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Comment: eReaders are functionally bad (Score 1) 254

Having the ability to touch any word on the screen and have definitions, translations, and wikipedia entries pop up as you read (which is great for many of the older books) is a fantastic benefit over and beyond the simple fact that so many of the world's classics are available free of charge wherever you have internet access is a bonus that can't be overlooked. Honestly, in terms of studying books such as Gibbon's Fall of the Roman Empire, I find myself eternally grateful for such capabilities.

I agree wholeheartedly that the eBook experience *could* be much better than physical books, but it isn't.

As an experiment, I recently picked up a reader and tried it (Sony eReader). Here's what I found:

  1. .) The contrast is lousy, it's reading with a piece of slightly frosted glass between you and the text
  2. .) The reflected glare is awful. You can't read wearing a white shirt, for example.
  3. .) Every time the system powers up it has to run through the database making a hash of each file it finds. This can take upwards of an hour, depending on the number and complexity of items, and during which the system cannot be used.
  4. .) It always shows PDFs at "fill the screen" resolution, which means that the margins of the original page are always visible, which means that most of the display area is wasted. I can "zoom" individual pages, but to go to the next page I have to get out of zoom and then reapply the zoom to the next page.
  5. .) Using the "small-medium-large" setting scales the font, but not the formatting. Characters and words become larger, but the "breaks" at the original margins are still there, meaning that the lines break at odd places and waste much of the display area.
  6. .) Finding a specific place in a book is time consuming and inefficient. The first 30 physical pages of a book are usually things I want to skip (contents, publisher, title page, foreward, &c) and going forward to find the transition from meta to actual content is tedious. You can't just say "go to the start of text". In a real book you flib forward/back at high speed until the character of the pages change.
  7. .) Finding a referenced diagram, equation, or image is nigh impossible. Flipping forward (or back) 3 pages to see a chart of graph is easy in a physical book - you just put your finger in that place and you can go back-and-forth whenever you need.
  8. .) Reading scientific papers where the charts/diagrams are at the end of the document is highly inconvenient.
  9. .) Finding a specific place *mentioned* in a book is nigh impossible. If the contents say "Chapter 5 is on page 120", then you have to go to *physical* page 120 and then flip forward or back until you find what you're looking for. If the contents say "figure 120" and you're looking at "figure 4", it's too time consuming to find it. (I'm currently reading a book in PDF format that does this.)
  10. All in all, I haven't used my eReader much.

    It might be OK for narrative stories, light paperback reading that you can do in a dentist's office, and if it's a modern eBook written with proper formatting, but for anything remotely sophisticated it's insufficient.

Comment: Dazzlers (Score 4, Interesting) 318

Blinding weapons are banned? Not so.

From that article:

[...] a soldier he interviewed after an incident in Iraq a few years ago. While on duty, the soldier fumbled a dazzler he was trying to point at an oncoming vehicle a safe distance away. “He was in an awkward position and illuminated a rearview mirror in such a way that he got a beam directly back into the eye.” The beam had gone less than 6 metres when it hit the soldier in the centre of vision of his right eye, burning the retina and leaving his vision in that eye permanently damaged.

Yeah, right. Blinding lasers are banned from military use, except that the military uses them and (from the article) are being made available to police departments.

I'm missing something here - is it OK if it blinds soldiers so long as the *intent* is not to blind soldiers? Is the ban only for *combat* soldiers and not policing soldiers? Is it only banned in *declared wars*, and not *non-war military invasions*?

Can anyone explain why we use dazzlers when they appear to be on the banned list?

Comment: Re:Fritz Haber (Score 1) 224

by Okian Warrior (#49113945) Attached to: 100 Years of Chemical Weapons

I think we can all agree: scientists have killed more people than any other group in history.

I dunno about that - Genghis Khan supposedly killed 40 million, which was 11 percent of the total population of the time.

Hitler killed 5 million Jews, the Hutus killed a million other Rwandans. I'm not sure how many scientists were on their side(s), but none of the responsible parties (people who made the decisions, gave the orders, or actually carried out the actions) stand out as being scientists.

I don't know that scientists kill all that many people - as individuals they're pretty weak.

As a group, they're more "enablers" than killers.

Comment: Re:Fritz Haber (Score 1) 224

by Okian Warrior (#49113861) Attached to: 100 Years of Chemical Weapons

Fritz Haber was an interesting guy.

His actions - turning chemistry to the task of killing soldiers - was considered abhorrent by many people and caused much political and philosophical debate at the time.

His position was that (I'm paraphrasing) his country and its way of life were in jeopardy, and any action taken to prevent that was justified. He saw no difference between shooting an enemy soldier dead and killing them dead with chemicals.

And although he used Chlorine, the other side (French Chemist Victor Grignard) was working on Phosgene gas at the time. We look to Haber as the first use of chemical weapons, but Grignard was only a little behind and the French produced and used only a little less phosgene gas than Germany did during the war.

Modern weapons design (guns and such) supposedly favor wounding the enemy soldier instead of killing them - the theory being that the enemy has to spend more resources dealing with wounded than they do dealing with dead bodies (fellow soldiers have to help the wounded to the hospital, supplies and support of hospitals, &c.)

I suspect Haber would have seen no difference between wounding an enemy using phosgene gas and wounding them using a gun. Phosgene, when mixed with tear gas, wounds the enemy but is largely non-fatal.

I'm not sure I see the difference either.

Can anyone explain why wounding someone with a gun is more palatable than burning them with phosgene gas (or napalm or phosphorus)?

Comment: Re:Arguments against (Score 1) 444

Seriously, who is 'Freeman Dyson'? I've never heard of him.

Think back, remember that Star Trek episode where they flew the ship inside a sphere the size of a planetary orbit? Remember what they called it? It was a Dyson Sphere.

That Dyson. The one they named the sphere after.

He's still alive.

I'm framing this in terms you'll understand, since your parents haven't yet shown you how to use Google.

Comment: Arguments against (Score 1) 444

by Okian Warrior (#49103535) Attached to: How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests

Oh, and in case someone poo-pooh's my claim of arguments against, it's Freeman Dyson making some reasoned points(*) against the predictions of climate science.

Again, I make no judgement on the movement, but it's hard to refute Freeman Dyson as an acceptable authority.

(*) Point one is that everything is predicated on models which are shot through with fudge factors. Real models shouldn't have fudge factors, or should be able to show that the factors are derived from first principles.

(*) Point two is that topsoil is an enormous carbon reserve that has largely been overlooked. He calculated how much extra topsoil is needed to offset the carbon in the atmosphere (spread out, it's on the order of 1/100 of an inch) and opined that changing agriculture might be able to offset the CO2.

Comment: And... the evidence? (Score 3, Insightful) 444

by Okian Warrior (#49103375) Attached to: How One Climate-Change Skeptic Has Profited From Corporate Interests

At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

And his evidence? What about the evidence? What does him accepting money have to do with his results?

Did he fake his evidence, or fudge the calculations?

Science is all about the observations and the predictive conclusions. It shouldn't matter if he was funded by the devil himself - if science can't refute his observations and conclusions, then it's the science that must be revisited.

Let's focus on what's important, and leave the person out of the equation.

(Lots of doctors take money from drug companies - so much so that there's a government database that allows you to look up your doctor online.)

(And for the record, I'm not for or against the "school of thought" that is climate change. It's simply something I haven't looked into. I have seen some seemingly credible arguments against (due to selection bias in the news), but I leave it to the experts to decide.)

Comment: Here's a study (Score 1) 133

It's a well-established fact at this point.

The study cited includes data from the UK, which is seeing a massive increase in crime over the last two decades. From that study:


This should, at the very least, satisfy everyone's demand for a study, which includes England and the UK.

Also, US states with relatively easy access to guns *do* see a lower crime rate. Compare New Hampshire and Texas with, for example, Illinois and Louisiana.

Comment: Overstamp twice. (Score 3, Interesting) 133

If you do it stupidly, like put a "1" through an "A", it would be fairly obvious and narrow the search down.

Punching 1 through an A leaves the firearm with two possible choices in that digit. Do this for 9 digits, and you get 2^9 = 512 possibilities. Punch twice through each digit and you get 3^9 possibilities.

In fact, punch *all* the digits in each position, then file it down.

This will rapidly be entered into the "big book of best practices" for criminals.

And it's also a moot point, since easy access to guns reduces crime, and it's likely that 3-d printed guns will be easily available in the next decade or so.

(And so what if the 3-d printed gun is reliable for only the first couple or shots? That only means that you use your 3-d printed gun that took 2 hours to print and $3 to build a couple of times and then melt it down.)

Comment: Re:WHY to start a business (Score 4, Interesting) 91

by Okian Warrior (#49077027) Attached to: Advice on How to Start an IT Business (Video)

To become financially independent.

Several people have looked into how people become wealthy, and they divide the methods into 5 broad categories.

The categories(*) change depending on how you slice them, but generally the two which are accessible to everyone are: 1) Commission sales, and 2) Starting a business.

Commission sales is for things like IBM mainframes, telecom equipment or movie scripts, where a single sale can net you 6-digit commissions. A number of people have become independent doing this.

If you can run a successful business you get to build up equity using tax breaks and the productivity of your employees. It's not unusual for someone to start a business and sell it 10 years later for several million dollars. (BTW: The most common business that makes one a millionaire (as of the several years ago, may have changed) is dry cleaning.)

Being financially independent requires roughly $1 million in assets. If you put that in a long-term equity fund, account 1% for management fees and maybe 2.5% for inflation, then you can retire and pull out $50,000 a year for the rest of your life.

Different people have different needs (family, kids, lifestyle), and different levels of economic risk (I'll need $2 million, just to be safe), but that's the basic formula: Figure out how much you need for a comfortable lifestyle, figure out how much you need in the bank to supply that lifestyle, start a business and build up equity until you get that much, then retire.

More info: 80% of first businesses fail, but only 40% of *second* businesses fail, and the percentage goes down fast after that. Having business experience is apparently a strong predictor of future success.

(*) Other categories are: Inheriting it (3/4 of the buillionaires), marrying it, *other* (really rare things like winning the lottery or finding an unknown Botticelli in the attic), and so on.

Comment: Ten times stronger? (Score 5, Interesting) 106

by Okian Warrior (#49071645) Attached to: Nanotech Makes Steel 10x Stronger

I've been rummaging around their website, and can only find references to corrosion resistance. That a specially-plated metal is more corrosion resistant I can easily believe.

But 10x stronger? That seems a bit... hard to believe.

Does plating a piece of steel really multiply the yield strength by 10x? Any materials scientists want to comment on this?

Also, how does a 1cm coating fare during changes in temperature? Will the coating peel off due to thermal expansion/contraction of the underlying metal?

I couldn't find any supporting scientific studies.

Is this for real?

Comment: Predictive value (Score 1) 93

by Okian Warrior (#49068713) Attached to: Inside the Mind of a Schizophrenic Through Virtual Reality

Right now this idea is outside of what we can observe, the easier path is to state that it is an anomaly in the brain. In science the easiest solution that fits the model, is the one taken to be the one to use.

You can ask whether the information has predictive value.

The brain is an elaborate goal-setting mechanism coupled to a prediction engine. If the schizophrenic can use his extra information in some way that allows them to predict future actions or consequences, then we can say that the extra information is likely to be real.

We do this all the time; for example, predicting that we will get run over if we step off the curb, based on information from our visible inputs about cars in the street.

It's very easy to "get inside someone else's mind". If we step off the curb and someone says "watch out", we're effectively making use of their neural inputs as an adjunct to our own. Simply painting a picture in someone's mind through stories or college lectures is a form of mind sharing.

Set up an experiment using schizophrenics as "sensor" - telling us what the voices are saying and/or what the people are doing - and see if that information has any predictive value. For example, ESP tests with information (card reading) hidden from the test subject.

If the information is completely disjoint from our own universe and has no predictive value, it's indistinguishable from made-up fantasies.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.