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Comment: Re:It gets worse... (Score 1) 666

by amaurea (#47498865) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

No no, you misunderstand! I didn't say that those weapons could have come from Crimea. I said that they could have come from local military bases in the separatist-controlled parts of Eastern Ukraine (i.e. from the Donbass region itself). The only reason why I brought up Crimea was to say that defections from local military bases is possible, and had happened before.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 1) 666

by amaurea (#47498765) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

Thanks for an insightful post. There seems to be a worryingly large amount of people here who actually think somebody shot down that plane on purpose.

You say that it appears that the BUK system in question was Russian-supplied and crewed. I think that's very possible. But I had also though that this BUK might come from a local military base or factory, with crew from defectors from such a base. Has this possibility been eliminated already?

(By the way, are BUKs really state-of-the-art? Haven't they been around for 30+ years now?)

Comment: Re:It gets worse... (Score 3, Informative) 666

by amaurea (#47498717) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

I agree that it's most likely that the separatists were the ones who shot down the plane. They had shot down several Ukrainian military planes before, and probably thought they were preventing the arrival of enemy soldiers or bombs. This is also supported by the wiretap evidence released by the Ukrainian central government (though as one of the parts in the conflict, they are not likely to be the most reliable source).

I partially disagree on the second point. While it may well be that the missiles were supplied by Russia, we should remember that this kind of missile (probably a BUK launcher), has been a part of the standard ground-to-air arsenal in Sovjet since the 1970s, and was inherited by its member states when it split up, among them Ukraine. The separatist-controlled area of Eastern Ukraine apparently contain several military bases and weapons factories that have now fallen under the control of the rebels. This would be an obvious candidate for how they could have gotten hold of BUK weapons.

The Crimean situation saw large numbers of defectors from the Ukrainian military join the rebels there. If this happened in the seized military bases, then that would also give a natural explanation for how people who know how to operate these weapons came to be among the separatists (assuming they are difficult to use in the first place).

So I think that there are several sensible hypotheses for where the weapons could have come from. It is too early to say that they must have come from Russia (though that certainly is very possible).

Comment: Re:Wait for it... (Score 4, Insightful) 752

by amaurea (#47477793) Attached to: Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

That would be a bit complicated since these territories are controlled by terrorists these days.

Please let's not make the term "terrorist" so broad that it means nothing. There is a civil war going on in Ukraine. The aim of the two sides is to control territory, not to terrorize people, though of course the war doesn't exactly make people feel safe. Not all bad things in the world are terrorism.

Comment: Re:Such harassment (Score 2) 362

by amaurea (#47472833) Attached to: Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork

Another problem is sloppy wording of questions. Here is one example from the survey:

32. Have you ever personally experienced inappropriate or sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, cognitive sex differences, or other jokes, at an anthropological field site?

Technically, if somebody ever told you a joke about anything at a field site, then "yes" would be a valid answer, depending on how one interprets which parts of the sentence "inappropriate or sexual" applies to. The same applies to the other subclauses, like cognitive sex differences or beauty, both of which are completely valid subjects of discussion.

I think the questions asked here do very little to distinguish harassment from friendly social interaction. I guess they expect the respondents to implicitly filter away non-harassment when answering, but a good questionaire should allow as little room for interpretation as possible.

Comment: Mod parent up (Score 2) 749

by amaurea (#47455421) Attached to: Obama Administration Says the World's Servers Are Ours

I'm pretty sure this is itself a fallacy. You can't just assume every country operates identically, given the same opportunity. That's just like saying every man would rape a woman given a good opportunity, just because one guy did so.

Iceland hasn't done anything to earn a bad reputation. The US government has.

Well said. The "I'm sure everybody else is just as bad" defence of the USA is annoyingly common on Slashdot, but there are no reasons to expect them to be the same. They differ in how healthy their democracies are (USA has a relatively large distance from the wishes of the individual citizen to the actions of the government (this depends on size of the population, the implementation of democracy and the laws regulating the influence of money)), how much resources they can allocate (if Iceland spent the same fraction of their money on surveilance, they would have about 50 NSA/CIA equivalent employees and store much less than 1% of the world's data for 0.1 years. But there are economics of scale that would lower this further), and how powerful they are internationally (and hence to which degree they can bully other countries into cooperating).

I think the main reason why your data might not be safe in Iceland is that Iceland would bow to pressure from the USA, not that Iceland would covert it itself.

(By the way, EU != Europe. Iceland is not in the EU)

Comment: Mod parent up (Score 4, Insightful) 163

by amaurea (#47455299) Attached to: 'Hidden From Google' Remembers the Sites Google Is Forced To Forget

Indeed. WayBackMachine respects robots.txt retroactively, which is insane in my opinion, because it means what WayBackMachine says the web looked like in, say 1999, can change at any moment. For example, if WayBackMachine has 10 years of archived data for a site which then comes under new management that decides it wants to erase that history, they can just put up a robots.txt on the current site, and WayBackMachine will not only stop serving the current version of the site, it will also stop serving all the previous ten years of data. This happened to the original, for example.

Comment: Missing link to actual scientific article (Score 2) 95

by amaurea (#47437025) Attached to: Arecibo Radio Telescope Confirms Extra-galactic Fast Radio Pulses

As usual with astronomy articles, it can be found on the arXiv, freely available to all. It goes into much more detail than the article linked in the summary. Here is the abstract:

Recent work has exploited pulsar survey data to identify temporally isolated, millisecond-duration radio bursts with large dispersion measures (DMs). These bursts have been interpreted as arising from a population of extragalactic sources, in which case they would provide unprecedented opportunities for probing the intergalactic medium; they may also be linked to new source classes. Until now, however, all so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been detected with the Parkes radio telescope and its 13-beam receiver, casting some concern about the astrophysical nature of these signals. Here we present FRB 121102, the first FRB discovery from a geographic location other than Parkes. FRB 121102 was found in the Galactic anti-center region in the 1.4-GHz Pulsar ALFA survey with the Arecibo Observatory with a DM = 557.4 \pm 3 pc cm^{-3}, pulse width of 3\; \pm 0.5 ms, and no evidence of interstellar scattering. The observed delay of the signal arrival time with frequency agrees precisely with the expectation of dispersion through an ionized medium. Despite its low Galactic latitude (b = -0.2^{\circ}), the burst has three times the maximum Galactic DM expected along this particular line-of-sight, suggesting an extragalactic origin. A peculiar aspect of the signal is an inverted spectrum; we interpret this as a consequence of being detected in a sidelobe of the ALFA receiver. FRB 121102's brightness, duration, and the inferred event rate are all consistent with the properties of the previously detected Parkes bursts.

Comment: Re:RTFA: real engineering is going on (Score 1) 55

by amaurea (#47436909) Attached to: A Peek Inside D-Wave's Quantum Computing Hardware

There is definitely an unfortunate tendency among slashdotters to be over-cynical towards new technology.

But in the case of D-Wave I think much of the blame lies with the company itself. In the beginning they acted very suspiciously, refusing to let anybody see the insides of their device, and refusing to cooperate with the scientific community, all the while charging millions for devices that that it was unclear whether did anything interesting. During this uncooperative phase, many scientists publically expressed deep skepticism that the D-Wave approach had anything to do with quantum computing, and it was not so strange to think that the whole thing was simply a scam. Especially when it turned out that the results of D-Wave's device could be emulated in faster than real-time using a normal computer.

Since then, D-Wave seems to have turned over a new leaf and become much more cooperative, and I think most people take them seriously now (though there is still much controversy about their approach to quantum computing). But they are still suffering from the bad reputation they earned in the beginning.

Comment: Disappointing (Score 5, Informative) 94

by amaurea (#47422761) Attached to: Single European Copyright Title On the Horizon

I took part in the copyright consultation (along with about 10000 others), and like many other members of the general public I pointed out the need for reducing the scope and duration of copyright, and to actually try to measure what effects copyright has rather than blindly assuming that it will have its intended consequence of increasing the production of works. I also pointed out that much cultural production, perhaps the majority if you count by the number of authors, is currently illegal due to unauthorized use of copyrighted works. This would disappear if the law as it is were consistently enforced, and gives us a glimpse of the cost of the current system.

After reading parts of the leaked white paper, I am disappointed by the European Commission's response. They give lip service to these issues ("the need for an evidence-based approach", for example), but only in passing. In their "way forward" suggestions, they always choose either to do nothing, or to move according to the wishes of large publishers. They also assert, without evidence, that the dynamic, meditum-to-longer-term effect of reducing copyright would lead to a faster rate of obsolecense of copyrighted material, which would then lead to less incentive to create new works. That's stated as if it were self evident, just a single page after they emphasized the need for an evidence-based approach. In fact, I think a stronger case could be made for exactly the opposite conclusion: When copyright doesn't last forever, you have an incentive to create new works to benefit from.

I did not expect much from the consultation, but I hoped that they would at least discuss the issues raised there, and argue against parts they disagreed with, rather than just ignoring them.

Comment: Re:Java or Python (Score 1) 415

by amaurea (#47413421) Attached to: Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Humans care a lot whether spaces and tabs are intermingled, as long as you include other people than just the original program author in the set of "humans". Have you ever looked at a program written by somebody who mixed tabs and space for indentation, and who used a different tab size than you? It's completely unreadable! If there is one thing your editor should do for you, it is to make it very visible when tabs and spaces are mixed.

Comment: Re:Warp Drive (Score 1) 564

That ten-line program will always do exactly what it was programmed to do, neither more nor less.

Just because you understand and algorithm (or you invented it and implemented it yourself, even) doesn't mean that the algorithm can't produce complex results that you never would have anticipated yourself. Consider the mandelbrot fractal, for example. It is generated by pretty much the simplest algorithm you can imagine, but it still results in a surprising and beautiful structure. Just because something is following an algorithm slavishly doesn't mean it can't result in arbitrarily complex behavior.

The CPU in your computer is always running the same fixed algorithm, as specified through its wiring diagram. It does exactly what the designers at Intel, AMD, ARM etc. designed it to do. Nothing more, nothing less. But it still results in a huge amount of different behaviors - games, word processors, physics simulations, image manipulation - that were not anticipated by the CPU designers. Of course, in the case of a computer, those extra behaviors come in the form of specially crafted data that is fed into the CPU (via its attached memory) by humans. I'm certainly not claiming that your computer has general AI. But my point is that doing "exactly what it's programmed to do, neither more nor less" is not really relevant here.

It may well be possible to create general AI by having a very simple, fixed algorithm operating on a large, dynamic data structure. At a fundamental level, that's how our intelligence works - a simple, fixed algorithm (the laws of physics) operating on the configuration of particles that make up our brains. I don't think such a low-level approach is the most efficient way of going about constructing a general AI, though.

Comment: Re:Github overtaken by thuggish government (Score 2) 349

by amaurea (#47384835) Attached to: Qualcomm Takes Down 100+ GitHub Repositories With DMCA Notice

To get that, I think you'll need a distributed peer-to-peer replacement - something like freenet but without the enormous overhead incurred from the secrecy requirements there. Basically, parts of each repository would be stored redundantly on all clients, and these would all take part in push/pull requests etc. There is nothing preventing you from including the other, non-git features of github in such a program also, including bugtracking etc. But building it would not be trivial.

All centralized architectures are vulnerable to this, though as you say, hosts in some countries are more vulnerable than others.

You can bring any calculator you like to the midterm, as long as it doesn't dim the lights when you turn it on. -- Hepler, Systems Design 182