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Comment: Re:IKEA's name is the big deal (Score 1) 207

by pz (#47251231) Attached to: Ikea Sends IkeaHackers Blog a C&D Order

Tax avoidance makes more sense than any other speculation in this discussion.

Were IKEA organized as a normal for-profit venture, then anyone with half a brain at IKEA would see the utility of IkeaHackers and do one of a handful of things:

1. Buy them outright.
2. Obtain favorable advertising terms in exchange for licensing (eg, ikeahackers gets to keep running ads, but 50% of the spots must be filled with IKEA adverts, and sales-active links to the official items mentioned in each article must be included).
3. Think they're cute, and provide gratis branding coaching (including direction on proper use of their logo, precise color usage, etc) in exchange for disclaimers, and big, obvious links back to IKEA.
4. Sign an exclusive advertising deal: ikeahackers.com gets to keep operating, but must only carry IKEA adverts, with some affiliate payment structure for completed sales that originate on ikeahackers.com so that the site can continue to live on.
5. Similar mutually-beneficial arrangements . . .

IKEA have an enthusiastic fan base who, inspired by reading the blog, will likely go out to buy more IKEA product. This is not just a good demographic, but a great big juicy one. These are the people they *want* shopping in their stores, the people they *want* to reach through media campaigns.

So why turn them away? The only conditions that come to mind are when bringing the web site into the fold has larger, more threatening implications to the corporate structure, as the parent post suggests.

Comment: Re:Might be the perfect tablet for academia (Score 1) 136

by pz (#47087225) Attached to: TechCrunch and Others On the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Paper. I have lab notebooks from my undergraduate years (through the present) that I refer to, because it's easy to do so. If I need to find something, and don't recall exactly where it is, a simple flipping of the pages, and I've found it in a matter of seconds.

Call me a luddite, but electronic lab books don't have sufficient usability yet. My post-doc uses one, and he's far less efficient with it (and writes much less as a result) than I am with pen and paper. Importantly, human memory is at least partially (some would argue primarily, and I wouldn't dispute that) visually based, and not having that aspect of where you wrote something on the page, or in what color ink, or with what size handwriting, etc., makes a big difference to usability. The closest I've seen to viable electronic notebooks are the specialized pens that have small internal cameras that require special paper to use. Last I checked, though, they were prohibitively expensive compared to a traditional pen and lab book.

Pen and paper have had thousands of years of development. It's going to take a while longer before the electronic version is usable.

Comment: Re:Uh... (Score 1) 208

by pz (#46937915) Attached to: Brain Injury Turns Man Into Math Genius

I don't buy the thermodynamic argument. That's an epiphenomenon (i.e., correlation not causation).

Basic mathematics does not consider time. Nor does it really consider sequential ordering properly until it deals with the notion of state, State begets the field of Computational Theory. Before a proper wrangling of the ideas at the core of Computational Theory (as embodied in Turing Machines, for example), there was a horrific thrashing-about that was particularly inelegant, such as the attempts in First Order Logic to capture the meaning of state.

Now, when you talk about infinity, you are effectively saying that results from Computational Theory are being computed by a machine that takes zero time to get from one state to the next. Nothing in the physical universe takes zero time, and so infinity is considered to be ill-supported by Nature. That's the crux of the Constructionist objections.

Now why should mathematics be beyond time? It describes space pretty well. Why should time be exempt?

Comment: Re:Uh... (Score 1) 208

by pz (#46935985) Attached to: Brain Injury Turns Man Into Math Genius

There are a fair handful of constructionists (aka finitists, or number theorists who do not like infinities) who would care to disagree.

Although I'm not a constructionist, I am related to one by birth, and nearly always find something off-putting about mathematical arguments that rely on infinities. Sure, they're fun to play with, but reasoning about them means you're essentially being fast-and-loose with time, and I've not been convinced that's OK.

Comment: Re:How to get the lenses (Score 1) 83

by pz (#46464623) Attached to: Stanford Bioengineer Develops a 50-cent Paper Microscope

Feh. So the news article says he's using industrial grit. The presumably more authoritative arXiv paper states

Ball Lenses.
The ball lenses used in constructing Foldscopes included material types borosilicate, BK7 borosilicate, sapphire, ruby, and S-LAH79. The vendors included Swiss Jewel Co, Edmund Optics, and Winsted Precision Ball. Part numbers for some select lenses include: 300m sapphire lens from Swiss Jewel Co. (Model B0.30S), 200m sapphire lenses from Swiss Jewel Co. (Model B0.20S), 2.4mm borosilicate lenses from Winsted Precision Ball (P/N 3200940F1ZZ00A0), 300m BK7 borosilicate lenses from Swiss Jewel Co. (Model BK7-0.30S), and 1.0mm BK7 borosilicate lenses from Swiss Jewel Co. (Model BK7-1.00). Note that half-ball lenses from both Edmund Optics and Swiss Jewel Co. were also tested for use as condenser lenses for the LEDs.

So they aren't exactly industrial grit, but very tiny lenses that look like they were originally intended for the telecommunications industry. The question of how does one get these lenses is answered by, "pick up the phone and call one of the listed suppliers who specialize in micro-spheres of clear, hard stuff."

Comment: Re:How to get the lenses (Score 5, Insightful) 83

by pz (#46451305) Attached to: Stanford Bioengineer Develops a 50-cent Paper Microscope

If you read the article (I know, I know) you'll learn that he uses industrial grit, also known as glass beads, which are tiny bits of glass that are reasonably spherical and ridiculously cheap. The quoted lens cost in the article is $0.17, but unless I'm misunderstanding something, like how special the grit is that he's using, or what kind of secondary selection process is required to pick out beads that will make good lenses, that should be closer to 0.17 cents, not 0.17 dollars.

Comment: Re:What would NASA say to it? (Score 1) 166

by pz (#46417359) Attached to: NASA Forgets How To Talk To ICE/ISEE-3 Spacecraft

So because they are no longer new, we should abandon the Mars Rovers, Cassini, the Viking probes, and other projects just because they are beyond their mission lifetime?

We should stop measuring lunar albedo just because it's always the same? We should stop the pitch drop experiment? We shouldn't have measured the cosmic background radiation to look for spatial variations? We shouldn't have measured continental drift because it can't possibly happen and mountains don't move? Just because something appears static (and without comparing against previous measurements, we have no means for verifying that), does not mean it isn't changing over longer time scales that are still very important.

I'll repeat my thesis: we are so data-poor about the solar system that the feed from any single working probe is vital. The cost of receiving data is trivial compared to the cost of construction and launch.

Comment: Re:What would NASA say to it? (Score 2) 166

by pz (#46397891) Attached to: NASA Forgets How To Talk To ICE/ISEE-3 Spacecraft

The cost of launching anything is staggering, and it gets more stupendously staggering with the size of the orbit. Each probe is important. We are nowhere near having so much data about our solar system -- forget the universe as a whole -- that any single operating probe should be considered junk.

Comment: Re:science has no defense against hooliganism (Score 3, Informative) 62

by pz (#46330489) Attached to: Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers

Conferences are not journals. The peer-review comes during the presentation, not when the abstract is submitted. If the session moderator doesn't know the submitter, maybe he'll look at the abstract a bit more closely, but he's not going to send the abstract out to three other people in the field to vet it. So it gets published.

Depends on the field. Some conferences are very hard to get into, and there is a rigorous peer-review process (I can think of two of the conferences in my field with acceptance rates at or below 30%). Others accept essentially anything and everything (like those semi-scam conferences in China I keep getting invited to). I'd wager, however, that the majority of meetings are somewhere in the middle, accepting most submissions that sound reasonable, as the organizers trust that the cost of attending and presenting is sufficient disincentive to trolls.

Comment: Re:again with the assumptions. (Score 1) 108

by pz (#46308693) Attached to: Making Sure Our Lab Equipment Isn't Tricking Us

You cannot have entanglement without interaction, you cannot have interaction between two things that lie outside of each other's light cones.

My extremely fuzzy understanding from freshman physics is that the universe is thought to have undergone an expansion early on that was, indeed, faster than light. That post-big-bang period was called "inflation", an idea Dr. Alan Guth came up with (and he happened to be my freshman physics lecturer). So it is possible that two systems that became entangled prior to inflation are now outside each other's light cones.

Comment: substitution cipher? (Score 1) 89

by pz (#46240723) Attached to: Vikings' Secret Code Cracked

From the description it sounds like a simple substitution cipher (from their examples, /e/ for /f/, and /n/ for /k/). How hard can that be to decode if you have enough of the text? Yes, neato that we can now read certain notes that have been encoded for 900 years, but were they really only undeciphered that long because no one had a proper, scholarly look at them?

Comment: Re:154dB is not fatal, or unusual (Score 1) 113

by pz (#46136151) Attached to: Sound System Simulates the Roar of a Rocket Launch

It's one thing to do that inside a car (which is what, 6 x 4 x 9 feet ... or maybe a little larger than that?). It's quite another to do it inside a huge room that's 36 x 30 x 54 feet in size. It's also worth noting that car audio competitions use a single frequency. The LEAP facility is broadband, since it needs to simulate the sound of a launching rocket.

Comment: Re:Tragic, but almost understandable ... (Score 1) 894

by pz (#45847771) Attached to: US Customs Destroys Virtuoso's Flutes Because They Were "Agricultural Items"

An important sentence was left out of the summary, which explained that customs mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo. Judging from the photo accompanying the article, the confusion is almost understandable. It looks like a home made instrument that may or may not have been prepared properly given restrictions on agricultural products. (Example: they may not have been concerned about the bamboo per se, but rather invasive insects that may be in it since the reeds may not have been treated.)

I'm not an insect biologist, but I'd be surprised if 10+ year old bamboo has any remaining viable insect life when kept as a musical instrument (rather than, say, being left outdoors). The photo from the linked article does not look like something that was freshly cut.

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