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Comment: Re:Stop blaming the Soviets (Score 1) 121

by brianerst (#48039795) Attached to: Aral Sea Basin Almost Completely Dry

According to the linked Wiki article:

The disappearance of the lake was no surprise to the Soviets; they expected it to happen long before. As early as 1964, Aleksandr Asarin at the Hydroproject Institute pointed out that the lake was doomed, explaining, "It was part of the five-year plans, approved by the council of ministers and the Politburo. Nobody on a lower level would dare to say a word contradicting those plans, even if it was the fate of the Aral Sea."

So the plan from the beginning was to have the Aral Sea disappear.

Some Soviet experts apparently considered the Aral to be "nature's error", and a Soviet engineer said in 1968, "it is obvious to everyone that the evaporation of the Aral Sea is inevitable."

In fact, it seems that "some" Soviets considered the Aral Sea an "error" to be corrected.

From 1960 to 1998, the sea's surface area shrank by about 60%, and its volume by 80%. In 1960, the Aral Sea had been the world's fourth-largest lake, with an area around 68,000 km2 (26,000 sq mi) and a volume of 1,100 km3 (260 cu mi); by 1998, it had dropped to 28,687 km2 (11,076 sq mi) and eighth largest. Over the same time period, its salinity increased from about 10 g/l to about 45 g/l.

In 1987, the continuing shrinkage split the lake into two separate bodies of water, the North Aral Sea (the Lesser Sea, or Small Aral Sea) and the South Aral Sea (the Greater Sea, or Large Aral Sea).

So, by the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 80% of the lake was gone and had already split into several smaller lakes.

So, yeah, I think we can blame the Soviets. That it is now hard to reverse the facts on the ground is to be expected.

Comment: Re:I wonder if (Score 1) 450

by brianerst (#48022687) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

And you'd (probably) be wrong. According to a recent Pew poll, only 37% of Americans think "clergy" contribute a lot to society, while 65% believe that "scientists" contribute a lot to society.

This isn't exactly the same as "trustworthiness" but I think it's probably in the same ballpark. Americans are generally at the top of international polls on trust in science - there are a few areas of distrust/disbelief (evolution, climate change), but in general, Americans like their science and want more of it.

Comment: Re:Americans are smart. (Score 1) 450

by brianerst (#48022595) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

I agree, except that in this case, Celebrity M was mouthing the thoughts of Scientist W (Andrew Wakefield), who is British and misled a whole bunch of people around the world, not just Americans.

Everyone is susceptible to confirmation biases, conspiracy and wishful thinking and any number of issues that prevent them from seeing things clearly. This is by no means unique to, nor exceptionally more problematic for, Americans.

Comment: Re: Wrong Title (Score 1) 499

George Zimmerman was a bilingual, self-identified Hispanic (his mother was a Peruvian immigrant and his great grandfather was Afro-Peruvian) and registered Democrat. Hispanic Democrats are generally not a great source of Tea Party followers.

Andrew Joseph Stack III (the "IRS plane guy") left a suicide note raging against the policies of George W. Bush, the FAA, the IRS, the Catholic Church, Bush's TARP bailout and Enron (among others).

His note ended:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Once again, pro-communist, anti-capitalist, church hating people who blame George W. Bush for regressive tax policies are not generally considered prime Tea Party material.

Maybe next time, you could read up on the subjects that fill your own diatribes.

Comment: Re: Wrong Title (Score 5, Insightful) 499

Jared Loughner (the man who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords) was a paranoid schizophrenic who was described by a classmate as being a hardcore leftist prior to manifesting his disease. Once his disease took hold, he became obsessed by conspiracies and hated all politicians but mostly the ones he knew of, like George W. Bush and Rep. Giffords. He was in no way a "tea partier" and had no knowledge of the "target ad."

Jared Loughner was a mentally ill person who tried to kill his local Congresswoman (among others). Had G. W. Bush or John McCain have been there, he would have shot them too. He was no more a tea partier than John Hinckley was an anti-Reagan Democrat. They were just both mentally ill and violent.

Comment: Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (Score 2) 167

by brianerst (#47836657) Attached to: Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

So, then theoretically they could also sequence the arabica bean and figure out which alleles cause the "better flavor" of arabica and breed and/or modify versions of robusta that contain those flavor-positive alleles. Arabica flavor in a more robust(a) plant. (Robusta plants are more disease resistant - perhaps the tetraploid nature of arabica make them more vulnerable).

I've got no dog in this hunt - I hate coffee. But figuring out how to get better flavored coffee from the higher producing, more robust plant seems like a good thing.

Comment: Re:Biased (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#47785621) Attached to: Canada Tops List of Most Science-Literate Countries

In that section of the survey (about attitude rather than knowledge), "We depend too much on science and not enough on faith" was one of only two measures by which Americans "lagged" the sample set (Canada, EU, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and India). The other was "science is changing things too fast" in which we were only the third most science-positive (Russia and Canada were top, then the US, and then everyone else lagging quite a bit behind).

For the other four ("science makes life better", "science makes work more interesting", "science creates more opportunities for the next generation", and the "knowledge of science is important in my daily life" [asked in the negative]), the US were a bunch of raging techno-optimists, generally way more positive than the rest of the sample set (including Canada).

Table 4.2, Page 54

Comment: Re: Bullshit ... (Score 1) 338

by brianerst (#47725159) Attached to: FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

You do realize that Obama's hand picked FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, is a long time cable and cellular lobbyist so beloved by the industry that he's the only man in both The Cable and Wireless Hall of Fames? A man dedicated to gutting net neutrality?

If the Dems are any more friendly to municipal broadband, it's just as part of a different payoff (unions or a different set of corporatations).

Comment: Re:How about some real number? (Score 1) 561

by brianerst (#47663547) Attached to: Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

So, what happens to men who don't fit their stereotyped role? Are managers encouraged to seek out anyone who they feel should self-nominate but haven't or only women?

I'm pleased that they are working around the cultural issues of self-nomination. But it does seem to be based on stereotypical group behavior rather than individual behavior. Group differences should be the focus of research (why is this group underrepresented) but process should focused on individuals (how do we get the most out of all our employees).

Comment: Re:maybe (Score 1) 512

The Nazis did many things but are known primarily for their most evil deeds - the terms "fascist" and "Nazi" have deep, profoundly negative connotations. Saying "the Israelis are like Nazis in this narrow sense" doesn't get you brownie points - you're still doing reductio ad hitlerum.

Hitler was also a vegetarian and antivivsectionist - should we thus compare PETA to Hitler? The Nazis were eugenists as was Margaret Sanger - should we thus compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis? The National Socialist Party was initially anti-big business and anti-capitalist - do we thus compare the Occupy Movement to Nazis? The Nazis wore armbands with a cross on it as does the Red Cross - are the Red Cross then Nazis? This can go on and on.

Being compared to Nazis, for better or worse, is shorthand for unmitigated evil. Feeling the need to compare the greatest victims of the Nazis to Nazis says something about you, not the Israelis.

Comment: Re:maybe (Score 1) 512

I singled out the Arabs simply because it's the same piece of land - they colonized an area they had no historic claim over and invented a religious rationale for it after the fact. They did this largely because the Jews were the main native group that resisted conversion to Islam - the Christian and Jewish converts came to be known as "Palestinians" while the Jews remained the Jews. And yes, I'm well versed in the relatively benign conversion pressures of the early Umayyad period but by the time of building of al-Aqsa, they were using more of the stick than the carrot.

The Hebrews did much the same thing a few thousand years earlier. At least the Jews and the Palestinians were essentially the same people - just with differing religions (Yawheh-ism vs Canaanite/El then, Rabbinical Judaism vs Islam now). The Umayyads were classic foreign invaders.

But getting back to main topic, it is grotesque to highlight a few areas where Israeli policy overlaps Nazi policy (Lebensraum vs Greater Israel) because it neglects the enormous differences (Israeli Arab citizenship, lack of gas chambers, etc.) and because the horror of the Holocaust is still within living memory of people living there. You can easily use non-Nazi comparisons or use non-comparative strong denunciations for violating expected social norms. That people choose not to do so is not "bravery" or speaking truth to power - it's Jew hatred.

I wouldn't use that analogy anymore than I would compare the Navajo to Andrew Jackson in their current dealings with the Hopi - I could conjure areas of overlap but the comparison is inapt and offensive.

Comment: Re:maybe (Score 1) 512

Again, this is simply a poisonous statement, designed to offend and ahistorical. You can easily compare them to any number of colonial powers (European, Turkic, Persian, Han, Malay, etc.). You could compare them to North Americans (who depopulated, unwittingly at first and then purposefully, nearly an entire continent). You could compare them to Iberians, who marginalized and/or decimated the native peoples of all of Central and South America.

You could even compare them to the Arabs, who built the Al-Aqsa Mosque right on top of the holiest site of Judaism, the Temple Mount, marginalized the remnant of Jews still living there and fabricated a mythic night journey that never happened in order to lay a religious claim to the city.

Colonizers do shitty things to the populations that are already there. Israelis are probably in the middle in terms of nastiness - not angels but certainly no worse than many others occurring right now. If you want to argue that Western nations shouldn't be funding them, or that as a democracy they should behave better, that's fine - but let's drop the Nazi comparisons. There's no comparison there.

Comment: Re:I know you're trying to be funny, but... (Score 5, Informative) 739

by brianerst (#47545139) Attached to: Linus Torvalds: "GCC 4.9.0 Seems To Be Terminally Broken"

To be fair, the tirade occurred on the Linux Kernel mailing list and was intra-kernel team bitching. This wasn't directed at the gcc devs personally - he was telling another kernel dev that the output of from his version of gcc was crap. It's a snapshot of a mailing list conversation, not an official statement.

His actual bug report was professional and courteous. He thanked the gcc devs for quickly coming up with a fix.

Comment: Re:maybe (Score 1) 512

Maybe you wouldn't be considered an anti-semite if you didn't compare Israelis to Nazis.

A comparison to South Africa or Rhodesia/Zimbabwe would be more apt - at least you've got some similarities (and some differences too - having a diaspora return to an ancestral homeland that still has a remnant of the original population is different than pure colonization). But nothing that is occurring in Israel/Palestine comes close to what the Nazi's did in a decade. It's a category error.

Comment: Need more thumbs (Score 1) 77

by brianerst (#47485235) Attached to: Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand

That's interesting (if a little clumsy). I wonder if a different arrangement of digits would work better.

I'm thinking of placing an opposable thumb opposite the existing thumb (a mirror image of the existing thumb) and one on the base of the wrist pointing up which would curl up when the fingers curl down. Without modeling it, it would be hard to tell if the extra digits would get in the way too much, but they would greatly increase the ability to do certain types of grips.

(And why does Firefox seem to think opposable isn't a word?)

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