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Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 401 401

I think you're kinda screwed either way, actually. Words do hurt; you can tell people to just tough it out but it means that you end up conceding large amounts of the political space to the ones most willing to be cruel and least injured by being defamed.

I'm not calling for speech policing here. I'm just pointing out that the real people who participate in political processes are subject to human failings. It's not a logical conversation; it's emotionally charged rhetoric. So just saying "everybody says whatever they want" amounts to a different kind of censorship. It may well be the most unbiased form of censorship and the one that is most "just", but it's not without downsides.

You see it in social media all the time. Trolls can shut down conversations. Web sites that don't want to be primarily about trolls and up providing tools to reduce their visibility, one way or another. It's often called "censorship", and in some senses it is, albeit not government censorship because it's not a state matter. The national conversation is a state matter, and a state may well want to think about what kinds of tools are appropriate for keeping the conversation civil and productive.

Again, not calling for censorship. I haven't got any policy to offer. It's just that I think it's important to recognize that free speech has non-obvious feedback loops that make it less free than it appears.

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 401 401

Is it necessary? Is there any particular reason to compel Estonia to change its laws? If they want to be the-country-that-censors, is there a reason not to let them (and deal with the consequences)?

The consequences could well be serious, and compel them to change their laws on their own. If web sites start fleeing because they don't want to risk what their users might say, the monetary loss might compel a legal change. But for all I know the Estonians themselves are more comfortable living in a country where they are free from offensive opinions. If they can coexist with the rest of Europe that way, maybe they should.

Maybe they can't; perhaps cross-border commerce means that the local law is incompatible with being a functioning part of the EU. But off the top of my head, I don't know of any specific reason why (being only passingly familiar with the rest of EU policy).

Comment: Re:Why Not Ban Fried Food? (Score 2) 851 851

It's not as simple as "butter is good for you", but here is a decent link:

I'm not sure what you've been eating instead of butter, but if it's margarine, by all means ditch the stuff and buy a pound of butter. Margarine is full of trans fats (or at least, it used to be), and while most nutrition studies are full of caveats and qualifications, it really is pretty damn near universal that the trans fats are just horrible for you. Margarine makers have been switching away from trans fats for some years, precisely because of this, though this announcement is the final nail in that coffin.

The actual healthiness of butter is still heavily qualified, so we don't really know. The biggest problem, as always, is calories: high-fat foods (deep fried or otherwise) make it really easy to consume more calories than you need. Eaten in moderation, with half an eye on the bottom line (you don't need to count if you have a bias towards mimimizing the junk), you can go ahead and eat pretty much whatever you like, in small amounts.

We still don't really have a good handle on exactly what is "healthy". Many people thrive on a variety of different diets, some of which include fried foods. There is no magic bullet; removing saturated fats didn't turn out to be it. (The history of that is complicated and ugly, involving some really horrific biases and conflicts of interest.) The real consensus is that if you eat a diverse diet with a very large proportion of vegetables and your body will not begrudge you the occasional deep-fried treat. The rest is too murky for specific advice, especially since most people aren't even following that simple plan, so it's hard to optimize further.

Comment: Re:HÃ? (Score 1) 419 419

I'm not aware of any physical protests. All that I recall were letter-writing campaigns about Cassini.

And none at all about Philiae. The ESA never uses them. I'd have been surprised if they'd included RTGs on Philiae, on which weight was already at a premium. A lot of things had to go wrong for the solar panels to be insufficient, and the space of things going wrong that don't also render the probe inoperable is fairly small. TFA makes its case only in one unsourced quote, and doesn't even begin to take any actual design considerations into account.

Comment: Re:HÃ? (Score 3, Informative) 419 419

Space probes do get started on earth, and have to go through a somewhat unreliable launch process to get to space. There is a fear that if the rocket were to blow up, radioactive material released into the atmosphere would be dangerous.

It almost certainly wouldn't be. Even in the worst-case scenario, that the RTG vaporized on reentry, it would be heavily dispersed. Still, NASA calculated for a similar case, there could be several thousand deaths (page 66). (Not that you could peg any one death to it, but rather thousands of additional cancers compared to not having an accident with an RTG launch failure.) Plus some land contamination with radioactive dust.

So it's not completely insane to be concerned. They figure your personal odds of dying because of it to be one in a trillion, which most of us would say is too low to think about. But I can understand why a few people might say that even one-in-a-trillion (especially since it's repeated for everybody on the planet) is worth considering. It's not as simple as having it millions of miles away in space.

Comment: Re:"News" for nerds (Score 3, Interesting) 143 143

A lot of hate might be averted by making it clear that it's a review article rather than a news article. This is a news site, and its audience has a large numbers of experts and interested laymen. The assumption is that it's telling us something we don't already know, and the style of the summary is no different from any other Slashdot post. The effect sounds offensive and condescending: "Here's a thing you didn't know!" "Actually, I do, and better than the underlying article."

The article itself is (usually) fine in its original context. It's the appearance on Slashdot that aggravates the Slashdotters. Combined with the fact that people are rather sensitive to spam, and an out-of-place article looks like spam (even if it isn't), which ties into a whole separate set of aggravations.

If they were to present it with a different subtext: "Hey, we're nerds here. This is a topic that many of you know about, but many don't, and it would be interesting to discuss it amongst ourselves. This article is a good starting point." That would start with a different writing style, one that didn't imply that the information was brand new. It wouldn't hurt to add a visual differentiator as well: a different icon, maybe even a different color or shape. And perhaps a way for people to filter it from their streams.

I get that there isn't nearly as much interesting, discussable news as one might think, so Slashdot has to drag in some stuff from wider afield. If they acknowledged that, and adjusted for it, they could make it a positive experience for their audience, rather than a negative one.

Comment: (Score 1) 143 143

Yeah, that was pretty much my response. I read the summary, and was trying to figure out what the actual news was. Then I hovered over the link, found it was medium, and clicked here to get a brief burst of schadenfreude from the people bashing medium. Achievement unlocked.

Comment: Re:1993 called (Score 1) 51 51

And in fact the Science article mentions that Schweitzer is skeptical of the new results. She's the expert in all the ways in which the conclusions could be wrong, since she's got one of those extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary proofs. She's sincere and not stupid, but the things that she's trying to detect are extremely tiny and subject to a lot of contamination, and she's well aware that it could be wrong.

This is a preliminary result and will require a lot of different approaches to give the kind of confirmation that will lend it credence. It would be great, but extremely puzzling, if it's true. (It doesn't help that it gives the creationists a chance to inject more of their idiocy into the conversation.)

Comment: Yeah, it matters (Score 3, Interesting) 310 310

It's true: every denier is a worthless idiot, and the vast majority of those who accept anthropogenic climate change has a poor understanding of how and why it works. That's perhaps 90-95% of everybody discussing the question.

But there are still perhaps 5-10% of people who have at least a rough grasp of what's going on, and they're capable of actually discussing the real questions. Not the stupid questions, which are a waste of everybody's time, but real ones, like "how can we refine the models?" and "what are we going to do about it?" The latter may seem irrelevant, since government action is stymied by denialists, and individual actions are largely unimportant. (I'm glad you bought a Prius, and it is helping a bit, but not nearly enough by several orders of magnitude.)

Still... as bad as it is, stuff does get done. If we're locked in by chemistry and the suicide pact that our Constitution has turned into, we can at least take mitigating actions. The earlier we know about how agriculture is going to change, the better. We can take at least minor defensive measures for our flooded coastal cities. The US military needs to prepare for the various wars that are driven, in part, by climate-change driven poverty. It's even worthwhile to consider the "winners", like those Canadian farmers who will be able to take land that hasn't been touched and which finally has a growing season long enough.

It's not optimal; it's not even as good as is pragmatically feasible. But it's the best we can do in that paradox of democracy, where somehow all of us collectively are supposed to be smarter than the average of us individually. The majority of deniers and the majority of well-meaning but clueless (albeit correct) believers roughly cancel out and hopefully, hopefully it leaves a tiny minority able to do something that's better than not knowing at all. Thin gruel, but it's the best we can get.

Comment: Why the switch in nomenclature? (Score 1) 181 181

I know I'm way behind the times when it comes to consumer electronics, but the last time I bought a TV I wanted a 1040p, and kind of assumed that 4k and 8k would have 4x and 8x the vertical density of that. Apparently not; Wikipedia sayeth that it switched from vertical to horizontal resolution.

Now that I know this, it's not difficult to understand. But I'm curious as to why they'd change naming conventions. Is there any particular reason?

Comment: Re:No, not really (Score 1) 298 298

When was the last time the USA had 3% growth?

Last year, at 3.7%. And the year before, and the year before, and the year before. The last time it was under 3% was 2010, when it was 2.1%. For the first quarter of 2015, it was an annualized growth of 3.6% (second estimate; the Q2 estimates aren't due until the end of next month).

The US did, indeed, decline during the recession: growth was flat or negative in 2008 and 2009. But GDP increase year on year has been pretty consistently in the 3.5-4.5% range since the close of the recession. Source.

Not that GDP is a great measure of economic success, but you were the one who brought it up. Practically all of that GDP increase goes to a tiny percentage of the population, and they fight hard to keep it that way. The rest is treading water or falling back. But as a whole, by the coarse measure of GDP, the US has been doing quite well ever since the end of the recession.

"Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone." -- G. B. Stearn