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Comment: Re:Not news (Score 1) 200

Hallam said it best: there has never been a time when humanity has successfully and peacefully coexisted with nature.

That would be a nice quote, but it contains an implicit assumption which is seriously wrong: That there is any distinction between humanity and nature.

It's not surprising that we tend to see ourselves as distinct from the rest of nature, because we are dramatically different from all other forms of life around us, and not just because we're self-centered, or even because we're objectively hugely more successful than any other species. We're dramatically different because we're the only species we know of that is capable of creating explanatory knowledge, of conjecturing and criticizing ideas, individually and in collaboration, to understand how and why things work. Many species on Earth are capable of learning, but as far as we can tell it's all "behavioral" learning; understanding merely that specific behaviors cause specific results. Sometimes the results of that level of understanding can be quite sophisticated, as in the animals who can create and use tools in complex sequences to accomplish goals, but it's still on a completely different level from the ability that humans have to deduce deep explanations of the structure and nature of the universe, and how to manipulate it.

Regardless of the temptation to view ourselves as separate from nature, though, we're not. That doesn't mean we won't benefit from applying our understanding of the rest of nature to maintain the elements of it that are beneficial to us. Obviously, we're better off if we don't make the world a worse for ourselves -- the flip side of that is that we are better off if we make the world a better place for us, so stasis is not the goal. That's really good because stasis (aka "sustainability") is impossible.

Comment: Re:That's great, but ... (Score 3, Interesting) 108

practical long distance EVs at a reasonable price and/or can recharge in less than half an hour

The price may or may not be reasonable, depending on your budget, though it definitely is for a non-trivial number of people, but the Tesla Model S fulfills the other requirements today.

My Nissan LEAF doesn't, though it's still a very practical car that easily manages all but a small fraction of my driving.

Comment: Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (Score 1) 328

by David Jao (#47530167) Attached to: Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate
First of all, the number claimed in your link is 95%, not 97%. Second of all, try making even basic efforts at fact checking. For example, your article claims 99.7% of poor families have refrigerators. This is plainly untrue -- homeless people don't have refrigerators, and they make up 10% of poor people. The numbers in the article are clearly unreliable and agenda-driven, which is not surprising, considering the source.

Comment: Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (Score 2) 328

by David Jao (#47528909) Attached to: Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

For those with access to a supermarket, a combination of lack of time, lack of education, and lack of ability to delay gratification that causes people to eat junk food. Not money.

None of the above. For most poor and even lower-middle class families, the limiting factor is lack of access to food preparation equipment and facilities. Low-income housing often lacks a kitchen. Even if you have a kitchen, one often lacks appliances; trying to subsist on unprocessed food without a refrigerator or a stove is difficult to put it mildly. Families near the poverty line move from place to place a lot, often on short notice in response to evictions. There's no way they could maintain possession of bulky appliances under such circumstances, not to mention an adequate inventory of cookware.

Poor families are really living on the edge, much more than you realize. Once you get to the point where you can't afford a security deposit for an apartment, a lot of options close off. Food preparation is one of them.

Comment: Re:Should the United States accept more foreigners (Score 1) 328

by David Jao (#47528883) Attached to: Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate

Food prices are high, but all of my meals (which are nutritious) cost $1-$2 max, usually closer to $1. You just have to know how and where to shop. Of course, this is the US, which is a first world country...

It is not enough to know how and where to shop. You also, generally, need a kitchen and appliances (stove, refrigerator, etc.) in order to produce nutritions $1 meals. Many poor and even lower-middle class families simply don't have these things. The kind of housing that you can get for cheap is going to be one-room boarding houses with limited access to food preparation facilities. You're lucky to have even a shared kitchen. As for appliances, they're not actually very expensive -- an iPhone costs more -- but poor families generally move far too often (usually involuntarily) to maintain possession of bulky items.

Comment: Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (Score 1) 511

by swillden (#47526497) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

shooting which requires both close-up vision (to see the signs) and long range vision (to see the target)

Unless your distance vision is *really* bad, to the point where you can't make out the target at all, distance vision doesn't have much impact on shooting. In a proper sight picture you should be focused on the front sight, and you also need the rear sight to be clear enough that you can verify precise alignment. The target will always be blurry, so having it a little blurrier because of nearsightedness isn't typically a problem.

I often tell the older shooters I teach to wear their reading glasses. Not only does the improved sight alignment help, but I think the inability to see the target clearly strongly discourages them from trying to focus on it, which helps even more.

Comment: Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (Score 5, Insightful) 511

by swillden (#47524941) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

One common technique for people who are close to or have age-induced presbyopia is to perform the surgery on only one eye, or, depending on the prescription, to apply it in different amounts. The idea is to get one eye which is good for near vision and one that is good for far vision. Sort of the same notion as bifocals, but applied directly to the eyes. Apparently the brain adjusts quickly and effectively to this and you end up feeling as though you have good vision at all ranges as long as both eyes are open.

I'm considering doing that. I'm 45 and my eyes have just begun to change. I'm still generally myopic, but so far the change just requires me to take my glasses off when doing close work. I'm going to give it a couple more years to be sure my eyes have more or less settled, then get surgery on one or both, in whatever degrees will give me the best overall visual acuity and flexibility.

If your eyes haven't actually changed yet, then it's something of a crapshoot. The idea is to adjust your vision based on guesses as to how they're going to change. That said, my optometrist says that they can make very good guesses. The only reason he's recommended that I wait is because I'm not far from the point where guessing won't be required, based on my history of general visual stability and current rate of change.

Comment: Re:Mostly done by 1985... (Score 2) 193

by swillden (#47523999) Attached to: Black Holes Not Black After All, Theorize Physicists
Interesting, but not surprising. It's unlikely that any new idea in cosmology (or anywhere else) is actually truly "new" by the time it garners sufficient support to warrant widespread serious consideration. The process by which knowledge is created -- conjecture and criticism -- almost precludes it. Ideas, even correct ideas, assuming this is and assuming that Greenstein actually had the same idea, not less-correct variant, nearly always come before the knowledge needed to identify them as correct, or at least as more correct than competing ideas. This is why simultaneous invention is so common, because the groundwork is thoroughly well-laid before the crucial bits fall into place that make it possible to put it on a firm foundation.

Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 167

by hey! (#47523393) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

It's exactly as many syllables as "ebola" but carries more information, what's not to like?

Indeed, it carries MUCH more precision than just "Ebola", which can mean any of the following:

"Ebola River" is a tributary to the Congo River.

"Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever" was the name of a disease first discovered in people living in the remote Ebola River watershed.

"Ebola Virus" (abbrev. "EBOV") is the infectious agent that causes "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever"

"Ebolavirus" is the taxonomic genus to which the "Ebola virus" belongs.

"Ebola Virus Disease (abbrev. "EVD") is now the more common name for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. We can call it that because we have definitively identified the infectious agent that causes the disease (EBOV). Changing the name pre-emptively differentiates EVD from other hemorrhagic diseases that might arise from the same area.

Laymen simply say "Ebola" and let their audience sort out what they mean -- if indeed they mean anything precisely. I once had this conversation with an elderly relative.

Relative: 90% of bats have rabies.

Me: That's hard to believe.

Relative: It's true! I read it in the paper.

So I went to the paper and found out that she had it hopelessly garbled. TEN percent of bats SUBMITTED FOR TESTING had positive SCREENING tests.

Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 167

by hey! (#47523131) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

I worked in public health informatics for many years, and it's a longstanding tradition to use three letter codes. I think this is the legacy of old systems which provided three or four character fields for codes, but it certainly speeds things along when you're keying data into a spreadsheet.

The tradition isn't formalized, and so it's application is somewhat irregular, but it's important in this case to realize that public health surveillance makes a strong distinction between a *disease* (a disorder of structure or function in an organism like a human) and an *infectious agent* (the parasite, bacterium, virus or prion that transmits the disease). That's because you can find the infectious agent without finding any cases of the disease -- for example in an asymptomatic human, in a disease carrying vector like a mosquito etc. Non-specialist use the same terms to refer to either the disease or the agent (this naming by association is called "metonymy", a word every system designer should be familiar with). So of course the abbreviations experts use seem nonsensical to non-specialists.

The abbreviation "EVD" maskes perfect sense -- it is the *disease* caused by the Ebola Virus (EBOV). A non-specialist uses terms loosely and would say things like "They found Ebloa in Freetown." A specialist wouldn't use such loose language. He'd say "We found a human case of EVD in Freetown," or "We had a serum with a positive titer for EBOV from Freetown."

Comment: There's only one thing you need to know about H-1B (Score 1) 221

by hey! (#47522747) Attached to: VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

There's only one thing you need to know about the H-1B program to see that it's not about providing skilled labor *here*: after 6-10 years of working the visa holder is kicked out of the country to make room for a less experienced visa holder.

If H-1B led automatically to a green card, then we'd be keeping the *most* expert workers here, rather than replacing them with less experienced ones. Change that *one* aspect of the program, and it's be an asset to the US as a nation.

Comment: Re:Yay! Hopenchange! (Score 1) 221

by hey! (#47522677) Attached to: VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

I went back and got a degree after 25 years. It's not the *degree*, it's the *education* that matters, and I got a lot more out of the education than my younger peers. This was a new perspective on things I was already familiar with, and I was able to connect a lot of dots I wouldn't have been able to when I was eighteen. I could immediately see what stuff was good for, and I discovered a number of things that would solve commonplace problems I'd seen occur over and over again, even with personnel wit advanced degrees.

Then I got out and discovered that the world didn't want to hire a fifty year old who'd been "out of work" (going to school) for three years....

Comment: Re:Does it have Cold resistance level 2 (Score 0) 167

by Anne Thwacks (#47521649) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand
Unfortunately the schools ahd hospitals were destroyed by the rebels in the recent civil way. The rebels were a bunch of drug-crazed gangsters using child soldiers to.steal the gold and diamond mines.(The entire mines, not just the produce).

It was American money that funded the rebels, and the Europeans that insisted the government "negotiate" with the rebels as if they were a legitimate democratic opposition. This is the equivalent of asking the Italian government to negotiate with the Mafia. Only worse: The rebels knew they would go to hell for crimes against humanity if caught, so they were prepared to go to any extreme to avoid being caught - chopping random limbs off men women and children without mercy in drug-fueled rampages was only a part of it.

Yes its a f*ckup - but they were forced into this mess by outsiders. It take a lot to recover from that.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann

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