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Comment: Re:And the US could turn Russia into vapor (Score 1) 878

Well, considering that conventional warfare is a nono, and nuclear warfare is a BIG NONO, but economic warfare is fair game, I'd say you have a point.

Money is soft power. Military weapons are hard power. This difference is quite obvious to Ukranians in Crimea.

Comment: Re:Why? (Score 1) 769

by catchblue22 (#46391541) Attached to: The Next Keurig Will Make Your Coffee With a Dash of "DRM"

Is it really so hard to just grind the beans and brew it yourself? I do this every morning.

I totally agree. These machines make crap coffee for a massive premium price. They are the ink-jet printers of coffee. And I despise the amount of waste produced.

I use an espresso machine and a decent grinder to make Americano's in the takes a very short period of time, probably comparable to the kuereg. A cappuccino takes a bit longer with milk steaming, but still fairly fast. And I get a lovely crema which tastes oh so good.

Comment: Parent is using the strawman fallacy. (Score 1) 235

by catchblue22 (#46290299) Attached to: Scientists Study Permian Mass Extinction Event As Lesson For 21st Century

Environmentalists certainly want you to believe that. It's funny how a group can hate humanity as much as they do and yet not commit mass suicide.

They are the ultimate hypocrites. They want the REST OF US to starve without GMO crops and transportation of food. But they themselves are far too heroic to die, of course.


Comment: Re:Survey results != Real world (Score 1) 293

Only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed 'trolling.' By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were 'non-commenters,' meaning they didn't like engaging online at all. So trolls are, as has often been suspected, a minority of online commenters

What of the percentage of trolls who are in fact paid to post on particular political issues. If I were extremely wealthy and wanted to push public opinion in a certain direction, I think that hiring internet trolls would be a relatively inexpensive way of reaching the public.

Comment: Market for Grades (Score 1) 264

by catchblue22 (#46213505) Attached to: Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

It is a fairly common idea in the ideology of many of those who run our education system that if you give students the ability to chose their professors or teachers, they will chose the best professors or teachers. The idea is to make education a marketable commodity with professors and teachers as service providers and students as consumers. There is a deep and fundamental flaw in this view. Markets are indeed extraordinarily good at satisfying consumer demand. The problem is that too many students are not demanding a quality education, but rather the highest possible grade, possibly with the least amount of effort. In other words too many students value the credential rather than the education it is meant to represent. Thus, the market system for education works against the Public Interest, putting an upward pressure on grades and a downwards pressure on standards.

What are some solutions to this quandry? The problem is often that grades for particular courses consist only of a percentage. In most schools and universities those percentages in a particular course do not differentiate between different professors or teachers. Thus a grade given by a challenging professor and one given by an easy professor are difficult to distinguish. The proposal in TFA might help the situation, but I think there is another way. What if each professor got a score not based on the evaluation by students but rather by how his students scored in other courses, especially those that follow his own course. This score for a professor would be like an adjustment factor for his grades. Let's say most students in one professor's Calculus II class who get 75% usually go on to get an 85% score in Calculus III. Thus, this professor's grades would be deemed better than another professor's grades whose 75% students usually go on to score 65% in Calculus III.

This system would reduce pressure on professors to raise grades, especially if students understood this rating system. All that would matter would be that the professor be consistent year after year. It might seem complicated to implement but in our world of computers and databases, I don't think it would be impossible to create. It wouldn't be necessary to follow all of a professor's students, only a few in order to gain a correlation. Indeed, all it would initially require would be for each professor or teacher to be given a unique code which would be attached to each grade given to each student. The rest would be data mining by whatever authority has access to the data.

Comment: Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (Score 1) 343

by catchblue22 (#46105089) Attached to: Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

Mandatory insurance is not health care reform. Yes I realize that there is more to the ACA than that but really if you want to provide health care for your citizens there are a lot better solutions out there. Unfortunately there is a fear of socialized health care in the US.

To quote Otto von Bismarck: "Politics is the art of the possible."

Comment: Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (Score 0) 343

by catchblue22 (#46104171) Attached to: Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

You see how well the last few years have gone. Every month GWB is looking so much better than Obama.

Yeah, GWB would have brought in sweeping health care reforms. Every time I hear statements like the above I am reminded how intellectually lazy the American intelligentsia is.

Comment: Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (Score 2) 343

by catchblue22 (#46103833) Attached to: Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

They didn't award it to Obama for anything.

They awarded Obama the Peace Prize because he was personally spearheading negotiations with the Russians to reduce nuclear armament stockpiles. This didn't go anywhere largely because Congress would have vetoed any meaningful concessions. My source on this is 1 degree of separation from Obama (he works with people who would have worked with Obama.

Comment: Re:The robot.. (Score 3, Insightful) 76

by catchblue22 (#45507507) Attached to: DARPA's Atlas Walking Over Randomness

No human has vibrating feet.

I beg to differ. Try this experiment. Place a thick pillow on the ground, or perhaps two. Stand on these pillows with one leg and no other support for one minute. If your pillow stance is unstable enough, your foot will have to move around rapidly to maintain your balance, since by not being able to change the location of your foot on the pillow, you must instead change the orientation of your foot. I suspect that this robot is actually testing specifically the ability of ankle joints to maintain balance, since there is almost no side stepping visible on the part of the robot. The Boston Dynamics robots referred to in other posts often seem to rely mainly on sidestepping for balance, and often have peg legs instead of feet and ankles. This robot seems likely to be a proof of concept of one particular method of balance that in future robots will be combined with other methods of balance.

Comment: Re:On the plus side (Score 1) 274

by catchblue22 (#45374403) Attached to: Scientists Says Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Oceans

This experiment has already been carried out in the Black Sea, and the results are not good.

Except for the jellyfish. For them, their clipboards say Results are excellent!

I guess I was being a bit implicit. I meant that the results are not good for us. Meaning that jellyfish are objectively less nutritious for human consumption. And possibly it will be bad for all oxygen consuming life forms as most of our oxygen comes from the ocean, and because shifting to a jellyfish based aquatic ecosystem could have a negative impact on oxygen producing phytoplankton. Admittedly this is speculation on my part, but I don't think it is as outlandish as it might seem to imagine a world with widespread oceanic zones of low oxygen production. In fact we are already observing large "dead-zones" in the ocean.

Comment: Re:On the plus side (Score 4, Interesting) 274

by catchblue22 (#45357525) Attached to: Scientists Says Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Oceans

I wrote a summary of research paper 10 years ago for a course I was taking. That paper described what happened in the Black Sea after top level predators were removed. As I remember, the removal of the top level predators made the entire ecosystem unstable. Overfishing of smaller fish opened up a niche for other species like jellyfish, which then displaced for a time the opportunities for the populations of the small fish to recover.

In essence, this is what is happening worldwide. We are killing off the sharks via the shark fin industry, and sharks are the top level predator in the ocean. We are also overfishing smaller species. This seems to be opening up niches for jellyfish, which may displace the fish that we normally eat. This experiment has already been carried out in the Black Sea, and the results are not good.

Comment: Extreme Religion and Intellectual Development (Score 1) 745

by catchblue22 (#45097685) Attached to: US Adults Score Poorly On Worldwide Test

I would argue that the very fact that members of main-stream American religious groups are in effect required to reject solid scientific frameworks like evolution and geology predisposes them to intellectual handicaps. Science is at its heart an intellectual process for finding truth about the physical world. It requires a person to be open to new ideas, and to use logic and reason to reject faulty ideas. By rejecting scientific ideas out of hand, members of these extreme religious groups are developing habits of mind that erode their entire skill set. They develop the habit of mind to blindly accept ideas as given by a trusted religious authority. They develop the habit of mind to view opposing views as evils to be shunned. They develop the habit of mind of assuming a-priori the truth of certain ideas and then defending those ideas in any way possible, including the use of deceptive and faulty reasoning.

I don't think the apparent decline in the reasoning skills of Americans can entirely be blamed on religion. The decline of the fifth estate (the news media) and the rise of vacuous popular culture have likely played a role. I also think that many in our "academic elite" have fallen sway to facile ideologies that ignore the complexities of history and human nature (both on the left AND on the right). I am also not entirely anti-religious. The Jesuits for example display a healthy respect for logic and reason and have a strong intellectual heritage (they educated Rene Descartes, who used the logical habits of mind he gained from his Jesuit education to help start the Enlightenment).

Nonetheless, having conversed and interacted with many evangelical adherents, I am disturbed by their lack of reasoning skills. In a democratic society, having such a large numbers of voters with such low reasoning abilities is likely to be dangerous. The fact that 90 members of Congress are "Tea Party" adherents is strong evidence of this danger.

Comment: Re:Overrated? (Score 5, Interesting) 129

by catchblue22 (#44842209) Attached to: Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 1 Released in HTML Format

No. Not over-rated. He was capable of communicating ideas, deep and otherwise, clearly, which is very difficult. Consider how to convey the difference in magnitude between gravity and the electromagnetic force. The example he gives goes something like this:

RF: What is your charge right now?

Student: neutral.

RF: Why?

Student: Because we have the same amount of positive and negative charge.

RF: OK. What would happen if you took some electrons from your neighbour?

Student: I would become positive and he would be negative

RF: Yes. Now I want you to imagine you steal some of the electrons from your neighbor. Let's not be greedy. Let's say you take 10% of them. Now you are negative and your friend is positive and you will feel an attractive force towards him. The question is: how strong is the force of attraction. Is it larger or smaller than the weight of the Empire State Building?

Student: Hmmmm...dunno. I'm gonna guess larger.

RF: Yes it is larger. But how much larger. Is the force of attraction between you and your neighbor larger or smaller than the weight of Mount Everest?

Student: I'm gonna go with larger.

RF: Yes, you are correct. In fact, the force of attaction between you and your neighbor WILL BE ABOUT THE SAME AS THE WEIGHT OF THE ENTIRE EARTH!

The above paraphrased lesson emphasizes like nothing I've ever heard before how weak gravity is and how strong the electromagnetic force is. Simply brilliant.


Retail Stores Plan Elaborate Ways To Track You 195

Posted by timothy
from the just-ask-at-the-casino-what-works dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Retailers are experimenting with a variety of new ways to track you, so that when you pick up a shirt, you might get a message about the matching shorts. Or pick up golf shoes at a sports store and you see a discount for a new set of clubs. New technologies like magnetic field detection, Bluetooth Low Energy, sonic pulses, and even transmissions from the in-store lights can tell when you enter a store, where you go, and how you shop. Just last year, tracking was only accurate within 100 feet. Starting this year, they can track within a few feet. ByteLight makes the lighting tech, which transmits a unique signal that the camera in your phone can read. The store can then track your location within about 3 feet — and it's already in use at the Museum of Science in Boston."

What hath Bob wrought?