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Comment: Re:Ascent, not ascension (Score 1) 291 291

by hey! (#50007201) Attached to: A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension

You are confusing "ascension" with "right ascension". Just plain "ascension" (not capitalized) is pretty much a synonym for "ascent".

A few dictionaries define "ascension" as an astronomical term referring to the rising of the star above the horizon -- in other words the increasing of altitude in the alt/azimuth coordinate system -- but this definition doesn't appear in lists of astronomical terms so either this usage is uncommon or obsolete.

Comment: Re:Do not react AT ALL (Score 2) 364 364

by hey! (#50004039) Attached to: Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage?

First of all, Sir Tim is British, and second of all the First Amendment refers to government regulation of speech. It does not compel a private organization to employ or associate with an individual whose speech it feels reflects poorly on them.

This is not a legal issue, it's a moral issue. It's morally wrong to empower a social media lynch mob without performing a reasonable inquiry into the facts.

Comment: Re:It's not about telescopes. (Score 1) 294 294

I don't claim to know anything beyond what I've read in the news, which of course doesn't qualify me as an expert. But I'm fairly confident the fact that you find the accommodations made to Hawaiian religious beliefs annoying has no bearing on whether those beliefs are sincere.

I agree that there's no way to satisfy some of these people. That doesn't make them liars or bad, it just means their interests in this situation cannot be reconciled with yours. It happens sometimes. As much as I believe in looking for win-win solutions, there are occasionally situations where one side or the other has to lose.

And you won't ever get everyone on the other side to agree because that never happens. There are even Catholics who think the Pope isn't as Catholic as they are. So as soon as there were any questions raised about the religious dimension of this project it became inevitable that if they ever built this thing it would be in the face of protests. And as long as the project's leaders think what they're doing is right they should do it and take their PR lumps on the chin. But imputing, without any evidence, false and hypocritical motivations to the protesters actually undoes the work done to make this project possible. That actually *is* disrespecting native religious beliefs.

Comment: It's not about telescopes. (Score 1) 294 294

There is nobody for whom the summit of Mauna Kea is their "backyard", so this isn't NIMBY. There are sincere religious and political reasons for opposing this.

Imagine yourself in their position. If a conspicuous structure on the summit of Mauna Kea offended your religious sensibilities when the first one went up, then you're not going to feel less strongly about the thirteenth or fourteenth to go up. Likewise spreading the development to a second, pristine sacred site wouldn't placate you.

The position that nobody's religious views should ever matter is one most people wouldn't agree with, but at least it's a principled position. Claiming (without proof) that views that stand in the way of something you want are insincere and should be disregarded strikes me as dishonest.

Comment: Re:These kinds of press releases are useless (Score 1) 244 244

by hey! (#49991211) Attached to: High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet Can Lead To Cognitive Decline

From the abstract:
Surely you can understand that much without getting your panties in a twist.

Please re-read the first sentence of my post.

Even so a single paper still isn't enough for a layman to conclude anything from. That's why laymen are so misinformed on science. Even when a news account accurately describes a study or experiment, it's still misleading. Just because an experiment produces a result doesn't mean that result represents the bulk of evidence, or that that the conclusions won't be shot full of holes in a few months.

Comment: Re:A small part of me (Score 1) 588 588

by hey! (#49989831) Attached to: Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Subsidies

In terms of corporate handouts, how could you possibly surpass making every living American an obligate consumer of a for-profit industry?

In that case what you're talking about is more of an industry handout than a corporate handout. Anybody with enough capital to run an insurance company is free to compete for the "obligate consumer's" business.

Contrast this to various weapons systems of dubious usefulness that are funded for political reasons. As American taxpayers we're all "obligate consumers" of those things, but we don't have any say whatsoever in whose pockets our dollars land.

Comment: These kinds of press releases are useless (Score 1) 244 244

by hey! (#49985399) Attached to: High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet Can Lead To Cognitive Decline

You need the full article -- the abstract at the very least -- to make any sense of a study. Press releases are written by PR flacks who dumb down the science to the point where it is meaningless, as in this case. What you need to make sense of an experiment are details and context, neither of which the PR release in question provide. This is the problem with PR -- it's not a discipline that's meant to help you grasp complexity; it's about coming away with a simple, carefully chosen message.

Even if you have a whole article you have to proceed with caution. Interesting science tends to be about open questions; cutting edge topics tend to produce a diversity of opinion and contradictory evidence. What you need to read if you want to go to the horse's mouth in science is to read some literature review papers, like this one, which summarize the current state of research and the open questions at the time of writing. In fact you should probably read a recent review paper before you try to make sense of any individual paper. Having skimmed the review paper, it looks like the experiment we're discussing is attempting to explain a long-known experimental effect in terms of gut biota, which is a hot research field right now.

If all you had to make dietary decisions was the press release, you'd probably think, "Well, I'd better cut down on fat and sugar in my diet." The problem I have with that is that "fat" is a vast category of chemicals with wildly different physiological effects. Avoiding all fat because of this study would be like avoiding all acids because of a study of aspirin poisoning -- acids including all proteins and most vitamins.

What makes more sense is to consider all the proposed mechanisms, namely: chronic oxidative stress, inflammation, insulin resistance, and now disturbed gut flora. It's feasible to devise a lifestyle and diet which reduces *all* these things, which in turn would also improve our chances against other things like diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular disease. But so far as I know nobody's really put all that together yet. Science deals mainly in diseases, leaving health to the quacks.

Comment: Re:"Clean Energy Candidate" (Score 1) 306 306

Human progress since the Industrial Revolution has been based on cheap energy.

Well, then doesn't that mean we ought to start looking past fossil fuels then? After all oil won't stay cheap forever. And as long as we're looking, why not put "clean" on the punch list?

"Cheap", by the way, is not an unambiguous term, because the market doesn't count externalities like pollution. In China air pollution from "cheap" energy contributes to as many as 1.2 million premature deaths a year (source).

Comment: Re:"Clean Energy Candidate" (Score 1) 306 306

Of course China is going to go along with this hair-brained idea, right?

China, as you may know, has immense and shockingly bad pollution problems. That's not a result of the Chinese leadership's shrewd thinking, it's the result of government and industry collusion and corruption. In China industry sets industrial and energy policy. The most powerful companies are state or military affiliated, but they act no differently than any other company that has succeeded at regulatory capture.

And we in the West have been down this dirty road too, but if you're under 50 "smog" is just word to you unless you live in LA. Here's what smog looked like in Manhattan in 1973. Note that this is in May, not in the summer when smog is at it's worst; nor is this an unusually bad example. Compare this to a recent shot of the same area taken in July. It shows a pretty bad pollution bad by modern standards but a very good day by 1970s standards.

Or you may have heard of London's famous "fog", but London is NOT a foggy place. The "fog" was pollution. In 1952 they had the "Great Smog", a four day event that, it is now estimated, killed twelve thousand people. Here is a picture of the Great Smog; note carefully: this is a daytime photo.

So, by all means lets talk China. The problem with China's air isn't economic progress; the problem with China's air is that China isn't a democracy. If it were then the people would force the government to do what governments in advanced democracies everywhere have been forced to do: regulate sources of pollution.

Comment: Re:It doesn't matter when (Score 1) 297 297

by hey! (#49971729) Attached to: When Will Your Hard Drive Fail?

If you need to ask yourself WHEN it will fail, that is the wrong question. The right question is "are you ready for imminent hard drive failure?".

Well that's a start. After you've asked that question, the next question would be, "is there a single point of failure for your backup/restore plans?" For example if your backup plan is a storage array in the server room, then the server room itself is a single point of failure; a fire can destroy the original plus backup.

This applies to cloud services too. They typically employ more redundancy than most organizations can afford, but the service itself can be a single point of failure. It can go out of business, spin the service off to a company you don't want to deal with, or change the terms of service in ways you find unacceptable. This is not likely to happen overnight, but you do have to consider it happening faster than you're prepared to deal with. And of course cloud services can have outages; you may get some kind of rebate based on whatever your ToS are, but this might not compensate you for business costs.

I'd go so far as to say that if you can't imagine some circumstances in which your current backup system might fail, you probably haven't thought it through enough.

Comment: Re:The problem is that landfills are too cheap (Score 1) 371 371

by hey! (#49971647) Attached to: Recycling Is Dying

The question is how easy is it for you to avoid paying for disposal, and if you don't pay for it, who does?

People trying to get someone else to pay for their trash undermine every approach to deal with the problem of waste to some degree. If everyone complied with the rules you could just charge whatever rate recycling costs are and whatever the true costs of landfills are (as determined by our honest politicians). Then you'd rely upon rational economic behavior to guide consumers to an optimal choice.

But too many people would prefer to foist the cost of disposal off on their neighbors; and our politicians of course prefer to foist the costs of disposal onto their successors. As a practical matter this means any solution we choose will fall short of Utopia.

My non-utopian solution would be to tax virgin material content. Retailers would simply weigh an item plus packaging, multiply that by the fraction of virgin content and add that to the price of the item. The proceeds would then underwrite the purchase of raw, unprocessed recyclable materials. The rationale for this idea isn't that it's perfectly fair, or optimal; only that it'd work better than a solution that is perfectly fair and optimal provided practically everyone is perfectly honest.

Comment: Re:What would Monderman say? (Score 1) 203 203

by hey! (#49970845) Attached to: "Vision Zero" Aims To Eliminate Traffic Fatalities In San Diego

Except experience with the "risk compensation effect" has been mixed. It turns out that sometimes taking away street markings and traffic control devices makes a place safer; in other cases it makes it more dangerous. Specifics matter, that's why it's called "traffic engineering".

If you look at places put forward as examples of "shared space" traffic design they look distinctly Old World -- they're in neighborhoods that are designed around pedestrian traffic. American Sun Belt cities aren't designed around the needs of people, they're organized to maximize the flow of cars. San Diego might well be the most pedestrian hostile urban environment in the world. It has residential neighborhoods without a single store or even playground within convenient walking distance of most of its residents. You need a car for everything, and everyone needs a car. Traffic everywhere is heavy and fast.

Here's one of the San Diego intersections in question, 4th and Broadway. Compare it to a Dutch shared space. Click a few times to move around both neighborhoods to see the difference. Yes, the Dutch city has a lot more bikes, but that's a result of the real difference, which is that the Dutch neighborhood is a destination; most of the people there are going places that are there. The San Diego intersection is a crossroads; almost everyone there is heading somewhere else.

Now you can put a fountain in the middle of the 4th and Broadway intersection; remove all the traffic signals and markings in the neighborhood and put up a four way stop sign, obliterate the distinction between sidewalk and roadway in the area. All these things would probably make this particular intersection safer. But it won't make the city as a whole safer because it doesn't address the underlying planning problem: San Diegans have to drive everywhere. The fast, heavy traffic will simply shift over a street or two on the grid. You'd have to make those same changes on all the possible alternate routes as well. This would make the city safer, at the expense of trapping many residents in commercially lifeless residential neighborhoods.

You can't make the city safer transforming a single intersection or even a handful of intersections into "shared spaces". To make that work you'd have to radically redesign the entire city to eliminate most of the driving people have to do. That's actually a really good idea, but good luck convincing San Diegans to pay to have their city transformed into Leeuwarden. In the meantime people will continue to be killed at the crossroads.

Comment: Re:Tell me... (Score 2) 172 172

by hey! (#49953087) Attached to: Amazon Is Only Going To Pay Authors When Each Page Is Read

Well, this applies to self-published books read through their Kindle Unlimited Program.

I agree with your sentiment, but having read a number of self-published books, it wouldn't be fair to the better self-published authors to pay them the same rate per free book download as the worst ones. While some self-published stuff is as good as most traditionally published fiction (albeit usually needing a bit more proof reading), there's a vast body of stuff that consists of unreadable manuscripts dumped on the ebook market.

Of course paying by page actually read is a crude measure of a story's value, paying a flat royalty per download is even cruder.

Personally I like a tightly plotted novels of 70-120 thousand words best, but we're living in the age of the endlessly sprawling epic.

Loan-department manager: "There isn't any fine print. At these interest rates, we don't need it."