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Comment: Re:Not really. (Score 1) 236

by dpilot (#48927313) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

There's a bit more to it than that. My tops would be two points.
First, we're memetically infectuous. Plant a new idea here, and someone will run with it, most likely in some direction you never wished for. Many of our memetic infections are downright dangerous, lethal, destructive, etc. Contact might well be considered irresponsible, no matter how well intended.
Second, there's the thing I mentioned about our reverse-engineering technology. They might accidentally give us more capability than they wanted to. Not that we'd be any threat to them, but we've been sitting here for however long with the Doomsday Clock close to midnight. Give us something new that can be weaponized, (We've been able to turn just about everything into a weapon, perhaps the most resistant invention was the "death ray", the laser - it's had so darned many peaceful uses and has been very hard to make into aweapon.) and we will do so. Perhaps that weapon might be what tips the scale, ticks the clock, or whatever metaphor you like.

+ - New Micro-Ring Resonator Creates Quantum Entanglement on a Silicon Chip ->

Submitted by Zothecula
Zothecula (1870348) writes "The quantum entanglement of particles, such as photons, is a prerequisite for the new and future technologies of quantum computing, telecommunications, and cyber security. Real-world applications that take advantage of this technology, however, will not be fully realized until devices that produce such quantum states leave the realms of the laboratory and are made both small and energy efficient enough to be embedded in electronic equipment. In this vein, European scientists have created and installed a tiny "ring-resonator" on a microchip that is claimed to produce copious numbers of entangled photons while using very little power to do so."
Link to Original Source

+ - We May Have Jupiter To Thank For the Nitrogen In Earth's Atmosphere->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Nitrogen makes up about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. It's also the 4th most abundant element in the human body. But where did all the nitrogen on Earth come from? Scientists aren't sure, but they have a new theory. Back when the solar system was just a protoplanetary disk, the ice orbiting the early Sun included ammonia, which has a nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. But there needed to be a way for the nitrogen to get to the developing Earth. That's where Jupiter comes in. During its theorized Grand Tack, where it plunged into the center of the solar system and then retreated outward again, it created shock waves in the dust and ice cloud surrounding the sun. These shock waves caused gentle heating of the ammonia ice, which allowed it to react with chromium-bearing metal to form a mineral called carlsbergite. New research (abstract) suggests this mineral was then present when the Earth's accretion happened."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Not really. (Score 5, Insightful) 236

by dpilot (#48919725) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

First, it doesn't explain Fermi's Paradox, it merely adds another term to it. In all of those various probabilities, apparently there is something like a 10% chance of not getting taken out by a gamma burst in half-a-billion years. I would also expect the odds to get better as a given galaxy "settles down", generating fewer big, hot stars and more smaller, calmer ones. Some neighborhoods are probably rougher too. I wouldn't wait around to settle Trantor, near the center of our galaxy.

Second, I wouldn't consider intergalactic contact in any serious way - the distances are bad enough for interstellar, do we really want to add a few more orders of magnitude?

Third, our presence establishes our galaxy as one of the more benign ones. There is at least one neighborhood that has been sufficiently peaceful for the last half-billion hears. Last I knew, there were no supernova candidates close enough to cause that kind of trouble any time soon, either.

Fourth, I'll focus on your word "silliness", which I think you meant as an understatement. There is conceivably a chance that we are under observation, and rank as "too silly" for any contact. The Earth has had an oxygen atmosphere for the last half-billion years, and we're on the verge of being able to detect other such atmospheres on other worlds such as Kepler has found. It's not a bad assumption that any civilization capable of interstellar travel is also better at planetary surveys than us. If they're there and within a few thousand light-years, they know something worth seeing is probably here.

At this point in physics we're stuck at the Standard Model. We have many theories that move beyond, but no facts to select among them, and many of the experiments would be incredibly expensive. But let's say one day we saw a "warp signature", it's quite possible that we could immediately discard half of those theories. (By "warp signature" I really mean physical evidence of truly advanced technology.) IF there were here watching us, and seeing our "silliness" as well as the scientific acumen of some, they would be especially careful that we see no such evidence.

+ - Verizon, Cable Lobby Oppose Higher Broadband Definition

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "Responding to the FCC's proposal to raise the definition of broadband from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, the lobby group known as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) wrote in an FCC filing Thursday that 25Mbps/3Mbps isn't necessary for ordinary people. The lobby alleges that hypothetical use cases offered for showing the need for 25Mbps/3Mbps "dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user", referring to parties in favor of the increase like Netflix and Public Knowledge.

Verizon, for its part, is also lobbying against a faster broadband definition. Much of its territory is still stuck on DSL which is far less capable of 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds than cable technology.

The FCC presently defines broadband as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up, a definition that hasn't changed since 2010. By comparison, people in Sweden can pay about $40 a month for 100/100 mbps, choosing between more than a dozen competing providers. The FCC is under mandate to determine whether broadband is being deployed to Americans in a reasonable and timely way, and the commission must take action to accelerate deployment if the answer is negative. Raising the definition's speeds provides more impetus to take actions that promote competition and remove barriers to investment, such as a potential move to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband projects."

+ - Is Pascal an Underrated Programming Language? 6

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "In the recent Slashdot discussion on the D programming language, I was surprised to see criticisms of Pascal that were based on old information and outdated implementations. While I’m sure that, for example, Brian Kernighan’s criticisms of Pascal were valid in 1981, things have moved on since then. Current Object Pascal largely addresses Kernighan’s critique and also includes language features such as anonymous methods, reflection and attributes, class helpers, generics and more (see also Marco Cantu’s recent Object Pascal presentation). Cross-platform development is fairly straightforward with Pascal. Delphi targets Windows, OS X, iOS and Android. Free Pascal targets many operating systems and architectures and Lazarus provides a Delphi-like IDE for Free Pascal. So what do you think? Is Pascal underrated?"

+ - U.S. Gas Stations Vulnerable To Internet Attacks->

Submitted by itwbennett
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Automated tank gauges (ATGs), which are used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be manipulated over the Internet by malicious attackers, according to security firm Rapid7. 'An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system,' said HD Moore, the chief research officer at Rapid7."
Link to Original Source

+ - 'I paid $25 for an Invisible Boyfriend and I Think I Might Be in Love'

Submitted by (3830033) writes "Caitlin Dewey writes in the Washington Post that she's been using a new service called "Invisible Boyfriend" and that she's fallen in love with it. When you sign up for the service, you design a boyfriend (or girlfriend) to your specifications. "You pick his name, his age, his interests and personality traits. You tell the app if you prefer blonds or brunettes, tall guys or short, guys who like theater or guys who watch sports. Then you swipe your credit card — $25 per month, cha-ching! — and the imaginary man of your dreams starts texting you." Invisible boyfriend is actually boyfriends, plural: The service’s texting operation is powered by CrowdSource, a St. Louis-based tech company that manages 200,000 remote, microtask-focused workers. "When I send a text to the Ryan number saved in my phone, the message routes through Invisible Boyfriend, where it’s anonymized and assigned to some Amazon Turk or Fivrr freelancer. He (or she) gets a couple of cents to respond. He never sees my name or number, and he can’t really have anything like an actual conversation with me." Dewey says that the point of Invisible Boyfriend is to deceive the user’s meddling friends and relatives. "I was newly divorced and got tired of everyone asking if I was dating or seeing someone," says co-founder Matthew Homann. "There seems to be this romance culture in our country where people are looked down upon if they aren't in a relationship."

Evidence suggests that people can be conned into loving just about anything. There is no shortage of stories about couples carrying on “relationships” exclusively via Second Life , the game critic Kate Gray recently published an ode to “Dorian,” a character she fell in love with in a video game, and one anthropologist argues that our relationships are increasingly so mediated by tech that they’ve become indistinguishable from Tamagotchis. “The Internet is a disinhibiting medium, where people’s emotional guard is down,” says Mark Griffiths. “It’s the same phenomenon as the stranger on the train, where you find yourself telling your life story to someone you don’t know.” It’s not exactly the stuff of fairytales, concludes Dewey. "But given enough time and texts — a full 100 are included in my monthly package — I’m pretty sure I could fall for him. I mean, er them.""

+ - Should Disney Require its Employees to Be Vaccinated? 1

Submitted by (3830033) writes "According to Joanna Rothkopf Disneyland is already a huge petri dish of disease with tired children wiping their snot faces on Goofy and then riding log flumes through mechanized rivers filled with the backwash of thousands of other sweaty, unwashed, weeping toddlers. Now John Tozzi reports at Businessweek that five workers at Disneyland have been diagnosed with measles in an outbreak that California officials trace to visitors at the theme park in mid-December. The measles outbreak is a publicity nightmare for Disney and the company is urging its 27,000 workers at the park to verify that they're inoculated against the virus, and the company is offering tests and shots on site for workers who are unvaccinated. One thing Disney won't do, however, is require workers to get routine vaccinations as a condition of employment. Almost no companies outside the health-care industry do. "To make things mandatory just raises a lot of legal concerns and legal issues," says Rob Niccolini. Disney has been working with public health officials, and Disney has already put some employees on paid leave until medically cleared. "They recognized that they were just a meeting place for measles," says Gilberto Chávez. "And they are quite concerned about doing what they can to help control the outbreak.""

Comment: Re:It's about time. (Score 1) 138

by dpilot (#48876055) Attached to: Simon Pegg On Board To Co-Write Next Star Trek Film

Hmmmm.... I wonder how far The Culture is from Roddenberry's ideals? In some ways, The Culture seems to me to be a far more realistic post-Singularity type of civilization than the Federation. The trappings are far more fantastic, (GSVs, anyone?) but TOS tended to underestimate many things. As one example, the communicators were basically phones, and other than communicating with an orbiting starship instead of a local tower, they only do a fraction of what today's smartphones do.

Plus even The Culture gets to have explosions. I'm currently re-reading "Surface States". The first time I read it, I particularly liked one Ship giving a fairly complex blow-by-blow account of a space battle that was only something like 15 microseconds long.

Comment: Re:Time for a UNION! (Score 5, Insightful) 263

by metlin (#48868295) Attached to: The Tech Industry's Legacy: Creating Disposable Employees

Although this problem needs a solution, a union is not that solution. Unions are a relic of a bygone era. The core premise of a union is that employes are all the same and can be swapped in and out of work like parts in a machine (once they are trained). This leads to collective bargaining which takes back some of the power that big employers have. However it also removes individuality from the worker. If I am smarter, stronger, or more skilled than my coworkers, I want to be able to elevate myself based on my merits. A union interferes with that. You pay a union, and the union acts only in its own best interest, not in your individual best interest.

That's an incredibly selfish attitude that puts the individual interest above the interest of the collective. The irony is that collective bargaining is much more effective and is much stronger in the long run. Your self interest is great until such time that you reach a point when other, more skilled people take your place (which is inevitable, because our cognitive capabilities decline with age, not to mention that older people have more responsibilities and find it hard to work 80 hour weeks).

Even the most meritocratic of individuals can run into unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances (e.g., an accident that has you laid up, or family issues). I worked in a strictly up or out management consulting firm, and about a year ago, my pregnant wife had some issues. My son was born, prematurely, and I was in a rough place with my personal needs and professional responsibilities. My wife was hospitalized and my son was in the NICU, unable to breathe, and I was the only one who could take care of things. My employer was understanding -- for about 6 weeks -- after which things got rather unpleasant. So, I quit and joined another firm that is not only more prestigious but was also more understanding and accommodating of my needs. But I was fortunate -- I could very well have been unable to find a job, and been unemployed for a year because I wanted to take care of my family.

Union agreements ensure that in such cases, collective bargaining agreements protect everyone.

Modern skilled workers, especially in the IT and Engineering fields, are usually very specialized. This is not a good fit for a union. It would be ill advised to take a good thing and remove all motivation for creativity and the free flow of invigorating talent.

Not really. Most of what goes on in IT today is quite commoditized, and there are very few areas that are truly specialized. And it is only going to get worse as IT matures. You may think your task is highly specialized, but the truth is, there's probably someone in another part of the world willing to do it for a tenth of what you get paid. That is not specialization.

If you want real specialization, you perhaps see it in chip design, algorithmic optimization, biotech etc. You know, all those guys with PhDs who specialize in a subject?

A better solution is to simply prevent large corporations from getting away with their bullshit. No "gentleman's agreements" to prevent poaching. Stop accepting lies regarding layoffs and market performance. Reward employers for using home-grown talent rather than rewarding them with tax loopholes for moving overseas.

And how do you propose we do that? The share market is the ultimate arbiter, and the people who are rewarding the companies and the executives are the shareholders who are in for short term profit (it's the extension of the same short term myopic outlook of looking out for oneself rather than the collective).

I find that most Americans have a poor understanding of unions almost entirely rooted in propaganda, and it gets repeated again and again as gospel. The truth is, unions are immensely helpful to the labor force, especially in a service economy such as ours. Everyone thinks their skill is specialized, until it gets outsourced and commoditized.

You are not special. And despite what you may think, unions can help you negotiate agreements that would be impossible for you to go at alone.

It is contrary to reasoning to say that there is a vacuum or space in which there is absolutely nothing. -- Descartes