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Comment Re:Why this matters (Score 1) 421

The reason this is so important is not the single black hole merger they detected.

AND, it was detected during a shake-down run that wasn't intended for scientific investigation. Either they were incredibly lucky, or these things happen all the frelling time, and we're about to view a cacophony of zip/whip/zuups.

It is because this is the first of what will become a major source of astronomical data.

Indeed -- one of the unaddresed issues (so completely, blatanly unaddresed that I suspect the scientists involved have been blinded by the success) is using gravity waves for real astronomy. Wait, wait, bear with me for a second; I'm not saying what they did wasn't real astronomy. Consider the one overlay map that was shown during the press conference of the probable location of the source, based on the single event as viewed by the two separate LIGO detectors in the US. That was deduced based on matching up the data signatures, time delays, and known geometries between the two detectors. Effectively doing source identification with a stereo recording (I did much of my graduate work applying that sort of analysis to a different kind of recordings) by using the two detectors as a phased array of size 2. With really serious amounts of computing power, that phased array should be able to give you a map of gravity wave intensity / frequency (think brightness and color) for THE ENTIRE SKY. With only two detectors, it will be very fuzzy, but as more detectors are brought on line across the globe, the resolution of such a real-time map would improve dramatically.

Comment Re:My Mac Experience (Score 2) 184

I run a conference where the abstracts of presenters are published in a book. After a teeth-gnashing experience dealing with the output of Pages, much worse than the experience with Word or OpenOffice output, I decided to no longer accept submissions written in Pages. I just don't have the time for incompatibility for the sake of incompatibility.

Comment Re:More nation-wrecking idiocy (Score 1) 599

I would expect that sort of thing to be focused in certain areas where there are higher accident risks due to inappropriate driver behavior. In general, all the things you listed are done to encourage drivers to drive at a safe speed.

This road, designed as a major drainage for the city, feeding the nearby turnpike, is a 1-km long parking lot during rush hour. It isn't a question of safe speed, it's a question of waging war against cars. There are parallel streets, but they are narrower, full of stop signs every other block, and zoned fully residential rather than mixed retail. Yes, sure it will encourage more people to use a bicycle, or public transportation, but that road, in particular, serves traffic that is (a) typically going over 10 miles away, and (b) is not served by public transportation. The basic hypotheses, the basic assumptions, are wrong, and yet, the Urban Justice Warriors (to coin a term) have blood in their eyes, so cannot see beyond wanting to eliminate cars in a city that has seen the number of commuters increase radically (perhaps double? a guess) over the past 5 years due to the boom in biotech. The fact that we need to increase efficiency of ALL forms of transportation is lost to them, and, instead we get things like devices that show how many bicycles have passed a given point in the road (WTF good does that do, except line the pocket of the contractor who built and maintains it?!?) when bikes cannot be used to commute safely 3 months out of the year here.

Comment Re:More nation-wrecking idiocy (Score 1) 599

Here in the Northeastern part of the US, there is an active war on cars (I can't speak for any other locale, it may well be across the nation). Roads are being narrowed, lights intentionally de-synchronized, so-called traffic-calming features built into new construction, and slowly being retrofitted into old construction.

Given the population explosion that we're seeing in parts of the Northeast, this is sheer idiocy. We should not be making the roads LESS efficient, we should be doing the opposite. There is a road near my house that suffered severe traffic during rush-hour. The frelling nincompoops in power here did not decide to re-examine and tune the stoplights along the road, or to segregate bicycle traffic to another, parallel roadway (of which there are two good options), but, instead to make the formerly two-lane road plus parking both sides (that was always full) into two narrow lanes plus parking one side, expanding the sidewalk one side to include a bike-only lane that consumed MORE than the parking lane it displaced, all told. Two city buses can no longer drive side-by-side down the road, and the rush-hour traffic has gone from bad to intolerable. Safety has DECREASED because the lanes are narrower, and anyone who needs to park essentially prevents any traffic flow, whereas before, with wider lanes, they would stop only one side. I'd like to force the people behind the decision to drive that way every day for the rest of their lives.

Nation-wrecking indeed. It's a groupthink that is intent on destruction cloaked in the name of progress.

Comment good for for remote locations (Score 1) 155

My guess is it would be cheaper to let a tree reduce the CO2, chop it down, and make the wood alcohol from that.

Sure. Perhaps. Certainly it would make things lots nicer here to have lots of trees. I'm a big proponent of reforestation, so even if the process isn't perfect through growing trees, I like the idea of more trees.

But the low-temperature catalyst-driven system has a MUCH BETTER application: fuel generation in places where you can't grow trees, like, say, Mars.

Comment Unlimited files for $60/yr (Score 5, Informative) 229

If you take the trouble to read through Amazon's TOS, and click to their actual rates, you can buy unlimited storage for photos, videos, AND ARBITRARY FILES for only $60 per year. Not only that, but Prime gets you 5 GB of videos and non-photo files for free.

Going through all the hassle of specially encoding your data files so that they masquerade as photos seems like a heapload of time better spent earning $60 so that you don't have the long-term headaches and potential for being banned from Amazon's service that such abuses flirt with. You want a real backup service? Buy it, it isn't expensive.

Backblaze, a darling of Slashdot, is only $50 per year. It isn't worth the hassle or time to beat the system for such low prices. Amazon Glacier is $0.007/GB/month. Both systems offer encrypted storage. Why work hard when someone else has done the figuring out for you?

Comment same data 1 year later? (Score 4, Interesting) 229

Back in the day, when I worked as a dev at a social networking site, we would resample old photos that hadn't been accessed in over some threshold (let's say it was 1 year, for the sake of argument). Anything older than the threshold would get re-encoded in JPEG to a poorer representation in order to save storage space.

So what stops Amazon from doing the same thing? Do their TOS say they won't?

Non-image data under those circumstances become pretty much useless, even if packaged so that they appear to be an image of off-station TV reception. Once you include a lossy recompression, your data are no longer data, but noise for real.

Comment Re: That's exactly what Slashdot should NOT do! (Score 2) 1310

And it didn't used to happen as much at Slashdot, but it has started happening more and more, recently.

Back in the day (pre-DICE), you would get good, opposing views on a subject, when warranted. These days, it's hard to say anything that goes against the flow without getting voted down.

As an example, I have, repeatedly, criticized the Bennet Hasselton dren that gets posted here, not because everyone else is, but because BH's writing is short-sighted, naive, and not worth my time to read. I'm happy that he seems to have faded away. What is so annoying about BH's posts? They usually start out with a mildly interesting idea, are long enough that they should be well-reasoned, but, about halfway through, one realizes that his writing reflects a college freshman level intellectual capacity. No more, please, thankyouverymuch.

However, I found mysefl starting to join the bandwagon for StartsWithABang just because everyone else was bashing his posts. I found the posts to be often mildly interesting, sometimes informative. I dislike the straight-line pipe he has to publishing on Slashdot, and the linkage to Forbes, which seems to swamp any potential discussion of the value of his posts. That's the groupthink in action, and, personally, I dislike it in me and in others.

The original premise of Slashdot was that individuals would moderate, and meta-moderate, honestly and, for the most part, accurately, reflecting an objective view rather than a subjective one. I call on the new owners to help us return to that model.

Comment Re:who here can fix that? (Score 1) 256

Seems pretty wasteful if you, and dozens (? hundreds?) of other people, have to go buy a second computer, OS, and other software from a specific vendor just for communicating with the government.

Ah, there's the rub. The default computational environment in my institution is Windows. I bought an extra computer not because I needed compatibility with everyone else, but so that I would have the freedom to run the environment of my choice. The extra computer is really my Linux box.

... don't denigrate the people who are trying to push the government to move to better systems.

Yes, I suppose you're right. The shrill tone of the OP, with self-serving attitude and utter lack of historical perspective was a little off-putting. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't work toward a completely universal solution for governmental forms. The thing is, since Adobe Reader is universal, or very nearly so, and PDF is subject to open standards, I'm not sure the effort is either justified, or well-aimed. A better target, I should think, would be Adobe, to get them to restart Linux support for Reader.

The current PDF-based system is so much better than the previous heinous solution (it was so painful that I've blocked the name of the program), and is so close to a perfect solution that it really does not strike me as a battle worth waging.

That said, the obvious next step would be to go to a purely web-based system, as the NSF has for its final reports (maybe for its submissions as well... I haven't made one in a handful of years). This idea, however, is not nearly as appealing, despite the obvious universality that browser-based solutions present. It is much more difficult to use a web-based multi-page form, including text editors, than a single PDF document, from my recent experiences.

Comment Re:who here can fix that? (Score 4, Interesting) 256

Hmm. I use Firefox / Fedora to access both the NIH and NSF web sites without any problems.

I also use Adobe Reader / Windows to fill out the SF424 forms because, well, if it screws up because you've got your panties in a twist about not using one company's software versus another's, and you don't get the grant because the form was unreadable or inconsistent, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Indeed, I was just submitting the JIT (Just In Time) information for a DARPA award and the PDF form wasn't working correctly despite having been recently downloaded. Whom do you think gets the sharp end of the stick if I were to submit a wonky form? You go ahead and be pendantic and self-righteous and blame the government; I want to keep doing science. So the old copy was deleted, and a new copy re-downloaded. Fortunately, it wasn't some hidden, Fed-sponsored pro-Adobe conspiracy, but likely a simple TCP error during the first download, as the newer copy worked just fine.

Moreover, when it comes down to it, grant applications to the US government are likely accessible by the public through FOIA requests, so it's not like the information is really private or protected in any deep sense. What sort of nefarious activity does the OP suspect Adobe will commit with the data in the application anyway?

The current use of a PDF-based application is phenomenally better than it was before when the applications required a specific program to be downloaded in order to fill them out. That was frustrating to say the least, highly non-portable, and full of bugs. The present PDF-based mechanisms are great, simply great, in comparison. They also work very, very reliably.

There are battles that are worth fighting, and those that aren't. I'm always pleased when the US government allows me to use my Linux box (and I do that preferentially), but as a realist, I also have a dedicated Windows box on my desk for exactly the times when the assumption has been made that Windows is the computational substrate. That the government no longer requires .DOC files in its grant applications (at least the ones I see), and takes PDFs instead is a huge, huge win.

Comment Re:Does it count as "evidence" (Score 5, Informative) 258

If you read the article (I know, I know), you'll learn that there are, in fact, observables involved. There are a handful of Kuiper Belt objects that have an odd level of similarity among them, so odd that the only ready explanation is that there is an as-yet unseen object shepherding them. The Caltech group created a simulation of the kind of object that might produce such a result and found that it ALSO would be expected to shepherd a second set of smaller objects into orbits orthogonal to the ecliptic. Very, very strange. So they made that prediction, and LO! found objects that fit the bill.

They created a theory based on observational evidence. The theory made a prediction that was tested, and found correct. The body itself has not been observed, yet, but I'd expect that the Japanese will find it (given that, according to other news articles), they have just the right sort of telescope to perform the search.

Comment Re:So what? (Score 1) 258

Any company who gets money from taxpayer dollars should be required to list all employee salaries and compensation, top to bottom.

Any company (for-profit or not-for-profit) who gets money from taxpayer dollars (ie, grant money) is already subject to governmental auditing of how that money was spent. That includes how much went to whom for what portion of their total salary. Although I've not been subject to such an audit, I've created many such budgets as part of the application process for grants. After the award is made, whenever I need to make a substantial change to the budget, it needs to be cleared with one of our financial people who has been, effectively, deputized by the GAO. After the grant period has finished, the GAO can still come in to review the books for any such award. I don't know for sure, but imagine that the results of such audits are available through FOIA requests. So most of your idea is already in place.

However, I don't see why taking taxpayer money should require disclosing salary information for employees not paid through those funds.

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