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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.

Comment: Re:20 generations (Score 1) 282

by binarstu (#48230541) Attached to: High Speed Evolution

That's what makes it hard to determine when evolution via genes is occurring vs purely environmental factors winnowing a current population.

To an evolutionary biologist, that statement doesn't make sense. What, exactly, is the distinction between "evolution via genes" and "purely environmental factors winnowing a population"? "Environmental factors winnowing a population" is natural selection, and that drives "evolution via genes". If the small-footed lizards drop off the trees and fail to reproduce, the frequency of alleles in the lizard population changes -- the alleles that favor large feet are now more common. This is "evolution via genes". Sure, some small-footed lizards might remain in the population, or smaller feet could become dominant if the selective pressures change, but that has nothing at all to do with whether or not "evolution via genes" is occurring.

The passing of genes to the next generation is a separate process that still reshuffles the genes via sex relentlessly regardless of environment.

I don't understand this, either. Selection (e.g., "environmental factors winnowing a population") causes the allelic frequencies for some genes in a population to change over time. "Relentless reshuffling" during recombination and sexual reproduction doesn't somehow negate this. For a simplistic analogy, think of a deck of cards. If you remove half of the red cards (i.e., some of the small-footed lizards die), it doesn't matter how many times you shuffle the deck -- the relative frequencies of red and black cards in "the population" aren't going to change.

Comment: Re:So much stupid (Score 1) 269

by binarstu (#48215381) Attached to: We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello

There IS no objective measure.

Of course there are objective measures of product quality: Which vehicle is the most energy efficient? Which vehicle, on average, lasts the longest without needing major repairs? Which phone has the best battery life? And on and on. TFA's point was that the products that end up "winning" in the market are not necessarily better than their competitors by these objective standards. That is in perfect agreement with your statement about which products succeed.

No one succeeds without busting their balls and working hard.

Really? It's not very hard to think of counterexamples that disprove that statement. Off the top of my head, some of the "famous for being famous" celebrities come to mind. I guess they might consider filming themselves having sex and then "accidentally" leaking the tape or signing up to star on some insipid reality show as "hard work", but most of us would not.

The more important point is that many people who "bust their balls" and work hard do not succeed. And the reasons why are, in many cases, at least partially stochastic. I think that was all that TFA was saying.

Comment: article summary (Score 1) 342

by binarstu (#48190915) Attached to: An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

Here is a quick summary of the main ideas in the article:

Every time a customer purchases ice at Burning Man, a volunteer must walk to the ice truck, retrieve the ice bags, and bring them to the customer. This wastes time because each customer must wait for his or her ice to be retrieved from the truck. Transactions that require returning change to the customer also take extra time. Therefore, the ice purchasing process would be faster if a) the ice were already at the counter so the customer could pick it up immediately, and b) there were a “turbo line” for people who don't need change. Some nonexperts that BH talked to thought that Nevada health regulations might prohibit a), but they do not.

That's just over 100 words. Does using 1700+ words to communicate these relatively simple ideas really help anyone understand them better?

Comment: false premise (Score 1) 265

by binarstu (#48143705) Attached to: Confidence Shaken In Open Source Security Idealism
TFA starts off with this as the very first sentence:

Hackers have shaken the free-software movement that once symbolized the Web’s idealism.

And then fails to provide any real evidence that this is true. It should take strong evidence to reach the conclusion that an entire "movement" has been "shaken" to the point that it has lost its symbolic meaning. I skimmed the rest of the article, but the authors pretty much lost me after that bit of nonsense.

People (both good and bad) have been finding flaws in open source software for decades. No one in the "movement" was surprised or "shaken" to hear about a few new discoveries. These bugs earned extra attention because of the ubiquity of the software, but still -- nobody has ever said that open source software is somehow, magically, bug free. The "idealism" is that a) people can actually find the bugs by looking at the source rather than reverse engineering; and b) once a bug is found, anyone is free to modify the code to fix it, rather than waiting on a business to decide that it merits patching, perhaps weeks or months later. And, as far as I could tell, this all worked very well with the "Shellshock" vulnerabilities. The bugs were found, and the patches were written and released not long after.

Comment: Re:Read below to see what Bennett has to say. (Score 1) 622

by binarstu (#48137503) Attached to: The Correct Response To Photo Hack Victim-Blamers
So funny. Despite all of the calls to "get this crap off of Slashdot", I'll bet I'm not the only one who secretly hopes we keep seeing a BH article every now and then, because the ensuing comments are just too darn entertaining. And, in truth, he has sometimes made some interesting points (despite usually using way too many words to do so) that have led to though-provoking discussion threads. But really, reading the comments is like watching a sitcom where every time a certain character enters the room, his/her entrance is always followed by snarky wisecracks from the other characters.

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