Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - 6 month subscription of Pandora One at 46% off. ×

Comment Re:GM producers are shooting themselves in the foo (Score 1) 513

Yeah, but for those of us who do have gluten sensitivity, it’s damn helpful that there is all this excess supply of GF foods, making it cheaper and more more plentiful for us. My wife has hashimoto’s and celiac and reacts very badly to trace amounts of gluten. And we can tell when our kids have been exposed, because the ADHD and other behavioral problems go through the roof. According to genetic analysis, I have genes corelated with gluten sensitivity, and although my case it may instead be a FODMAP problem, that still means I have to avoid wheat, and my concentration and energy have been steadily improving since this dietary change.

From what I’ve been told by dieticians and MDs is that a LOT of people have at least some mild sensitivity to either gluten or FODMAPs. Most of the time, it’s under the radar and therefore not worth making this microoptimization. But when other health problems get involved, we look to fix lots of little things that are dragging us down. For example, I have urticaria (a generalized itch). It turns out that although my histamine levels are high, my IgE levels are normal, which means I’m getting histamine from something else. Nevertheless, I’m getting immunotherapy to reduce the histamines that ARE produced by IgE reactions, because although it doesn’t fix the real problem (probably some gut flora thing), it HELPS.

Comment ISIS *is* evil, but most members are just ignorant (Score 1) 518

I’m not sure if this was his point or not, but there is a point to make about what motivates some people to join a terrorist group.

Many huge companies are psychopathic in that they will “be evil” against consumers in order to maintain capital growth, but the individuals working there are not necessarily fully aware of what otherwise seemingly innocent decisions are causing the harm. The Nazi regime was pure evil and killed millions of innocent people, but Adolf Hitler thougth he was doing the right thing for his country. There’s this little boy who has been bullying my daughter, and he thinks it’s perfectly okay to grab her and push her around despite her objections, but as innocent as he thinks he is, he still has to be stopped.

So probably the majority of people in ISIS think they’re doing the right thing. From their perspective, they are not evil. And this is because they have been brainwashed into an extreme form of a religion that already has belligerent tendencies. They’re taught that the West and non-Muslims in general are enemies of Allah, and that what Allah wants is to cleanse the world of those sinners and infidels who would otherwise corrupt their children with immoral ideas.

It’s important to realize that a minority of these people, if any, are doing this because they enjoy violence and hurting people. They are urged to do this on the basis or an outrage that they have been indoctrinated into. ISIS as an organizatinon is evil. But its members? No, they’re just sad, ignorant, misinformed people. They’re also dangerous and must be stopped, and I am saddened that the only way to stop them is that many of them have to die. Because, sadly, they’re way beyond having their minds changed on this. A grizzly bear thinks you’re a threat, and no matter what you do, it’s going to try to kill you if you come upon each other in the woods, so your only option for saving your own life may be to kill the bear. And that’s sad for the bear.

This is just one example of a general phenomenon found in many humans. Christianity says not to like and cheat, but many have been found to do just those things when they feel that the ends justify the means. There are non-believers who are a danger to their world view, and they’ll do whatever it takes to fight that, even if it means that they get to exempt themselves from the very same morals they insist on other people having. (See for instance and recall that there is a paper trail where people substituted “intelligent design” in place of “creationism” in literature, using clever wording an deception in order to trick educators into putting religious beliefs into science classes.) Muslims and Christians aren’t all that different. Go back 1000 years, and we have Catholics traipsing all over Eurasia killing heretics and nonbelievers.

So, when you fight this evil, keep in mind that those people think they’re doing the right thing. This is an important element of the psychology of the situation and that awareness will make you more effective at fighting it. That’s because you’ll be fighting the real problem and not an “all those people are pure evil” fiction you’ve made up in your mind. The outrage felt by the victims is totally valid, but the response needs to be surgical to prevent future harm, as opposed to some disorganized blind rage where we go killing Syrians indiscriminately.

It’s all terribly sad. It’s sad that terrorist organizations exist and kill innocent people, and it’s sad that they only way to stop them is millitary action, which results in even more deaths. You may have a different opinion, but I think every human life is important, not to be thrown away over differences of world view.

Comment Outlying towns near Orlando and Columbus, OH (Score 1) 464

I worked for many years in Altamonte Springs, FL, which is realtively quiet and not too far from Orlando. Lake Mary also has some tech businesses too and is a but further west.

In addition to Michigan, Ohio also has a low cost of living, with plenty of good tech jobs in Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Cleveland, etc.

Comment Re:Don’t be an asshole about people who need (Score 1) 287

Based on the common definitions of "alternative medicine", your statement is false. There are many herbs with well-known beneficial properties, and there are things like the desiccated porcine thyroid gland that are all "medicine" in the sense that they have well-known and scientifically tested effects, but they are not pharmaceutical products and therefore commonly referred to as "alternative" treatments. Some people would refer to them as "alternative medicine," while others would just call them "medicine."

However, you missed my point that "homeopathic" is often a meaningless term used more as a marketing gimmick than anything else. Plenty of OTC drugs with actual, real active ingredients are labeled "homeopathic" because there is a segment of the population who has bought into the religion and will therefore buy that stuff. One example is this "Zicam" zinc nasal spray. Now whether or not it's a good idea to be inhaling zinc is a separate matter (what with all the reports of loss of sense of smell), but nevertheless, there are real active ingredients in this drug. But it's marketed as homeopathic, probably because it helps skirt some FDA regulations.

Comment Don’t be an asshole about people who need al (Score 4, Interesting) 287

Homeopathic medicines are chemicals (helpful or poisonous) that have been diluted so much that there’s basically none of the original substance left. So basically you’re getting a placebo. And wasting your money.

Part of the reason why some people think it works is that there are companies that marked real medicines as “homeopathic.”

Why? Because many people (my family included, but I’m not an idiot about medicine) have been failed by the medical establishment who dismiss real illnesses as psychosomatic or just push patients out the door when they don’t have a clue what the cause is (rather than referring them to a proper specialist, because they’re too clueless to know what kind of specialist to refer to). In the US, a lot of this is caused by so-called “family doctors” or “primary care physicians” who in many places are really just PAs and NPs, rather than real MDs who might have a bit more of a clue about how to diagnose illness.

A lot of auto-immune illnesses are like this. Many medical professionals are trained that if a patient comes in with a “constellation of symptoms” and (in particular) “has their symptoms written down,” that means it’s all in their heads. Hashimoto’s disease, for instance, comes with a “constellation of symptoms”, and patients suffer from brain fog, which means they feel inclined to write down things they think are important to talk about. You see the problem here. My wife had to diagnose her own Hashi’s (which was subsequently verified by an antibody test, when we finally found an internal medicine doctor who would listen).

So, when people are failed by the “medical establishment,” they turn to alternatives. Dieticians, nutritionists, naturopaths, and a number of other auxiliary medical communities are almost universally more willing to listen. But they also have weird beliefs about alternative medicine. A lot of the alternative medicine is actual real medicine in alternative form. For instance, you can get dessicated porcine thyroid gland in pill form, which is just as effective as Levothyroxine (or more so), in equivalent doses. Some “herbal medicines” also have beneficial effects. And then there are “alternative treatments” that amount to figuring out that someone has a nutrient deficiency and adding a proper supplement, and nutrtion is something that MDs are universally clueless about. (For instance, if you have an MTHRF defect, you have to switch from folic acid to methylfolate.)

But a lot of alternative medicine is total quackery, so it all gets a bad rap.

If homeopathic medicine becomes deprecated through law, then those companies making real medicines under the “homeopathic” moniker will simply remove that from the labeling and keep going. The stuff that is homeopathic will still have to be labeled this way, and people who want to waste their money will have to pay out of pocket.

Speaking of paying out of pocket, I live in the southern tier of upstate New York, which is kindof a backward place. Low populations and limited resources run headlong into weird state laws, and people here have trouble getting some kinds of medical treatment. We had to go to PA to get some kinds of tests done because they’re illegal in NY. Lourdes in Binghamton, NY and Guthrie in Sayre, PA are actually really good facilities, but you have to travel. Ithaca has some good resources, and of course Syracuse has SUNY Upstate Medical. But for the weird diseases, the appropriate doctors are few and far between.

There’s one in Sayre and one in Ithaca that specialize in hard to diagnose cases. What’s interesting about them is that they’ve so overwhelmed with patients that their waiting lists make you wait months to see them. They’ve also both stopped taking insurance. Dealing with insurance takes too much time away from seeing patients, so they’ve optimized their practices by eliminating that problem. Instead, they give patients appropriate forms to file themselves, and they charge reasonable fees too. And the patients don’t complain, because these MDs are the only ones in the area that are patient, attentive, and intuitive enough to work more than 5 minutes to figure out what’s going on and treat it properly. Most MDs I’ve encountered operate under the assumption that if the answer is not immediately in their heads, then the answer doesn’t exist. THESE two doctors will, amazingly, actually go and do some research! Actually, there are a few other doctors in this area that are almost in that category, and they too are overwhemled, because word gets around about who the doctors are that listen and will find effective treatments.

So when you get on your high horse about homeopathic medicine, try to employ some empathy for the people who feel compelled to turn to alternatives. They’re sick, with real illnesses, but the mainstream medical practitioners have turned them away. Some companies prey on this by selling them fake treatments, and that’s really bad. But simply outlawing homeopathy (or limiting its support) isn’t going to fix the real problem, which is that many people find that they have no other viable options. It’s the wrong option, but then again, for them, seeing an MD has also been the wrong option. So what do they do? You may be healthy, but these people suffer, so don’t be an asshole about it.

Comment Not backing up their claims with real runtimes!! (Score 0) 129

One of the tricks that people play when they claim to have parallelized something or improved computational complexity is that they don't back up their claims with any real runtimes. They provide a theoretical evaluation, but they haven't actually shown that anything is actually FASTER in a practical way. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. They haven't made a proper case for it. Maybe I missed it. I'm also not sure they actually coded it up and tried it. As a researcher who puts time and effort into actually implementing the ideas I develop, it really angers me when people get crap published where they are lazy or play with the statistics or use the wrong metrics.

Comment Re: Handwavium (Score 5, Insightful) 274

As someone else said, dark matter is an ad hoc solution. We don’t have direct measurement of it. We just have a phenomenon, and we’re trying to come up with different possible explanations and then rule some out.

Currently, dark matter is the leading theory because it explains all the data and it’s also the SIMPLEST explanation.

This doesn’t mean that dark matter theory is TRUE. But as explanatory models, it is RELIABLE. Keep in mind that science can never prove any theory to be 100% incontrovertible, but it can show a theory to be very LIKELY to be true.

And as with any other successful human endeavor, the science here is a competition among competing theories. So far, dark matter theory is the winner, like VHS. (Betamax had better image quality, but VHS was “better” and won because it was an open format. Don’t get too distracted by the imperfect analogy!) Some day, someone will come along with something that explains more evidence and is more concise, like Blueray.

Comment Observers irrelevant, no wave function collapse (Score 1) 257

Wave functions don't collapse. They just evolve with time. A state of superposition is equivalent to oscillating between states in a reversible way. Some interactions lead to state changes that are functionally irreversible because changing back to an earlier state becomes exceedingly impossible. For instance emitting a real photon.

As for observers this is just an interaction like any other. The observing particle becomes entangled with and interacts irreversibly with the observed. There is nothing special about conscious observers. Any irreversible interaction is an observation.

Comment Re: It's not discrimination if people aren't appl (Score 1) 362

In academia it's not age but time since Ph.D. I'm 3 years into being an assistant professor and my industry experience has been nothing but helpful at this job. However there seems to be sometimes a negative attitude about people who got their Ph.D. a long time ago but didn't work in academia. That being said, there were some schools I applied to that seemed biased against my industry experience although my age didn't appear to be a factor.

Comment Modern life is different (Score 4, Insightful) 315

Ok, so paleolithic-people in a paleolithic environment need 5.7 to 7.1 hours of sleep/night. What about modern people in a modern environment? As humans, we’re not all that different, but our daily lives are very different. We get less exercise, we eat completely different foods, many jobs are primarily mental. And we hold more rigid daily schedules. I think that MAYBE could require more sleep.

I've got a bad feeling about this.