Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: The important bits (Score 4, Insightful) 81

by Okian Warrior (#49362635) Attached to: Citizen Scientists Develop Eye Drops That Provide Night Vision

Some nutter uses a syringe (!) to inject your eyeballs with fish guts in his garage.

Firstly, it's a glorified eye-dropper not a syringe.

Secondly, it's an important biomedical advancement made by citizen scientists. (The important part of that sentence is "by citizen scientists".)

Thirdly, there's an organization which is a nexus for citizen science.

The important bit of this announcement, and the one that makes it interesting to me, is that people are making biomedical experiments on their own, bypassing regulatory agencies and big industry alike.

This is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to see in a stagnant market dominated by large monolithic entities. It's usually a small upstart company that's more agile than the big conglomerate, but it works the same in research as it does everywhere else.

For a games-theory argument, consider that the regulatory agencies are free to require any safety requirements at no cost to themselves, but if something goes wrong they are held responsible. As a result we have a system where it costs 2.5 billion dollars to bring a drug to market, so that it's economically infeasable to implement existing cures for rare diseases. It's also impossible for individuals to manage their own risk with informed consent.

For a games-theory argument, consider that health insurance companies see care and maintenance as a cost to be minimized and rates as profit to be maximized. As a result, insurance companies are unwilling to pay for newly minted procedures and therapies because "it's experimental".

(As a concrete example, it tool a loooong time for the insurance companies to consider MRI scans non-experimental.)

So it's not really *surprising* that people are taking things into their own hands and doing their own research, but it's an important development.

Oh, and cue up the kneejerk response from established players about risk, gold-standard regulatory bureaucratic fandom, and how no one without a PhD can possibly do real research.

Comment: Tht elephant in the room (Score 1) 82

The elephant in the room, of course, is security.

With NSA "upgrade factories" - where spyware is installed by the NSA before delivery - China and everyone else is looking for alternatives to American products.

(And note that the spyware can be implanted in the BIOS, and even the hard drive firmware, and will persist even if the system is wiped, or the BIOS is replaced.)

The scope of economic damage this has done is astonishing. I've never believed in trickle-down economics, but once China starts making servers my guess is our IT industry will tank from the top down.

Expect an economic crisis in, oh... about 5 years.

(The solution would appear to be a complete open-source ecosystem including BIOS and hard drive firmware. Just as I can verify my linux installation, there should be verifiable BIOS and hard drive firmware, so that any country can purchase any computer, and be confident of its security.)

Comment: Re:And on Slashdot? (Score 1) 261

by Okian Warrior (#49357111) Attached to: How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

A cost-based scheme might be to bill every house $100/month for connection to the grid, and then substantially drop the price we pay (and are paid) for solar, but that hits the poor too heavily. Also, I think we can make a case that we *want* more solar than is optimal in an strictly economic sense.

That is an informed position, I have no problem with it.

You said that you're arguing with my approach, but I was only pointing out how their approach used psychological trickery to circumvent rational analysis. I realize that there are tradeoffs, and I come to this site specifically to see the tradeoffs and all sides of the story.

It isn't about the tradeoffs, it's about the trickery.

(And for the record, paying an access fee to store energy on the grid seems logical and reasonable. I 'kinda agree with it. Keep an eye out for trickery, though.)

Comment: Re:And on Slashdot? (Score 1) 261

by Okian Warrior (#49355399) Attached to: How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

(2) that anyone disseminating untrue information is an agent of the enemy

"What Muggles have learned is that there is a power in the truth, in all the pieces of the truth which interact with each other, which you can only find by discovering as many truths as possible. To do that you can't defend false beliefs in any way, not even by saying the false belief is useful." (source)

(3) there is no obligation to treat enemy or enemy agents ethically which puts you in the company of a lot of less-than-august characters.

You're extending my position from fairness to ethics and then applying it to people, implying that since I said it was OK to be unfair to a corporation, it's also OK to be unethical to people. And then an ad-hominem attack by putting me in the company of unsavory people.

One definition of ethics is to take actions which minimize the suffering of others. Rooftop solar would likely reduce total suffering much more than bolstering the profits of the energy conglomerate, so I don't see a problem with the ethics.

And why is the argument suddenly about me? Doesn't that deflect discussion away from the original point?

(1) there can be no true information against your base premise

You certainly haven't presented any true information. In fact, you haven't presented any information at all.

Really. Speak to the specific issue (rooftop solar), or the outer issue of (astroturfing) and let's have a discussion.

Comment: And on Slashdot? (Score 2) 261

by Okian Warrior (#49354877) Attached to: How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

I've often wondered how much astroturfing goes on at Slashdot.

Certain news stories come up, and people make the most twisted arguments imaginable to deflect, downplay, or show shades of grey. Sometimes it's from long-term users with varied post histories - are these well-crafted astroturfers, carefully building up a false history to deflect suspicion?

My last remembered example was the one about home solar installations: The panels give unused power to the grid during the day, and the users take power from the grid at night.

The home-solar owner is using the grid as offline storage and not paying for it... and that's not fair.

This is straight from Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion(*). "I'd like to get solar panels for my house, but oh! if I'm being unfair, then the answer's obvious! I can't be unfair now... can I?"

It's a well-crafted argument that halts rational thought by activating an automatic response on the part of the reader... by presenting a point of view that's not particularly obvious, and not something that is actually important to the issue.

(Consider: Do you really care about being unfair to the huge corporate energy conglomerate? And do you think that they would be fair to you in return? And looking forward 50 years, is the world populated by distributed home solar installations *better* than the world relying on monolithic energy production? And if so, won't "being unfair" now help to bring that about?)

This is only one example, I've noticed many sketchy arguments presented here - the Uber controversy seems to be particularly inflated.

We know that big corporate interests will astroturf politicians and regulators by faking letters of support &c (viz: the outpouring of support of the Comcast/TimeWarner merger).

We're a nexus (probably the biggest one) of smart people on the internet. Are there teams of astroturfers trying to shape public opinion?

Has anyone else noticed any particularly suspicious arguments?

(*) Chapter 3, "Commitment and Consistency"

Comment: Thanks for the info (Score 1) 247

You can do something similar with aluminum refining, which uses high power electrolysis. If we look around, I'm sure that other processes can be reorganized to make use of varying supply of electricity.

Thanks for the info. I'll add this and "water desalinization" (from a post further down) to my mental list of solutions.

I had *thought* that aluminum refining required the melting of bauxite, which would make it inherently difficult to start and stop, but another poster points out that Alcoa tailors their production in this manner. I'm guessing that a "charge" of ore can be processed in a short amount of time, and that a refinery has a large number of small furnaces which can be individually shut down as needed.

Comment: Run on sentences (Score 0) 109

by Okian Warrior (#49304591) Attached to: The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun

Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion.

Sure, it's easy to today to look at slashdot and know that it's all (mostly) clickbait, generating revenue for Dice by tricking viewers into visiting websites who think that they can make money by spraying advertizing onto eyeballs in a vain attempt to...

Damn! I never realized how hard it is to make convoluted run-on sentences. So much for my attempt at sarcastic humor.

I have newly-found respect for the Slashdot editors.

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 4, Interesting) 247

So the plan is to install enough batteries to power the world all night long, and then for a week or two when the weather is bad?

Or is it to put solar all over the Earth and have a massive world wide power grid to move power to where it is needed?

I suppose either is technically possible, I just don't think either is likely to happen.

How about we build nitrogen fixation factories near the baseload generation, keep the baseload on all the time, and make fertilizer during the times when the energy is otherwise not needed? Nitrogen fixation can be quickly started up and shut down without damage to the system, and requires an enormous amount of worldwide energy.

How about we build a smart grid, which incorporates electric vehicles on home charging systems? Charge the car during the day, then give back some of the stored energy at night when the car's in the garage.

How about we take recycled batteries from aging electric vehicles - batteries that can hold 80% of their original charge, but which are no longer good enough for electric vehicle operation - and stack them in warehouses to store and release energy as needed? Do batteries lose capacity at an exponential rate? If so, those 80% batteries should last a long time.

How about we mount the solar panels with a gap above the rooftops, so that the panels keep sunlight off of the roof, reducing [somewhat] the *need* for energy to be spent on air conditioning?

How about we look for solutions rather than assume that everything will be exactly like it is now, except with problems that cannot be solved?

Comment: Re:Ridiculous (Score 5, Insightful) 112

by Okian Warrior (#49288523) Attached to: How To Make Moonshots

You learn no more from failure than you learn from success. There are many ways to fail and few ways to succeed, thus it is better to learn what to do than what not to do.

This is a rational argument applied to the real world, and it doesn't hold true. Rational arguments are almost *never* true when applied to the real world, unless they start from a fundamental model and build up. (And in that case you can make testable predictions.)

Eighty percent of first businesses fail, but only 20% of *second* businesses fail, and it's not because people don't try to do it right the first time.

Both Thomas Edison and [head of IBM] Thomas J. Watson have extensive experience in this, and both have written positions on the subject. When someone approached Watson and asked "how can I increase my success rate", he responded "double your failure rate". When someone asked Edison how he could continue researching the electric light bulb after failing 5,000 times, he replied "I haven't failed 5,000 times, I know 5,000 ways that won't work" (source).

The rational argument fails when it's applied to the risk/reward formulation. Each time you fail you lose 1x the value of the experiment, but each time you succeed you regain 50x the value of the experiment in profit.

The mantra in the IT world is "fail fast, fail often", which reflects the risk-reward equation very well. It takes almost nothing to set up a website showing your idea to the world, and almost nothing to shutter it 6 months later.

But once in awhile, that idea becomes popular and profitable and you can recoup your investment many times over. That's why people should fail; or rather, not be afraid of failure.

Not because of any rationalization, but because it's historically the route to success.

Comment: Google glass choices (Score 2) 112

by Okian Warrior (#49288403) Attached to: How To Make Moonshots

Google glass failed, but I suspect that they allowed it to fail due to lack of persistent development.

The way most people work is that they try something, it doesn't work, and they give up. I've heard lots of things like "I can't learn to whistle, I've tried" and "I tried that, but it didn't work". Mostly it's amateurs building stuff and giving up on the first try: "I put the circuit together and it didn't work", or "I tried to build a spice rack for Marge, but it turned out awful".

If you really want to make something, you have to be prepared to throw the first one out and start over. If the circuit doesn't work, find out *why* it didn't work and fix it. If your spice rack is awful, spend some time on YouTube looking at proper technique, then spend some time using the router (or table saw, or whatnot) with pieces of scrap until you get the hang of it. Then start the project over.

Google glass could have been popular if they noted the feedback and piloted the project into more popular waters. For example:

1) A flip-down cover for the camera, so you can interact with people and they know you aren't recording them
2) A less restrictive interface, so that developers can show anything instead of storyboard images like a viewmaster. IOW, a direct graphical interface.
3) a less expensive device (costs $150 to make, $1500 to buy). (Note: Cell phones have largely the same functionality and don't cost $1500)

Rather than fix the problems, they decided to just let it die. Maybe they did market analysis and thought that it would never sell in any form, but I really doubt they went that far.

Comment: Re:Makes sense (Score 5, Insightful) 239

The government doesn't want you to make money, especially if you do so in a new and innovative way. THAT, my friend, is the problem.

That is not really what is going on. This is a simple case of regulatory capture.

It's not really that simple, and the grandparent's position is not without merit.

You'll note that *amateurs* are not allowed to operate drones commercially, and *commoners* are not allowed to start a business operating drones (for remote crop/herd inspection, search and rescue, real estate videos), but big players such as Amazon and FedEx will be granted commercial licenses to do so.

It's the same with any business in the US: the big, entrenched businesses are given all the exceptions, all the subsidies, and all the tax breaks in the name of "jobs", while making it impossible for new companies to form and hire grow. As a concrete example, it is impossible to start a company (however small) to compete against GE because GE pays no taxes.

It's a stupid policy that's indirectly driving the economy of the country into the ground. Big, entrenched companies don't hire more people when given money, *small* businesses hire people when they grow to become big ones. Propping up a big, weak company at the expense of stifling smaller companies is the source of much stagnation in this country.

We have an opportunity to make great progress in an emerging technology, and by holding the US back all the advances will be made in other economic climates.

Look for the US to become a third-world nation in the next decade or so.

Comment: Awesome post! (Score 1) 262

by Okian Warrior (#49251409) Attached to: US Wind Power Is Expected To Double In the Next 5 Years

Thank you for the awesome post.

So many times people simply say "no it isn't" in response to some article or position, it's refreshing to see someone who can put forth some qualifiers and make a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Bravo!

(And I'll award triple-word score for making a linear prediction within a logarithmic scale. That's not something most people can do.)

After any salary raise, you will have less money at the end of the month than you did before.