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Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 153

Except in a case a student does get injured, it is a massive mess of bad PR and all sorts of inquiries and often heads roll .

I find that's true for undergraduates, but not for graduate students. Granted, grad students are older and smarter, but grad students are also much more likely to be doing something they've never done before that no-one else in the lab has done or is doing. (YMMV. In my department, a constant.)

Comment Re:The most obvious problem with this approach (Score 1) 97

There are problems with the current system, though. The one I'm most familiar with runs like this:

1. Species was named a while ago, with the type specimen kept. Name, say, Foozy yanner. Specimens are collected from several places over time.
2. Then we realize that those specimens represent more than one species (very possible just with old-fashioned naturalist observation, and happens also with genetic analysis).
3. So some of the specimens now are officially Foozy tanner -- but we aren't allowed to rename Foozy yanner itself (rules of system).
4. When you run across a reference to Foozy yanner it's _very_ difficult to know whether it's referring to the old unknowingly inclusive set of species, or the single (?) species that `Foozy yanner' now indicates. We'd be more precise if, e.g., we called the single species Foozy yanner_1, which might later get split to Foozy yanner_2 and Foozy tethera, with Foozy yanner_2 the name that includes the original Foozy yanner type specimen.

And this can happen with vertebrates! Archaea, hellifino.

Comment Space-time effects of wolves (Score 1) 84

You're missing one of the only-obvious-in-hindsight things we learned from Isle Royale in the first place. Wolves keep the forests alive not principally by controlling how many moose there are, but by controlling where the moose are willing to linger (and browse out young tree seedlings). As the forests grow, exactly where those spaces are change, but that's fine; excellent, even; keeps species and nutrients circulating through the system at a very long period.

It only takes an occasional wolf lurking in a copse to make the moose cautious, and it only takes a few mature trees in any decade to drop a lot of seeds. So a very few wolves can make the forest, and therefore the whole system, resilient to moose boom-bust cycles.

Pretty neat, I think!

Comment There are similar commercial apps (Score 1) 225

There are similar commercial apps in a bunch of styles -- some friendly and upbeat, some with foul language, some with scary imagery. Some of them seem to work well for some people, and it seems cheap to run, so a plausible worthwhile opt-in experiment.

Seems like it could be more adaptive; let people choose the style they prefer, and maybe have an 'Okay I did!' or 'Not this time!' response to see which messages when are most useful.

Comment Re:Ranking choices consistently (Score 1) 169

Animals have to choose what to eat first, so a comparison operator is definitely applied to a collection of foods. The simple mathematical representation, which you are sticking to, is therefore the part we have to give up.

It's ineffective to abstract too early, and it's really ineffective to abstract into an inadequate framework.

Comment Re:The cruelest part (Score 1) 409

Most employees are very sensibly reluctant to be relocated, because going to a one-employer town is really risky. It was a standard in the... 1980s? to move a division to a small town, fire everyone within five years, and re-hire them at half the wages -- which they had to take because they had underwater mortgages. And the mortgages were underwater *because* the company was dropping wages.

That's before worrying about whether one's spouse can find good work, whether the schools are connected to good work, etc etc.

Multi-employer, multi-industry towns are never as cheap to live in, even when they're unfashionable and have weather that's more... challenging... than the Bay Area's.

Comment How does Project Gutenberg select its texts? (Score 1) 146

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:General_FAQ#G.13._How_does_Project_Gutenberg_choose_books_to_publish.3F

All-volunteer; what people scan and proofread is what's there, after a copyright check. Some things that were popular and are therefore common; some things that were always rare and therefore an enthusiast scanned a copy; some things people sought out to fill out a subject heading. There's *lots* of old light fiction, adventure stories and social comedies, that no-one's cared about for a century. (I find it fascinating what changed, and what didn't, and what changed *first*. I love old B-side books.)

Comment Re:Drinking from the firehose. (Score 1) 108

There are groups working on this -- the University of California is trying to do it in a consistent way, with its wealth of historical data -- but it's harder than you'd think. It's not very useful if you don't get the metadata reasonable, and that's skilled work and not something we reward. Institutional support (libraries, machine shops, etc) gets pinched because it's constant overhead and hard to point to single high-status payoffs. It takes one year to kill a library (Canada's superb fisheries and lake science just lost one).

Even worse, a lot of scientific data is realia -- *stuff* -- and that's a worse metadata problem, and expensive and fragile.

Comment Watershed states are more reasonable (Score 1) 489

One of the reasons California does as well as it does (you laugh, but there's some amazing literal and social engineering to keep the whole mess running) is that the state boundaries are close to the watershed boundaries. Water is *the* currency of the West, for energy and agriculture and domestic use, and having the water-governing bodies under one government is... well, it's bad enough, but it's easier than separate states grandstanding against each other. (GA/TN, recently.)

So the 6 Californias is badly designed and not ambitious enough -- let's reorganize the whole country --

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/11/19/map-the-united-states-of-watersheds/

Tends to keep metro areas together; also biomes often fall within a watershed, and then determine what the most productive land uses are.

Comment Re:Southwest.. (Score 1) 462

(Did Saddam's personal cook write a memoir?) Either we've read/talked to different people, or we get different things out of the same stories. `You can avoid risk' sounds like the Just World fallacy at best, to me. F'rex, in tyrannies, it's always easy to be accused of something you don't get a fair trial for, so `avoiding risk' includes `never pissing anyone off'.

I am grateful that I don't have a personal opinion on this in most of my life, since I would probably get a decent legal hearing for most things in the US. But I sure think about the ways the TSA and now the NSA could wreck me, if they wanted to. It does change my behavior, and not to be more moral or productive or braver.

Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so. -- Josh Billings

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