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Comment: Chemicall, it's not helium at all (Score 1) 127

by JoeBuck (#35052760) Attached to: Atomic Disguise Makes Helium Look Like Hydrogen
Helium behaves as it does (as an inert gas) because its outer shell is filled. The Pauli exclusion principle means that you can't force another electron into the same place, so an He+ ion would have its extra electron in a higher energy level and very loosely attached. But the Pauli exclusion principle doesn't apply if you have one electron and one muon; the muon's average position is much closer to the nucleus (since the muon is about 200 times heavier), shielding the positive charge of the nucleus. So to any other atom the "helium atom" looks as if it were a very heavy hydrogen atom, as if it had one proton and three neutrons in its nucleus.

Also, the muon's half-life is less than 2 microseconds, so any experiments have to be done very, very quickly.

Comment: Did they factor in legacy admissions? (Score 4, Insightful) 391

by JoeBuck (#34609910) Attached to: Is Going To an Elite College Worth the Cost?
Many of the most elite schools have a "legacy admissions" policy (that's how the C-student George W. Bush managed to get into Yale). It gives the children of alumni priority admission, because they want their richer alumni to keep contributing money, and denying little Biff or Muffy their admission would be bad business. It's affirmative action for the rich.

Comment: Re:Yeah nothing works anymore (Score 1, Interesting) 622

by JoeBuck (#33326706) Attached to: Throwing Out Software That Works
If it were only Flash it wouldn't be that big a deal. But Jobs wants a monopoly and wants to prevent any development platform that would let you write once, and wind up with an app that runs on an iPhone, a Droid, any other Android phone, and a Blackberry by providing an abstraction layer. The fanboys will complain that such an abstraction might result in an app that is somehow 10% worse than a "native" app. Big deal; if both kinds of apps existed you could choose the kind you prefer, but it shouldn't be up to Jobs.

Comment: if this is a form of spam ... (Score 3, Insightful) 483

by JoeBuck (#33145908) Attached to: Market Data Firm Spots the Tracks of Bizarre Robot Trading
... that is, if people are doing this kind of thing to gum up the works for their competition, one answer is to assess a very small fee per trade, less than a penny. This would be completely negligible to a normal investor, but could be quite expensive to those trying to saturate the system for the benefit of their trading algorithm. Market-makers like Goldman Sachs would also wind up paying significant amounts, but given their privileged position which basically gives them a license to print money it's only fair. The fees collected could go into an insurance fund to help cover the next financial meltdown, and if it slows down trading a bit, that may well be a good thing. Complex nonlinear systems have a tendency to go unstable, and damping is one way of decreasing this possibility.

Comment: Re:he's right, but.... (Score 1) 322

by JoeBuck (#33131096) Attached to: No, Net Neutrality Doesn't Violate the 5th Amendment
There's a fringe of zealots who think (falsely) that any government action that imposes any restriction on anyone is a "taking", which would make zoning laws invalid. Sorry, that's fantasy law, not real law. It's true that if regulations go so far as to make the property completely useless to the owner, this might amount to a regulatory taking. But this is a very high bar. Since net neutrality would impose rules on ISPs that are very similar to the laws already imposed on telephone companies, these kinds of arguments aren't going to go very far.

Comment: Authors could still be paid ... (Score 2, Insightful) 169

by JoeBuck (#33118450) Attached to: Sun Founders' Push For Open Source Education
If a school district decides to commission a textbook as a work made for hire, and pays the authors handsomely, and then makes the work free, it can be a win-win. The authors get a guaranteed amount, but they won't collect royalties going forward. The schools don't go broke buying expensive textbooks, and poorer districts can benefit. Textbook writers can be booked again when revisions are made. Of course, it will be possible to identify people that make less money. That's life.

Comment: That doesn't matter (Score 3, Insightful) 437

by JoeBuck (#33059510) Attached to: What To Do About CC License Violations?
Boing Boing releases their stuff using a license that would prevent others from picking it all up on a different web site and selling ads. This doesn't give them the right to use others' work in a way that conflicts with the license (other than fair use, which might allow for a thumbnail link). I think that this license violation on their part was inadvertent, the author of the web page thought he was filing his personal "I'm on vacation" announcement and forgot about the ads. In the case of BoingBoing I would politely ask them to take it down, and to respect that "noncommercial" means "don't attach ads to this". The copyright holder can still decide to grant permission if asked politely.

Comment: Stay away from for-profit degree mills (Score 5, Insightful) 428

by JoeBuck (#33040444) Attached to: Your Online Education Experience?
You know, the kind that advertise. It's a racket; they'll take your money, or financial aid money from the government, and give you a "degree". They don't want to let you skip "learning" what you already know because they want your cash. You need a legitimate institution, a community college or a state university.

"The geeks shall inherit the earth." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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