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Comment: Re:Jesus, we're fucked. (Score 1) 318

by swillden (#48899049) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA

The fact that so many of us didn't get any chemistry is vindication of the statement that we're fucked [...] Everyone should be getting basic chemistry and biology, like it or not.

Meh. I took two years of chemistry in high school (second was AP). It was okay, and I suppose it's been marginally useful. I'm not sure everyone needs more chemistry than is taught in seventh and eighth grade science class, though... atoms and molecules, a bit about chemical reactions, an overview of the periodic table, including a basic notion of what the columns mean, a brief discussion of the ideal gas law, etc. I think that's sufficient for most. Stoichiometry, understanding valence shells, etc... not so much. The general structure is crucial. The details, including the construction of chemical names, really isn't.

What's more important, and not taught very well at all, is the theory and operation of the scientific method as a whole. I discovered a while ago that my wife -- who has a BS in biology and taught junior and high school science -- didn't really understand the scientific method. Specifically, she didn't understand the distinction between hypothesis and prediction, or why it matters, and didn't fully understand the critical nature of falsifiability and its implication that science is and always will be a series of successive approximations to the truth, never achieving perfect truth, yet being by far the most effective tool we have for getting ever closer to it.

Comment: Re:Just for fun (Score 1) 318

by swillden (#48898963) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA

Yanno, next time you are feeling pedantic ya might want to do a more thorough job of it.


However, in computer enthusiast circles in the late 20th century and early 21st, the non-standard viri form (sometimes even virii) was well-attested, generally in the context of computer viruses.[2]

The AC addressed this point quite well, so I'll let his comment stand.

I'd like to reply to the rest of your post but you didn't seem to say anything.

Your reading comprehension needs work, then. But I'll summarize: I was agreeing with you.

Comment: Re:Jesus, we're fucked. (Score 4, Insightful) 318

by swillden (#48898769) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA

Slashdot has classified this as a "humour" story, but I find it simply frightening. There's always going to be a certain quantity of dullards on the left end of the curve, but... 80%?! 80% of Americans are unfamiliar with one of, if not *the* most fundamental concepts of biology? This isn't "Dihydrogen Monoxide" trickery, DNA is DNA and it's functionality is taught in high school- usually repeatedly.

I don't think it's that bad. I think this is "Dihydrogen Monoxide" trickery, only a slightly subtler form.

The dihydrogen monoxide trickery is using an unfamiliar name for a familiar substance. Unless you've taken some chemisty and know how to parse "dihydrogen monoxide" as "a molecule consisting of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms", you don't realize it's water and the selective quotes, presented in a context that implies that the speaker/writer is a reasonably-intelligent person who genuinely believes there is a risk, obviously causes listeners to assume that it's dangerous.

A really essential part of the joke/scam is the fact that the speaker/writer appears to be intelligent and sincere. It's a social engineering scam, relying on the fact that most people are intelligent and sincere (the slashdot elitist tendency to assume general stupidity notwithstanding) and that therefore absent some sort of contraindications people tend to believe other people, because that's what makes society work.

In this case, I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of the 80% who were confused actually know perfectly well what DNA is, and fully understand that most of our food contains it because most of our food is made from living organisms. And they understand that children get their DNA from their parents, including their mother.

But the way this is presented strongly implies that the topic of discussion is some other DNA, which is not supposed to be in the food and can have some sort of deleterious effect, and that warning labels might be useful. Further, the similarity of the ratio with those who support labeling of GMO foods indicates that the presentation may have caused the respondents to conflate the question with one about GMO. Some of them might even have assumed that the survey was in error and intended to ask about GMO foods and answered in the affirmative while shaking their heads about the cluelessness of the survey author. The apparent intelligence and sincerity of the speaker motivates people to believe there's a real issue, rather than this being a joke or a trick.

So I suspect that the 80/20 split here is less an artifact of education levels than it is an artifact of the distribution of different personality types. To what degree are you skeptical of scientific-sounding claims that are presented to you as factual? And how willing are you to lend your support to crusades pushed by apparently well-intentioned people, particularly when they appear to have little, if any, downside? The suggestion that the action to be taken is just labeling makes this a relatively low-impact campaign, even if successful, so the cost to society is low, and the cost to the survey respondent is nearly zero. In that sort of situation, many people will agree merely to be agreeable, regardless of their opinion on the issue.

Comment: Re:Just for fun (Score 4, Informative) 318

by swillden (#48898661) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA


I'm feeling pedantic this morning: The correct English plural of virus is viruses. In Latin the word is a mass noun, which means that the notion of a plural form didn't make any sense. In modern times we've applied a new definition which does allow for sensible pluralization, but historical Latin writings give us no clue about how to pluralize it. The most probable forms, though would be "vira" and "viri", not "virii". In English, though, the word is viruses.

Viruses are natural vectors for genes to cross species. Are you more comfortable with this happening at random in the wild or when it's watched and monitored in a lab?

It's ridiculous to assume that the mechanisms of selective breeding, where the changes originate in random mutations -- often accelerated by the use of mutagens -- plus random viral- and bacterial-vectored transgenic splicing, is somehow safer than deliberately-engineered splicing. It's like expecting that a bridge created by a fallen tree is more trustworthy than a manmade construct.

Comment: Re:Flash? (Score 1) 132

by swillden (#48896655) Attached to: By the Numbers: The Highest-Paying States For Tech Professionals

And when you order something on Amazon or New Egg, they charge you less because you live in the mid-west?

Of course not. The main cost of living difference is housing. By way of example, consider me (I live in the Mountain West; Utah) and one of my colleagues (in Sunnyvale, CA). He bought a house last year for $1.2M. If I bought a comparable house in my area, it would be maybe $150K, probably less. My $400K house would cost at least $7-8M in the bay area. His house cost so much that he can't make the mortgage payments on his (fairly nice, by most standards) Google salary, so he actually rents out his master bedroom to make ends meet. He rents that one bedroom and attached bathroom out for not much less than it would cost to rent my whole 4000 square foot house.

The two of us make similar incomes. This means that while Amazon charges us the same, I have substantially more disposable income to spend (or would, if it weren't for my kids).

Comment: Re:If all goes well. . . (Score 1) 225

by swillden (#48895937) Attached to: Eric Schmidt: Our Perception of the Internet Will Fade

..except for say, renting the information to "partners" for linking with offline purchases

Google doesn't do that. Rent, sell, donate, whatever. If you have some evidence to the contrary (e.g. public financial filings?), I'd be interested in seeing it. So would the FTC, actually, since AFAICT it would be a violation of Google's consent decree.

or if you switch browsers or somehow the cookie gets removed or you switch to a private browser window

I'm not entirely sure what you mean here, unless perhaps you're talking about losing your opt-out cookie? If that's what you mean, Google provides browser extensions that ensure that never happens.

Google doesn't only derive value from the information they gather about you by displaying you targeted online ads.

Yep, pretty much, that's it. Unless you're paying for Google services or buying Google hardware, online advertising is Google's revenue model. If you have some evidence to the contrary, I'd be interested in seeing it.

There are reasons why every ad network offering an 'opt-out' only stop displaying you targeted ads while it is in effect.

Again, I'm not sure what you mean here. Are you saying that if you stop opting out from targeted ads you start seeing targeted ads? That seems pretty obvious to me.

And none of them are for your benefit.

None of what are for my benefit? The ads? If that's what you mean, I beg to differ. Most ads are useless to me, I agree, but it does happen from time to time that I see one that's useful. Even more importantly, those ads are how the sites that I like get funded, so they benefit me very directly.

(In my particular case, Google ads also pay most of my salary. But I felt the same about all of this before I joined Google so I honestly don't think that affects my opinions much.)

Comment: Re:If all goes well. . . (Score 1) 225

by swillden (#48895857) Attached to: Eric Schmidt: Our Perception of the Internet Will Fade

It's disingenuous to assert that Google doesn't know about the data that is collects, sells it (the http_referrer coin collection), and that the advertiser whose link you clicked doesn't know you, perhaps by name (referring to the fact that the IPv4 address space has largely known destinations to the street address and user-characteristics).

First, I never asserted that Google doesn't know about the data that it collects. That would be to deny a tautology. Second, you seem to be asserting that Google sells the data, which isn't true, as I explained in more detail in my first post in this thread. Third, the advertiser may well know you by name, etc., but not because Google told them anything about you. The fact that your IP may be linked to your identity in various ways is true, but not Google's fault, and Google doesn't participate in spreading information about you.

If you don't want an advertiser to get your IP, I suppose you should avoid clicking on ads.

Slashdot knows who I am. My IP is known. They can be linked. One can become somewhat anonymous on the Internet, but only by trying really, really hard to accomplish this, and it's transient at best-- as accumulated information becomes your dossier.

To the degree that it is cross-referenced, yes. And Google Analytics gives Google perhaps more of this sort of information than any other entity -- unless, of course, you opt out of analytics tracking, in which case Google doesn't track you.

The implications of dossiers are for a different forum, but in this circumstance, this thread, this post, it's my criticism of the pretension within the post, viz: "And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room" means that your devices will be forced to respond to its ambient environment, and what you do, even say, maybe your sexual responses, all of these will become exposed, modesty and your intentions to hide these things, vanquished by environmental probes.

Well, then, don't give your permission. I think that's the key; opt out of the services you find too intrusive. That doesn't completely solve the problem, because of the cross-referencing issue. I think we'll need to deal with that legislatively, to bar companies from cross-referencing the data they have about individuals, and to give individuals access to the information held about them, and the opportunity to request that it be deleted... with, of course, serious consequences for failing to comply with such requests.

Comment: Re:Ppl who don't know C++ slamming C++ (Score 5, Insightful) 150

by hey! (#48894501) Attached to: Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded 2015 Dahl-Nygaard Prize

Well it's been many, many years since I've used it, which was back in the late 80s and early 90s. My impression from this time is that C++ is unquestionably a work of genius, but that I didn't particularly like it. Part of that is that we didn't really know how to use it effectively. In that era most object oriented programmers used concrete inheritance way too much. Part of that is due to aspects of what we thought an OO language should have that turned out to add complexity while being only marginally useful in practice (e.g. multiple concrete inheritance and operator overloading).

But in terms of meeting its design goals C++ is a tour de force of ingenuity -- even if some of those goals are questionable by today's standards. The very fact that we know some of those features aren't necessarily ideal is because they were taken out of the realm of academic noodling and put into a practical and highly successful language that could tackle the problems of the day on the hardware of the day. It's hard to overstate the practical impact of C++ on the advancement of both theory and practice of software development.

Any prize for contributions to OO programming pretty that didn't include Stroustrup in its first recipients would be dubious.

Comment: Re:I have an even better idea (Score 2) 289

by hey! (#48894185) Attached to: Government Recommends Cars With Smarter Brakes

I have an even better idea: let's find a way to fix human beings so that they're perfectly consistent in their behavior.

While certainly taking demonstrably bad drivers off the road is a no-brainer, even good drivers have lapses. My teenaged son is learning to drive, and whenever someone does something like cut us off I make a point of saying we can't assume the driver did it on purpose, or did it because he was an inconsiderate or bad person. Even conscientious and courteous drivers make mistakes or have lapses of attention.

It's the law of large numbers. If you spend a few hours on the road, you'll encounter thousands of drivers. A few of them will be really horrible drivers who shouldn't be on the road. But a few will be conscientious drivers having a bad day, or even a bad 1500 milliseconds.

Comment: Re:If all goes well. . . (Score 1) 225

by swillden (#48892689) Attached to: Eric Schmidt: Our Perception of the Internet Will Fade

Which exonerates Google..... no.

Google of course, has NO idea that you clicked. Nope, never, nada. /sarcasm.

I'm really not sure what you're on about.

Yes, Google knows you clicked, because they use that to track advertising effectiveness statistics, and, I assume, as a signal that the ad is for something you're interested in. Normally, of course, a web site doesn't know about clicks on links to other sites. When you click a search result or an ad, you're actually hitting a link to Google, which then redirects you to the destination. This is done so that Google knows you clicked. For both search results and ads, that's an important signal to Google that lets them know they ranked results/ads well and showed you what you were looking for.

Yes, the advertiser's web site knows you clicked, just like any web site you visit. Slashdot knows you viewed this article, and posted, and what you posted, etc. If you use a site, the system and therefore its operators know you did.

I don't see what about all of this upsets you, or what you think someone is trying to hide from you.

Comment: Re:Thank fricking God it requires developer mode. (Score 1) 166

by swillden (#48892543) Attached to: Google Just Made It Easier To Run Linux On Your Chromebook

I can't work out if you're joking. I would never want a computer where I couldn't replace the OS with 3 minutes and a screwdriver.

But do you want a computer where someone else can replace your OS with three minutes and a screwdriver without you being able to tell that they did so?

ASHes to ASHes, DOS to DOS.