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Comment: Re:Wrong Title (Score 4, Informative) 499

by kaliann (#47876441) Attached to: Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist

FTFA:

Barr answered “no” when asked if she had ever been a member of an organization “dedicated to the use of violence” to overthrow the U.S. government or to prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights.

But since the government decided that the activist groups she had been a member of 30 years ago were "affiliated" with a terrorist group, they considered that a lie. Despite the fact that there is no evidence the groups she was a member of had any violent mission statements, actions, or tenets.

Unfortunately, there were terrorist groups whose members were also members of otherwise peaceful groups. If someone in your church/gaming guild/book club/political group/fantasy football league is also a member of a terrorist organization, your group is not necessarily also a terrorist organization.

Comment: The horror (Score 4, Interesting) 74

by kaliann (#47858351) Attached to: $10 Bet Brings Researchers Closer to Industrial Scale Graphene Production

I live in fear of still being a lab rat in someone else's lab 14 years after I've earned my PhD and contributed pioneering advances to my field.

Oh science, I love you, but there is some scary shit out there for those of us who don't get tenure. Or even a faculty position. Yikes.

Comment: Re:Musk worship (Score 2) 260

by kaliann (#47854323) Attached to: Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone

I get a little tired of the Musk worship.

That's reasonable. Geeks are often excited about new innovative technologies, especially when they are disruptive to existing systems. People, not just geeks, are also susceptible to appealing narratives, which Musk has managed to develop.

Why does his company need a huge pile of tax breaks to succeed?

Companies who provide jobs are incentivized by tax breaks. It may or may not be a horrible, corrupt system, but is a very well-established one. This is not a Tesla issue, it's a capitalism/politics issue. As an aside, taking advantage of tax breaks is so expected that if a company doesn't find ways to use them, they could conceivably be liable for failing their fiduciary duty to shareholders. It's simply poor business practice to not seek tax incentives. As an aside, there was some chatter about loosening environmental strictures, but I believe those were rejected by Tesla as poor return on mission.

If I open a company tomorrow, how can I get away with not paying taxes?

Employ a bunch of people with a company that states and municipalities want to bring in.

Why are Tesla's debt bonds in Junk status but he continues to get freebies from states?

Because a young, narrowly focused, small company is pretty risky. The entire house of cards could fall apart if another company comes out with a battery that outcompetes anything they can make. That said, lots of auto-makers have "junk bond status": "Even though the traditional U.S. automakers have now been profitable for the last four years, GM and Fiat Chrysler both still have junk bond status on their debt from S&P. Ford was only upgraded to the lowest investment grade rating last August." ~From the CNN article on S&P's Tesla bond rating.

Why are Tesla's cars so rudely expensive?

They are luxury vehicles. Those are very expensive. Why did the company choose to start with luxury vehicles? To gain capital when they still have low production capacity, to establish a luxury brand name, and to offset the cost of fairly new production methods and expensive components.

Is there a plan for a 4 door sedan that a real family can afford in the 20K - 30K range like the Prius?

The third generation vehicle is predicted to have a starting price around 35K. It is likely that later models will follow the trend of lower prices, but a cheap 4-door sedan will be dependent on both the success of the model 3 and the success of gigafactory production as well as improvements in battery tech. Is there a plan? Probably. Is it something I'd expect in the near future? Nope. My bet would be a decade, if Tesla is still around making cars then.

Why is it that a guy with a big mouth and political friends on all sides gets so much tax subsidy, loans, breaks and deals?

Money. Corporations make it. Employees get it, and employed people are very happy to have it, which makes politicians happy to facilitate it. Then election campaigns get money from corporations and pols get votes from constituents. Also, the narrative of renewable energy, American products, and energy independence sells exceedingly well to people on all sides of the political spectrum.

Why are guys who run factories employing tons of US citizens in US based factories (like Toyota) who produce super reliable product with great mileage get slapped by the media when a bogus story about a gas pedal getting stuck?

I don't know. It could be that the 24 hour news cycle thrives on sensationalizing things like killer floor mats and batteries that catch fire when pierced at the right angle, and media have no interest in presenting informative, risk/benefit analyzed news. But maybe not. It's probably Musk's fault.

Not sure why people need a super-hero.

People like narratives. This has a lot of hallmarks of a really neat story and a pretty neat car. It is clearly not a story you dig. That's cool too. It'd be excellent if you didn't act like Tesla is an abnormally terrible company because you dislike the attention other people give to it.

3.8 million priuses have been sold and cab drivers will tell you they easily go into the 300K range and even if the battery runs out the car is still useable.

But instead we continue to give money to the cartoon guy.

We understand you love your Prius or Priuses in general. That's cool, they seem like solid cars. A lot of people who buy Model S Teslas are apparently coming from Toyota (about 15%, google for tesla conquest data). I would bet that the same people who love the efficiency of a Prius are attracted to the all-electric Tesla. Now, for many people, a Prius is still by far the better choice. However, there's plenty to be excited about regarding vehicles that reduce oil consumption. BMW and VW are also doing amazing things. Tesla is just one of many, but it's only one of a few in the all-electric market producing a product people seem to covet. So far, it's made very pretty vehicles that are apparently quite nice to drive (never been in one). And, as mentioned, people like a narrative. So Tesla gets a lot of press.

Comment: Great progress, hasty generalization. (Score 4, Informative) 63

by kaliann (#47555189) Attached to: UK Team Claims Breakthrough In Universal Cancer Test

This could be a giant step forward in cancer diagnostics, but media reports are - of course - sensationalizing beyond evidence.

In the study, the types of tumors tested share some similarities that might mean findings true of them would not be true of "all cancers". Specifically, none of the lesions tested were tumors of mesenchymal origin. No sarcomas, no fibromas, no leukemias. That's a broad range to not examine, and it means that generalizing this as a test for "all cancers" is premature. Additionally, none of the tumors tested were types that tend to show up in places that lymphocytes have trouble getting to (like the brain, eye, and portions of the reproductive tract).

It is good that they tested against COPD (a chronic inflammatory condition), but it does not appear as if they could distinguish between less-aggressive tumors and inflammatory conditions (I can't tell for sure because of the paywall). It may be that this is a test that is a good indicator of chronic inflammation (seen in many cancers as well as other conditions) rather than a cancer-specific test.

Regardless of the limitations of the preliminary sample set, the findings are very exciting and a potentially amazing discovery in cancer medicine. Kudos to the hardworking scientists involved!

Comment: Re:Yep. (Score 2) 64

by kaliann (#47400323) Attached to: Study: Whales Are Ecosystem "Engineers"

"Ecosystem engineer" is an ecology term, and it's meant to be descriptive not precisely literal. It doesn't necessarily indicate any intention. TFA did a poor job of conveying the fact that this is a field-specific usage, not a description of "engineering" by animals.

Some animals have disproportionately large effects on the integrity of their ecosystem - disproportionate to their biomass and physical presence, at least. These animals are called "keystone species". Apex predators are often keystone species due to their effects on prey behavior and their strong actions as selective pressure.

Some keystone species provide specific metabolites that are critical to their ecosystem. You could argue that the organisms that allow termites to digest cellulose are probably keystone species. Nitrogen-fixing organisms would be there as well. Those examples, though have very localized effects.

Some species are keystones for reasons other than simple predator-prey relationships. Animals who significantly physically change their environment are frequently referred to as "ecosystem engineers". Burrowing animals whose dens are required by other critters are one example (in the US, tortoises and ground squirrels are notorious for this). Beavers, as mentioned above, are as well. Underwater, the composition of the water itself is the environment, and changing that composition can have a huge effect on the ecosystems involved. Use of the term "ecosystem engineer" in this context is simply meant to convey how critical whales are to maintaining a healthy and diverse ocean ecosystem, despite previous assumptions that their relatively low biomass (because of their rarity) implied that they were not particularly integral.

Comment: Re:Well (Score 2) 86

by kaliann (#46695683) Attached to: Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered

They shouldn't be.

Induced stem cells are the huge area of research devoted to finding ways around using embryonic stem cells. Basically, it's everything but embryonic stem cells in stem cell research.

We will, eventually, have reliable, cheap mechanisms for inducing stem cell potential in non-embryonic-derived cells, but only by continuing research on how to make them.

This is a travesty.

Comment: Incorporated option (Score 1) 313

by kaliann (#46363435) Attached to: Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?

What about treating it like other "literacy" types? Many subject include projects include the option or expectation of writing, speaking, mathematically analyzing, and or graphically illustrating topics. Why shouldn't dedicated education in this modality be supplemented by incorporating it in the other classes?

Mathematical and computer modelling is a huge educational and research tool. It'd be nice to see a bit more of that in our classrooms.

Comment: Re:Lamarck Vindicated? (Score 4, Informative) 160

by kaliann (#46280567) Attached to: Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?

In the broad general understanding that the environment can induce acquired changes that can then be inherited, yes. It's called epigenetics, and it's a fascinating field, wherein modification of packaging on DNA affects how and when it is read.

In the specifics of pretty much any of the claims made by Lamarckian adaptation, no, that's bunk.

One of the major differences is that epigenetic changes aren't always adaptive; that is, they aren't necessarily helpful to the organism's reproductive success. These changes can result from environmental stresses as a kind of "side effect", and the change affects later generations. Epigenetic changes are inherited, but they can be reversed in as little as a generation or passed on, and they are never responsible for new transcripts or proteins being produced. They modify amounts and timing of products from existing genes - and that's impressive - but they do not introduce novel products on a cellular level, the way changes in genetic code does.

Comment: Re:Morons (Score 1) 84

by kaliann (#46230853) Attached to: Iconic Predator-Prey Study In Peril

The ice bridges aren't the sole human-related reason for decline of the population.
Disease from domestic dogs and human-created changes to the environment have also directly diminished the number of wolves.

From TFA:
"Many scientists familiar with Isle Royale support genetic rescue, especially because human activity has contributed to the current population crash. Climate change has led to the decreasing frequency of ice bridges. Canine parvovirus, probably caught from a domestic dog, caused the wolf population to fall from around 50 to 14 in the early 1980s. And in 2012, three wolves were found dead in an abandoned mining pit. Given this history of human influence, the argument that leaving the wolves alone would be allowing nature to take its course does not sway most ecologists."

(Bolding is mine.)

Comment: Re:If it's just "common sense and common courtesy" (Score 1) 366

by kaliann (#46224111) Attached to: House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

Remember that part of the safety spiel regarding compliance with all "lighted signs, posted placards, and crewmember instructions "?

I'm pretty sure that only applies to health/safety stuff (seat belts, seat backs, tray tables, smoking), but if a legal change is really necessary, just add cell phone use to the list of things crewmembers can give you orders about.

Honestly, though, I think making piddly stuff like this illegal is an unnecessarily intrusive example of legislative zeal.

Comment: Re:Hooray for common sense (Score 1) 366

by kaliann (#46223803) Attached to: House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls

Exactly!
Let the airlines decide their own policy, but there's no reason something like this needs to be illegal. Talk about overreach (isn't this guy a Republican, one of the folk who despise intrusive "nanny state" meddling?).

I get that people on phones would be annoying, as would people singing "The Song that Never Ends" or discussing the Kardashians, but there is no need to legislate this issue. A well-timed "Sir/Ma'am, it is the policy of the airline to restrict calls in-flight, thank you for your consideration of your fellow passengers" should take care of those who decide they MUST call someone in the air.

Comment: In Norway this is a problem (Score 4, Interesting) 476

by kaliann (#46092855) Attached to: Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold

Yes, it's related to the cold, but it also appears to be related to the specific issues of Norway's grid.

Some speculation is that the problem involves too-extreme fluctuations in the electricity provided by that grid and a charger-side software-mediated shutoff of charging. If that's the case, then this might be another charger issue that can be solved with an over-the-air "patch" like some of the previous problems.

While this is definitely a concern for Tesla and their Norwegian customers, it doesn't seem to be relevant to cars in North America.

Comment: Re:Looks familiar (Score 2) 108

by kaliann (#44792879) Attached to: Ars Test Drives the "Netflix For Books"

Absolutely true. Many libraries use programs like Overdrive to "lend" digital media to anyone with a valid library card (sign in with card number on library's website).

Ebooks or audiobooks can be downloaded onto various internet-connected devices. As long as you are connected, you can check out a book from thousands of miles away, 24/7 (excepting maintenance).

I personally use the audiobooks as entertainment while driving (iPhone) and crank through plenty of ebooks on my tablet (Android).

Libraries are free to use as a public service. Might as well make the most of them!

The current library setup I have access to is far too convenient for me to pay a subscription for the recommendation service.

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