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Comment: Re:ancient news (Score 1) 87

by jc42 (#48161417) Attached to: Early Childhood Neglect Associated With Altered Brain Structure, ADHD

Decades ago there was an experiment with monkeys deprived of maternal support to varying degrees. Some not allowed to touch or see the mother. Autopsies showed that the deprived monkeys had massive (and obvious to any observer) brain deficiencies. These monkeys were never able to adjust to social settings with others of their kind. Their behavior was obviously abnormal. My impression was that every moment of their life was stressful for them. Sorry I can't recall the source of the video I saw.

This result would be the same for dogs, cats and humans. I can't comprehend why it would be news in the year 2014.

Hmmm ... You seem to have missed the even more "interesting" followup studies. I was a grad student working with some of those reasearchers, so I heard a bit about it. They took their adult solo-raised monkeys, who were highly asocial, and caged them for a while with infant monkeys. After a few months, they took those individuals and put them in the "social" cages with established groups of their own species -- and they behaved like normal, socialized monkeys.

So maybe we could try this with our "deprived" human children. Put them into a social setting (perhaps schools) with younger children, and watch their interactions. They aren't monkeys, of course, but we are all close relatives, so maybe it would work with them, and they'd become at least somewhat better-socialized humans after a while.

Or maybe humans are hopeless. We don't really know until we do such experiments on ourselves. But we do seem to have a population of good test subjects, and the results couldn't be much worse than what we've been doing. Imprisoning such young adults in response to minor mischief would seem to be exactly the wrong thing to do, if those monkey experiments apply to our species, too.

Comment: Re:No Carriers (Score 4, Insightful) 149

by jc42 (#48143443) Attached to: ISPs Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption

They block encryption they are violating the telecommunication laws. And so they are not a carrier anymore.

If you mean "common carrier" then the truth is that they never where one.

Maybe we should be looking at the origins of the "common carrier" concept, and learn how they apply to the current situation. A number of historians have written on this topic, and the history definitely applies to our modern network.

Part of the explanation of how "common carrier" arose is in the well-known phrase "kill the messenger". Centuries ago, this was a very real problem. It wasn't unusual for a prince (or other powerful personage) to respond to the receipt of a message he didn't like by punishing the poor fellow who delivered it. The carrier services replied to this in about the only way they could: They opened and read the messages, and if they thought the recipient would react by harming their carrier, they would "edit" the message. And when dealing with a recipient who had a bad history, they'd often sell the message's content to the enemies of the sender or receiver.

Eventually the smarter princes figured out that a reliable message service was worth more than the temporary enjoyment they got from torturing or killing the messenger. So some of them got together with the message services, and worked out an agreement: If a sender and receiver had both signed on with a message company, they could send "sealed" messages, which the message carriers would promise to deliver unopened. But this would only apply if the sender and receiver had both promised not to damage the carriers employees or equipment, etc., etc.

This worked out to the advantage of the princes who joined in such agreements, so the practice spread, and became known (in English) by the phrase "common carrier".

It's easy to see how this all might apply to our current topic. The ISPs are "carriers", but not "common carriers". They have a record of opening and reading our communications, and selling the contents to "enemies" like marketers and government agencies. We're now engaged in collecting evidence about this behavior, and publishing it openly. We should make it clear that, as long as the ISPs continue acting in such perfidious ways, we will continue to work to expose their behavior to the general public, including people they views as their enemies (or "competitors";-).

The parallels to the original situation aren't exact, but we might benefit by knowing the history and trying to find a similar solution that can work today.

Comment: Re:What about the environment? (Score 1) 367

by jc42 (#48132717) Attached to: PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

Yeah exactly! I feel PETA is saying, blah blah blah - use petrol and kill off the animals.

Wait - the "slow food" movement would say "go local."

I'm so confused. Is global warming coming or not?!

Nah; it's not coming at all. It's here. And we're not gonna do a thing about it, so we'll just have to adapt. And migrate inland as our coastal areas slowly flood out.

Here in New England, one of the running jokes for the past decade or so has been for one person to ask what time the robins arrived this year, and another person says "They didn't return; they never left."

Actually, it is a bit more complicated than that. They're one of the many semi-migratory birds now. Part of the population heads south when it gets too cold. But we've seen robins in our yard (in a western suburb of Boston) every month of the year for about 10 years now, while before that, they were almost never seen in December, January or February. This was never exact, though, since their normal winter range did extend to around New York (and southern Nova Scotia ;-), and they were reported around Boston occasionally during warm winters. If you look in older bird books, you can see the robins' winter range ending somewhere south of us, depending on the book, while the current books show it extending to around the New Hampshire border.

But still, they're a locally obvious sign that the climate has shifted north by a hundred miles or so. And a casual search of the topic will make it clear that the US government and most of the population have no intention of doing anything serious to change the trend. The scientists have clearly pinned the blame on human activity, and the engineers point out that this means we now know how to control the climate if we want to. But we (collectively) don't want to.

(Then there's the local joke about all the folks in New Hampshire and Maine who think global warming sounds like a fine idea. Myself, I intend to plant a palm tree in our yard as soon as they become available in the nurseries, which may happen soon. ;-)

Comment: Re:Let's get our priorities straight here! (Score 1) 367

by jc42 (#48132409) Attached to: PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

Heh. The example I like to use is to point out that killing one cow (or steer) means around 100 meals for a human, while eating a single slice of bread means you're responsible for the death of around 100 baby wheat plants (and probably a thousand living, breathing yeasts). Or: When you eat a hamburger, the meat part is entails less than .01 deaths, while the bread part caused the death of 100 to 1000 living creatures. So it's the vegetarians that are doing the real mass killing of prey.

Of course, this is a bit disingenuous, since the animal was probably fed on grains. But you can confuse this issue a bit by pointing out that cattle actually evolved as grazers mostly on the vegetative parts of their grassy "prey", not the seeds, and the plants can quickly regrow their leaves. Our feedlots are responsible for lots of deaths of little baby grains, true, but naturally-raised beef wouldn't do this. They do ingest at least a few of the seeds, so the issue isn't quite so clear, but it's basically accurate.

For some reason, people with ethical concerns about eating animals never seem to consider that plants are also living creatures. They seem to think that killing a single animal is something horrible, while there's nothing wrong with mass murder of baby grain plants. But you can confuse them a bit by talking about the plants as living creatures. Produce the image of an animal thousands of times our size, collecting our babies and tossing them alive into large hoppers, to be ground to a paste for the next meal. That's what we do to wheat plants. Hiding it in a grain mill doesn't change the fact.

Unfortunately, we're animals, and we can't get our food from the sun, air and dirt. To live, we must kill other living things and eat them. There are marginal cases, such as fruits that were evolved as animal food (to trick animals into transporting the seeds). But we humans can't live on fruit alone; we do have to kill other species for most of our food. This slightly complicates the moral and ethical issues.

Comment: Re:Hoax (Score 1) 973

Yeah, and they both stole geometry from Euclides, and numbers from India. Also, General Relativity, thousands of times more important (and difficult) that E=mc2, didn't happen. It was all a dream.

And they all stood on Newton's shoulders.

No, wait; Newton came after Euclides. So Newton must have stood on his shoulders.

The human pyramid is getting rather tall, and a bit top-heavy.

Comment: Re:Hoax (Score 1) 973

Also, General Relativity, thousands of times more important (and difficult) that E=mc2, didn't happen. It was all a dream.

Just to be sure, isn't E=mc2 is a special relativity postulate?

Is it really? I've always read of it being a conclusion, not a postulate. Maybe I should finally go dig up the original papers and see who's been getting it wrong all along.

(Not that doing so would likely effect much in the ongoing flame wars, uh, I mean serious scientific discussions about such things. ;-)

Comment: Re:Balance of power (Score 3, Informative) 112

by jc42 (#48108095) Attached to: National Security Letter Issuance Likely Headed To Supreme Court

Sometimes it takes years/decades for power abuse to get curtailed (here's hoping...), but it seems this checks and balance thing can eventually grind through major issues like this. Not great, not perfect, glacially slow but it seems to be working...

So how would we know? Since it's all going on in secret, with severe punishments for anyone who speaks openly and truthfully about what they've been ordered to do, the only assumption that the proverbial "reasonable man" (or woman? ;-) would make is that we have no idea what they're planning to do to us next. This story could all be just "theater" to lead us to think that things are improving.

As long as the question "How would we know" is illegal for the participants to answer, we should simply assume the worst. We have a lot of history telling us what powerful leaders are likely to be doing to their own population when they enforce secrecy about their actions.

Comment: and they do it backwards ... (Score 1) 249

by jc42 (#48083623) Attached to: Why Do Contextual Ads Fail?

One of my common experiences is that when I buy something online, for weeks after I get lots of ads for the thing that I just bought. In most cases, my reaction is "Why are you trying to sell this to me? I just bought one, and I won't be buying another for years."

If the folks writing the ad software can't figure out why (for durable rather than consumable goods) this doesn't make sales, it should be no surprise that all the rest of their software's decisions are equally goofy.

Comment: Re:Pipe Dreams (Score 2) 203

by jc42 (#48082799) Attached to: A Production-Ready Flying Car Is Coming This Month

Folks, we have heard this before, and "flying cars" have been around since the 50's. It's not practical in any sense of the word.

Actually, out in the wide-open rural spaces of the western US and Canada, "flying cars" are rather common and quite practical. Of course, they're usually called small planes, typically 2- or 4-seaters with some cargo space. And you'd usually want a ground car, too, since aircraft can be somewhat impractical on days of high winds, thunderstorms, etc. It's common for small-town shopping strips in that area to have a runway that's parallel to the main street, with stores in between, for the benefit of people using their small planes.

The reason so many people are complaining that most people live in urban areas nowadays, and having all your neighbors getting into the air during morning or evening rush hours is clearly impractical in the extreme.

I wonder where else in the world this is common. I've read similar comments from Australia, but I don't recall any info about other parts of the world. I'd think that such small planes could be practical in many other rural farming areas.

Comment: Re:Give it a few weeks (Score 1) 942

by jc42 (#48036965) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Dealing only in KPH is sufficiently hard for someone like myself raised with MPH that even if i switch my GPS / speedometer to KPH, I still have to do the mental conversion back into MPH to get a feeling for "how fast is that".

A couple of weeks of driving in a KPH based country and you'd get over it. It just takes a little experience is all.

So what's with all these people estimating weeks to learn such things? I remember years back, when I took my first trip to the UK, and people talked about the weeks it'd take to learn to drive on the left side of the road. I found that, by the time I'd got a few blocks from the airport, maybe 5 minutes, I'd already stopped consciously thinking about it, and just drove like the others around me. Similarly with the speedometer the rest of the world; all it took was matching the numbers on the highways signs to the numbers on the dial, which worked right from the start, and felt natural after a few minutes.

The only real difficulty I've found with such things is learning the words in a different language. I've found that that can actually take a few weeks, though the vocabulary on traffic signs is generally so limited that it's not all that difficult a task. But I haven't seriously tried learning the terminology on signs in China or Japan yet. That might be a bit more of a challenge than, say, Finnish or Russian road signs. ;-)

Comment: Re:And many, many more (Score 1) 942

by jc42 (#48036639) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

But in my country, we order beer as a half-pint or a pint, and everyone knows what they're getting.

So which country do you live in, where this is true? Here in the US, and across the Pond in the UK, the stated size of a beer glass is usually the capacity to the brim, but the amount in the glass is less than that. Off and on, there has been a bit of a fuss over this shorting in both countries, and there have even been laws passed outlawing the practice, to little avail. If you're living in a country where beer is measured in ounces or pints, you're almost certainly getting short measure in any bar or restaurant. It's only likely to be accurate if they're using the sort of glass with a visible "fill line", and those are not common.

So where do you live, that you get the advertised measure in glasses of beer (or other drinkables)? Curious readers want to know ...

(We might note that it is obviously silly to require that drinking glasses be full to the brim. That would mean slippery floors from the spilling as the glasses are carried to the table. But that doesn't justify lying about the amount that you're delivering to the customer. It just means that glasses should be made slightly oversized, preferably with a fill line near the top. ;-)

Comment: Re:FP? (Score 1) 942

by jc42 (#48036271) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Also lumber. Everyone knows a 2 by 4, but say that in metric. That'll probably be easy to fix though.

Yeah, maybe, but we also know that this is an obvious case where vendors are legally permitted to defraud the customers by giving short measure. ;-) A 2x4 is nowhere near 2 or 4 inches in actual size. In general, the US measures used with lumber are wrong and useless when trying to build something with any precision. It'd be a lot more useful to switch over to the actual measure of thickness. Giving it in mm would be a good idea, so the buyer doesn't have to bring along a tape measure to make sure he's getting the size he needs.

And yes, I do routinely cut wood to within an accuracy of 1 mm. Calling a piece a "2 by 4" is OK for informal purposes, I suppose, but in addition, the store should be required to display the actual measurements in mm. If I think it's going to need some serious sanding, I can take that into account myself.

Comment: Re:Calls from Credit Cards on "Suspicious Activity (Score 1) 78

by jc42 (#48030047) Attached to: Medical Records Worth More To Hackers Than Credit Cards

Because under US law, credit card companies are liable for the cost of credit card fraud above a nominal amount, they have strong incentives to continuously search for and attempt to block fraudulent transactions. I don't think there is any comparable legal driver that forces health providers to bear the financial cost of similar fraud from patient info loss, nor are they necessarily "in-line" to see the exploitation of information stolen from them. ...

Perhaps the significant difference here is that, with credit cards, the main usage is bogus charges that have an immediate monetary value. With the medical information, there's no specific dollar amount that's been "stolen"; the value is in who's willing to buy the information. This doesn't result in any specific charge against the medical corporation or the patient, so the financial system considers its value to be zero.

This is also what might make it difficult to fight. You can't just say that the medical corporation is responsible for an charges over $50, because there are no such charges in the patient's name. The only effective way of fighting the problem will involve the (mis)use of the medical data.

I've seen this comment from some Scandinavian sources, to explain an interesting curiosity: In recent decades, a lot of medical "advances" have come from Scandinavia, and what they've mostly had in common is that they started with study of accumulated medical records, what the statistics folks (including my wife ;-) call "data dredging". This has turned up all sorts of interesting correlations. Now, we can cue the "Correlation is not causation" mantra here, but in fact such correlations are often pointers to useful research, as people try to explain them.

The interesting part of this is the explanation of why this data dredging happens so much in Scandinavia. The explanation seems to be that the governments there didn't try to make the medical records very secret. Rather, they imposed serious financial repercussions to "misuse" of the data. Thus, here in the US, expensive medical problems (e.g., a positive HIV test) typically result in loss of job and permanent unemployment. In Scandinavia, firing an employee because of expensive medical problems can result in serious fines against the employer. So employers have an incentive to find good medical help for employees instead of firing them. (The fact that medical services aren't charged to employers also helps.)

I haven't seen much discussion of this outside of Scandinavian sources, though, and there might be a lot more going on. But there is definitely a problem in the US, where medical data is a valuable commodity that can be used for all sorts of anti-social (and anti-individual) purposes for profit. But the medical industry doesn't suffer when this happens, so they have little incentive to "waste" resources preventing it.

Comment: Re:How much is that doggy in the window? (song lin (Score 1) 153

by jc42 (#48026815) Attached to: LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

How do you propose it gets around blackouts? If it did you would have the entire epicenter relying on fringe cell phones for service. It's like having an entire town piggy backing on a handful connections. Those who are in range will have their batteries toasted before you could say YouTube.

Well, one thing that might help is a "social responsibility" campaign. Publicise the fact that this is an inherent problem, and the solution is for as many people as possible should be prepared with extra batteries; portable battery packs, etc. Explain to people that the system will only work if enough people have the extra power in their pockets to keep the messaging system alive. And that, in an emergency situation, they might avoid using sites like youtube. ;-)

Granted, some people will enjoy leeching off the rest of us. But it's possible that, by calmly explaining the situation to people, most of us will do what it takes to keep the system up and running.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken