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Comment Huh? (Score 1) 108

"And now, ongoing research [...] looks poised to deliver the first practical device by the end of this decade."

So up until now the multibillion-dollar industry has been founded entirely on impractical devices? Or if they mean the first practical vacuum tube of that particular type it might be useful if the summary gave some kind of brief explanation about what makes it different from/better than other vacuum tubes.

(The TFA probably explains it, but the site is blocked for me.)

Comment Re:FUD at least sort of. (Score 5, Insightful) 199

#1 It's a spokesman for Nest saying that it isn't transmitting when you think you've turned it off.

#2 If the device is already hardwired to allow it to shut down the LED without shutting down the camera then it's only one software update/hack away from transmitting while it appears to be off. (Assuming that such a "feature" hasn't already been included and is just waiting for a signal to activate.)

I don't think i tend towards excessive paranoia, but having a camera attached to the internet with a power switch which doesn't actually power it down seems a bit sketchy to me. Even if Nest/Google the corporation has fully honorable intentions the situation still seems liable to potential abuse.

Comment Re:how many? (Score 1) 96

"seven people present in the train cab instead of train" What is that suppose to even mean?

I'm not one of those grammar knowing people, but i think that's technically correct english that's made needlessly vague by a couple omissions.

"seven people present in the train cab instead of (in the) train (cars)."

The cab being the driving compartment. The more colloquial term (at least in my neck of the woods) is usually the engine, but perhaps this train didn't have a separate engine car?

You could argue that saying they were in the engine/cab instead of the train is inaccurate, since the cab is in fact a part of the train, but the implication was clearly intended to be "in the off limits to passengers part of the train rather than the part they were supposed to be in."

I'm pretty sure that saying "In the X instead of Y" is an accepted abbreviation of "In the X instead of in the Y", but i don't think it's a very common construction, at least in the US.

Comment Re: Real smart fella (sarcasm) (Score 1) 519

"I'm talking about the poor fool who agrees to be sent on a suicide mission in the hope of a better life. He's the one who needs education."

An education would be nice, but what they really need is a decent economy.

Having a large middle class is a societal stabilizer. So is having an economy in which even most of the lower class can afford at least some luxuries. There are people in America and Europe who are just as religous and/or political as the members of ISIS, but they _generally_ don't engage in terrorist activities. There are a few loons who decide to bomb abortion clinics or government buildings or black churches or what have you, but not entire armies of them.

As much as conservatives like to complain about poor people having iPhones and such, given the choice between dying for your beliefs and spending the afternoon playing flappy bird the vast majority of people will go with flappy bird. And as banal as that makes it sound it still seems like the right choice to me. It's the people who don't have flappy bird, or jobs, or food, (or who have families or fellow countrymen in that position) who decide they have nothing to lose and are willing to go out and kill people in hopes of an afterlife that's better than their current life.

Comment Re:ABS releases cyanide when heated (Score 1) 108

Not sure that would help. How to tell if something has a Californian cancer warning sticker:
1: Is it in California?
A: Yes - It has a sticker.
B: No - It does not.

(One of my favorites was a bottle of balsamic vinegar that advertised itself as being "certified organic" on the label and had a California sticker warning that it contained lead.)

Comment Maneuverability (Score 1) 27

So it's only noticing if something is in the way when it gets within 10 meters?

30 mph = ~48 kph = ~13 mps. So it has less than a second to respond to whatever it does see. What's the turning radius for this thing when traveling at 30 mph? Or the stopping distance?

It's amusing that the thought line is "it's traveling so slow that i can do the processing to allow it to travel faster than many people would be comfortable with".

Comment Re:Misleading title (Score 1) 279

Let's unpack this.

Malthus looked at the population trend during the time that he was alive, and the amount of food humans were able to produce, and concluded that a continuously growing population would eventually meet or exceed its food supply, resulting in either general misery or starvation and catastrophe. Malthus proposed a number of possible solutions to this problem, which included birth control

The catastrophe that Malthus warned against didn't happen for two reasons. One, the population stopped increasing as quickly. This was due to a number of factors, one of which was the use of birth control, as Malthus suggested. The other reason was the Green Revolution greatly increasing how much food we could grow on arable land, which Malthus did not predict.

So Malthus looked at current trends, predicted a possible future problem, suggested means of dealing with the problem, people took steps to address the problem, and the problem was avoided. The people who solved the problem probably didn't do the things they did directly because of what Malthus said, but it's impossible to say with any surety they weren't influenced by his work at all. As such i would say that Malthus and Malthusianism were not discredited, but were merely rendered irrelevant, at least as specifically applied to population and food supply. Predicting a problem and helping bring about a situation that prevents the problem is not a failure of theory, it is a practical success.

The population crisis seems to have been dealt with. (For the moment at least.) But in a more general sense the concerns of Malthus are still relevant. _Any_ process that exhibits continual growth but depends on a finite resource will eventually lead to overuse, resulting in some kind of stagnation or collapse. It is always important to try and identify those kinds of situations well ahead of time. Not for the purpose of promoting a general feeling of doom and gloom but so that means can be found to either limit the growth (ideally in a positive way, not through draconian restrictions) or circumvent the finite resource and thus prevent, or at least delay, the problem.

And note that although it would be silly to put concerns about population growth at the top of your current list of concerns, it _is_ something that needs to be continually dealt with. We need to make sure that the situation where the general population receives good education, has access to birth control, and participates in a relatively robust economy continues to be true in those parts of the world where it is currently the case, and try to help extend those conditions to those areas of the world that do not currently benefit from that situation.

Comment Re:Logic (Score 4, Insightful) 279

As others have said it might be due simply to the policy not being 100% effective, but even aside form that math can easily provide another answer.

For simplicity let's assume a perfect 50/50 male/female ratio, that everyone gets married, and every family has six children been ages 20 and 40, thus tripling the population every generation. Let's also assume everyone lives to sometime between 60-80 before dropping dead from old age. That means the population of people from 0 to 20 will be thee times that of the population from 20 to 40. However that also means that the population from 60-80 will be one third of that from 40 to 60, which will be one third of that from 20 to 40.

So every 20 years for a given X people in the child bearing range, there will be 3X children being born, but only X/9 old people dying. If you enforced a birth rate of one child per family then for the next twenty years instead of 3X children you would have X/2 children, but that would _still_ be more than the X/9 old people dying during the same period, so the _total_ population would continue to rise for awhile. If you enforced that policy for another 60 years you then would have a steadily decreasing population instead of a steadily increasing one, but the effect does not happen instantaneously.

Obviously the math doesn't work out nearly as neatly in the real world* and the numbers we're talking about usually aren't that extreme. But that should demonstrate how such a thing is possible and this kind of thing is pretty common in delayed feedback loops.

(*Among all the more usual factors, i'm guessing the combination of WW2 and the Cultural Revolution had a significant effect on demographics. I believe such things usually disproportionately affect older people and lead to "bubbles" in the population pyramid.)

Comment Re:Wouldn't they be dead already? (Score 1) 112

Let's start the list of "potentially dangerous" bacteria with E. Coli. Since there are humans on the station E Coli is there. Usually harmless, but every so often it does kill people.

It's certainly _unlikely_ that anyone on board the station has any of the dangerous strains (though i have no idea how big a mutation it takes to jump from harmless to deadly,) but it is technically correct to say that anywhere there are humans there are "potentially dangerous" bacteria present.

Comment People are horrible at rating things (Score 1) 184

Aside from the rounding thing i suspect this is more a combination of (reasonable) bias and people sucking at rating than some active attempt at deception. ("You have attributed conditions to villainy...")

If someone goes out and sees a movie or plays a game and thinks it's awesome they're much more likely to go online and rate it highly, possibly 4 stars but more likely 5 stars (because people tend to extremes, especially when feeling emotional.) If someone sees a movie or plays a game and thinks it sucks they're much more likely to go online and lambast it, giving it 1 or 2 stars. (I believe 2 stars is the popular option for people who want to appear as if they're giving it a fair shake.)

How many people go see a movie, decide it's kinda mediocre, and feel really compelled to rush online and tell everyone about how they really don't feel much one way or the other?

Compounding this is the fact that, despite all the jokes to the contrary, the average person isn't stupid. Most of us have some kind of idea what kind of movies we like and are able to make a fairly reasonable guess as to how much we will enjoy an upcoming movie. And most of us choose not to spend money going to a theatre to see a movie we don't like.

So for new movies, the ones for which the ratings have the most financial impact and are the most closely watched, most people go to see it because they expect to enjoy it, and most of the time they're right, so they give it high ratings. And if they're _wrong_, they're probably going to be pretty pissed about it and may give correspondingly bad ratings. There are probably also a lot of people who go to a movie expecting it to be decent but not outstanding, and their expectations of decent mediocrity are met. But they're not going to bother taking the time to submit a rating like that.

I would expect that the majority of mediocre ratings would come at least a year after a movie's been out, when people have the chance to catch it on TV or online or rent it for a lark. There are lower expectations and less investment and therefore people will give something random a try and be okay giving it a median review. And if it's an online system, especially one that will make recommendations based on your ratings, the threshold of effort is low enough that the promise of some (minuscule) reward is enough to provide the motivation to leave a mediocre rating.

Comment Re:4s? Quick someone tell them about... (Score 1) 103

It's like a bunch of Pacific islanders moving to the Pacific Northwest in the summer and building open air huts. And when people point out those might not be such a wise idea come winter, the islanders argue that people live in Alaska, so it's been proven that winter weather isn't a problem. (The difference in this case of course being that the area itself is changing, rather than the people moving to a different area.)

In a less hyperbolic example, the Jr high school i went to in Washington was designed by a California architect. It had exterior walkways instead of hallways. They made enough of a concession to put roofs over most of the walkways, the ones running around the edges of the building, but that still left the sides exposed to wind, rain being carried by the wind, and runoff from the rain dripping off the roofs. And to get from one side of rectangular building to the other the easiest way was to use the entirely exposed walkways going through the courtyard in the middle. I'm sure it was a great design for the California climate. It was even great in Washington... for about the last month or two before summer vacation and the first month or two when school started up again. For the rest of the fall, winter, and early spring it was pretty damn miserable.

Comment So what's the point? (Score 5, Insightful) 397

There are already systems that will warn you if you're drifting out of your lane, and systems that will warn you/apply brakes if you're in danger of collision. And of course systems that will plot a route for you and give you step by step directions to your destination have been around for quite awhile at this point.

If the goal isn't full autonomy then it doesn't really seem like we need to do much more research and development. How boring will it be to be "driving" a car that can do 99% of the driving by itself but insists on you paying attention (at least intermittently) to do the remaining 1%, instead of kicking back and enjoying your time doing something else?

(And note that anything less than full automation will provide little benefit to the biggest commercial interest, long distance trucking. Having to pay a person to ride along and babysit the automation doesn't save anything over just making that person drive in the first place.)

Yes, we will be going to OSI, Mars, and Pluto, but not necessarily in that order. -- Jeffrey Honig