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+ - NASA's CubeSat initiative helps testing of Solar Sails->

Submitted by __roo
__roo writes: With help from NASA, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion launched into space Wednesday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The Planetary Society’s LightSail satellite is a technology demonstration for using solar propulsion on nanosatellites. LightSail consists of three CubeSats (approximately four inch cubes) bundled together.
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Comment: Private sector's no better, probably worse (Score 4, Insightful) 150

by __roo (#49732893) Attached to: Survey: 2/3 of Public Sector Workers Wouldn't Report a Security Breach

People will trade their passwords for a candy bar.

Plus, public sector workers at least have some job security. I've worked in the private sector for 20+ years, there's a reason it's called "at-will" employment. Sticking your neck out to report a breach won't win you any friends, doesn't gain you anything, and if it get someone who's politically savvy in trouble it could blow back on you. Safer and easier to keep quiet and keep your job.

I wish it weren't like that—and to be fair, the best teams I've worked with weren't (and aren't!) like that. But way too many offices run that way, and politics and sleaziness beats honesty and ethics nine times out of ten.

+ - Satellites make a load of difference to bridge safety->

Submitted by __roo
__roo writes: In an effort to detect crumbling infrastructure before it causes damage and costs lives, the European Space Agency is working with the UK’s University of Nottingham to monitor the movements of large structures as they happen using satellite navigation sensors. The team uses highly sensitive satnav receivers that transmit real-time data to detect movements as small as 1 cm combined with historical Earth observation satellite data. By placing sensors at key locations on the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, they detected stressed structural members and unexpected deformations.
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Comment: No wonder it's not working for you! (Score 1) 507

by __roo (#49692873) Attached to: Is Agile Development a Failing Concept?

I'm seeing posts from people saying things like, "Agile isn't working for my team, I just spent my whole daily standup reading this thread" or, "I get a lot of work done during my retrospectives". Of course agile sucks for these people! Agile will get limited—but still useful—results when the team has this attitude.

But if they have a different mindset where they actually try during the daily standup or retrospective, it works so much better.

Look, every really good developer I've worked with has had good opinions and ideas about how the project should be run. When they spend the entire standup or retrospective looking at on their phones, the team doesn't get the benefit of those opinions and ideas. But when they use the meeting to actually share those ideas, and maybe even engage in a good discussion (or even argue for them!) with the rest of the team, the whole project benefits. But that only works if they care about doing a good job with the standup or the retrospective the way they care about doing a good job with their code.

I'm plugging my book, Learning Agile, now. I hope you don't mod me down too much for that. But I think we did a pretty good job arguing this point in the first few pages the first chapter. You can read the first chapter for free [PDF].

Comment: What goes around -- it will be you one day (Score 1) 429

by __roo (#49639313) Attached to: Why Companies Should Hire Older Developers

A friend of mine was managing a programming team. They interviewed a really good developer in his early 40s, and one of her team members said he was too old. He thought the guy couldn't possibly be up to date on recent technology. She hired him anyway, and he did really good work.

That was well over ten years ago. The guy who raised the objection is now older than the candidate he wanted to reject. I wonder if he's gone on any interviews lately (or found newfangled technology impossible to keep up with).

Comment: Useful for barometric migraines (Score 1) 79

by __roo (#48200353) Attached to: Barometers In iPhones Mean More Crowdsourcing In Weather Forecasts

I know several people who get barometric migraines, or migraine headaches that are triggered when the pressure changes suddenly (usually when it drops). Some of them have told me that migraine medications like rizatriptan and sumatriptan can be effective, but often come with unpleasant side-effects like a racing pulse or grogginess.

This leads to a dilemma: do you take the medication and deal with the side effects, or do you try to ride out the headache? It's especially frustrating for people who get headaches that aren't always migraines, because the migraine medication doesn't necessarily work on a normal, non-migraine headache.

This is where a personal barometric pressure monitor that's been with you for the last few hours can be very helpful. If you are trying to decide whether or not to take migraine medication, you can consult your phone and see if you personally experienced a large pressure drop prior to the onset of the migraine. If so, that helps with the decision of whether or not to take the medicine.

Comment: Head First C# (Score 5, Interesting) 254

by __roo (#47285603) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Way to Learn C# For Game Programming?

Warning: this is blatantly self-promotional. It's also a pretty good answer to the question, I think, so hopefully I won't get violently modded down.

It sounds like you're exactly who Jenny Greene and I wrote Head First C# for. I played around with a lot of different ways to teach both C# language and core object oriented programming and computer science concepts, and I found that building games was easily the most satisfying way to do it.

The only way to really learn a language is writing a lot of code, and one of the biggest challenges I had putting the book together was coming up with many different projects. The answer was games: a card games, a turn-based game, arcade games -- it turns out that building a game is a great way to keep readers motivated, especially when they're learning new concepts. I've had a lot of really positive feedback from first-time programmers who found it really satisfying to get through the book, and especially building the final project (a retro Space Invaders game).

You can download a free PDF of the first three chapters of Head First C# from the O'Reilly page and see if you like it.

Comment: Lots of people have done it (Score 1) 306

by __roo (#46516267) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks?

I wrote a popular book for learning C#, and I routinely get emails from people who started programming in the 80s and 90s who felt their skills were going stale and were able to pick up C# without any difficulty.

I do not believe there is an expiration date on our ability to learn new programming skills. This applies for any language, whether or not you use a book... as long as you remember that most (only?) effective way to learn a new language is doing lots of projects (that's something I focus on for my readers).

+ - Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience->

Submitted by __roo
__roo writes: Americans get riled up about creationists and climate change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods. It’s all pseudoscience—so why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others? That's the question the author of this article tackles: "From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort ... Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares." He points out his local Whole Foods' "predominantly liberal clientele that skews academic" shop at a place where a significant portion of the product being sold is based on simple pseudoscience. So, why do many of us perceive Whole Foods and the Creation Museum so differently?
Link to Original Source

+ - Study shows aging C-123 cargo planes are still contaminated with Agent Orange->

Submitted by __roo
__roo writes: Herbicides used in Vietnam in the 1970s still pose a threat to servicemen, according to a study published Friday. The U.S. Air Force and Department of Veteran Affairs denied benefits to sick veterans, taking the position that any dioxin or other components of Agent Orange contaminating its fleet of C-123 cargo planes would have been "dried residues" and unlikely to pose meaningful exposure risks. According to the lead researcher, "The VA, whether out of ignorance or malice, has denied the entire existence of this entire branch of science. They have this preposterous idea that somehow there is this other kind of state of matter — a dried residue that is completely inert." To show that such exposures happened, her research team had to be 'very clever.'
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Comment: NSF is report NOT flawed if you bother to read it (Score 4, Informative) 326

by __roo (#46249721) Attached to: NSF Report Flawed; Americans Do Not Believe Astrology Is Scientific

If the NSF Report actually stated "that roughly 40% of Americans believe astrology to be scientific," this would be an interesting use of five bucks. But that's not what the report says.

Here's what the NSF report acually writes—and it's actually interesting:

Fewer Americans rejected astrology in 2012 than in recent years.
* In 2012, slightly more than half of Americans said that astrology was “not at all scientific,” whereas nearly two-thirds gave this response in 2010. The comparable percentage has not been this low since 1983.

Page 7-6 of the report gives actual details about the survey—speciically, the Science and Technology portion of the General Social Survey". You can search the GSS survey for the word 'astrology' to see the actual question:

ASTROSCI : ASTROLOGY IS SCIENTIFIC - 1037. Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific?
1 Very scientific
2 Sort of scientific
3 Not at all scientific

The whole point is that they're asking Americans if they know what the word 'astrology' means.

If there was a mass epidemic of amnesia between 2010 and 2012, I don't remember it. So what caused the reversal in a steady trend that lasted from 1983 to 2010? Why did the number of Americans who know the definition of the word 'astrology' make a sudden and very large negative drop from 2010 to 2012?

This is an interesting result, and to their credit the authors of the NSF report do a good job of accurately reporting their finding without resorting to hyperbole or finger-pointing.

Comment: Humor is an exploit of laughter as social bonding (Score 2) 211

by __roo (#44514109) Attached to: AI Is Funny - a Generative Joke Model

In Mind Wide Open Steven Johnson points out that "Laughing is not an instinctive physical response to humor, the way a flinch responds to pain or a shiver to cold. It's an instinctive form of social bonding that humor is crafted to exploit."

Think about how often you laugh at references, the more obscure the better. You're sharing a bond with the person making that reference—and once you start looking for that, it becomes increasingly obvious (at least it did for me).

That's probably why "I like my X like my Y, Z" style jokes are funny—they make us think, "Wow, you and I both see that X and Y have that relationship, possibly based on abusing a synonym, which doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of them."

The more I think about humor as an exploit of laughter as social bonding behavior, the more I notice it. And the more I notice people laughing when things aren't funny, but when it's appropriate to reconfirm a social bond (like when someone does something embarrassing that might take them out of the social norm, and the people around them laugh to reassure them that the social bond has not been damaged... much).

This is where I would make a joke about how geeks are not good at social bonding, but I'm too much of a geek to relate to such things.

It's not an optical illusion, it just looks like one. -- Phil White