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Comment Re:Can't be true (Score 2) 174 174

Well, particularly because beekeepers are fighting actively to keep their hives alive. Hives that collapse are gone, but the hives that remain are, unsurprisingly, very well tended to. Then the hives that collapsed are replaced by getting a new queen from somewhere else and starting over.

In the wild, I could see aggressive parasites (and combinations of parasites) wiping out much greater swathes of the population, but in this case, human intervention is providing an additional buffer.

I'm still more worried about wild bees. They don't have anyone looking after them, but they're still important.

Comment Re:Ad blocking? (Score 1) 132 132

Yes, it's important that the ads be clearly labelled as ads, and not as editorial content. The brilliance of the Digg model is that everything is basically just a link, a picture, and a small bit of explanatory context. Even if you were to mistake it as a real story, it would become obvious instantly that you weren't getting any news from the site you went to.

And since the advertisers are curated, you're also not going to have any trouble where going to the site is going to be some sort of miserable spam-fest with popups and terrible auto-play videos. The Digg model is currently the best one. Unobtrusive, but obvious. It's good brand advertising, and it keeps their lights on. It's a really good compromise.

Comment It's easily explained: beekeepers are doing it (Score 1) 174 174

First, Wente is the least believable so-called journalist at the G&M. I ignore her articles out of hand because she's usually so wrong that the articles are hard to read without getting angry.

But published in the Washington Post yesterday is similar information about US hives:

The conclusion? Beekeepers are working hard to keep hives alive and keep populations up. Their livelihood is at stake here, after all.

Interestingly, I think this might serve as a long-term selection for more robust bees. Bees that are just strong enough to survive under ideal circumstances probably will, since the beekeepers will be trying to make sure that the conditions are right for their bees to last to another season. If a hive collapses, they buy a queen and replace the hive. (This is my hypothesis; it isn't backed by anything other than my intuition.)

So while we're probably having a massive impact on honeybee survival, it probably swings both ways.

The REAL issue is how populations of non-cultivated bees are doing. Bumblebees and all the other sorts of bees that we don't use to commercially produce honey or pollinate farms are also important, even if no human is directly making a dollar from the bees' work.

Comment Re:Can email service providers do more? (Score 1) 58 58

Regarding your number 2... Frequently get tampered with in transit? Really? I have, literally, never seen this....

You're lucky there. I see such tampering several times per day, and fixing the problem often takes a lot of time (and soto-voce swearing ;-).

The reason is that I deal with a lot of data that's "plain text", but is computer data of some sort, not a natural language like English (which is sorts stretching the meaning of "natural", but you know what I mean). Or it's in a human language, but not English, and the character encoding uses some 2-byte or longer characters.

The simplest example is computer source code. The tampering is often caused by the "punch-card mentality" coded into a lot of email software, which often doesn't allow lines longer than 80 (or 72) characters, and inserts line feeds to make everything fit. Many programming languages consider line feeds to mean something different than a space, usually "end of statement". Inserting a line feed in the middle of a statement thus changes the meaning, and very often introduces a syntax error.

Even nastier is the munging a lot of other plain-text data representation that mixes letters and numbers. Inserting spaces or a line feed in the middle of a token like "G2EF" usually destroys the meaning in a way that can't be corrected automatically at the receiving end. Usually the way to handle such tampering is to reply to the sender, saying "Can you send me that in quoted-printable or base-64 form?" And you try to teach everyone in the group that such data should always be encoded in a form that's immune to the idiocies of "smart" email handlers.

Text in UTF-8 form, especially Chinese and Japanese text, is especially prone to this sort of tampering, which often leaves the text garbled beyond recovery.

Anyway, there are lots of excuses for such tampering with email in ways that destroy the content. It's not always for nefarious reasons; it's just because the programmers only tested their email-handling code on English-language text. And because they're idiots who think that lines of text should never be longer than 80 (or 72) characters.

Comment Re:Redirecting (Score 1) 188 188

When I noticed that the address was the address of my machine, I did a quick find(1), but couldn't find the IMDB files or the takedown letter. Do you think I should contact Universal Pictures and ask them to send me another copy of the letter, so I can figure out which file to take down?

Actually, I noticed that all of our home machines (we have several, including tablets and smart phones) seem to have the same address. I guess that's to be expected, since ISPs only give us a single address, so we all have to use that silly NAT protocol and try to make sense of the confusion that it always creates. Anyway, I did look around on all of them, and still couldn't find anything with "Universal Pictures" inside. I did find a few files that contain "IMDB", but they're in the browsers' cache directories, and I got rid of those by simply telling the browsers to clear their cache(s).

But somehow I don't think this has taken care of the problem. So who should I contact at Universal Pictures to make sure we get a copy of the letter and purge our machines of their files?

(And for the benefit of many /. readers and mods, maybe I should end this with: ;-) Nah....

Comment Re:Profits are important to allocate resources (Score 1) 93 93

What rate of return would convince you to put your money in an investment if you knew it was going to be 10 years before you received the first dollar back - and there was a 90%+ chance of failure to boot?

Funny thing; those numbers were used back in the 1980s, with interesting results. The topic wasn't drugs, though, but rather solid-state manufacturing, and very similar numbers were widely quoted in east Asia. At the time, it was generally estimated that to build a new solid-state facility would require several billion dollars, and would take around a decade to become profitable, due to the extreme difficulty of achieving the required low level of contaminants inside the equipment. Much of the decade would be spent making test runs, discovering that the output was useless because of some trace contaminant in one part of the process, and redesigning the setup to get past yet another failure. Success wasn't predictable; the 10-year estimate was just the minimum.

But people in east Asia (mostly Japan and Korea) argued publicly that the American companies that controlled most of the production at the time wouldn't be able to get funding for new factories, because American investors would refuse to invest so much money in something with no payoff for a decade. If Asian investors would step in and support the effort, in 10 years they could own the world's solid-state industry. Enough people with money (including government agencies) listened, made the gamble, and a decade longer, they owned the industry.

It's probably just a matter of time before the American drug industry goes the same way. Would you invest in something with no payoff for a decade or more, and wasn't even guaranteed to pay off then because nobody had yet created the drugs that might be created? If you guess that few US (or EU) investors will do this, you're likely right.

In particular, the Republican US Congress is highly likely to continue its defunding of academic basic research, partly due to mistrust of investments that won't pay off during their current terms in office, and also due to a serious religion-based dislike of the biological sciences in general. Without the basic research, the only "new" drugs patented by industry will continue to be mostly small tweaks of existing drugs, which under US law qualify as new, patentable products.

Of course, this is all a bunch of tenuous guesses, based on past behavior of the players. That's what investment is usually like. It's entirely possible that they'll wise up, and not abandon the drug industry the way they abandoned the electronics industry. The US does actually have a few solid-state production facilities, after all, though they're now a small part of the market.

But, as the above poster said, would you be willing to gamble your investment money on the hope that US private drug makers will support the research that the US government is getting out of? Remember that, to corporate management, scientific research appears to have a record of 90% failure; i.e., 90% of funded research projects fail to produce a patentable and marketable product. This is the nature of research, which only discovers facts and theories, not products, and where the outcome of a study is unpredictable before the fact. (If it were predictable, it wouldn't be called "research", it'd be "development". ;-)

Comment Re:Redirecting (Score 5, Funny) 188 188 is clearly unresponsible to DMCA takedown efforts; legal approaches simply won't suffice. I recommend that Universal Pictures launch a coordinated effort hack into it using as many computers as possible, gain root access, and write over its hard drive.

Comment Re:Interesting; likely more limited than advertise (Score 2) 82 82

That actually doesn't sound that bad:

"For example both alcohol (ethanol) and water produce large peaks on an IR spectrum and from the video it would seem that the user provides some background data on what the sample is via the app, so that saves a lot of work. It would be easy for the algorithm to say, 'the user says this is drink and I can see that about 40 per cent of the total spectrum is ethanol so I should give a reading of alcoholic beverage with 40 per cent alcohol content'. Or 'this is a plant and 70 per cent of the spectrum is water so it must be 70 per cent hydrated'. This could also be done with total sugar content for common sugars such as sucrose and fructose," he said.

"Similarly, it would be possible to get a spectrum good enough to recognise something like fruit or Tylenol and then send back generic data (easily found via Google)

That would hardly be useless. I presume that the person knows whether what they're looking at is a fruit or an alcoholic beverage. It's not a big deal to ask the user to do whatever degree of categorization that they can to help it out. And being able to pick out common drugs? Definitely not useless.

Comment Re:Interesting; likely more limited than advertise (Score 1) 82 82

Thanks for your insights. Still trying to decide whether something like this should go on my wish list ;) (see above for my potential uses).

How accurate, exactly, do you think such a device could be? Obviously it's not going to be pulling out the sort of precision of a professional spectrometer. But you mention, for example, being able to identify the signatures of herbicides and pesticides. Do you mean, for example, "This contains imidacloprid", or more like, "This contains a nicotinoid of some variety"?

How useful do you think it could be on identifying mineral species - say, distinguishing between different zeolites? Or, back to food, if given, say, a mango, to get readings of, say, water, sugar (in general, or specific sugars), fat (in general, or specific categories of fats, or specific fats), protein (in general, or specific categories of proteins, or specific common protiens... obviously it's not going to be able to pull out 5 ppb of Some-Complex-Unique-Protein), common vitamins (generally found in dozens of ppm quantity - some more, some less), minerals (likewise), etc?

You can't go home again, unless you set $HOME.