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Comment Re:Dubious assumptions are dubious (Score 1) 294 294

I'd be curious about the distribution of the lights. Turning off lights in cities isn't going to help astronomers much. And if they're turning them off in places where there are few people walking, such as rural lanes, it might help astronomers without hurting pedestrians. (Criminals would be less likely to gather there, though those pedestrians had better be really aware of cars.)

I could see it working if there were more streetlights than we really needed. If that were the case, it could yield positive results. But it would also be invalid to extrapolate from those to the majority of lights in more densely populated places.

Comment Re:Doubtful (Score 1) 872 872

Indeed. There was an article floating around a few months ago with a hypothetical review of a gasoline-powered car if electric cars dominated. A lot of the downsides of ICEs that we take for granted would be really aggravating if we hadn't grown up with them.

Gasoline Car Test Drive: Noisy, Wasteful, Polluting, Fast But Pricey Refueling

Comment Re:quickly to be followed by self-driving cars (Score 1) 872 872

Even for you, there could be considerable advantages to hiring an automatic car rather than owning one. You offload the maintenance overhead (though that's smaller for an electric car than an internal-combustion engine); that doesn't save money but it does save time. What would save you money is if your car were off servicing four or five other families during the times you didn't need it. Cutting a $30,000 expense by a factor of 4 or 5 would be a huge cost saving to you. Even if the service imposed an overhead of a factor of 2, it's still not an amount of money you'd give up on lightly.

It need not even reduce your flexibility, if you could summon anybody's car on five minutes' notice. It's easy to see how that could happen, if large fleets were deployed strategically, even in the suburbs. (It would work less well as the density dropped, but even in a residential neighborhood, a car can move a fair distance in five minutes. Your house, your work site, your grocery store, etc. are all likely to be five minutes from a lot.)

There are still advantages to just having your own car. Mine is full of my crap, for example. I haven't taken my toolbox out in a while, but I will, and I don't know when. If I were calling for a car every day I wouldn't lug my toolbox around, and thus wouldn't have it. Customization is nice. Not having to worry about peak usage times would be nice (though peak usage will also coincide with peak traffic, which I try to avoid anyway).

Still... I'd consider ditching a car entirely if it saved me that much money. My car hit 200k miles, and while it's a Honda, I'm still gonna need to fork out $20k within the next few years. (I'm cheap, and don't want a luxurious car. I just want it to get me places.) A two-car household would likely make it very compelling to at least split the difference.

Comment What is the prognosis? (Score 1) 59 59

Hands are just incredibly complicated. There are a lot of tendons and ligaments in there, and I imagine that fine motor control comes from a lot of different nerves. How much dexterity can he be expected to get out of this?

I imagine that getting it done young means that he's got years to re-establish connections and train pathways for it. Still... anybody know how good it might get? Will he be able to play the violin?

Comment Re:It's IBM's fault. Everyone copied the PC. (Score 1) 687 687

My Osborne 1 split the capslock key into two regular-sized keys, one for CTRL and the other for capslock. That worked well. (And I really miss Wordstar. Amazing what they could cram into 64k. They had to play silly games, loading and unloading parts of the software from the floppy disk, a really primitive kind of virtual memory.)

Comment Re:Eventuality? (Score 5, Interesting) 550 550

It has the advantage of once having been worth something. People have a fondness for it. It might tempt back some of the old users. Social networks have an advantage in that they're worth more when more people are there, and that history might just barely let them leverage that.

The main value of the site, at least to me, was always its user base. I didn't RTFA because the commenters would often be able to give me a better summary of what was really going on. Especially when TFA was clickbait; I could see why it was clickbait without having to read it myself. Or for sciencey stuff that's out of my domain, Slashdot often had people who could explain it at my level. (That is, more than the average layman, but less than a grad student in that field.)

I'm not gonna get my hopes up, but I'll note that I'm still here, though mostly lurking. There may be others waiting for an improvement to the site's management to contribute more.

Comment Re:Glad somebody is taking columns seriously (Score 1) 67 67

Especially with the large number of small devices in the mix. Increasingly, web sites are targeting tiny screens. Which actually makes the column feature moot; this feature would have come in handy a while ago.

Fortunately, if done properly, it degrades nicely. Small screen, one column. Wide screen, several columns (which has advantages over scrolling, since it's easier for the eye to jump a column than to keep track of a position during a scroll.)

Comment Re:Help me here: where does the "new" C14 come fro (Score 1) 108 108

It comes from cosmic rays, which are roughly constant over time. They're not completely constant, and so we already have to calibrate our C14 tests. (There's a whole bit of weirdness in the way we report dates as the calibration itself has been refined over time, and when you read an old document you need to know exactly how it was calibrated.)

But the variations in intensities happen over centuries, rather than years. And instead of covering the whole world, it's going to be localized by the varying factors of how much CO2 was emitted (as well as nuclear bomb testing, which has been making dating confusing for quite some time).

It may not be all that important, since it applies mainly to new objects, and we don't really need to date them if we actually know how old they are. And very recent objects are always problematic with respect to carbon dating; it's usually precise to decades, rather than years. But archaeologists from a thousand years from now may find this era very confusing.

Comment Re:Cue the global warming b.s. (Score 1) 108 108

It's not gonna help, though. Climate change doesn't wipe out humanity. It may wipe out other, less tenacious species. And it'll kill tens, maybe hundreds of millions of humans, and cost into the trillions of dollars. You might count it as just punishment, but it won't eliminate the problem. (It might teach them a lesson... but I doubt it.)

Comment Glad somebody is taking columns seriously (Score 4, Interesting) 67 67

I find the lack of columns one of the more striking failures of CSS design. They don't appear to have consulted with anybody who actually knew anything about why things get laid on on a page the way they do. Line lengths are one of the more important factors in determining how easy it is to read something; the eye has a hard time tracking back on wide texts. Default layouts try to compensate with wide spacing, which just wastes a lot of space (and looks, at least to me, very unappealing).

I look forward to other browsers implementing this, so that web page designers (especially for responsible web pages) start using it instead of the hacks and design compromises they're currently forced into.

Comment Re:Crash Mitigation (Score 1) 549 549

It's extremely impressive that they can do this without making to many false positives or negatives. Just picking faces out of a scene is already a dicey proposition. Being able to model "human" versus "non-human" when you get only a side or back view is a nifty trick, one we associate with full intelligence and not just heuristics. And you need to get it right the vast majority of the time, since if you get pareidolia'd into thinking that a piece of junk or a pothole is a human, you're going to need a lot of supervision. Or worse, mis-identify a human as a piece of junk and run over it.

It's clear that they're getting it right enough, often enough, and I'm really looking forward to letting them chauffeur me around. So apparently they can get it close enough without full AI. I wouldn't have said beforehand that I was certain it was possible.

Comment Re:Number one! USA! USA! USA! (Score 1) 385 385

It really is quite amazing to me that the one place that has an ideological interest in not believing in climate change (and the economic push to ensure that nothing is done about it) is the one place that's actually getting colder. If I were the type to believe in such a thing, I'd feel like somebody was playing a cosmic joke on us.

I don't think that the Republican party would really be taking all that different of a stance if the southern US were hitting heat records year after year... but it sure does make it easy on them to justify that stance to the public. To accept that it's going on requires believing in government reports rather than the evidence of your eyes, and since they've spent the last four decades insisting that the government has it out for you, they get a kind of perfect storm for denialism.

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.