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Comment: Depends on the requirements (Score 2) 298

by TMB (#49359909) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Makes Some Code Particularly Good?

The best piece of code I ever wrote in my life was nearly 100x faster than the next best algorithm ever written to do that problem. That took the expected run time down from a few days to an hour.

It was not a particularly well-commented piece of code. If it were, it would have been even better.

It was not a particularly obvious algorithm for solving the problem. If it were more obvious why one would choose to do it this way, it would have been even better.

If the primary concern is runtime (because it normally takes days to run), and you literally make it orders of magnitude faster, that's good code. It could be better if it were also better commented and easier to maintain, but those aren't *always* the primary concern (yes, sometimes they are. That's the point -- criteria differ!)

[TMB]

Comment: Re:Same as zero point energy? (Score 1) 236

by TMB (#49359879) Attached to: Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected

That was what was first assumed. There's only one minor problem.

The amount of zero point energy is *120 orders of magnitude* larger than the measured magnitude of dark energy. And dark energy has about 3x the energy density of dark matter.

So, despite the fact that it looks like zero point energy, there's something else going on.

[TMB]

Comment: Re:WIMPs (Score 3, Informative) 236

by TMB (#49358417) Attached to: Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected

Yes.

There are actually many proposed extensions to the standard model that predict dark matter particles that would be classified as WIMPs, and there are some others where the interaction is not through the weak force but through a "hidden sector" force. Some of the possible parameter space of some those hidden sector models predict a cross-section that they would have been able to detect in this experiment. So this is indeed a useful result -- it does rule out some possibilities. But they're not necessarily the possibilities that most people would be betting on anyway, so the headline is overhyped.

[TMB]

Comment: Analogy (Score 5, Insightful) 196

by TMB (#49156721) Attached to: One Astronomer's Quest To Reinstate Pluto As a Planet

Here's an analogy I gave my students last week...

Imagine you're an alien and you land on Earth in front of a pet store. You go inside and you start meeting dogs. Some are big with a loud deep "WOOF", some are small with a quieter higher "ruff" and there's one little one that goes "meow". Some of them have big floppy ears, some of them have little floppy ears, and that little one has sharp pointed ears with tufts on the end. You think "That little meowing dog with the pointed tufted ears is an unusual dog!"

Then you go onto the rest of the pet store and find a whole bunch more small meowing things with pointed tufted ears, and you say "Oh... I see. That wasn't a funny dog, that was just the first cat I met!"

Pluto was the first Trans-Neptunian Object we met, and so we originally called it by our existing language ("planet"). But once we had a much better lay of the land, it became clear that it was just the first example of a quite different type of object.

[TMB]

Comment: Re:TV = video (Score 1) 244

by TMB (#48985897) Attached to: Over the past 10 years, my TV-watching has..

There's a huge range of ambiguity these days.

How often do I watch a TV set that has a signal coming from an antenna, cable, or satellite receiver? Absolutely never.

How about if I stream an old TV show on Amazon instant video on my computer? How about if it's the latest (but not live) episode from the current season of a show? How about if I stream a live Canucks game on my computer? How about if I stream any of those onto a TV set via a Chromecast? I can't see a reasonable argument that sitting in front of a TV set watching a live sports event isn't "watching TV" --- but you can come up with plenty of industry definitions where it doesn't qualify.

Comment: Re:PR works well? Where? (Score 1) 413

by TMB (#48482981) Attached to: Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

Canada has FPTP and has had at least 3 major parties every election for decades (at times up to 5). It's more the case that when you have 2-party FPTP, it is very hard to break out of it... but if you start off with more viable parties, it can remain that way.

Which is not to say that I endorse FPTP in any way, shape or form. We all know that Arrow's Theorem says that no voting system satisfies all the axioms you would like a voting system to adhere to, but some violate the axioms more often and in more egregious ways than others. FPTP is more egregious at the individual level than almost any alternative.

The problem with Arrow's Theorem is that it is really about what happens for a choice amongst a few individuals (like a presidential election), while the majority of countries have parliamentary systems in which it is the aggregate of all of the individual choices that determines the government. If you ask what government you get as a result of all of those individual FPTP elections, its faults vis-a-vis Arrow's Theorem are usually not too bad. Which is probably why FPTP persists despite the fact that it does badly at the individual level -- people tend to agree that the government it produces at the national level usually reflects the will of the people.

+ - New Jersey e-vote experiment after Sandy declared a disaster

Submitted by TMB
TMB writes: Al Jazeera reports on a Rutgers study about e-voting in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, and it is damning. It concludes that the middle of a natural disaster is the last time to try switching to a new voting method, especially one rife with such problems as e-voting. The table of contents includes such section headings as "Internet voting is not safe, should not be made legal, and should never be incorporated into emergency measures".

Comment: Re:Storage is not same as GUI Design (Score 2) 370

by TMB (#48180313) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

The one that drives me crazy is removing the ethernet port on MacBooks. Which wouldn't be too bad if Apple's USB or Thunderbird ethernet adapters lasted more than 6 months before breaking, but I'm on my 5th in slightly over 2 years now... finally bought a third party one in the hopes that it will be less frail.

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