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Comment: Re:Don't forget stats & much has changed since (Score 1) 77 77

I am intrigued by what you say. What would you say are the useful areas of mathematics that average and above average high school students should know beyond pre-calc. Are there other math subjects that you would rather college students (in STEM and econ) learn other than calculus? I know many benefit from a course in a probability and another in statistics. What else would you suggest?

Comment: Don't forget stats & much has changed since th (Score 5, Interesting) 77 77

There was an article in the economist about how statisticians also served in WW II. They were indispensable to making sure that Britain did not starve. Before WW II the country imported most of its food. They enabled it stay in the war undefeated until the entry of the USA.

Among the instances of their success was their analysis of the distribution of German bombs falling on London each day. They concluded that the Germans were trying to destroy the docks but missing. They conducted quality-control in the manufacture of aircraft components, and the calculation of the distribution of stresses on aircraft in flight. The aimed to load planes up to the point that the wings were about to drop off. The research meant the RAF dropped more bombs, and brought more pilots safely home, than it would have otherwise.

They used sequential methods for the first time in trials of medical treatments. Analyzing the results of a trial bit by bit, rather than all at once when it was finished, meant it could be stopped straight away if it became clear that the new treatment was so good that everyone should be getting it, or indeed useless or even dangerous. This simple-sounding idea, now standard in medical trials, requires great statistical sophistication—and saved many lives.

But after the war, so much of this was not integrated into the British educational system. I remember taking a GCSE in math and having to do a project. We had to figure our how to calculate the area under a curve. I asked almost every adult I ran into if they could help me and give me some ideas. No-one had a clue and this included college educated people. It was so sad that no-one recognized this as as the primary question behind integration and half of calculus. British people had forgotten all that Newton and Leibniz (albeit that he was not a Brit) had accomplished.

No-one told us that 60 miles up the road DNA's structure had been discovered at Cambridge by Watson and Crick on 1953. No-one talked about Allan Turing and his Turing Machine. No-one would teach me anything about electronics in high school despite my begging and interest beyond a basic physics class. No-one talked about James Clerk Maxwell and his relations in thermodynamics. No-one had a clue about statistics. No one screamed off the rooftops the central dogma of biology - we merely had to memorize the names of bones and muscles in the human body. The phrase 'normal distribution' was not used. People in the USA at least have a vague sense of what 23 and me is. In the UK so many people I know have no idea. They see genetics as so foreign - oh the irony. The math and science teachers were mean and the books not very helpful. I learned all about British STEM history but only when in the USA.

There was a time when inventors, manufacturing, science, technology and innovation was celebrated in Britain. Now the only time you hear about science is when people are discussing global warming. They spend their energy in opposition to building anything new. There are parts of London where 1/3 of the buildings are listed and cannot be torn down and rebuilt. People oppose new high speed rail projects. They oppose new home building despite the data showing the UK being short of 1 million homes. They axiomatically oppose genetically modified crops disregarding that at least some of them are helping to alleviate malnutrition. Where has your sense of innovation gone, United Kingdom? You argue now about whether to be in the EU, whether Scotland should leave, and whether more spying will solve your Islamic extremist problem.

Why not aim to spend 1% of GDP on R&D and build institutions like the NIH and NSF? Why not have almost all school children complete the equivalent of pre-caclulus, Calc I and Calc II, and intro to statistics by age 16? Why not set aside land to allow high end manufacturing using 3D printing and robotics? I knew someone who was accepted into a PhD program but could not get funding. This does not happen much in the US. Do you think training PhDs in STEM in the UK is a waste of time? Why do you charge more tuition for science and engineering in university when you should be charging less?

I asked these questions and no-one cared. No one wanted to continue Churchill's scientific legacy. No-one wanted evidence based policy. No-one would teach me so much of what I wanted to know. So I left. And so have others. So sad that the UK makes it best STEM prospects leave and instead thinks that economic activity generated by the City of London in investment banking will make up the deficit. But there is always hope - I beg you Britain remember your roots!

Comment: Re:The Pirate Bay (Score 5, Insightful) 302 302

Working hard since 2003 to preserve your right to consume media without the annoyance of paying.

Intellectual property was created for the benefit of society. There have been numerous studies showing that IP has massively overreached and it no longer does that. Those who have benefited have resorted to rent seeking behavior by ever expanding its scope. They can legally bribe elected officials by using campaign finance contributions. In effect they get to write the laws. So how about they pay back all the money they took beyond what reasonable IP would look like. Seven years copyright protection is enough for most movies and music. And 14 years for almost everything else.

And how about we expand fair use back to what it was and should be so that students can get greater access to copyrighted works? How about we also repeal the Copyright Term Extension Act.

It really is the case that the movie and music industries are trying to steal from everyone else. But because they have politicians in their pocket books you don't call it theft. Piratebay was merely evening an unfair playing field.

Comment: Re: First amendment? (Score 5, Insightful) 250 250

Legality aside, what would be the "moral" thing to do. The data was taken 'wrongfully', and belongs to Sony. So, morally it seems the correct thing to do would be destroy the data.

Just because you can do something does not mean you should.

What about the 'wrong' things that Sony has done that the documents show? Why is it that so many people side with corporations? Do they not have to be moral, just their customers? And why is it that people expect corporations to be immoral and say 'that is the way the world works', but are outraged when little people do the same thing?

Here are some immoral things that Sony does that they would not soon change if these documents would not have been leaked:

1. Sony corruption of the media - Emails between Amy Pascal (the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment) and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggest Dowd promised to show Pascal's husband a copy of a column before publishing it. Pascal's husband is former Times reporter Bernard Weinraub.

2. A series of emails between Pascal and movie producer Scott Rudin showed an ugly side to the beautiful business of Hollywood. Rudin called Angelina Jolie a "minimally talented spoiled brat" in an email exchange with Pascal. Pascal and Rudin also made racially charged jokes about President Obama's taste in movies.

3. Breaking the privacy of patients medical records - Sony's human-resources department had detailed medical records of three dozen employees and their family members. One internal memo revealed a staff member's child with special needs, including the child's type of treatment. The memo talked about the employee's appeal of insurance provider Aetna's denial of thousands of dollars in medical claims. Another HR document detailed the medical costs for 34 Sony employees and their family members who had very high medical bills. Medical conditions included premature births, cancer, kidney failure and alcoholic liver cirrhosis.

4. Men are paid more than women. Sony paid Jennifer Lawrence less than it paid Christian Bale or Bradley Cooper, her co-stars in last year's hit movie "American Hustle." Lawrence was paid 7 percent of the movie's profit, while Bale and Cooper received 9 percent, according to emails sent to Pascal. Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment is the only woman earning $1 million or more at the studio.

5. The documents legitimate accusations that Sony colluded with other firms to keep VFX empoyees wages down. This is illegal and immoral.

This reminds me of when people say that walking away from your mortgage is immoral. But what about when the banks do it? Morgan Stanley decided to stop making payments on five San Francisco office buildings. When they walk away, then it's OK. This is so messed up, and yet people's minds are so brainwashed they think this way!

Comment: Re:Just wondering... (Score 1) 416 416

I have used both MIT's, Berkeley's, and Yale's audio lectures. They are awesome. I have used them when I have taken a class for supplemental instruction and when I wanted to learn a new subject but could not afford to take an extra class. They are invaluable. And physics is probably the hardest subject to master. They have helped me overcome my fear of math and physics and have given me the courage to work practice problems. Of course I in no way am condoning any of his personal behavior. But he made physics accessible and fun on the college level. This is so rare! To remove his lectures mean you are punishing innocent people around the globe and degrading their education. And better educated people usually make better citizens who pay more in taxes (and yes of course this professor may have done something bad but there is still a strong correlation between education and not committing crime.)

We need to accept as a society that we have a lack of talented physics instructors and we cannot afford to remove important videos just because the person committed an antisocial act. And I would like to see what kind of due process he was given in the determination of his guilt. (He has not been found guilty of a crime in a court of law.) Is MIT going to find someone similarly talented and replace the lectures? And what about the lecture notes, practice problems with solutions and exams?

And it's funny how as someone else pointed out Bill Cosby's shows are still available. And many rap artists have committed violent felonies and yet their work is still shown. Roman Polanski's movies have not been withdrawn. Woody Allen still is able to make movies and has been accused of much more horrific acts. And yet they withdraw the stuff that is most needed, not the frivolous comedy.

Comment: Re:America, land of the free... (Score 1) 720 720

My experience is that most companies do NOT check. I have worked for half a dozen tech companies, over several decades, and have been involved in hiring over a hundred people. Except for a couple cases that involved security clearances, we never did a criminal background check. Why should we? Studies have shown that people with criminal backgrounds tend to do no worse on the job. You are better off screening out people that use MSIE to fill out their application, since that is actually correlated with poor job performance.

From the economist article: "For instance, firms routinely cull job candidates with a criminal record. Yet the data suggest that for certain jobs there is no correlation with work performance."

That implies that for some or most jobs, having a criminal record does correlate with doing a worse job. I feel really sorry for the original poster. I hope he/she can find a good job. However as someone who has had to hire people I can attest to the fact that even relatively minor criminal offenses seem to indicate irresponsibility. I can't say I have a big enough statistical sample. However recently I hired someone who had previously committed a DUI. That was their only criminal offense.

It became quickly apparent that they should never have been hired. I had to deal with someone who regularly took time out of work to carry out personal errands. I had to stop them from going home in the middle of the day to pick something up - and they had no expectation of making up the time. I asked them to carry out a task in a specific way, aware of the pitfalls of the alternatives. They were obstinate and as a consequence wasted a lot of my time. They were a little dishonest about the time they put in at work. On their first day they forgot to bring necessary items to work.

I had a similar experience with someone else. IMHO the issue with breaking the law is not so much the act itself. Rather, it is indicative of someone who does not think about the consequences of their actions, does not responsibly think through whether something is a good idea and not just act on an impulse, does not think about how an action will effect other people, and lacks a sense of what is appropriate social behavior. It also often indicates a lack of respect for other people's property. Finally they often lack the inability to coherently think about a problem and then formulate a plan that addresses it considering possible things that might go wrong. This is also why credit scores are so useful - they often communicate in might finer detail the degree to which someone grapples with these issues.

The last point is quite salient. Quite often if the criminal would have considered how their action addressed their problem, they would have realized that the long term consequences of the action don't justify the action as a solution to their problem. For example: stealing from a store may get you the iPad but it isn't worth going to jail over. And indeed those who have occasionally broken the law and gotten away with it due to precise and intricate planning may not have that problem. (Not that I am in any way condoning such behavior.)

At this point, if I was hiring someone with a drug abuse history, I would be somewhat forgiving about their being an addict. But I would want to know why they took their first puff or drink or injection. They weren't addicted at that time. There is no 'right answer' to that question but I think it might allow me to see what sort of person I am dealing with. If they say 'I don't know', then clearly I cannot hire them - they lack insight and probably cannot think about their actions and their repercussions. If they say that they were pressured into it by a group of their peers who called them a pussy for not taking a smoke at a party - well I would be a lot more understanding.

+ - Google's Nexus 6 sold out within a few minutes - sounds like shenanigans 2 2

Raisey-raison writes: The Nexus 6 sold out within a few minutes when it was put on for pre-order. Of course, Google presumably had an idea of how many phones it would need to make available. So the entire situation is of Google's creation. The same thing happened last year with the Nexus 5. It's unclear why companies do this. Perhaps they wish to create a false sense of scarcity that will increase the desire for their product. Sometimes they try to drag out demand over time so that they can make a profit because they initially sell the product for a loss or just break even, but this is not the case for the Nexus 6. Google is making a healthy profit on the nexus 6 from day one. Whatever Google is up to, it sure doesn't sound congruent with "don't be evil".

Comment: Ipadguy made a mistake, but you cannot forgive him (Score 4, Insightful) 217 217

1. iPad Man, for not actually paying attention to his surroundings. 2. Airport security (obviously) for freaking out over the oblivious iPad Man.

Nope, the full extent of the dumbarsery is entirely on number 1. He was walking in the opposite direction to everyone else and in order for the doors at to be open somoene had to be walking the right way (at an airport, this would likely be dozens of other people). If he didn't notice this, he is the idiot. The AFP (Australian Federal Police) who secure our airports cant take chances. They cant tell whether dumb Ipad man is just Dumb Ipad man or Disgruntled Steve who wants to beat up Bill in the airside cafe until they talk to him. Now the AFP did just that and released the man without charge (they could have charged him, but under the circumstances they chose not to), so good on them for that but it is a real shame that this kind of idiocy isn't a crime... or painful.

Ipadguy made a mistake! There was no mens rea. Do you really have to blame someone who just spaced out and not just leave the blame on the security guards and the police force. Why is it the we must always punish the little guy. Talk about bias. I am sure there are people who would imprison someone who accidentally brought in a bottled water across airport security or who forgot about a metal pen in his/her pocket. For once, just for once, can we just NOT advocate putting someone is prison for an honest mistake. Can we hold the those who really messed up accountable. The statement above just gets at how we punish the tiny infraction and ignore the huge calamity.

This why the bankers that caused the worst economic crisis in 80 years are not in prison. Because we focus on some tiny potatoes. And we want to punish people for making a mistake we all could make. I am sure plenty of people have spaced out and tried to walk the wrong way into a secured area. They were just politely stopped. But it's not enough for some people and we sleepwalk into a police state.

Comment: Fetishising nature + this is after all a desert! (Score 1, Interesting) 265 265

Someone sounds jealous...

Jealousy and other issues as well. The Vice article seems to have strong opinions as to what sort of conditions other people may live in. It just states that it is dystopian without much evidence. And as to the poor in Dubai, they are already richer than many of their compatriots back home (many are immigrant workers) and given time and further economic development they no doubt will get richer themselves. The United Arab Emirates are the one most forward thinking areas in the Middle East. They are slowly going through what the West did in the reformation and enlightenment. Of course it will take time but I am sure they will be much more progressive societies in 300 years.

Then there is the issue that some people simply fetishise nature and assume that everything 'natural' must be beautiful. It simply is not the case. Most 'natural' places are ugly. The ones that we photograph are the elegant and interesting ones. A lot of the time those people who enjoy extreme temperatures and who are in excellent shape imagine that rest of humanity has the same take on their surroundings. It's so easy to forget that without keeping out the heat or cold many people would be miserable - particular in an extremely hot desert which is where Dubai is located. The heat is simply oppressive. And of course by allowing this dome, it means people can venture out of their homes and get more exercise - something that is otherwise not possible.

I can imagine that some people would say that humans should not be living there to begin with. To which I answer: someone gave birth to them and once there here on planet earth they have to live somewhere. And most people living in the middle east don't have much choice as to where to live particularly if they don’t want to live in absolute poverty. (So unless you want to stop Bangladeshi and Pakistani mothers from getting pregnant and /or prevent men there from impregnating them, you really cannot complain. I am always amazed at people who are shocked when they hear others moralize about women giving birth when they are very poor. They pontificate about every women having the 'right' to have children. Often these same people then later complain about the environmental consequences of such children when they reach adulthood.)

Comment: Re: I never understood the principle. (Score 1) 454 454

Any well trained military unit will be trained and equipped to deal with them.

I don't accept that this point always holds. And not all armies are well trained and equipped.

During the cold war the Soviets developed the Novichok agent - something that the US could not necessarily defend against. If soldiers are wearing gas masks and protective suits, they are less agile and less effective in using regular conventional weapons. This provides the enemy with a tactical advantage. And given that chemical weapons have not been used in a major war by industrialized nations since WW1, much of the technology may have changed. It may be in fact that they do have significant strategic value.

The chemical weapons in Syria worked. The opposition is not well trained and equipped.

And how would bombing Assad help? He is a dictator fighting for his survival and therefore has little to lose. But bombing Syria would kills Syrians, both soldiers and civilians. It would destroy people's homes (why not be empathetic and imagine your own home blown up by a bomb from Syria and the regime shrugging it off as collateral damage). It would destroy people's livelihoods (not to mention that we tend to target infrastructure such as power stations which mean people may lack electricity for months or years and even sewage systems may fail). It would wound people and inhibit their receiving appropriate medical care. It would in short inflict huge suffering.

In short people say that chemical weapons are really bad because they inflict lots of human suffering. So what is their proposed response to their use? Dropping bombs and missiles that will also inflict lots of human suffering. What then is the point?

And why if we have so much moral outrage, do 1000 deaths from chemical weapons necessitate a response, despite the fact that 100,000 deaths from conventional weapons do not?

Comment: When we can watch the police then..... (Score 4, Insightful) 508 508

I really hope they don't put up ever more cameras. We don't need them. Crime has been falling since 1988 and the US murder rate is around 5.4 / 100,000 people. And that is close to its all time low. And terrorism is rare and unlikely to kill or hurt anyone. When can we start rolling out policy based on data and evidence not on fear?

As far as cameras looking at police officers. We need a lot more of that. Police routinely 'beat people up' and conduct illegal searches. They need to be put on a short leash.

You provided the per-capita murder rate. Can you also provide the per-capita for people beat up by police and for illegal searches?

Well that's the point isn't it. We can't collect data because police lack effective oversight. If there was an an agency whose job it was to only oversee the police, who could not arrest civilians, and who had access to cameras, microphones and general surveillance of the police - then we could get an idea what kind of stuff goes down.

You only have to look at the cases coming out of the Innocence project to see the incredible abuses by the criminal justice system.

Comment: Re:That will not happen. (Score 4, Interesting) 508 508

I really hope they don't put up ever more cameras. We don't need them. Crime has been falling since 1988 and the US murder rate is around 5.4 / 100,000 people. And that is close to its all time low. And terrorism is rare and unlikely to kill or hurt anyone. When can we start rolling out policy based on data and evidence not on fear?

As far as cameras looking at police officers. We need a lot more of that. Police routinely 'beat people up' and conduct illegal searches. They need to be put on a short leash.

Comment: Giuliani was no crackpot (Score 1) 459 459

That's not the whole story either. If you read your own link carefully, it points out that Giuliani predicted the quakes using a method that has never been proven scientifically and has had no peer reviewed papers published. In other words, he's a crackpot who just happened to get lucky;

If you read this article ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/05/laquila-earthquake-prediction-giampaolo-giuliani ) you will see that Giuliani was no crackpot - in fact he presented his research to an American conference. Just because someone does not have a PhD does not mean they cannot carry out scientific inquiry. All you need is brains and money. He has some financial backers. It seems, and this happens so often, that because he didn't have the right credentials his work was ignored in Italy and he wasn't allowed to publish. It wasn't until he came to the USA that he was given a fair hearing.

A memorandum is written not to inform the reader, but to protect the writer. -- Dean Acheson

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