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Comment: Re:Sure, go ahead. (Score 5, Informative) 242

by bcrowell (#43512477) Attached to: Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

Two problems here.

(1) The article has nothing to do with Fukushima or TEPCO. It's about someone who sent anonymous death threats.

(2) Sherman and Mangano, the authors of the paper you linked to an article about, are kooks. Just google on their names together, and you'll find plenty of info discrediting their claims, e.g.: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/12/20/researchers-trumpet-another-flawed-fukushima-death-study/

(3) The Open Journal of Pediatrics appears to be one of the many open-access journals these days that have no standards for publication. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-academia.html for more about these journals. I support the concept of open-access journals, but many of them are junk journals.

(4) Sherman and Mangano's junk science didn't get blocked by evil governments or evil corporations. They put it on the internet and nobody interfered with them.

Comment: a freedom that's also a problem (Score 5, Insightful) 242

by bcrowell (#43512375) Attached to: Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

In the 18th century, privacy was a pretty straightforward thing. That's why, in the 18th-century US, it was straightforward to write the 4th amendment. As a result, the government can't open my snail mail without a warrant, and can't come into my house and search it without a warrant.

The technological reality is very different in the 21st century. I support individuals' rights to use strong crypto and to control their own computer hardware and software. But it's undeniable that these rights carry collateral damage.

In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh was basically shut down for several months by a series of 145 bomb threats that were sent by email, anonymized via Mixmaster. This is not a good outcome.

If someone is using Tor to post death threats anonymously, that's not a good outcome.

Despite these bad outcomes, I still support the individual freedoms that let them happen. But that doesn't mean that it's not a real problem. It's very much like gun violence in the US. I support the 2nd amendement, but I recognize that that comes at a cost.

Comment: proportion and disproportion (Score 5, Interesting) 604

by bcrowell (#43504465) Attached to: Bruce Schneier On the Marathon Bomber Manhunt

The worst outcome of this isn't necessarily that Boston got locked down, although that's definitely worth discussing.

The worst outcome is that lockdowns are becoming more and more common, far out of proportion to the actual risk. Once it becomes normal to lock down an entire city in response to a very real and significant threat, it then becomes much easier to feel normal about it when we lock down an entire college campus because a mentally ill homeless person made some faculty or staff uncomfortable. It becomes normal to do what some community colleges in my area are doing, which is to have an active shooter drill once a year in which adult college students are locked in a dark room for 30 minutes and told they can't leave. (This passive response is, BTW, not at all in line with what experts recommend in such a situation.)

Destroying 30 minutes of instruction for a whole campus and violating students' civil rights is way out of proportion to the risk of getting killed by an active shooter, which for a college student is on the order of 1 in 300,000 per year. A college student's risk of being a victim of rape, robbery, or assault is about 1 in 100 per year, but we're uncomfortable dealing with that -- in fact, there is a wave of lawsuits right now by women who say their rights were violated when their colleges refused to take action about their being raped.

To use an analogy suggested by Scheneier, active shooters and the marathon bombing are like shark attacks, and other violent crimes are like dog bites. The number of people killed by dogs every year is much, much greater than the number killed by sharks. But we find shark attacks much more psychologically compelling.

Comment: the main event (Score 1) 300

by bcrowell (#43385923) Attached to: Extended TeX: Past, Present, and Future

TFA seems to focus mainly on esoteric typesetting tweaks being worked on in the LaTeX 3 engine. That's cool for people who care a lot about rivers of whitespace in their documents, but there are other things going on in the tex world that I would consider to be more the main event.

Tex predates unicode, postscript and PDF, and modern font formats. There are now versions of tex such as xetex and luatex that accept utf-8 input, generate PDF output directly, and can use whatever fonts you have on your system rather than special-purpose fonts packaged for use with tex. Luatex allows lua to be used as an extension language, which is a great idea considering how much tex sucks as a general-purpose programming language.

The other thing to realize about tex is that today it's the de facto standard input format that people use for creating mathml (since mathml itself is much too cumbersome for humans to write directly). There are technologies like mathjax that support this and that allow mathml to be displayed even in IE, which has never had standards-compliant mathml support.

Comment: Re:We must find out for sure! (Score 1) 412

by bcrowell (#43374773) Attached to: How Would an Astronaut Falling Into a Black Hole Die?

No matter the size of a black hole, gravitational acceleration at the event horizon is c per Planck time.

Total nonsense, modded up to 5 on slashdot. Oh, well.

The gravitational acceleration at the event horizon can take on any value. It depends on the size of the black hole. This is determined by general relativity, which is a classical theory. Because it's a classical theory, it has nothing to say about the Planck time.

Comment: Re:Change the name (Score 1) 90

by bcrowell (#43321373) Attached to: FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

So, just don't call it radiation. Call RF emission or RF power. Just as accurate, just as technical sounding, but less scary to the illiterate.

This is what happened with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). It would have been logical to call the medical imaging technique nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI. Instead we leave off the N and call it MRI.

Comment: Re:idiocy (Score 2) 90

by bcrowell (#43319623) Attached to: FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

If the burden of proof is on the people who claim there's harm, and you prohibit funding of any further attempts to find such harm, that subverts the scientific process.

By this logic, the NIH should be funding endless studies of all kinds of quackery, such as putting magnets in your shoes to cure arthritis. There isn't unlimited tax money available to do unlimited numbers of studies on topics where no convincing positive evidence exists and there are strong, fundamental reasons to believe that the previous negative results were to be expected.

For a long time people suspected that electricity and magnetism were somehow related, but were unable to figure out how. How would things have turned out if those who believed they weren't related pointed to all the early failures and cited them as reason to cut off all funding for attempts to find a relationship between the two?

This is an apples-and-oranges comparison. In 1820, electricity and magnetism were not well understood at the fundamental level. In 2013, the interaction of nonionizing radiation with matter is well understood at the fundamental level, and has been for 150 years.

But those who claim there is a danger must be allowed to continue trying to prove their viewpoint. Otherwise you've turned science into one big circle jerk of confirmation bias.

I don't advocate prohibiting them from doing studies. I just advocate not continuing to give them tax money to do it, and not continuing to publish their inconclusive results, based on poor methods, in peer-reviewed journals. We don't fund people to continue testing the hypothesis that malaria is caused by bad air, or that maggots arise from decaying flesh by spontaneous generation. That doesn't make the germ theory of disease "one big circle jerk of confirmation bias."

Generally, the government agencies funding those types of studies do a pretty good job of it. They don't just keep funding the same study over and over. In order for the applicant to get funding, s/he has to propose something new and novel - either something which hasn't been studied before, or some way to conduct the study which hasn't been tried before and could give different insight.

What you're describing is the way it's supposed to work. Cell phones and cancer are an example where it doesn't actually work that way.

Comment: idiocy (Score 5, Insightful) 90

by bcrowell (#43319051) Attached to: FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

Cell phone radiation is non-ionizing. There is no known, plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. That puts the burden of proof on the people who claim there's harm. No such effect has been documented in animals. No such effect seems to exist in epidemiological studies in humans.

It's depressing that science education is so poor that ordinary citizens don't seem able to evaluate these facts appropriately.

It's depressing that journalists do such a lousy job that they keep on reporting on a manufactured controversy as if all evidence were of equal value.

It's depressing that funding agencies such as NIH continue to give money to this type of junk science, and that scientific journals continue to publish it.


Misconfigured Open DNS Resolvers Key To Massive DDoS Attacks 179

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the check-your-sources dept.
msm1267 writes with an excerpt From Threat Post: "While the big traffic numbers and the spat between Spamhaus and illicit webhost Cyberbunker are grabbing big headlines, the underlying and percolating issue at play here has to do with the open DNS resolvers being used to DDoS the spam-fighters from Switzerland. Open resolvers do not authenticate a packet-sender's IP address before a DNS reply is sent back. Therefore, an attacker that is able to spoof a victim's IP address can have a DNS request bombard the victim with a 100-to-1 ratio of traffic coming back to them versus what was requested. DNS amplification attacks such as these have been used lately by hacktivists, extortionists and blacklisted webhosts to great success." Running an open DNS resolver isn't itself always a problem, but it looks like people are enabling neither source address verification nor rate limiting.
The Media

What Does It Actually Cost To Publish a Scientific Paper? 166

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the one-trillion-dollars dept.
ananyo writes "Nature has published an investigation into the real costs of publishing research after delving into the secretive, murky world of science publishing. Few publishers (open access or otherwise-including Nature Publishing Group) would reveal their profit margins, but they've pieced together a picture of how much it really costs to publish a paper by talking to analysts and insiders. Quoting from the piece: '"The costs of research publishing can be much lower than people think," agrees Peter Binfield, co-founder of one of the newest open-access journals, PeerJ, and formerly a publisher at PLoS. But publishers of subscription journals insist that such views are misguided — born of a failure to appreciate the value they add to the papers they publish, and to the research community as a whole. They say that their commercial operations are in fact quite efficient, so that if a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality.' There's also a comment piece by three open access advocates setting out what they think needs to happen next to push forward the movement as well as a piece arguing that 'Objections to the Creative Commons attribution license are straw men raised by parties who want open access to be as closed as possible.'"

Comment: Re:First! (State) (Score 1) 297

by bcrowell (#43260357) Attached to: US Senate Passes National Internet Sales Tax Mandate

Before you can even collect sales tax you will have to register with each state and pay for a sales tax id ($100 for CT alone). I don't believe for a second that states are going to give sales and use tax ids away for free either. I don't see how this is going to work for anything but the largest online retailers and I'm still not convinced that this doesn't violate interstate commerce.

Please read the article. "Forty-six U.S. states now have sales taxes, but a 1992 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited states from collecting sales tax from catalog sellers because of the burden it would place on the sellers. The court, however, left it up to Congress to allow states to collect sales taxes on remote sales if the states created a streamlined tax collection system."

Comment: drove me away (Score 2) 166

by bcrowell (#43159969) Attached to: Live Tweeting the Symphony?

"Desperate attempts to engage" us drove me and my wife away from our local symphony , the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, CA. We had season tickets for several years. Then they started showing video on a huge screen at their performances -- not all the performances, but about half. It was incredibly annoying. They'd play something that was supposed to be pastoral, and on the giant screen they'd put pictures of mountains and forests and streams -- not the landscapes that I wanted to imagine while listening to the music, but the landscapes that they wanted me to see. They'd do a piano concerto, and for the entire duration of the piece, they'd project live video of the soloist's hands from above, moving around on the screen. Incredibly annoying. We started trying to figure out which concerts had video, and we wouldn't show up for those. When it came time to renew our season tickets, we didn't. We figured we'd just buy tickets to individual performaces that we knew wouldn't have video, but in reality that was too much of a hassle, so we never went back.

Hey, Pacific Symphony, want me and my wife back in your concert hall, helping to fill seats and keep you afloat financially? Then please bring a bunch of musicians out on the stage and have them play good music really well.

Comment: not likely to be competent to do it (Score 2, Insightful) 337

by bcrowell (#43146103) Attached to: More From Canonical Employee On: "Why Mir?"

We know what a disaster it was when Canonical tried to adopt PulseAudio in Ubuntu. Basically they broke audio for no good reason. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PulseAudio#Problems_during_adoption_phase for more info.)

Mir would seem to be an order of magnitude more difficult to pull off, since it's to be developed in-house by Canonical, and video is *much* more complex than audio.

Over all, it seems extremely unlikely to me that Canonical is competent to succeed in this.

They also don't seem to have learned their lesson from the PulseAudio experience in terms of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Comment: Re:Discovery and limitations (Score 1) 205

by bcrowell (#43132471) Attached to: Why All the Higgs Hate? It's a 'Vanilla' Boson

Huh? I thought string theory _required_ the Higgs to exist, and at approximately the energy level at which it has been found, because it requires supersymmetry, and supersymmetry predicts Higgs with an energy of 135 GeV.

GP is incorrect, but not for the reasons you're saying. The standard model requires, for its own self-consistency, either the Higgs or some other mechanism to exist at LHC energies. The Higgs has long been the front-running candidate, and basically everyone expected it to be found. If the Higgs had not been found at the LHC, then the LHC would essentially have been guaranteed to find some other new physics, because without it, the standard model would have been inconsistent.

Supersymmetry did not predict a specific mass for the Higgs. SUSY can't make predictions like this because it has unknown parameters relating to how the symmetry is broken.

ST is believed/hoped to be consistent with the standard model, and the standard model includes a Higgs, so it's certainly nonsense for GP to claim that the Higgs invalidates ST.

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?