Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Comment: "Misuse" of Encryption (Score 4, Interesting) 108 108

Anyone else catch the nonsensical bomb-threat at the White House yesterday?

I was passing a TV set to CNN and that was the focus. I've not seen much about it otherwise.

But they evacuated the Press Room once or twice.

Eventually somebody stood at a podium to opine about how we all need to address this issue of Encryption because it hinders their ability to catch the bad guys when the bad guys "misuse" encryption.

I was incredibly offended at the very idea. It's so stupid - you either use it or you don't. Using encryption to keep the feds from looking over your shoulder and reading your communications is not "misuse". It's the entire purpose and absolutely correctly used as such. And in the context of the US, it would seem we have the 1st, 4th and 5th amendments to consider.

Not only was I disgusted at this moment of sheer propaganda, I found myself very inclined to believe the entire thing was completley staged.

Comment: Re:Exodus (Score 1) 692 692

Well... to continue along this non-pedantry path...

How do YOU define "geometrically growing"? I would interpret that as implying a geometric progression a la:


And in the context of our discussion, this WOULD be exponential.

Even more importantly, however, is that there's a significant problem with your observation about the cube function being "higher" until a crossover point. To understand this better, you'd need to separate the geometric progression to each individual planet and then sum all things up. The limits aren't "overall" if we're bound by speed-of-light travel. Each planet reaches its capacity separately. And from the very beginning, the planet(s) in the core of this expanding bubble of humanity are increasing much faster than the fringe. It matters not that the bubble keeps expanding if you cannot move people to the fringe just as fast as population grows.

Comment: Straw man arguments? (Score 2) 260 260

This is a very strange article.

I'm happy if folk are drawing attention to issues of statistics, flawed studies or ways one can inappropriately draw conclusions from relatively small data sets. Reminds me of the old adage "Figures don't lie... but liars do figure".

But this seems to trivialize (or outright ignore) the actual purported benefits of cocoa. Why in the WORLD would it be acceptable to suggest "whole food" folk are fascinated with dark/bitter chocolate because of the weird idea that "since it tastes bad, it must be good for you". Is it really that hard to dig into the research, propaganda, whatever, in order to find out WHY folk are suggesting cocoa is good for you? Here's a clue. The dark/bitter chocolate is suggested not because it tastes bad (which is, of course an opinion - I like it dark) but because you have half-a-prayer of having more genuine cacao in such.

Next, I must confess I was ignorant of any study or claim that eating chocolate would help one lose weight. Even if I heard of it, I almost certainly would have simply immediately discounted it because of a number of factors. It's just one study. Let peer review deal with it. It also smells too much like other factors predominate. You're on a low-carb, calorie controlled diet? If you ADHERE to those two requirements, you can probably eat whatever you want and lose weight. Caloric balance/control is within an order of magnitude all that matters.

So, I may have an unwarranted perspective here. But it seems strange to get all excited about folk trouncing a study or argument I never heard of, nor would have respected to begin with. In essence, it seems like they're setting up a straw man to knock down.

Comment: Re:Yeah (Score 5, Interesting) 85 85

So did I.

But then I stopped and thought a bit about the concept of Testing for Success vs. Testing for Failure. The former is weak testing... lazy testing. It WORKS. That's nice... But does it fail as it should? Have you tested when and how it fails? Do you know the limits?

So... I decided to act as an identify thief. As previously reported then and now, getting the credentials to sign up are easy. OK. But I had already signed up. So that'd protect me, right?


It was trivially easy to sign up again. Oh sure, an email gets sent to the first email address set up. But this leads to one of two situations. First, the proper user doesn't check his email for a while. Then whatever the thief is going to do they can do. Second, the proper users finds out immediately and gets on and takes it back over. All good? Comically, no. Believe it or not (and I was really stunned at this part) the webapp doesn't force logout the identity thief when the proper user reregisters.

I was a tad sickened at this point.

As far as I could tell, this was utterly and completely insecure. The only way for an "average joe" to protect themself here was to sign up and then freeze credit completely at all the credit bureaus. Supposedly (haven't finished this part yet) once you do that, the 20-question stuff will IMMEDIATELY fail and anything like this IRS.GOV site that depends on it will also fail.

Oh... but it was rather interesting to see what the IRS had stored on me... and what they didn't have. It was somewhat perplexing.

Comment: Re:It only increases accountability (Score 1) 294 294

Cameras would seem to be great for establishing or discounting liability.

It might not be terribly easy for the engineer to sue Amtrak in order to obtain the video showing that his refusal to obey an order which would have placed the passengers in danger. But it would certainly serve as decent evidence in the wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

But if the engineer DID obey such an order and the wreck occurred, the liability of Amtrak would be damning. I'm not an expert in tort. But I imagine the amount of damages would be signficantly greater in this case in comparison to if the video just showed the engineer was texting.

And that fact might also serve to increase safety.

Comment: Re:Well... (Score 1) 421 421

But this (and indeed MOST of all this angst) presupposes a survival instinct.

Back off a bit and try to defend that one. Why would an AI have a survival instinct?

Grey-goo similarly depends on a never-ending reproductive instinct. Why?

An AI would fight over resources? As in an AI would want to continue to grow. A growth or expansionist instinct. But again... why?

There's simply far too much anthropomorphizing and assumptions tossed into these fears. If anything, the incredibly even spread of the responses from the experts to me suggests these issues are incredily wide open.

Comment: Re:Meaningless goal (Score 0) 442 442

There are important impacts from the increased carbon in the atmosphere and oceans that are irrespective of increased temperatures. So the "stupid metric" isn't capturing everthing. But it's not nearly as stupid as you seem to be suggesting.

It's rather foolish to try to declare we can know nothing when it's clear we cannot know everything.

To address the bulk of your query regarding "what happens when", I'd suggest you read "Six Degrees". It is not so much prognostication and predictions in so much as reflection. That is, to understand what may be in store at different points along the increase in global average temps, we can look back in time to try to understand what things were like when things were stable at these temperatures in the past. Even entirely ignoring the issues related to the current unprecedented rate of increase, we can see some significant changes are headed our way.

Comment: Too Much Simplification (Score 1) 958 958

I would suggest that the argument here is weak because it collapses everything into a binary view: Science and the Rest_of_Us.

Indeed, we need to be able to count past two here. It's silly to view Science in a monolothic way that ignores time, competing views, vested interests, etc.

The issues raised here actually have more to do with the relative inability of folk to DIGEST information from Science, scientists and scientific studies than it really does with a lack of credibility on the part of Science and Scientists. Very often any benefit or harm discovered in a study is altogether minor. And yet, folk latch on to something being either good or bad (that inability to count past two again).

Furthermore, it is sheer folly to ignore the way the general population feeds information back into itself and turns things into trends and fads. Why blame the Scientists when the "crediblity problem" is often a factor of marketing forces, popular science (both facile journalism and self-help books), fads, etc.?

Comment: Re:Explain this to a non-Americal please.. (Score 1) 182 182

> did Republicans manage to keep being the ruling party somehow?

For most of Obama's years, yes.

> it seems even with a Democrat president Obama can't pass any law without going through them

No President can pass any law - wrong branch of government. And when the Legislative branch is indeed "controlled" (majority) by the opposing party, the President and the President's party would indeed have to "go through" the other party. But it's even worse. Although, in theory any Congress critter can start a Bill, bills usually must pass through a small committee first. And these committees are controlled by the majority party.

> is all this democrat/republican thing just theater

Maybe so. But you shouldn't come to this conclusion based on a lack of understanding of how the US system works.

Your questions suggest you're more familiar with a parliamentary system of government where (per Wikipedia) "the executive branch derives its democratic legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature (parliament); the executive and legislative branches are thus interconnected." In such systems, a majority party (or a coalition) forms a government and from this selects/appoints a top executive (Prime Minister) almost certainly from that party.

In the US, it's theoretically possible for the President to have no party affliliation whatsoever or to be a member of a party which ends up with none of the seats in Congress. In practice, this is very, very unlikely. But there's nothing tying these things together as in Parliamentary systems. The only real power the President has with regards to law making is the Veto. Once Congress finally gets their act together and passes something, it goes to the President who then either signs it or kills it (veto). And even then, the vetoed bill (usually) just goes back to Congress to give them one more chance. If Congress can vote again and pass it with a super-majority, it overrides the veto and the law goes into effect despite the wishes of the President.

Comment: Re:Hmmm ... (Score 4, Insightful) 180 180

Rightly or wrongly, and setting legal issues aside for the moment, the general populations around the world seem quite able to draw a rather clear distinction between the two cases you'e seemed to conflate.

If I partake of the "sharing" of song by listening to it this is one thing. Folk merge together the acts of listening to it on the radio, listening to it via Internet radio, listening to it by downloading and using favorite player, downloading it and putting it onto favorite device and listening to it, etc., etc. You can argue all day long about lost sales, but by and large those arguments are unpersuasive.

However, if I copy the song in any way and then sell it in any way, people see this differently. I'm selling something that isn't mine to sell. Sure, people may love to buy pirated DVDs on the streets at a tenth of the price. But far fewer people would rise to defend the black marketeers here.

Sony execs listening to these songs in their office wouldn't bother most. But clearly and unambiguously using material in the production of a movie without permission of the artist is a different matter. It is indeed hypocritical of Sony to champion copyright issues while blantantly violating such concerns.

Comment: Re:So, why aren't we all dead? (Score 1) 70 70

Size matters. Length matters.

Or more appropriately, what matters here is the overall energy from the sum of all the photons involved in the dicsussion which are being called gamma rays here.

If I shine a flashlight on you, you may barely, barely feel a bit of extra warmth from the photons hitting your body. If somehow I am able to shine a million such flashlights from the same distance simultaneously, you'll get a million more photons and you'll feel quite a bit warmer.

What is disturbing about these DISTANT gamma-ray bursts is that the energy from so far away follows an inverse-square law as it travels to us. Essentially it spreads out. If you measured the energy hitting a sheet of paper 1 light-year away, you'd find it to be roughly 4 times as much as the energy when you measure at 2 light-years away.

These gamma-ray bursts appear to be from so far away that when we work backwards to calculate what the energy would be like if you were "near" it is mind-boggling.

Comment: Re:I'd be curious about the consequences. (Score 1) 85 85

Regardless of "good-guy-bad-guy" propaganda, the remark that the South could clean up the North before the allies even got their act together is interesting - even more so with your comment about Northern infantry.

It really doesn't take that much effort to do a quick web search of relatively recent discussions on the matter.

There are likely many reasons the South doesn't want to start a war. But the threat of waves of infantry almost certainly is not one of them. The troop strength disparity simply isn't that strong. The active ground strength isn't more than 2x. Pulling in the reserves drops the advantage of the north to less than 50%. And here's the thing. The South can FEED and supply their troops. If it was Infantry alone, my money would be on the South.

Comment: Re:gravity fields will rip you to shreds (Score 2) 289 289

My intepretation of their comment is that you point directly towards the center of mass and then ACCELERATE (not "drop") "down". Then there is the two-fold assumption that #1 there is an accretion disk and #2 for some odd reason you've decided to go through it. The idea is that it would be rather difficult to maintain your orientation with the accretion disk material pressing against you laterally (not "outwards"... but "sideways" - the gas is orbiting and you're trying not to).

First, I'm curious about the math here. The "intuition" here seems to be that you can push down on your head hard enough so that force downwards on your head matches the mass pulling on your feet and therefore you don't get ripped apart. Even if this works, wouldn't you have to have constantly increasing acceleration/thrust to maintain this balance?

Second, if you've decided to plow through an accretion disk, I'd be more worried about burning up. In any case, if you've got the ability/power to maintain infinitely increasing thrust downwards, I imagine a bit of control laterally would be trivial.

Comment: Re:Yes and no (Score 1) 246 246

The analogy to Columbus is rather interesting.

Columbus was essentially a dead man walking. Most learned folk knew rather well that his calculations were messed up. Essentially he was significantly off regarding his calculations of the circumference of the globe. People knew this. This is why he had such difficulties getting funded. It wasn't that he was trying to convince people the world was round - he was trying to convince people the world was small enough to sail to India.

And he would absolutely, certainly have died in the open sea had he not lucked out in an incredible way.

Maybe, just maybe, Mars One people will stumble across a fully viable, relatively hospitable, alien population which will save them and propel us into a VERY "New World".

Steve Jobs said two years ago that X is brain-damaged and it will be gone in two years. He was half right. -- Dennis Ritchie