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Submission + - Baskerville is the greatest font, statistically, says filmmaker Errol Morris (nytimes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A survey of unsuspecting New York Times readers implicitly answered the question: Does a certain font make you agree or disagree more often than another font? It turns out Baskerville confers a 1.5% advantage towards agreement on a survey question, compared to an average of six fonts. They responded to a passage from asked to agree or disagree to a passage from physicist David Deutsch's book "The Beginning of Infinity," and were found to have an optimistic, if Baskerville-favoring, outlook on life. David Dunning, a psychologist awarded a Nobel prize and, separately, an IgNobel prize (for the eponymous Dunning-Kruger Effect), called Baskerville "the king of fonts." Sadly, Comic Sans--notable for its appearance in the Higgs Boson announcement--seems to be the weakest font. And why did Lisa Randall, the Harvard physicist responsible for that Higgs announcement use Comic Sans? According to the article, 'Because I like it.'

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

Absolutely no one, I hope. But since there's a demand for underage girls, there's always a fraction of prostitutes who are underage (criminal prostitution). They don't (can't) consent, just like slaves.

This is a structural criminality to prostitution, which regulation can't do anything about (unlike, say, clients who don't pay their prostitutes, which isn't structural).

So since this kind of criminality is structural, and we assume that legalizing prostitution doesn't decrease the size of the prostitution labor market, we get more underage prostitutes, absolutely. That's equivalent to getting more slaves—neither slaves nor underage prostitutes consent to what they do.

I think slavery is unlimitedly wrong; I also believe that regulation occurs regardless of legalization. To you it may be an empirical question: do the benefits of more regulation due to legalization outweigh the costs of more child prostitutes? As long as child prostitution is structural, that's unlikely to occur.

Comment Re:Consenting Adults (Score 0) 522

If they're going to do it and you can't stop them, make it safer for them to do it.

This is a common refrain that seems highly intuitive and actually applies in many situations. For particularly easy instances, we have legalizing the consumption of alcohol and some kinds of recreational drugs.

We have hard cases too, where we can say this. Governments torture people, even the United States government, even though it's illegal, and some very smart people say, "Make it legal because they're going to do it anyway, that way we can regulate it."

In that argument, even smarter people point out that the existence of the institution of torture will increase its practice in such a way that the benefits of regulation are outweighed by the costs of having a greater amount of torture.

Consider the effects of legalizing prostitution. Certainly there won't be *less* prostitution by making it legal, right? And, due to a demand for underage girls, there will always be a structural amount of criminality in prostitution (minors can't consent), no matter how much you regulate prostitution.

So what if legalizing prostitution increases the quantity of unwilling underage prostitutes such that the benefits of regulation ('making it safer') are outweighed by the costs of having slaves?

In my opinion, the penalty for slavery is unlimited, so we must never take an action that increases the number of underage prostitutes. You may disagree, and consider it an empirical question.

Even in the garrison state of the United States, there are underage prostitutes. Some 10%, according to some figures on this forum, of UK prostitutes are obvious slaves, excluding a significant number whose "slavery" is ill-defined. There are lots of child prostitutes in New Zealand and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal. No amount of regulation can eliminate underage prostitution (remember, demand for underage girls = structural criminality in prostitution). Emprically speaking, I suspect the number of underage prostitutes already exceeds the number you'd tolerate; if you increased the number of underage prostitutes, you wouldn't change your mind.

This is why polygamy is illegal. Polygamy almost always involves the marriage of adult men to underage, non-consenting girls. The empirics of recreational drugs and alcohol may favor legalization of those issues, but probably not of prostitution. At least that's why I think in most progressive liberal democracies, prostitution is and always will be illegal.

Comment Re:Consenting Adults (Score 0) 522

As long as there is a demand for underage girls, there will be an unregulatable, structural amount of non-consenting participants in the prostitution labor market.

Empirically, in places where prostitution is legal and regulated, the fraction of prostitutes who are children (obviously non-consenting) is 'too' high. In my opinion, too high is greater than zero. In yours, it may be something more.

But it doesn't matter. Show me a good way to regulate down demand for underage girls, and I'll give you a Nobel Prize for reverse-engineering the male psyche.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

The practical constraints of law enforcement favor some cases but not most. Maybe in Sweden it's not so bad. In eastern Europe, Africa and most of Asia, there's no apparatus to judge or enforce legal prostitution between two consenting adults versus illegal prostitution between a client and an non-consenting underage girl or bonded adult woman.

Even in the garrison state of the United States, there exists human trafficking. So there *is* no "handling by the police and other governmental authorities." That just doesn't happen.

While there is much to be gained from protecting consenting adults from indirect problems in the prostitution market (like clients screwing their prostitutes), legal prostitution increases the number of non-consenting participants. Thailand and New Zealand have many more child prostitutes and non-consenting adult prostitutes than the UK, and the UK has 10% "sex slaves" (by some figures in this forum). Legal prostitution adds a sufficient number of non-consenting participants that the gains from protecting consenting adults is dwarfed by losses from more children and sex slaves in the system.

It's an empirical question. In my opinion, any number of slaves in a labor market should make that labor illegal. That seems like a reasonable opinion.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

Why make slave owners criminals just because slaves are already in a fucked up situation?

It has nothing to do with desperation. Liberal progressive democracies have already figured out how to deal with desperation: the right to food, shelter, minimal healthcare and other civil rights.

One of those remaining civil rights is consent, which is the real problem. Just like slaves don't consent to slavery, many women don't consent to prostitution. The fraction of prostitutes who do consent and the cost we incur because of them is entirely an empirical question. Some figures in the comments say 10% of all UK prostitutes are slaves (clearly non-consenting), which excludes a vast proportion for whom the binary evaluation of consent is unfitting and complicated.

For me, since the cost of having slaves of any kind is unlimited, prostitution, as long as the fraction of non-consenting participants isn't zero, should be illegal.

This is why it's easy to let miners kill themselves in mines: they consented to mining, basically all of them in the United States. But many women, children always, do not consent to prostitution.

And since outlawing something does not stop it, outlawing underage girls (who cannot under any circumstances consent) from participating in a legal prostitution labor market doesn't stop them from participating. In fact, it's quite a problem in New Zealand, where prostitution is legal for those over 18, even though too many sex tourists come for girls much younger.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

All work is free choice to the extent that you also have the options to lie down on the streets and starve

You don't have to go that far at all. Slavery is work that is plainly not one's "free choice;" it has less to do with this objectivist notion of survival and much more to do with our notions of consent.

Many women, underage children and others in prostitution do not consent to be prostitutes. The fraction of prostitutes who don't consent is significant enough to make prostitution illegal. End of story. It's an empirical question answered every day by the preponderance of child prostitutes in New Zealand (where it's legal), and as many as 10% of all prostitutes in the United Kingdom (where it's illegal).

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

Slavery is an example where 100% of the employees in a labor market do not consent to participating in the labor market. Prostitution is an example where, depending on whom you ask etc., 10% to 100% of the employees in a labor market do not consent to participating in the labor market.

Slavery is not orthogonal to the question of whether prostitution should be legalized. If slavery is illegal, we agree that people should consent to the jobs that they work in. Since a significant proportion, in my opinion, of underage girls, bonded women etc. do not consent to participating in the prostitution labor market, I'd feel prostitution should be illegal on the same grounds I'd feel slavery should be illegal.

I think the point about illegal immigration is similar, in that there's an issue of consent when you can take your employees hostage by threatening them with deportation. It's an important principle behind the equal protection clause: women don't consent to being women (and being able to menstruate and get pregnant); ethnic minorities don't consent to being ethnic minorities (they're born east Asian, hispanic, the descendents of slaves...). It's all about consent; there's no consent to working if you're threatened with deportation.*

*This is distinct from committing any other crime, because while a citizen can vote for what is and is not a crime, an illegal cannot. And if you don't have money to leave, or face sure imprisonment if you don't, it doesn't matter if you're "illegal," your situation reduces to slavery. That's why the issue of migrant workers is not orthogonal to slavery is not orthogonal to prostitution.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 1, Insightful) 522

...justify a single assertion in that post without resorting to religious arguments... or your own personal moral hangups

In a standard labor market, where fast food workers and fast food companies participate, there's consent. A fast food worker consents to working a shitty job, and one man's "working a shitty job" is another man's "exploitation." It doesn't matter. There's consent.

In the prostitution labor market, there are ordinary women, underage girls, children and adults bonded in the sex trade or sex slavery, pimps and their ilk, and clients. Underage girls and bonded women (unwilling members of the sex trade) do not consent to their work.

It's *entirely* an empirical question, not a moral or religious question, to evaluate the legality of prostitution: what proportion of this labor market actually consents to participating? Slavery is illegal because 0% of the workers consent; that's easy.

So what's the tolerance? How do you compute these values? It doesn't matter in this example whether or not prostitution is legal, mind you—it's legal and illegal in lots of places, and in all those places there are underage girls forced into prostitution. Enforcement may bring the proportion of non-consenting participants down, but economists will tell you that prostitution has a *structural* percentage of non-consenting participants, exactly equal to the demand for young women. The demand for young women is unfortunately very high.

We don't need religious arguments to define exploitation. Paying someone to have sex with a minor is the exploitation of that minor. Period, full-stop. We can derive notions of exploitation from either a libertarian or Rawlsian notion of consent, which has no basis in religion.

So I dissent: no amount of regulation and "above-boardedness" will reduce the structural demand for underage girls. Prostitution as a transaction, by facilitating or abetting the exploitation of non-consenting individuals, should be illegal.

At least you know why in most of the rich, industrialized, liberal democratic world, prostitution is illegal.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

Propose a way to prevent children from being exploited, practically.

From an empirical point of view, legal prostitution (in places like New Zealand and the Netherlands, and in de fact legal places like Thailand) involves a disproportionate exploitation of underage girls, who can't consent. The government cares about those people.

Relatively few adults are getting picked up for illegal prostitution in the United States, the largest "garrison state" in the world. For all intents and purposes, prostitution is legal, and the government isn't saying when and why two consenting adults can have sex.

On the other hand, the government also understands consent is hard to prove and hard to enforce. Polygamy is illegal because polygamy as its practiced (not as hypothesized) almost always involves the marriage of adult men to underage girls. Homosexuality is not illegal (distinct from gay marriage) because rarely does a homosexual partnership involve an non-consenting partner.

Prostitution is illegal because (empirically speaking) it almost always involves an adult man paying a third party for the privilege of exploiting a non-consenting woman or underage girl. Pimping is obviously already illegal, and pimps go to jail. But just because you make it illegal doesn't make them go away.

We recognize that prostitution as a transaction, not evil people or poverty or whatever, generates non-consensual exploitation of underprivileged parties. That is a unequivocal social wrong. Therefore prostitution, in most of the sane rich Western world, is illegal.

Comment Re:oh darn (Score 0) 522

The principal reason prostitution is illegal in most rich Western countries is due to the exploitation of minors.

In places like New Zealand, where prostitution is formally legal for "adults" over the age of 18, and in Thailand, where the de facto law is that prostitution of all kinds is legal, children, particularly those under 16, are unwilling members of the sex trade.

Prostitution is illegal principally because often, one of the two parties involved doesn't or can't consent.

There are plenty of jobs that have a similar list of risks.

There are people in this world who as part of their jobs have to spend all day surounded [sic] by human faces working sewer maintainance [sic] with all the dangers of infections that entails.

How is that different from feeding some disgusting old lard-arse who could never get a real meal because you need the money?

It's not about the risks involved. People consent to risky jobs. However, children *cannot* consent. It's disputable if even the majority of 18 year old prostitutes in New Zealand, let alone Thailand or the Netherlands or any number of token countries, consented to entering the sex trade. Sex slavery can start as soon as a girl turns 13; just because she turns 18, and is now "legal," doesn't mean she consented to the last 5 years of prostitution, and can't be said in any reasonable circumstances to suddenly have the ability to consent arbitrarily at age 18.

My point is legalizing prostitution is very easy, and so is evaluating the risk of a given occupation. On those grounds we have a lot of important laws that compromise between the needs and wants of individuals, corporations, states and peoples. On the other hand, enforcing the rules of consent is very, very difficult. If it weren't, we wouldn't have child prostitution all over the world, present even in Western countries.

Consent is a key problem behind a lot of interesting laws that defy a typical logical unwinding. Polygamy is illegal in most of the world while homosexuality is not largely because polygamy almost always involves the marriage of adult men to multiple underage girls—why do you think that compound in Texas got raided recently? Indeed, most marriage and statutory rape laws protect children because, in spite of token and unimportant exceptions, children don't consent. They simply can't.

Consent, consent, consent. Kids can't consent. Most women in prostitution don't. And law enforcement is ill equipped to recognize consensual versus nonconsensual prostitution. Be realistic.

Comment Re:Fewer exams doesn't necessarily mean fewer fina (Score 0) 371

As a student here (there), I'll tell you no, there are no bonus points for being efficient.

Also, to GP, the final projects are much preferred; they're more pleasant, more fun (since they're generally group assignments), survive for a while (particularly good projects)... In every way, the final project is

I applaud the University's declining final exam administration and change in norms. Final exams are an anachronism and don't belong in research universities.

Comment Re:Why use a sub-standard Desktop? (Score 1) 473

Popularity has nothing to do with quality. For instance, McDonalds, Taylor Swift, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Popularity is a useful proxy for quality, abstractly speaking.

There is no war with Windows. The only goal is to make the best operating system possible.

You're dodging the point here. Saying "because [users] don't know any better" is a failure of both marketing and understanding an average Windows user's needs. So the goal is still to make the best operating system possible. But if making a desktop appear aesthetically pleasing and functional requires "showing off the advanced theming and other window manager functions (virtual desktops)," you aren't likely to make a great operating system. An average user barely understands the word function, window, theming and window manager, as they pertain to computers, let alone "virtual desktops."

I would say these are serious flaws in design and marketing, in the sense that the best theming design is to eliminate theming altogether (Mac OS X) and the best marketing is to turn complex functionality off by default (Mac OS X and Windows 7).

Compiz... Compare W7 to something like this. Enlightenment wins hands down.

Compiz is a drawing framework, not a design philosophy. Enlightenment in your example by no means wins hands down. It has serious design flaws, at least compared to its commercial peers.

Sure, if you compare mostly server distros to desktop windows you'll see the trend you expect. Throw in stuff like Mint, or Ubuntu Studio, and you'll see different results.

None of these Linux operating systems are "server distros;" companies pay Red Hat real money to have employees use their RHEL on a daily basis as an end-user computer. Unless you're telling me these operating systems are improperly marketed towards a typical end user. On that we can properly agree.

If it looks like Windows but can't run Windows apps, it's just a crappy crippled version of Windows.

One hundred percent true. This is the single greatest reason to never ship Ubuntu with Windows-style theming. You couldn't have said it better.

If it looks different from Windows, then people start getting interested.

From a design perspective, it is more prudent to find a middle ground between Windows and 'typical Linux' in terms of appearance. We obviously want the benefits of user interface familiarity and increased functionality without any of the tradeoffs. Apple and Ubuntu have gone to great lengths in their default operating system designs to take advantage of familiarity (a close, minimize and maximize button) while introducing new features through familiarity (search boxes which search the entire indexed contents of the computer).

Remember, the vast majority of people use Windows XP. It is the standard against the average new computer buyer compares. It is no surprise that in spite of vast improvements in the aesthetics and design of Linux desktops, your average netbook buyer prefers running (realistically pirating, though many buying) Windows instead of Linux. Like you pointed out, it's the Windows apps, not the Windows aesthetic, that keeps people on board—but it's not necessarily what *buyers* (as opposed to users) of computers care about most.

People who buy computers care about aesthetics. Improve aesthetics to their taste, and Linux desktop adoption will grow.

Comment Re:Not ready as a gaming platform (Score 0) 520

Most Mac owners actually BUY software.

This is easily why software development continues at a stratospheric pace on Mac OS and iOS. Mac OS and iOS are the biggest untouched gaming markets with customers eager to part with their dollars. And developers are listening. Why?

Software is not made for people who use software; it's made for people who buy software.[1] It's easy to stop here and cite the Stardock CEO's main insight in his article about piracy, and point out that while there may be a Linux user base, there's a negligible Linux customer base. That's a disputable fact, and you make a good point:

Some of the most expensive software out there runs on Linux.

I can only think of some token software in my industry, like Autodesk's Maya, which is still supported on Linux to this day (though I think Maya 2011 is no. I believe the rest of the Autodesk (formerly discreet) advanced software portfolio, like Smoke and Alias Design, is being retired from their Linux platforms and being ported to Mac. In my industry, this is because the Linux platformers who buy software have migrated to Macintosh. It's that simple. Customers are customers, not Linux users and Mac users.

Any group that spends 2 or 3 times what they really need for something...

I understand you're exaggerating here, but the commercial ecosystem of Mac hardware and software betrays this notion of spending more than what "they really need for something." Postproduction is a cutthroat industry run by savvy businessmen and thrifty artists. I think it's unfair for you or me to judge wrong the purchases of a well-informed buyer and the sales of a business-savvy seller. Value is a complex problem we can infer indirectly from the market, a market that has decided this expensive software is better suited for Mac than Linux.

Mac ports suffer the same exact challenges as a Linux port would with similar results.

On this the evidence does not stand. Even when engines explicitly supported Linux, like older Unreal and Quake engines, the technical support issues are disproportionately high considering the fraction of Linux users.[2] While the ecosystem has certainly improved for gaming, institutional problems, like shipping closed-source drivers and regression testing with commercial software, are unlikely to go away.

Thus, even if we agree that from a strictly software-development perspective, a Mac port is as challenging as a Linux port, the institutional problems of Linux OS development and testing prohibit a meaningful gaming market in Linux.

Apple's developers buy Steam games and Starcraft II on their computers and regression test their graphics card and OS updates. They do this on all their machines, across many generations of hardware. If a senior Linux developer can't be bothered to pay $50 to regression test a game to make their product, a distro update, compatible, why should Valve be expected to submit patches, hire kernel developers, hire Linux specialists and hand out free licenses? If Canonical cannot afford to run thousands of hardware configurations to regression test existing game engines on Ubuntu (Microsoft does for Windows), Valve is disinterested in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on developing a game that could become unsellable for Linux because of one amateur patch in Ubuntu's code.

The investment from Linux developers isn't there. Game development for Linux is an extremely asymmetric partnership. Unlike embedded OSs, scientific supercomputing and low-cost computers, the gaming industry has much less to gain from Linux than the Linux community has to gain from the gaming industry. It's an expensive and risky proposition.

My opinion? The solution is attacking the Linux ecosystem's culture of thrift (the root cause of these institutional problems). But if you do that, you just get Mac OS X. Thus, I'm not particularly surprised game development is migrating to Mac OS and iOS now.

[1] "It's irrelevant how many people will play your game (if you're in the business of selling games that is). It's only relevant how many people are likely to buy your game." Stardock's CEO in an editorial. http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/303512/Piracy_PC_Gaming
[2] Take for example installing Unreal Tournament 2003 on Linux. A good summary of issues is available through Google: http://www.google.com/search?q=site:ubuntuforums.org%20unreal%20tournament%202003%20ubuntu .

My mother is a fish. - William Faulkner