Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Comment: What about that stupid book is worth US$244? (Score 4, Insightful) 169

by Dr. Spork (#48639385) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

I really fucking hate this about academia. It's absolutely shameless to charge college students $244 for a single dumb textbook. It's not even that good. It's just that when a department chooses to standardize on a textbook, the move has inertia and is basically impossible to reverse. Then, the publisher can charge something absurd, and everybody pays it, because it is a required text. It's so dirty, because it's profiteering from people who are often barely making ends meet, and typically buying the book with debt.

What really bothers me is that nobody seems willing to do anything about it. If a big, publicly funded university system set aside some money to create and regularly update their core STEM curriculum textbooks - let's start with Calculus, Physics, GenChem, GenBio - it would certainly cost less than the almost $1000 per student that the textbook purchases cost. These universities have Nobel Prize winners among their faculty, surely they have the in-house resources to create excellent textbooks and distribute them on some sort of open license like CC. Arranging sabbaticals for the authors might cost at most a million dollars, or roughly 4000 Stewart Calculus books. That might be about the number of Calc 1, Phys 1, GenChem and GenBio books that are sold on a single campus in a single year.

But this move would help everybody, not just within the entire UC system that funded the effort, but across the globe. And the costs of updating and embellishing future editions would be far less. I'm so mad that a large university system doesn't just make this happen. And yes, raise fucking tuition by $200 to pay for it, if you absolutely have to. In exchange for textbooks you can have for free (or for printing cost if you don't like digital), everybody will recognize that's a great deal. The courses can explicitly invite students to devise problems for future editions, or to suggest changes and clarifications. And it will bring prestige to the colleges and to the authors, which is worth something too.

Comment: Re:New law. (Score 2) 384

by wytcld (#48637199) Attached to: The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots

Robots are mechanistic, deterministic machines. As such they have no consciousness, however complex their programs. Complexity of programs is a sort of "intelligence," especially if they are well-programmed. But that intelligence is an extension of their conscious makers, for instance, us.

Now, your idea of limiting "IQ" of robots is interesting. Clearly low IQ is no bar to gaining political power in our world. But any political power gained by robots would be on behalf of those who had programmed them. A person with the resources and intelligence to deploy a robot army would be powerful, the same as a CEO or general deploying a corporation or human army is. In a sense, the robots might all be avatars of the person behind them. And their sheer calculating ability might be many times his or hers, just as is true of the computers we all use today.

Robots as dangerous machines, yet powerful ones: yes. Robots as able to conduct their own civilization: no. Not until someone has the capability of endowing them with consciousness. We're no where close to that. We hardly know what direction to go to do it. It may not even be an available direction to go in. In this universe, there is some class of imaginable prospects which is nonetheless truly impossible.

Comment: Tucows - good and bad (Score 1) 65

by wytcld (#48617923) Attached to: A Domain Registrar Is Starting a Fiber ISP To Compete With Comcast

Tucows has Ting cell service - which if you don't mind being on Sprint's network is quite a bargain, and the staff is friendly. They also have the Hover retail registrar - which refused to support DNSSEC for domains registered there, even if you run your own DNS, unless you pay them $500 per domain for their help with it. Management at Hover is hostile to users.

Comment: Re:And this is why there's traffic... (Score 1) 596

by rgmoore (#48604169) Attached to: Waze Causing Anger Among LA Residents

I lived in LA a few years ago, and I remember there being plenty of places to walk in LA (few roads without sidewalks), so long as you don't mind the stares you inevitably get for not being in a car.

That varies tremendously by neighborhood, especially depending on when the neighborhood was built. Most places where the street network was put in before WWII have good sidewalks. Some cities kept at it after the war, but lots of places started treating them as optional or as afterthoughts. In my area, I rarely need a sign to tell when I'm walking across the Pasadena city limits because the sidewalks in Pasadena are much better than the ones in surrounding communities.

Comment: Re:Perhaps the need a bigger highway? (Score 1) 596

by rgmoore (#48603997) Attached to: Waze Causing Anger Among LA Residents

Geography is the core problem. There simply aren't many good routes between the San Fernando Valley and the LA basin, and the best routes are already filled with freeways. Not to mention that the routes for any new freeways would run through extremely pricey neighborhoods that would make them both politically and financially impractical, and that the construction would take a very long time even if/when those hoops were jumped through.

It would be a much better idea to build a light rail line paralleling the 405- call it the Sepulveda Line- from the Orange Line in Van Nuys down to the Green Line near LAX or even the Blue Line in Long Beach. It might need to tunnel under Sepulveda Pass to keep the grade reasonable, but it would let you put in more new capacity for the amount of space consumed than any freeway alternative.

Comment: Gee, how innovative! (Score 1) 156

by Dr. Spork (#48601445) Attached to: Small Bank In Kansas Creates the Bank Account of the Future

Requests for ACH transfers are collected by banks and submitted in batches, once a day, and the banks receiving the transfers also process the payments once a day, leading to long waits. ACH technology was created in the 1970s and has not changed significantly since.

Jesus Christ. How much do we pay these people?

Comment: Re:Imagine that! (Score 2) 191

by Dr. Spork (#48597233) Attached to: Spanish Media Group Wants Gov't Help To Keep Google News In Spain

Yeah, except the Spanish media is not at all in a good negotiating position. It's not like the only Spanish-language press is in Spain. Spaniards who like Google's service can just switch their link to, .mx, or whatever. Or Google can even keep but focus on stories about Spain as they appear in the Spanish-speaking press outside of Spain.

If Spaniards come to see domestic newspapers as dispensable, those newspapers are the only party that loses. In fact, I would bet that before long, some of the minor Spanish news outlets will break and announce that they have arranged an fee exemption for Google news. Without domestic competition, these sources will suddenly have top billing and a surge in traffic. And suddenly, everyone else will announce their own fee exemption, and this whole thing will end how it started.

Comment: Both sides (Score 1) 433

by wytcld (#48593887) Attached to: Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

First, how good your digital sounds depends a lot on the digital-to-analog circuitry. Your speakers are still analog, as are your ears.

Second, all reproduction loses information. The question, as those who developed MP3 and other psycho-acoustic compression models realized, is which losses are more noticeable to human listeners. Also, our brains process information at far higher resolution than we can consciously report. As philosophers say, phenomenal consciousness is broader than access consciousness.

Third, I just got a new turntable after my 35-year-old model quit. It turns out that $250 today buys more turntable than $150 did then. I've got a high-end receiver and decent speakers, and have been spinning the old vinyl collection after ignoring it for years. Some of it - not all but some - has more presence than anything I've got on CD (and I have a very good CD deck). The instruments sound more like they're in the room; it's easier to visualize the performers there. I'm sure someone could devise a proper psychological test for this effect: Have people listen to music, test how effectively they're envisioning the performers, and don't tell them whether the source is analog or digital.

Comment: Re:Surely *someone* has kept 720p copies! (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48577171) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
I hope that these versions are not the only ones that will be saved. They look like re-encodes of the already ugly 240p version. I know all the artifacts don't make it unintelligible, but they are very distracting, especially if you watch at full screen. At some point, MIT re-capped the videotape with much better capture hardware and in 720p. That's what you got to watch if you did the MIT-X course.

Comment: Re:Creating more victims (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48576993) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
MIT's video was 720p - granted, their source material was VHS, but it looks far better than the re-encoded thing on I found I have a local copy of the first seven lectures of 8.0.1 in 720p, and I'm sure that others have the rest. Especially because it's CC, I'd hate for these to just be lost.

Comment: Surely *someone* has kept 720p copies! (Score 1) 416

by Dr. Spork (#48575165) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin
I have about the first half of the 801 course (Newtonian mechanics) in 720p. I downloaded the videos so I could watch them during my commute when I was offline. The other videos must be on someone's hard drive somewhere, right? I think it's time for some sneaky guerrilla distributed archiving!

Comment: Re:Of Course It Was (Score 1) 355

by Bonker (#48545451) Attached to: James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

I'm an intelligent guy. I identify as Native American, but if you looked at me, you'd probably see me as just another white computer programmer with dark hair and an unusually sloped nose. That said, I've met people so much smarter than myself that they made my head spin.

The two most intelligent people I've ever met were black and hispanic.

When I was a teenager, I had the distinct honor of meeting the reknowned Jaime Escalante in person.

I also recently had a coworker in my field, who was a young black man recently out of university, whom I will not name because he not a celebrity. (He certainly has the potential to be one if he so chooses.)

There was a striking similarity between the two that caught my attention. Jaime Escalante's struggle to engage young hispanics in math has been immortalized by Hollywood. The major theme of Escalante's work was convincing young hispanics that, despite their culture, they were capable of great things.

My coworker was very deeply depressed about the same situation as it applies to black Americans. He told me that he felt stunned and disappointed that so many of the black people he met had so little ambition for higher education. He even stated the problem outright. The culture encourages blacks to avoid higher education.

It's VERY easy to form racist stereotypes when you see a pattern imposed by culture. Watson reminds me of any number of people I've met who's 'met enough of' a certain race to close his mind on the subject. Despite his own intelligence, he chooses to ignore science and go with stereotype rather than go looking for cause and effect relationships like scientists *ought* to.

Incidentally, the third most intelligent person I've met is also probably one of the most humble people I've ever met. You'll probably never know his name, but his research will probably benefit humanity for millennia to come.

Comment: Re:The problem is much bigger than energy (Score 1) 652

by wytcld (#48460167) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

Are you suggesting that the intelligent response to complexity is surrender to doom?

A dollar here, a dollar there, and soon enough you have a million. An LED here, and LED there, and soon enough you've saved a mountain of coal from burning. Also, you've saved money on the bulb + electricity cost. But if you'd rather waste your money and surrender to doom....

Comment: Re:Well if two google engineers say so (Score 1) 652

by wytcld (#48460101) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

Funny thing, wind is already cheaper than coal, and solar is close. Also, even if the article wasn't a gross distortion of the report, being a Standford-degreed Google engineer isn't all that. I've known idiots with similar degrees and positions, and geniuses with neither.

Comment: Um, can't life just evolve under water? (Score 2) 307

by Dr. Spork (#48452271) Attached to: Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

...the gamma rays would set off a chain of chemical reactions that would destroy the ozone layer in a planet's atmosphere. With that protective gas gone, deadly ultraviolet radiation from a planet’s sun would rain down for months or years

Yeah, because it's impossible that complex life could be protected by a different (better!) kind of UV shield like... water. From my understanding, it's not exactly rare in the universe.

Invest in physics -- own a piece of Dirac!