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


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:SpaceShipTwo (Score 1) 254

by pz (#49365503) Attached to: Why the Final Moments Inside a Cockpit Are Heard But Not Seen

An interesting note is that we do have cockpit video of the SpaceShipTwo disaster because no such union was involved, and it did seem to result in useful information. Still not sure which side of the issue I land on. I know I wouldn't want to be videotaped 24/7 at work.

I bet your work doesn't involve being responsible for the lives of hundreds of people.

Comment: Re:Non-linear gravity (Score 1) 214

by pz (#49359699) Attached to: Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected

We're trying to explain inflation and the motions of stars orbiting galaxies not matching our naive model.... couldn't a non-linear gravity model explain all this without the dark energy/matter hocus pocus?

Gravity is non-linear, or maybe you didn't notice that distance is in the denominator? It's linear in mass but really very non-linear in distance. m1*m2/r^2. Not even remotely linear.

To review: double m1, you get double the force: linear in m1. Double m2, you get double the force: linear in m2. Double r and, WHOA NELLIE you get 1/4 the force: massively (pun intended) non-linear!

Comment: Re:No one is forcing anyone to do anything (Score 3, Insightful) 535

by pz (#49341243) Attached to: Comcast's Incompetence, Lack of Broadband May Force Developer To Sell Home

Heck, he could, you know, rent an OFFICE to conduct his business from that has connectivity. There are tons and tons of incubator spaces that would be happy to have his business.

I've conducted business from home. It sucks. There are many good reasons to separate work and home.

Comment: Re:Retail is dead anyway (Score 1) 110

by pz (#49301727) Attached to: Amazon Launches One-Hour Delivery Service In Baltimore and Miami

With Prime and a few dollars i have to wait only a day.

It's actually far better than that. With Prime and a few dollars, I can avoid going to the mall entirely and wasting the two hours that horrendous experience entails. All-in-all, it's a profitable proposal for me, as time is precious.

When the need for having something immediately rises above my personal cost threshold for a trip to the mall, well, that's still an option. But in the name of all that is holy, why would you ever step foot in one of those things otherwise?

When malls first opened (yes, I'm that old), they tried to attract customers by making the experience a rich, enticing, special one. You had good restaurants. Calm, quiet environments. High-end department stores as well as fashion boutiques. Sales staff that dressed well and spoke proper English. Now it's noise, bling, distraction, horrid food, snotty sales staff with slacker attitudes that match their poor verbal skills, and self-checkout tellers. Thank you, I'll stick with an on-line retailer for commodity items. And when the malls die, it will not be a great loss as the positive shopping experience of yesteryear is gone already. To paraphrase the parent poster, good riddance to the modern malls.

Comment: Re:Over the top? (Score 1) 90

by pz (#49297577) Attached to: Amazon Wins US Regulators' Approval To Test-fly Drone

I get that they want to keep these things close to earth and away from airports. I don't get why you need to be able to glide a plane onto the runway during an engine failure in the landing pattern when you're probably flying a drone that is incapable of gliding at all and which is multi-engine besides.

Because they have certain tools at their disposal. They have the private pilot's license. They have the medical certification. They know how do to handle those things. No additional bureaucracy is necessary -- and that's a mightily good thing. If they had different requirements ("sedentary medical certification" for example), then that would represent a heapload of additional work for them, cost for the taxpayer, and, as this is an EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM, potentially wasted effort.

Far, far, far better to use the tools they have available. Yes, the regulations might not appear a good fit, but they are as close as possible given the requirements surrounding piloting a remote flying vehicle.

Being piggish about the mismatch of regulation versus actual requirement is not seeing the larger picture.

Comment: Re:How to "fix" some African Nation... (Score 1) 119

by pz (#49268047) Attached to: Zuckerberg and Gates-Backed Startup Seeks To Shake Up African Education

Really? I used to get 30 mpg when everything was in perfect tune. The trick, though, was it was very easy to fall off of that global optimum, so you had to keep continually tuning and tweaking if efficiency was the goal. If you didn't care so much, then it was a wonderfully reliable car. And, sure 18 mpg was easy to obtain.

Comment: Re:Just let go. (Score 4, Interesting) 208

by pz (#49212445) Attached to: A Year On, What Flight Simulators Can't Prove About Flight MH370

The best theory I've heard is the follows (don your aluminum-foil hats!) --

Suppose you were a terrorism-for-hire organization, or a straight-up terrorist organization that was planning another big strike against a major superpower. Either one works for this theory. And suppose you had some new, amazing high-tech way of taking over a 777 by remote control. What would you do to either (a) test your system, or (b) impress a potential client? Such an ability would be HUGELY valuable, but only if it remained secret. You'd probably select a flight operated by a developing country that would not nominally have been under the same level of scrutiny as one from the first world, and one that could quickly be taken out of normal radar coverage. You'd take the plane over, disable its communication, move it about against the pilot's will (but still within radar range so that the demonstration could be recorded), and then send it off to crash well outside of radar range in a very deep part of the ocean where it might never be found, so evidence of your nefarious actions would not come to public scrutiny.

You'd be able to demand a pretty high price in the elite international terrorism market with such a demonstration. So while the act of diverting MH 370 might not in itself have been an act of terrorism, it still might have been executed by terrorists.

It's far fetched, yes, but it fits the facts better than any other theory I've heard. (Suicide by two non-suicidal pilots? Fire that magically disables communication without affecting navigation? Hijack with modern hardened cockpit access? Etc.)

Comment: No, just use Google (Score 1) 277

by pz (#49205357) Attached to: Daylight Saving Time Change On Sunday For N. America

The solution is actually pretty simple: use Google. To understand what time it is in a different city, use

time in London

To schedule a multi-timezone meeting, have the leader declare, e.g., "the meeting will be at 7AM London time", and allow each participant to figure out when that will be for themselves using queries such as

time in New York when 7am in London

Our company has been using this method to organize our international meetings with participants from five distinct timezones for some years now. Works like a charm.

Comment: Re:Snake oil (Score 1) 213

by pz (#49095563) Attached to: Sony Offers a "Premium Sound" SD Card For a Premium Price

As (another) analog designer who happens to be in the middle of designing a mixed-signal board, I can assure you that the right answer depends on how sensitive your analog circuitry is, and it could very well be that the answer is, "enough to drive you crazy trying to eliminate the interference."

Proper shielding of analog circuitry from digital interference, when the two are in close proximity, is really very, very hard. That's why you see all of the high-end audio cards have either (a) full faraday cages (plus careful PCB layout technique), or (b) are external to the computer case, or (c) both.

Five unshielded single-ended lines switching 1.8V at 208MHz that might not be properly terminated? Sounds like a powerful AM transmitter to me if my uV to mV level analog traces are anywhere near them.

Comment: Re:Cancer just doesn't have that "it" factor!! (Score 4, Informative) 96

by pz (#49081173) Attached to: Researchers Block HIV Infection In Monkeys With Artificial Protein

The biggest contribution from the massive levels of research on AIDS is not curing the disease. That will be wonderful when, and if, it happens. The biggest contribution will be that, as a result of trying to cure AIDS, we have learned immense, really truly immense, amounts about the immune system and it's incredible intricacies.

And, guess what? Ultimately, it is the immune system that keeps your body free of cancer. Cancers happen frequently in your body, and the immune system beats them down. When it fails at that for some reason, only then does clinical disease happen. I've heard it said that most people have 6 or so small cancers in their bodies at any given time, all being properly managed by the immune system.

Understanding the immune system, because we have been trying to cure a disease of the immune system, will eventually do more good for human health than any other single effort since the invention of antibiotics, with the possible exception of magnetic resonance imaging.

But let's look at the GP's assertion about money. The National Cancer Institute's budget appropriation for FY15 was $4.9B. They're the part of the NIH that sponsors cancer research. The National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, the NIH that is charged with fighting AIDS, had $4.3B appropriated for FY15. Even if we assumed that the entire NIAID budget went to AIDS (and it does not), the NCI has a bigger budget. So the GP is just flat out wrong with his initial assertion: much less research effort in the form of NIH extramural support is spent on AIDS than on cancer.

Comment: Re:GOTO is a crutch for bad programmers (Score 1) 677

by pz (#49041005) Attached to: Empirical Study On How C Devs Use Goto In Practice Says "Not Harmful"

You could do the following, and with a little non-standard indenting, it's rather more elegant, I think.

void func() {
      if (AcquireResource1()) {
      if (AcquireResource2()) {
      if (AcquireResource3()) {

Comment: Fun Science But ... (Score 1) 73

by pz (#49017675) Attached to: Underwater Vehicle Uses a Balloon To Dart Like an Octopus

I'm all for this sort of noodling around, but it seems, ah, a little low-brow for such an esteemed bunch of folks, and I say this with two of my three degrees from MIT whence the research came.

From the article, "While it at first glance might appear to be a glorified toy..." and that is certainly the truth. Dispelling that impression is in no way helped by the audio track on the released video where someone intones "pewnnnnnnggggggg" as the vehicle is released, making the same sound that a kid would.

I'm sure there's serious science buried beneath it all, somewhere, but it isn't evident in the article, nor in their materials apparently released to the public.

Comment: Re:Show me my doppelgangers! (Score 4, Interesting) 153

by pz (#49004977) Attached to: Facebook Will Soon Be Able To ID You In Any Photo

I'd like to be able to ask Facebook:

"Out of all the hundreds of millions of Facebook users, which ones look the most like me?"

I'd rather ask, out of all those people which ones look like Mark Zuckerberg enough to pass for him at the corporate headquarters? Just to make a point.

What good is a ticket to the good life, if you can't find the entrance?