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Comment: Much of this is already being done (Score 4, Informative) 624

SIL ( is an organization devoted to language development in remote populations with little or no education or language definition. Although they don't create languages entirely from scratch, they do clarify the boundaries of tribal languages, create alphabets for them, and teach them to read. Because of this, many of your questions are well-researched; SIL is considered something of an authority on linguistics around the world.

Comment: Re:Embarrassed (Score 1) 220

by Tony Isaac (#49400821) Attached to: How would you rate your programming skills?

The distinction between a "scripting" language and a "real" language is quite arbitrary, and the lines are very blurry. The difference used to be that scripting languages were interpreted, while "real" languages were compiled. But these days, many languages are hybrids, or somewhere between. Some languages can be used either way.

C++, for example, is usually compiled, but not always. C# is "tokenized," only partially compiled. JavaScript is a scripting language, but bits of it are compiled while it runs. JavaScript is an example of a language that is often seen as "not a real language," but amazing things are done with it, including a fully functioning Linux kernel. Given what it can do, it's hard to argue that it isn't a "real" language.

Don't get so hung up on the distinction between scripting and "programming." If you can do one, you can do the other.

Comment: Drones (Score 1) 129

by Tony Isaac (#49337791) Attached to: Do Robots Need Behavioral 'Laws' For Interacting With Other Robots?

Aerial drones are a kind of robot, and we're already making laws about what they are allowed and not allowed to do. In some cases, these rules are being programmed directly into the drones themselves, similar to Azimov's three laws. But these rules are much more specific and complex than what can be summarized in three succinct rules. They tell the drones where they are allowed to fly, and where they aren't, in minute detail. As robots become more capable, I would expect these rules to become more complex, not less.

Comment: This illustrates why PhD's shouldn't be in busines (Score 1) 486

by Tony Isaac (#49337703) Attached to: No, It's Not Always Quicker To Do Things In Memory

Of course, there are exceptions. But many PhD's I've known make lousy programmers, in terms of producing good software.

I've come to think that the skills needed to be a good post-graduate student are different from the skills needed to be a good professional developer.

Professional developers know (or should know) how to optimize code, when necessary. All else being equal, optimized code will ALWAYS be faster in memory than on disk. The two examples in this research are NOT equal. A more equal test would be to output to a memory stream, vs. a file stream. I'll bet the results would be quite different.

Comment: It's not accuracy that's reviving the arms race (Score 1) 228

by Tony Isaac (#49337397) Attached to: How Nuclear Weapon Modernization Undercuts Disarmament

It's the fact that more smaller countries are now able to obtain or make nuclear weapons. When it was just the US and Russia, as long as the two countries were in a stalemate, the world was (somewhat) safe. But now that the list of countries with nuclear weapons is growing, the calculations become much more complex, and the risk level for the world is higher.

Comment: Popup messages are completely ineffective (Score 4, Informative) 79

by Tony Isaac (#49311705) Attached to: MRIs Show Our Brains Shutting Down When We See Security Prompts

My company had a customer whose nightly backups were failing. Every time every user in the company (hundreds of them) logged in to the system, they were presented with a message pop-up warning that the backups had been failing. This went on for WEEKS before anyone bothered to notify the software vendor (who managed the backup system).

There seem to be a couple of principles at work here:
1. Not my job. Everybody at the company knew it wasn't their job to keep the backups working, so they ignored the warning.
2. In the way. Everybody had something they needed to do, so they simply clicked whatever they had to (the OK button) to get past the prompt and do their work.

It's like the license agreements on software installers. Everybody just clicks "I Agree" because they know they have to do so to get to the next screen, not necessarily because they actually agree.

Comment: Misunderstanding of statistics (Score 1) 320

A drug maker comes out with a new drug that is "twice as effective as a placebo." That sounds scientific, and it is. But the part of statistics that is poorly understood, at least by the public, is the margin of error. Many of these studies show results that are well within the margin of error, so an effect that is "double" that of the control group is actually meaningless.

Comment: The root of the argument is punishment itself (Score 3, Interesting) 1081

by Tony Isaac (#49259349) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

There are a lot of posts here and elsewhere saying that we should "just stop," that capital punishment is immoral and should be abolished forever.

Is ANY kind of punishment moral and justified?

Is it logical that the severity of the punishment should be proportional to the offense?

How do you decide what is the most severe form of punishment that is moral and justified, if punishment of any kind is moral and justified?

If you steal from one author it's plagiarism; if you steal from many it's research. -- Wilson Mizner