Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:Passed Time (Score 2) 135

In 1953, the double helix structure of DNA was first discovered. In 2000, it took a national effort to sequence a human DNA. Now, in 2015, as I understand, you can get your own sequence for a price most people can afford. 62 years ago, if you told people that one day you would be able to generate a computer image of a person's face using a DNA sample, they would ask you what a computer was. And what DNA was. DNA is basically the song of our soul. It is our life, encoded. The decisions we make or fail to make today will matter decades into the future. Police tried searching people's smart phones today using a 1979 Supreme Court decision on a "pen register" recording of a suspect's dialed numbers, before anyone knew what a cell phone was. Of course, the suspect in the case was guilty. But the decision opened up people's smart phone data to police for more than a decade until the Supreme Court finally woke up and drew a distinction between a pen register and a smart phone. You scoff at the info contained in DNA. If we could put you back in 1973, you probably would have scoffed at the Intel 4004 microprocessor, because it couldn't do much. Whereas, the information about a person that can be derived from a fingerprint is about the same now as it was then. Except now you can put it in a computer, instead of a big book of fingerprints.

Comment: Re:Passed Time (Score 4, Insightful) 135

What are you, in law enforcement? This is a story about warrantless collection of DNA in a rape case. Not everyone is a rapist. How far do we let police intrude into people's lives who HAVE NOT committed any crime? How far can they intrude into your life without probable cause to believe you committed a particular crime? Should they be allowed to scan though your house walls? If you let infrared light seep out of your house, that is your problem! Should they be allowed to read all your emails? Oh, if you send your emails using weak encryption procedures through a third party, that is your problem! Should they be allowed to listen to all of your phone calls? Same principle.

Comment: Re:Criminals and revolutionaries of the future bew (Score 1) 135

Your DNA is really like a name, and it could confer true power over someone. How about this for science fiction: the politicians get control of a new virus printer which can take someone's DNA and formulate a specific virus for them that will show up in the autopsy as a garden variety flesh eating bacteria. The engineered strain would be particularly deadly, drug resistant, but only affecting one individual. Autopsy would not show anything amiss. A variation would be that the politicians silence opposition using viruses tailored to an individual which change their behavior: cause them to become schizophrenic, docile, perverted, suicidal, or any number of usefully self-destructive traits. Actually, I see this kind of capability as kind of inevitable, the only question being, what will be the countermeasures?

Comment: Re:Passed Time (Score 5, Insightful) 135

Just because the police can do something, doesn't mean they should be legally allowed to do it. Before all the fingerprint comments start, I will remind folks that DNA is categorically different than fingerprints. Yes, both can identify an individual. But that is like saying both a driver's license and a smart phone can be used to identify a person. If you search someone's smart phone, you have boatloads more information. DNA is becomming more useful by leaps and bounds every year. This is too much information for the government to just blythely collect and shove into databases with little safeguard against hacking, misuse, and abuse. There seriously needs to be a national discussion and laws passed. It is sad that this is unlikely to happen.

Comment: Re:can't wait to see it work on fox news web site (Score 3, Interesting) 375

by Strangely Familiar (#49161237) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links
The Google policy is about facts, not things. Facts are representations about things. Actual things, for example, cannot be true or false, they just are. Facts which represent properties of those things can be true or false. The Empire State Building is a particular thing. It is not true or false. "The Empire State Building is painted red" is a false fact about that particular thing. So, before anybody said, "H. pylori cause ulcers" it did not exist as a fact, only a thing. Remember, a fact is a representation, not to be confused with the thing it represents. False facts about the cause of ulcers existed. Few knew them to be false, except for the two Australians. The point that the GP was making was that Google doesn't deal in things, it deals in representations (web sites) about representations (other web sites). It doesn't do experiments on people to see if bacteria acutally cause ulcers; it relies on other peoples' representations about that. So when you say, "The concensus changed, not the fact that bacteria caused the ulcers." you are not correct, because there was no previous representation that h. pylori bacteria caused ulcers, until the Australians created it. Because of this mistake, you have missed the point the GP was making: the arbitrar of what is a true and what is false comes down to a human judgement, and Google is likely to base that on some type of concensus, since basing it on anything else would be problematic. In other words, if Google's plan is to say, "Well, everyone thinks that vaccines don't cause autism, but we know they do." and rank pages accordingly, that is a problem. If they go with consensus in every case, then there is a bias against corrective information. The consensus now is that h. pylori causes many ulcers. That is a representation... a fact. Is it a true fact, or a false fact? How do you know? Are we really any different than the folks in the 80s, who "knew" ulcers couldn't be caused by bacteria? Because we don't have any false facts now? That we know of?

Comment: Re:Actually, ADM Rogers doesn't "want" that at all (Score 2) 406

by Strangely Familiar (#49122279) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data
We all agree that no one wants additional terrorism. That is the easy part. The question seems to be, given that a deadly and deeply unsettling terrorist attack has occured on U.S. soil, what is our response? Do we erode our freedoms to fight terrorism, or do we believe our freedoms are the best defense against terrorism? I believe the answer has always been freedom. Did the government protect the people on 9/11? No. Did the people, despite being disarmed by the government, protect the government on 9/11? Yes. That fourth plane was headed towards the Capitol. If the government does not wake up, it will lose the support of the greater number of people protecting the government. Our remaining freedom makes most of us want to protect the government. The government may have stealth jets, but where were they when it mattered? It was some average people and a snack cart that brought down one of the jets.


The real power of the western democracies lies not in the governments doing what they want, it is in the people being free to do what they want. Free people made a thriving movie industry, which is something the government could never create. Can you imagine if we had a federal agency that tried to make movies to compete with Hollywood? Free people made the computer and software industries. Free people made the insurance industry. Free people made the auto industry. Free people made public key cryptography. Free people invented airplanes. Free people made the Internet what it is today (maybe it was created as a government project, but it is hardly a government thing right now). Freedom to do what we want without excessive government interference makes us successful and ultimately more powerful.


The governments need to be strictly limited, or they will destroy our freedom and power. Seriously, does anyone still wonder why the western democracies have become so powerful? It is because they are designed to guarantee the freedom of the people. The people, doing what they want, create very powerful industries, technologies, and social structures. The problem with all this spying is that it threatens our freedoms. With nearly complete information available to the leader, there is too much potential that the leader could abuse the power. First, the leader abuses the power to silence his/her political opposition. Then, the leader abuses the power to silence the backlash from the people supporting the opposition. Then, the leader abuses the power to hide his/her corruption, abuses, mistakes and problems. This is not a question of "if" but "when".


People sometimes think that, because a problem occured when people were free, maybe the freedom is to blame. I agree with *you*, danheskett. I believe we should always resist the presumption that any agent of the executive should be allowed to act without oversight and accountability to combat terrorism. That is a recipe for disaster in the form of dictatorship. So if anyone out there is struggling to find the answer, here it is: "It's freedom, stupid!" Less freedom will not make us more safe. It will endanger us! In this particular case of government access to encrypted data, it will make our computers more vulnerable not only to the government but to the terrorists! A free and secure populace will protect the government, because it is free and secure. A subjugated and oppressed populace will not protect the government.

Comment: Re:Facts not in evidence (Score 4, Insightful) 406

by Strangely Familiar (#49121607) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data
The older I get, the more I see the wisdom in the saying, "It is very hard to get someone to understand something when their paycheck depends on them not understanding it." The truth is a bit more complicated and nuanced than this. It is not just paycheck, but power, prestige, fame, honor, and overall dominance that make a person's profession breed intellectual dishonesty. So, it is relevant. But you won't convince daveschroeder of this. It may be true that other people's profession affected their objectivity, but not daveschroder's! OMG, logical fallacy!

Comment: Re:Actually, ADM Rogers doesn't "want" that at all (Score 2) 406

by Strangely Familiar (#49121341) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data
Thank you Captain Rouge Spook. No, the government can't be trusted. That's why it is given limited powers. Those powers it does have are broken up into three pieces at the federal level, and divided between federal and state entities. We don't want an omnipotent government, Sir Spooks Alot! Not now, not in the future. No amount of terrorism will change my mind on that, nor, I hope, the minds of a lot of other citizens. The government can't be trusted, because governments ALWAYS abuse their powers, and ALWAYS wind up killing their own citizens. Trust? How about the government trust its own citizens, huh? To have private conversations? Yes, we have a serious problem on our hands, and it is people like you and Mike Rogers who have utterly failed to grasp the lessons of history, and failed to understand the benefits of continued democracy. Both of you should get out of the government.

Comment: Re:disclosure (Score 2) 448

No, you are missing something vital here. The only way to really check whether a particular paper is valid is to a) be an expert in the field, and b) redo the research yourself. Otherwise, you are taking big shortcuts in your evaluation of a particular scientific paper. And these are big shortcuts you MUST take. There are thousands of scientific papers coming out every day, written by teams who have often collaborated for years. Most you can't read, because you can't read everything. Anything you do read, you are probably not going to redo the research yourself. That's kind of the point, isn't it? We all have specialties, and we do different things, so other people don't have to repeat what we have done? So how do you know whether a particular scientific paper is valid? Honestly, unless you can tell it isn't valid, you don't know whether it is valid science. You just have to guess. You guess based on the methods used, and whether the author seems to know his ass from a hole in the ground. And then you judge based on the credibility of the source. Is it from a Princeton professor? Someone from MIT? Or is it a quantum field theory paper written by a dentist? Is the author a whack job? Is the author a paid shill? Is the author a Stanford Astrophysics professor writing a paper about astrophysics, with no material conflicts of interest in the research, the research paper being published in a reputable peer-reviewed astrophysics journal? If you don't evalutate scientific papers this way, you don't properly evaluate scientific papers. Because realistically you can't evalutate them by duplicating the research yourself.

Comment: Re:disclosure (Score 1) 448

Yes, and I am appauled at all the money tilting the gravity/spontaneous quantum coalescence debate! Why is so much federal funding going to scientists who believe in Einstein's theory of General Relativity, while NONE is going to scientists who support the spontaneous quantum coalescence theory?

Mommy, what happens to your files when you die?