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Comment: Re:Make the technology scale down... (Score 1) 237

by eh2o (#38940229) Attached to: The Engineer Who Stopped Airplanes From Flying Into Mountains

Elevation from GPS alone is accurate to about +/- 15 meters, which isn't great but good enough to save lives.

Meanwhile my phone not only has a GPS that can read position and elevation but also has enough storage to recall a detailed street map of every city in the world, its only a few gigs of information... so why can't they just do this as an app already for small planes?

Comment: Re:Lesson of the day: (Score 1) 271

by eh2o (#38940169) Attached to: Google In Battle With Its Own Lawyers

Apparently the bar associations actually spend a pretty significant amount lobbying against tort reforms. Such reforms would affect their freedom to operate, which is arguably excessive... just look at the Great American Pants Suit (Pearson v Chung), a loose-canon lawyer can basically bankrupt anyone they care to.

Comment: Re:Metrics (Score 1) 107

by eh2o (#38940063) Attached to: Researchers Feel Pressure To Cite Superfluous Papers

I am skeptical of the article's claim.

When an editor reads a paper and feels that the author is misinformed or making incorrect assumptions, they may respond by requesting the author to cite certain papers, with the intention that by forcing the author to read the papers, they will become better informed and correct their erroneous assumptions.

Meanwhile, the author, not believing themselves to be wrong, refuses to acknowledge the suggested references and considers the material "superfluous" to the work. As we know from research on wrongness, the party in the wrong will rather assume the other is either ignorant or evil before actually considering the evidence. The article suggests that "junior faculty are most targeted" for this superfluous citation pressure, which is sufficient but not a necessary argument, as junior faculty are also not as well read nor as experienced as their senior peers (who are also more likely to be journal editors).

Corruption tends to run deep, rather than broad. Which businesses game the SEO metrics the hardest? The ones selling false product (fake viagra, make money at home...). The researchers that are caught fabricating data--turns out they fabricated *everything* in the last 20 years of publication. The corporations that game the economy--they game it so hard they go from being worth billions to being worth nothing when we finally discover their entire operation is a house of cards from the basement to the roof. Most people have a decent sense of morality, which is why society gets a long okay for the most part in spite of the relative lack of close oversight.

Returning to the article, with nearly 500 individual responses naming journals, they have broad disagreement about which journals are responsible (most journals only being named once). I claim that if this form of corruption were being practiced, there would be a relatively small number of journals that would be readily named by many people (and those would also be most likely pseudo-scientific garbage or anti-scientific propaganda).

Comment: Re:Renewable or infinite? (Score 1) 835

by eh2o (#38171098) Attached to: The Myth of Renewable Energy

In 2010 China produced 130,000 tons of neodymium. The next largest producer was India with 2700 tons and then Brazil 550 tons.

Source, USGS report: http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/rare_earths/mcs-2011-raree.pdf

China produces 97% of rare-earths and is using significant export restrictions to create artificial scarcity to drive up the price and gain political power: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/concern-as-china-clamps-down-on-rare-earth-exports-1855387.html

Rare-earths (which are not particularly rare) must be extracted from, e.g., Bastnäsite by leeching with acid (e.g. hydrochloric is used in the USA productions but in China they just cook it in sulfuric acid) followed by a solvent extraction and various other steps. The Bastnäsite contains a mix of various rare-earths including thorium, which is radioactive. Thats not necessarily a problem but it does need to be managed. EPA shut down the Molycorp mine at Mountain Pass due to accidental discharge of radioactive waste.

Comment: Re:Renewable or infinite? (Score 1) 835

by eh2o (#38160808) Attached to: The Myth of Renewable Energy

The current designs for wind-turbines and electric cars rely heavily on neodymium magnets, without which they would operate at a fraction of the efficiency. Neodymium extraction is extremely toxic, and for the past decade or more nearly all of it is done in China where the environmental side effects and worker safety issues are largely ignored.

We need to develop methods of neodymium extraction that are safe and inexpensive to compete with China. Or, to develop new types of generators and motors that don't need permanent magnets, e.g., switched reluctance motors (which are very non-linear and difficult to control but it is possible).

Comment: Re:Renewable or infinite? (Score 1) 835

by eh2o (#38160670) Attached to: The Myth of Renewable Energy

Green tech is also not necessarily helping our economy (in the US at least), solar panel installation is a growing industry but not solar panel production. China dominates the market in green technology manufacturing, in part due to their forward-looking strategies such as subsidies for domestic polysilicon production and the export restrictions on rare-earth materials.

Comment: Re:Libraries at their core.... (Score 2) 158

by eh2o (#38129042) Attached to: Are Maker Spaces the Future of Public Libraries?

There are already "tool lending libraries" in many cities (well at least they are in several cities near where I live), they are managed by the library system and allow residents to check out all sorts of things including drills, nailguns, post-hole diggers, etc. There are a great many tools that a person might benefit from using but would be wasteful to outright buy.

A 3D printer, shopbot or CNC milling machine would be the equivalent of a reference section in the tool library--big tools you can use on site but can't take home. Its a fairly logical extension, although in practice the amount of skill required to use these tools properly and successfully isn't trivial and it remains to be seen how much benefit they could actually provide to the general public. Makerspaces tend to be frequented by rather geeky folk.

Comment: Re:A sad world. (Score 1) 268

by eh2o (#38126516) Attached to: Plate Readers Abound in DC Area, With Little Regard For Privacy

Depends what you mean by "cheap" and what you mean by "taxpayer". Where I live red-light camera tickets are about $500 and 90% of them are issued for rolling on a right turn (which was made into policy because they were not making enough money issuing tickets otherwise)

Using a bike or walking won't be anonymous for long either, as they are now rolling out face recognition and gait recognition software as well. These are already commercially available for security systems and undoubtedly already in use on the street in some places.

Since local government can't get their act together to raise taxes by legitimate means they have increasingly turned to devices such as these to raise revenue for the city (and for the corporations that run them).

Comment: Re:Once Again... (Score 1) 815

by eh2o (#38120148) Attached to: In the EU, Water Doesn't (Officially) Prevent Dehydration

The mandate of the FDA (as well as whatever the EU equivalent) is to mitigate risk to public health by regulating certain marketing statements. They compute risk using this formula:

total risk to public health = (impact of the medical condition indicated by the product if not treated) + (impact of the product if misused).

Obviously water has a pretty low impact if misused in general. However, dehydration (the clinical condition) is extremely serious if not treated, and the impact of misuse of water to treat dehydration is significant. Moreover, for over-the-counter products, claims are generally restricted to indications for "self-limiting" conditions (those which would go away on their own without treatment such as a cold or a rash), dehydration isn't necessarily a self-limiting condition.

So, the bottled water companies tried to weasel around this by claiming that water is good for preventing "development of dehydration" (rather than for treating dehydration, which they *knew* would never get approved). However its also the case that factors leading to development of dehydration are not necessarily self-limiting, and are not necessarily treatable with consumption of water.

For example, I actually know someone who developed hypotonic dehydration after consuming significant amounts of water (in an effort to prevent dehydration, which he was at risk of due to other factors). Anyways, the water didn't help (it was retained in the body but not in the blood), and a number of rather serious medical complications resulted. If it were not for medical intervention he would have died.

The FDA doesn't prevent people from self-diagnosing and self-medicating, and they don't restrict medical information in general, but they do prevent companies from making marketing statements that would contribute to an increase in risk associated with self-medicating.

Comment: Re:Once Again... (Score 1) 815

by eh2o (#38119584) Attached to: In the EU, Water Doesn't (Officially) Prevent Dehydration

According to NCCAM (a division of the NIH), "Homeopathic remedies are prepared according to the guidelines of the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS), which was written into law in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Homeopathic remedies are regulated in the same manner as nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. However, because homeopathic products contain little or no active ingredients, they do not have to undergo the same safety and efficacy testing as prescription and new OTC drugs.... Only products for self-limiting conditions (minor health problems like a cold or headache that go away on their own) can be sold without a prescription."

Note: "do not have to undergo the same safety and efficacy testing". Any substance containing a non-trival quantity of active ingredient would not be considered homeopathic and therefore must be reviewed by the normal process.

FDA only gets involved when the product poses a possible risk, e.g. as in the Zicam case which has an unusual delivery mechanism, or when the manufacturing process is introducing some contamination to the product (e.g. heavy metals), or when the manufacturers violate the labeling restrictions, e.g. a homeopathic remedy for "cancer" cannot be sold OTC, but it can be sold as prescription. Obviously there isn't much money to be made selling a homeopathic "cancer cure" via legit means because no doctor in their right mind would ever prescribe such a thing, which is why the quacks try to sell their stuff on the internet and end up in jail.

Comment: Re:Once Again... (Score 4, Informative) 815

by eh2o (#38114492) Attached to: In the EU, Water Doesn't (Officially) Prevent Dehydration

The FDA has limited resources, they can't evaluate every substance and claim. One of their criteria is possible danger to the public, for example all invasive devices and drugs must be reviewed. The greater the potential danger, the more extensive the review process.

Homeopathics were "grandfathered in" to the FDA system which gives them their (limited) claim rights.They don't have to prove anything. Since homeopathics pose no danger to the public (as well as arguably no benefit), the fact that the claims are basically false advertising isn't an important enough consequence to the state of public health that the FDA will get involved.

In the case of the claim about water, its actually false and potentially dangerous from a medical point of view. Drinking water can only prevent the onset of some types of dehydration, since its not electrolyte balanced. For example if your kid is vomiting a lot from the flu, which is definitely a case where they are at risk of developing dehydration, they should be administered something like Pedialyte (under medical supervision).

Comment: Re:Once Again... (Score 2) 815

by eh2o (#38114440) Attached to: In the EU, Water Doesn't (Officially) Prevent Dehydration

It seems that they actually convened a panel of medical experts and determined that the statement was false.

Dehydration (the clinical, medical term), has multiple forms (e.g. hypertonic, hypotonic, isotonic). Dehydration is caused by factors such as burns, vomiting, diarrhea, methamphetamine use, diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, diabetes. Some of those conditions are rather serious--if a doctor thinks a patient is at risk of developing dehydration due to a medical complication, they don't simply give them water to drink, they administer the proper balance of water to electrolytes depending on the condition.

If the bottled water manufacturers had requested a more accurate statement, it would have been so full of technical jargon that they wouldn't be useful as a marketing tag line.

For example Pedialyte is a product consisting of bottled water plus electrolytes, and it is advertised as follows "Use Pedialyte oral electrolyte solution under medical supervision for the dietary management of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting."

Comment: Re:Once Again... (Score 5, Interesting) 815

by eh2o (#38114420) Attached to: In the EU, Water Doesn't (Officially) Prevent Dehydration

It seems that they actually convened a panel of scientists and determined that the statement was false.

Dehydration (the clinical, medical term), has multiple forms (e.g. hypertonic, hypotonic, isotonic). Dehydration is caused by factors such as burns, vomiting, diarrhea, methamphetamine use, diseases such as cholera, yellow fever, diabetes. Some of those conditions are rather serious--if a doctor thinks a patient is at risk of developing dehydration due to a medical complication, they don't simply give them water to drink, they administer the proper balance of water to electrolytes depending on the condition.

If the bottled water manufacturers had requested a more accurate statement, it would have been so full of technical jargon that they wouldn't be useful as a marketing tag line.

For example Pedialyte is basically just bottled water plus electrolytes, and it is advertised as follows "Use Pedialyte oral electrolyte solution under medical supervision for the dietary management of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting."

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)

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