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Comment: Quick summary of the papers involved here. (Score 1) 204

The summary conflates two papers, a review paper in Science which summarizes the state of knowledge about fracking the Marcellus Shale (Vidic et al. 2013), and a study of an individual incident published this month in PNAS in which researcher purport to have found a single instance of minor contamination from a fracking well (Llewellyn et al. 2015). Neither paper is particularly damning or inflammatory, so at first blush it's not immediately obvious why the fracking PR flacks have gone to DEFCON 3 on this. The key is to read the review paper first. This is almost always the best way to start because review papers are supposed to give a full and balanced overview of the current state of scientific knowledge on a topic. TL;DR, I know, but stick with me for a few paragraphs and I think I can make the problem clear.

Vidic paints a rather favorable picture of the fracking industry's response to problems that have arisen during the fracking boom in the Marcellus shale. It absolves them of any responsibility for the infamous "burning tapwater" we've all seen in Youtube videos. It states they have been quick to respond to wastewater leaks and well blowouts before contamination could spread. It says the industry has redesigned wells in response to concerns that they might leak fracking water as they pass through the aquifer. And it says that fracking water that returns to the surface ("flowback") is treated and re-used for more fracking -- an expensive environmental "best practice".

Vidic does raise some important concerns, however, and the most important is this. At present recycling flowback into more fracking water is practical because production is booming. But at some point production will level off and begin to decline, and when that happens the industry will be producing more flowback than it can use economically. In Texas, where fracking was pioneered, flowback was disposed of in deep wells -- a process not without its drawbacks, but better than leaving the contaminated water on the surface. Pennsylvania doesn't have enough disposal capacity to handle today's flowback, which helps make recycling fracking water attractive at the present time.

We now have enough context to understand Llewellyn, and why Llewellyn is so upsetting to the industry. Llewellyn's paper documents a single instance of minor contamination which matched the chemical fingerprint of flowback from a nearby well. This contamination was well below a level that would be cause for any concern. Llewellyn concludes the most likely cause was a small spill from the flowback holding pit, although it can't rule out the possibility that the contamination occurred inside the well. Taken with the picture Vidic paints of an industry that is generally on top of stuff like this, the occurrence of a single mishap with negligible consequences is hardly damning. So why has the fracking industry unleashed its flying PR monkeys on this?

Because the fracking industry apparently has made no plans for when the day comes it can no longer recycle all the flowback it uses, and it doesn't want the public to think about that.

It would be sensible for them to prepare for the flowback problem now on the upswing of the boom, for the same reason the industry has been able to be so responsive to date: these are good times for the industry in the Marcellus Shale. They're flush. Although preparing for the problem now would be expensive, it wouldn't slow the boom appreciably, and it would add jobs. But... if the industry can kick the flowback can far enough down the road, we'll have to ask it to fix the problem while production and probably the regional economy is in decline. Doing something about the problem then will cost jobs and require money nobody will have.

  So if the industry isn't forced to do something about the looming problem soon, it will become politically if not financially impossible to make them do that ever. That's why the industry is allergic to the very mention that surface contamination from flowback is even possible. In the scheme of things the Llwewllyn incident is negligible, but when fracking starts producing more waste than the industry can use surface contamination is going to become a lot more common and a lot worse.

Vidic raises some other serious long term concerns. Nobody knows where most of the fracking water used goes. The geology of the area is complex enough, but it is further complicated by many old gas and oil wells, quite a few of which are not fully documented. Contamination of the aquifer is a quite plausible possibility that needs further scientific study -- study that has been hindered by lack of research funding and industry transparency. More research might lay this concern to bed; or it may require changes in the industry's operation. We don't know. But we do know that some day we'll have a wastewater problem, and if we wait to address that it will be politically impossible to do anything about.

CITATIONS

Vidic, R. D., et al. "Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality." Science 340.6134 (2013): 1235009.

Garth T. Llewellyn, Frank Dorman, J. L. Westland, D. Yoxtheimer, Paul Grieve, Todd Sowers, E. Humston-Fulmer, and Susan L. Brantley. "Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development." PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print May 4, 2015,

Comment: No, they are categorically NOT doing that... (Score 0) 105

by daveschroeder (#49622049) Attached to: How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

...and your comment represents the absolutely fundamental misunderstanding that pervades this discussion.

The truth no one wants to hear:

The distinction is no longer the technology or the place, but the person(s) using a capability: the target. In a free society based on the rule of law, it is not the technological capability to do a thing, but the law, that is paramount.

Gone are the days where the US targeted foreign communications on distant shores, or cracked codes used only by our enemies. No one would have questioned the legitimacy of the US and its allies breaking the German or Japanese codes or exploiting enemy communications equipment during WWII. The difference today is that US adversaries -- from terrorists to nation-states -- use many of the same systems, services, networks, operating systems, devices, software, hardware, cloud services, encryption standards, and so on, as Americans and much of the rest of the world. They use iPhones, Windows, Dell servers, Android tablets, Cisco routers, Netgear wireless access points, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail, and so on.

US adversaries now often use the very same technologies we use. The fact that Americans or others also use them does not suddenly or magically mean that no element of the US Intelligence Community should ever target them. When a terrorist in Somalia is using Hotmail or an iPhone instead of a walkie-talkie, that cannot mean we pack our bags and go home. That means that, within clear and specific legal authorities and duly authorized statutory missions of the Intelligence Community, we aggressively pursue any and all possible avenues, within the law, that allow us to intercept and exploit the communications of foreign intelligence targets.

If they are using hand couriers, we target them. If they are using walkie-talkies, we target them. If they are using their own custom methods for protecting their communications, we target them. If they are using HF radios, VSATs, satellite phones, or smoke signals, we target them. If they are using Gmail, Windows, OS X, Facebook, iPhone, Android, SSL, web forums running on Amazon Web Services, etc., we target them -- within clear and specific legal frameworks that govern the way our intelligence agencies operate, including with regard to US Persons.

That doesn't mean it's always perfect; that doesn't mean things are not up for debate; that doesn't mean everyone will agree with every possible legal interpretation; that doesn't mean that some may not fundamentally disagree with the US approach to, e.g., counterterrorism. But the intelligence agencies do not make the rules, and while they may inform issues, they do not define national policy or priorities.

Without the authorities granted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the United States cannot target non-US Persons who are foreign intelligence targets if their communications enters, traverses, or otherwise touches the United States, a system within the United States, or, arguably, a system or network operated by a US corporation (i.e., a US Person) anywhere in the world. FAA in particular is almost exclusively focused on non-US Persons outside the US, who now exist in the same global web of digital communications as innocent Americans.

Without FAA, the very same Constitutional protections and warrant requirements reserved for US Persons would extend to foreign nations and foreign terrorists simply by using US networks and services â" whether intentionally or not. Without FAA, an individualized warrant would be required to collect on a foreign intelligence target using, say, Facebook, Gmail, or Yahoo!, or even exclusively foreign providers if their communications happens to enter the United States, as 70% of international internet traffic does. If you do not think there is a problem with this, there might be an even greater and more basic misunderstanding about how foreign SIGINT and cyber activities fundamentally must work.

If you believe NSA should not have these capabilities, what you are saying is that you do not believe the United States should be able to target foreign intelligence targets outside the United States who, by coincidence or by design, ever utilize or enter US systems and services. If you believe the solution is an individualized warrant every time the US wishes to target a foreign adversary using Gmail, then you are advocating the protection of foreign adversaries with the very same legal protections reserved for US citizens -- while turning foreign SIGINT, which is not and never has been subject to those restrictions, on its head.

These are the facts and realities of the situation. Any government capability is imperfect, and any government capability can be abused. But the United States is the only nation on earth which has jammed intelligence capabilities into as sophisticated and extensive a legal framework as we have. When the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, multiple executive agencies under two diametrically opposite Presidential administrations, armies of lawyers within offices of general counsel and and inspectors general, and federal judges on the very court whose only purpose is to protect the rights of Americans under the law and the Constitution in the context of foreign intelligence collection are all in agreement, then you have the judgment of every mechanism of our free civil society.

Or we could just keep laying our intelligence sources, methods, techniques, and capabilities bare to our enemies.

âMany forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Speech in the House of Commons, November 11, 1947

"The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent and need not be further urged â" all that remains for me to add, is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in most Enterprises of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned and promising a favourable issue.â â" George Washington, our nation's first spymaster, in a letter to Colonel Elias Dayton, 26 July 1777

Comment: Re:New competition (Score 1) 184

by swillden (#49619591) Attached to: Singapore's Prime Minister Shares His C++ Sudoku Solver Code

*Altho many Canadians argue the Queen isn't their Head of State, her representative in Canada is (the Governor-General). The fact no Court's ruled on this definitively shows how important the title "Head of State" is in a Parliamentary system. Most legal scholars seem to think that the Queen is Head of State, but there is a minority that disagrees and their Constitution is not helpful on this question. But mostly nobody cares.

Given that she owns the entire country it's kind of a moot point. If they piss her off she'll just kick them out.

Heh. I suspect that if she tried the outcome would not be that they would leave.

Comment: Re:From his Facebook post on his Sudoku solver (Score 1) 184

by swillden (#49619579) Attached to: Singapore's Prime Minister Shares His C++ Sudoku Solver Code

That's common knowledge.

Bit Twiddling Hacks

Not, too common, apparently, since this particular hack isn't in that list. It wasn't too hard to work out what it does (find the largest power of 2 that divides x or, equivalently, find the value of the lowest bit that is set) but it didn't make the Hacks list, and I don't think that's because it's too obvious.

Comment: Re:Underestimate. (Score 2) 49

37% of wives and girlfriends are likely to cheat on you too. But what you gonna do about it? Dump your cheating girlfriend and just end up with another cheating girlfriend? What's the point of that? So most people just stay with their lousy operating system or girlfriend. Really it is all pointless anyway.

Er... presuming that the cheating is important to you, you have a 100% chance of having a cheating girlfriend if you stay with the current one but only a 37% chance if you switch to a new, randomly chosen girlfriend.

But... if you don't instinctively see that, then I have to conclude that on some level you want abuse from your girlfriend/software vendor. In fact given your track record of past choices it seems likely that your choice will perform worse than chance, although a probably bad new choice remains a better strategy than staying with the devil you know.

If you don't have the confidence in your discretion to improve upon chance, a randomly chosen girlfriend/OS is a reasonable next step. You should try *anything* that meets the obvious superficial criteria (e.g., is biologically female, has companies providing professional support services). In fact studies suggest that while attractiveness makes a huge difference in who people ask out on a date, it has no effect on their satisfaction with that date once it takes place. What we think we want and what will make us happy are often two different things.

Businesses

Cisco Names Veteran Robbins To Succeed Chambers as CEO 30

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-guy-in-charge dept.
bledri writes: After 20 years as Cisco's CEO, John Chambers will step down this summer. The search for a replacement took a committee 16 months, and they selected Chuck Robbins, who was previously responsible for the company's global sales and partner team. From the article: "Wall Street analysts said a change was expected and could signal a refocusing of Cisco, which acquired dozens of companies under Chambers but has failed to make great headway outside its core networking business."

Comment: Re:Confused (Score 2) 271

by hey! (#49618529) Attached to: Single Verizon IP Address Used For Hundreds of Windows 7 Activations

There is no key generator. It's Microsoft own fault if they keys were stolen.

Which does not make using a stolen key legal, any more than a broken window lock in our house makes that fair game for burglars. Nor is using a stolen key ethical (at least in most situations); the principled response to not approving of proprietary software is to use open source software with a license you can live with.

Comment: Re:Would anyone deny? (Score 1) 314

You can bet that if a theory of gravity came out and it threatened the political or economic status quo, it would provoke a political response. When Edwin Armstrong's invention of FM radio started to gain market traction, RCA used it's political influence to have the FCC take the frequency band Armstrong's radios worked on shifted, making all the radios he'd sold useless. And if that had been done today, the next thing you'd have is is an army of PR flacks and FOX selling the public on the idea that FM radio was "tainted engineering".

Climate science isn't politically tainted. That's only PR BS. If you want to see for yourself, use Google Scholar to search for climate science paper abstracts from the early 50s to the 80s -- well before anyone outside the field heard the term "global warming". You'll be able to actually see the scientific consensus shift from global cooling to warming over the course of thirty years, completely outside the public spotlight.

Comment: Re:Would anyone deny? (Score 1) 314

I would.

I've worked in a physics lab (fusion). I've worked in a geophysics lab. Here's the thing about experimental Earth science: you're not working with a idealized, simplified object under controlled laboratory conditions. You are working with something that is immense and messy and which inherently generates a lot of contradictory data. It doesn't make the big picture impossible to put together, it just means it takes a lot of hard to obtain data to shift the consensus one way or the other. It took forty years for anthropogenic global warming to become the scientific consensus; the first papers were published in the fifties and the idea that the world was warming was hotly contested for at least three decades

Contradictory data is something fundamental to empirical science. Empirical science generalizes from contradictory evidence.

When I was in college, "conservative" meant someone who was cautiously pragmatic. Now it refers to someone who adheres to certain conservative axioms -- a radical in other words (radical == "root"). Radicals by their nature prefer deduction from known truths to induction from messy evidence. This is evident in your citing mathematics as the gold standard, despite the utter inapplicability of its methods to geoscience. Mathematics doesn't deal in messy, mutually contradicting truths. Nor does political orthodoxy of any stripe.

That's why "conservatives" latch on to local phenomena -- like the snow outside their door -- that seem to confirm their preconception that the globe is not currently warming. In mathematics the number 9 disproves the assertion that all odd counting numbers are prime. In climate science the medieval warming period in Europe doesn't disprove that the globe as a whole was cooler at that time. To radicals the existence of contradictions in the supporting data is corrupt. To scientists the lack of contradictions in data is fishy.

Left-wing radicals are equally confused by apparently contradictory data points, and likewise seize on the ones that "prove" their universal truths (e.g. that vaccines cause autism).

Comment: Re:Tolkien saw realistic trees in his imagination. (Score 1) 167

by hey! (#49614859) Attached to: Why Scientists Love 'Lord of the Rings'

I'm not sure your information on general psychology is accurate, or appropriate.

I've taught tree identification to scouts and scout leaders. I can say from experience that people do not consciously see details, even if they're looking at a specimen right in front of them. It's as if their conscious perception stops as soon as their brain dredges up the word "tree". You can tell a typical person to look at a tree for a minute, then have them turn their back and describe it. What you get, even after you instructed them to look *carefully* at the tree, isn't much more specific than "green blob on a brown stick", and sometimes the stick is is really gray, not brown.

The power of verbal labels to shut down observation is profound. Anything that isn't broadleaf tends to be a "pine", even though pine, fir, spruce, etc. look a heck of a lot less like each other than a oak and Norway maple. It's like someone could't tell the difference between an opossum and a house cat. Most peoples' sense for the shape of a tree is extremely crude; they'll recall extreme shape like an arbor vitae, but they won't see the shape difference between a red maple (globular) and a Japanese maple (spreading).

You have to train yourself to actually see things. It takes conscious effort at first. Sketching or writing detailed verbal descriptions helps.

Comment: The Fanboi's Tunnel Vision. (Score 2) 62

by westlake (#49614261) Attached to: Accessibility In Linux Is Good (But Could Be Much Better)
I can't speak for OSX. But it is hard to take seriously a post that ignores the accessibility tools that have been baked into the Windows OS from the beginning, expanded and improved over the years.

Unlike proprietary alternatives...Linux distros with the Gnome desktop...includes accessibility tools out of the box, such as:

Screen reader A text-to-speech system to read what's on the screen
Magnifier Helps users with visual impairments who need larger text and images
High-contrast mode Helps users who have trouble seeing text unless contrast is corrected, such as white text on a black background, or vice versa
Mouse keys Controls the mouse using the number pad
Sticky keys Helps users who have trouble pressing multiple keys at once, and users who have use of only one hand
Bounce keys To ignore rapidly pressed keys or if a key is accidentally held down
On screen keyboard Helps users who cannot type at all, but who can use a mouse Visual alerts Replace system sounds with visual cues

Accessibility in Linux is good (but could be much better)

Compare:

While this article is aimed at Windows 95 much of the information on Accessibility Options also applies to Windows 3.x and Windows 98.

Making Windows 95 Accessible

The clothes have no emperor. -- C.A.R. Hoare, commenting on ADA.

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