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Comment: Re:Factor of 10 (Score 4, Interesting) 77

by JoshuaZ (#49750647) Attached to: India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle
A big part of the US shuttle program was that it was a compromise that had to do everything for everyone. For example, the initial plan was going to be fully reusable, but since they didn't have the money for that, it had to have the singe-use fuel tank. It also had to do orbital profiles for the military, such as being able to launch, release a single satellite and come down after making a single polar orbit. The plan was to Vandenberg for the launch. The entire idea was a bit silly since the entire idea was to use it to launch spy satellites faster than the Soviets could shoot term down if the cold war got luke-warm (but somehow not becoming an outright hot war). It is possible that this was actually a cover for another orbital profile that hasn't yet been declassified. But the basic upshot is clear: the shuttle had to many different things for many different people, many who never even ended up using it for the desired purposes. If you make something that has to a hundred different things don't be surprised if is very expensive.

Comment: Mixed reaction (Score 5, Insightful) 318

by JoshuaZ (#49725413) Attached to: Battle To Regulate Ridesharing Moves Through States
I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, some of these regulations are clear attempts to just protect the taxi industry from new models. On the other hand, some of the regulations (like having some basic insurance to cover if things go wrong) are pretty reasonable. On the gripping hand, both Uber and Lyft are both just blatantly ignoring regulations in many jurisdictions, and whether or not one thinks the laws should be there, it is hard to think that having cheaper car services is such a compellingly necessary service that it can morally or ethically justify ignoring laws.

Comment: Real problem, bad solution (Score 4, Insightful) 301

There is a massive problem in the literature about bias in academia with ideologies of all sides pushing their agenda. This is connected to the amazing situation where nearly identical studies are getting nearly exactly the opposite results. See The idea that everyone who is male is one side of this (complicated) ideological dispute and everyone on the other side is female is incredibly stupid.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 3, Insightful) 734

by JoshuaZ (#49192443) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?
The first year or two in any given country is generally pretty difficult to figure out how US taxes work with them. Once that's done it doesn't become an issue after that. As for US consular services, one gets all the advantages one gets from having another country as backup when something is going wrong. Unrest in a country you are staying in and people need to be evacuated? The US has done that many times for its citizens in the past. It has helped other countries evacuate their citizens as well, but they generally have given priority to US citizens. Have legal trouble in another country? Having access to people from the embassy of the country with the big military helps. US citizens are in many places treated better as a result.

Comment: Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first. (Score 5, Insightful) 734

by JoshuaZ (#49192193) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?
Yes. They don't lose anything by becoming citizens (there are tax issues but they are pretty minor), and being a US citizen has a lot of advantages, like the support of US consulate services. They can then decide which passport to travel on depending on what is most convenient. And they can then donate to American political causes if they want. On the whole the benefits outweigh the costs, and if it really does become an issue they can renounce citizenship later. However, you and they should talk to a lawyer about this first to make sure there aren't any special issues that might come up in your particular case. When in doubt, always go with real legal help not random people on the internet.

Comment: Four factor analysis for fair use (Score 1) 255

by JoshuaZ (#49173661) Attached to: Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use
With the disclaimer that I'm not a lawyer, this seems like fair use. In the US there are four major prongs to evaluate fair use The first is purpose, which as Wikipedia summarizes is "The first factor is regarding whether the use in question helps fulfill the intention of copyright law to stimulate creativity for the enrichment of the general public, or whether it aims to only "supersede the objects" of the original for reasons of personal profit. " Since there's no profit here, this does well on the first prong. The second prong isn't very relevant here- it just means that because this is a fictional work, the standard is slightly stricter. The third prong looks at the amount of the original material that has been used. Since only a few names, some colors and certain aspects of costumes were used, the amount used is very small. The fourth factor is whether the material dilutes or competes commercially with the original source material. No one is going to go and not by Power Rangers material or not watch the original because of this. There's clearly no competition or loss of profit to the actual franchise. Overall, seems like a clearcut case of fair use even before we talk about the parody defense.

Comment: Re:Simple Explanation (Score 2) 237

by JoshuaZ (#48920367) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox
The problem isn't simple visits. The problem is twofold: no signs of communication and no signs of substantial change to the surrounding environment. We don't see any Dyson spheres or ringworlds or stellar lifting or any attempts at that all of which would be noticeable. If there are civilizations out there they are ignoring massive amounts of resources. Note also that in the scale of a few billion years travel and colonization isn't that big a deal: galaxies are only around 100,000 light years across so even going at 1% of the speed of light and hopping between stars should lead to galactic colonization within a a few hundred million years at the most.

Comment: This is cool but scary because of Great Filter. (Score 2) 67

by JoshuaZ (#48918901) Attached to: Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'
While this is really neat, it is yet more of the accumulating evidence that there are no substantial barriers to intelligent life arising or even arising in the early universe. This suggests that something is wiping out civilizations, possibly something the civilizations themselves all do. This problem is known as the Great Filter (Strictly speaking the Filter is whatever makes massive, interstellar, civilizations apparently rare, but it looks like most of the Filter really is at or beyond our rough tech level.) The Great Filter could be nuclear war, or epidemics, or biological warfare, or bad nanotech, or possibly something we haven't even thought of that comes completely out of left field. But the evidence for it is growing. This is scary.

Comment: Link to the study (Score 5, Interesting) 351

by JoshuaZ (#48897853) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA
The original study can be found at : Another fun bit in the study:

Another fun excerpt: "Secondly, participants were asked “Did you read any books about food and agriculture in the past year?” Participants were asked to select “Yes”, “No”, or “I don’t know”. Just over 16% of participants stated that they had read a book related to food and agriculture in the past year. About 81% answered “No”, and 3% answered “I don’t know”. Those who answered “Yes” were asked: “What is the title of the most recent book you read about food and agriculture?” The vast majority of responses were of the form “I don’t remember” or “cannot recall”. Fast Food Nation, Food Inc., and Omnivore’s Dilemma were each mentioned about three times. The Farmer’s Almanac and Skinny Bitch were mentioned twice. One respondent mentioned the bible."

This appears to follow the general pattern that people will lie to interviewers to seem more smart, educated, or intellectual than they are. They don't mention in the study a correlation between those who said yes to reading a book and then couldn't "remember" it when pressed and those who wanted to ban food containing DNA, but I'd be willing put money on their being a correlation.

Comment: Re:Yes. (Score 4, Insightful) 673

by JoshuaZ (#48883595) Attached to: Should Disney Require Its Employees To Be Vaccinated?
A drug test isn't an assumption of guilt in a court of law. The entire guilty until proven innocent is for criminal and civil trials, not for employment. Mandatory drug tests are pragmatically stupid for many reasons in many industries (they are much less likely to catch the hard drugs like cocaine which go out of the system fast than marijuana which lingers, they cost a lot of money), but in the case of Disney where the employees are working on and maintaining rides with many passengers and where people could easily be killed if something goes wrong, drug tests aren't as unreasonable. In general, the real silliness of drug tests is when they are used by things like fast food restaurants or worse when they are used as a condition of welfare (where the evidence is that they cost far far more than they save the state).

Comment: Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (Score 1) 227

by JoshuaZ (#48871177) Attached to: An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI
Because why just use soil when there's also all that other easily available material also? Note that even if the AI does use soil, using up all the world's soil would still be pretty unpleasant for humans. The central problem is that the AI has no reason to stop at any amount of resources so why not use everything available?

Comment: Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (Score 2) 227

by JoshuaZ (#48826549) Attached to: An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI
We are actively trying to make fully sentient AI. Moreover, we have good reason to think it can be done: there's an example of a sentient thing already: humans. And the real issue isn't that it wants to kill us, but that it can use the matter we're made up of to do something else with. It doesn't hate you: you just happen to be useful atoms.

Comment: Re:Really? On Slashdot? (Score 3, Informative) 1350

by JoshuaZ (#48754483) Attached to: Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ
Issues involving free speech and threats to free speech is both a nerd issue and "news that matters." It also is a tech issue because improvements in communication have allowed people to get worked up all over the globe over things that are happening farther away that they wouldn't know about at all otherwise.

Entropy isn't what it used to be.