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Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 160

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) 160

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) 214

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) 214

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....

+ - Letter to Congress: Ending U.S. Dependency on Russia for Access to Space 1

Submitted by Bruce Perens
Bruce Perens (3872) writes "I've sent a letter to my district's senators and member of congress this evening, regarding how we should achieve a swifter end to U.S. dependency on the Russians for access to space. Please read my letter, below. If you like it, please join me and send something similar to your own representatives. Find them here and here. — Bruce

Dear Congressperson Lee,

The U.S. is dependent on the Russians for present and future access to space. Only Soyuz can bring astronauts to and from the Space Station. The space vehicles being built by United Launch Alliance are designed around a Russian engine. NASA's own design for a crewed rocket is in its infancy and will not be useful for a decade, if it ever flies.

Mr. Putin has become much too bold because of other nations dependence. The recent loss of Malaysia Air MH17 and all aboard is one consequence.

Ending our dependency on Russia for access to space, sooner than we previously planned, has become critical. SpaceX has announced the crewed version of their Dragon spaceship. They have had multiple successful flights and returns to Earth of the un-crewed Dragon and their Falcon 9 rocket, which are without unfortunate foreign dependencies. SpaceX is pursuing development using private funds. The U.S. should now support and accelerate that development.

SpaceX has, after only a decade of development, demonstrated many advances over existing and planned paths to space. Recently they have twice successfully brought the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket back to the ocean surface at a speed that would allow safe landing on ground. They have demonstrated many times the safe takeoff, flight to significant altitude, ground landing and re-flight of two similar test rockets. In October they plan the touchdown of their rocket's first stage on a barge at sea, and its recovery and re-use after a full flight to space. Should their plan for a reusable first-stage, second, and crew vehicle be achieved, it could result in a reduction in the cost of access to space to perhaps 1/100 of the current "astronomical" price. This would open a new frontier to economical access in a way not witnessed by our nation since the transcontinental railroad. The U.S. should now support this effort and reap its tremendous economic rewards.

This plan is not without risk, and like all space research there will be failures, delays, and eventually lost life. However, the many successes of SpaceX argue for our increased support now, and the potential of tremendous benefit to our nation and the world.

Please write back to me.

Many Thanks

Bruce Perens"

Comment: Re:Is this an achievement? (Score 1) 47

by hey! (#47519351) Attached to: Autonomous Sea-Robot Survives Massive Typhoon

Well, you are unlikely to be the *only* one who doesn't think this is all that impressive, because you're unlikely to be the only one who didn't read the article or looking up the device on the company's website.

The robot in question is designed to capture energy from surface waves for propulsion. So it is not a deep submersible, it waddles along a six meters below the surface, tethered to a streamlined surface buoy that it drags along and uses to capture wave energy. Making it through a major storm is a significant proof-of-concept for such a system.

Comment: Re:The problem is... (Score 2) 189

Yes, the point is that it's like MAD and other weapons policies: you don't want to put down your gun (or shield, for that matter) while the other guy is still holding on to his.

MAD doesn't work for self-replicating things like bioweapons. If you put your gun or nuke down, and the other guy still has his and decides to shoot at you, you're screwed.

OTOH, if you destroy your smallpox virus samples, and the other guy still has his and decides to use it on you, well he's just given you a smallpox sample you can use right back on him just as if you'd never destroyed your samples.

The only bioweapon for which MAD would work would be one which kills quickly enough that the target nation is killed off before it can collect samples and send them back to the attacker. But any bioweapon that kills that quickly would be useless because it would kill the victim before he could spread the contagion to others, thus defeating the very characteristic which makes a bioweapon a weapon of mass descruction.


MIT' Combines Carbon Foam and Graphite Flakes For Efficient Solar Steam Generati 110

Posted by timothy
from the science-fiction-future-awaits dept.
rtoz (2530056) writes Researchers at MIT have developed a new spongelike material structure which can use 85% of incoming solar energy for converting water into steam. This spongelike structure has a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam. This structure has many small pores. It can float on the water, and it will act as an insulator for preventing heat from escaping to the underlying liquid. As sunlight hits the structure, it creates a hotspot in the graphite layer, generating a pressure gradient that draws water up through the carbon foam. As water seeps into the graphite layer, the heat concentrated in the graphite turns the water into steam. This structure works much like a sponge. It is a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation. And, this setup loses very little heat in the process, and can produce steam at relatively low solar intensity. If scaled up, this setup will not require complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight.

Comment: Could you use this for body building? (Score 1) 39

by tjstork (#47504989) Attached to: Method Rapidly Reconstructs Animal's Development Cell By Cell

I know it sounds vain but it does also have practical applications for people with muscular deficiencies owing to immobility. From what I've gathered, no one really knows what happens, precisely, to cause muscles to "grow". Sure, there's a hundred different theories tossed around on body building forums, but a lot of sounds more like pseudo-biological nonsense rather than real science. There's precious little experiment in the field and my lay understanding is that it is because the only method of looking at muscles is biopsy.

Comment: Re:PCI-DSS (Score 1) 210

Who says they're holding the PAN in plaintext? They can decrypt it to send it to the Feds as needed without keeping it in plaintext in their systems.

So your argument is that they're reconstructing the PAN within the remarks section of the PNR by inserting decrypted credit card information back into the record?

I was most surprised to see my credit card detailsâ"full card number and expiration dateâ"published unredacted and in the clear. Fortunately, that credit card number has long expired, but I was nonetheless appalled to see it out there. American Airlines, which had created that particular PNR in 2005, did not immediately respond to my request for comment on how or why such detailed personal information would show up here. (In other instances, the majority of the number was Xâ(TM)d out.)

And they're doing it voluntarily...

Line 4 revealed my long-expired and since changed credit card number, in full. As a security precaution, we've redacted it here.

[Cannot link directly to first PNR graphic in TFA, but look at lines 4 and 5] And they're doing it in a field/line that looks like it cannot be differentiated from the immediately following name information...

Pull the other leg.

Comment: Re:There's something touching about that comment (Score 2) 102

by hey! (#47500515) Attached to: "Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

It's not the human *touch* that people crave in a complicated interaction with a system. It's human *versatility*.

Thus more personnel does no good, if those personnel are rigidly controlled, lack information to advise or authority to act. The fact that they're also expected to be jolly and upbeat as they follow their rigid and unyielding rules only turns the interaction with them into a travesty of a social interaction.

What would work better is a well-designed check-in system that handles routine situations nearly all the time, along with a few personnel who have the training and authority to solve any passenger problems that come up.

Comment: Re:String theory is not science (Score 1) 147

by DRJlaw (#47494745) Attached to: Can the Multiverse Be Tested Scientifically?

No, it's a computer model. A compute model is often (in engineering for example) a conceptual representation of real entities. However in many cases the model is more a conceptual representation of the biases and assumptions of the people who made it, being unreal in that sense. It isn't science and math isn't science either.

But it is. Both.

You've confusing hypothesis with observation. This does not purport to be observation. This is an element of the hypothesis -- identifying what sort of tests and observations might be performed, so that the tests can be performed and/or the observations scheduled. Actual tests. Actual observations. Outside of the computer model.

I.e., this is a computer-assistend Gendankenexperiment, similar to other more simple ones which came before which came before.

From TFA:

"Weâ(TM)re trying to find out what the testable predictions of (the multiverse) would be, and then going out and looking for them," said Matthew Johnson of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

"We start with a multiverse that has two bubbles in it, we collide the bubbles on a computer to figure out what happens, and then we stick a virtual observer in various places and ask what that observer would see from there," said Johnson.

So yes, it is science. The fact that you cannot invest 5 minutes of your time to understand it is your flaw, not theirs.

Comment: Re:There is no "safe" amount of ionizing radiation (Score 5, Informative) 230

by Solandri (#47494067) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

Yep, I think we can all agree that it's worth a few punkin' headed babies and/or a couple of deaths so the rest of us can have brighter colors and whiter whites.

That's the tradeoff we make with vaccination programs. A small percentage of kids who are vaccinated get sick, and a few of them die every year. But we still vaccinate everyone because the benefits far outweigh those costs.

The flaw in your reasoning (it's a pretty common flawed line of reasoning, not just yours, so I'm not picking on you) is that you're trying to compare against a nonexistent zero state. Radiation can cause death. If there were no radiation, there would be no deaths. Therefore we must avoid radiation. Likewise, if we didn't vaccinate, those kids who died from vaccination wouldn't die. Therefore we shouldn't vaccinate.

To do a correct comparison, you can't compare to a zero state. You must take into account opportunity costs; you have to compare with alternative equivalent states. Without vaccination, far more people would die from the diseases we're vaccinating against. Without nuclear power, the world loses 13% of its electricity. The harm from that far exceeds the few deaths from even Fukushima-level accidents. Or if you replaced that nuclear generation with the next most-viable alternative (coal/gas), the emissions from those are far more harmful than the radiation hazards from nuclear. Even if you managed to replace them with wind and solar, the number of deaths installing and maintaining all those turbines and rooftop panels (roughly 11,000 turbines for a Fukushima-level plant, or 4.8 million homes with 40 m^2 of panels installed on each of their roofs) far exceeds the number that nuclear has killed.*

* Math for the wind/solar comparison:

  • The Fukushima plant had 4696 MWe of nominal generating capacity.
  • Nuclear has a capacity factor of 0.9, so in a year it produced on average 90% of that, or 4226.4 MW.
  • Average wind turbine generates about 1.5 MWe peak.
  • Onshore wind's capacity factor is about 0.25 on the high end, so in a year that turbine produces an average 375 kW.
  • You'd need 11270 1.5MW turbines to equal Fukushima's output.
  • PV Solar using high-end 20% efficient panels generates about 150 W/m^2 peak.
  • Average rooftop installation is about 20 m^2, but the roof size is about 40 m^2. So 6 kW peak.
  • Solar's capacity factor in the U.S. is 0.145. So on average the rooftop would generate 870 Watts.
  • You'd need 4.86 million rooftops to equal Fukushima's output.
  • Working in high places is dangerous. Roofing is the 5th most dangerous job in the U.S., at 34.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers each year.
  • If a solar installation requires 3 roof-top workers and they can do 100 installs per year, you'd expect 51 deaths per year vs. an estimated about 30 deaths from cancer caused by Fukushima's radiation release in a once-per-25-year accident.
  • I can't find stats for turbine worker fatality rates, but wind already kills about 5-10 maintenance workers per year while providing less than 1/10th the world's electricity that nuclear does.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert