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Comment: Re:I've grappled with the ethics of CS for 20 year (Score 1) 183

by amck (#46812879) Attached to: The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face

This is Engineering. This dilemma has been faced before by other Engineers, and its time for software engineers to step up to the mark and earn the title.

Basically, professionalize. Join an industry body like IEEE, create and get standards like C.Eng, lobby for critical software to be signed off by Licensed Engineers. Wrestle control from the PHBs.

Comment: Re:But is it a class M planet? (Score 4, Interesting) 239

by amck (#46781665) Attached to: Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered


There have been several studies of tidally-locked planets around M-dwarfs which refute this.
Simulations of the Atmospheres of Synchronously Rotating Terrestrial Planets Orbiting M Dwarfs: Conditions for Atmospheric Collapse and the Implications for Habitability, M. M. Joshi, R. M. Haberle, and R. T. Reynolds , Icarus (1997)
A Reappraisal of The Habitability of Planets around M Dwarf Stars, Tarter et al. (2007), Astrobiology,

Basically atmosphere and ocean circulation transfer the heat, and you get a relatively habitable earthlike environment.

Comment: Re:Flamebait (Score 2) 149

by amck (#46667943) Attached to: TCP/IP Might Have Been Secure From the Start If Not For the NSA

The NSA has two conflicting tasks:
(1) Secure national communications.
(2) Break other countries communications.

This made sense in the 1950s when secure encryption was something only the military, spies, etc used. It breaks down badly in the internet, international era.

"They declined to help" hides the fact that _that was their job_. They are the national, even world experts on the problem, and they stood back
and allowed a broken internet security model. Elsewhere, they've made swiss cheese of encryption standards so they could continue to do (2),
at the cost of (1).

The NSA is Broken As Designed and needs to be scrapped.

Comment: Re:That's one heck of a very **BROAD** Patent ! (Score 1) 258

by amck (#46386259) Attached to: Inventor Has Waited 43 Years For Patent Approval

Yes, the trouble is that independent invention is no defence. And yes, it is the "natural" way of doing the task, used my many if not most in the field.

Hence the conundrum for the patent office: by rights he should be granted the patent, but in effect they will have given Hyatt an incredibly valuable monopoly by virtue of their delay in processing the patent. But they can't think of any valid reason _not_ to give him the patent.

Comment: Re:Private enterprise to the rescue (Score 5, Insightful) 292

by amck (#45985603) Attached to: Thousands of Gas Leaks Discovered Under Streets of Washington DC

Monopolies are bad. Government makes a monopoly. Results are bad. Are you surprised? I am surprised at your apparent attitude, given the track record of government-managed systems. You think that would be better?

Not necessarily. For example the method used in Former Yugoslavia: the bread business was nationalised to ensure cheap bread for the populace. Two government bread companies were set up (IIRC). They were made to compete with each other, but with within strict rules, so that profit-taking for the benefit of staff salaries was out, but they could find efficiencies and compete. Also, it was legal for private companies to set up and sell other types of bread, but obviously couldn't control the market.

Similarly, Ireland had a nationalized shipping company to ensure shipping happened in Ireland ; during WWII no-one else would ship to Ireland because of the danger, and after the war they needed stable prices. Other companies could compete, but this meant there was a ceiling on prices and there was always someone capable of shipping.

Secondly having spent half my life in the public and half in the private sector, the private-sector is just as bad, it just doesn't have public investigations into waste.

Comment: Re:meta stable (Score 1) 249

by amck (#45850231) Attached to: Reducing Climate Change Uncertainty By Figuring Out Clouds

No, You've plenty: we run our climate models on other planets, too. There are operational models running for Mars (to predict dust storms);
Titan, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Neptune and Uranus have been tested too.

We also have paleoclimates, matching CO2 and temperature patterns against fossil and isotopic records both on Earth and recently on Mars.

We have lots of individual tests: climate model accuracy on a regional scale, when the models are not tuned to this; getting predictions
such as Arctic ampliification right, etc. Getting the magnitude and duration of global cooling in the wake of volcanos such as Pinatubo, etc.

As another poster said, we've plenty of tests that we can do and have done, if you show any imagination.

Comment: Re:Fixed-point arithmetic (Score 4, Insightful) 226

by amck (#45489529) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Reproducible Is Arithmetic In the Cloud?

Getting the result to be deterministic is only the start of the problem. How do you know it is _correct_, or more properly, know the error bounds involved? How much does it matter to your problem?

e.g. If I am doing a 48-hour weather forecast, I can compare my results with observations next week; I can treat numerical error as a part of "model" error along with input observational uncertainty, etc.

I might validate part of my solutions by checking that, for example, the total water content of my planet doesn't change. For a 48-hour forecast, I might tolerate methods that slightly lose water over 48 hours in return for a fast solution. For a climate forecast/projection, this would be unacceptable.

Getting the same answer every time is no comfort if I have no way of knowing if its the right answer.

Comment: Re:Governor Appointed (Score 1) 640

by amck (#45256489) Attached to: Nebraska Scientists Refuse To Carry Out Climate Change-Denying Study

How do we keep politics out of this?

How do we keep politics out of this?

By keeping science funding at arms length, funded by agencies like NIH and NSF, with politicians setting overarching policy only.
This works most of the time, and elsewhere around the world. The case being quoted is the exception, not the norm, and should be called out
(as it is being) as interference.

Arguing that government shouldn't be involved in science is ignoring that most science is publicly funded, and nearly all privately-funded
science depends on publicly-funded fundamental science that has no immediate applied value (and hence won't be corporately funded)
but is still needed.

Comment: Spying is the wrong word: Mass Surveillance (Score 1) 170

by amck (#45243627) Attached to: EU Parliament: Other Countries Spy, But Less Than the UK, US

"Spying" is misleading when what we're really talking about it mass surveillance.

Its one thing to say "Countries have always spied on each other", when it used to mean having one or two "diplomats" at the embassy and debriefing businessmen when they came back from trips to X. Its a very different affair when intelligence gathering means everyone in the country is effectively targetted (70m phone calls a month is hardly discretely targetting a country).

Mass surveillance is to spying as martial law is to policing. Instead of spying for some slight advantage, slightly corrupting negotiations between friendly countries, we now have NSA ops dictating the landscape: the communications tools used worldwide are by default cracked; the US is setting out to use this advantage to screw its partners, and they're _not_ happy about it. "Business as usual" cannot continue on these terms, and some readjustment is being demanded.

Comment: Re:Trabi... (Score 1) 151

by amck (#44744355) Attached to: Building Melts Car

"Far ahead" is not a phrase I would normally associate with the Trabant. It was a car that enforced breaks on the user every half hour to get away from the noise of the engine. Made cross-country trips (I did one across Ireland in a friends trabbie once) a bit more of an epic than usual.

You can do more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word. - Al Capone