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Comment Re:Comparison? (Score 4, Insightful) 254

So is medical science not "real science" because we've had quite a few stories over the last few years that a ton of results from medical research and drug trials can't be reproduced.

A large percentage of medical studies are funded by manufacturers, and it's fairly well understood that most of those don't get published unless they produce the "right" results. And those that are published are often really "preliminary", based on too little data to be considered reliable. But if a test on 10 or 20 patients gives the "right" results, there is a lot of marketing pressure to get the paper published right away.

This easily explains the growing problem of medical products that are found to be worthless (or even harmful) to the patients, after years of heavy marketing has produced large profits.

There's also the age-old problem that studies with "negative" results usually don't get published at all. As usual, there's a good xkdc comic that explains the methodology in a way that even the minimally numerate reader can understand.

Comment Re:it was the McCarthy era (Score 1) 282

Or maybe we could take a more general look, and observe that pretty much all fiction is intended to induce emotional responses in the readers. We have a number of words for fiction that doesn't do that: boring, weak, forgettable, etc., none of them words of praise.

Can you think of any work of fiction that you've liked, that doesn't clearly be aimed at instilling emotions, attitudes, and other such reaction in the readers? Offhand, I can't think of any. (But I suppose I could have missed a few important works of literature. ;-)

And can you think of any important work of fiction that doesn't cast at least a few ruling-class characters in a bad light? There's gotta be a few of them out there ...

Comment How about some common ones ... (Score 2) 95

I've read a number of comments about all the movies that let you know you're in Paris by the fact that you can see the Eiffel Tower through a window. After a while, some viewers start to realize that in the movie's world, the Eiffel Tower is visible from every window in Paris. So is there really a regulation in Paris saying that windows are illegal on the other sides of buildings?

Other readers can probably list a number of other such landmarks that they've spotted. The Golden Gate Bridge is another, so SF apparently has a similar construction regulation.

Comment Re:In other news (Score 1) 134

In other news, you can still buy buggy whips, dial-style telephones, and vinyl records, too.

Nostalgia and straight-up Luddite-like behavior are enough to keep almost anything going at some level -- no matter how low its actual utility as compared to more recent replacement tech may be.

It does generally make more sense to view new technology as adding to existing technology, rather than replacing it. After all, the invention of books didn't replace talking, and the invention of the telephone didn't make person-to-person speech obsolete.

One of the things I liked to point out back in the 1990s, when we still had tech bookstores, was that when you walked into one, the first bookcase you'd see had all the current best sellers, and if you opened them to the first pages, you'd inevitably find a URL where you could download them, usually for free. Many people would be puzzled by this. If you can download the book and display it on your screen, why would you pay so much money for a book. But the real techies generally weren't puzzled; they understood why they (or their employer ;-) would pay money for the hard copy.

Of course, amazon has now killed off most of those bookstores. But the hard-copy books are still being produced and bought, and it's still no mystery to those of us who use them. (And we do usually also have the electronic versions in our computers; don't tell anyone ... ;-)

I also periodically run across comments that music on vinyl records is still produced and selling fairly well. This also makes sense if you give up the idea that new technology replaces the old, and ask yourself what the tradeoffs might be between the various ways of doing things.

Another fun example: I've read a few analyses of the apparent fact that the population of "working" horses has been slowly growing for some decades now. Try to figure out why this might be, before you google it. As with paper books and vinyl records, it turns out there are situations where horses are cheaper or faster or better in some other important way than the available mechanical replacements. True, it's a small "market", and they'll never regain the niche taken over by tractors, but people are figuring out that they're actually a good "solution" in a number of situations.

(I've also had fun pointing out that the web has widely adopted the concept of a "scroll" text format, which used to be the epitome of totally obsolete technology. ;-)

Comment Re:Comparable (Score 0) 316

Seriously, we need someone like Hillary in office. She is the only person running that is vicious enough to get something done after the soft but firm Obama.

I'd want a snake on my side over a hedgehog.

Hey, c'mon; hedgehogs are incredibly cute. (Pay no attention to those sharp spines hidden out in their cute furry exterior. ;-)

And, like many cute critters, they're actually also vicious killers of smaller animals:w.

Actually, it's not obvious just how all this carries metaphorically over to US politics ...

Comment Re:Will Ad Blockers Kill the Digital Media Industr (Score 1) 519

You're probably right. Amazon has gotten big enough that they can probably afford to take losses in a lot of "small" markets to bankrupt most of the smaller competitors. It is sorts funny to think that what the local hardware stores sell can be called a "small" market. But I suppose even in what looks like a large market, it might not be all that difficult for a company like amazon to kill off all the smaller competitors in a list of small areas, after which a few judicious buyouts and mergers completes the job.

It is interesting to see this starting to happen to Home Depot, which only a few years ago was the giant moving in and bankrupting all the locally-owned hardware stores.

Comment Re:There are Ads and then there are Fucking Ads. (Score 1) 519

The "disable advertising" checkbox has never made much sense. If you're reading Slashdot, you ought to be using an adblocker anyway

Yeah; the first time I saw that, my response was "What ads? Does /. have ads?" ;-)

I've always read /. on Firefox, which has ABP and noscript installed, so I've hardly ever seen any of the ads. I was duly complimented by being told that, due to my "positive contributions to Slashdot", I was allowed to disable ads, but I was also a bit curious, because I thought that /. didn't have ads. Guess I was wrong.

Actually, I have a couple of cell phones with lots of browsers installed, mostly for testing how well various web sites I'm responsible for work on little "mobile" gadgets. I've tried reading /. there, but I gave up because there was so little info visible on the screen. I'm tempted to install all the block software there, but that's become a lot of work and difficult to do right, so I just restrict my "reading" to my laptop, where several of my browsers do a pretty good job of blocking the "active" ads.

And the real ad problems do show up on mobiles, where they invariably use most of the bandwidth and keep the cpu busy, wiping out the battery in a few hours and making the gadget hot to the touch. So maybe I should pick one as my "browsing" phone, and figure out how to make all the blocking software work there. But that would be mostly useful when I'm away from home for more than a day, which isn't often. In the meantime, most of the cpu- and bandwidth-eating stuff can be erased by a reboot, which I tend to do daily. on the mobiles.

In any case, we should be making lots of noise about the ads that eat our batteries and bandwidth. That's not innocent harm on the part of the advertisers. They are actively attacking our mobile devices, eating up the GBs that we pay for and batteries that are supposed to hold a charge good enough for a day of use. That's not acceptable; it's an active attack on the victims' mobile computer gadgets. The advertisers have no "right" (legal, natural, or otherwise) to attack us in that manner.

Comment Re:Will Ad Blockers Kill the Digital Media Industr (Score 1) 519

I honestly can't remember the last time I actually went to a store to do research for an online purchase.

Yeah, plus funny story: Just last week, a tool I had broke, so I went online looking for a replacement. I first checked out the local hardware stores' web sites (they all have them), fully planning to drive over and pick one up so I could get to work. I found that, although they all listed of it, and could order one for me, none of them had it in stock. I even called the few remaining locally-owned hardware stores, and got the same reply. None of them could get it in less than a week. So I asked amazon, they had it "in stock" (whatever that means ;-), and said "next-day delivery" for my address. They also had the cheapest price (including tax and postage). So I ordered it from amazon, and got it the next day. The job is (almost) done now.

Occasionally this approach has worked, and I have in fact driven over and bought what I was looking for. 20 minutes is a lot less than one day, after all. But it is getting hard for local stores to have enough space to match a string of huge warehouses.

What's odd about this story is that amazon could deliver in one day, but none of the commercial hardware stores could, though they all have an online order system, including the choice of shipping to the store or to your address. You'd think that the hardware stores would be more expert than amazon on the topic of deliverable hardware. But apparently not. Even the big-box warehouse-like stores like Home Depot gave me estimates of over a week.

Comment Re:Hanged in 8,000 B.C. (Score 1) 99

An explanation I've seen from linguistic sources is that "corn" or "korn" is the general term in the Germanic languages for "the most common grain hereabouts".

The term causes well-known problems for historians, because you can't know what grain it refers to without knowing what the people at that time and place were eating. People are always misinterpreting the term to mean whatever grain is most common in their own diet, and not asking about what the writer of a text might have thought it meant.

Comment Re:What a clusterfuck (Score 2) 676

That's not how classification works. Stamp or no, if the information contained within is considered classified, the format that it exists in is classified. ...

Back in the 1980s (or maybe late 1970s), there was a really fun example of this that appeared in lots of news sources. It seems that the DoD got curious about what could be learned about the US military forces from publicly-available sources. So they gave a grant to a couple of college profs to run a study of the topic. They (or rather, their grad students ;-) dug through lots of local newspapers and other public info sources for mentions of the US military, and after some months, submitted their report to the DoD. Within 24 hours, it was classified (Secret, as I recall).

Everyone who read about this got a good laugh, of course, and we all had fun mocking the idiots in the military security agencies that they would respond like this. But among the jokes, there were occasional mentions of the lesson we all might learn from this: Not being part of the government, not having access to any classified info, etc., isn't protection. We are all told repeatedly that for our democratic government to work, we all should keep up an interest in its activities, pay attention to what's going on, etc. But if we do so, our personal piles of (partly read ;-) newspapers, journals, and assorted articles from other sources could easily fall into the same pitfall that this study did. We could easily be in possession of classified information without knowing. If a security agency finds out, we could be in serious legal trouble.

Various commenters at the time suggested that we should be constantly purging our own piles of data of anything that might be related to our government. It's not enough to just ignore it and not read those stories. If we have them in our possession, we could be found guilty of unauthorized possession of classified information from the aggregation of our information.

Or we could just not have any information of any sort among our personal artifacts. Don't even subscribe to anything that might contain information. (Writers usually suggested a few periodicals that should be information-free, such as People, Sports Illustrated, US News & World Report, etc. Nowadays, they'd probably list CNN and Fox News. ;-)

Unfortunately, I've forgotten the names of those researchers. It might be fun to find the reports and read them again. Google doesn't seem to know about them (or I just didn't guess the right keywords). Does anyone here remember that news story? Do you know how to find it again?

Comment Re:What a clusterfuck (Score 1) 676

Sounds precisely why official govt. correspondence shouldn't be handled on one's own personal email server.

Right; that's exactly why I have my email from the Social Security and Medicare folks sent to my gmail account. I'd rather have it sent to the mail server on my home machine, but we're all seeing why this might be a very bad idea. So gmail it is. ;-)

Comment Re:What a clusterfuck (Score 0) 676

Idiot. The emails were "unmarked." That means not stamped with a classification. More, they reached her on an unclassified network. Clinton had every reason to believe they contained no classified information. Indeed, the claim that they do contain classified information remains unsubstantiated.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that your email and mine could as easily contain "top secret" information. How could we know, if we don't have a security clearance?

It's similar to a problem I've heard several groups of musicians discuss: If we know a tune but don't know who might have composed or published it, how can we discover if it's covered by copyright? As far as we know, the only way would be to purchase a copy of every piece of music ever published, and scan them all before performing the "work". There are some practical problems with doing this in our lifetime ....

There are also some practical problems with asking (all the world's) security bureaus, for every document on our computer, whether there's anything in it that's "classified". But if we don't, we could find ourselves charged with a criminal security offense. Actually, without a security clearance, few security bureaus in any country will even tell us if our text contains security secrets. They'll just arrest us and charge us with a criminal security offense.

Comment Re: Mickey Mouse copyirght extenstions... (Score 1) 183

Walt Disney isn't creating any new art since he died.

So? There are many descendents of people who owned real estate, farms, businesses, hotels and restaurants that are enjoying the fruits of their parents' hard work and investments. How about forcing these descendents to donate their parents' assets to the public domain, just like copyrighted works?

Actually, if you track back the chain of property ownership in most of the world, you'll find that within a few centuries, it ends with a gang that took over and killed or exiled the former owners. They then set up their own list of owners of properties, passed laws protecting those owners and their descendants, and set up a government to enforce those laws. In the US's eastern coast strip, this last happened around 1780, and in various later decades for the rest of the country. Most of the exceptions are the areas where all the records have gone missing and we don't know what happened to establish current ownership. (In a few cases, major epidemics eradicated the former owners, leaving the property available to whoever could claim it by force.)

Since that's really how humans deal with such things in the long run, we can expect it to continue happening in most of the world. The only effective way of avoiding it is to die before the next time it happens where you live.

Now back to pretending that it's all real and permanent ... ;-)

Comment Re:Can email service providers do more? (Score 1) 58

Regarding your number 2... Frequently get tampered with in transit? Really? I have, literally, never seen this....

You're lucky there. I see such tampering several times per day, and fixing the problem often takes a lot of time (and soto-voce swearing ;-).

The reason is that I deal with a lot of data that's "plain text", but is computer data of some sort, not a natural language like English (which is sorts stretching the meaning of "natural", but you know what I mean). Or it's in a human language, but not English, and the character encoding uses some 2-byte or longer characters.

The simplest example is computer source code. The tampering is often caused by the "punch-card mentality" coded into a lot of email software, which often doesn't allow lines longer than 80 (or 72) characters, and inserts line feeds to make everything fit. Many programming languages consider line feeds to mean something different than a space, usually "end of statement". Inserting a line feed in the middle of a statement thus changes the meaning, and very often introduces a syntax error.

Even nastier is the munging a lot of other plain-text data representation that mixes letters and numbers. Inserting spaces or a line feed in the middle of a token like "G2EF" usually destroys the meaning in a way that can't be corrected automatically at the receiving end. Usually the way to handle such tampering is to reply to the sender, saying "Can you send me that in quoted-printable or base-64 form?" And you try to teach everyone in the group that such data should always be encoded in a form that's immune to the idiocies of "smart" email handlers.

Text in UTF-8 form, especially Chinese and Japanese text, is especially prone to this sort of tampering, which often leaves the text garbled beyond recovery.

Anyway, there are lots of excuses for such tampering with email in ways that destroy the content. It's not always for nefarious reasons; it's just because the programmers only tested their email-handling code on English-language text. And because they're idiots who think that lines of text should never be longer than 80 (or 72) characters.

A commune is where people join together to share their lack of wealth. -- R. Stallman