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Comment: Encryption is only part of the solution (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48912179) Attached to: EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance
From the summary:

The central part of the EFF's plan is: encryption, encryption, encryption.

Encryption everywhere is great. But as long as the majority of us remain willing to hand over everything about our personal lives to Facebook, Google, etc., then mass surveillance by either private entities or governments will remain ridiculously easy. To me, that seems like the really hard problem to solve. There is no way those companies will deny themselves access to their users' unencrypted data.

Comment: Is this really a problem? (Score 4, Insightful) 99

by binarstu (#48899215) Attached to: Why We Still Can't Really Put Anything In the Public Domain

Both of the linked articles present this as if it is a major problem requiring federal congressional action. Several other posters here have pointed out, though, that actually pulling something back out of public domain via this copyright "loophole" might actually be extremely difficult or even (practically) impossible.

It is perhaps telling that neither article presents a single example of a piece of work that was initially donated to the public domain by its author(s) and then removed from the public domain via this mechanism. So, does anyone know if this has ever actually happened? Given that neither article gives even one such example, I suspect this is not really a problem at all from a pragmatic point of view. Attempting to "fix" it by asking Congress to pass new copyright legislation could even backfire, because the additional provisions and changes that would inevitably get added to any such bill might end up creating new, real problems.

Comment: Wikipedia "proved"? (Score 3, Insightful) 42

From the summary:

While Wikipedia proved that collective intelligence could provide quality contents able to compete with the major encyclopedias...

Wikipedia proved that "no cost and good enough most of the time" outcompetes "expensive and authoratative/reliable". I think this has a lot more to do with Wikipedia's success than the supposed quality of the contents.

Wikipedia also wins on its huge breadth. If what you want from your encyclopedia is plot summaries of television shows and extensive biographies of those shows' fictional characters, Wikipedia is really your only choice.

+ - Innocent adults are easy to convince they commited a serious crime

Submitted by binarstu
binarstu (720435) writes "Research recently published in Psychological Science quantifies how easy it is to convince innocent, "normal" adults that they commited a crime. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) has posted a nice summary of the research. From the APS summary: 'Evidence from some wrongful-conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes they didn’t actually commit. New research provides lab-based evidence for this phenomenon, showing that innocent adult participants can be convinced, over the course of a few hours, that they had perpetrated crimes as serious as assault with a weapon in their teenage years.'"

Comment: Re:questionable experimental design (Score 2) 154

by binarstu (#48809531) Attached to: Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

I bet the students that could speak would succed more at any of the following tasks;
Planning/carrying out a hunt.
Sending people to good food gathering areas
Warning of danger Etc

Exactly. One could use the exact same study design to "test" the hypothesis that any or all of the things you mentioned are why we evolved language, and the results would undoubtedly be the same. The only general conclusion one might draw is that humans evolved language to more effectively communicate with each other, which is practically self-evident.

All this study shows is that language is a good way of exchanging information.

That, and also that humans who spend their entire lives depending on language to communicate with one another can't communicate as effectively when they suddenly aren't allowed to use language for a few minutes. Who'd have thunk?

It must be fun to work in a field where experiments like this can get you published in a Nature-affiliated journal.

Comment: questionable experimental design (Score 5, Insightful) 154

by binarstu (#48809253) Attached to: Human Language May Have Evolved To Help Our Ancestors Make Tools

From what I can tell from TFA, this study purports to test the hypothesis that language evolved as a means to transmit the knowledge of how to make tools. The researchers found that present-day humans (college students, to be exact) can best teach other how to make a stone tool if they are allowed to talk to each other. The authors interpret this as evidence in support of their hypothesis.

The obvious problem, though, is that they ran the experiment on a bunch of subjects that have spent their entire lives (minus the first year or so) using language as their primary means of communication. So what result would you expect with this study population? The experiment is hardly a test of the conditions under which early language might have evolved.

Comment: Re:Nothing's gonna change. (Score 4, Informative) 224

by binarstu (#48345799) Attached to: Mayday PAC Goes 2 For 8

Democrats have fucked Kansas every time they accidentally get elected. No miracles here. This is a red state and going to stay that way, because of that.

You think that's why Brownback got re-elected as governor? If your analysis were even remotely correct, he would have had absolutely no chance at winning on Tuesday: he's led your state to huge upcoming budget deficits, an increased poverty rate, much lower economic growth than all four neighboring states, and a downgraded state credit rating.

Yet, despite all of the above, Brownback still kept his job, because, you know... "liberals and taxes are bad." Never mind if the alternative is flushing your state down the toilet.

Comment: Re:Translation (Score 2) 173

by binarstu (#48341903) Attached to: Codecademy's ReSkillUSA: Gestation Period For New Developers Is 3 Months
I had the same thought. The cynic in me thinks that the big tech players are pushing these "learn to code" initiatives because they see it as a way to gain much lower operating expenses in the future. If they can eventually flood the labor market with a huge excess of coders, reduced wages and benefits will become the norm.

Comment: methods, not new discoveries, win (Score 3, Interesting) 81

by binarstu (#48267701) Attached to: The Most Highly Cited Scientific Papers of All Time
It looks like the majority of the top 20 most cited papers cover new methods or tools (e.g., a new lab technique or a new software program), not new fundamental scientific discoveries (e.g., the structure of DNA or expansion of the universe). I guess this isn't really surprising, but it is interesting. One could conclude that scientists who want to make a major impact on their field should spend their time inventing new methods for doing fundamental research and let other scientists actually do the research.

Comment: Airbus wants to make the whole plane a window (Score 5, Interesting) 286

by binarstu (#48247187) Attached to: The Airplane of the Future May Not Have Windows

From TFA:

Before that, Airbus proposed eschewing windows and building its cabins out of transparent polymers.

What that really means is that Airbus wants to turn the entire cabin into a window.

Also from TFA:

Hope you're not too attached to looking out the windows when you fly — the designers of tomorrow's airplanes seem intent on getting rid of them.

Well, I guess that technically, Airbus would be "getting rid of the windows", but if the end result is that everyone on the plane has a better view, I don't think it supports TFA's argument at all.

Comment: Re:20 generations (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48232941) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

That's correct -- natural selection can only act on heritable traits. The post I was replying to, though, was certainly not making that argument. Instead, it seemed to suggest that the mixing of alleles during sexual reproduction somehow made it impossible to distinguish between "evolution via genes" and "purely environmental factors winnowing a population", and that truly makes no sense.

I am also curious -- can you give us any biologically relevant example of differential reproductive fitness in a population due to entirely non-heritable traits?

Comment: Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48231589) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

Simply deciding to go up the tree higher, or being forced to in order to find more leaves won't change the foot pads of the animal.

Of course not. Nobody said that individual lizards who decided to spend more time above ground would magically grow larger foot pads. If you read TFA, you will see that the authors observed two phenomena. First, they saw an almost immediate shift in the behavior of the native lizards following the arrival of the invasive anoles -- the native anoles spent more time on higher perches. The second change they observed was the increase in foot pad size that occurred over multiple generations. The first change was most likely a rapid modification of individual lizard's foraging behaviors; the second change was due to natural selection causing the population to shift toward larger foot pads.

Comment: Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48231563) Attached to: High Speed Evolution
Please read TFA (or even my reply to your original post). The behavioral shift occurred a few months after the invasive anoles arrived. The scientists did not detect, or even look for, any changes in the genome related to this behavioral change. The evidence, as presented in TFA, is squarely in favor of an active change in foraging behavior.

Comment: Re:How is this surprising? (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48230677) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

TFA isn't really an example of evolution per se, it's an example of natural selection--a closely related concept in that they almost always co-occur, but it is not the same thing. We've changed the equilibrium frequencies of various genes, but as far as we know there are no new genes in this population.

I was with you until that. Can you explain why you do not think this is an example of "evolution per se"? If natural selection is changing the frequency of alleles in a population, that population is evolving. The researchers found strong evidence that has happened with the anoles. Whether or not there are "new genes" in the population (whatever that means -- new alleles?) has nothing at all to do with whether evolution is happening.

Comment: Re:No, it was not an "active" strategy. (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48230641) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

How do you know it was not an "active" strategy? You seem to think that the only way such a thing could happen is if the lizards convened and made a group decision to use higher perches. Lizards could individually decide to spend more time on higher perches because that is where they are finding more food. Foraging animals, from insects to mammals, make decisions like that all of the time. The net effect would be that, on average, the population of lizards ends up spending more time on high perches. Thus, the change could be an "active" strategy with no group decision making required. The very short time frame for the initial behavioral shift -- "a few months" -- suggests that it most likely was a deliberate change in foraging behavior by the anoles.

...most do exactly what their parents did.

Again, how do you know that? You are assuming there is virtually no plasticity in an individual lizard's foraging behavior; i.e., that it is completely determined by genetics. I don't study anoles (and I'm guessing you don't, either), but I think that is unlikely. There is a great deal of research showing that many kinds of animals, from arthropods to vertebrates, match their foraging behavior to the distribution of resources in the environment.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk