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

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.

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

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?

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

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.

Submission + - Mozilla CEO attacked about his views of Gay Marriage.

raque writes: The NYTimes is running this story about Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich being attacked about his views on Gay Marriage. The Times reported that was blocking access to their site for Firefox users.

Is there anything in the ideals of the Open Source community that is relevant to Gay Marriage and LGBT issues in general? Is supporting Gay Marriage a requirement for developing Open Source Software? As I read the story and comments I was wondering how sexual orientation fit into the GPL.

Submission + - Netflix slams big ISPs over Net Neutrality.

raque writes: CNN Money is carrying this story about the conflict between Netflix and the big ISPs.

Netflix is correct is saying that they shouldn't have to pay a fee to ISPs like Comcast and Verizon to do what users, like me, are already paying them to do. I already pay Verizon to provide my bandwidth, and I pay Netflix to access their content. ISPs complaining that services like Netflix generate a lot of traffic ignore the fact that they are already being paid to handle that traffic.

Submission + - NYTimes OP-ED on the rise of the Global Commons and the rise of Anti-Capitalism 1

raque writes: The NYTimes has this article, by Jeremy Rifkin, on how the rise of "Free" and "Open" economies are changing the world. He argues that the "Internet of Things" is driving down the Marginal Cost of of products to the point where they can't be made profitably anymore. Hence, market forces don't apply to them.

Though he crows about how this is a great thing, I do see some undersides. Do we really want people making things like Hot Water heaters for themselves?

Submission + - Should more math and equations be used in the popular press? ( 1

raque writes: The NYTimes (standard disclaimers apply) published two OP-EDs in their Philosophy section (first here second here), The Stone, discussing how Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle is abused. The second is a followup to the first. The author struggled to make clear his point and left the impression he was creating a strawman argument. In his followup he said that he was avoiding equations due to his writing for a general audience. I replied to both articles as Rtbinc, in the second I put up the following comment:

One of the issues is that Dr Callendar has is a fear of Math and equations in popular reading. A lot of other people are afraid of these few very pretty symbols. Lets do an experiment and see if using some equations and symbols drives readers into fits of terror and prevents their understanding as they cower shivering under their chairs.

The below is from Heinz Pagels in the Cosmic Code (available on Kindle from Amazon and Nook from B&N for about 10 bucks). It shows up on Google books too. Go look, it's fun.

One part of the Uncertainty Principal is (p)x(q)h – where p and q (the is pronounced delta, e.g., delta-p) are the sums of all of the uncertainties — or differences — in a huge pile of measurements of the position and velocity of some particle we're measuring – and h is the tiny, but still not zero, number called the Plank constant. The mathematical symbols haven't changed meaning, so if h ain't zero, neither p or q can be either. We can be as precise as we like, until we hit the Plank Constant. This is not some mathematical oddity, it is how the universe operates. That is weird, and that is one example of quantum weirdness.

The question for the experiment is: Would Dr Callendar have done better to use the equation in the first article instead of metaphors from TV and Movies? Or, did they so frighten you that you need a good stiff brandy and a foot rub.

So I'm asking the same question to everyone on Slashdot. Would Dr Callendar been better off just diving in and dealing with Heisenberg and quantum mechanics using the tools that were developed for it.

Submission + - What role do the Humanities play on Slashdot?

raque writes: The "NYTimes has this story on the growing hostility towards the Humanities and the Liberal Arts in American Education. I see two questions here: What does this mean for Slashdot? We're about STEM here, but the method used is the written word. Without Humanities how well will we be able to write? The second is that tech employees move up the corporate ladder the "tech" becomes less and less important. IT managers don't program, they write memos, proposals, email after email. It would would seem to me that success in moving up the ladder depends on skills developed in the Humanities classroom more then the CS lab.

Submission + - Pages 4.3 vs. BBEdit 10.5: How Apple Doesn't Respect Its Users (

raque writes: "For 22 years Tidbits has served the community of Apple users from fanboys to professionals. Tidbits publisher Adam Engst discusses how undocumented changes to how Pages 4.3 handles the epub format nearly sank his latest ebook on iTunes 11. He points out the differences between Apple's cavalier and high handed attitude to Barebones software's professional and clear response to issues with their software.

From a marketing point of view not admitting to mistakes and issues may make sense, but it creates havoc for those who's livelihoods depend on software doing what is supposed to do, and what it did last time. Not providing an accurate and complete change-log has become an Apple hallmark. Tuaw has an article up on undocumented changes to IOS 6.1's music controls. That may not be a big thing, but what else did they change?"

Submission + - Robots join search for Amelia Earhart's lost plane (

raque writes: "Following up on an earlier story.
A group of aviation archaeologists will use underwater robots along with submersibles and sonar to search for Amelia Earhart's plane. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will search this July for the aircraft, which went down 75 years ago. "If there's wreckage there that can be recovered, we need to know what it is, how big it is, what it looks like, and what it's made of so we can prepare a recovery expedition that has equipment to raise whatever's there," said Richard Gillespie, the group's executive director.
Also explained are how this is being paid for and what FedEx did to help."


Submission + - Apple's Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay (

raque writes: "The NYTimes is reporting on just how badly Apple Retail employees are being paid. Apple is exploiting it's fan base for cheep labor. This is one reason I don't go to Apple Stores if I can avoid it. Stores like NY's Tekserve offer a great shopping experience without so exploiting their workers"

Without life, Biology itself would be impossible.