Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - Pay What You Want for the Learn to Code Bundle, includes AngularJS, Python, HTML5, Ruby, and more. ×

Comment Re:Sympathy only goes so far. (Score 1) 788

The school district acted inappropriately. A written apology is warranted. But even I want to tell the kid's family to GTFO at that price tag.

And then the kid's lawyers will procure a settlement for a mere $1.5M, one third of which will go to them, the kid will have a really, really nice college fund, and the school district will have been slapped back into rational awareness, firing both the kid's teacher and the school principal. With hope, the next election will result in the wholesale replacement of the school committee.

Comment Re:That's silly. (Score 1) 69

There is regularly scheduled hydrofoil service between Athens and a handful of Greek islands. The ride is fast, but a little noisy. The boats are disturbingly powerful for their size. Being on one of them is the only time I've felt jerk (the time derivative of acceleration) in anything larger than a small motorboat. They are also very sensitive to water conditions ---you don't want to ride in them when it isn't nice and calm.

info -- http://www.aegeanflyingdolphin...

video of a Flying Dolphin approaching port --

Comment Re:Oh god this ... (Score 1) 349

A little-recognized problem (from the public's perspective) with the TSA screening process is that the agents watching the x-ray machines get bored. Bored screeners aren't effective. If the rate of a detectable contraband object is too low, the brain turns off and the agents look without seeing. Once that happens, the agents are entirely ineffective and they miss rare, but important events like a weapon in someone's bag.

The solution is to randomly insert images in the x-rays that are false positives. To keep screeners alert, these false positives need to happen about 5% of the time.

That's one reason that every now and then, a bag gets sent back through the x-ray machine without being opened, despite not having any contraband in it.

Comment Re:Good way to hide your work (Score 1) 135

Perhaps you didn't follow my argument. The $600k is to pay for a staff of six full-time employees at a hypothetical journal. I don't think you can run a high-quality journal with a total budget of $10-1000 per year for more than a very brief while.

If you did follow my argument, and think otherwise, then please provide counter examples.

Comment Re:Good way to hide your work (Score 2) 135

A whole 22 cents per person per year for a subscription. Very expensive.

It is when you consider that you're paying that for every member of faculty and every student. Not just those in the linguistic department. Those other departments need their own subscriptions. Before you know, you're spending tens - even hundreds - of thousands of dollars on subscriptions.

Um, either a subscription by a library covers all students in an institution, as your first sentence asserts, or it only covers the ones in a given department, as your second and third sentence assert. If the first one is true, the second and third are false.

$3k for a top-notch journal just isn't that much when subscription costs are often in the $10-20k range for other journals.

I do not dispute that publishers make scads of money. I take no stance on whether that money is deserved for the value they provide. The idea, however, that open source publishing can somehow erase all costs is pure delusional fantasy. Publishing can be made to be not-for-profit, but that is no where near the same as free. It costs money to run the journal, and that's beyond just hosting fees. You need a staff, and each person costs on order of $100k in total budget (salary, benefits, overhead). A journal that publishes twelve issues per year needs a full-time staff of six people, exclusive of the editorial board. That money has to come from somewhere. I publish a biennial journal (once every 2 years), and I do it largely on my own in addition to my other responsibilities, which what I base the 6-people estimate upon. What do these people do? Manage the web site, manage the submission process, copy edit accepted manuscripts, typeset accepted manuscripts, fix problems with figures, layout the journal, solicit and manage advertising/grants, make sure that everything is backed up, make sure the payment processing is PCI compliant, manage the business, etc. (If you think that authors can handle the copy editing, typesetting, etc., then you're going to end up with a publication that looks like it was put together by my six year old, won't get read, and won't get referenced. Trust me, I tried that with the first issue of the journal I publish.)

So, if we assume that an annual $600k needs to come from somewhere, there are really only two sources: the submitters and the readers. The traditional model is that readers pay a subscription fee, and submitters pay almost nothing. The open-access model moves the burden from the readers to the submitters, who now need to pay thousands of dollars per published article (12 issues of 10 articles each means $5k per published article). Either way, the money has to come from somewhere. Publishing is not free.

Again, it is entirely possible that the large publishing houses are making a profit that is obscene. I make no assertions on that. But thinking that the costs can go to nearly zero and indefinitely maintain the same level of quality is naive.

Comment Re:Oh dear god..... (Score 3, Interesting) 339

How about a more sane and more plausible... larger brown dwarf twin?

The signal is highly aperiodic (read the article), so a brown dwarf won't be a good explanation. I'd expect a protoplanetary disk would be a more reasonable explanation than a brown dwarf, but then there's the problem with the missing IR. It could be a trinary system with lots of occlusions from our perspective (which would mean that the stars would all be very close together). This star is just ... odd, no matter what the explanation ends up being.

What we need is a set of extra-terrestrial telescopes flying in precise formation so that we can do 100,000 km baseline interferometry and get the sort of resolution to see detail like that.

Comment No basement? (Score 2) 127

Anywhere it freezes in the winter (which covers a rather large swath of the world, but certainly not all of it), you need to establish the foundation below the soil frost depth or face your foundation heaving each winter and slowly but surely twisting your building into collapse. This building seems to have been designed for zones where the ground does not freeze.

Also, what happens when the nice solar panels get covered in six feet of snow? Oh, right, not made for that application. And when the wind blows hard and tears off the nice deck / car park? Right, again, not made for that application, either.

So, OK, they designed a house for temperate climates with moderate weather in a way that does not require nails or screws. An interesting design challenge, somewhat like, "let's see how fast the two of us can run in a three-legged race!" It's fun, you might learn something about design, but isn't really all that practical. Moreover, I see a lot of very expensive finish ply in those photos, so this design isn't intended for low-income housing.

Comment Re:Lies, damned lies, and statistics (Score 4, Insightful) 213

Only the hard sciences seem to have any real legitimacy and even then I wouldn't trust a biologist all that much.

I got started in life as an Engineer (3rd or 4th generation, as far as I can tell), and became a Biologist. One of the first things that shocked me is the notion of noise. In Electrical Engineering, noise is well-managed and understood. When you say you have a good fit to your data, it means errors of less than 1%. In Biology, there's so much noise and inherent variability that when you say you have a good fit, it means errors of less than 50%.

There are very few biological processes we understand well enough to say that we really, deeply understand them. Unlike, say, a transistor.

Comment Re:XKCD time comic (Score 1) 105

Slightly over 3000 frames, quite a bit shy of the GIF artist's vision (if you'll allow that term), but orders of magnitude more interesting for being a movie to start with, and for being set during the flooding of the Mediterranean Basin, arguably another couple of orders of magnitude more creative.

Heck, Mandelbrot zooms are more interesting than a counter.

Comment Can't we do better? (Score 3, Insightful) 105

The Long Now is a far better project than a GIF with slowly increasing numbers. Heck, Arthur Ganson's "Machine with Concrete" is better, and covers the same idea.

If they had made the GIF a 1000 year movie of non-trivial content, then it might be far more interesting. But then, "The Clock" movie which covers 24 hours is brilliant and would be hard to surpass for density of ideas.

48M frames would be about 550 hours of footage at 24 frames per second. That's multiple lifetimes worth of output for a prolific movie maker. So it's unlikely that you could really produce that many frames -- even ones that aren't that different one from the next, as you would have in a normal movie.

How about something more tractable and interesting? How about "Swan Lake" at 1/100th speed (inspired by David Michalek's "Slow Dancing")? How about a basketball game at 1/100th speed? How about time-lapse of something even slower, like a simulation of geological weathering? And those are just off the top of my head. A sequence of numbers? To celebrate GIF? Can't we do better?

Comment Re:Article is a load of rubbish. (Score 1) 153

I certainly concur that the linked article is nothing more than FUD.

But I also suspect that the code in question is also not as nefarious as everyone makes it out to be. As you point out, there are many good reasons to be able to detect when a test is happening. As a good engineer, were I to write such code, I'd want to add a failsafe to ensure that the emissions devices didn't somehow get turned off. The test states that all must be turned on, so they damned well better get turned on.

if (EngineMode.Test) {
  for (i = 0; i LessThan Engine.EmissionsDevice.NumberInstalled; i++) {
    Engine.EmissionsDevice.Enumerated(i).Mode = Enabled;
  Engine.Throttle.Sensitivity = LowSensitivity;
  Engine.Performance = PrioritizeEfficiency;
  Brakes.TractionControl.Mode = Disabled; ... etc ... // OK, we're ready for the test!

Code like that alone cannot be considered evidence of a defeat device. Evidence of sound engineering, yes. For intent to defeat, there needs to be more.

"For the love of phlegm...a stupid wall of death rays. How tacky can ya get?" - Post Brothers comics