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Comment It might be worth it --- eventually (Score 2) 151

The problem with any space based mining/resources operation is that competition from just launching from Terra Firma doesn't go away. Let's say that SpaceX can get a fully reusable BFR flying regularly, putting 100 metric tons to leo on every launch at a vastly lower cost. Would it still worth the huge capital expenditure to develop space based resource mining/extraction to reduce the amount of mass that needs to go up form Earth? Maybe eventually -- the rocket equation is cruel, but we are no where near the limits of what we can do with technology on a $$$/kilo delivered to Mars.

Comment Whut up, Yo? (Score 1) 7

Whut up, yo? Mostly moved to Twitter... You have an account... why don't I see you there much?

Comment Re:He is not a whistleblower (Score 2) 536

Thank's for quoting the 4th Amendment! If you read it carefully, it says person's house, papers and effects are only subject to "unreasonable" searches when a warrant has been requested and authorized. Going back about 45 years to the Katz decision, the courts have said a search is unreasonable when it violates a person's "reasonable expectation of privacy". Anything outside of that that "reasonable" expectation of privacy is fair game for the government without a court approved warrant. Anything within, that "reasonable expectation expectation of privacy" requires a warrant.

Subsequently, the courts have been trying to determine what stuff falls inside or outside that "reasonable expectation of privacy" and the most recent jurisprudence says that when you give your data to a third party, and you aren't paying them to store it for you, you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to that data and thus is subject to government subpoena without a warrant.

Now don't take my for all this - read what the eff has to say:

Comment Re:He is not a whistleblower (Score 0) 536

The problem with this position is that the 4th amendment is not, and never has been an absolute right to privacy whenever and wherever I want it to be. There are limitations. Thus we have a huge history of jurisprudence surrounding the whole notion that the 4th only applies when you have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". And when you provide information to a third party to store for your convenience, not pay them for anything for the service (thus you can't really be called a "tenant"), and you allow that third party to read your information so that they can sell better targeted advertisements, you no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The sad reality of our online world is that the vast majority of our communications now involve 3rd party intermediaries who provide their services for free and when you use those services, your 4th amendment rights don't apply.

Don't like it? Host your own mail server in your house. Encrypt your communications. Use peer to peer encrypted services that don't involve 3rd parties. Avoid communicating with those that use 3rd party services.

Too much trouble for you? Then lobby for some tougher privacy laws or an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing a more absolute right to privacy when you store your information with a 3rd party.


Submission + - The iPhone As Camera... Where To Now? (

BWJones writes: "Many non-photographers and even photographers, particularly the working professional photographers are accustomed to looking down their nose at cell phones as cameras, but if you look at the market, all of the innovation in photography has been happening with smart phones in the last couple of years. Sure, camera sensors have gotten better and less noisy, but convergent technologies are primarily happening in the smart phone market, not the camera market. On top of that, statistics show that the most common cameras are now cell phone cameras, the iPhone in particular. Flickr reports that as of this posting, the Apple iPhone 4s is the most popular camera in the Flickr Community. If you add in the iPhone 4 and then the large upswing in the newly available iPhone 5 and the now waning iPhone 3GS, you have in the iPhone platform a huge lead in the number of cameras people are using to post to Flickr."

Comment Re:Not vision (Score 1) 52

[sigh].... do not feed the troll.... do not feed the troll...

OK, I'll feed the troll. Yes, I am acutely aware of Paul Bach-y-Rita's work. You however apparently do not understand the concepts that you are invoking. There is plasticity in neural systems, yes. Plasticity is important in vision, sure. Nobody, *anywhere* has demonstrated that they can generate coherent "visual percepts" in a coordinated fashion with any kind of stimulus. Its far more complicated than hooking up electrodes and stimulating until someone "learns" what the stimulus means.

btw, the tongue thing is very, very cool. Its not vision and does not even map to vision, but those lingual electrodes can easily map topographic data, sonar data, relief data, contrast data onto the high resolution innervation of the tongue and allow people to interpret those stimulii as a map to be followed. The technology was originally developed for US Navy SEALS to navigate complex 3D environments at night, with no light and it works. It works incredibly well with very little training necessary. I would like to see more effort and funds put into techniques like that to help people live more independent lives.

Comment Re:Not vision (Score 1) 52

I am familiar with Nirenberg's work. What Nirenberg seems to be missing is that the programming outflow of the retina is altered in retinal disease. ON and OFF channels are substantially altered in retinal disease and the whole programming substrate is altered because the circuitry and programming down to the molecular levels is altered.

Its not all pessimism though as we will need to understand how the normal retina signals and I find her work to be interesting and compelling. Though she is not addressing *which channels* of information outflow are being encoded. There are 14-16 separate outflow channels in the retina that project to different areas of cortex and sub cortex and she is not addressing how to separate those channels and what those separate channels mean in terms of the "visual world".

Comment Re:Not vision (Score 1) 52

This is just my point. While I understand that science and engineering has to start somewhere, they have made promises to this woman and done surgery to her, potentially increasing risks for other problems where I would argue there is no hope of "seeing" anything coherent.

Yes, we can do remarkable things with even an 8x8 pixel array, but this approach has no promise of even delivering that to this woman. The electrode cuff on the optic nerve simply stimulates too many neurons that are not coherent and those neurons project to far too many areas of cortex. A retinal implant that appropriately targets cell populations would be more appropriate as would genetic engineering of targeted opsins to other cell classes.

As for implants directly in the cortex, I might argue that this has a better chance of stimulating phosphenes that could be interpreted as vision. I've participated in some of that early work and while I believe there are other approaches that will be more effective, that work still has some promise (particularly for motor interfaces).

Comment Re:Not vision (Score 1) 52

We'll see... I would have liked to have seen some traditional methods of evaluation in animal models using psychophysics before moving directly to humans. Were I a betting man, I don't think the engineering is up to the biological task right now. A couple decades work already suggests that we don't yet understand how the information is coded to get into the brain.

Comment Re:Not vision (Score 2) 52

Yeah, its easy for people to get enthused about rescuing vision loss. Its an important thing and keeps us working at all hours of the day as hard as we can to understand how the visual system works and how to fix it when it goes wrong. We've published before on this issue and I am sure they are aware of the work. My only concern is when promises are made to patients and expectations are built up that these devices will cure blindness when the biology has not been worked out and the engineering is predicated upon that imprecise understanding of the biology.

"Summit meetings tend to be like panda matings. The expectations are always high, and the results usually disappointing." -- Robert Orben