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Comment: Like Niven's "At the Core" (Score 1) 77

by CRCulver (#47965501) Attached to: Astrophysicists Identify the Habitable Regions of the Entire Universe

Astrobiologists have long known that these events are capable of causing mass extinctions by stripping a planet of its ozone layer and exposing the surface to lethal levels of radiation. The likelihood of being hit depends on the density of stars, which is why the center of galaxies are thought to be inhospitable to life.

Like many here, I'm sure, I first considered the possibility that the galactic core was inhospitable to life when I read Larry Niven's 1968 short story "At the Core" (collected with his other "Beowulf Shaeffer" stories in Crashlander ). In his science-fiction tale, Niven had an astronaut visiting the core and witnessing the wash of radiation from so many supernovas placed so close together.

Niven's story, however, ended with the astronaut coming back and warning that this massive wave of radiation would be moving towards Earth at the speed of light. If that were true, and even the edges of galaxies were not safe in the end, then every galaxy would be ultimately hostile to life, not just in their cores. Is this the case, or did Niven get it wrong?

Comment: Re:can we have ONE non-dumbed down GUI please? (Score 1) 183

by CRCulver (#47953191) Attached to: KDE's UI To Bend Toward Simplicity

XFCE hasn't been ultralight in a few years now. It is no longer recommended for netbooks and other underpowered systems. I think it might be a decent replacement for GNOME for many disgruntled users.

Personally, I'd recommend at least considering replacing most of your Linux desktop needs with Emacs and the command line. As the years have gone by, I've done less and less of my work outside of Emacs, a terminal and a browser. Even supposedly UI-heavy things like simple image manipulation are done faster from the command line with an imagemagick one-liner than waiting for Gimp to launch, reaching for the mouse, and clicking through dialogues. Sure, that way of working isn't for everyone, but the sort of people who read Slashdot might want to give it a try.

Comment: Re:confused (Score 2) 348

by CRCulver (#47945401) Attached to: U2 and Apple Collaborate On 'Non-Piratable, Interactive Format For Music'

The only way I can see something like that working is a robust audio watermark containing the purchasers iTunes information.

Apple also sells music in its lossless format, and there it's hard to get "robust" without annoying the listener. If the watermark is in the metadata, one can simply convert the file to WAV to strip the watermark out and re-encode. If it is in the audio itself, it can lead to complaints: when Universal began offering lossless tracks, it encoded a watermark in the audio that manifested as an annoying buzzing noise, and eventually after much complaint it thankfully stopped doing that.

Comment: Re:Expert. (Score 2, Informative) 348

by CRCulver (#47945341) Attached to: U2 and Apple Collaborate On 'Non-Piratable, Interactive Format For Music'

Um, no, he's much, much less an expert than Dre is. As a respected producer at least Dre has some validity as a good ear, and he can evaluate the results of different parametric curves on tone signature

Dr Dre the "producer" is essentially just an older peer that new acts can ask for advice and a respected name to put advertising. Usually in cases like this where an over-the-hill artist "produces" a younger one, it is in fact the much less celebrated engineer who is doing all the fine-tuning of the sound. The "producer" can only say "I like that" or "I don't like that" to what the engineer presents.

Comment: What is really happening here? (Score 1) 952

by Bruce Perens (#47930483) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children
We are in a War on Faith, because Faith justifies anything and ISIS takes it to extremes. But in the end they are just a bigger version of Christian-dominated school boards that mess with the teaching of Evolution, or Mormon sponsors of anti-gay-marriage measures, or my Hebrew school teacher, an adult who slapped me as a 12-year-old for some unremembered offense against his faith.

Comment: Re:Anti-math and anti-science ... (Score 1) 952

by Bruce Perens (#47930331) Attached to: ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

Hm. The covenant of Noah is about two paragraphs before this part (King James Version) which is used for various justifications of slavery and discrimination against all sorts of people because they are said to bear the Curse of Ham. If folks wanted to use the Bible to justify anything ISIS says is justified by God's words in the Koran, they could easily do so.

18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Comment: Interesting what he chose not to answer (Score 0, Troll) 106

by CRCulver (#47928375) Attached to: Interviews: David Saltzberg Answers Your Questions About The Big Bang Theory

It's interesting that he chose not to answer (or Slashdot chose not to forward) the several highly moderated questions on whether the show truly makes geek culture mainstream ("laughing with the characters"), or if it just holds geeks up for ridicule to millions of ordinary Americans ("laughing at them"). From Saltzberg's answers, it's at least clear that he has no geek background and simply caught on a good business idea.

Comment: Everything old is new again (Score 1) 488

by CRCulver (#47867431) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars
Trolleybus networks were rolled out in a great many Eastern European cities decades ago, with liquid-fuel-consuming buses often serving a minority of routes (typically ones going beyond whatever the city limits were when the trolleybus lines were build). It's amusing to think that we are going back to this, though now battery technology should be advanced enough that cities no longer have to deploy unsightly wires down all the thoroughfares.

Comment: Re:In Theory (Score 2) 385

by CRCulver (#47864061) Attached to: Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

Anyone who is proficient in programming shouldn't have a problem picking up a book (or website) and learning a new langauge, API, etc. in a weekend or two.

This claim gets thrown around on Slashdot a lot, but it's simply not true. In a weekend one might learn enough of a language to bootstrap oneself to learning more through reading real-world code, and you might even be able to fix a bug in an open source program that has been annoying you, but you can forget about working professionally with that language right off.

Just look at the standard references for various languages to see authors admit this. Python is a nice, clear language, right? "executable pseudocode". And yet in O'Reilly's Learning Python Mark Lutz, who has many years of experience teaching skilled programmers, say that it will take readers months to get a complete view of just the core language, let alone the standard library and important third-party libraries.

Comment: Re:Finlandization is moral debasement (Score 1) 138

- the Tsar Ivan the Terrible executed during his reign of half a century less people than were executed during the St. Bartholomew's Day(!) massacre. Still he is called the Terrible, but not Catherine de' Medici or the King Charles IX.

"Ivan the Terrible" is a translation of the Russian epithet Ivan grozny, which has less a connotation of "cruel" or "bloody" and more one of "awesome" or "formidable". It's like how English subjects referred to James I as their "dread sovereign", such labels for royalty were common regardless of his use of violence or not.

Comment: Re:Nice timing (Score 1) 138

The Ruskies aren't going to be invading Finland again. Not after the embarrassment of the last time.

"The last time" was a straightforward Russian victory: the end of the Continuation War. If you meant the time before last, the Winter War, educated Finns would be the first to tell you that their country's resilence is half myth, and the country would not be able to hold out should Russia come again.

Why is that? For one, Stalin's army had suffered severe purges of qualified generals in the 1930s, and the Russian military forces striking Finland were undermined by the political commisars assigned to them. Had the purges not happened, that mythical Finnish intestinal fortitude alone would not have been enough to hold out. Then, one must consider that in the 70-odd years since the Winter War, Russia has developed massive air power, while Finland's arsenal anti-aircraft measures has always been very weak -- even optimistic Finnish strategists believe that the country would capitulate after only a few days of massive bombardment. Plus, Russia considers tactical nuclear weapons an option (Finland is not a NATO member, so no escalation to strategic nuclear weapons or MAD), and has already practiced drills for a nuclear strike on Finland. And finally, during the Winter War the male population were mainly hardy farmers, strong and used to cold, while it's quite common in our media for military brass to bemoan the quality of today's conscripts, who have led sedentary lives and are unfit for strenuous activity.

Comment: Re:Impact of foreigners on the education of Americ (Score 1) 161

by CRCulver (#47850659) Attached to: Getting Into College the Old Fashioned Way: With Money

Its racist to acknowledge language barriers?

No, but it is silly to claim that an foreign undergraduate's gradual pursuit of English proficiency is a disaster for university education nationwide.

ITs racist to expect that people attending an American university be able to speak English to participate in group assignments?

It's pretty common across the world for universities to accept that foreign students will take a couple of years to become proficient in the local language, and Americans benefit from that too. I did my university degrees first in Spain and then in Finland, and in both countries my lecturers and classmates understood that I needed some time to learn Spanish and Finnish respectively.

Or do you expect the American students to learn Arabic, Mandarin and Somali?

As someone who studied Chinese and tried to get as much exposure to the language as possible, I would have definitely enjoyed working with a Chinese student so that I could hit him up for free language practice, which normally costs a high hourly rate. Learning Somali may not bring many advantages for Americans (though interestingly enough, Somali skills are in high demand now in the Finnish state sector), but Mandarin and Arabic are major world languages, some knowledge of which can only help.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen