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Comment: Re:The article looks fishy (Score 1) 154

by jcaplan (#45321507) Attached to: RAF Pilots Blinded At 1000 Mph By Helmet Technical Glitch
The difference is in the type of defect. Information overload can be the result of a *design* defect, where the design specification doesn't adequately take into account how much data a trained pilot can absorb. (Alternately, it could be the result of inadequate pilot training.) A buggy display system is an *implementation* defect, where the display doesn't show what was intended by the programmers, such as the display showing a random bit pattern rather than fight data.

Comment: The article looks fishy (Score 4, Informative) 154

by jcaplan (#45320515) Attached to: RAF Pilots Blinded At 1000 Mph By Helmet Technical Glitch
So after reading the article, it was quite hard to tell whether the problem was information overload or a buggy display system. The relevant quote is:

âoeBut for now, thereâ(TM)s only so much data you can put in front of the pilotâ(TM)s eyes before it all merges, especially at night. He or she has got to take in information about their speed, altitude, dive and climb angles, and manage their fuel levels and weapons systems. Add images of the surrounding airspace and it all becomes too much. Essentially, the pilots were being blinded.â

The reporter seems to take the phrase "green glow" literally, rather than figuratively. The blinding referred to in the quote is information overload. The 1,000 mph figure seems merely illustrative, rather than a point at which the helmets suddenly malfunctioned. Information overload is a serious problem for pilots and must be considered in aircraft design, but this appears to be a case of poor design rather than the display failing in mid flight. Perhaps someone out there has better information.

Comment: Re:Genetic Roullette (Score 2) 358

by jcaplan (#44406263) Attached to: GMO Oranges? Altering a Fruit's DNA To Save It
The effect of a genetic modification depends on what was changed. Some genetic modifications have given clear and reasonable cause for concern. In the case of Monsanto's "Round-Up Ready" seeds, greater use of pesticides (Monsanto's "Round-Up") on crops is possible. Pesticide exposure is a serious risk for farm workers as well as the environment and a point of reasonable concern for consumers, though low-dose toxicology is tricky business. Another problematic modification is the addition of BT toxin genes to crops. Although, BT is approved for use in organic produce, the chronic low dose of BT toxin is a problem because it allows pests to evolve to become resistant to this useful compound more easily than would occur with occasional external application of higher doses. BT toxin resistance has already developed in India in response to crops incorporating the BT gene. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillus_thuringiensis It would be reasonable to expect more widespread resistance to occur with continued use of crops with BT genes.

The use of the spinach gene to give bacterial resistance to orange trees mentioned in the aricle does not have these issues. The article notes that this bacterial resistance gene is widespread, existing in variants in many plants and animals. Also, having orange trees with this gene would allow for reduced use of pesticides, which the article notes have tripled in response to the encroachment of the insect which carries the bacterium responsible for the destruction of the orange trees.

I would argue not for a ban on genetically modified organisms, but for careful scientific review on a case-by-case basis whether a modification carries a net benefit, not just on whether a particular crop is safe to consume. A serious problem with previous approvals is that they ignored effects like evolution of resistant organisms and incentives to use more pesticides.

Comment: Re:OMG, John is that you? (Score 5, Insightful) 331

by jcaplan (#43961049) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do You Prove an IT Manager Is Incompetent?
Everyone already knows it, but they need an outside consultant to say it. That's why you were brought in. Senior management is not ignoring the problems at all. They know that costs are out of line and that there is dissatisfaction. Your job is to carefully document what everyone knows to be true, so they can get rid of the under-performing IT manager. Talk to everyone, compare to industry standards and write it all up in your report.

Comment: Re:More than 20, but I don't code. (Score 1) 190

by jcaplan (#43945981) Attached to: My credits by name in (released) software:
I think people should get credited for their work. It's not just about being paid - it's about software being created by people, not just companies. I credited myself for an app I wrote. Other stuff I write is simulation code for neuroscience research, so I get credit on resulting papers, but the software is project-specific and isn't released except when people ask for source.

<shameless plug>
It's a simple, clean weather app. (US only). Has NOAA feed for week's forecast + wind speed and direction. It's on the Amazon AppStoreand Google Play. ($1)
</shameless plug>

Comment: Re:Pedaling (Score 1) 187

by jcaplan (#43905437) Attached to: My plans for summer ...
You clearly didn't look at my map that I linked to. I'm also going through Northampton Mass, the "lesbian capitol of the US." In fact, according to the Advocate, I'm travelling through or just by a number of other gay meccas, including Salt Lake City (#1, who knew?), Cambridge, MA (#3), Grand Rapids Michigan (#10) and Denver, CO (#15). I'll be just missing Ann Arbor Michigan (#6) and a longer detour would get me to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis & St Paul, #7). Why only travel abroad when there is such awesome diversity of people and places in my own country?

Comment: Re:What if the person is innocent? (Score 2) 643

by jcaplan (#43898081) Attached to: SCOTUS Says DNA Collection Permissible After Arrest
The DNA collected is not used to get an entire genome sequence. The court's reasoning is summarized here:
http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/12-207

"(2) The processing of respondent's DNA sample's CODIS loci also did not intrude on his privacy in a way that would make his DNA identification unconstitutional. Those loci came from noncoding DNA parts that do not reveal an arrestee's genetic traits and are unlikely to reveal any private medical information. Even if they could provide such information, they are not in fact tested for that end. Finally, the Act provides statutory protections to guard against such invasions of privacy. Pp. 26-28."

Comment: Pedaling (Score 4, Interesting) 187

by jcaplan (#43843383) Attached to: My plans for summer ...

Pedaling across the US - east to west. I've been planning to do it since high school. Finishing grad school seems to be the perfect time.

Starting: Provincetown, MA. Ending: San Francisco.
  Approximate route: https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Province+Lands+Rd&daddr=42.3496063,-71.0758567+to:43.2323393,-86.2590757+to:40.0115442,-105.2775582+to:38.2089812,-122.1499352+to:Lincoln+Way&hl=en&ll=38.548165,-85.605469&spn=35.448818,53.569336&sll=42.346365,-71.07605&sspn=1.977165,4.22699&geocode=FRRwgQIdnuHQ-w%3BFSY0hgId8HfD-ykzi83tDHrjiTHLREkIFo1TAw%3BFVOskwIdfcrb-im_C56q1dcbiDEFG_kDTpKEyg%3BFRiHYgIdipe5-SmJTX78L-xrhzEx8CFuKjriCw%3BFdUFRwId0SO4-Ckt6RIZRhKFgDHoJI0yGuN3vg%3BFec7QAIdnKSy-A&t=h&dirflg=b&mra=mrv&via=1,2,3,4&lci=bike&z=5/

Departure: Early July
Arrival: End of August.
Mileage: ~60/day (97 km / day)
Style: Mostly camping. Some friends and hostels along route.

Anyone, including you, is welcome to join me for a stretch. jon caplan a_t ] g-mail dot kom
Also welcome are your tales of similar trips as well as advice. (I've done some one week tours before.)

Comment: Utter nonsense (Score 2) 393

by jcaplan (#43735757) Attached to: Why We Should Build a Supercomputer Replica of the Human Brain
Please don't waste your time with this nonsense.

1. It is not possible to simulate a system when you don't know the rules of the system. We don't know how neurons work. Sure, we know much about neurons and we can set up small networks that seem to give interesting results, but there is a vast amount about real neurons that is unknown. We don't even know what all the types of ion channels are, let alone the varied states of modulation (phosphorylation of proteins and binding of various neuromodulators). We know little about how the brain learns. We have some knowledge about how a neuron might maintain a mean firing rate over time or how certain connections may vary in fairly artificial stimulus regimes (pairs of spikes with varied timing) in slices of brain tissue (typically hippocampus) in vitro. We have only basic understanding of how the brain is wired up on a microscopic scale (e.g. cortical columns). At this point people are still making fundamental discoveries about how the retina works.

2. Throwing a supercomputer at the problem would be orders of magnitude too weak, even given huge simplifying assumptions, such as using "integrate and fire" neurons.

Anyone attempting to do whole brain simulations at this point is simply wasting their time and a lot of electricity. When they promote the idea they waste other people's time. A perfect example of this is the fool who claimed that he had simulated a cat visual cortex, which though only a presentation at a conference, not a published paper, got attention here on Slashdot. He included one equation and randomly connected his network and then simulated on a large compute cluster. His "chief scientific conclusion" was that he could replicate the propagation speed of data through the layers of the network - a feat that could have been accomplished with paper and pencil in less time.

Comment: Re:Access passwords? (Score 1) 38

by jcaplan (#43364177) Attached to: Scribd Reveals It Was Hacked, Asks Users To Change Their Passwords
If a site encrypts user's email addresses, they also have to store the key in order to decrypt the email addresses. Once the site has been cracked badly enough to retrieve the password hash file, the key needed to decrypt the emails would likely also be vulnerable, so encrypting user email addresses typically adds little security. The nice thing about hashing passwords is that there is no key to store or be discovered.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

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