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Comment: Re:End of the Epidemic (Score 3, Insightful) 163

Best I remember, Brooks' explanation for why your suggestion above proved ineffective is a combination of two things: 1) amount of ammunition available and 2) fear and confusion.

I absolutely agree that large-scale munitions are going to do structural damage to multiple targets. That's a given. Brooks' point was that it simply didn't do *enough* to stop a steadily-advancing horde with a large population difference between the attackers and defenders. If you have a thousand troops trying to fight off a million or more zombies, then the question becomes more about how quickly and effectively you're using those heavy munitions and are you slowing down their advance quickly enough with structural (rather than lethal) damage to keep them from overrunning your position.

Also, Brooks did keep the genre-standard of the concept of a "zombie" being largely absent from the collective awareness. Those previously-mentioned thousand troops, then, not only have to deal with the possibility of running out of ammo and not stopping the advance, but also the uncertainty of *why* their munitions seem to be so ineffective. Troops, not understanding what's going on, have their nerve break, and then you have collapsing formations and the zombies pushing a wedge through your protections.

With more experience later in the book where humans start pushing back (after years of learning what does and doesn't work), then military encounters *do* become effective with only slight modifications to their tactics. So you're speaking from their perspective, and you're right. It does work, and you can take down a massively-imbalanced zombie horde with even just a small, organized military force. But you have to know what you're doing first.

Comment: Re:End of the Epidemic (Score 1) 163

Point taken.

Brooks does keep the infectious nature, however, so that's at least one possible explanation as to, "Why, then, inhabit a body at all?" If whatever the zombie plague *really* is requires an incubator, then there's your reason.

After full infection, Brooks' zombies seem to require little of the human physiology, but initial infection still requires a live human host for, effectively, reproduction.

Comment: Re:End of the Epidemic (Score 5, Informative) 163

"World War Z" (the book, not the movie) by Max Brooks actually covers this fairly well.

***Spoilers***

At least in my opinion, the zombies in WWZ are either some form of alien parasite, a nanite plague, or some equivalent mechanism that facilitates some rather severe changes in the zombies' biology. The internals have largely converted to a black, tar-like substance which appears to actually be providing the locomotive force. Gun shots, stab wounds, blunt beatings, etc. just pretty much don't do anything. They're spongy, soft, and simply absorb most impacts. There are no internal organs of any importance. The skeletal structure may or may not still be there, but any injury to it simply changes their mobility slightly. Their 100% immune to any bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, as whatever they've been transmuted into isn't compatible with local microbiology, so they don't rot or decay in any way, nor are do they appear susceptible to exposure. A zombie stuck in extended sub-freezing temperatures simply freezes solid and then thaws and returns to shambling around if and when temperatures increase. Trying to burn them is just as ineffective, as their new physiology has them slowly burn off their clothing and maybe an exterior layer of semi-normal-looking skin before the interior tar-substance makes the flames go out. To paraphrase the book, napalm is useless, as all you end up with is converting a bunch of slowly advancing zombies into a bunch of slowly advancing flaming zombies. And something else that the book goes into detail concerning is the complete and utter lack of fear. There is no such thing as using "shock and awe" tactics on something that literally doesn't care if it dies (since it's already dead anyway). The "Battle of Yonkers" shows this quite clearly, with the military using traditional tactics including large-scale artillery while the horde just continues advancing. A bomb might blow off a zombie's legs and throw it 20 feet to the side, but then the top half just starts clawing towards you again. Then you have the scale issues, as the numbers of infected eventually get so bad that those stuck up on the ISS can see them from space on the Midwest plains ebbing and flowing like herds of buffalo before Western colonization. And finally, you have the "call for help". The book describes the zombies calling to each other whenever "food" is located. And what's worse is that that sets off a chain reaction. Any zombie that hears a call-out will then call out again, so you have an ever-growing network effect where even just one zombie spotting you may be catastrophic. This lead to any roadway being a certain death trap. People would starve to death or dehydrate while trapped in their cars surrounded by zombies. The zombies never got to them, but then the person who died inside might become a zombie from latent infection. That car-trapped zombie then just became a standing warning signal. If somebody passed what appeared to be a deserted car on the road, and the trapped zombie noticed them, then it would call out, and any zombie in ear shot knew that dinner was served.

Tying this back to the original military-force problem, basically any military engagement would, therefore, draw enough attention that you were guaranteed a mass wave of them in a relatively short time frame. Combined with their nigh-invulnerability where literally *nothing* but a head shot was effective, and the military would simply run out of ammunition before they'd come close to dealing with the immediate threat.

Now I'm in no way saying that most zombie descriptions even come close to some of these details. And it's my understanding that Max Brooks' goal was to specifically modify the zombie milieu to account for any unbelievable aspect such as your assertion of military force being effective. So, yeah, in most cases you're right that artillery would probably work just fine. But if you're looking for somebody to try and actually make a *working* description of how a zombie plague might actually beat us, then try out the book. Avoid the movie, IMHO. It completely glosses over 90% of what I described above, which made it a standard, unbelievable scenario, unfortunately.

Comment: Compiler Vulnerability (Score 2) 255

by charon69 (#41757795) Attached to: Huawei Offers 'Complete and Unrestricted' Source Code Access

Is Australia planning on building their own code from that source?

Because how would they know that what they were running was actually the source code they were provided?

And would Australia even be interested in jumping through that extra hoop considering that there are other vendor options available where Australia feels this isn't necessary? The price difference between Huawei and other vendors would have to be fairly sizable to warrant that.

Or, even more insidious, I've heard of the possibility to include backdoors via the compiler rather than via the source code.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backdoor_(computing)

Quote from that article:
It is also possible to create a backdoor without modifying the source code of a program, or even modifying it after compilation. This can be done by rewriting the compiler so that it recognizes code during compilation that triggers inclusion of a backdoor in the compiled output. When the compromised compiler finds such code, it compiles it as normal, but also inserts a backdoor (perhaps a password recognition routine). So, when the user provides that input, he gains access to some (likely undocumented) aspect of program operation. This attack was first outlined by Ken Thompson in his famous paper Reflections on Trusting Trust (see below).

If Huawei's code requires anything more than generic gcc, Australia may not be able to verify 100% security, regardless... unless they're given the source code to the compiler as well.

Long story short, this just seems like a huge hassle that Australia is probably going to avoid anyway.

Just my 2 cents...

Comment: No, no it couldn't... (Score 4, Insightful) 30

by charon69 (#41629511) Attached to: New NASA Robot Could Help Paraplegics Walk

I hate to be a pessimist, but it's my understanding that there's no real technological hurdle that needs overcoming in terms of getting a strength-assist exoskeleton.

Sure, some fine tuning. You know, making sure that it doesn't break the user's bones and all that. But nothing too technically complicated.

It gets slightly more complicated if you're wanting a pure machine-brain interface rather than it being controlled through some other arrangement. But we've seen stuff like this already. The brain adapts well to new stimuli, and I'm sure somebody will get all the kinks worked out of that at some point not too far away.

The problem, as far as I'm aware, is with the power source. Battery technology has been stuck at roughly the same point for decades now. The weight to power-concentration ratio just isn't there.

So unless this story is actually about Nasa figuring out coke-bottle-sized cold fusion, then (unfortunately) go read this post's subject line.

Comment: Re:Tenure (Score 1) 356

by charon69 (#39135967) Attached to: Academics Not Productive Enough? Sack 'em

Here's what I don't understand: Why is tenure necessary? What is different about academia such that teachers require "protection"?

And if someone does choose to respond to my post, please keep the vitriol down. Both of my parents were high school teachers. I've been around teachers for an extremely long time. I understand that they work much longer hours than just regular school hours. I understand that they take money out of their own pockets for school supplies. I know all the hardships. That's fine.

So, I repeat: What is different about teaching such that it requires tenure?

I live in a "Right to Work" state, i.e. a "we can fire you for any reason and, as long as we don't tell you that reason, you have no legal recourse" state. Everybody I know functions in this *absolutely no protection* environment, and we all do fine. Sure, sometimes somebody gets screwed over by the system. But in general, skilled labor is required to fill most positions such as engineering, software development, etc. Businesses don't just go off and clear out their entire staff on a whim, even though they can, because it would be disastrous for the business.

How is the same thing not true for teaching? You keep the good teachers. You fire the bad teachers. You get on with life.

You can even feel the tone of the original submitter. How there is an implicit denunciation of the firing of academics. But if you switched out the profession and said, "100 software developers were fired for not meeting coding deadlines", would anybody here even bat an eye?

I just don't get it. And, seriously, if I'm missing something, please explain it to me.

Comment: Re:tools, not robots (Score 1) 288

by charon69 (#35719584) Attached to: Afghanistan Called First "Robotic War"

Agreed. I know that *technically* the units being using in Afghanistan are robots. A mechanical arm used to weld cars in a factory just following a pre-programmed series of movements is technically a robot.

But if allusions to Terminators are going to be made, then we have to consider autonomy as the real metric for a "robotic war".

IMHO, people worried about things like robotic wars are implying a problem with the robots running amok, at least primarily. True, there are other issues to consider. For instance, would a person controlling a robot from 1,000 miles away take more risks with that robot, or go in firing more freely without worrying about reprisals, as opposed to somebody inside a tank where the control is more "involved"?

But it's not like modern aircraft are directly controlled by the people inside them either. There are tons of stabilizing modifications performed per second completely autonomously just to keep a modern combat aircraft from dropping out of the sky. It's all electronic signals. And a human is controlling that at a high level whether he's sitting in the cockpit or in California with a remote joystick.

Call me when, "afterward, the Stealth Bombers flew with perfect operational records..."

Medicine

What US Health Care Needs 584

Posted by kdawson
from the velluvial-matrix dept.
Medical doctor and writer Atul Gawande gave the commencement address recently at Stanford's School of Medicine. In it he lays out very precisely and in a nonpartisan way what is wrong with the institution of medical care in the US — why it is both so expensive and so ineffective at delivering quality care uniformly across the board. "Half a century ago, medicine was neither costly nor effective. Since then, however, science has... enumerated and identified... more than 13,600 diagnoses — 13,600 different ways our bodies can fail. And for each one we've discovered beneficial remedies... But those remedies now include more than six thousand drugs and four thousand medical and surgical procedures. Our job in medicine is to make sure that all of this capability is deployed, town by town, in the right way at the right time, without harm or waste of resources, for every person alive. And we're struggling. There is no industry in the world with 13,600 different service lines to deliver. ... And then there is the frightening federal debt we will face. By 2025, we will owe more money than our economy produces. One side says war spending is the problem, the other says it's the economic bailout plan. But take both away and you've made almost no difference. Our deficit problem — far and away — is the soaring and seemingly unstoppable cost of health care. ... Like politics, all medicine is local. Medicine requires the successful function of systems — of people and of technologies. Among our most profound difficulties is making them work together. If I want to give my patients the best care possible, not only must I do a good job, but a whole collection of diverse components must somehow mesh effectively. ... This will take science. It will take art. It will take innovation. It will take ambition. And it will take humility. But the fantastic thing is: This is what you get to do."
Image

Facebook Master Password Was "Chuck Norris" 319

Posted by samzenpus
from the ad-nauseum-roundhouse dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "A Facebook employee has given a tell-all interview with some very interesting things about Facebook's internals. Especially interesting are all the things relating to Facebook privacy. Basically, you don't have any. Nearly everything you've ever done on the site is recorded into a database. While they fire employees for snooping, more than a few have done it. There's an internal system to let them log into anyone's profile, though they have to be able to defend their reason for doing so. And they used to have a master password that could log into any Facebook profile: 'Chuck Norris.' Bruce Schneier might be jealous of that one."
Bug

Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases? 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-did-my-face-go dept.
An anonymous reader points out a recent article at Gamesradar discussing the frequency of major bugs and technical issues in freshly-released video games. While such issues are often fixed with updates, questions remain about the legality and ethics of rushing a game to launch. Quoting: "As angry as you may be about getting a buggy title, would you want the law to get involved? Meglena Kuneva, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner, is putting forward legislation that would legally oblige digital game distributors to give refunds for games, putting games in the same category in consumer law as household appliances. ... This call to arms has been praised by tech expert Andy Tanenbaum, author of books like Operating Systems: Design and Implementation. 'I think the idea that commercial software be judged by the same standards as other commercial products is not so crazy,' he says. 'Cars, TVs, and telephones are all expected to work, and they are full of software. Why not standalone software? I think such legislation would put software makers under pressure to first make sure their software works, then worry about more bells and whistles.'"
Image

NASA Tests Flying Airbag 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the drop-the-cloud-anchor dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA is looking to reduce the deadly impact of helicopter crashes on their pilots and passengers with what the agency calls a high-tech honeycomb airbag known as a deployable energy absorber. So in order to test out its technology NASA dropped a small helicopter from a height of 35 feet to see whether its deployable energy absorber, made up of an expandable honeycomb cushion, could handle the stress. The test crash hit the ground at about 54MPH at a 33 degree angle, what NASA called a relatively severe helicopter crash."

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis

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