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Science

Oxford Scientists Say Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats 716

Posted by kdawson
from the so's-yer-old-man dept.
Velcroman1 writes "This again: scientists at Oxford University claim canines are smarter than felines. And the reason, according to the researchers, is that dogs are more social animals and therefore have bigger brains than the more solitary-inclined cats. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, charted the evolutionary history of various mammals' brains over 60 million years and found a link between the size of an animal's brain in relation to its body and how socially active it was."

Comment: Testimonial from someone who dealt with it (Score 2, Insightful) 215

by Skexis (#34058652) Attached to: Verizon To Pay $25M For Years of 'Mystery Fees'
I personally was charged about $75 in addition to my normal bill for the first two months I had Verizon. The bill simply said "internet charges" or the even more nebulous "download: music box" as a way of explaining the extra money. My phone's default settings on all of the phone's face buttons were to get me to the internet as fast as possible, and the unlock button was the thing that protruded the most from the flat part of the phone, so at first I dismissed it as the phone getting unlocked in my pocket at work. By the second month, though, I called to complain, thinking that if I was being charged all that money for a "download," as opposed to "internet usage," I should have had a program or mp3 downloaded to my phone. I said as much to the customer service agent, and she stepped away from the phone to speak with her manager. Her response, minutes later, was to offer to take half of the charges off. I replied that I would pay for the amount if, and only if, she could tell me exactly what the hell it was that I had downloaded.

A few minutes later, and she told me that all charges would be dropped. Reading this now, I'm just sorry I didn't push harder for the first month I had already paid.

Comment: Re:Archimedes, again? Really? (Score 1) 795

by Skexis (#33943582) Attached to: President Obama To Appear On Mythbusters

I have no doubt you, and many others, would. This is tragic, though. You could, as an alternative, take an interest in what their issues are and see if there is any progress to be made. Instead you ridicule, because that's easy. Partisanship makes people do some really stupid things, doesn't it?

The onus is on the organizers of the movement to put their best face forward. If they allow inflammatory people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to represent them, then it's easy for the movement to quickly become about those representatives rather than the issues. The movement's issues inevitably bend towards their own, and it speaks to the flimsy nature of the movement and its organization in the first place.

You should be asking yourself why they thought they needed any of those people speaking for them in order to succeed.

Education

What If We Ran Universities Like Wikipedia? 380

Posted by Soulskill
from the voting-classmates-and-professors-off-the-island dept.
Pickens writes "Do university bureaucracies still make sense in the era of networks? At the recent Educause conference, David J. Staley laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it operated like Wikipedia. The 'Wiki-ized University' wouldn't have formal admissions, says Staley; people could enter and exit as they wished and the university would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students 'not unlike the original idea for the university, in the Middle Ages.' In addition, the curriculum of the 'Wiki-ized University' would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity 'would be determined by the community.' Staley predicts that a new form of academic organization is emerging that will be driven by volunteerism. 'We do see some idea today of how "volunteer teaching" might look: think of the faculty at a place like the University of Phoenix. Most teaching faculty have day jobs — and in fact are hired because they have day jobs — and teach at the university for a nominal stipend,' writes Staley. 'If something like the Phoenix model is what develops in a wiki-ized university setting, this would suggest that a new type of "professorate" will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.'"

Comment: Re:Probrem! (Score 1) 696

by Skexis (#33637812) Attached to: Stewart and Colbert Plan Competing D.C. Rallies
1. Obama never ran on a platform of pulling out of all war.
2. Talking about the war in Afghanistan inevitably brings in talk of how America's intervention in the 70's brought the fall of the Shah, and how not everything changed for the better. So protesting the war becomes tied in with a lot of other cans of worms, and criticizing "The Protesters" for their ideology is a straw man for the simple fact that there is no "The Protesters." Just like there is no "Right" and no "Left." There are, however, fans of Glenn Beck, (and of Colbert, and of Stewart) and if the rally is any measure of Beck's fans' worth, then they need a bit of curtailing before they decide that drinking that Kool-Aid is a spectacular idea.
3. Your penchant for grandiose statements and snide catchphrases puts you more closely on Beck's side than you might like. Bumper sticker logic never serves a person well, and you might want to reconsider whitewashing the other side when it doesn't agree with you.
Robotics

Robots Taught to Deceive 239

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the of-this-will-be-fine dept.
An anonymous reader found a story that starts "'We have developed algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and we have designed techniques that help the robot select the best deceptive strategy to reduce its chance of being discovered,' said Ronald Arkin, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing."

Comment: Re:If it violates an amendment (Score 1) 312

by Skexis (#33407222) Attached to: Full-Body Scanners Deployed In Street-Roving Vans
"Clearly our car bomb repellent is effective in the absence of carbombs!"
But kidding aside, we'd be better off asking the CIA how many carbombs are being planned (with both the means and the motive) to make them think x-ray vans are an effective deterrent. Asking a member of the general U.S. populace how many carbombs they've seen lately is not going to be an informed opinion by any means.
Star Wars Prequels

Lucas Promises Star Wars on Blu-Ray in 2011 420

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-one-day-blu-ray-will-grab-me dept.
Several readers have written with word that George Lucas has announced a 2011 release date for the Star Wars series — all six films — on Blu-Ray. Engadget (linked) has an explanation of what to expect, and includes a video of a deleted scene that the Blu-Ray version will include. They warn that this might be a disappointment to anyone who (correctly) believes that Han shot first.

Comment: False Dichotomy (Score 4, Insightful) 372

by Skexis (#33211048) Attached to: FBI Prioritizes Copyright Over Missing Persons
The FBI does not exist to investigate one thing OR another. It investigates what crimes are capable of being solved by lab work and field agents who may or may not have any leads. Missing Persons and Identity Theft are two types of cases where the amount of time and money expended is often beyond the department's means to rectify the relative damages caused.

In the case of missing persons, because some of them don't want to be found, or another department has already exhausted their leads.
In the case of Identity Theft, because the perpetrators are often in other countries, where it doesn't make practical sense to send field agents to sift through hearsay or rumor in order to find someone who might be their criminal, and who, if he's smart at all, has since erased the evidence of his theft anyways.

Comment: Re:I'm interested (Score 1) 138

by Skexis (#32467142) Attached to: <em>Lord of the Rings Online</em> To Go Free-To-Play

Does anyone know if that includes expansions, like Mines of Moria?

Expansions and quest areas like Eriador are going to be pay-to-access, and Mines of Moria will still be a separate expansion you have to pay for.
They've outlined their general tiers of use here: http://www.lotro.com/betasignup/vipchart.html

Comment: IANAS, but.. (Score 1) 659

by Skexis (#32403226) Attached to: Students Show a Dramatic Drop In Empathy
I am not a sociologist, but I'd be interested to see if there's a correlation between loss of empathy and population growth. The old saw about country folk being friendlier than city people has at least some basis in reality because the human brain is trained to ignore (or at least defer) the things it can't immediately process. And by nature you can't be friends with everybody.

At any rate, my feeling is that this can be traced at least in part to the way the U.S. youth's consciousness has been thrust into the world sphere. I know when I was in high school, I basically ignored the news, because everything seemed so distant. Now it seems like something of global urgency or outrage is popping up every other day, and our youth have become active (even if unwilling) participants in it. The whole concept of a biosphere must seem like white noise to a demographic who largely don't even know who they are yet, much less how they want the world to work.

Comment: Re:Makes sense (Score 1) 1123

by Skexis (#32394844) Attached to: What Scientists Really Think About Religion

Do you even realize the insane irony of making the "we don't want your advancements" argument on the internet?

I don't think he was trying to be so specific as to say advancement is wrong, but was instead raising a point of contention. He was trying to point out that we accept that many things are progress as a given, without being able to comprehend the scope of what has been created.

Penicillin and the internet are interesting examples. We tend to think of them currently as a net gain. And they have indeed brought many good things into our lives and homes. But they've also raised thorny issues that we have only begun to address. Resistant bacterium and child pornography rings are part and parcel of these two issues, respectively. Is it all progress? Or is it just mostly progress?

It's pure conceit to think we can package revolutionary ideas in that way.

Comment: Re:What A Mess (Score 1) 949

by Skexis (#32283116) Attached to: Pakistan Court Orders Facebook Ban Over Mohammed Images
He makes a point there, however. Everyone has a hotbutton issue that sparks emotion over reason. I'd be very surprised if you've never hit that threshold before, and gotten so mad you felt like being violent. (Most people simply divert this into exercise, or punching bags, or what have you)

But let us not get so wrapped up in our superiority that we forget our nature. We're social animals.

Comment: Re:Please define task (Score 2, Informative) 257

by Skexis (#31880698) Attached to: Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit for Multitasking
If you require constant attention to keep breathing, you have bigger problems than defining a task. But from TFA:

Koechlin and his colleagues had 32 subjects complete a letter-matching task while they had their brains scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The subjects saw uppercase letters on a screen and had to determine whether those letters were presented in the correct order to spell out a certain word. They were given money if they performed the task with no errors.
...
But then they made the task more difficult. In addition to uppercase letters, the subjects were also presented with lowercase letters, and had to switch back and forth between matching the uppercase letters to spell out, say, T-A-B-L-E-T, and lowercase letters to spell out t-a-b-l-e-t.
...
To make things even more complicated, the researchers introduced a third letter-matching task. Here, they saw the subject's accuracy drop considerably. It was as though, once each hemisphere was occupied with managing one task, there was nowhere for the third task to go.

In every non-trivial program there is at least one bug.

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