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Comment: really helpful (Score 1) 263 263

From TFA:

Python is a general-purpose language, which means it isn’t used for just one purpose such as Web development.

Oh, so that is what "general-purpose" means! I'm still not sure I understand, though. Can you give me some examples?

For example, if you’re hired to write apps that interact with operating systems and monitor devices, you might not need to know how to use the Python modules for scientific and numerical programming. In a similar fashion, if you’re hired to write Python code that interacts with a MySQL database, then you won’t need to master how it works with CouchDB.

Got it. So with Python, I don't need to spend time learning things that I don't need to know. Python does sound like quite a useful language!

In all seriousness, the article doesn't even have its facts straight. Consider:

Any Python newbie needs to know which types are immutable, which means an object of that type can’t be changed (answer: tuples and strings).

No, that's not the correct answer. Numeric types are also immutable, and that includes integers, floats, complex numbers, and Booleans. Frozen sets are immutable. (To be fair, frozen sets are a relatively obscure type unlikely to be used by beginners.) There are probably others I'm not thinking of off the top of my head.

Comment: chances are good? (Score 1) 108 108

From the summary and TFA:

Chances seem good that Amazon will ask future teams to build machines that are even smarter and faster.

The chances that Amazon will want future warehouse robots to be "even smarter and faster" are "good"?? Okay, I suppose the probability that they will want future robots to be dumber and slower is technically non-zero, but I'd at least revise "good" to "almost certain".

Comment: Re:inbreeding beneficial? (Score 1) 111 111

All good points. I would suggest a few language corrections to make your statement a bit more precise, though (my changes in bold):

The problem with inbreeding is that you can get two copies of a single deleterious, recessive allele quite easily, and rare genetic diseases that appear only when the same allele is present on both chromosomes in a pair suddenly start popping up more often.

The issue with inbreeding depression is not getting two identical copies of a chromosome (which, because of chromosomal crossover during meiosis, is extremely unlikely to happen), it's getting two copies of an allele (or set of alleles) that causes a recessive genetic disease to be expressed.

Comment: inbreeding beneficial? (Score 3, Informative) 111 111

From TFA summary:

Dr Warren Booth, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Tulsa, who previously discovered an instance of parthenogenesis in snakes, said: "This is basically a very extreme form of inbreeding. Most people think of inbreeding as bad, but it could be helpful in purging deleterious mutations from a population."

Most people think of inbreeding as bad, because it almost always is bad. Inbreeding depression is a very well documented, and well understood, phenomenon that can increase the extinction risk of critically endangered species. The idea that inbreeding can somehow be "helpful in purging deleterious mutations" has been discussed before, but a recent study found that even if small (e.g., endangered) populations are actively managed to control both inbreeding and outbreeding, the negative effects of inbreeding depression generally outweigh the benefits of removing harmful alleles. And that is a best case scenario, with reproduction carefully controlled to produce an optimal genetic outcome, which obviously does not happen naturally.

For these sawfish, asexual reproduction is most likely a desperation strategy used when the population has gotten so small that it is difficult or impossible to find mates. It is extremely unlikely that it will somehow improve the population's genetic fitness; more likely, it will lead to further decreases in genetic diversity and a corresponding loss of overall fitness.

Comment: summary is inaccurate (Score 1) 385 385

According to the summary (and linked article): "What job is hardest for a robot to do? Mental health and substance abuse social workers (found under community and social services)."

If you bother to read the actual research paper, the authors concluded that "recreational therapists" were the least likely jobs to be computerized, with a probability of 0.0028 (0.28%). Plus, there are two other jobs ("first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers" and "emergency management directors") that also have lower probabilities of computerization than "mental health and substance abuse social workers". For an article that contains barely more than 10 sentences, one would think that they could have at least bothered to get their main point correct.

Comment: Hard to predict how this will turn out (Score 5, Insightful) 135 135

It's hard to predict what the end result of this will be.

On the one hand, I can imagine that letting the mass spying provisions expire, and forcing the bulk data collection to stop, could actually be a win for privacy in the long run. After all, inertia is powerful, especially in politics. It is much easier and less controversial to say, "let's continue with our existing domestic spying program" than it is to say, "now that we stopped spying on everyone for a while, let's start spying on everyone again."

On the other hand, letting everything expire could create an environment where it becomes easy for fear to rule the day (or, easier than usual). We'll no doubt have politicians eager to scare us with stories of how letting bulk domestic surveillance expire makes us unsafe and vulnerable to terrorists, and so "we need to do something now before we die!" Then, new spying legislation could be hastily pushed through that is no better (or worse, depending on your perspective) than what we have now.

As I said, I think it is hard to predict the ultimate outcome, but if the recent past is any indicator, I sadly suspect that fear will win.

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 1) 591 591

If Slashdot was blocking your posts, then how were you able to post the comment with the link? The content itself was being blocked? Sorry, but I'm not interested in jumping to other websites to try to follow you on this thread. If you want me to see your reply, then please post it on this forum. It's up to you -- you've seen my last message (which I hope you found to be respectful and considerate) and I now really have nothing more to say on this matter. But I will give you the courtesy of reading your response if you want me to. As I said, totally up to you. In any case, take care and have a good weekend.

Comment: Re:I love my Packard Bell (Score 4, Interesting) 417 417

One of my favorite "features" of some of the old Packard Bell models was the power switch configuration. The true power switch was actually a tiny little button that was soldered directly onto the motherboard. That is, they didn't have the two-pin power-on mechanism that has become common on most consumer motherboards, so there was no way to wire a switch on the case to start the computer. Packard Bell solved this problem by engineering a fairly complicated push rod system that mechanically linked the switch on the front of the case to the little button on the motherboard. As I remember it, the push rod mechanism extended for most of the length of the horizontal desktop case, too. It was really something to behold -- I wish I had taken a picture of it.

Comment: Re:california does need more infrastructure... or (Score 1) 678 678

Okay, for the record, I'm not really serious about this. I don't actually believe that you cannot be a legitimate participant in the conversation without admitting a previous mistake. I happened to notice your comments in this thread, and after my long earlier comment to you, I meant my reply here as a tongue-in-cheek joke. After rereading it, though, I realized that it was probably not at all obvious that I made my comment in jest. I guess I should have added a smiley or something.

Comment: Re:california does need more infrastructure... or (Score 1) 678 678

You, earlier: "I admitted my mistake when you pointed it out. That is the least that should be expected of a legitimate participant of a discussion."

As AC pointed out, you falsely accused a previous commenter of an ad hominem. Either admit your mistake or accept that you are no longer a legitimate participant of this discussion. Your choice.

Comment: Re:Cautionary Tale? (Score 3, Informative) 182 182

Just to clarify, there is no "gene for ... Downs Syndrome". Down syndrome is caused by a partial or complete extra (i.e., third) copy of chromosome 21. Thus, it is caused by a failure of meiosis during gamete development, not by a particular allele of any one gene or group of genes.

"If you own a machine, you are in turn owned by it, and spend your time serving it..." -- Marion Zimmer Bradley, _The Forbidden Tower_