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Comment: Re:No, school should not be year-round. (Score 1) 421

by Cinnamon Beige (#47647023) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?
I'd honestly be all for year-round calendars if it wasn't for the fact that I suspect that the primary reason they're getting pushed is that the switch would be used to hide increasing the number of days of school. It's one thing if you're just redistributing the number of days in the breaks--and another entirely if you're decreasing them.

This is especially important, since one of the advantages of a year-round schedule is that you should be able to actually give more days off, since shorter breaks mean less time wasted covering again the material you did before the break. In fact, this is really the only justification for the change: if there isn't research backing up the assertion that something, anything, will improve educational outcomes, it is a waste of time & money and abusive to the kids.

Switching how the money is given out to 'educational outcomes' from 'time spent warming seats with asses' would do the trick wonderfully, and a lot of the objections can be solved by having the outcome be defined in terms of improvement with only critical milestones needing to be met on schedule. (The latter may only be penalized if you promote the child to the next grade before they've met the particular milestone: Little Johnny will have mastered basic literacy by the time he enters Nth grade, but he can spend as long as needed in N-1th grade.)

+ - Ancient worms may have saved Earth->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "You can credit your existence to tiny wormlike creatures that lived 500 million years ago, a new study suggests. By tunneling through the sea floor, scientists say, these creatures kept oxygen concentrations at just the right level to allow animals and other complex life to evolve. The finding may help answer an enduring mystery of Earth’s past.

The idea is that as they dug and wiggled, these early multicellular creatures—some were likely worms as long as 40 cm—exposed new layers of seafloor sediment to the ocean’s water. Each new batch of sediment that settles onto the sea floor contains bacteria; as those bacteria were exposed to the oxygen in the water, they began storing a chemical called phosphate in their cells. So as the creatures churned up more sediment layers, more phosphate built up in ocean sediments and less was found in seawater. Because algae and other photosynthetic ocean life require phosphate to grow, removing phosphate from seawater reduced their growth. Less photosynthesis, in turn, meant less oxygen released into the ocean. In this way, the system formed a negative feedback loop that automatically slowed the rise in oxygen levels as the levels increased."

Link to Original Source

+ - Verizon Throttles Data to "Provide Incentive to Limit Usage"

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "About a week ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for Verizon's justification on its policy of throttling users who pay for unlimited data usage. "I know of no past Commission statement that would treat 'as reasonable network management' a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for 'unlimited' service," the FCC wrote. In its response, Verizon has indicated that its throttling policy is meant to provide users with an incentive to limit their data usage. The company explained that "a small percentage of the customers on these [unlimited] plans use disproportionately large amounts of data, and, unlike subscribers on usage-based plans, they have no incentive not to do so during times of unusually high demand....our practice is a measured and fair step to ensure that this small group of customers do not disadvantage all others.""

Comment: Re:How much have they spent already? (Score 1) 92

by Cinnamon Beige (#47606361) Attached to: Australia Rebooting Search For MH370

You don't need a downed aircraft to do that kind of research though, you can just go out and look for something, maybe something that isn't even there.

You do, however, need funding, and which means that you have to pick a something that people will fund you looking for. Securing the money necessary to do basic research is amazingly difficult, especially when the honest answer is that your work is not expected to be of practical use to anybody but fellow researchers for whom it will lower the costs of doing their research.

Thus, it needs to have a good perceived value, and people need to believe there is a good chance it will be found. Getting money to search for polar bears in Honolulu is highly unlikely to happen.

There probably is very little expectation of actually finding the downed plane at this point, but people currently will fund any search that looks to be in the right area & actually finding it would prove we've gotten to the point where we can find such things.

Comment: Re:How much have they spent already? (Score 2) 92

by Cinnamon Beige (#47605939) Attached to: Australia Rebooting Search For MH370

You are of course correct for the initial search, but at some point you hit diminishing returns. Even if the failure were a technical one, the value of locating the wreck and determining the cause is likely of limited value. There are only so many systems that can fail, and we already do thorough failure modes analyses when designing aircraft. That's why flying is so safe these days.

You forget to factor in that sometimes the point of the search will (has, likely, already) become more than anything else a way to improve and prove the techniques used to search, and hopefully they're keeping good records.

There will, I assure you, be scientists waiting patiently to mine the data for things useful to their own research, that they would have been unable to justify the costs of doing themselves. It's like basic research that way.

Comment: Re:But was it really unethical ? (Score 1) 619

The fact that you cannot foresee all consequences is not a fundamental error of consequentialism, any more than not knowing all applicable virtues and which to prioritize is a fundamental problem or not knowing exactly what God wanted in every specific instance is a fundamental problem. It's a complication. All moral systems have to deal with human fallibility, and the lack of omniscience is one fallibility that consequentialism has. I've met some very, very good people, but none who were absolutely always acting morally. I'm not interested in arguments for ethical systems that require perfection, since everybody fails in that case.

Let's consider a situation in which somebody else will be badly hurt unless you lie. A consequentialist will weigh the harm done in each case. Somebody who believes in the virtues of telling the truth and helping others will have to make a choice of virtues. A deontologist will have to decide what God requires in that instance. A sanctimonious asshole will try to remain morally pure, disregarding the consequences to others. In this case, we see that the consequentialist has more philosophical support for ambiguous situations than a virtue ethicist or deontologist.

I am overall a consequentialist, but I am one who is fully aware of how people work. One of the things you can rely on is people denying responsibility for their choices as much as possible, and consequentialism leaves a big one called "But I meant well!" even when the only person they meant well towards was themselves.

This could be simply avoided by requiring the ends must justify the means, and not the ends you intended but the ends you actually reached.

The test with consequentialist systems, therefore, is how it places your obligations should you discover that a choice you made was not the right one? Are you obligated to act to minimize harm? Are you not morally responsible simply because you had good intentions?

Oh, and how do we define what is a good consequence and to whom? Can I trust you to care about my own opinions when you say you're acting in my benefit?

Or are you going to just be another in a long line of people who mean well but did great wrongs in pursuit of an unattainable good end?

Ultimately, it's not that the ends justify the means, but that they must ultimately do so. This is a lot easier when you don't have too much needing justifying...

Comment: Re:But was it really unethical ? (Score 1) 619

Being a role-player, "lying about a die roll" has no strict ethical value to me: if I'm a player, it's unethical, but if I'm the DM, it's just part of the job ! ;) I never lied about die roll as a player, and would never do it, so you can consider me to be "very ethical"... but on the other hand, in a setup like that experiment (when the harm of lying is not clear at all) or as a DM, I don't have any issue with lying.

The harm is, you will have people less willing to play with you once they find out that you will lie about die rolls.

If you're a player. As GP states, I want a GM who will fudge the dice rolls (or not even roll them) occasionally to make the story better. Sometimes the dice are wrong. Yes, it's a game. But it's not fun when your characters face too little or overwhelming danger.

No, it can apply to a GM too: I do want to go for the story, but I would prefer the transparency of unrolled dice--I want to be able to tell when it's the dice or the GM if things do end up facing too little or overwhelming danger, as you put it. If it's the dice I can live with it, particularly since I am fine with tormenting my PCs; if it's the GM I will be Not Amused.

It's hard to tell with a GM who isn't open which it is.

When I GM, I sometimes will flat-out skip rolling because there's no point other than to buy time--if the player's roll hits outside of a given window in some of the systems I'll run, there's no chance my roll will change the outcome significantly...and I can figure out what this window is on the fly. A few times, when it's getting a bit absurdly difficult, I will just flat-out give them it and say as much. (Sometimes this required waiting until the laughter died down, though.)

Comment: Re:But was it really unethical ? (Score 1) 619

Consequentialism ethics say they being ethical is judging acts for the consequences it has on people. For consequentialist, lying (or stealing, or killing) aren't bad in thesmselves, but only because they have bad consequences (ie, they hurt people). For a consequentialist, stealing something that would be wasted. For example, after a natural disaster, a supermarket is wrecked and has no staff anymore, and food products are getting rotten, there is no harm done in taking them, so it's ethical to do so.

If you look at that setup, well, what harm is done by lying? Not much, so while virtue ethics and deontology would still prevent people from lying, consequentialism doesn't. Maybe the answer is just that people growing in DDR, less exposed to religion, are more consequentialist ? Which doesn't make them less ethical, none of the three system is clearly the "best", it's a highly contested topic (I tend to lean towards consequentialism myself, but don't completly reject the other two).

And on this, I'm definitely a consequentialist. Being a role-player, "lying about a die roll" has no strict ethical value to me: if I'm a player, it's unethical, but if I'm the DM, it's just part of the job ! ;) I never lied about die roll as a player, and would never do it, so you can consider me to be "very ethical"... but on the other hand, in a setup like that experiment (when the harm of lying is not clear at all) or as a DM, I don't have any issue with lying.

The harm is, you will have people less willing to play with you once they find out that you will lie about die rolls.

The problem and fundamental error of consequentialism is that it ultimately assumes that you can know the harm your choices shall/have caused. It presumes omniscience--in fact, arguably it imposes upon a moral actor who wishes to remain ethical an obligation to know absolutely everything.

Of course, if you're simply looking for a way to self-justify actions which in virtue or deontology ethics are wrong, claiming consequentialism as your school is a pretty good tactic...

Some schools of consequentialism solve this problem simply by having a positive obligation to avoid/minimize harm: Using your example... If I'm going to steal something because it's going to be wasted, first I need to make sure it really is. This means I may even have the supermarket opt to give me the food products, because this is a win-win situation--I can arrange it so the situation benefits all of us, especially if I pitch my request as "Donate the food, it'll get you good will & the goods removed, and we both know you would have to write it off anyway."

Comment: Re:let me correct that for you. (Score 1) 619

Families are mostly feudalistic, and faith based orgs are unsurprisingly cults with charismatic leaders fleecing flocks. What planet are you on?

My guess is Earth, so the question really is where you are.

Communistic and socialistic groups that are completely voluntary lack most of the problems, and certainly are not automatically feudalistic (all feudalistic aspects actually come from feudalism being an attempt to scale up the family) or 'cults with charismatic leaders fleecing flocks' as you seem to believe. All it really takes is the entire group being in agreement to pool resources, and it being voluntary can actually be quite an effective incentive to keep getting along.

It may fall apart, but to some extent this is both natural and desirable, especially when it was originally formed as an ad hoc group anyway.

(Incidentally: Many monastic sects--Christian and otherwise--are communist, especially when they actually do follow the rules of their order. An individual monastic might not own anything more than their clothes, with the group itself owning everything else.)

Comment: Re:So instead of Wage Slaves... (Score 2) 100

by Cinnamon Beige (#47489621) Attached to: New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation

We'd have "Attention Slavery" that rewards group think and attention whoring. I'd much rather have an anonymous task based system than something that rewarded sycophants and celebrities. But I recognize this might very well be the currency that Main Stream America's been waiting for.

Look on the bright side, we might finally be able to prove the whole cycle of silence theory via having a way of tracking the dropping reputation of somebody who dares commit such heresies of daring question the group's dogmas, like doubting the One True Holy Solution to life's ills or daring point out internal inconsistencies.

And all without the ethical problems caused by being the ones to set up the experiment, since all we're doing is just observing.

Comment: Re:Drug use versus crime (Score 1) 474

You mean back in the era when you did not have to call it an herbal supplement to make outrageous claims about what your miracle drug did?

The two are related, actually: the sellers of patent medicine were the original drug dealers and operated when there was no such thing as an illegal drug. A lot of them were perfectly happy to add cocaine or opiates as they were discovered, so their 'medicines' had more than the placebo effect going to them, and patent medicine formulas were like the Coca-Cola formula--industry secrets.

End result was that a lot of people ended up addicts without knowing.

This, of course, made the patent medicine sellers quite happy. Addicted customers who don't even know what in the formula they're addicted to can't switch brands: you've basically got captive customers.

The thing is? When I say 'a lot,' I mean that by modern standards--patent medicines were sold cheap, typically, were widely available, and all classes of society used them.

The laws got made roughly when it hit critical mass, and there were enough addicts suffering the bad effects of addiction that it was the dead, rotting elephant in the room...

Comment: Re:It's finally time to do it (Score 1) 474

No, this is the old "Reefer Madness" mentality, meant to make happy both the Puritans and the prison profiteers while keeping the politicians in an elevated state of power.

What actually happens, and Portugal ran this experiment with a sample size of over 8 million people during the past decade, is that when drug use is decriminalized, the usage rate quickly falls to about half.

Most of those are people who are no longer afraid to seek treatment. Some are folks who wind up court-ordered to get treatment, and a few were drug users who were only doing it because drugs seemed cool because they were illegal.

At the end, though, the incontrovertible fact is that the community has half the number of drug users as it did under Prohibition. Prohibitionists are responsible for a doubling of the drug usage rate in the community. Does that seem counter-intuitive? So what? The data is in.

My problem is that at least in the US, the disease model of addiction is used like a get-out-of-jail-free card: "I'm sick so you can't be mean to me by saying I should be responsible and seek treatment!" You see it used a lot for anything that would require lifestyle changes.

I'd go for the middle ground: Decriminalize drug use, up the penalties if your drug use causes you to break laws and put a permanent end to the ability to claim 'intoxication' as a defense when it was a voluntarily obtained state.

The other, probably easier option is to actually make it very, very clear that seeking treatment is safe--because it seems that actually we're doing every part of that except the publicity. This may be more a job for an ad firm than politicians, unless we do need to make it very explicit within the law that this can't be used against somebody.

Comment: Re:Price floors are subsidies (Score 1) 309

Sometimes the old way of doing things is not worth saving.

And sometimes it is, despite the supposed inefficiencies. That's what the French government thinks, and there are similar opinions in other European countries.

Personally, I'm not sure this particular law is so helpful, but anything that prevents Europe from becoming a cultural wasteland at least gets my sympathy. There is more in life than just financial efficiency.

In this case: Financial efficiency=less expensive books=greater ability for those on small or limited funds to buy books.

Of course, if you want to prevent Europe from becoming a cultural wasteland, what should matter most is optimizing the financial efficiency of the government itself--either to lower costs of living so people have more money to spend on such activities, or increase the funds that can actually be used for something desirable, such as sponsoring operas.

+ - Media Viewer: yet another Wikipedia scandal in the making 3

Submitted by metasonix
metasonix (650947) writes "As reported on Wikipediocracy today, the Wikimedia Foundation's software developers created a new "Media Viewer" feature to show high-resolution Wikipedia images in a pop-up window. It worked, but had many problems. Result: "One month after implementation, volunteer administrator Pete Forsyth unceremoniously switched the new feature off, only to find his change reverted by none other than the Wikimedia Foundation’s Deputy Director and VP of Engineering and Product Development, Erik Möller, who threatened to remove Forsyth’s administrative privileges. Möller in turn has now been hauled in front of Wikipedia’s arbitration committee, accused of overstepping his authority." This is roughly similar to a group of volunteer police cadets attempting to remove their chief of police, for changing department policy. The story is bizarre, and it perfectly underscores the dysfunctional and twisted internal culture of Wikipedia."

Comment: Re:Interesting, but N=1 and... (Score 1) 284

by Cinnamon Beige (#47402763) Attached to: Consciousness On-Off Switch Discovered Deep In Brain

The abstract is still up, but not only is the link to the full text no longer working, the paper is not on the list for the issue of the Epilepsy & Behavior that the citation PubMed gives for it says it ought to be in. The full text would make it clear exactly what sort of consciousness is being altered here.

This seems to be a problem with Epilepsy & Behavior, in that a lot of what they're listed as having in the current issue of the journal on PubMed they don't list as in it on their own site. This does not strike me as a desirable thing in a scientific journal. (Yes, I did take the time to check through PubMed to see if this was a unique-to-this-paper issue or something else, and they've got a few articles that would be of...greater interest to me if I was more confident of their editorial practices.)

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.