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Comment Re:LOTR (Score 1) 167

After all, D&D was really an interactive version of Tolkein's world to begin with, wasn't it?

No, though Tolkien's work had some influence and helped create a market for the game.

Gary Gygax was an avid war gamer, a published author of articles on wargames, and a developer of wargaming rules. The D&D game evolved out of wargaming rules for medieval-style battles - knights, archers, that kind of thing.

You can see this even in just the cover description from the early rules: my copy of Greyhawk says "Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures". Similarly, if you read the history of the game you'll find references to the "Castle & Crusade Society", part of the International Federation of Wargaming. I believe GenCon - the convention people now associate with D&D - was originally the Lake Geneva Wargames Convention.

Gygax, a major bookworm, drew upon a wide variety of ideas in comic books and in early science fiction and fantasy (much of which predated Tolkien), as well as mythology (predating Tolkien by thousands of years). For example, I see gargoyles, chimera, griffins, and medusae in one of the early rule books (none of which are to be found in Tolkien).

Many people seem to think that Tolkien created fantasy, but there are many earlier and contemporary works in this genre. For example, the first "Conan the Barbarian" story (Robert Howard) was written in 1932, the characters "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" (Fritz Leiber) were created in 1934, and the Hobbit would only be published in 1937.

The key innovations that Gygax (and others) developed from earlier war games were to reduce the army size to focus on a small number of heros, to add fantasy and science fiction elements, and to have the idea of an ongoing game (the "campaign").

Dave Arneson, the other major participant in creating the game, was probably the first to add science fiction elements, as part of his Blackmoor campaign (which I understand grew out of his wargaming sessions). This, of course, was very different from anything in Tolkien.

You can still dig up copies of the old rules and see the wargaming elements (it helps if you're already familiar with old school wargaming). As the game evolved, the wargaming-style rules started to disappear. The use of miniature figures, for example, stopping being important, the wargamers had lots of these, and terrain to go with them, but as the game moved beyond wargaming it started to attract players that didn't have or want any of this stuff.

In today's RPGS, it's been my experience that we tend to get two different styles of play: some groups emphasize the role playing, others emphasize the gaming (rules and tactics). The latter approach is much closer to the original game, but both approaches can make for reasonable and enjoyable play sessions. Many current gamers are firmly wedded to one camp or the other, and this greatly complicates producing new or updated RPG rule sets, as the two groups want fundamentally different things in the rules they use. For example, to the groups that emphasize role playing, complex rules (a long tradition in wargaming) just get in the way, while to the groups that emphasize tactical play, these actually provide more freedom and opportunities for tactical creativity.

Comment Re:1980 called and wants their story back (Score 2) 77

This story is about approximately 35 years old stuff. (I think Rogue came out in 1980)

The ADND Dungeon Master's Guide (a book first published in 1979) had a pretty complex random dungeon (and wilderness) generation system, so the idea is certainly nothing new. There may have been even earlier variants on this theme, I haven't read all the earlier books.

The ADND system was intended for use by a human, but I'm sure lots of people ended up writing computer variants (most of which probably never got published).

It's always nice to have people publish their versions of this kind on thing. There's still lots of room for innovation in this area.

Comment Re: Programming (Score 1) 616

Calculus and differential equations are need for doing simulations of physical processes

This is a bit outside my experience, as all I've done there is a 3D physics engine for a game. Even then, I suspect all you need to know are the equations and a few well-understood approaches to integration, actually understanding the math (or the physics) doesn't seem necessary. (Though I'll admit that it is helpful.)

I suspect that what the original poster is referring to is a bit outside your experience. A lot of simulation involves going far beyond cookie-cutter recipes, and you might have to do quite a bit of work to even get to the point where you can apply the recipe. As the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer (integration would be the hammer) than every problem looks like a nail...

In general, you can hack together simple models without really understanding math, and for many things that will work well, but you have to expect some serious bugs lurking in the underbrush. Numbers on computers can not necessarily be represented exactly (particularly for scientific or engineering simulation), and this can lead to compounding errors which will sooner or later torpedo your program (the integration will give the wrong answer, and your simulation goes wildly astray).

To understand and address this issue, you don't necessarily need to be able to read and understand a text on "Numerical Analysis" (which would require being able to read and do proofs, there's no other way to read a true math text), but you at least need to be able to read something like Ronald Mak's book on Numerical Computing (which is a great easy introduction to the topic, using programs to illustrate math ideas in place of proofs).

Simulation is hard in general, and tends to dive into math pretty quickly.

You don't necessarily, for example, need a Kalman filter to predict movement, but it sure comes in handy for some applications. If you don't understand how the filter works, you won't be able to assess it's strengths and weaknesses for particular applications. Eli Brookner's book goes into the details and many options, and the math isn't too bad, but it's definitely present.

This is part of the topic known as "digital signal processing", which is a major engineering specialization in its own right and just loaded with math. A lot of modeling relies on it: many real systems have feedback and understanding some DSP is fundamental to simulating many of those systems (you might have to dip into control theory as well). Richard G. Lyons book is a good start for getting your feet wet on the DSP: he makes the math about as easy as anybody can (and the first edition is probably still freely available from his web site).

Yet another issue arises from the fact that the real world is non-linear. To model this, you need to understand first what that means, and second how and when to linearize. Only then can you get to the point where an integration can (might!) be appropriate. For an example of this is done for electric circuits, Lawrence Pillage's book is a classic. There are direct techniques for doing non-linear modeling as well (as Thomas R. Turlington's book discusses) but the math gets very dense and these techniques have some major limitations.

In more general physical simulation situations, you tend to get into differential equations or even partial differential equations. Often the PDEs have no known exact solution technique (you can't come up with an equation that gives the solution, or what is called a "closed form", which means you can't apply your cookie cutter integration), so you'll have to resort to one of the many techniques that mathematicians and scientists have developed to work around that issue.

Even knowing which technique to pick (in terms of what is likely to succeed for your problem) is likely to involve quite a bit of math, let alone how to successfully implement it on a computer. There are often many possible models, with different characteristics or tradeoffs. Entire books have been written just on the subject of modeling/simulating just bipolar transistors, or just MOS transistors, with hundreds of pages on different models, loaded with equations.

Many problems have no known solution that converges in a reasonable time (go look up P versus NP). In such cases, you need to be able to come up with other techniques, such as hueristics. Even understanding the fundamental issue here requires some math, let alone creating and evaluating the heuristics.

Then there's the issue of chaos theory, and whether or not you need to address chaotic effects in your physical system ...

Comment Re:Readily adapatable to military use is NOT a req (Score 1) 698

So imagine using as precedent a case that was never even defended against. So what were the precedents established?

1.The Second Amendment protects only the ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia.

2.The "double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches in length, bearing identification number 76230" was never used in any militia organization.

You missed the most important precedent. It's a subtle one, and most people miss it, but it is absolutely critical for understanding the current state of the US legal system.

By creating a ruling that directly contradicts the written text of the Bill of Rights the Supreme Court chose to put a major contradiction into US law.

For legal professionals to create contradictions in the law, or to be involved in writing or enforcing law that does this, is always unethical practice of law, without exception. Contradictions make the law harder for non-professionals to understand, and that creates a long term artificial demand for the services of legal professionals, hence the ethics issue.

Even the appearance of contradiction would have been a problem, and to make matters worse, the court ignored the well documented history behind the 2nd Amendment and ownership of arms in Colonial America.

It follows that the legal authority of the court in this case was actually limited to telling the government a constitutional amendment would be required before the law they had passed would be legal. That's inherent in the oaths the judges swear when they accept positions with the court.

Further, the right to ethical practice of law being one of the most important rights protected under the 9th Amendment (under any reasonable statement of such a right, even the appearance of conflict of interest must be avoided if alternatives exist), the judges not only violated their oaths to uphold the Bill of Rights, but by their example effectively gave carte blanche to the legal profession to ignore major ethics issues in the law. US law is now riddled with ethics problems, and while we can't blame all of that on Miller (Slavery, aside from the moral issues, was certainly ethically invalid, as were the Jim Crow laws), this case does serve as a very damaging precedent.

Worse, rights retained by the people under the 9th Amendment, by definition, can not be taken away by any entity of government. That's the whole point of having the Bill of Rights be open ended! This was such as fundamental issue (and so critical to overcoming the opposition of the Anti-Federalists) that James Madison actually put it in the document twice, in the 9th Amendment (rights retained by the people) and also in the 10th Amendment (which provides for unspecified rights reserved to the people). By ignoring the right to ethical practice of law, the court effectively created a second major contradiction in the law!

It's ironic, because less than a decade before the events at Nuremberg, the US legal hierarchy was effectively giving the US legal profession a precedent that would allow them to ignore the concept of individual responsibility with respect to major ethics issues, while claiming hierarchical absolution ("my superiors said it was ok"!), something that has largely remained true to this day.

This has certainly had a chilling effect on a wide variety of rights that can reasonably be asserted under the 9th Amendment, such as the right to privacy, but there are broader implications. Not only do we now live in the "Land of the Lawsuit", but there are all kinds of other problems in US federal, state, and local law that trace directly to the willingness of the legal profession -- following the example of the Supreme Court set here and in other cases -- to ignore major ethics issues.

It's not an accident that, for example, the federal tax code is 2700 pages long, a length and complexity far beyond any reasonable size, allowing a lot of loopholes to be hidden in the law, loopholes that lawyers and politicians get paid to write and implement. Similarly, many of the patent and copyright issues that come up here on Slashdot are complicated by legal ethics issues inherent to how these laws are written and implemented. Then there's the right to roam and the right to travel, both of which arise under the 9th Amendment but are often infringed in US law (even Britain finally recognized the right to roam, after a decades long civil rights movement). I could go on with lots of other examples, but a little research of prior Slashdot discussions will quickly bring these up. The net effect on the US legal system, and thus on society, is very bad.

Irregardless of where one stands on the right to bear arms question as it applies to today's world, the decision in the Miller case is one no rational person can stand behind. Those who believe the right to bear arms should be more strongly limited should focus their efforts and getting a new Constitutional Amendment. Anything else does tremendous harm to society.

Comment Re:Except (Score 1) 72

If I were in a position of authority I would propose a gradual transfer of power from the private sector to a national central bank. Something like an increase on the fractional reserve ratio for all private enterprise by 2% per year until it hits 100. "New money" should then only be lent out by the central bank through private institutions acting as brokers. Profits from loans then go into the public treasury. Interest rates can then be controlled by a central authority who's core interest in is the welfare of the people, rather than shareholder profits. Periods of increased economic growth would result in increased social and public infrastructure spending, while periods of slower growth result in higher rates that help deflate bubbles and encourage saving.

There are fundamental problems with this scheme. The first is that a central authority is always far more subject to corruption than a large number of smaller entities. In many ways, centralizing things simply makes a bigger, easier target for the predators out there (some of whom usually end up in control of it).

The second is that no central authority knows what is best for the people. In many cases, nobody knows what's best. The world is a complex place, and there are many different viewpoints. A decentralized system has advantages here.

These will remain fundamental truths for the foreseeable future, and thus no central authority can be trusted to look out for the welfare of the people.

Humanity has had a really poor track record with central authorities. Study 20th century economic history for the gory details: there's the Soviet Union, India, China, and many smaller countries that have tried the central authority scheme and failed.

Further, you'll find examples on a smaller scale in the history of many countries, where bureaucracies functioning as central authorities, with respect to some particular economic aspect of society, have also failed to look out for the welfare of the people. Consider the history of water development in the USA, involving the US Army Corp of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, for lots of examples of how central authorities go wrong: Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert is a good introduction to this.

Similarly, we can see many examples of bad decision making in the history of large corporations: the executives in these organizations make a lot of really bad blunders because the organizations are too big and the executives too out of touch with the reality of their business (refer to the industrial psychology literature for examples). Any centralized authority will have the same kinds of problems.

Further, if you follow the history of invention and discovery, you'll see that a lot of things that ended up being really useful and important weren't predicted in advance. Having private access to funding is an often underrated benefit of the decentralized economy.

The outlook for any scheme involving massively increased central authority is dismal. There are better places to focus one's energy for those concerned with improving the public welfare. A vastly simplified tax system -- one that was truly progressive instead of just pretending to be -- would help a lot for nations like the USA. Cleaning up corporate law would help a lot as well.

Comment Re:Fuck you. (Score 1) 618

Do advertisements add enough value to my existence to compensate me for the time lost? Not rhetorical, I think it's a good question.

It depends on whether or not you have opted in, but even then there are limits.

If you opt-in, then clearly you are willing to see some sort of ad. You've indicated that you value being exposed to an ad, even if you don't know what it will be. That's probably the only value measure we can make here.

But it is an entirely different manner when one obscures the landscape with over-sized billboards, puts flashing signs next to a road (or people waving signs), goes door to door (or calls somebody) to sell a product or religion or political candidate, sends somebody junk mail, and so forth (assuming one hasn't given the recipient of the marketing the chance to opt-in).

Drivers along a road do not have the chance to opt-in, and it is often very difficult even for people in their homes to prevent this kind of activity. Not everybody has the option to fence out the world, and no fence is perfect.

There are a number of potential rights in play here, but the most fundamental is that civilized societies shouldn't allow people to steal portions of another's life. The human lifespan is finite, and time lost is precious and irreplaceable and hence extremely valuable: not allowing others to steal a portion of our lives is simply a rational recognition of this universal truth. This is why we categorize things such as kidnapping, murder, or robbery as crimes. In the last case, the robbery steals a portions of a person's life because it steals money or goods which took time to accumulate (and will take time to replace, if they can be replaced). This is why only opt-in approaches to marketing make sense: anything else effectively involves stealing a portion of a person's life.

Further, as a society, we don't necessarily allow people to opt-in themselves (or their dependents) to some things. Hence, even an opt-in system will have limits.

For example, raising the volume on a commercial during a video (to attract the attention of the audience, as a marketing technique) could result in pain or hearing damage to the audience, especially if they are elderly and have to up the volume due to hearing loss just to make out words from the non-commercial content. This could and should be regulated (perhaps even requiring voice and non-voice audio on different "channels" that are defined such that AV equipment can apply different levels of volume to them), even if one has opted-in.

Only the sociopaths don't see this. By definition, a sociopath is a person to whom other people aren't real. By attempting to steal a portion of other people's lives, the people who try to force ads on others are demonstrating their contempt for others, and thus their belief that others are not real.

All the people who engage in the list of activities above, and many other variants, are sociopaths.

Having some commercials while watching TV may be the only reason I have something to watch on TV, I can appreciate that. But in the past decade or more, commercials have consumed such a large portion of the time of TV, that it was no longer worth the time investment to be constantly interrupted, taking 30 minutes of my time to watch a 15 minute show.

Even here, there is a critical issue that is often not acknowledged, namely that society is choosing to give some entity associated with the TV show an exclusive monopoly (possibly excepting fair use or other rights). Since this is an entirely artificial right -- a privilege really -- it is entirely reasonable to limit what can be done with that monopoly.

With today's technology we (society) could easily require these shows be released in two formats, with one ad-free, allowing that version to be at a higher price to make up for the loss of advertising revenue (perhaps according to some formula determined by law), as a condition for granting copyright. We might even let producers release the two versions at different time (perhaps separated by a year). Failure to do this brings the whole concept of copyright into conflict with fundamental rights, and of course copyright is in the inferior position when that happens.

Comment Irregardless of the cause (Score 1) 304

Irregardless of the cause, the wildfires do pose health risks.

Those who have been lucky enough to avoid one may not understand how much smoke exposure is possible here. During a fire, the roads can be completely jammed, forcing people evacuating to be exposed to high levels of smoke for many hours. Significant amounts of smoke can go right through the air sealing on cars: a good respirator for every family member belongs in one's evacuation kit if one lives in a fire-prone area. After the fire, the smoke can stay in the air at lesser but still potentially dangerous levels for months after the fire.

Nobody really understands what health impacts these two different types of exposure will have, but for some people they could be serious. Just going to work means breathing potentially toxic air throughout the day for months at a time, since most workplaces will not have good air filtering (private residences can use air cleaners, which help quite a bit in my experience). This exposure can potentially cause long term lung damage.

To make things worse, the smoke toxins may interact in a non-linear manner with other airborne toxins present in many workplaces. The cumulative health effect may be considerably greater than the exposure to any single toxin would cause. The safety standards for exposure to things like asbestos (common in many older buildings) almost certainly underestimate the danger thresholds because the standards did not take into account having multiple toxins present in the air at the same time.

It is likely asthmatics and others with existing lung damage will be particularly susceptible to further lung damage.

In all likelihood, though many people may be experiencing long-term work-related injury as a result of breathing toxic air in the workplace following wild fires, this will not be handled by existing laws that protect workers, or agencies such as OHSA. Rather then adding further fuel to the climate change debate -- basically political posturing that does more harm than good -- it would be nice if the president actually did his job and tried to do something about the potential problem of lung damage resulting from breathing toxic air.

If we don't have good test and measurement equipment for determining the impact of fire-related toxins on the lungs, we should be researching what needs to be done to make that equipment. If we don't know how to medically treat lung damage, then we should be researching that. Given that entire communities are affected by this issue, it seems appropriate that the government should have some major role here, rather then relying on every potentially impacted individual paying for their own health care (and any research that may be required to fix problems).

Comment Re:Just Askin' (Score 1) 367

I think it's pretty clear that the intent behind the second amendment was the perceived need to have a well regulated militia. In other words, if you want to carry a guns, sign up to join the national guard.

This myth has been thoroughly debunked. There are numerous quotes from the key figures alive at the time that completely discredit this position. I'll let you do the research, since doing so will help you fill some gaps in your historical education.

Like it or not, individual ownership of firearms was accepted as an individual right at the time (and long after), and was associated with political freedom. This didn't mean weapons couldn't be taken from criminals, within reason.

There is also a long history behind this position, tracing back through British history. It's not an accident that most people in the Robin Hood stories are carrying weapons, and know how to use them. The audiences that heard these stories accepted this as normal and appropriate. In Britain, the traditions were different than they were in many other places (where only the nobility could carry arms). The British often saw themselves as superior to others in part because of this. Certainly, they were much freer than those in many parts of the world (particularly places where serfdom survived until the 19th century). These British traditions evolved into a belief or philosophy that ownership of arms was an integral part of being a free person, which would eventually be expressed by the US descendants of Britain in their Bill of Rights.

In US Colonial times, some jurisdictions required (by law) every household to not just have arms, but also to carry them to public meetings (including church services), to make sure that community was armed in the event of a surprise Indian attack.

For that matter, privately owned ships were routinely armed. In some cases, they were well enough armed to fight off warships.

If you wish to oppose the right to bear arms, do so for other reasons than a misunderstanding of the text and the history.

Comment Re:Hey, no worries. It's no big deal (Score 1) 149

I don't know that this is entirely fair. While a lot rides on a judge's opinion, in the end, the judges are only supposed to interpret the law and precedents from higher courts, not make things up as they go along. If there had been no precedent (ie. the Clapper decision), he may have felt more free to define a better test for "imminent threat".

You've forgotten that this is the USA, where the highest law of the land is the Bill of Rights.

The Anti-Federalists opposed the original Constitution on many grounds, including a) there was no Bill of Rights, and b) any Bill of Rights would be incomplete.

During the ratification process, promises were made that this issue would be dealt with. James Madison wrote a Bill of Rights, and cleverly made it open-ended, by providing for unspecified rights retained by the people (9th Amendment) and reserved to the people (10th Amendment), allowing the future assertion of rights as needed.

Thus, interpreting the law, in this country, is supposed to mean the judges consider not just precedents by their peers, but also any rights the people might want to assert under the 9th or 10th Amendments. An oath to uphold the Bill of Rights requires this of judges (as it does of all legal professionals, in any aspect of the practice of law).

In practice, the US legal profession seems to find it convenient to ignore this aspect of the Bill of Rights whenever they think they can get away with it. Perhaps this is because one of the rights the people might want to retain to them is the right to ethical practice of law, a right that would necessarily force many changes to how law is practiced at present. Then there's the right to ethical government ...

In this particular case, consider the following:
1. A claim was made by the lawyers for the defense of no injury, and thus, no standing.
2. For an identity theft victim to be forced to deal with credit card companies and online vendors as a result of this information breach takes time, and thus robs that person of an irreplaceable portion of their life, which is finite.
3. We consider kidnapping a crime in part because the same kind of theft (of a portion of a person's finite life) happens during kidnappings. Hence, an injury or damage has in fact occurred as a result of the information breach.
4. Legal professionals often work as intermediaries between private citizens and organizations or bureaucracies. People often hire them not because they have to, but rather because they don't want to deal with the hassle and potential loss of time associated with various situations.
5. A claim that "no damage" has been suffered can be expected to increase the demand for the services of legal professionals, as a class in society, in future situations involving identity theft (where they can be expected to function both as intermediaries, and in otherwise providing advice and assistance). Further, protecting the hiring of legal professionals in situations where people don't strictly need them is of interest to the profession.
6. The alternative, of course, would be to expect businesses to provide a reasonable level of security over the private information (something that would certainly be required under any 9th Amendment right to privacy -- nothing in the 9th Amendment limits its application to just government). Capitalism on the large scale necessarily requires some government regulation or other limitation on the conduct of business (quite of lot of Adam Smith's writing discusses this), and in the absence of competent direct regulation by government, rights arising under the 9th Amendment can be made to serve.

Note the ethical conflict of interest this situation poses for legal professionals, as a class in society. On the one hand, they increase their future business, and their job security, on the other hand they create a situation where the public might become more aware of the 9th Amendment and its implications (a very scary thing for the profession).

Comment Re:Big Data (Score 1) 439

Battleships became obsolete beginning in World War 2. During that war the US Navy moved away from focusing their fleets around the big battleships and instead focused on building their carrier fleet supported by smaller destroyers.

Within 6-8 months after Pearl Harbor, the US Navy had raised most of the battleships sunk at Pearl, and moved a number of ships from the Atlantic fleet over to the Pacific. Significant upgrades were being done as well. By any reasonable standard, the battleship force was more powerful than it had been at the start of the war. The big problem was fuel: the Germans were sinking so many tankers that the Navy had to choose between the battleships and the carriers. The Europe-first grand strategy meant that many of the remaining tankers had to be reserved for Britain. The carriers were faster and considerably more fuel efficient than the old battleships, and somewhat more flexible, and perhaps this is why they ended up using them.

Destroyers were not at all ideal escorts, and the navy never focused on using them exclusively with the big carriers. This was because a) the destroyers had very poor anti-aircraft capabilities at that point in the war, and b) the destroyers had trouble keeping up with the fleet, especially in high seas (short ships are inherently less efficient at higher speeds). The destroyers were superb in the anti-submarine and rescue role.

Instead of thinking about a destroyer-centric escort force, it's more accurate to think "combined arms". The preferred escort paradigm for the big carriers was a combination of cruisers and battleships (particularly the fast battleship designs) with fleet destroyers (ships large enough to be considered cruisers by WWI standards, thus better able to keep up with the fleet, but officially classified as destroyers).

The battleships could throw up an enormous amount of flak. It has been suggested that one of the contributing factors to the US victory at Midway was the lack of a strong escort for the Japanese carrier group, resulting in a much weaker anti-air defense (and fewer eyes on the sky to spot the dive bombers coming in). The Japanese liked to split their forces, and in this case the decision hurt more than it helped.

Aircraft carriers make battleships obsolete because a carrier can destroy a battleship long before the Battleship could fire a shot at the aircraft carrier.

At least one aircraft carrier, the HMS Glorious, was sunk by capital ship fire, with horrendous casualties. The German ships were using radar controlled guns, with remarkable accuracy on their initial salvos (possibly the best shooting by any navy in the entire war).

In general, the carriers were quite vulnerable, and many of them were crippled or sunk. Typically, the allies would keep carriers in the battle near isolated islands, but were very careful with these ships when using them near potential land based air. This vulnerability meant that surface warships were left behind to support landings in situations where the carriers were deemed too exposed (resulting in many of the battles of the Solomon Islands, some of which involved battleships engaging other surface warships). The carrier certainly didn't make the surface warships obsolete.

In any cost-comparison of the effectiveness of different ship types, it's also worth considering the effects of pilot attrition. Training pilots is a long process, and heavy casualties make the air arm considerably less effective over the long term. The Germans and Japanese took very heavy pilot losses in their air attacks on the Allied forces. Neither nation could make up these losses. There are also negative implications for morale associated with high pilot losses. A simple linear comparison of the cost of a battleship, versus the cost of the planes required to sink it, does not consider either of these factors, and is thus misleading.

Comment Re:Amendment IV has it covered (Score 1) 103

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . "

We already have a law covering this.

The 4th Amendment alone does not cover this issue fully, since it leaves open the possibility that the government or the legal profession gets to decide what is reasonable.

The addition of the 9th and 10th Amendments (unspecified rights retained by and reserved to the people) is needed to close the loophole. This ensures that "reasonable" must also match what the people consider reasonable, not merely what members of two special interest groups consider reasonable.

This, of course, invalidates many of the searches or seizures that happen. Civil forfeiture, for example, is seen to be entirely invalid, as one of the rights arising under the 9th Amendment is the right to ethical government, which creates a requirement that even the appearance of conflict of interest must be avoided when possible. A point police officers and federal agents might want to keep in mind, since their oaths to uphold the Bill of Rights are preconditions for holding any position of public trust or responsibility ...

Similarly, a right to privacy arises under the 9th Amendment. This right can and does apply even in public places. For example, hikers on public lands certainly expect privacy when they step behind a bush to relieve themselves, and public lands are public by definition.

In practice, the US legal profession likes to pretend the 9th Amendment doesn't exist. I suppose the last thing they want is the public asserting a 9th Amendment right to ethical practice of law, which means ignoring any 9th Amendment considerations whenever they can get away with it ...

Comment Re:Already been there done that (Score 1) 525

The major issue was the Susie safety nuts who felt that without telling people how fast was reasonable that it would confuse people, the court agreed.

When the government gets to tell people what is reasonable, you have lots of problems. You see, in this country, we have a Bill of Rights that provides for unspecified rights "retained by the people" (9th Amendment), and "reserved to the people" (10th Amendment). The highest law in the land says the people get to tell the government what is reasonable, not the other way around.

The "speed limit" should be instead taken as a "recommended speed", which should be based primarily on factors such as the engineering of the road, and the likelihood of animals or people being encountered. There will be circumstances when it is appropriate to drive faster than the recommended speed, and there are circumstances where it is appropriate to drive slower.

Let the police show that somebody is driving very differently than other people do on that road, and doesn't have a good reason for doing so (in the eyes of a typical person, informed of the facts, and with good judgement), then the government can take punitive action.

This approach is consistent with people driving at reasonable speeds, as defined by the people and not the government.

But the last thing the US legal profession wants is for people to realize the 9th Amendment exists, since that is the gateway into some very scary basic rights (for them), such as the right to ethical practice of law ...

Far simpler (for the legal profession) to just move back to the status quo, where people -- in practice -- drive as if the speed limits were merely recommended speeds, and hope the police are being equally reasonable*. It's a really bad policy, and hugely unethical for the legal profession. By effectively forcing people to routinely ignore one part of the written law, they make many people scared of the legal system. They also send the message that people can not engage in reasonable conduct: the legal system can and will punish them even when they are being reasonable. These two factors create an artificial demand over the long term for the services of legal professionals to "protect" people from their own legal system. Welcome to the Land of the Lawsuit.

In short, the court was in a position of ethical conflict of interest with respect to this ruling, and did the wrong thing (something that happens an awful lot in US law: except in extreme cases, the legal profession looks out for its own).

*Defunding the police helps here and seems to be popular, but causes all kinds of other problems. Not a good solution. There's also the ethics issues associated with government trying to keep the money it gets from fines, which increases the amount of ticketing going on, is also a 9th Amendment violation, and creates contempt for the police that makes their jobs a lot harder, but that ethics problem is a subject for another day.

Comment Turning was wrong (Score 1) 335

In 1936, Alan Turing famously showed that there is no general algorithm that can solve this problem.

All programs will halt, due to entropy. Turing was wrong. His proof only works in a fantasy world.

That's the nature of mathematics: we create fantasy worlds (with assumptions and axioms), then try to determine the properties of those fantasy worlds using equations and logic (lemmas and proofs).

Sometimes the real world provides a decent approximation for the fantasy world (in which case the results are useful: subjects such as physics or engineering provide lots of examples of this), but in other cases it doesn't.

In this particular case, the authors still have not shown a convincing application of the math. It's not clear they understand the distinction between fantasy and reality.

Comment Re:AMD wins again (Score 1) 75

I'm Sr sysadmin for a medium sized company and I haven't encountered a single person - outside of a geologist or engineer that needs real power - who prefers a desktop to a laptop in many years.

CPU power is not the only issue.

Desktops can be made really quiet, far more so than laptops of comparable power. There are a number of clever solutions to achieve this, each addressing different aspects of computer noise, such as the huge "NoFan" heatsinks. The lack of machine noise can be very useful in many work environments. Artists, for example, often value silence when they work.

Also, desktops can run really high end graphics cards: nice if you want good performance while running multiple big monitors (i.e. 30"). I'd really hate to develop software on even the largest laptop screen, after getting used to the convenience of the large desktop screens. One doesn't have to be a power-user (or be doing work requiring a high end CPU) to appreciate the large screens. A high end laptop might be able to drive these screens, but probably not very well.

Some jobs generate or work with lots of data, without necessarily requiring a high end CPU (i.e. data access speed, not CPU speed, limits throughput). It's much easier (and quieter) to cool a multi-hard-drive array in a big case, leading to longer drive life and better performance. Some of the better cases have 200mm fans, which can spin a lot slower than smaller fans while generating far better cooling. Laptops can't even come close to this, either in terms of cooling or drive size. The case for the array doesn't necessarily have to be the same case as one's motherboard, of course. But if you need the big case anyway, it might make sense to put the motherboard in it (and you'll probably have fewer issues with the RAID controller).

Physical security with desktops is much easier to enforce than with laptops, for those sites with stringent security requirements.

From a home use perspective, you won't get good quality graphics on multiple screens using a flight simulator, without a big case and real full-size graphics cards - no laptop can do this. For that matter, you won't get good quality graphics on even single screens for high end games without a really high end laptop (and one that isn't all that portable), which makes the (much less expensive) desktop alternative pretty appealing.

Desktops are still far more upgradable than laptops. A good case and power supply can outlast many motherboards, and give a net cost savings compared to purchasing multiple laptops.

Laptops tend to fail more often than desktops, and are harder to repair.

In my experience, the overhead types like the managers and marketing people prefer the laptops for convenience, but the savvy technical folks often still like the desktops.

Comment Re:More power to you (Score 1) 100

But I wonder if the food we grow are always based on scientifically optimal choices or often based on other factors. Like one crop being grown more widely because it commands a higher price. Or changing food habits and inordinate preference to certain grains and veggies.

As a gardener, I can tell you that there is a surprising amount we don't know about the things we grow. Every time I start working on learning to grow a new fruit or vegetable I rediscover this.

For example, take strawberries. The conventional wisdom is that a strawberry plant will bear well for a few years, then needs to be replaced. And yet I hear people claiming that they have strawberry patches which they've basically done nothing to maintain, which have produced lots of fruit for decades. As far as I can tell, nobody knows what governs and limits the production of strawberry plants with any degree of scientific accuracy.

For another example, the conventional wisdom is that one should not grow blackberries and raspberries in close proximity, because of the risk of disease being transmitted from one to the other. But I know people in my area that do just that, and have done so for decades without any problems. Again, nobody seems to have studied this to see under what circumstances this is possible.

The whole subject of diseases and pests is an area where it seems our scientific knowledge is pretty limited. There are lots of major pests we don't know how to control or prevent, with reasonable certainty that the approach will be safe over the long term. In some parts of the country, goats are being used for weed control, because they do a better job than anything humans have been able to come up with!

The tools available for making measurements are very primitive as well. For example, getting soil samples analyzed is not too hard if one sends the sample off to a lab, but the availability and capability of measurement tools that work on-site is still quite limited. One can not simply buy a tricorder-like tool to measure soil, identify insects, detect harmful fungi and microorganisms, and so forth. Many of the tools that are available (such as automated weather stations) are plagued with reliability and quality control problems.

Since science is based on measurement, limitations on measurement mean we have limitations on the science. Perhaps someday we'll have nanotechnology devices that can be embedded in plants or fruit trees to monitor various aspects of their health.

In short, there are all kinds of basic questions we don't have scientific answers to, and thus there is no reasonable to suppose we are even close to being "scientifically optimal" in our food production.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.