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Comment: Reasonable Models (Score 1) 353

by Capt.Albatross (#48915233) Attached to: "Mammoth Snow Storm" Underwhelms

The link titled 'questionable weather models' was to a lightweight piece of reporting, mostly covering Gary Szatkowski's mea culpa (something that public officials have to do, regardless of whether there was any negligence.) There was no informed reporting on whether the models performed worse than anyone has a right to expect.

The forecasters themselves were well aware that small deviations made a large difference to the models' predictions, but that aspect was almost entirely lost in the reporting, which was mostly about how bad it could be. If public officials don't act, on the grounds that the outcome is uncertain, the press and public will be all over them if it turns out as forecast (or worse), as happened to Bloomberg in NYC a couple of years ago.

The forecasters have more information than the public knows what to do with.

Comment: Re: In after somebody says don't run Windows. (Score 1) 467

by Capt.Albatross (#48892365) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Anti-Virus Software In 2015? Free Or Paid?

When I was testing AV software, I played with a number of real and test viruses in my disposable VM, yet the host system never alerted on any of them.

Did you verify that they were actual viruses, in that the allegedly infected programs you had were actually capable of spreading the virus to another program, and that the newly-infected program was also capable of passing this test?

I ask because it was (and maybe is) not unusual for published tests to have been performed by someone who did not do this preparation, rendering the results meaningless.

Comment: Re:Time to abandon normal phones? (Score 1) 217

Maintaining a personal white list is not easy - do you want your kid's school to be able to call you? Your credit cards' fraud-detection unit? Any hospital a close family member might be taken to in an emergency?

If this rule change is passed, then maybe it is time for some means to redirect these calls to the personal phones of FCC commissioners and board members of the companies pushing for the change.

Comment: Re: Yawn (Score 1) 556

So what you're saying is, every time there's an op-ed piece, someone get's to have a retort published? Really?

So what you are saying is that it is invalid to discuss the editorial policies of major newspapers?

No, that would be just another hyperbolic outburst of the sort that I am replying to here.

Comment: Re:Tunnels everywhere, A-bombs nowhere (Score 1) 292

There are two branches in nuclear research: weapons and power.

Early on in the Nazis' research, Werner Heisenberg miscalculated* the critical mass necessary to produce a workable bomb, placing it at around one ton. Largely as a result of this, research on weapons production was halted. Hwever, it is entirely possible that research on power poduction continued on. Who really cares how heavy a fixed reactor core is?

*Or he mislead the Nazis for political or moral reasons.

Jeremy Bernstein makes a good argument that the Nazi scientists were unaware of the true value of the critical mass, let alone other important but less basic issues such as the significance of prompt vs. delayed neutrons, until they learned, while being detained in Farm Hall, of the bombing of Hiroshima (Hitler's Uranium Club: The Secret Recordings at Farm Hall, ISBN 978-0387950891). These recordings of their conversations among themselves indicate initial astonishment and incredulity, but after several hours (days?) of work, Heisenberg was able to present to the group an analysis of how it could be done. Bernstein argues that that Heisenberg's initial back-of-envelope calculation for the critical mass, based on the mean free path of neutrons in uranium, was never questioned. While they may or may not have found this useful in discouraging Nazi hopes of an atom bomb, it seems unlikely that they were aware it was wrong.

They also incorrectly measured the neutron absorption cross-section of graphite (IIRC due to contamination by boron) and ruled it out as a moderator, making themselves dependent on vulnerable heavy water supplies from occupied Norway.

According to Thomas Powers' book, 'Heisenberg's War: The Secret History Of The German Bomb' (written before the Farm Hall transcripts were released), creating a power reactor was indeed their assigned task, but the Third Reich had more pressing priorities, so it was never funded in the way the V weapons were. If they had tried to build a reactor on the basis of Heisenberg's assumption, they would probably either have irradiated themselves out of existence, or found the errors in their theory. Either way, it does not seem likely that they would have been in a position to be so astonished by Hiroshima as they evidently were, if they had made much progress in that direction.

Comment: Security Bugs are Different (Score 1) 255

When everybody has the same goal, as is pretty much the case for usability issues, the shallowness of bugs posited by the many eyes hypothesis would be a good thing. When it comes to security issues, it sets up a race between the white hats and the black hats, and there is more incentive for the black hats (collectively, the rest of us have as much incentive as do the black hats, but that is not the case individually - for one thing, an attacker satisfies his goal by finding just one vulnerability.)

Comment: Re:How about mandatory felony sentences instead? (Score 1) 420

by Capt.Albatross (#48684445) Attached to: Drunk Drivers in California May Get Mandated Interlock Devices

Is there evidence against the efficacy of a mandatory interlock program? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that harsh sentencing in other drug-related crimes does not work.

Reserve the harsher punishments for anyone who violates one of these restrictions, or who facilitates any such violation (the weakest link that I see in this proposal is the loaning of cars by relatives and friends.)

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"