Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:How does one tell the difference? (Score 2) 103

by raque (#49749059) Attached to: Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years

There is a lot of controversy on this. As a rule you can't tell from one artifact, it's the number of them and their arrangement that matters most. Key to understanding is the Hollywood version is backwards. Usually in Hollywood you take the a stone and remove stuff till you are left with a tool, like whittling a point on a stick. In reality the bits you take off are the tools. What you have in your hand is a core.

This gives you key pieces to look for, cores being high on the list. Cores are distinctive. The process of making many flakes of a similar size off the core creates a regular and distinct size and shape. They are more rounded at one end, the handle, and then it tapers roughly. There are clear angles and planes to cores. You can tell of the knapper was right handed or left handed. Then you have lots of very regular sized flakes and the core they are off. If you are anal enough - a defining characteristic of archaeologists - you can reassemble the original stone from the cores and flakes. You also have work places for this. It takes some work to make stone tools, so you made a batch at a time. So you have small stone tool work stations. Since they were temporary they were just abandoned as is. An archaeologist can sometimes just sit down and pick up where the original worker had left off.

If you Google "Flint Core" in images you can see pics of many.

Comment: This is a problem of idealism vs pragmatism (Score 1) 634

by raque (#49572485) Attached to: How To Increase the Number of Female Engineers

We will never know why people do or don't take the courses they do. We will never know why they act as groups the way they do. If we knew why women didn't take engineering courses we would know how to stop genocides.

This article takes as an assumption that getting women to take more engineering courses and becoming engineers is a good thing. There has never been a good answer for why - but there isn't a good reason for why not. The real issue here isn't engineering. It's trusting people and letting them make up their own minds. In this sense we get a conflict between several different ideas of freedom. Rousseau vs Locke. We in America, IMHO, understand freedom to be something individuals exercise, not something we receive or have done for us by any external force. Freedom is limited because people do really bad things sometimes. Baltimore is not just an example of people now making bad, evil, choices. But an example of a history of evil or bad choices. Slavery and Jim Crow can't be defended.

So we are left with a pragmatic statement that women in America take these sort of engineering courses. Since this has worked, and if we take it that getting more women to go into engineering to be a good thing, we should continue to do this.

I'm good with this. The people who want to do this have the same freedom to do it as other have to ignore it. I can't see anything bad coming out of this.


Comment: He seemed more concened about his job then my kid. (Score 1) 352

by raque (#49558155) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher

As a father with a daughter studying to be an English teacher this concerns me a lot. There are really two arguments here that are intertwined. One is what is the best way to teach children, the other is what is the best way for teachers to keep their jobs. The expectation is that you get the later by achieving the former. The linkage between these is the argument, but unless it is made specific I don't think this discussion can progress. Right now it is not specific. I want the best way to teach my kids. The teachers job is his/her own problem.

TOA didn't make clear what the author thought, just that he was very worried about his job. I think he shouldn't have been so concerned. The great online colleges are failing faster and faster. The University of Phoenix just reported that it has lost half of its students.They also report that students learn less and remember less. I've tried a number of these going back to a programming school offered by Metrowerks when they still made Mac Programming environments. They never worked for me.

Another issue not discussed is what about disabilities? Any variation from the norm may be disastrous.

Still I think he is right in one way, it will allow for pressure to reduce the pay of teacher and reduce their numbers. We have to remember profit is the difference between the cost and the sale price. If schools with big screen cost half has much, many will call for them even if they only do two thirds as well. And, this won't effect the well off anyway.

+ - Enough about drones. There are automamous robots showing social behaivior.

Submitted by raque
raque writes: Wired has an article up on a new series of Boston Dynamics' autonomous quadruped robots. This model is called Spot. The video shows two of these walking up hill, bumping into each other then walking and staying in parallel as they turn and come down hill. The accompanying text points out that this is less complex then a swarm of locusts. This shows we are now building robots that are almost as smart as bugs.

Are these a cause for concern since these are build but for DARPA, and, as anyone who has been stung by a wasp knows, things don't have to be very smart to be dangerous.

+ - Elementrary school teachers are being blamed for lack of women in STEM fields. 1

Submitted by raque
raque writes: The NYTimes has published another article on why there is a lack of females in STEM fields.
The article relates a study in Israel where students were given two tests, one scored by their teacher the other blindly. In the one scored by the teachers boys fared better, in the blind one girls fared better. Below is part of my comment on that article:
This article is part of the problem with STEM and STEM education, not part of the solution. It is very hard to develop good experiments and even harder to have news sources report accurately on those experiments. It is well known that it is almost impossible to develop unbiased tests because we have no idea how and why these biases appear or how they operate. African Americans still underscore White Americans on every kind of standard test. This is why places like New Haven CT and NYC have to adjust their scoring of civil service exams to account for that. This same issue of bias in testing is being encountered and widely reported on in India. We also know that that difference in scoring has no reflection on future success. All test are by their nature flawed. Two different tests simply worsens the problem.
If gender is unrelated to ability then in an blind test gender should have disappeared — not be reversed. If it still appears then you have not shown that gender is not an issue in STEM. You have shown that either gender is an issue or that your test is biased somehow — which we knew.

My daughter walked away from STEM after graduating from Brooklyn Tech H.S.. She is going into the humanities. It wasn't bias or the boys, it was the nature of the work. She didn't want to put that much of her creativity into something she didn't want to do. She would rather spend six hours writing fan fic from the point of view of the Impala on Supernatural then spend six hours on working on the animation for a diaper commercial or working on a framework.
Why do we keep assuming females are stupid and need the NYTimes to tell them what they should be doing?

Comment: There isn't a scientific law of speech freedom ... (Score 1) 894

by raque (#48827415) Attached to: Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression

... or principal of nature. It is only a cultural construct that has been occasionally been enforced with limits in some societies in far western Eurasia. It exists to the extent that military power allows and the whims of political powers decide. Socrates only got so far - and as a Citizen of Athens he had more freedom of speech then anyone else at the time. It is a privilege provided by force of arms.

When I was a kid on the streets of Brooklyn - Watch GoodFellas I was in the background of the reality of that piece of fiction - you had to take personal responsibility for what you said and did. If someone didn't like it you could get a flat nose, or be spread over several large black plastic bags in the Fountain Ave Dump.

So to all of those who are busy screaming "FUCK YOU". Would you say that if you had to take personal responsibility for that? That old west "Thems fighting words"? Why yes you say, and after the second beating you'll be far more circumspect.

But - you don't have to take that beating for being a jerk, Western Military Power prevents it. Usually And, now, less and less.

Comment: Apple has consumers stuck with vender lock in (Score 1) 598

by raque (#48743889) Attached to: Tumblr Co-Founder: Apple's Software Is In a Nosedive

I was looking to buy my daughter a new laptop for college. We bought an ASUS laptop that had good ratings. It was on woot so it wasn't going to cost a fortune if it went bad. It had troubles right away and had to be sent off for repair. Now it seems to be fine. Apple hardware is still the best. Way not cheap. But ... Windows 8.1 is every inch as good as Mavericks, and better then Yosemite. On a laptop the touchscreen is useful - if only marginally. It is not better then Mountain Lion. Almost all of the new "features" in MacOS are useless and there are more and more bugs. I really don't need my computer to ring when I get a call. On Windows 8.1 for every piece of stupidity there is a really nice feature. Getting the Asus to work on the otherwise all Apple network is maddening. Those bugs are not on the MS side.

I feel stuck. You have to pay close to Apple prices to get good hardware, but the software and just plain strangeness of Apple is making me regret buying so much Apple gear. Getting out of the Apple ecosystem is tough and expensive. One thing that hasn't been mentioned - at least as far as I can see, is Time Machine. It has gottne flaky too. When you try to get to your backups, sometimes they are there, and sometimes that slice is grayed out. You have to mount the backup as a drive to get it to work. Sometimes. Not Thrilled. Now my backups are locked, good luck if I need to get something - which is very likely with a big OS switch.

Getting out of the lock in, even if i keep using some apple products, will be long and hard.

+ - The New York Times tries to lasso in science reporting, and fails.->

Submitted by raque
raque writes: I sent my first letter to the editor to the NYTimes on this article/video. I liked it until the very end. Then the author, who is the narrator of the video, says that the hand and the lasso are 'in phase". What!? One of the great problems of science and math writing is the use of words that simply serve to keep out the uninitiated, who now seem to be me. Science is justly determined to be unambiguous in its language. Ergo, "Phase" has one, and only one (or two) meaning. The initiated know what that meaning is, and how that meaning is different from any other meaning (except for the other one). Could someone provide, or point to, a definition of 'in phase" that would be useful here. I did look it up and found ...

The only definitions of "in phase" that Google helps with are the states of matter, and I don't see either the rope or the roper becoming gaseous or liquid (something the roper, I'm sure, is glad of) or if two sine waves have the same peak. I will assume, please correct me if I'm wrong, that two cosine waves having the same peak would be in phase also. But, since cosine is a function of sine ... isn't it? A cosine wave is a sine wave that has been shifted — I think. But the rope is going around ... Since Minute Physics doesn't have a video on this I'm stuck.

The article is different from the video by pointing out that the author of the paper being reported on is the student of another scientist/mathematician who won an Ignoble Prize for why spaghetti breaks when thrown against a wall.

This being Slashdot, I will leave out any other implications of "Whips, chains and ropes". We wouldn't go there.

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:More like the Paleolithic than 18th Century (Score 1) 470

by raque (#48017053) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

May I suggest you RTFA.

If you had RTFA you would see that such details are assumed to have been dealt with - or there would be no one to have a space war. You need at least two populations in different parts of "space" for this to happen. Since you count all of the "space" around the and between the population centers in calculating the population density then it is very low per cubic what ever you want to count in.

The first time I came across this math and logic was "Citizen of the Galaxy" by Heinlein. Always recommended. The last really good one was Friday. I never liked it when Lazarus Long would pop up in those last few books.

Comment: Re:More like the Paleolithic than 18th Century (Score 1) 470

by raque (#48015373) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

Any colonization of Space would drop the population density.

We will colonize space in time cubed, but our population increases in exponential time. Colonization of space will not drop the population density.

No. You get separate populations separated by large distances. Think islands. The density of any local population, like Earth, won't change much, but the total density will plummet when you have to include all of the space between Earth and Mars if there are two populations. Hence high local population densities, which will have conflicts much like ours, and a low total density which will have hit and run tactics.

Comment: More like the Paleolithic than 18th Century (Score 2) 470

by raque (#48015067) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

Any colonization of Space would drop the population density. With out a dense population you cannot support a large military. So you have two scenarios, a very local one and a distant one. This is much closer to the Paleolithic then to any modern or near modern history.

The local one would be like what we have today. If everything is one polity then you have police functions. It there is more then one polity then you have militaries. The Blue and Green colonies of Mars fighting over something. What they are doing is trying to change the nature of how power and resources are controlled by the polities. This is some sort of permanent reshuffling. You have to remember that the instability of the Middle East is driven by large, poor, young, male heavy populations.

In a distant scenario you get hit and run tactics. Mars colony wants the ore that Europa colony has, so it launches a raid. Grab the ship and go. It doesn't try to change the nature of Europa's or it's own polity. This is what you see for most warfare in most of human history. This means a totally different kind of technology and tactics.

  I tend to think that Firefly got it most right. Space Wars are Civil Wars and the military exists to maintain the status quo. Fighting will take place within the Polity.

Comment: Maybe not art (Score 1) 91

by raque (#47814541) Attached to: Researchers Say Neanderthals Created Cave Art

This is a mountain being made out of a mole hill. What we have is evidence that a series of hash marks were made for no reason we can see. Therefore, it must be symbolic. I'm not buying it, even if they are selling.

First, we have to remember that the Neanderthals did not much change their tool set for something like 260,000 years. If you find a Mousterian tool set anywhere you have Neanderthals. That is weird in it's self. Think about it, for 2600 centuries everywhere from Afghanistan to Gibraltar all Neanderthals used the same set of technologies. Not a lot of original thinking going on there. This has all sorts of problems, like where did they all learn the same tool set? Where did that knowledge come from and why didn't it change?

Second, the hash marks are not associated with anything else, nor is it reported that they are repeated anywhere else. One set, one place, once. Walk into a cave, find Mousterian tools, you have Neanderthal. Walk into a cave and it's painted like a '70s Brooklyn subway car, and everything else had been doodled on, the tools set is one of dozens locally, and you have humans.

Third, the definition of art is off. Art may not serve a practical purpose, but does do something specific. The Soluterian culture, which was modern human and followed the Mousterian, would make flint blades several time larger then normal and so thin and delicate that the could never be used as a blade. They are being used as symbols. They are art. What was found is not understood and drawing conclusions is not warranted.

Comment: Re:Corroborating Hieroglyphics? (Score 3, Informative) 202

by raque (#47762989) Attached to: How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

Not in the Old Kingdom. The great extents of the Egyptian Empire are New Kingdom, 2000 or so years later. The Old Kingdom was early Bronze Age. Stone Tools were still the rule, not the exception. Bronze was difficult to make and copper tools were more common in the rare instances when metal tools were used. There are records of the gangs whose job it was to sharpen the copper chisels that were used.

We should remember that this was not the first, or the second, or the third, huge pyramid they built, it was the sixth. They had an extensive knowledge to stone and had to deal with it. The Egyptologist Cyril Aldred had an illustrative story. He was traveling down a side branch of the Nile with a local boat crew. They found their way blocked by a rock fall. He assumed that they would have to go all the way back and find a new way. The crew said they could have it cleared in a few hours and it wasn't a big deal, they do this all of the time. He was astonished to watch then use techniques that he hadn't seen before to clear the stones. They would use mud backs to hold fires in place and either splash or pour cold water on the heated stone to shatter it. That, a few levers, and their knowledge was all that was needed to move tons and tons of stone out of the way.

Comment: Re:Corroborating Hieroglyphics? (Score 3, Interesting) 202

by raque (#47762885) Attached to: How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

That point of view is being argued. Read "The statues that walked" by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. They postulate that rats introduced by the colonists did most of the damage. The Easter Islanders dealt with this by eating the rats.

NPR article:

If all else fails, lower your standards.