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Comment: Re:Fine. Legislate for externalities. (Score 3, Insightful) 368

by JanneM (#48024761) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

"Indeed, in Japan, only the western half of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu have enough sunny days to justify large-scale rooftop solar installations."

Which is why one of the largest solar plants opened near Sendai in northern Honshu a couple years back? What conditions are profitable depend on the technology you use, and the cost of production. And as solar cost decreases and efficiency increases more locations will be realistic.

Comment: Re:Why didn't they seek protection? (Score 4, Informative) 41

by JanneM (#48009265) Attached to: Japan's Mt. Ontake Erupts, Stranding Hundreds of Hikers

The video is deceiving; that trail is much steeper than it looks. Slowly stumbling downwards is pretty much all they could do. Also, most deaths from eruptions are either from poisonous gas or from heat. A small hut will shield you from neither. But both gas concentration and heat will disspiate by distance, so simply trying to get away from it may well be your best chance to survive.

Comment: Re:Copter data (Score 1) 91

by JanneM (#48003439) Attached to: DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

So why are people generally using quadcopters for autonomous systems? What's the disadvantage of a single-rotor copter when you're doing autonomous flight? I can imagine that perhaps it's a size issue - quadcopters are lighter or cheaper or more efficient below a certain size or when indoors? Or is it much more difficult to write a reliable control system for a single-rotor system?

Comment: Copter data (Score 5, Insightful) 91

by JanneM (#48001821) Attached to: DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

Here's some data on the hardware, from

* 65 km/h peak speed, and will cover the distance in about 15-30 minutes;
* It weighs 5kg, and can carry a payload of up to 1.2kg

With 1.2kg it can certainly carry a complement of medicines or even small, urgently needed hardware and parts (batteries or spare bits for medical equipment for instance). Not general use of cours, but it does look like more than just a stunt.

Comment: Re:The review ecosystem is good and truly broken.. (Score 2) 249

by JanneM (#47963597) Attached to: Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War

Why? Maybe I simply only review things I like. Why would that devalue my reviews?

This. One reason really low and really high reviews are much more common than they ought to be is that people only bother voicing an opinion if they feel strongly (positive or negative) about something. Another is that once they do, they'll tend to exaggerate their evaluation to really drive home how they feel.

My suspicion is that the only stable scale is a simple "really liked it/really disliked it" up/down system. Then somehow weigh that according to the proportion of customers or buyers that actually bother to review. That depends of having a decently good estimate of that proportion though. The likes of Amazon have that for their products; for restaurants it'd be hard to impossible,

Comment: Take the long view (Score 5, Insightful) 494

by JanneM (#47926185) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

Charlie Stross recently posted a very good take on this: This is a permanent change. Whatever happens during the first few years is basically irrelevant, compared to the long-term results. Did Norway separating from Sweden cause short-term economic upheaval? Does that matter at all a century later?

This is a long-term change, not a short.term one. Any voter should consider the probable situation twenty or fourty years from now, not whatever happens in a year or two.

Comment: Re:MOOC is designed like a physical classroom (Score 1) 182

by JanneM (#47896993) Attached to: The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

"Also some of the science and tech courses are very demanding but the teachers don't simplify it leading to many whooshing sounds for the student throughout the courses. Such courses could benefit from a simplified overview of the course material."

How many employers would like to hire people that can't understand the actual content and need "simplified overview" to get a grade? If you really don't grasp it to the point where you can actually apply the math for new, novel problems, then you don't actually know it, do you?

MOOCs have a serious credibility problem already. The very last thing they need is to dumb things down. If it becomes common knowledge that, say, an engineering MOOC graduate can't even handle a system of differential equations in an intelligent manner, or don't understand the implication of Green's function, then the credits will become truly worthless.

Comment: Re:If you think medical funding is bad (Score 1) 348

by JanneM (#47876003) Attached to: When Scientists Give Up

It does depend on the size of the field as well, though, as well as the funding. I can well imagine astronomy having major problems; everybody has heard of astronomy, and lots of people dream of being astronomers.

A friend of mine is working in paleogeology. As you might imagine there's not a huge amount of money in the field. On the other hand, few people have heard of it either, and there aren't that many people dreaming of working there. There's no movies starring daring paleogeogists with hat and bullwhip in hand ducking poison arrows and swinging across pits of snakes in order to determine the local sea bed temperature during the cambrian. The end result is that funding is pretty stable and dependable. People that are qualified and willing find funding. I bet there's a fair amount of other obscure fields in a similar situation.

Comment: Re:Holy shit! (Score 2) 198

by JanneM (#47870507) Attached to: UK's National Health Service Moves To NoSQL Running On an Open-Source Stack

You could write an open source application in C++ rather than the much less mainstream R language and you'd have lots of people ready skilled to maintain it.

You may be right in general. But R is not a general-purpose language. It's a programmable tool for statistical computing; you'd have to spend a lot of time to reimplement a set of high-quality statistical libraries to do the same. Doing that correctly is very non-trivial and not quick. Very similar to saying you can replace Matlab with your own C++ code.

Comment: Re:Can we rid the word of "Gelling"? (Score 4, Insightful) 127

by JanneM (#47682897) Attached to: Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

One function of special vocabulary is for specialists to easily communicate. But another, important, social function is as a badge of in-group membership. If you use the words correctly (from the point of view of the group) you show that you belong, and that you probably know and understand all the other explicit and implicit rules of the group. If the word use spreads too far it loses this function and the group needs to find new words and expressions instead.

You dislike "gelling". You dislike "paradigm shifts". It would probably be a fairly risk-free bet on what you think of expressions like "optics" (as in "the optics of this decision is good") and the like. You dislike these words and refuse to use them. Which signals to management people that you are not management and should not be treated as part of their in-group. "gelling" works exactly as intended, in other words.

Asking for words to not be used like this is futile. It would be like asking people to no longer care about fashion (another in-group signal) or to not form groups of like-minded people at all.

Comment: Re:What are they complaining about? (Score 1) 341

by JanneM (#47676017) Attached to: Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

Not many other countries intentionally bankrupt accident victims the way the US does.

I don't live in the US, and I agree. But, if you're found liable for an accident you will tend to pay a lot of money in any country; the accident victims likely have life or accident insurance and their insurance company will want to get reimbursed.

So good, comprehensive accident insurance is a very good idea no matter where you live. Usually we have that as part of our home insurance or other thing like that, and if you own a car you have mandatory insurance for that.

But in a case like this you may well be completely uncovered. The vehicle insurance is likely not valid for commercial traffic, and your home insurance may well not be valid either. As I said, I would never, ever get into a car like this without first being absolutely sure that the liability situation is crystal clear.

Debug is human, de-fix divine.