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Comment: There is the small issue of academic freedom. (Score 1) 78

by hey! (#49498337) Attached to: Columbia University Doctors Ask For Dr. Mehmet Oz's Dismissal

You can't fire a faculty member because outside the scope of his duties he expresses an opinion you don't like -- even if it's a clearly crackpot opinion. If you could, Stanford would have kicked Linus Pauling out when he became a Vitamin C crackpot.

The difference, though, is that Pauling was a sincere crackpot -- brilliant people are often susceptible to crackpottery because they're so used to being more right than their neighbors. Dr. Oz is a snake-oil salesman; when he's faced with people who are educated -- not necessarily scientists but critical thinkers -- in a forum he doesn't control, he speaks in a much more equivocal fashion. That shows he knows the language he uses on his show and in his magazine is irresponsible.

So selling snake-oil isn't crackpottery, it's misconduct. But somebody's got to find, chapter and verse, the specific institutional rules of conduct Dr. Oz's misconduct violates. There will have to be due process, particularly if he's a tenured professor, which will probably require lesser disciplinary measures than dismissal be tried first.

Comment: Re:Wow. Just wow. (Score 1) 317

by hey! (#49490245) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

So... They didn't test the iPad / content combo to establish usability / feasibility / usefulness prior to dropping all this cash?

That's speculation. Feasibility is no guarantee of performance.

I read the attached article, and there were two specific complaints cited. The first was security, which is a non-functional requirement; that could well be a failure of the customer to do his homework on requirements but presumably a competent and honest vendor could have done a better job on security. It's often the vendor's job to anticipate customer needs, particularly in projects of the type customers don't necessarily have experience with.

The other complaint is that the curriculum wasn't completely implemented. If the vendor failed to deliver something it agreed to, that's purely the vendor's fault.

Sometimes bad vendors happen to good customers. Bad vendors happen more often to bad customers, but every project involves taking a calculated risk.

Comment: Re:Sign off. (Score 3, Insightful) 317

by hey! (#49490193) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

Well, until the details of how the contract was awarded and how the vendor failed have been thoroughly investigated, it's premature to fire anyone.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for accountability and decisiveness, but picking someone plausible and throwing them under the bus isn't accountability. In fact that may actually shield whoever was responsible.

Comment: Re:Everyone loves taxes (Score 1) 173

Everyone loves the benefits of government-funded infrastructure if someone else is paying for them.

That's not entirely true. If you are in the top %0.001 of the population for income, you could feasibly pay for your own private infrastructure. You buy a plot of land, put a wall around it and hire a bunch of people to protect you, take care of you and cater to your needs. But your standard of living wouldn't actually be any objectively better than it is in contemporary America. In fact it would probably be somewhat worse. Historically societies that organized themselves along these feudal lines were not by modern standards innovative. You mustn't imagine living your untaxed castle enjoying Internet access and the other benefits of a modern science. In the rule by and for the wealthy, guys like Jon Postel or Vint Cerf would most likely have been serfs.

Humanity's greatest resource is the creativity of people -- a resource that tends to be squandered either by totalitarian control on one hand or anarchistic neglect on the other. People who can see no middle ground aren't just blind as futurists, they're historically blind.

Comment: Re:better idea (Score 0) 165

by hey! (#49453713) Attached to: UN To Debate Lethal Autonomous Weapons

Great idea. 2000 years ago they nailed someone to a tree for saying that.

And by a thousand years ago they were going to war in his name. People will seize on anything to rationalize what they want to do, aided by the bottomless human capacity for inconsistency. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if someday to learn there were "Gandhian" terrorists.

Don't get me wrong, I think ideals are important. But we shouldn't expect too much from them. An ideal is only as good as the people who espouse it.

Comment: Re:Never consumer ready (Score 1) 227

by hey! (#49453541) Attached to: 220TB Tapes Show Tape Storage Still Has a Long Future

Wake me when tape is reliable AND costs 10% of the $/GB of hard drive storage.

No, you have to get up before that so you can shlep 22 10 TB hard drives to the backup site.

The truth is that there is no simple solution for backup -- not if you consider preparing for future contingencies. Backup to hard drives? Your backup data is an asset that needs constant maintenance less bit-rot set in.

Comment: Re:Double tassel ... (Score 1) 216

by hey! (#49442897) Attached to: Senate Draft of No Child Left Behind Act Draft Makes CS a 'Core' Subject

I don't see how anyone could be "awesome at CS" without being strong at math. Being skilled at *programming* and bad at math? Sure, although that would be a significant handicap.

Programming isn't CS, just like machining isn't mechanical engineering. Sure, machinists and mechanical engineers tend to have a basic seat-of-the-pants understanding of each others' disciplines, but that doesn't mean they can do each others' jobs.

Of course CS is different, in that many if not most people with CS degrees make their livings as programmers. And probably quite a few of them are mediocre at math in a way no mechanical engineer would be, but I wouldn't call those people "awesome at CS"; I'd call them over-credentialed programmers. On the flip side there are programmers without degrees in CS who are awesome at CS, but that's because they've self-taught, and are pretty much by definition good at math. They may have deficits in specific areas like geometry or calculus, but they're going to be good at stuff like abstract algebra and graph theory. If someone is "awesome at CS" they should be able to follow Euler's solution to the Konigsberg bridge problem. If they can't follow it they may be quite useful as programmers but they're not going to be designing any novel networking algorithms.

As far as making CS a core subject? That seems a bit extreme to me, and I actually have a CS degree. I think most people who are destined for STEM careers would benefit from some programming experience in something like MATLAB, but they'd benefit *more* from additional probability and statistics. There is certainly little call to teach them actual CS. It's questionable to me whether people heading into non-STEM careers benefit at all from CS or programming, and they'd certainly benefit more from additional courses in writing.

Comment: Re:Why did it take so long? (Score 1) 250

by hey! (#49433289) Attached to: Verdict Reached In Boston Bombing Trial

If you've ever been on a jury hearing a trial for a violent felony, you'd understand. Despite the feeling you have that the world is full of irresponsible morons, when you put people in that jury room most of them understand that they have a man's life in their hands on one hand, and the safety and order of society in the other.

It's very likely the most serious and important thing you'll do ever do in your entire life. You do not want to f*ck it up, even if the answer seems obvious when you walk into deliberations.

Comment: Recommended reading (Score 2) 623

I highly recommend Anita Okrent's In the Land of Invented Languages, which is interesting to a sci-fi fan because it covers not only the obvious cases like Klingon, but serious attempts to create "philosophical" languages which are alluded to in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle.

It was interesting to me as a long time database and system designer because the seriously undermines the impulse that arises once in every generation of system designers that systems can be integrated "merely" by adopting a common, standardized ontological model.

Comment: Re:Holy misleading summary, Batman! (Score 1) 587

by hey! (#49416667) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political

It doesn't matter why an author does what he does. What matters is if he gets away with it.

The whole write for yourself/write for your audience thing is a false dichotomy. If you write *solely* for yourself you won't connect with other people. If you write solely for other people you won't have anything to say.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?