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Comment Re:Yeah, I've worked with a few of those (Score 1) 491

Why do you think explosives is the only tool of the trade for terrorists? But even for bombs, it's "beneficial" to have understand reliable detonation mechanisms, blast radii, shaping, and weight. And questions like "will this bring a building down or not?" or "will x-rays detect this?", or given that not all terrorists are suicidal, and not all targets can be approached at pont blank, even "how far away does a person need to be to survive the blast?"
For non-bombs, trajectories can be important. Or fuel rate consumption. Or counterweights.

I can fully see those who train terrorists sending some of them off to engineering schools. That likely has a higher payoff than, say, culinary school. And given how rare it is being a terrorist, it shouldn't take many to offset the statistics in the reverse direction.

Comment Re: Sounds like a psycopath. (Score 4, Insightful) 486

Not understanding statistics is part of this, I believe.

If a data mining program claims to identify 99% of all border-crossing e-mails between terrorists, with only a 1% false positive rate, the unthinking suit wearing managers and politicians will wet themselves with excitement.

Now consider that there may be 1000 terrorists in the US that use e-mail.
And an average e-mail users sends or receives a total of 10 e-mails across the border per day.
And a (conservative) estimate of half a billion e-mails crossing the US borders every day.
That means they'll "catch" more than five million suspicious e-mails every day, and less than 0.5% of those will be to or from a terrorist. Anyone "caught" in that drag will have a 99.5% chance of being innocent.
Do they have the resources to investigate millions of people every day, and correctly identify the overwhelming number of false positives through other means?

In reality, I expect the numbers are much much worse. Especially in the aftermath of attacks, where people are far more likely to mention key words like Syria, Kalashnikov, explosive, alluha akbar or Paris.

Collecting more hay is not a good way to find more needles in haystacks.

Comment Re: Sounds like a psycopath. (Score 2) 486

How do you know the specific people to spy on, if you are unable to look through large amounts of meta data to discover who is talking with known terrorists?

The problem is that the amount of data is so vast that it's worthless unless you know exactly what you're looking for. And if you know exactly what you're looking for, you have to have gotten that from somewhere else, and can narrow your search.
It's the same problem as STASI had - too much information meant that they became near powerless, because even 5% of your population in your employ wasn't enough to go through all that data and reliably separate the wheat from the chaff.

What the CIA wants all the data for is to be able to make retroactive surveillance. It's not preemptive in any way.

Comment Re:How is it a problem? (Score 1) 143

NTP handles leap seconds, where's the issue?

There are a lot of "foo[60]" arrays out there, and leap seconds triggering things like writing beyond the end of an array, or overwriting the last entry, losing data for the previous second. And in many cases it goes unnoticed, which can be even worse.
Then there are interfacing between systems that handle leap seconds differently. Do you go from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 or to a second 23:59:59? If the latter, what happens with jobs that are scheduled to run at 23:59:59.500?

In my opinion, the solution isn't to get rid of leap seconds, but for developers to not make assumptions. If you look at time.h, it states:

int tm_sec; /* Seconds. [0-60] (1 leap second) */

So why assume 0-59?

Comment Re:Labor (Score 2) 79

In the "land of the free" of course.

Don't forget "home of the brave". The brave thing to do is of course to say "yes, sir, how high, sir?"
What's the current definitions of "free" and "brave" again?

It might be better if we just went back to the original lyrics. "to entwine the myrtle of Venus with Bacchus' vine" seems like a much more achievable sentiment.

Comment Re:So... (Score 1) 79

I bet it would have cost them a lot less than $1 million to hire a lawyer

You're talking at least one meeting with the client, research, a letter, a follow-up, an expense account, and preparation fees for itemized billing. Yeah, this shouldn't have cost more than half a million going through a reputable lawyer. Or a unicorn-riding leprechaun.

Comment Re:Before a human walks on Mars... (Score 1) 285

An extinction level event has a 100% probability in the next two billion years if we don't leave the planet.

Who is this "we" you talk about? What excursions we do now will be as relevant to our descendants two billion years down the road as what excursions the eukaryotes did two billion years ago is to us.

Two billion years is enough time for our descendants to develop as much as we did from Homo Erectus days until now, four million times over. And that's assuming it's all back-to-back and no parallel evolution.

Even if you said a thousand years and not two billion, it would still be too long term. Evolution doesn't care about long term goals. Anything that has an adverse effect on the next generation will be selected against. Individual specimens that waste resources on planning numerous generations ahead will be less competitive than those that don't, and will go extinct before the future descendants can reap the benefits, losing the competition to those that spend their resources on their immediate offspring.

Comment Re:Irrelevant (Score 1) 173

I think the idea here isn't to protect US data, but primarily German data. A German company that stores its data in German isn't subject to underseas cables and satellite links being heavily monitored. Having to send data to US cloud services is a big concern many places, for good reason.

Other European countries might benefit too, if they think that the German government is less likely to engage in illegal information gathering than the US government is.

Comment Re:Nominated? (Score 2) 153

Exactly. There are a huge number of people who are allowed to nominate, including anyone who is a professor of economics.

Only if a permanent professor in one of the five Nordic countries. Those who can nominate are:

  1. 1. Swedish and foreign members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences;
  2. 2. Members of the Prize Committee for the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel;
  3. 3. Persons who have been awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel;
  4. 4. Permanent professors in relevant subjects at the universities and colleges in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway;
  5. 5. Holders of corresponding chairs in at least six universities or colleges, selected for the relevant year by the Academy of Sciences with a view to ensuring the appropriate distribution between different countries and their seats of learning; and
  6. 6. Other scientists from whom the Academy may see fit to invite proposals.

Bhagwan Chowdhry, who nominated the Bitcoin inventor came in under rule 6, and was invited to supply a nomination, and whoever in the Academy invited him is likely rather embarrassed now.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982