Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:More conservative fear-mongering (Score 1) 432

by muecksteiner (#48246027) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

The whole point that Taleb is trying to make is that you (resp. our species) might be wrong on this in some cases: he claims that if it can be reasonably argued that the consequences of a fuck-up in a given area would global and catastrophic enough, there is a case to be made for not taking chances in the first place. Even if said chances look just fine from the viewpoint of our current knowledge on the matter.

Comment: Re:Endemic would be really bad.. (Score 1) 280

by muecksteiner (#47981223) Attached to: CDC: Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million In 4 Months

Except that Ebola is not really contagious *until you show actual symptoms*. Unlike with many other diseases, patients are not contagious during the dormant phase of the infection: so your sports stadium scenario fortunately does not apply.

Ebola is an extremely nasty and deadly disease if and once you catch it, but preventing its spread is apparently not that hard if you obey very basic sanitation rules. If it were ever to mutate to become more contagious, we'd be in Hollywood movie territory. But as long as it stays the way it is, there is no need to panic.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 3, Interesting) 667

by muecksteiner (#47500275) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

To add to this, whoever pulled the trigger might have been under the misapprehension that the airspace above them was now closed to civilian traffic. The Donetsk region is hardly optimal for real-time access to all pertinent data, and from 00:00 on that day, there was actually a new (!) NOTAM in force that closed all airspace in the region beneath FL320 to civilian traffic. If the person reading the NOTAM is not the brightest bulb out there, or if the information had been passed around once to often and slightly modified and/or "streamlined" in the process (intentionally, or just unintentionally), this might have ended up as being read by those in the command vehicle as "completely closed". Misunderstandings like this have happened over and over again, sadly.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 1) 667

by muecksteiner (#47499573) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

If what you said is true that surface to air missile systems can be disabled from firing at a target by simply claiming to be civilian in their IFF response then they'd be less than useless as every military jet would be flying around pretending to be civilian.

Which might well be what actually happened. The goons at the aiming controls of the SA-11 might have seen a civilian transponder reply, thought "ha, you won't fool us!" (Ukrainian air force Antonovs also carry civilian transponders, to be able to move in civilian airspace), and then pressed the big red button regardless.

In conjunction with this it would be *very* interesting if there were some other, real targets in the vicinity when they fired. Say, if there really was an air force An-26 in the area, that - by coincidence or malice - happened to have set a civilian transponder code, to disguise itself.

Note that the Ukrainians might have done this to avoid being shot at - not assuming that the separatists would shoot anyway. Or something like that.

Comment: Not a retarded idea. No way. (Score 5, Insightful) 218

by muecksteiner (#46783867) Attached to: MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

Compare the relative frequency of major hurricanes/typhoons to that of major earthquakes. Add to that the various potential problems that any floating structure has (springing a leak and sinking comes to mind here).

Then, consider that in Japan, the nuclear plant closest to the quake epicentre actually survived unscathed. Because the people designing it did not stick with the minimum legal specs for the seawall height like the geniuses at Fukushima had, but did some research on their own. And simply made the seawall much higher.

Conventional plants are not that bad, if they are designed by competent people. If you put them on barges, though, as these dudes are proposing, you are just adding to the potential failure modes, while not avoiding any that are impossible to handle. Not a good thing.

Comment: No shit, Sherlock (Score 4, Insightful) 135

It sure took you some time to notice the bloody obvious, folks. The only odd thing about this is why you only mention biomedical research.

Because pretty much all other fields have exactly the same problem: fairly massive over-production of graduates - in particular, people with a PhD. In times of shrinking university enrolments, and shrinking populations (in the West, that is). No one will ever need that many faculty. And for most jobs outside uni, that time spent in PhD comics land is not a good preparation. At all.

Comment: Oh my (Score 5, Insightful) 353

Even by Slashdot standards, this is one of the dumbest headlines, ever.

Bugatti was no Nazi. He lived and worked in pre-war France, and was not a Nazi supporter at all. The reason the thing did not fly back then was because Bugatti, who had build the plane in France prior to it being invaded by Nazi Germany, successfully hid it from the invaders so they would not get their hands on it. Or rather, the technology used in it: in any case, the plane in the form it was built was never, ever, a "Nazi plane". Nor would it have been useful at all as a warplane: this thing, amazing as it is, is a pure racer, with zero capabilities for being armed. Nor would it probably have been much good in a dogfight, either: that crate was built to be fast, with everything else being a secondary consideration.

This headline is pure drivel, and really should be corrected ASAP.

Comment: Re:Engerlbart's Greatness (Score 1) 110

by muecksteiner (#45738947) Attached to: Ted Nelson's Passionate Eulogy for Douglas Engelbart

No, that is merely a systemic problem at work that has always been an issue:

The skilled think that the impressive stuff they have done is easy, while the unskilled think the little they have contributed is the hottest thing, ever. Film at 11.

Comment: Re:Summary says it all (Score 1) 634

by muecksteiner (#45132871) Attached to: China's State Press Calls For 'Building a De-Americanized World'

You know of course that overspending has nothing to do with it.

Well, actually, overspending has everything to do with it. And for me as an outside observer, the whole Democrat vs. Republican thing is not relevant at all (at least from a personal viewpoint) when trying to make sense of the situation right now.

You should consider the following: just because Bush criminally over-spent during his tenure, this does not mean that the complaint against *continued* overspending done during the Obama administrations is invalid. Bush was lucky in that he inherited a U.S. administration that was in great financial health. And like so many other vices, overspending takes some time to generate *real* problems. Bush just had the totally undeserved good fortune that during his tenure, he could still expand the national debt like there was no tomorrow.

Obama can not do likewise - and perhaps the only real criticism against him ought to be that he, as an experienced politician with access to all information there is, should have seen this coming much earlier. And adapted his policies accordingly. Much sooner, than now. He did have the very considerable misfortune of inheriting the financial mess Bush made. But when you are in your second term, excuses along the lines of "the previous guy did it" become somewhat stale.

But I'd concede to you anytime that Obama had the deck stacked against him pretty badly from the get-go: what with the financial crisis bursting on his watch, and all that. He took the helm at a not so fun time in U.S. history. And I'd also concede to you any day that the U.S. conservatives seem to have a very disconcerting habit of blaming everything that is going wrong right now on a man who had not all that much to do with the creation of the fundamental problems at the root of it all (i.e. two Bush administrations that basically left the place in financial ruin due to brainless warmongering, a basically unsupervised and unhealthy financial industry going amok, and other idiocies).

Comment: Re:Summary says it all (Score 4, Insightful) 634

by muecksteiner (#45131025) Attached to: China's State Press Calls For 'Building a De-Americanized World'

Well, actually, Thatcherism was not all bad. She did have her good sides: she destroyed the extreme trade unions, which had long lost sight of their purpose, and had turned into a cancerous growth that strangled the country. She gave Britain a new sense of moving forward. She got the finances in order. And she had the guts to stand up against the Warsaw Pact for, as it were, western values, in times when few in Europe were willing to. Also, she, as a person, was definitely not of the worst sort you see as a politician. As in: she took no bribes anyone was ever aware of, and was, at least on a personal basis, fairly honest.

However, as Tyrion Lannister so famously said in GoT, nothing before the "but" in a sentence counts. :-)

Even after taking all the undoubted merits of her tenure as prime minister into account, I still think she did more damage to the fabric of British society, than good. The main areas in which the Thatcher era was, especially in hindsight, disastrous are the following:

- It is all good and fine to shaft the kind of parasitic "caveman commie" trade unions she was dealing with. Shaft them well and thoroughly. That much was good conservative instinct, and good politics. But a truly great politician would have realised you have to put something else in their place afterwards, lest even worse stuff will fill the void in the medium term. But nothing was done, and labour relations, and with them the gaps between the classes, have grown alarmingly worse ever since. Amongst many other institutions, a functioning market based society needs something like trade unions, like it or not. If not in name, but in function. Basically destroying them was a very short-sighted and petty-minded victory.

- Overall, she was (and due to financial constraints, up to a point had to be) hell-bent on undoing a lot of the institutions aimed at increasing social cohesion which had been introduced over the previous decades. Such as the school system, which was much, much better when I was a kid, than it ever was afterwards. And arguably, the terminal decline of the state run school system started in the Thatcher years, during which everything that cost the government money was seen as an unnecessary expense. Even if in the long run incurring said expenses maid perfect sense - schools are a prime example of such an expense. But during the Thatcher years, the pendulum swung too far back. After excesses of state regulation, nanny state antics, and wasteful spending (there is a reason the movie "Brazil" was done in Britain, of all places), suddenly lots of sensible things were also thrown out of the window, along with the bad stuff. Perhaps inevitable in such circumstances, but still extremely damaging. Especially as few since then have really tried to repair this damage.

- Her tenure saw the birth of the modern financial sector in Britain, which has turned out to be a much worse cancer on society at large than any leftist structures could ever have been. And I'm saying this as a fairly conservative person who is not against banking, or even the financial industry per se. Far from it. But the anti-social, uncontrollable monster that is now the City was hatched in the "bugger thy neighbour, if there is profit in it" and "greed is good" era of Thatcherism, and has grown ever since.

- She herself was a more or less decent person, but the majority of chaps who got to power in her wake were not. Amoral, greedy little persons, to an alarming extent. Since she was boss at the time, I hold her at least partially responsible for this.

- And there is also something she is personally responsible for, with her jingoistic attitude towards all the other components of the UK - in particular, the Scots. When I was a kid (and I am Scottish), being pro-independence in Scotland was a quaint notion held by some university types. The high-handed and arrogant manner in which Thatcher in particular dealt with the early stages of the devolution process did a lot of damage to the Union, and to the idea of getting along within the UK. In terms of politicians being sensible in this regard, it did not get much better after her, of course. But at least in the timeframe after the war, she was the first prime minister who openly showed an active dislike for Scotland, and Scottish affairs. She let her personal feelings get the better of her, and this was absolutely not what was needed at the time.

I could go on, but these are some starting points, if you want to continue the discussion. :-)

Comment: Re:Summary says it all (Score 2) 634

by muecksteiner (#45130455) Attached to: China's State Press Calls For 'Building a De-Americanized World'

And as someone who is old enough to have witnessed some of it firsthand, I can only second this. Thatcherism is something you do not wish on anyone, not even your worst enemies.

If it were to happen, though, it would be interesting to watch what Thatcherism without a Labour party as punching ball would look like.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"