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Comment: Re:hmmm (Score 4, Informative) 119

by binarstu (#47190625) Attached to: Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics

You mean all those stickers on (mostly) trucks that show Calvin pissing on something aren't licensed?

Nope. Watterson never allowed his characters to be licensed for any merchandise beyond his books and a few calenders. Those stickers you see on trucks are all unlicensed ripoffs:

Comment: Re:hmmm (Score 1) 119

by binarstu (#47189139) Attached to: Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics

If someone offered you a guaranteed paycheck of $125,000 for 5 weeks of your time, and a possibility of $345,000 for 13 weeks if you make it to the finals, what would you do? ... Do the math. You'd whore for the camera too.

Watterson could have made a lot more money than that, doing a lot less. All he'd have needed to do was agree to commercial licensing deals for his Calvin and Hobbes characters, but he always refused because he felt doing so would cheapen his creations. Even now, such deals would probably still be lucrative. And he could no doubt make plenty of money off of speaking engagements. For some people (who, I admit, are very rare), accumulating large amounts of money really is less important than their pride in their work or their privacy.

Comment: Re:hmmm (Score 1) 119

by binarstu (#47188997) Attached to: Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics

...I think there's a kernel of reason in the idea that someone of renown -- someone who has made a lot of money and become a familiar name in the process -- is expected to give a little bit back to their "fans" in return for benefiting them so much financially.

That's a good point, for sure. I can certainly understand why Calvin and Hobbes fans might wish that he were more accessible.

Comment: Re:hmmm (Score 5, Insightful) 119

by binarstu (#47188399) Attached to: Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics
I wish I had mod points to give you. From what I've read, Watterson simply values his privacy and his family's privacy, and he has virtually no interest in publicity for its own sake. Apparently, any former celebrity who doesn't so desperately long for attention that they appear on Dancing With the Stars or jump at every chance for an interview or public appearance is so incomprehensible to most people that the only way to make sense of it is to label them a "recluse".

Comment: Re:Good bye source compatibility (Score 1) 636

by binarstu (#47152357) Attached to: Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

Hey, I'm not a developer/coder/programmer...

And that explains your comments quite nicely.

I don't think there is anyone here who would seriously disagree with you that the best possible scenario for the end user is dedicated UI design that is customized, when appropriate, for each target OS. But in the real world, those of us who must develop and maintain cross-OS applications with limited resources and small teams often don't have the luxury of building custom UIs for each target platform. Off-the-shelf cross-platform UI toolkits, such as Qt, are the only realistic way to support multiples OSs in these cases. It's either that, or only develop for one platform, which will usually have to be windows due to the size of the customer base. That is a far worse option, in my opinion.

So no, the "unified GUI look" that toolkits like Qt strive for across platforms is not ideal. Any serious programmer already knows that. But often times, it's the only practical way to support more than one OS, and for that reason, such toolkits are indispensable. Furthermore, those of us who don't use windows or OSX appreciate the benefits of these toolkits even more (GNU/Linux, in my case), because it means that we have far more software options than we might otherwise.

Comment: Re:Times sure are changing (Score 3, Interesting) 147

by binarstu (#47062999) Attached to: Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

And you've missed my point. Perhaps I didn't explain myself well.

I absolutely do not disagree that plenty of people have an irrational fear of genetic technologies. Nor do I disagree that we have lots of other ways to screw the world up (you mention the example of massive automated surveillance). And I wasn't arguing that we shouldn't try to resurrect a mammoth.

The GP seemed to me to be making the argument that 1) negative reaction to "messing with life" is because of antiquated religious sensibilities; and 2) we're gods now, so we should just do whatever the heck we want. I don't find either part of that argument compelling. As for part 1, casting any and all opposition to unbridled genetic experimentation as nothing but religious or cultural fanatacism is a straw man argument, pure and simple. There are lots of very rational reasons to proceed cautiously with certain kinds of genetic experimentation (and plenty of scientists agree with me). Why part 2 is wrong shouldn't require any further explanation, and other commenters have already addressed it.

Comment: Re:Times sure are changing (Score 1) 147

by binarstu (#47062011) Attached to: Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

Although you seem to think that the debate about genetic experimentation is nothing more than a conflict between science religion, I assure you that is not the case.

"Messing with life", as you call it, has an incredible potential for doing harm if approached carelessly. It doesn't take much imagination to realize this, either: synthetic infectious agents, engineered organisms that displace natural diversity, and so on.

You state, "Humans are the new god on planet earth (and beyond?)." If you really believe that, than surely you must agree that responsibility and caution need to be part of that job description. Science does not, and never should, exist outside of ethical debate.

Comment: Re:Standard Deviation (Score 1) 199

by binarstu (#46955003) Attached to: Single Gene Can Boost IQ By Six Points

Anything within a single standard deviation is rarely considered statistically significant unless the distribution is extremely flat.

That is nonsense. For basic statistical tests (e.g., t-tests), statistical significance depends on the sampling distribution of the statistic, which is a function of both sample size and the source population distribution. For example, a difference in means that is less than the standard deviations of the source populations can easily be statistically significant if the sample sizes are large enough. If you don't believe me, I suggest you try running some simple numeric simulations for normally-distributed populations (e.g., in R).

+ - Fearing government surveillance, U.S. journalists are self-censoring

Submitted by binarstu
binarstu (720435) writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"

Comment: Re:Spend more, because kids aren't learning more (Score 1) 95

by binarstu (#45570855) Attached to: White House Calls On Kids To Film High-Tech Education

Maybe the kids could do a high tech film about how throwing money at technology doesn't actually improve education.

Exactly what I was thinking.

There is a general feeling in the U.S. that public schools are failing (regardless of whether that opinion is justified). It seems to me that buying more technology is the lazy administrator's way of "doing something about it." Purchasing technology also provides a convenient measure of progress, however dubious. Administrators can brag about how they are providing every student with an iPad, or putting smart boards in every classroom, or whatever the current fad is, and claim that they are improving the school.

Are these purchases usually made with a clear plan for how to use the technology, or solid research-based evidence that the new technology will actually improve students' learning? I would guess that most of the time, the answer is "no" on both counts. The fact that we're now having Bill Nye ask K-12 students, "So, you've got all of this cool technology in your school... how is it actually useful?" suggests I might not be wrong.

Comment: simple answer (Score 3, Interesting) 115

by binarstu (#45450473) Attached to: How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn

From the original post: "Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"

TFA answers the question quite nicely: "Despite a couple of years of discussion, the question of monetization remains largely unresolved. MOOCs are about as popular as they were, they still drain resources from the companies hosting them, and they still don’t provide much to those hosts in return." Good or bad, it's an attempt to try to get something useful in return for the effort it takes to create a MOOC course. It's as simple as that, and there's no reason to read anything more sinister into it.

And let's not hyperbolically describe this as "holding the users hostage," okay? Users are free to leave the course whenever they want -- hostage situations don't usually work that way.

+ - NSA wants to reveal its secrets to prevent Snowden from revealing them first

Submitted by binarstu
binarstu (720435) writes "According to a recent report by Tom Gjelten of NPR, 'NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story. ... With respect to other information held by Snowden and his allies but not yet publicized, the NSA is now considering a proactive release of some of the less sensitive material, to better manage the debate over its surveillance program.'"

+ - Stephen Wolfram Developing New Programming Language->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Stephen Wolfram, the chief designer of the Mathematica software platform and the Wolfram Alpha “computation knowledge engine,” has another massive project in the works—although he’s remaining somewhat vague about details for the time being. In simplest terms, the project is a new programming language—which he’s dubbing the “Wolfram Language”—which will allow developers and software engineers to program a wide variety of complex functions in a streamlined fashion, for pretty much every single type of hardware from PCs and smartphones all the way up to datacenters and embedded systems. The Language will leverage automation to cut out much of the nitpicking complexity that dominates current programming. “The Wolfram Language does things automatically whenever you want it to,” he wrote in a recent blog posting. “Whether it’s selecting an optimal algorithm for something. Or picking the most aesthetic layout. Or parallelizing a computation efficiently. Or figuring out the semantic meaning of a piece of data. Or, for that matter, predicting what you might want to do next. Or understanding input you’ve given in natural language.” In other words, he’s proposing a general-purpose programming language with a mind-boggling amount of functions built right in. At this year’s SXSW, Wolfram alluded to his decades of work coming together in “a very nice way,” and this is clearly what he meant. And while it’s tempting to dismiss anyone who makes sweeping statements about radically changing the existing paradigm, he does have a record of launching very big projects (Wolfram Alpha contains more than 10 trillion pieces of data cultivated from primary sources, along with tens of thousands of algorithms and equations) that function reliably. At many points over the past few years, he’s also expressed a belief that simple equations and programming can converge to create and support enormously complicated systems. Combine all those factors together, and it’s clear that Wolfram’s pronouncements—no matter how grandiose—can’t simply be dismissed. But it remains to be seen how much of an impact he actually has on programming as an art and science."
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"I'm a mean green mother from outer space" -- Audrey II, The Little Shop of Horrors