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Comment: Two global problems solved in my lifetime! (Score 5, Funny) 564

by Okian Warrior (#48149053) Attached to: Lockheed Claims Breakthrough On Fusion Energy Project

With this and the new ebola infections coming out, it looks like we're on the verge of solving both the energy crisis and overpopulation

I never thought I'd see so much progress in my lifetime. We live in the future!(*)

(*) ...of a Stephen King novel, apparently.

Comment: Unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions? (Score 2) 478

by Okian Warrior (#48114025) Attached to: The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola

Frieden and other officials say such a move would be counterproductive, citing lessons learned from the SARS outbreak a decade ago. "The SARS outbreak cost the world more than $40 billion, but it wasn't to control the outbreak," says Frieden. "Those were costs from unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions and trade changes that could have been avoided."

Unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions? Have these guys been to an airport recently?

The government doesn't give squat about unnecessary and ineffective policies. It will be decades before we can get back to reasonable airport security. A waste and burden on all Americans, helping to keep the economy down (viz. international tourism) with no end in sight.

If the government believes that people will feel safer with more restrictions, then that's what will happen. Hell, even if that weren't the case the government will still do it because they can say that it's to keep people safer.

This will just be another excuse for draconian policies. Trading more freedoms for more safety, because "safety at any cost" lets them reform the nation.

Comment: Quick explanation (Score 5, Informative) 99

A Majorana particle is it's own antiparticle; such as, for example, a photon.

Most fermions have different antiparticles from themselves: Protons are notably different from anti-protons, electrons are different from positrons, and so on. The one exception is the neutrino, for which the question is not yet settled.

If the neutrino is its own antiparticle, we should see double-beta-decay events. A beta decay emits a neutrino, so if two happen simultaneously the neutrinos should annihilate if they are their own antiparticle. (Wikipedia link)

As yet no experiment has seen double-beta-decay, so it's likely that the neutrino has a distinct anti-neutrino - an intriguing prospect.

The article referenced in the post does not identify the fermion involved, so one can only assume that it's a "quasi particle", which is a type of vibration. Essentially a phonon (sound wave) with fermion-like properties.

Comment: Guns are not the problem (Score 1) 651

by Okian Warrior (#48038793) Attached to: The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

Would you be in favor of gun control if it made your children less safe?

The studies and statistics about guns have been so completely obfuscated by special interests that it's nigh impossible for an average citizen - even smart ones like Slashdot readers - to answer the simple question: "is free access to guns good or bad?".

Looking into this in depth is really hard, but when you go back to basics there's a glimmer of truth.

Firstly, the thing to measure is mortality rate. Not all gun incidents lead to death, and if you have no money for medicine (or food) because you were robbed at gunpoint, it affects your chance of death.

Secondly, socialized medicine has such an enormous impact on mortality that you can't simply compare American mortality with, for example, the UK. You could compare UK mortality with, say, Swiss, or you could compare areas within the US which allow/disallow free access to guns. New Hampshire versus Michigan, for example.

When you do the proper comparison, you find that easy access to guns lowers the mortality rate.

This is counter intuitive simply due to the badly-cited statistics. Yes, if you let your kids play in the front yard of a gun owner their chance of death by accidental shooting goes up; however, their chance of death by all causes drops precipitously. You can believe the chosen statistic and it's unspoken implication, or you can dig into the real issues.

I'll leave you with this recent paper which attempts to sort out the issues in an academically rigorous manner. Here's a quote from that paper:

On the one hand, despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s. On the other hand, the same time period in the United Kingdom saw a constant and dramatic increase in violent crime to which England’s response was evermore drastic gun control including, eventually, banning and confiscating all handguns and many types of long guns.

[...] To conserve the resources of the inundated criminal justice system, English police no longer investigate burglary and “minor assaults. As of 2006, if the police catch a mugger, robber, or burglar, or other “minor” criminal in the act, the policy is to release them with a warning rather than to arrest and prosecute them.

I'm happy to discuss the advisability of gun control with anyone, so long as they don't cite a misleading statistic out of context, or focus on the wrong issues.

I like to form my opinions based on science. If you know of convincing counter studies, I'd like to read them.

Comment: Thanks for the threat (Score 1) 115

nice gesture, but the reason this is inadequate may be summed up with the monkey-water-spray experiment.

Did I mention that it's anonymous? No lists, no donations, no polls, no canvassing. Just resolve to vote against all incumbents when you're in the voting booth.

Thanks for the threat, but I think everyone here realizes that voting in the US is safe.

Join the boot party: anonymous and safe!

Comment: Churn the pot (Score 1) 115

ask yourself: which candidate will sell us out and cave to the surveillance state?

answer: both. the fix is in.

happy voting! now move along.

I don't live in California, but I'm voting against anyone currently in office.

Keep churning the pot. Eventually, they'll become pro-public just to stay in office.

Comment: Should we vote out the incumbents? (Score 5, Interesting) 126

Overwhelming response telling our leaders exactly what we wanted through our only feedback system. And it is blatently IGNORED in favor of paid interests. It's not a surprise, considering that the FCC leader is ex-cable, and they are appointees directly from big business. However it obviously shows just how badly this country is broken. I'm not an alarmist, but it this simply isn't going to change with the current US government system. They have no REASON to change it.

Would you consider voting out the incumbents?

It's the only voting strategy that can make a difference, the only one that matters.

When congressmen realize that they can be voted out after a single term, we'll have pro-public policies.

And the best part is it's completely anonymous! No registration, no donations, no E-mail lists, no paper trail. Just resolve that "if this doesn't go in favor of the people, I'm voting against the incumbents".

Join the boot party - give 'em the boot!

(P.S. - Pass this along)

Comment: Isn't that enough? (Score 1) 288

by Okian Warrior (#47895475) Attached to: California Declares Carpooling Via Ride-Share Services Illegal

I know everyone is all over Uber and and the other one because the cars are "nicer" and the service "better" than cabs. But [...]

Um... isn't that enough?

Firstly, you're wrong about the liability.

Secondly, you are confusing the possibility of injury with its probability.

If the probability of injury is small and the cost of injury is also appreciably small, the expected cost of using Lyft or Uber may be much less than the expected cost of using a cab.

For an example, if a ride-share is $6 less than a cab fare, and if there is an average of 1 injury every 100,000 rides, then if the average injury costs less than $600,000 then it's a better deal for everyone to use the ride share.

Using this reference, cabs crash about once every 300,000 miles.

Also note, the number of crashes in regular driving has decreased dramatically over the last few years, probably due to increased safety measures in vehicles and modern roadway improvements (Denver Barriers around bridge supports, for example).

And in any event, most people have health insurance. At the very least, a significant portion of riders would have health insurance - enough to reduce the risk by a further factor of four or more.

SHELL GAME is where you can't win. CASINO GAME is where the odds are against you. Uber and Lyft seem to be decidedly in the passenger's favor.

Cue the irrational fearmongering reply: "unless you are the one injured, then how would you feel!".

Comment: Have we lost judicial oversight? (Score 3, Interesting) 288

by Okian Warrior (#47895361) Attached to: California Declares Carpooling Via Ride-Share Services Illegal

Apropos of nothing, when did we allow unelected regulators complete authority over the law?

It seems that every regulator now has the authority to declare something illegal, judge that an infraction has occurred, assess fines, and force collection.

If someone is in violation of a regulation, shouldn't the regulator present their evidence before a judge? Don't we want an unbiased 3rd party to chime in on whether the law is clear, whether the evidence merits a violation, and whether there are extenuating circumstances?

The policy of default judgement by fiat, with a "go to court to reverse it if you think you've been wronged" is a recipe for injustice and corruption.

When did we lose judicial oversight of our regulations? Did it happen slowly, or was it a sudden change?

Comment: Science at its best (Score 1) 291

by Okian Warrior (#47881311) Attached to: Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.

Once again, science is reduced to debate and belief. Medicine is rife with these sorts of "schools of thought"(*), it's almost as bad as economics. This is not the "more refined theory supplants approximate theory" that one finds in, for example, physics. It's "yeah, this looks good and makes sense, so we're 'gonna go with it" science.

This is what allows vested interests to decry science in favor of their own agenda. Who is the average person supposed to trust when scientists keep making and overturning bad conclusions, in the face of authority figures pushing their own agenda?

All I see here, in this forum, is appeal to the difficulty of experimentation. If the original single experiment is so hard or expensive to reproduce, should we be basing our conclusions on the single experiment?

Scientists need to kick it up a notch.

(*) As a typical example (dozens more are easy to find), Helicobacter pylori was identified as the source of gastric ulcers, yet the medical community didn't believe the results for many years. The amount of suffering and loss that occurred while this "school of thought" was slowly overturned is incalculable.

Comment: Re:No Leaders anywhere today... (Score 1) 348

by Okian Warrior (#47873905) Attached to: When Scientists Give Up

So the question isn't really one of giving up... the question is one of choice and priority. If you have no vision and no real sense of purpose beyond enriching yourself when you occupy a position of influence, then the rot will spread and not just Scientists but many others will wither away as well.

I'm starting a new movement "The Boot Party": everyone promises to vote *against* the incumbent regardless of political party.

Government not acting in the interests of the people? Give 'em the boot!

Won't you join me?

Comment: The obvious solution (Score 4, Insightful) 348

by Okian Warrior (#47873695) Attached to: When Scientists Give Up

The obvious solution is to return to traditional methods: establish an independent income, then take up scientific research as a hobby.

Historically, our most notable scientists were working at day jobs or otherwise independently wealthy, and did amazing research on their own as a hobby. Some devoted entire wings of their house towards scientific research, amassing a collection of equipment (or specimens) over decades.

Henry Cavendish, of the Cavendish experiment, is one such example. The experiment was so delicate that air currents would affect the measurements, so Cavendish set up the experiment in a shed on his property and measured the results from a distance, using a telescope.

There used to be a term "Gentleman Scientist" for this, but it might more accurately be called "self-funded research".

Consider Paul Stamets as a modern example. With only an honorary doctorate, he is co-author on many papers and has proposed several medications, including treatments for cancer.

I could also nominate Robert Murray Smith to the position. His YouTube Videos are as good as many published Chemistry papers.

The benefits are obvious: You get to work on whatever you think is interesting (or fruitful), you can set your own pace, and you can draw your own line between supporting your dreams and your lifestyle: If you have a family emergency, you can pause your research and spend more money on personal welfare. It also forces you to come up with more efficient (read: less expensive) ways to work.

There's a wealth of useful equipment on eBay and other places, big expensive equipment is not out of the reach of the dedicated researcher. Ben Krasnow has three (I think) electron microscopes. I personally own a UV/VIS spectrophotometer. a microgram scale, and a Weston cell.

The idea that "research can only be done at the behest of government" or "is only associated with university" is a modern fiction. Government would *like* you to believe that everything depends on their whim and largesse, but it's not the only, nor even the best way.

Build a lab and start tinkering, or join a hackerspace. Lots of people do it. Lots of good science is done this way.

Comment: It's the interaction, stupid! (Score 4, Insightful) 81

by Okian Warrior (#47678217) Attached to: Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

People sign up and never finish because the courses are downright awful. And there's no mind nor incentive for them to get better. Instructors think that just recording a lecture and putting it online is good education, but it isn't.

Watch Daphne Koller droning on about graphical models as the video shows her standing at a lectern talking, or showing a powerpoint-style frame while she reads the text on the frame to us.

Watch Anant Agarwal go through a *hugely* dense and boring derivation, only to stop before the end and say "but this derivation is too hard, there's an easier way". Twice. For the same result.

Try to figure out how many degrees of freedom a soccer ball has, then argue with Sebastian Thrun because the answer he thought you should have entered is not the mathematically correct one. (Also, see if you can figure out what this has to do with AI.)

For a breath of fresh air, watch Donald Sadoway take you through a delightful and satisfying explanation of chemistry. (Ignore the 1st lecture which is about class scheduling.) It's wonderful.

I could cite two dozen *major* problems with selected online courses - things that go counter to the fundamental goal of learning that would be obvious to someone familiar with human learning mechanisms or a testing group or even a member of Toastmasters. When I point these out to the chief scientist at edX, he responds with "we can't change the way we do things because of X".

Let me repeat that: the *chief scientist* at edX has no control over teaching techniques or video methods or course quality.

Some people (ie - Dr. Sadoway in the link above) have figured out how to do it right, but the vast majority aren't interested in quality. It's unfortunate that edX got all those millions in seed money, because we'll have to wait until they burn through it before they get hungry enough to worry about quality and effectiveness.

It's insane.

Comment: And another suggestion (Score 1) 123

Third suggestion:

Fungi can be used to remove heavy metal contaminants in flowing water. Place a bunch of fungi mycelium in sandbags in the water stream and the fungi will filter out the contaminants as the water flows through. Come back later, remove the bags and replace with a fresh batch.

Contact Paul Stamets' group over at Fingi Perfecti and see what their experts have to say. They might even have a product you could buy for the purpose.

Here's a paper and some contact info to get you started:

Comment: Here's Two suggestions (Score 3, Informative) 123

First suggestion:

There's been a lot of interest in using Zeolites to absorb heavy metal contamination in water. One specific experiment involved dragging a bag of zeolites through ocean water, the zeolites absorbed enough Thorium to be industrially useful as an ore (if there were a demand for Thorium, which there isn't).

I've found papers that indicate that Zeolites will absorb copper and lead, two of the contaminants listed for the Mount Polley disaster; chances are likely that zeolites would absorb the other contaminants as well.

Here's two papers to get you started:

Second suggestion:

There's been some success in removing non-volatile organic pollutants from soil using steam injection. Essentially, sink a pipe into the soil, inject steam, cover the area with a tarp, and collect the steam/water as it percolates up through the soil. This method can be used to extract non-volatile organic components including tetra-ethyl-lead. (I found that last bit surprising, but this was directly confirmed to me by one of the scientists involved.)

Depending on the chemical nature of the contaminants (ie - solubility, polar/non-polar character &c) this might prove useful in decontaminating some of the mud slurry.

Here's a paper to get you started:

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken