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Comment: Fresh from Rupert Murdoch's press (Score 2) 556

Frankly it's more surprising that a respectable publication, even a right-leaning one like the Wall Street Journal would think it's a good idea to wade into the religion/science "debate" even in its opinion section. Of course it is irresponsible for a newspaper to not publish articulate expert-authored responses to an opinion piece, newspapers have a responsibility to publish responses written by more-famous and more-qualified persons when the response meets the paper's basic standards. But the WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch so I can't say this is a particularly surprising lapse of journalism. (This is hardly first time their editorials have been accused of deliberate bias imposed by the paper, over and above the author's opinion)

In defense of the WSJ, they do seem to keep their bias to the opinions section, which is the appropriate place for it after all.

More interesting will be seeing what the long term effects of Murdoch's influence does to the paper's reputation; in the extreme case it may turn out like Fox News (also owned by Murdoch) and become a punch line to anyone who isn't among their readership. Though I think it's more likely they will successfully navigate the slippery slope, and maintain their position despite having these minor scandals every year or so.

It's a bit depressing, since the editorial in TFA and all their climate nonsense are counterfactual in the fairly literal sense of ignoring and misapplying science and logic in a way that could nominally support any conclusion whatsoever. A newspaper of the WSJ's former caliber should and surely does know better, but such is the state of the american press in 2015.

Comment: Re:Plant Recognition (Score 1) 421

by ChrisK87 (#48730665) Attached to: What Isn't There an App For?

I imagine this sort of identification software would just output a list of possible identifications ordered by probability. I think the shortcomings you've identified could be mitigated by making the user go through a decision tree answering illustrated questions about the plant's size, leaf branching, seeds/berries, etc. and by comparing the user's GPS location to plants' known distributions. If the list linked to descriptions and pictures of the potential IDs it'd become a pretty useful tool even if its single best guess wasn't reliable.

This sort of app runs into the issue of needing a large-ish database of plant pictures and data descriptions, but field use usually precludes offloading the computation to a big computer somewhere. My audubon society birding app has a 650MB library of ranges, calls, and pictures, and it doesn't even attempt to make those machine-searchable in any way. And there are a lot more species of plants in north america than there are birds.

You're dead on about grasses and fungi, too. A lot of those identifications rely on color, sheen, and texture, none of which can be measured by a camera in natural lighting. Any plant ID app would be strictly limited to leafy plants.

Comment: Re:What about Air Conditioning and Power Alerts (Score 1) 327

by ChrisK87 (#48511767) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South
Well it clearly depends on context. Total system-wide demand is different from the demand at your house. Demand at your house is clearly lowest when you're outside of it, assuming your central heating/cooling is configured normally, regardless when the peak demand at the system level is. Presumably every human is somewhere, and that somewhere is both lit and heated/cooled, but specific locations have different usage profiles depending on their intended use. Indeed the whole [south for overall efficiency] vs [west to align with usage] necessarily cannot have a single answer for all buildings, as it depends not just on (a) the average usage profile of the building in question over time of day, but also (b) the price profile over time of day that the utility charges you, (c) the production profile of your solar panels over the relevant range of directions, and (d) whether you have storage capacity or, equivalently, the regulatory environment allows you to sell your surplus power onto the grid. With all of these things known, it's more or less straightforward to solve for the angle you should aim your solar panel at. But without knowing these variables per se, it's not remotely possible to make a blanket statement that "solar panels should point west".

The same goes at the system level, to a lesser extent. Superficially it would seem that the system would prefer to have the solar panels producing at their optimum (i.e. south-facing) and make up the difference with coal/nuclear/hydro during peak hours, since this produces the most power overall. But if you get down to the actual details, it's possible that max efficiency solar exceeds system demand at offpeak hours and wastes energy, or that the transfer losses are nontrivial, or that the plant providing the base load can't scale up efficiently or to an absolutely high enough amount at peak hours, and so on. So it's not necessarily the case even that a whole power system is optimal with optimally-oriented solar panels.

So yeah I think TFA's title is pseudo-clickbait since it reduces a complex system down to "everyone is doing it wrong". But it's definitely a lesser tier of clickbait than we usually apply the term to.

Comment: How is this surprising? (Score 5, Insightful) 282

by ChrisK87 (#48229903) Attached to: High Speed Evolution
I don't know why the researchers were so surprised by this. If the genetic variation already exists within the population under selective pressure, then the "evolution" measured by phenotypical changes in the population can take place literally overnight. Kill every human under 6'4" and the population will be 6'4" from then on, especially if you don't return to the set of selective pressures that had encouraged the shorter average. Sure there will be a lot of shorter individuals being born at first, but they'll fall to the same new selective pressure that killed the initial short cohort. This is exactly how the famous peppered moth evolution event happened so quickly; it wasn't anything unusual about the moth species in question, just a quick change in the suitability of existing genes. Evolution is only slow when the locally optimal genes don't exist in the population, and need to arise by mutation or genetic flow, or when an immediate optimum has room for genetic fine tuning, so to speak. TFA isn't really an example of evolution per se, it's an example of natural selection--a closely related concept in that they almost always co-occur, but it is not the same thing. We've changed the equilibrium frequencies of various genes, but as far as we know there are no new genes in this population. (And as far as that goes, it's a decent illustration of the importance of genetic diversity in a population: this population would be extirpated if it didn't have the genes responsible for these behavior and phenotype changes.)

Comment: Re:Common sense says... (Score 1) 417

by ChrisK87 (#34633220) Attached to: Woman Sues Google Over Street View Shots of Her Underwear

Then perhaps the rude thing is to stare at other people's houses via street view?

I'm sorry, I don't buy the cultural argument here. If it's in view from the street it is in public view, no amount of cultural values alters that fact. If an entire culture has an issue with too little privacy in their front yards they need to ban things like street view altogether, or start building some fences.

What does this lady expect anyway? That google is going to pay people to look for every little possible thing that could offend a japanese OCD shutin? They already took down the photo when she complained about it, asking more than that from an internet company is asking too much.

Comment: Re:False positive (Score 1) 693

by ChrisK87 (#34277498) Attached to: 200 Students Admit Cheating After Professor's Online Rant
This was a midterm for a class of 600 that used a test bank. I imagine It was multiple choice.

Granted there are a couple clever ways to out cheaters on multiple choice exams too. I once had a class where the professor subtly altered about 1 in 3 questions so that students who cheated by glancing at each other's scantron sheets would miss these questions disproportionately by copying the wrong bubble from their neighbor, and used this as evidence for cheating. I only found out about this because the TA was one of my friends.

Comment: Way to stay relevent, UN (Score 1) 377

by ChrisK87 (#33941832) Attached to: UN May Ban Blotting Out the Sun
By all means, ban it now before we even have the ability to model solar shades accurately, and have no idea whether materials technology will make them economically viable in time to do anything. We need to preempt actual science from weighing in on our decision making. Sometimes the UN goes and does something that makes me wonder why we don't just use a paperclip to jam the "veto" button down and withdraw our diplomats.

Comment: Texting while driving detection idea: (Score 1) 709

by ChrisK87 (#33742464) Attached to: Could Anti-Texting Laws Make Roads More Dangerous?

1) Use gps to determine average speed over the 30 seconds on either side of a text message being sent.

2) Record the speed, time, and location in a database for a week or two.

3) Require that cars record the time of airbag deployment.

4) Anyone who is in the driver's seat of a car during a reported accident has the database checked against the time of the accident as reported by car's airbags.

5) Anyone who sent a text while moving 20 mph or faster within 5 minutes of being in a car accident is publicly hanged in the city square for everyone to see.

Any thoughts?

Comment: Re:for those of you who charge hypocrisy (Score 2, Interesting) 372

by ChrisK87 (#33616766) Attached to: US Couple Arrested For Transmitting Nuclear Secrets In Sting Operation
The theory behind making a working fission bomb was considered straightforward back in the late 30's. It's no accident we had a working nuke a decade after learning the structure of the atom and the nature of radiation. The only reason we beat Britain, France, Germany, and the USSR to the first nuclear weapon is because everyone else was putting their entire economy into winning WWII. More important than the design of a nuke, as Chill mentions, is the manufacturing process (and hiding it from the IAEA). Also, effective delivery devices are fairly well controlled. There's a big difference between a medium range ballistic missile MIRVs/SLBMs. I've read that it is uncertain whether Pakistan has small enough nukes and delivery systems to have significant second strike capability, which has some serious implications for stability in the region.

The beer-cooled computer does not harm the ozone layer. -- John M. Ford, a.k.a. Dr. Mike