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Comment Sad in a philosophical sense (Score 4, Insightful) 108

The really sad thing here is that it is likely that all of the original Apollo astronauts will be dead before anyone else goes to any non-Earth body.

While I agree that this is sad in a philosophical sense, we should also consider that while we haven't sent people to a non-Earth body, we *have*:

1) Landed on a comet
2) Got up-close-and-personal images of Pluto
3) Also Charon
4) Discovered over 5000 exoplanets
5) Send a probe out of the solar system (*)
6) Maintained a manned space station for the last 18 years
7) Sent several robots wandering around mars and taking pictures
8) (And occasionally vaporizing the miniature martian town centers with its "heat ray")

And a bunch of other things, such as mapping the CMB, finding strong evidence for dark matter, imaged an exoplanet, gotten spectrometer readings of the atmosphere in an exoplanet, found an asteroid with rings, and many minor things.

I'm not sure what the utility of sending a human into space is at the present time. Unless there's an obvious use case, it *seems* like the extra effort of sending a human isn't worth the risk, except as a political statement.

Oh, and we're seriously considering mining asteroids. How cool is that?

(*) Depending on the definition of the boundary, and the current definition is "cloudy" at that point, so that the probe seems to be going into and out of the boundary that defines the solar system edge.

Comment Is this worth my time? (Score 0) 71

You don't notice them when returns are 12 percent, but when the market is crawling (like today) with 1-2 percent returns, you sure notice the fees that siphon off up to 1/4 of your earnings.


Yeah, it's terrible because the fees are comparatively large when the market isn't doing good.

But, it's really *great* when the returns are 12 percent, ya know?

What's the overall return? Is it really worth my time to figure out the financials?

My Fidelity account manager mentioned that my account had a growth of 7% over its lifetime.

Should I really take the time to figure this stuff out, try to beat that figure, worry about making the wrong move at the wrong time (and losing a lot), and try to compete with millisecond timing, insider trading, and PhD quants who do this as their day job? (And try to do this while reading slanted, biased, and conflicting market analyses that I see long after the insiders do.)

There's like 5 ways to get rich in this country (meaning: 5 categories, depending on how you slice the categories (*)) and stock market investing *isn't* one of them. The chance of success is very low, it falls in the same category as "win the lottery" or "discover a priceless antique at a yard sale".

Add to this the fact that accounting seems to be a mishmash of arbitrary rules with no real social value, and the whole thing seems to hold very little interest for me (viz: American tax code).

I mean, really. We're the smart people in the room - rather than try to siphon money from a rigged system, shouldn't we be discovering new science, building new devices, and having original ideas?

Is doing this worth my time?

(*) The two which are available to regular people are "start a business" and "commission sales", where the sales thing is for high-price commodities such as telecoms equipment or weapons systems.

Submission + - Free state project reaches goal of 20,000 signups. (

Okian Warrior writes: As a followup to our recent story,
at 11AM Tuesday, Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced the FSP had reached its goal of recruiting 20,000 participants.
The 20,000 mark is significant, because it ‘triggers the move’ – the mass migration of the Free State Project participants who have all agreed to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state.

Comment Behind the shield (Score 2) 35

On the right hand side of the title text, behind the thing that looks like a shield and the thing that looks like a dashpot connected to a screen door, is a link. It's there.

(On my terminal the link is actually behind those two icons. I'm sure the icons are useful for something, but I'm not exactly sure what. The icons also partially obscure the "from the whatchamacallit dept" text, and I'm not exactly sure what that's good for, either.)

Slashdot is a classy site!

Comment Vertical whitespace (Score 2) 1823

Over the years, Slashdot has changed it's style sheets to introduce lots and lots of whitespace.

The site *used* to present a lot more information in a lot less space, and the signal-to-noise ration was much higher. You could see many more articles on the front page, see many more comments on one page and so on.

Every time the style changed, people complained.

We're now at the point where the information is watered down so much that about half the front page is vertical whitespace.

Get rid of some of it! Make the front page more information dense, so we can quickly see if there is something there of interest without having to mouse around the page.

Comment Primary news source (Score 4, Interesting) 1823

I don't know if you are interested in this but...

During the 2nd war in Iraq, one of the most interesting accounts was a lone blogger in Baghdad who made nightly posts about what was going on and his views on the situation. He wasn't a journalist or anything, just a guy in an apartment watching missiles destroy buildings in his city. Sadly, he wasn't allowed to continue his reporting after the fall of the regime.

Since we're nerds, it should be possible to get interesting views from conflict areas around the globe in an anonymous manner. Perhaps partner with WikiLeaks to get anonymous interviews and points of view from these areas.

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth, but we're now living in an age where the average reader can dig down to find original sources for some of the media bias and spin.

I would love to read the (anonymous) views of a Chinese engineer, or Indian customer support person, or a Cuban hacker, or Ukranian spammer.

I would find it much more interesting than a talking-head video of some software package founder.

If you're interested in being a primary news source, having the occasional "scoop" where the MSM refers to Slashdot as the breaking story, and have the courage for a high-level of journalistic integrity, then you could do this. Let WikiLeaks handle the anonymity and authentication, you just post the interviews.

It's not for the faint of heart, but it's something you could do.

Comment Acceptable advertising and sock puppetry (Score 1) 1823

I understand the need to make revenue, but advertizing portals also serve malware and misleading scams, and use up a ton of bandwidth.

You could lead the way to a workable advertizing policy by allowing ads which are "image and link only".

Only allow advertising which is a clickable image link. Make it their job to count click-through, and don't bother with counting impressions. Or if you do, supply them with the impression count instead of letting them do it through javascript.

Only allow advertising images hosted from your own servers, make a "no flashing, blinking, annoying" policy and stick to it. Set up a directory of images and choose one at every page view.

A lot of advertisers will balk at doing this, but if you hold firm and initially seed your stash with free advertizing to a few open source projects (such as SourceForge or Mozilla or Apache), advertisers will begin to see the light and want in.

(I would totally accept ads under those conditions!)


Slashdot should be a high-class establishment. Try to vet your ads with an eye towards clarity and simplicity, with a theme that doesn't insult the intelligence of the reader.

For low class examples, do a google image search on "go daddy ad". Seeing a beautiful woman in underwear is appealing, but it makes the site look like trash.

For high class examples, look at some of the ads in Scientific American (googling doesn't work for this) or the New Yorker.

Again, you may have to dig your heels in and "lead the way" before advertisers begin to see the light.

But if you can make it work, the rest of the internet might follow suit...


About 2 weeks before the November elections things go to crap on this site. If it's a presidential election, it goes to crap about 6 weeks beforehand, and reaches insanely fevered pitch starting 2 weeks before.

It will *definitely* happen this year, due to the non-typical candidate choices.

Tamp down new accounts registered during these times, so that a hundred paid "candidate XXX" supporters and congressional aides don't waste all of our time.

Maybe if accounts formed during that time only posted at level 0 until after the election, or maybe turn off new accounts (with an informative message) for a couple of weeks, or maybe allow accounts but defer activating them until after the election.

Note that I am referring to NEW accounts, and only those NEW accounts which are registered during the runup weeks! Regular accounts and long-term readers should be unaffected.


On the subject of high class, it would be nice if you limited yourself to ONE April fool's prank on April 1st.

And if you do even that one, note that an "this is obviously absurd" article is NOT an April Fool's prank. A good prank actually fools people, and the best ones fool people for more than a minute. It should be completely believable, and preferably engage the reader emotionally. Like the Piltdown man.

Comment Good point (Score 3, Interesting) 189

Thank you.

That's a well-formed and unassailable argument, I won't be using that study as a reference in the future. If Slashdot had the "delete post" option I would use it.

Your post does not address the core argument (guns good/guns bad), but that's OK.

Let's pick this up again in the next gun control article discussion.

Comment An informed argument (Score 4, Insightful) 189

An informed argument is so refreshing. Bravo!

Firstly, you are citing news articles and not published research, and others might point out the gap in credibility between our arguments. For my part, I know that your sources reflect publish papers so it's all good.

The difference between our arguments is this: I claim that looking at *gun* deaths is misleading, because the vast majority of gun incidents resolve in favor of the gun owner and do not lead to death.

The statistic of measure should be the overall fatality rate (death from all causes), not the "death by gun" rate.

So for a counter example, note that the rate of "death by anaphalactic shock" shoots way up in areas that have lots of vaccinations.

Should we thus avoid vaccinations?

All of your sources are referring to gun deaths. We could ban guns in an attempt to reduce these specific types of death, but if it is at the expense of the overall fatality rate, it's not the prudent move.

Comment Making a better argument (Score 1) 189

Please at least make some make better argument for gun ownership

I don't know what would make a better argument than citing research published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, by, you know, a constitutional lawyer and a PhD in criminology.

But I'm not averse to learning.

What would you recommend as a better argument? How would you go about it?

Comment Guns actually protect people (Score 5, Interesting) 189

Guns don't kill, unregulated easy access to firearms does.

Um... actually...

Firstly, private gun sales are legal. Facebook is making a blanket policy which is politically charged, which could also be applied to arranging abortions, distasteful speech, consensual sex of any non-mainstream type, and a host of others that anyone can come up with after a few minutes thought.

So in effect, they are suppressing behaviour that is completely legal.

Secondly, although guns do seem to kill a lot of people, the overall statistic of importance to check is "average expected lifespan", which is much *higher* in areas where there is easy legal access to guns.

To put this another way, if you let your kids play in the yard of a gun owner, their chance of being killed by that gun go way up, but their chances of death by *all causes* go down. If you can't maintain proper nutrition or medicine for a time because you got robbed, it affects your overall lifespan. If your neighbor has guns, it has a protective effect on you because criminals tend to go elsewhere, and so on.

Thirdly, if you like to compare England to the US, consider this Harvard study which finds (journal page 656):

[...] despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s.On the other hand, the same time period in the United Kingdom saw a constant and dramatic increase in violent crime to which England’s response was evermore drastic gun control including, eventually, banning and confiscating all handguns and many types of long guns. Nevertheless, criminal violence rampantly increased so that by 2000 England surpassed the United States to become one of the developed world’s most violenceridden nations..

To conserve the resources of the inundated criminal justice system, English police no longer investigate burglary and “minor assaults.” As of 2006, if the police catch a mugger, robber, or burglar, or other “minor” criminal in the act, the policy is to release them with a warning rather than to arrest and prosecute them.

Easy access to firearms actually protects people.

Personally, I dislike being mugged, robbed, burgled, and assaulted in *minor* manners, but

...if that floats your boat please continue telling us about the perils of easy access to firearms.

Comment How do you plan to make money? (Score 1) 55

A couple of years ago edX got a bunch of investment money and was being run as a business, with hopes of making money from the course offerings, despite having no clear business plan or strategy for doing so.

(I believe originally the plan was to have companies pay to get lists of high-scoring graduates for potential employees, which didn't work out, and last I talked to [edX chief scientist] Piotr, he said you had something going with Pearson but couldn't elaborate because of NDA.)

What is your business plan and what strategy do you have for making money?

Comment Paper doesn't account for successful theories (Score 5, Insightful) 303

One problem with this analysis is that it doesn't take into account *successful* conspiracies.

Suppose there are conspiracies which succeeded completely - in that the public was defrauded, suspected nothing, and life went on as normal.

If we are using past performance to predict future trends, shouldn't those conspiracies be counted? There's no realistic way to account for or even detect them.

Take for example the 1968 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon.

During that campaign, [incumbent president] Johnson was negotiating with Vietnam to bring an end to the Vietnam war.

Nixon though that this action would ruin his chances of being elected, so he contacted the Vietnamese government and said that if they obstructed talks, they'd get a better deal when he was elected.

(An example of an American interfering with the political process, prolonging a war for 7 more years, with enforced conscription, and causing the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.)

This action was known to Nixon's campaign manager (Mitchell) and several aides. Johnson knew about it (a tape in the Johnson presidential library has Johnson denouncing Nixon for “treason”)

Neither side wanted to push the issue, so it was dropped.

This was a conspiracy, involved several dozen people (including FBI agents), and was monstrously important at the time. It took 50 years for the documents to be released describing the situation. Johnson's tape was released in 2008, and some other files are still hidden.

I don't have a lot of faith in this paper - it doesn't take into account conspiracies that actually succeed.

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