick that my present computer can't come close to matching. I'm not saying that I now want to upgrade, but on reading this, I have become upgrade-curious for the first time in many years.

Comment Boneheaded and with straightforward solutions (Score 1) 699

This is so boneheaded it beggars belief. The straightforward solution is to require the UEFI variable filesystem (or whatever it is called these days) to be mounted read-only, and require (UNIX anyway, but something analogous ought to work for Windows too) an application to do a "mount -o remount,rw" to do whatever it needs to do, then do a "mount -o remount,ro" when it's finished. Not as nice as having UEFI not be seriously broken, but workable, and there's not much of an excuse for things like systemd, openrc, etc. implementing this where appropriate (and for any UEFI crap that can brick a system, this is appropriate).

Applications don't like it? Tough, patch the damn things. Requireing firmware to be exposed to harm like this on any operating system is unacceptable.

Comment Re:Nitpicking (Score 3, Interesting) 262

I remember plenty of Slashdot blurbs that consisted of several sentences lifted directly from the article, but giving no credit to TFA. Where I teach, that would be considered a case of representing someone else's words as yours, which is straightforward plagiarism, and gets you an unpleasant appointment with an assistant dean. So even though this execution isn't flawless, at least it clearly distinguishes the words of the blurb author and the article author. I consider that a huge step forward for Slashdot.

Comment Re:Consumables (Score 2) 49

It shouldn't be that surprising to see water and methane everywhere. After all, hydrogen is by far the most common element in the universe, and oxygen and carbon are also relatively common. Simple compounds of heavier elements with hydrogen should be among the most common things to see on planets (and dwarf planets and moons) that don't have strong enough gravity to keep hydrogen in their atmosphere.

Comment Re: Eventually... But not yet (Score 1) 406

Either you're young or haven't paid attention. For twelve years (1996-2008) my computer had been running a Sony GDM 500PS with 1200 vertical pixels, at 85Hz. And yeah, through a VGA cable. In that time I went through many generations of computer upgrades, but If that beast of a monitor hadn't been sent to the recyclers, I'm sure it would still look beautiful today. Thinking about all the amazing things I've seen in that monitor makes me nostalgic. It was my companion for a huge chunk of my life. The the last computer for which it served as a display was more that 100 times more powerful than the first one.

Comment Clearing off administrator-barnicles? (Score 5, Informative) 308

It sounds like most of the cuts don't affect the people who are fulfilling the core mission of the university, the ones who teach, do research and advise the students. US universities have hired so many administrators that they need more administrators just to keep track of all the administratoring they do. When there are budget cuts, it's administrators who draw up the cost-cutting plans, so it turns out as one would expect. At least in the US, universities can just keep raising tuition. In Finland that is impossible.

Comment Really misguided! (Score 1) 75

What's depressing about this is not so much that the data is available, but that important idiots will use the data to make significant decisions about students. You can bet they will do it even without any evidence that library time is an independent variable causally responsible for positive outcomes, and that A- students who go to bars are somehow worse employees/grad students/med students/interns than A- students who go to the library.

There is a growing pressure in universities to reward students merely for going through the motions. I have colleagues who actually penalize students for being absent from class. I asked point blank whether any students who get top scores on all the tests ever get less than an A for the course, simply because they missed some meetings. Apparently, this happens, and I was disgusted when I learned of it. I hate the encroachment of high school paternalism into college.

Comment Re:Tools are judged ... (Score 1) 329

On the other hand, the local auto mechanic probably has a dozen wrenches and a parts truck that comes around every other day that can bring a new one in for nearly zero overhead. So she might be willing to accept a higher failure rate.

Using male gendered pronouns for overwhelmingly male-dominated professions isn't sexism. If you threw a rock into a crowd, you'd hit more male teachers than female mechanics. It's okay to assume a mechanic is a "he" and a teacher is a "she".

Or, alternately, go whole hog. Instead of someone working in aerospace or other sensitive area, say a woman working in aerospace or other sensitive area.

Your last paragraph suggests that your pronoun gendering may have been intentional and part of a larger issue you wished to promote. If so, bravo! I award you one Internet point for being aggressively subtle.

Comment Putting it in orbit would solve all these problems (Score 4, Interesting) 22

One of the challenges of using a large mirror is that it tends to bend under its own weight and the force of wind.

I think it's a scandal that we aren't building a massive telescope in space, where you don't have to worry about gravitational sagging or gusts of wind... (or clouds, atmospheric distortions, light pollution, etc.). When we think of near-future space program ambitions, everybody talks about sending people to Mars. But we would learn so much more from building and using a kilometer-scale telescope mirror in orbit. From the article, it's clear that even terrestrial telescope mirrors now consist of a thin glass sheet with scaffolding behind it. Isn't it time to think about how to build that kind of thing in space, where the scaffolding requirements would be much smaller? It's inevitable that for a certain size of mirror, it will actually more expensive to build it on Earth than in space, for the reasons mentioned in the article. So come on, let's get some courageous nerds like Elon Musk on the job and build a telescope that could actually resolve extrasolar planets and see the formation of the first galaxies. Compared to this, people on Mars seems like a vanity project.

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