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Comment: Getting better access to information (Score 3, Interesting) 90

by ODBOL (#45562061) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: DIY Computational Neuroscience?

(2) Is it easy for a non-academic to get the required data?

I am not familiar with this particular academic community, but generally it is not easy for an academic to get data. The most useful resource is probably the co-operation of those who have gathered the data, and in order to get that you have to find out who they are. The inclination to be helpful varies immensely across disciplines and people within disciplines, but all you lose by trying to make contact is possible embarassment. Step 2 in the list below will give you a tag to use when introducing yourself, which may make you feel less awkward and therefore may improve co-operation.

I suggest 3 steps, in increasing cost, that are likely to help:

  1. 1. Get a community membership in the nearest university library. This should be cheap enough to be a no-brainer. It doesn't matter too much which university, because a lot of materials will be online through their Web catalogue, and there will be interlibrary loan. I'm not sure whether small 4-year colleges and community colleges have similar arrangements, but it's worth checking if one of those is much more convenient than a research university.
  2. 2. Join a professional society, and/or the special interest group of a professional society, interested in your topic. Costs vary wildly, order of magnitude $100 to $1,000 per year. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) probably have interest groups, and there are almost surely such groups within some cognitive science societies, but I am not familiar with those.
  3. 3. Attend a conference sponsored by a group from step 2. This is likely to cost $1,000s when you add up travel, hotel, registration. If you have the time, and get lucky on location, you can save a bunch on travel. Saving by staying far from the conference hotel is usually a mistake. The value of the conference is less in attending talks than in meeting people, and having breakfast in the same hotel with everybody else can make a big difference. The success of unsolicited introductions will vary immensely across the people you try to meet, but you lose nothing but embarassment by trying. The main thing you can do to improve success is to avoid the Charybdis & Scylla of diffident awkwardness and bluff. Let on that you're an outsider, but don't downgrade whatever insight/ability/motivation you have. You'll probably have the greatest success meeting people who are networked in, but are not famous stars. That includes grad students and postdocs. It may be nice and polite to hang out with other outsiders, but probably not productive for your mutual goals.

Comment: Automated programming succeeds, redefines itself (Score 2) 168

by ODBOL (#45435539) Attached to: Stephen Wolfram Developing New Programming Language

Attempts have been made in the past to automate programming, it's never worked very well

On the contrary, automated programming has worked repeatedly, each time redefining "programming":

  1. Machine language automated the programming of patch boards.
  2. Assembly language automated programming in machine language, particularly the assignment of addresses.
  3. FORTRAN automated assembly language programming, particularly the programming of formulae into sequences of operations.

Each time someone automated "programming," the word stopped referring to the automated part, and referred to the remaining part of algorithmic problem solving. After FORTRAN, the pieces of automation were less clearly ordered, and less likely to be referred to as "automated programming," but re-entrant procedures, recursive procedures, virtual memory, garbage collection, class instantiation, tail recursion removal, ... all automated activities that were formerly part of "programming." In all cases, whatever specification remained to be done by hand became the new "programming."

Comment: Automatic programming works, and redefines itself (Score 2) 168

by ODBOL (#45434593) Attached to: Stephen Wolfram Developing New Programming Language

Attempts have been made in the past to automate programming, it's never worked very well

On the contrary. The first attempt to automate programming produced assembly language, which automated the assignment of addresses to variables and instructions. The second one produced FORTRAN, which automated the "programming" of formulae into sequences of individual operations. Every time we successfully automate some programming activity, the nature of programming changes.

Mike O'Donnell

Comment: Tall screens, essentially square (Score 4, Interesting) 591

by ODBOL (#43348323) Attached to: If I could change what's "typical" about typical laptops ...
I agree. I want the highest possible screen. Wide screens appear to be catering to movies, games, and the dishonesty of diagonal measurements (a wide screen gets a greater diagonal measurement than a square screen with the same number of pixels). Documents are best viewed with vertical space.

Comment: Different meanings of signal "below" 20 KHz (Score 1) 749

by ODBOL (#43250265) Attached to: Can You Really Hear the Difference Between Lossless, Lossy Audio?

a 44.1kHz sampling rate can perfectly encode any signal that is =22.05kHz, and nobody can hear over 20kHz.

People keep saying this, but it involves two different meanings of a signal with content below 20 kHz. The Nyquist theorem says (correctly) that, for an infinite number of perfectly accurate samples at S Hz, there is only one signal agreeing with those samples and containing Fourier components all below S/2 Hz. Fourier components are infinitely long sine waves, with no variation in frequency or amplitude. People hear components that are modulated sine waves with carrier frequency below (for most of us, far below) 20kHz. "Modulated" means that the amplitude and/or frequency (usually both) vary. Fourier components of a signal with arbitrarily high frequency affect the modulation of audible components with arbitrarily low frequency. Whether the effect on that modulation is audible is a very subtle thing, quite difficult to measure, and not completely known at present.

Comment: Reproductions @ different rates not identica (Score 1) 749

by ODBOL (#43250099) Attached to: Can You Really Hear the Difference Between Lossless, Lossy Audio?

Not if you can mathematically prove that the two sound reproductions are identical

The best possible signal reproductions at different sample rates are not identical, so of course you can't prove such a falsehood mathematically. The argument is that they are indistinguishable in human perception. That's a very difficult thing to study, with many variables that are hard to control.

Comment: Fourier components & audible components differ (Score 1) 749

by ODBOL (#43250037) Attached to: Can You Really Hear the Difference Between Lossless, Lossy Audio?

A modulated (varying frequency or amplitude) signal with an audible carrier frequency has Fourier components of unboundedly high frequency. These components can, and sometimes do, have an audible effect on the modulation. The value of >44.1 KHz sampling is debatable, but it's not dismissable mathematically.

Put another way, the "components" below 22.05 KHz that are preserved by 44.1 KHz sampling are the infinitely long unmodulated sine waves of Fourier analysis. The "components" that we hear are modulated sine waves. Cutting off the Fourier components above 22.05 KHz changes the modulation of the audible components below 22.05 KHz. Whether that change is perceptible depends on deep study of human perception, not on the mathematics of sampling.

Comment: It's an evolved programming language with variatio (Score 1) 149

by ODBOL (#43028341) Attached to: Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA

The problem is that the genetic code alone isn't a programming language.

The genetic code is indeed a programming language. It was designed by evolution, while the artificial programming languages for digital computers were at worst (Ada?) designed by government-appointed committee. The user's manual hasn't been written yet, and of course the notion that we know how to program a prehensile tail is a joke. We know how to program sequences of amino acids. We know that there are conditional mechanisms, but they are more numerous and trickier than if ... then ... else. We can learn a lot, but not by a long shot everything, by investigating the control mechanisms in nucleic acid expression, using insights that were stimulated by computer programming languages.

deceived a generation of computer scientists into thinking biology is easy to understand and hack

Sigh. Can we stop extrapolating useful ideas in silly ways in order to ridicule them, and put more effort into squeezing out insight in many different ways? I have met a few thousand computer scientists, and not one of them expressed such an opinion, or anything near to it. It was certainly not the spirit in which I understood Sussman. Come to think of it, I don't know anyone who thinks that computer programming languages are easy to understand and hack, so the notion doesn't even start with computer languages much less carry over to an attitude about biology.

Comment: Sussman: Emacs mode to edit genome (Score 4, Interesting) 149

by ODBOL (#43027407) Attached to: Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA

In the late 1980s or 1990ish, I attended a meeting sponsored by the National Science Foundation, to promote interaction between biologists and computer scientists. Much of the discussion focussed on designing algorithms and producing programs to answer questions posed by biologists. That part of the discussion was dominated by laments: biologists describe problems, computer scientists create programs to solve them, biologists find that the solution isn't really what they wanted.

Gerald Sussman (MIT, creator of Scheme) was at the meeting. At one point he got excited, and captured the podium. Alas, there is no transcipt, but here's my paraphrase of his inspiring speech:

Writing programs to serve biologists is cool as far as it goes, but our collaboration should cut much deeper. The genetic code is a programming language, and we should help biologists figure out the structure of the programs written in the alphabet of the bases. What I really want is the Emacs mode to edit the genome, so I can give myself a prehensile tail.

I have a great memory. I remember good stuff, and some of it happened. Please don't blame Mr. Sussman for any idiocies in my paraphrase. Maybe I projected the prehensile tail from my own repressed desires. But, I do think Mr. Sussman deserves great credit for observing the deep conceptual connections between CS and genetics at a time when very few of us thought beyond the idea of writing computer programs to help solve genetic problems.

Comment: Re:I don't see where the judge forbade discovery (Score 1) 189

by ODBOL (#42981333) Attached to: Troll Complaint Dismissed; Subscriber Not Necessarily Infringer

But they already know the IP address, and since they named someone that means they must have already contacted the ISP and found the subscriber.

That's an interesting assumption, but the decision explicitly says that Plaintiff provided no information (no allegations) regarding the connection between Defendant and the given IP number. Plaintiff did not state whether the number is assigned to Defendant by some ISP, according to the judge Plaintiff merely mentioned the number. The segment that you quoted was part of the judge's explanation of further information required to justify proceeding in the suit, but was not part of a dismissal. He asked Plaintiff to reveal Plaintiff's information about Defendant's relation to the IP number cited. According to the article, Plaintiff withdrew the suit without ever providing that explanation.

E.g., instead of this being a case, as you "suspect," of "geeks want to be able to downlad everything they can for free," it might just as well be a case of Plaintiff having made a clerical error, accusing the wrong Defendant, and withdrawing the suit when that error became apparent. Since Plaintiff did not reveal the connection that he alleged between the IP number and Defendant, we don't know what it was, much less whether it was correct. The judge merely required Plaintiff to reveal that information.

Comment: not forbidding the only means for doing so. (Score 2) 189

by ODBOL (#42974781) Attached to: Troll Complaint Dismissed; Subscriber Not Necessarily Infringer

The only way that a Plaintiff could obtain the evidence needed is with a subpoena. The judge dismissed the case before allowing any subpoenas to occur.

That's not what the decision says. The judge did not dismiss the 2 copyright infringment claims. He did not require evidence. He required before proceeding that Plaintiff reveal information, which Plaintiff claimed to possess already, linking Defendant to the IP number. Plaintiff dropped the suit without revealing that information. Subpoenas are by no means neccesary for all forms of investigation. There was no indication of a request for a subpoena of ISP registration information. The judge noted that Plaintiff had not even stated that the IP number in question was registered in any way to Defendant. Accepting the judge's statement (I did not check it against the actual complaint), Plaintiff merely mentioned the IP number, alleged that it was involved in an alleged copyright violation, accused Defendant of that copyright violation, but did not even mention any alleged connection between Defendant and the IP number, much less any other detail regarding Defendant's actual behavior. The judge did not require evidence, merely plausible statement of the evidence that Plaintiff expected to produce.

Comment: Judge only required plausible allegation (Score 1) 189

by ODBOL (#42974259) Attached to: Troll Complaint Dismissed; Subscriber Not Necessarily Infringer

This ruling says that they must tie it to an individual, but they are not allowed to do any investigation that would help them in doing that.

I have hunted the 7-page decision in vain for the spot where the judge forbade Plaintiff "to do any investigation that would help ... ." The judge merely required Plaintiff to mention some alleged facts that, if proved, would associate Plaintiff with the alleged copyright infringment. According to the decision, Plaintiff merely mentioned an IP number, and did not even claim that it was associated with a service subscribed to by Defendant. Plaintiff was at liberty to do all sorts of other investigation, or merely to share with the judge the details of earlier investigation. Until then, the Plaintiff would be unable to demand that Defendant or other parties (such as ISP) do the investigation for Plaintiff under the rules of discovery.

Comment: That's not what "no discovery" means (Score 1) 189

by ODBOL (#42974081) Attached to: Troll Complaint Dismissed; Subscriber Not Necessarily Infringer

The problem is that the judge forbids discovery. Apparently no one on Slashdot knows what that means. It means that they are forbidden from obtaining any more evidence or doing any more research.

Well, I do know what "discovery" means (Wikipedia entry). The judge indicated that Plaintiff had not explained allegations well enough to justify certain types of discovery. By no means did he say "that they are forbidden from obtaining any more evidence or doing any more research." "Discovery" means requiring others, including the opposition, to deliver information that may support the case. Plaintiff had, and was apparently already using, other means of obtaining evidence and doing research. As I understand the decision, Plaintiff must explain a plausible case well enough to justify placing that burden upon others, and the judge ruled that Plaintiff had not done so.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.