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Comment click bait title is misleading... (Score 4, Informative) 50

This is probably a Slashdot problems sort of thing. But for me, just the bare title of the actual paper being referred to is more informative and easier to comprehend than the journalist written popularization of it...

Evidence of an odd-parity hidden order in a spin–orbit coupled correlated iridate

Comment Re:We do what we always do ... (Score 1) 242

Kylemonger makes a good point about the construction industry having to tighten up how they demarcate construction sites. In fact; I said as much myself. Thing is; there already is standard signage along with real barriers, standards for flagmen etc etc. And; as I pointed out in my original post, even human drivers screw up regularly in those situations. Replacing pylons and barrels with say Jersey barriers would drastically increase the cost of road repair, adding utility connections to buildings and so on. The reason we use the barrels and pylons is because it is fast, easy and flexible. When doing certain types of road repair, it is common to have "rolling sites", where the workers progress down the road at a slow speed (crack sealing is a common example) while the traffic control guys grab pylons or barrels from the back of the site and shuttle them up the front, arranging them to extend the leading edge of the site. This is usually done by having the foreman driving a pickup full of collected pylons up to the front of the site and dropping them off for the forward flagman to arrange as he or she goes.

Doing that with Jersey barriers or crossbucks would be a lot slower and more expensive. Moving Jersey barriers requires heavy equipment, can only move a few at a time and forces traffic behind it to move even slower.

which brings me to Coren22's post: It is a pretty strong rule that construction sites and accident scenes must disrupt traffic as little as possible. And sometimes it just isn't feasible to close an entire road. I remember one job site where it was a two lane city street and the crews needed to dig a large trench across both lanes and have that trench open for several days to allow for new water mains, gas lines and so on. But the city refused to give us permission to totally close the road because it was a preferred route for tour buses to get to the bottom of Clifton Hill. In addition, being a major tourist area (Niagara Falls Canada) we were not allowed to leave excavations open after we shut down at the end of the day either. So; what we ended up doing was closing one lane, flagging buses in the usual alternating style on the remaining lane while work was done in the closed lane. Then the first lane would get filled in, and everybody would swap sides so work could be done on the other side. This slowed everything down tremendously. What should have been three or four days of open hole turned into ten days. (The craziest part? you aren't supposed to put removed material back into the hole because it doesn't pack or settle predictably, so every time we emptied a hole, the burden was taken off for fill and fresh gravel was dumped in the hole. )

In the case of accident scenes, there would already be traffic on that road that couldn't be rerouted. Sure, you can close a highway at the first off ramp behind the scene, but there is almost certainly going to be a certain amount of traffic already past that point. What's an autonomous vehicle supposed to do then? Without a driver on board, it can't proceed and it certainly can't be allowed to just park and wait either.

My own idea is to set a standard for "follow me" vehicles, like they sometimes use at airports. Any job site or accident scene gets two or more "Follow Me" vehicles assigned to it, with a human driver in it. All vehicles, autonomous or piloted, get required to follow it until it sends a certain signal (coded IR light perhaps?) and pulls over out of the way. At which time the traffic can proceed normally. Autonomous vehicles are already good at playing "follow the leader", so this would be a pretty easy system to implement.

Comment Re:We do what we always do ... (Score 3, Interesting) 242

Having worked in road construction, one of the more dangerous jobs in Canada according to Workman's Comp stats, I have one area of curiosity regarding autonomous vehicles:

How well do they handle signals by flagmen, police officers and so on? As far as I know, no autonomous system to date has the ability to see and correctly interpret traffic control flags or hand signals. (for that matter, how would one program a car so as to recognize a cop or construction workers hand signals but treat bicyclists hand signals differently and ignore non significant gestures by pedestrians, other drivers etc?)

Right now, as far as I know, they will correctly avoid barrels or pylons, but only by treating them as static objects to be navigated around, stopping if it can't figure out a safe path between or around them. There is no special rule set that tells it "objects of these shapes and colour combinations indicate a construction zone or accident site, switch to rule set B (for slower speeds, more weight given to moving objects in the sensor periphery etc)" Back when I was on the road crew, close calls by confused or distracted drivers was a daily occurrence. Sure, the computer is never distracted (one hopes!, the computer equivalent I guess would be wrongly weighting one set of inputs over another) but it would be easier to confuse it, especially when there are multiple workers in safety vests pointing and signalling to each other within the same view arc as the flagman or cop.

A related issue would be properly navigating the thicket of pylons or traffic "barrels", correctly following the temporary lane(s) and not mistakenly taking an opening in the pylon line right into the work site. This particular problem could be at least partly dealt with by more standardization on work site markings, minimum and maximum distances between pylons tightened up. On the car end, the software would have to allow for correct navigation between said pylons when the usual road markings are absent, indeed, even the usual pavement is missing.

As it stands now, construction and accident sites I think are places where the autonomous vehicle just gives up and signals the driver to assume control. Thing is, one of the hoped for benefits of autonomous vehicles is the ability to have a non-driver, sick, sleeping or drunk driver to safely get from A to B. And I'm sure the transport industry is looking forward to when they can have only a single driver or perhaps even no driver at all, allowing the truck to go non-stop. None of that is going to work very well if the vehicles can't handle a construction site.

Comment I think there is a fundamental problem with this.. (Score 5, Insightful) 258

There is a basic, underlying, flaw in this proposal. It's the same flaw in human nature that makes all activism and even the democratic process less effective than it is in theory.

Studying the history, reading and evaluating the various pundits, activists, experts and talking heads output is hard. Sure; any one of normal intelligence and education should be able (and willing) to do this, but it is human nature to take the easy way out if possible. How many people, even in political organizations, really pay attention to what the other guy is saying, attempt to understand what is being said and why?

It is the real world equivalent of reading all the foot notes and reading all the citations mentioned in the bibliography. It's tedious and time consuming, even people whose job it is to actually do all of that due diligence stuff tend to skimp and cut corners if they can. Only Russell's teapot knows how many student essays and theses, how many scientific papers, how many campaign and floor speeches reference totally bogus or inapplicable bullshit, counting on the audience to not bother following up on them. I am convinced however, that it is a large number.

This is just human nature, and I've come to simply accept it for what it is. So; rather than ranting on about how people should be doing X or Y, I try to ask myself Why don't> people do X or Y, How can I make X or Y the more desirable/rewarding choice than what the people are already doing?

Why don't more people do this? Obviously because doing that is also hard compared to just ranting about what people should be doing. Frankly; I consider myself a smart person, but I haven't been clever enough to figure out a way to make active, diligent participation in the democratic process more desirable/rewarding than just sitting at home complaining about the politicians.

Comment Mod parent +1 Informative (Score 2) 113

Count me as one of those who had never heard of the Niihau Incident before now. What puzzles me is why this incident is not more widely known. I would think that the US government would have a vested interest in telling it's own citizens about this. At the least, it would make their actions against Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens a little more understandable and perhaps even acceptable. However; The US government and the various civilian assembly organizations still need to bear the responsibility for how they handled the internees and their property once the decision to intern them was made. Many families lost everything because of theft and/or corruption and for the longest time the official response boiled down to "no comment" or "tough shit"

Comment Not the greatest tourist attraction? (Score 1) 99

Actually I'd find a bog museum or learning centre, with bodies on display, maybe a glass wall where you can watch researchers working on the remains would be fascinating. Sure, it's not the usual Eiffel tower, Big Ben, Windsor Castle etc tourist spots you think of when planning a trip to the EU. However; not having to deal with the usual swarms of tourists would also be part of the allure for me.

Comment two candidates... (Score 1) 620

During my post grad internship (circa 2003) I worked with banyan VINES which was still running a pre-Internet internal email program that had been migrated onto it from an even older system. At the time, the place using it was migrating the email to Exchange (5.5 I think) on a Windows 2000 server and wiping the new incoming XP and XP sp1 desktops to install their in-house version of Windows 2000. (this was IIRC, because the standard 2000 and XP didn't support the higher encryption required out of the box, and being a Canadian government operation, they had their own encryption stuff)

Much later (circa 2009) , I was supporting a VT200 terminal emulation program that connected via telnet tunneled over dial up to a government health care billing system. The client machine was NT 3.51 and I don't know what the government server was running. I just know that the server was also emulating a VT200 compatible system, because one of my tasks was to research what emulation clients were still available for NT systems that were also on the government provided list of emulations they would support. What ever system they were using at the time was finally being deprecated and phased out.

Comment Narcobeer? (Score 1) 333

I seem to be the only one so far to make the connection to narcobeer. Alan Cole and Chris Bunch wrote a series of military sci-fi (The Sten Chronicles) in which narcobeer is the drink of choice for low status migrant workers. Corporations in the sci-fi equivalent of mining/single industry towns would encourage the consumption of it as a means of controlling the "migs".

Comment Re:BAh, (Score 1) 124

I have to say, I'm of really mixed feelings about paying royalties for the right to play music. On the one hand, there is the advertising of a band or artist aspect which you refer to, which helps drive ticket, CD, download and merchandise sales. But on the other hand, musicians are in the business of making music. I see nothing wrong with paying to see/hear them in person, so I have no problem with paying (in some fashion) to hear them broadcast or streamed. Pus, I've been spoiled by growing up during a time when broadcast radio was entirely free, paid for by ads and later having access to virtually unlimited music through legal or illegal downloads.

The biggest reason I am against requiring publishers, bands or artists paying to have their music streamed though? One word: Payola. If the owners of music have to pay to have their stuff heard, then only the stuff owned by the deepest pockets will get heard. We already complain quite loudly about manufactured bands and artists who have no real talent, are airbrushed, auto-tuned and managed to a fare-thee-well by the big labels. The labels spend a lot of money finding good looking people who are suitable for such exploitation, massaging the image etc etc. They want and need to get that investment back. Pouring money into radio and internet stations would just become part of that investment. If you think that having to pay for play would convince the labels to only focus on bands/artists with *talent* that the consumers want to hear, in sufficient variety, you are clearly not living in the same universe I do.

Any broadcaster or streaming site pretty much has to choose a playlist based on highest bidder, they are in it to make a profit after all. The only question is; who do you want to be the highest bidder? The music owners=Payola, The advertisers who want music we like to be played so we'll listen (traditional radio and paid access only streaming download sites) Or the actual listeners? (Satellite and some cable-only "radio stations") Everyone involved between the original creative spark and your ears needs to make a living. As I said, I'm spoiled by free radio, streaming and downloads, so I favour the ad supported model rather than the payola or subscriber models. That lets me get my music for free and still have more sense of influence over what is being played.

I deeply miss Yahoo Launch, free music I could rate, build custom playlists with and so on. There were unskippable ads, a programmed halt in playing every once in awhile to make sure I was at the keyboard and an annoying tendency to play artist interviews/behind the scenes and the odd "top 40" track no matter how vigorously and thoroughly I downvoted that stuff. But even with those annoyances, it was my favourite source of music when at the computer for a long time. Nothing I have found since has quite satisfied me. Currently I am alternating between using the Songza website, the Firetube plugin and Minitube for Linux. I've thought about adding a shoutcast server to my home server machine and building my own playlists, but that wouldn't satisify my desire to get *good* recommendations based on my admittedly eclectic tastes. (early delta blues, the latest death, thrash, symphonic and nu metal, dubstep, electroswing, taiko drums, even the occasional bit of crunk)

"I've finally learned what `upward compatible' means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes." -- Dennie van Tassel