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Comment: Re:Trolls are the lowest form of life. . . (Score 1) 262

by hey! (#48183297) Attached to: In UK, Internet Trolls Could Face Two Years In Jail

Well, every generalization has its corner cases that require careful thought. So while I agree that trolling per se shouldn't be outlawed, there may be certain uses of trolling that should be criminalized.

Take the libelous component of cyberstalking. At the very least this could be an aggravating factor in impersonation. Also, the law already recognizes libel as wrong, but it requires the harmed person take civil action. The Internet exposes more people than ever to reputation harm, but not all those people have the money to hire a lawyer. Social media have created a whole new vista for defamation, much of which is *practically* immune from any consequences.

So I do not in principle object to a law that criminalizes *some* forms of defamation, particularly against people who are not protected by the current laws. But I'd have to look at the the specific proposed law carefully. Just because people *claim* a new law would do something doesn't mean it does, or that's all it does.

Comment: Re:Prison population (Score 4, Interesting) 399

by hey! (#48172573) Attached to: As Prison Population Sinks, Jails Are a Steal

Check out this graph.

The nuimbers of prisoners has not declined significantly since 2009. This doesn't mean the bubble hasn't burst, the nature of the bubble resists bursting. People can leave the housing market, but prisoners can't leave the prison market.

Still, anyone who invested big-time in prisons back in 2008 or so on the basis of 30 years of exponential prison population growth was just stupid. We were approaching 1% of the Amercian population incarcerated, how much higher did they expect that to go?

I have no sympathy with a town that bet its financial future on prisons while its schools rate minimally acceptable.

Comment: Re:And he is, probably, right (Score 3) 280

by hey! (#48164185) Attached to: FBI Director Continues His Campaign Against Encryption

and America has always valued the cantankerous Individual above the glorious Collective, that other cultures prefer...

When I was in college I took several courses from the famous scholar of Japanese literature, Howard Hibbet. In one of the classes there was student who liked to talk about Japanese culture's "Samurai values". The professor listened politely to this student, until one day he said somethign that has stuck with me for thirty years: "You should be careful about uncritically accepting the way a culture likes to present itself."

I have found this to be very true, even of corporate cultures.

Comment: Re:What a terrible, terrible idea. (Score 1) 357

by hey! (#48163861) Attached to: Scanning Embryos For Super-Intelligent Kids Is On the Horizon

Example: Hawking: 150ish IQ, John Sununu 190.

Many years ago there was a brief vogue among a few companies for psych testing potential employees. So I paid to have myself tested so I'd know what my potential employers "knew". Among other things, the tests informed me that I have an IQ that is 4.3 standard deviations above the mean.

This got me thinking. Which is more likely, that I'm smarter than 99.999% of the population, or that the test score was bogus? It should be obvious that it's far more likely that my test results were bogus!

Just because we can assign a single number to a person's intelligence the way we can to that person's height or weight doesn't mean that that number is as objective as height or weight is. What IQ tests purport to measure *cannot be observed directly*, and therefore cannot be measured directly. So we must not lose sight of the fact that IQ tests are *devised* by psychologists to correlate with something. How do they do this? By comparing a test's scores against something easy to measure -- rank in school for example. An IQ test that correlates poorly to performance in school would be considered "faulty", but one that correlates strongly to performancve in school would be considered "accurate".

In other words, IQ tests are only as meaningful as the outcomes they're deisgned to correlate with. An IQ test correlated to school success doesn't necessarily correlate precisely with "street smarts", many components of which are evolutionarily important (e.g. reading facial expressions).

Another thing to consider about how the test are calibrated is that the result is bound to be reliable ONLY near the mean, simply because confirmatory data out on the tails of the distribution is necessarily rare. So while I'd lend considerable credence to the 20 point spread between a 90 IQ and aa 110 IQ, I wouldn't lend the same credence to a difference between 140 and 160. I'd lend no credence whatsoever to the difference between a 140 and 160 IQ.

Basically, I consider distinctions betwen IQs over 125 unreliable, and distinctions between IQs over 135 as absolutely meaningless. There's no epistemological justfication for ranking people's intellectual abilities by IQ at that level. It's entirely possible that John Sunnunu would score 2.6 standard deviations higher than Stephen Hawking, but that's an artifact of the test, not reality.

Comment: Holding your own patent is useless to an employer. (Score 1) 222

by hey! (#48155399) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Handling Patented IP In a Job Interview?

Worse than useless in fact.

If I were hiring you I'd be concerned that you would use your patents against me if we have a dispute later on. Of course I can work out a special agreement with you where you agree to automatically license to me any patents you hold. Or... I could hire that other guy I like about the same as you but who doesn't come with any special legal issues to resolve.

As for be *impressed* by the fact that you hold your own patents, I wouldn't be, given some of the silly patents that I've seen. Holding a patent is not, per se, impressive. Inventing something truly novel *that actually gets built into products* is impressive. It's accomplishment, not the recognition of the patent office.

My father-in-law designed the gyros used to guide the Apollo spacecraft. That's impressive, but so far as I know he never applied for any patents on his work. One of my friends from MIT designed a flat transfer case that can be retrofitted onto a transverse mounted front wheel drive car designs to make them 4WD. It's in use on cars by several manufacturers. It's patented, but that's not what makes it impressive. What makes it impressive is that it is a practical solution that nobody every thought of before and other engineers are eager to use.

In fact, I might well terminate a hiring interview if you began describing patents *you personally* held relating to my work. Why? Becuase if I don't hire you I don't want you coming after me for triple damages for knowingly infringing on your patent. Even if that patent won't hold up to litigation, I don't need that problem. It's the same reason that I tell coworkers barging into my office with "Have you seen this patent" on their lips to STFU. If it's really novel then I'm unlikely to infringe on it. If it's a bad patent then I'm better off not knowing about it.

Comment: Re:Cities (Score 3, Interesting) 147

by hey! (#48131133) Attached to: Birth Control Pills Threaten Fish Stocks

You got it exactly right. Cities *concentrate* polution. Spreading the same populatioh over a wider area *disperses* the pollution.

Civil engineers used to say "dilution is the solution to pollution", but no longer -- except ironically. That's because there can be offsetting mechanmisms that concentrate a pollutant -- e.g. collecting in streams.

Cities actually make processing pollution and waste more financially efficient, although the price tag in absolute (rather than per capita) terms can be eye-popping. Here in Boston we went through a major shock about 25 years ago. We had had the lowest water and sewer rates in the country, living off massive infrastructure investments made generations prior; but we were dumping minimally treated sewage and sludge into the harbor. A lawsuit forced us to disband the agency which was running the sewage and water system, but also recreation like parks and skating rinks, and form a new quasi-independent authority . After 6.8 billion dollars spent on new treatment plants, we had more expensive than average water. 6.8 billion spread over 2.5 million ratepayers is a LOT of money $2750 / person over a decade or so. But it's cheaper than if those 2.5 million people were spread out evenly along the coast for a few hundred miles.

Comment: Re:Any suffiently advanced tech... (Score 1) 972

The level of power output he's claiming *should* be able to make the device self-sustaining. 1.5 Megawatt-hours over 32 days (768 hours) works out to 1953 watts. On a 120V circuit that'd be the equivalent of drawing 16 amps; 9 amps on a 220v circuilt.

If the *bulk* of the power is coming from fusion, then despite the inefficiencies it should be possible to get this machine to run itself without external power inputs after an initial "bootstrapping".

OR ... scale the machine up to generate more power than a wall outlet can provide, but still "starts" off a wall outlet.

OR .... plug a fast electric tea kettle into the same circuit and see if the breaker trips. The fact that the machine "generates" power in the middle (ish) of the range supplied by a standard electric circuit is suspicious.

Comment: Re:Sheesh, what's the problem? (Score 1) 367

by hey! (#48130485) Attached to: PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

It really is unfortunate. Where there is room for a decent, effective animal rights group to help solve problems of animal abuse and cruel treatment, PETA has decided to completely occupy the space with its lunatic and extreme ideals, berating or silencing anyone that dares oppose their just and righteous mission.

Did the ASPCA go out of business?

Comment: Re:For those who said "No need to panic" (Score 2) 415

by hey! (#48125675) Attached to: Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

To answer your question, if you mean *absolutely* prevent, the answer is nothing. But that's not the right question. The question is whether this will be transmitted at such a rate that it can result in sustained "endemic" transmission. "Endemic" is defined as a situation where each person infected in a location on average infects at least one other person. There may be a handful of transmissions from this index case, but it will fizzle out.

People worried about Ebola becoming endemic based on what's happening in West Africa have no idea how primitive conditions are in West Africa, where hospital workers often lack basic supplies like gloves, and are even reduced to re-using hypodermic needles. And people there who get to one of those horrible hospitals are the lucky ones. The health care and sanitation standards in the effected regions has been described as "medieval".

"Pulling out all the stops" sounds like a good idea, except if you think about it, it gives you absolutely no guidance about what you should do. Some of those "stops" would actually make things worse, and others would be a ridiculous overreaction. For example, should we quarrantine the state of Texas? After all there's been a case of transmission there. That's an overreaction.

Beware the Dunning Kruger effect. Not knowing anything about public health or tropical disease makes it really easy to design a containment program that sounds to you like it ought to work. But there aren't infinite dollars, even to fight Ebola. Every half-baked thing you do comes at the expense of something that would have been more effective. I've worked with the CDC, specifically the Fort Collins DVBID, which does vector borne stuff. The agency is full of PhDs and MDs who've spent their career studying tropical disease outbreaks and what to do about them.

People who think they know better remind me of this quote from Terry Pratchett:

Sergeant Colon had had a broad education. He'd been to the School of My Dad Always Said, the College of It Stands To Reason, and was now a post-graduate student of the University of What Some Bloke In The Pub Told Me.

Comment: Re:For those who said "No need to panic" (Score 4, Insightful) 415

by hey! (#48124301) Attached to: Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

For those who said "No need to panic" ... are we there yet?

Nope. And we never will be. Panicked people make stupid decisions that make the situation worse.

One thing these outbreaks in Europe and the US show - we don't know enough about Ebola.

There is no "outbreak" in the US or Europe. And not knowing enough about Ebola is not the same as saying we know nothing about Ebola, and what we know says there is not going to be an outbreak here -- just a few isolated cases of transmission. Thus far there have been one confirmed case of endemic transmission in the US and one in Europe, both nurses. The other "cases" were people with other viral diseases. One transmission does not an "outbreak" make, except to people who are panicky. It's normal in a situation like this for "suspected cases" to pop up all over the place. What do you expect, with the media spreading panic.

The CDC is now saying that the transmission in TX was caused by a "breach of protocol", which is not surprising given that the barrior protocols are exacting and onerous.

Comment: Re: For those who said "No need to panic" (Score 3, Insightful) 415

by hey! (#48124159) Attached to: Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

The barrier protocols are quite onerous. It doesn't need to be idiocy, fatigue is enough to induce human error. Experts have pointed to this as a factor in the spread of Ebola in West Africa; aside from the fact that most people have access to medieval levels of health care, or facilities that lack things like latex gloves, supplying hospitals with equipment is not enough. The workload of health care workers has to be kept light enough that they can take the extreme precautions needed without making errors.

It is also possible that the barrior protocols have a bug somewhere in them.

Comment: Re:While I will agree with that.... (Score 3, Interesting) 228

by hey! (#48121581) Attached to: Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs In China and Germany

SIGINT is the NSA's bailiwick and nothing in the mission statement of the NSA precludes using physical intrusion to obtain it.

What's more NSA is part of the DoD, and the DoD has been conducting physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT for years. In the Cold War American subs tapped undersea cables believed by the Soviets to be impervious. That was a joint NSA, Navy, CIA program, which makes sense.

It also makes sense that physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT would be a joint NSA/CIA operation, which means that someone with access to the NSA family jewels can also compromise CIA "assets" overseas.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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