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Comment: Re:How would the money be split? What's the incent (Score 1) 468

by jfengel (#47723091) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

I think it's more useful to think of the number as a quantification of how much that advertising is worth: that's the amount of money operators are depending on (one way or the other) to keep providing what they're providing.

How you actually get it to them is a whole different question. They've talked about micropayments and subscription models and other things, but ads have the nice characteristic of requiring zero overhead for the viewer. There's nothing to install; you "pay" just by having it on your screen. Whether it's actually worth it to the advertiser is insanely difficult to say, but they are (at least for the moment) actually forking over the money.

Everybody would love a more precise system, where you pay for the page views that are of interest to you, but that shifts the burden from millions-of-site-operators to billions-of-viewers, and they're all incensed about having to "pay" for something they were previously getting for "free". People keep trying things, but it comes as no surprise to me that for a lot of side, throwing a few basic ads onto the page for pennies-per-thousand-impressions is the easiest way to monetize their effort, at least for the vast array of small sites.

Big sites (like Slashdot) can do better, because the economies of scale make it worth the overhead to try to get money from viewers, and maybe some day we'll get that packaged down to a point where other sites can get it. But since the total sum of money is pretty substantial, I think a lot of viewers will say, "I hate ads, but I hate paying even more."

Comment: Re:Growing pains. (Score 4, Insightful) 210

I gather that there is a countervailing trend, in the form of reformers in the government. China's version of "communism" is pretty far removed from anything visualized by the early social theorists, and it was plagued by a lot of outright insanity for decades, but it always had collectivism at its core. Mao was one of the great mass-murderers of history, but he wasn't corrupt, merely deranged.

I wouldn't call it a benevolent dictatorship, but I was put in mind of it by your mention of the unelected senators. They still had to campaign; it's just that they ended up stumping on behalf of the legislators-cum-electors. The most prominent example was the Lincoln-Douglas debates: they were running for the Senate but really trying to get legislators to vote for their party. It meant that national issues often trumped local issues, and the state legislature suffered for it.

My point there is that democracy, while important, isn't a cure-all. It's inherently adversarial, a conflict which has notably ground today's national legislature to a standstill. Even popularly-supported reforms get no traction, much less anything with even a whiff of controversy. And it's too inflexible to stop the largest discretionary component of our budget from pumping many billions to the military-industrial complex: I don't buy the theory that they're manufacturing wars for it, but even without that kind of explicit corruption it's still not as responsive as you'd like to imagine a directly-elected legislature should be.

I'm not an expert in China's structure, but I wouldn't count them out just because they're unfamiliar. Certainly the system is ripe for corruption, and they do need to fix it, but they have managed to reform themselves already even under one-party control. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here. There's much to do.

Comment: Re:I'd pay for it in a heartbeat! (Score 0) 468

by mozumder (#47720387) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

Not sure what you're talking about?

20 years ago the internet was largely useless.

Your Email spools were publicly readable by anyone in your campus. Gopher never took off. Web sites didn't really start to get popular until about 1994, and before that you were stuck in alt.tasteless.jokes for any sort of lolz. You couldn't find anything about fashion online. It was only for academic purposes, which are unimportant.

It was only through the commercialization of the Internet through advertising that the Internet actually started to become useful.

You're welcome.

Comment: Re:Fire (Score 2, Interesting) 138

by Rei (#47718877) Attached to: How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper

Nuh uh! There are also compressed air cars - they only explosively decompress upon tank failure! ;)

At least with batteries, flammability or explosiveness aren't a fundamental requirement of how you're trying to propel the vehicle, just an unfortunate side effect of some variants of the technology (even not all types of li-ions are flammable). There's lots of people who assume that flammability is a consequence of electrical energy density, but that's just not the case. The actual charge/discharge lithium batteries via intercalating into the anode or cathode is more an atomic-scale equivalent of compressing air into a tank, you're having little affect on the substrate flammabilities and you're not even changing their chemical bonding, you're just cramming lithium ions into the space between their atoms. The flammabilty of some types comes from side effects, such as flammable electrolytes or membrane failures leading to lithium metal plating out; these aren't a fundamental aspect of the energy storage process.

Now, li-air, that involves an actual lithium metal electrode, and that is fundamentally flammable. Of course, so is gasoline. I have no doubt that they can reduce fire risks on li-air cells and keep them properly contained to prevent failure propagations. My bigger issues with li-air are its terrible efficiency, lifespan, and cost. I'm certain the latter would come down, and I expect that they can improve the lifespan, but I'm a bit uneasy about how much they can improve its efficiency. Right now, they're as inefficient as a fuel cell. : Who wants to waste three times as much power per mile as is necessary?

Comment: Re:non sequitur? (Score 1) 138

by Rei (#47718833) Attached to: How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper

It is a non-sequiteur. The energy density of a li-ion battery doesn't even approach the theoretical maximum storage for the element lithium shifting between ionization states. That's hardly the only way this article is terrible, mind you. My head hurt every time they said the word "efficiency", it's like they were using it to mean everything possible except for actual efficiency. And if I read it right - who knows, the article is such a total mess - the researcher isn't talking about reducing battery cost, but increasing longevity. But maybe that was mangled too.

Comment: Re:Ask about everything (Score 1) 52

by jfengel (#47714409) Attached to: How To Read a Microbiome Study Like a Scientist.

The Faustian bargain there is that they're not supposed to be expressing any specific purposes. If you're categorizing your product as a "supplement" you have to avoid making specific health claims. It generally says so, right on the package, via the incantation "This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease".

Generally in very, very tiny print. In much larger print, they'll hint strongly that it's good for something (often, something fairly vacuous). It's on the FDA to judge when it crosses the line into a medical claim, and they don't have anywhere near the kind of manpower it takes to evaluate the multi-billion-dollar market. It took an outside organization to sue the makers of Airborne, via the FTC, for false advertising rather than a violation of the more specific FDA rules.

So yeah, there are rules about dietary supplements, but they're badly flouted. They walk right up to the line, or even cross right over it, and rely on people's gullibility to make the jump to believe that these worthless products do anything.

Comment: Re:Not just microbiome studies (Score 1) 52

by jfengel (#47713921) Attached to: How To Read a Microbiome Study Like a Scientist.

Yep, came here to say that. And since effectively every daily news story on any science subject fails to answer any of them, it would be a pretty good heuristic to simply ignore all of them.

Newspapers and TV news are designed to sell news today, and to sell you news again tomorrow. Science doesn't turn out news on a daily basis like that. Important results take a very long time from first inkling to confirmation. You won't be able to act on that news today at any rate. Wait until the news comes out in a source like Science News or Scientific American, when it's got at least a few days worth of evaluation and consideration under its belt. Everything that comes out more frequently than that is going to be just plain rubbish the overwhelming majority of the time. And you'll hear about the stuff that isn't rubbish plenty quickly enough.

Comment: Re:NEWS FLASH!!! (Score 2) 115

by gmhowell (#47713837) Attached to: 51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

Or... and this may sound zany but hear me out. Maybe 51% of people did a risk/benefit analysis and decided that giving someone there password was actually beneficial for them.

Not possible. Only people who use devices in exactly the same manner as that proscribed by a /. nerd can be beneficial. (No wireless, less space than a Nomad...)

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller