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Comment: Just another observation (Score 5, Insightful) 401

by golodh (#47419059) Attached to: Climate Change Skeptic Group Must Pay Damages To UVA, Michael Mann
There is no legitimate reason to ask for researchers' emails. Such emails are only useful when you're trying to make things _personal_ instead of businesslike.

You need people's emails when you're digging for something (anything really) you can use to discredit someone personally (apart from any scientific merit). Besides which, some of those emails are personal.

The Virginia court ruled that filing a lawsuit just to get those emails constitutes harassment, which in turn is a frivolous use of the court's time. A sensible conclusion in my opinion.

And yes, there do seem to be consequences for filing frivolous lawsuits.

Comment: Re:A win for medieval mentality (Score 1) 1315

by golodh (#47381851) Attached to: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception
Apart from the fact that I never contended that the Supremes legislate on this case, I think the point is irrelevant.

Separation between Church and State means that you get to hold whatever "religious" belief you want in private, only that you don't get to impose those religious views (or values) on others. Not even people who just happen to be in a position of financial dependence to you.

What people call "freedom" here is the freedom to impose your arbitrary views (here "religion") onto others (employees) by cavilling over what they consider "appropriate" medical care. What this ruling does is empower employers to meddle in what medical care their employers can spend their medical benefits, and that's wrong. The separation between church and state held the provision that e.g. employers couldn't use their power to meddle in the (privileged) docter-patient relationship, and that protection has just been lifted.

The question of whether Hobby-Lobby employees can make do in other ways is irrelevant. I think they shouldn't have to have to circumnavigate this particular obstacle in the first place.

I get the distinct impression that people fail to see how dangerous it is to lift this protection because it's touted as "Christian". For better or worse, Hindu, Muslim, Satanist, and Scientologist "religions" just got the same rights.

Your analogy about the "Hindu refusing to buy me [...]" is beside the point I think, because that's a case of an employer refusing you discretionary spending. Medical treatment is not discretionary, and although the employer ultimately foots the bill it's not something he would ordinarily have any say in (apart from this "religious" thing now). It's medical benefits, not some gift!

What I'm calling for is a state in which nobody can construe their their religious "rights" in ways that allow them to impose their religious views on others.

Comment: Re:A win for medieval mentality (Score 1) 1315

by golodh (#47380235) Attached to: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception
It's the judiciary (an important part of the state apparatus) that granted companies the power to discriminate their employees based on the flimsy excuse of "religion" on part the ones who own those companies.

This in itself gives "religion" powers in purely secular matters. Since it's an integral part of society now, it acts just like in the Middle Ages.

The separation between church and state doesn't just cover acts by the state itself, it also covers the privileges the state accords to those who invoke "religion" in secular matters.

Comment: More than cost (Score 1) 142

I know both SAS and R, and I think that for people who've never programmed, the GUI-based version of SAS wins on end-user usability because end-users can click together (simple and limited) analyses on really big datasets. This has far-reaching consequences for the learning curve.

For R there exist attempts at GUI's (like e.g. R-commander) that offer point-and-click functionality but they're more sketchy.

I think that giving non-programmers access to R will result in a flood of help requests because they really do need some notion of programming to use the R language. With SAS that's more in the background because the GUI tool is relatively well done, and use of the butt-ugly, antiquated and clumsy mainframe-style SAS language can usually be avoided.

In addition I don't know of any (reliable and working) alternative to the SAS Enterprise Guide. which lets you click together elementary data-procesing steps in a network that shows the structure and the results of your work.

I think that statisticians, real analysts and data-scientists will soon feel constrained by SAS and will prefer to use SAS to prepare a dataset for analysis, and then carry out any actual analysis in R.

Last but not least, R is still an in-memory analysis program, which practically limits analyses to what you can be fit in core. There are packages that try to extend R in this direction, but I consider them to be poor quality and cumbersome.

Python on the other hand is aimed squarely at programmers, and nobody else.

Comment: A win for medieval mentality (Score 1) 1315

by golodh (#47362381) Attached to: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

The separation between church and state marked the end of the Middle Ages and the onset of the Renaissance.

Only in the US can its reversal be touted as a "win for freedom".

Last time I checked abortions were recognised medical procedures, so who the hick are those company owners to object to them? What's next? Refusal to pay for vaccinations? Treatment of aids? Psychiatric treatment?

And what if the owners are Muslims? Do they get to pick and choose what kind of treatment they "object to" as well? And followers of Wicca? And Satanists? And how about Scientologists (who are a recognised religion (for taxation purposes) in the US).

If I understand this judgment correctly, every man jack gets to pick a "religion" and gets to limit medical coverage of their employees on basis of whatever religious dogma they subscribe to.

There's your "freedom" boy. Enjoy it.

Comment: Wind and solar have this in common (Score 2) 441

by golodh (#47352621) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year
They're both very volatile and cannot be counted upon to meet base-load demand.

Therein, as the "Watts Up With That?" commenters point out, lies the problem. You can *only* achieve that kind of ROI if you're connected to a power grid that will pay you fixed rates for your excess power when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, and guarantee availability of power in other circumstances (against base rates).

Power plants have a nasty habit of costing money every second while they're being kept in readiness, let alone when they're on standby or acting as spinning reserves. Money their operators can't recoup by selling power when there is a glut due to solar and wind generators.

As soon as you factor that cost in, the picture for alternative energy sources becomes a lot less rosy.

Not that we shouldn't try to maximise the fraction of wind and solar power, but let's be realistic and factor in the cost of keeping (conventional) power plants on standby instead of treating the power grid as a giant zero-cost battery!

Comment: Detroit likes gradual, planned change (Score 1) 236

by golodh (#47352387) Attached to: Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars
It's their preferred modus operandi, for two reasons:

Planned obsolescence and a huge vested interest in current technology.

By keeping change gradual, Detroit can make consumers pay for every step along the way by selling them model after model that's just different enough to generate sales and yet not different enough to require big investments in new technology (manufacturing or otherwise). In doing so they make sure they can write off any investments in existing technology after they have been recouped. This is known as planned obsolescence.

With revolutionary changes however, Detroit's car makers will have no chance to slip a line of intermediate models and, say, a 10 year transition period, between the current model and the future one. So they leave money on the table. Big money.

And of course they won't do that if they have anything to say in it.

Google on the other hand has no vested interest in existing car technology and is only looking to monetise their current, developing, tech. Of course they want to see it implemented asap, with as little intermediate models as possible.

Given those two positions, can anyone be surprised they didn't hit it off?

Comment: This means that they need electricity Storage (Score 1) 365

by golodh (#47342051) Attached to: Germany's Glut of Electricity Causing Prices To Plummet
The problem is: solar energy is too volatile.

Intense research indicates that the sun doesn't usually shine at night in Germany and that solar cells operate at greatly reduced power levels in the dark. In other news, electricity production varies significantly from one day to the next, due to strange weather conditions such as clouds.

The upshot is that during some hours and on sunny days there is a glut of electric power which drives the spot-market price to zero.

This of course is bad news for companies that operate coal, gas, or oil-fired power plants because such plants are expensive to build and maintain and can't compete during the hours of abundant sunlight leaving insufficient hours during which to make enough to service debts and recoup investments.

Dirty old base-load plants powered by coal can usually continue to compete on price. Expensive modern gas-powered peak-demand plants on the other hand will operate at a loss.

Having caused a volatile energy form to gain prominence, the next thing for the Germans to do is to shift their subsidies from solar cells to storage capacity. They're already doing that, but in the mean time their conventional power plants will bleed red ink.

I'm happy to watch their experiments from afar and eager to learn how they will solve this particular problem, aren't you?

Comment: Re:Easy fix II (Score 1) 67

Tthe point is to incorporate costs that are caused by air pollution (like the pollination issue mentioned in the article), that are only felt by parties other than the ones who buy the product that causes the problem.

Costs that aren't reflected in the price of causing air pollution (caused e.g. by car-driving), but devolve on other parties, are known as "external costs".

External costs can however be included in the price of the product (in this case driving an internal combustion vehicle) by means of a tax, and that is often the only way for external costs.

The market that determines the demand for fuel combustion can do its work only if the "true" cost of driving is felt by the ones who actually buy that particular product, instead of other parties further down the line.

Comment: Press statement and hand-delivered letter (Score 1) 461

by golodh (#47331059) Attached to: Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly
You're quite right.

It would be better to wait for good solid facts. At the very least I'd expect a press-conference by Mr. Putin himself stating that it is his policy to keep Europe from lessening their energy dependence on Russia by sponsoring anti-fracking groups.

To be quite sure we'd best wait for a signed, hand-delivered letter from Russia's government confirming the statements of the press-conference in writing.

Don't get me wrong, until a few months ago I was prepared to believe that Russia was simply out for revenue in jacking up the gas price (and why not: it's their damn gas and they're selling to the Ukraina at below market price). What changed my mind was the way they acted in the Crimea and the Ukrainian border provinces. Apparently they wish for a sphere of influence (read hegemony) around their borders in which the rights and interests of the surrounding states and their peoples is a secondary consideration.

They may have stopped short of outright invasion, but they do seem to use classical special-forces handiwork (like setting up and aiding groups that advocate secession, undercover operations by special forces) to great effect. After all ... they really really want their navy base at Sevastopol back. Well, we've seen worse. Really. Even old Gorbachev spoke out to the effect that merging the Crimea with the Ukraina was a mistake (from Russia's point of view).

Again, I don't blame them and I'm certainly not trying to demonize them, but if that's what they want, that's what they want. I'm simply saying we should take note, give due consideration to what their apparent goals are, and adjust our views and policies accordingly.

Comment: Sensible choice on part of the Germans (Score 4, Insightful) 461

by golodh (#47317765) Attached to: Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly
As always there are other considerations apart from purely economical ones. In Germany they are given weight while in the US their weight is often set at zero until there is a crisis.

There's a big difference between the US and Germany: the US has an awful lot of territory, so it can afford to waste and pollute large tracts of it (which it still does on a regular basis), yet have sufficient clean land for other purposes. Germany is a lot smaller and more densely populated, and it has to exercise a lot more caution with its environment than the US

Besides which, Europe as a whole seems to import 33% of its oil and 48% of its gas from Russia. Now consider that Russia seems to be sponsoring environmental groups in Europe that oppose fracking. Why would that be, you think?

Given Russia's showdown with the Ukraina (annexing the Crimea and turning the screws on by jacking up the price of natural gas) and Putin's determination to err ... restore Russia's political clout and former "glory", wouldn't you do your level best to try and worm your way out of energy dependence on Russia? The Germans seem to be doing exactly that.

In other news ... China is busily overtaking the US as largest economy, and it has no oil, no gas, but loads of coal. It's also the world's manufacturing hub. And then there's India growing steadily. Population growth in Asia is still massive (in absolute terms) and its prosperity is steadily rising. With that inevitably comes an increased energy footprint.

I believe than in the coming 10-20 years energy prices will be determined by what happens in Asia, not in the US or Europe. And the only way I see oil prices go in that period is up. Way up. Solar seems to be a pretty solid investment from that point of view.

So on balance I'd say that Germany's investment in solar energy is not a stupid move and should probably continue.

Comment: GOP voters Valuing Privacy? (Score 1) 422

by golodh (#47235395) Attached to: GOP Voters To Be Targeted By Data Scientists

Your average GOP voter greatly values his privacy where the Government is involved. We all know that.

When it comes to private corporations however, your average GOP voter doesn't seem to worry overmuch. Even better, he/she tends to hold little sympathy towards attempts to restrict corporations in any way whatsoever.

As such, he/she takes a positively hostile position versus people who propose to regulate what data corporations can collect on you (and what they can do with it). Because that smacks of "expanding government". The number one red-flag issue for them.

So err does that mean that GOP voters will refrain from protesting as long as it's only honest for-profit corporations doing the data-mining? If only because for-profit corporations will be just as happy to profile/target the other side? Thereby evening the playing field as it were.

Of course GOP voters won't like the idea of being profiled with the express purpose of countering the political position they wish to see adopted any more than anybody else.

The rub is: what do they propose to do about it? Somehow I feel that they won't necessarily endorse additional legislation to that effect. Let alone government enforcement of the same. And by banning such practices, they would deprive themselves of the opportunity to use the same techniques.

What I think will happen is that GOP voters will ask themselves: will we benefit more from this technique than the opposition? If so, they'll oppose it only insofar and for as long as they feel they are currently lagging the opposition, and endorse it in every other respect.

Comment: Re:Conspiracy-theory rubbish ... (Score 1) 337

by golodh (#47219983) Attached to: Cisco Opposes Net Neutrality
You have a point, although I certainly wouldn't know about "every" reply.

What I do know is that I got exasperated at yet another stupid conspiracy-theory post when an obvious answer is so close to hand, especially when it's rated above '1'.

Without a shred of or thought, Oracle and Cisco are lumped together. Throw in the mention of Satan separating them at birth and I lost my patience.

So for that reason I used the header "Conspiracy-theory rubbish ...". I stand by this particular choice of words. I think they are appropriate to the context and the parent post, and will use them again.

You're probably right I should have omitted the sneer about the author of the parent post being arithmetically challenged. I'll think more carefully before including such designations in future.

Comment: Conspiracy-theory rubbish ... (Score 4, Insightful) 337

by golodh (#47210583) Attached to: Cisco Opposes Net Neutrality

Before you lose yourself in flights of fancy, consider this. Cisco sells network gear, i.e. the stuff you need to implement multiple tiers of traffic. Only the more advanced, expensive, and high-margin gear will do that of course. Think: deep-packet inspection.

And you were actually wondering why Cisco is in favour of an Internet that needs advanced kit and against an Internet that doesn't need special gear to implement multiple tiers?

A bit slow at arithmetic, are you?.

You don't have to know how the computer works, just how to work the computer.