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Comment: Re:Why do people listen to her? (Score 1) 584

by flyingsquid (#46750157) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"
The bitter irony is that she could turn out to be right in a general sense- that the medical establishment are the ones causing the sudden surge in autism. There's a new study just out today that suggests that autism is linked to antidepressant use, with autism rates tripling in boys exposed to antidepressants during the first trimester:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/antidepressant-use-in-pregnancy-linked-to-autism-risk-in-boys/

It's published in the New England Journal of Medicine and given the previous, fraudulent work concerning autism and vaccines, I am guessing that the editors and reviewers took a very, very careful look at the evidence before accepting this paper for publication. As always, correlation does not equal causation, however it provides a good hint of where to look. It would hardly be surprising to find that powerful drugs that alter neurotransmitter levels and expression of growth factors in the brain affect the brain of a developing fetus. Furthermore, the sudden epidemic of autism seems to take off at about the same time doctors start prescribing these drugs to everyone and their dog. If this turns out to be true... we're looking at billions of dollars in liability for the drug companies and the credibility of the psychiatric industry left in shreds.

Comment: Re:WTF? (Score 4, Insightful) 193

by flyingsquid (#46723325) Attached to: Stephen Colbert To Be Letterman's Successor

Stephen Colbert has been called "The biggest Tolkien geek I've ever met". Coming from Peter Jackson, that's quite an honor. The guy's a nerd, so it's something remarkable that he's become as much of a cultural phenomenon as he is, and now he's set to take on one of the big late night shows. It'll be interesting to see what happens- weird to see him out of character, but he's phenomenally talented and versatile, if anyone can pull it off he can. The thing I like about Colbert is that it's clear he really enjoys doing what he's doing, there's just something about watching someone at work who's having the time of their life.

It's also going to be interesting to see what Comedy Central does now. John Oliver and now Stephen Colbert have left, so they've lost two of their top three comics, and I'd argue that they've lost the best two. I know a number of people who are still John Stewart fans but personally I think Stewart has lost his mojo. He's not passionate, he seems tired and burned out, his humor has an edge that's not just self-deprecating, it's self-pitying, an endless series of sad jokes about how old he is and how short he is. The humor is also increasingly juvenile, but not in a good way. It's all dick jokes, which would be great if Stewart and the writers could make funny dick jokes like Parker and Stone, but they can't. The supporting cast has issues as well. In particular Jason Jones is supposed to be playing a character who's a dick, but he just comes across as actually being dick, and the show has taken on a mean-spirited tone that it didn't used to have.

Personally, I think Comedy Central is in trouble. The Daily Show has some serious issues and Stewart's directorial gig and Oliver's stint as guest host makes it clear he's thinking about moving on. Colbert has now left. John Oliver demonstrated last summer that he's talented and charming enough to host a half-hour show, but now he's on HBO. This move probably doesn't come as a complete shock, so if Comedy Central was clever, they would have encouraged John Oliver to sign a contract that would leave him free to come back to Comedy Central. But the other issue is that Oliver seems like a perfect replacement for Stewart. It's unclear who would- or could- fill in for someone as unique as Colbert.

Comment: Re:Not the first time this has happened (Score 2) 639

Besides everyone knows star trek is a sifi based entertainment show, its not claiming to be factual..

"Uh, Bill, you do realize that this is a TV show, right? You are not actually the captain of a starship. We are not actually on a five year mission in space. These computer banks? They're just cardboard boxes wired up with blinking Christmas lights."

"Wait... what? But... Leonard that... can't... BE!!!!"

Comment: Re:They do. (Score 4, Insightful) 256

by flyingsquid (#46702975) Attached to: Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater

There's no doubt that manufacturing fuel on board is desirable from a logistics standpoint.

Is it, though? If you run out of fuel, just refuel the damn thing. At sea refueling is trivially easy, all you need is a ship that can carry a lot of fuel, a pump, and a hose. Pretty much any ship will work if it will carry enough- for example in the summer fishing season in Alaska, the canneries hire on the big Bering Sea crab boats to act as tenders, and they provide fuel to the smaller salmon boats. Refueling a destroyer at sea isn't all that different except in scale, and the Navy has logistics ships designed specifically to do this.

The other variable that needs to be considered is time. I'm guessing that not only is this process very energy-intensive, it takes a while. The article shows them fueling a hobby plane with the fuel they've generated, which suggests they're not exactly churning the stuff out by the barrel. Unless you can create a system that can deliver tens of thousands of gallons a day, it's probably going to be far faster to divert a support ship and have it show up with 7 million gallons of the stuff.

And realistically, when is a carrier or other ship likely to be far from supply lines? Current and potential flashpoints would include places like Syria, the Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Taiwan, and North Korea. Likely areas of operation for the Navy will be the Mediterranean, Arabian Sea, South China Sea, and the Sea of Japan. None are far from civilization. Not coincidentally, the U.S. already has bases near all of these places. The U.S. Navy did have a tough time in the Pacific theater in WWII, trying to fight the Japanese in Indonesia on the far side of the Pacific, and that was even after they had the good fortune that the Japanese didn't think to bomb the fuel tanks in Hawaii. Part of what they learned from Pearl Harbor is that you don't wait until the fighting starts to establish a supply chain and stockpile fuel.

Comment: Re:Wierd headline (Score 1) 130

At this rate, I suspect the actual linked article is a rather bland study of the inter-penguin behaviors of a group of rockhopper penguins during a 4 month observation that was initially proposed because the researcher thought the penguin-keeper at the zoo was hot.

Close. It's just some idiot's brain-dead blog post that he submitted to Slashdot in a desperate attempt to get some readers. It's slightly longer than the summary, but doesn't actually contain any more content. The basic premise of the argument is that live TV and satellite TV matter and they'll continue to call the shots. The reality of the situation is that digital, on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are rapidly expanding in terms of the content available, and in terms of not just distributing but creating new content (House of Cards, Arrested Development). HBO is a holdout here- you still need a cable subscription to be able to watch it online- but the number of people watching video-on-demand online will continue to grow, and as the content migrates to follow, cable-cutters will increase, and HBO and others will follow them. Eventually, traditional TV and satellite will die. It may take a while, but that's the way things are going. It makes far more sense for Apple, Amazon and Google to focus on where the TV industry will be in 10-20 years than where it is now, so who really cares what the networks and cable companies want?

Comment: Re:But Terrizm! (Score 4, Interesting) 233

by flyingsquid (#46668425) Attached to: Most Expensive Aviation Search: $53 Million To Find Flight MH370

There's one thing I will agree with: to figure out the fate of the plane we have to get inside the pilot's head and try to figure out what he's doing. The trick here is that based on the available facts, we have to stop thinking in terms of someone who's trying desperately to save the plane and his passengers, and try to understand someone's whose goal is to do the opposite.

One thing to think about- where would you crash a plane if your goal was not simply to crash a plane, but to conceal its fate? Whoever took the plane seems to have wanted its resting place to remain a mystery. They must have known that the path of the plane would be tracked by military radar, so by heading northwest until they were off radar, and then turning southeast, they must have wanted to mislead searchers about the direction of the flight. And by sending the plane into the deeps of the Indian Ocean, they must have hoped that the wreckage would never be found. But one thing didn't make sense here. If you were going to go to this kind of length to lose a plane forever, where would you crash it? Not southwest of Australia; the sea there is deep but its a fairly broad and flat ocean floor. Yes the search area here is huge and the seas are rough, but if the wreckage ends up on a flat expanse of seafloor, it's going to be pretty easy to spot on sonar. It would take a long time to find, but eventually it would be found. No, you wouldn't want an abyssal plain. You'd go for the deepest, most rugged stretch you could find. You'd pilot the plain straight into an ocean trench.

Then a curious thing happened. The search area was changed, again, for something like the third time. The new data suggests the plane didn't fly as far, and instead of crashing southwest of Australia, it crashed almost due west of Australia. At first this seems to suggest the search will be easier. But if you look on the maps, you'll see that the new search area overlaps an ocean trench- the Diamantina Trench, the deepest point in the entire Indian Ocean. Its maximum depth is 8,000 meters/26,000 feet. Eight kilometers. Five miles. Its rugged terrain, which will conceal the plane and scatter any noise from the sonar beacon. Plus, the Navy's pinger locator can only go about 6,000 meters down, and the range of the black box ping signal is only about a mile, so if the plane is at the deepest part of the trench, it's may well be out of the range of sonar equipment. On top of everything, the terrain is going to be unstable; unlike a flat abyssal plain where the sediments accumulate slowly and don't shift, the mountainous terrain of the Diamantina Trench will be subject to slumps and debris flows, with avalanches of fine mud that could easily bury a plane.

Up until now, it seemed like a good bet that the plane would be found, eventually. After all the Titanic was sitting on the seafloor for the better part of a century before it was discovered. But if the pilot really did crash the plane into the Diamantina Trench, there's a real chance that it's lost for good.

Comment: Re:But Terrizm! (Score 4, Informative) 233

by flyingsquid (#46668313) Attached to: Most Expensive Aviation Search: $53 Million To Find Flight MH370

I think the fire scenario is a pretty reasonable explanation, but it's by no means the only possibility.

The fire scenario has been pretty thoroughly debunked at this point. Radar shows that the plane made multiple turns and changes in altitude, meaning that it was being actively piloted. Here's what we currently do know: the ACARS transmitter was turned off, the plane made a sharp turn to the west and climbed to 45,000 feet. Radar then shows the plane descending to 23,000 feet. The plane turns again and climbs, heading out over the Indian Ocean. At this point, radar contact is lost; however the satellite pings indicate that the plane ended up in the southern Indian Ocean, which means it had to turn again. So after the transmitter is turned off, the plane made at least three turns and changed altitude three times. Someone was definitely at the controls until radar contact was lost.

Comment: Re:How I deal (Score 1) 257

by flyingsquid (#46659265) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

Eat more fish and vegetables.

There's increasing evidence that diet may play a role in mental illness. I've always been skeptical of the low-carb craze and the recent war on sugar. However, it's been shown that a number of neurological disorders do respond to carbohydrate reduction. One is epilepsy, which can respond to a very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet. In these diets, sugar and carbohydrates are cut out, and the body primarily burns fat for fuel. The other is bipolar II. There are a couple of documented case studies of bipolar sufferers managing their symptoms by switching to a low-carbohydrate diet. It worked better than their drugs, to the point that they actually stopped the drugs and just used the diet.

This raises the question of whether diet could contribute to depression. If reducing carbohydrates can treat psychiatric problems, then could a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates cause psychiatric problems? It sounds a bit crazy, but the brain is just another organ. If excess sugar can cause your kidneys to fail, what the hell is it doing to your brain?

Comment: Re:Depression is weird (Score 2) 257

by flyingsquid (#46659245) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

There is a condition known as "manic depressive disorder." Essentially, you can have a day where you're feeling so great that you decide to move all of the furniture in your house, repaint the living room, run a mile, begin a novel, and more. You have tons of energy and can do it all. And then you crash into the depression stage where getting out of bed is a major achievement.

These days it's called Bipolar Disorder. and it comes in two varieties, Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Bipolar I is the classic Manic Depressive disorder. In BPII the ups tend to be much milder and shorter, and the depression tends to be more chronic. BP I is pretty hard to miss- the manias tend to be the kind of thing that land you either in the hospital or in jail. But a lot of people suffering from depression may actually suffer from BP II. The highs in Bipolar II are hypomanic- they're characterized by being in a good mood, being creative, being productive, being outgoing. Nobody ever goes to the doctor complaining about hypomania. The depression in Bipolar II tends to be the dominant symptom, however, and it tends to be chronic. The problem here is that a lot of people who are treated by doctors for depression actually suffer from bipolar II, and the treatments are completely different. The standard treatments for BPII are anticonvulsants- lamotrigine and valproic acid. BPII suffers do respond to antidepressants, but the problem is that they respond too well; antidepressants actually tend to make bipolar people manic and can make the disorder worse. If you do seek psychiatric help, it's critical to get the right diagnosis, because the treatment options are completely different.

Comment: Re:There's only one thing; (Score 1) 257

by flyingsquid (#46659189) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

Indeed, may I add one caveated to that, educate yourself on what the professional advises, read the labels and be aware of the side-effects of anti-anxiety pills such as Zoloft, mixed with regular alcohol I've seen at least 4 middle aged friends have their lives totally wrecked by that particular combination, two of whom ended up spending time in jail, not to mention the distress caused to their partners and kids...

Used properly the drugs are effective, I have more friends that have benefited from their correct use than have suffered from incorrect use.

You've listed four friends who had their lives wrecked and your conclusion is that "used properly the drugs are effective"? The lesson I would draw from this is that there are other approaches which are shown to be at least as effective in managing depression for many people- exercise, counseling, and sleep training- that do not destroy people's lives and land them in jail. So instead of running to the doctor for a Zoloft prescription, a more sensible treatment plan would be to implement some of the non-drug approaches for a few months, and treating the drugs as a backup plan for when all else fails? Maybe the drugs do have a place, but doctors are far too quick to prescribe them.

Comment: Re:There's only one thing; (Score 1) 257

by flyingsquid (#46659143) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression
If the drugs really worked, we'd see depression rates going down, and America would have one of the lowest rates of mental illness on the planet. Instead, depression has gone up over time, and we now are one of the most depressed countries in the world.

There is a lot of evidence that these drugs can be effective in the short term, but there's little if any evidence to suggest that they're effective in the long term. In fact, a number of studies suggest that in the long term, antidepressants cause worse outcomes. Left untreated, depression tends to resolve itself after 3-12 months. That makes getting relief from an antidepressant in 4-6 weeks sound appealing. But once you've been on antidepressants, you're more likely to get depressed again, and your depression is more likely to become chronic. Basically, your body becomes dependent on the drugs and has difficulty functioning without them. Maybe this doesn't happen to everybody, but it's far more common than the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe. That also makes antidepressants difficult to get off of, because the body goes into withdrawal when the dose is cut, particularly for things with short half-life. There are real risks with antidepressants. This is especially true if you're bipolar- if your depressions tend to be repeated and cyclical you may have bipolar depression, not standard depression. In that case, antidepressants may trigger mania and cause the disorder to become worse.

There are a lot of other options out there. Counseling, exercise, improving your sleep patterns, meditation, changing your diet, supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins. For many people, these can be every bit as effective as antidepressants. Lifestyle changes take a bit more work and discipline, but they come with far fewer risks and in the long run may be more helpful.

Comment: Re:Flight recorder (Score 3, Informative) 491

by flyingsquid (#46566295) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

The Indian ocean is very deep, it is a remote location and two weeks have passed already. This black box will be harder to find than that of the Air France flight which got lost over the Atlantic. Back then they said that the sender of the black box will run for a month. I don't believe that they will find it this time.

There's no doubt that they'll find it, the question is when. As we speak, the remains of MH 370 are sitting on the bottom of the ocean, under 5,000 meters of water, and they're not going anywhere. Nothing is disturbing the wreckage, so it will just sit there for months, years, or decades until someone comes along. The Titanic sat on the seafloor for 73 years until new technologies made it possible to locate the wreckage, and yet it was remarkably well-preserved given how long it had been underwater. I doubt it will take 73 years- technology has advanced a lot, and continues to advance- but even if it does, the plane will be waiting.

Whether anything useful comes out of the flight data recorders or not is another issue. After 2 years, the data recorders from the Air France flight still worked, I don't know if anyone really knows how long the data would still be good. Solid state memory is pretty indestructible, so if the chips can survive being immersed in saltwater, maybe a long time. The bigger issue is whether the pilot shut down the recorders as well. In the SilkAir crash, the pilot or copilot shut down the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder before deliberately putting the plane into a dive. Whoever hijacked this plane seems to have wanted its fate to be a mystery, so there is a real possibility that he shut off the recorders as well. If so, we may find the crashed plane, but if so, we'll never know anything more than what we know now.

Comment: Re:Evidence that media cycle is useless (Score 1) 103

by flyingsquid (#46559991) Attached to: French, Chinese Satellite Images May Show Malaysian Jet Debris
We're talking about a vast search area, maybe the size of Texas or larger, depending on how generous you want to be in drawing the boundaries. What are the odds that you cover an area that large with satellites and don't find *something* floating? Whether it's from the plane seems less likely. What are the odds that over two weeks after the plane crashes into the ocean, wreckage is still afloat? In rough water, it will tend to break up, fill with water, and sink. There's also the possibility that the pilot put the plane into a power dive like in the SilkAir murder-suicide. In that case the plane would be broken up into thousands of fragments. Some of the pieces would probably float, but they'd be so small you'd never be able to spot them.

There are plenty of likely scenarios where we never find a scrap of the flight, or maybe an isolated scrap drifts up months or years later and two thousand miles away. And every day without recovery of wreckage, those scenarios become more likely.

Comment: Re:Great Headline (Score 2) 103

by flyingsquid (#46559767) Attached to: French, Chinese Satellite Images May Show Malaysian Jet Debris
We're fixated on the technological fixes- emergency locator beacons, satellite tracking devices. So why are so few people talking about the obvious: the psychology of the crew? Whoever hijacked this airplane was familiar with piloting a 777 and familiar with the route, which points to the pilot or the copilot stealing their own plane, then deliberately crashing it in the Indian Ocean.

This would not be the first pilot suicide, either; EgyptAir Flight 990 and SilkAir 185 are both believed to be pilot suicide. In the EgyptAir crash, the First Officer shut down the engines and the plane went into a dive. In the SilkAir crash, the plane went into a power dive and descended so steeply and rapidly it actually broke the sound barrier and disintegrated the plane on impact— they didn't even get a single complete body.

Since 9/11 all the effort has been devoted to protecting the pilots from the passengers, but what about protecting passengers from the pilots? The SilkAir crash killed 114 people, the EgyptAir crash killed 217 people, and MH killed 239 people. That's 3 planes and 570 people taken out by pilots- versus 2 planes and 227 civilians taken out by terrorists in the same timespan. These numbers suggest that you're more likely to be killed by your pilot than your fellow passengers. The message seems to be clear: the most dangerous person on any flight isn't the dude with the turban, it's the guy with the captain's hat.

Incidentally, there's a really disturbing parallel between the SilkAir murder-suicide and MH 370- safety systems designed to monitor the flight, in the case of the SilkAir flight, the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, were both manually shut down. That raises a disturbing possibility- unless they've changed things since the SilkAir crash, the person piloting MH 370 would have been able to shut down both the flight data recorder and voice recorder. That means that even if we find the black boxes, they may contain no useful information.

Comment: Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (Score 2) 298

by flyingsquid (#46559483) Attached to: Iran Builds Mock-up of Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier

Moral of the story, though... the people who mocked the F22 as the boondoggle to the F35 should have been fired from the DoD and run out of Congress. The F22 ended up being cheaper and still better (IIRC). There's no excuse for being naive enough to believe "oh yeah, we'll be much cheaper" when building something like the F35.

The F-22 IS a huge waste of money, it's only when you put it next to the fiasco of the F-35 program that it doesn't look so bad. The fact that one is a disaster doesn't make the other one a success. That's like arguing that Hitler was a good guy because he killed fewer people than Stalin.

Both programs are relics of the Cold War era, which have persisted only because they fill the need of congressmen to deliver pork to their states, and because the former fighter pilots who run the US Air Force are unwilling to admit that the era of manned fighters is coming to an end. The smart move would be to ditch the F-35 and the F-22, focus on upgrading the F-15, F-16 and F-18 to maintain air superiority for the next ten years, while developing UCAVs to fill the air superiority, attack, and carrier-based attack roles currently filled by those planes. We're witnessing the end of an era. Guns made knights and castles obsolete; internal combustion engines made cavalry obsolete; carriers made battleships obsolete... the same thing is happening here. If we refuse to admit it because Air Force generals are sentimental about the role of pilots, because congressmen want to steer money to their district, or because the public thought "Top Gun" was an awesome movie, then we stand to waste billions of dollars and lose our technological lead.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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