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Comment: Colony Life Forms (Score 5, Interesting) 63

by resistant (#46498011) Attached to: Friendly Fungus Protects Our Mouths From Invaders

We already knew ourselves to be essentially colony life forms riddled with remnant retroviruses and ancient symbionts such as mitochondria, but it's damn interesting to see just how deeply integrated we are into the extremely complex biosphere all around us. It's a little depressing, perhaps, but eventually the boffins will accumulate a body of knowledge that may finally sort out all the ridiculous little things that can and will go wrong with human bodies in the murk of general ignorance. Obesity, cancer and all manner of weird and supposedly unexplained ailments -- they could simply be unknown quirks of how our innumerable symbionts and parasites interact with our basic DNA programming. -_-

Comment: Meat Tubes (Score 2) 162

by resistant (#46306785) Attached to: Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain

I'm not surprised by this discovery. Evolutionarily, we're all really complex support systems for long meat tubes that ingest energy and building materials and excrete whatever is not useful. Even the mighty brain only exists to increase the odds of the tube surviving. Bacterial strains that also increase the chances of a meat tube surviving will be favored by simple Darwinian logic. Naturally, they will influence every body system, including the brain.

Admittedly, one doesn't like to feel like a puppet. I wonder what this means for the free will that humans supposedly possess.

Comment: Incentive Structures (Score 1) 289

by resistant (#46306481) Attached to: ISP Fights Causing Netflix Packet Drops

Basic incentive structures are a serious problem that will only grow worse over the years. The more successful become edge businesses such as for-profit streaming video providers and monetized social networks that go heavy on large images and video advertising, the more the data carriers will enviously demand a cut of the big pie that other businesses are dividing up.

I wish I knew of a good solution to this problem that still shows reasonable respect for the free market. Perhaps it's time to give heavy federal and state tax incentives to businesses that do absolutely nothing *but* provide consistently reliable, high-speed data-transmission channels. That means no end-user content provision or end-point Internet connections for individuals, businesses or other organizations. Let the innovators scramble to implement gigabit capabilities that end-point ISPs can resell to their customers. No doubt there are sorts of problems with this idea, but my brain has nothing better right now. :/

Comment: We Are Many; They Are Few. (Score 3, Interesting) 430

by resistant (#46119059) Attached to: Kansas To Nix Expansion of Google Fiber and Municipal Broadband

I've been observing this sort of greedy corporatism for years. We seriously need to first set up a nationally recognized, "voluntary" standard that at least four competing broadband providers should be available in each jurisdiction and then start a national nonprofit organization that relentlessly pressures non-compliant local and state governments into abolishing laws and regulations that discourage or outright prevent this kind of minimum coverage. Constant lawsuits that dig up dirt about payoffs to politicians and expose semi-monopolies would be an excellent idea as well. It may be a little early to truly establish the idea that universal access to low-cost, high-speed Internet communications is a basic human right, but it's a good propaganda tool.

I'm a dreaming fanatic about free markets, but we don't have free markets for broadband Internet access. We have utterly corrupt corporatism. It's high time to savagely fight back against the greedy parasites at Time Warner and Cox and the rest who absolutely hate the idea of having to give up their bloated, government-protected profits.

Comment: The Manifold Hinderings of Mind (Score 0, Offtopic) 97

by resistant (#44987455) Attached to: SpaceX Falcon 9 Blasts Off From California

At the risk of enraging automatic supporters of bloated government programs like the old Space Shuttle, it doesn't surprise me that lean, privately funded space-exploitation outfits do so well. Reliable execution of rocket science is difficult enough already without burdening the principals with all the artificial fears and running annoyances of a crusty bureaucracy. "Could I be fired for departing from the top-down plan if I do this instead of that? Does this possible change meet the 400-page outline set down by a large committee run by political appointees?" Every millisecond squandered on peripheral distractions is a millisecond lost to the subtle considerations of consistently productive and reliable thought.

Additionally, the people who work at the private firms tend more strongly to be there for the love of it than with any government agency. That counts for a lot when it comes to repeatedly avoiding those little errors of ennui and fatigue that can build up into a disaster. Enthusiastic workers are also more prone to realizing with a joyful start that a small change that could make a real difference will likely be actually used by a quick, responsive management team. Rocketry is often about very small changes marking the difference between a successful mission and a flaming ball of fuel and rocket parts.

Along these lines, I've always thought that China has consistently lagged behind the West in leading-edge technology for much the same reasons. The Chinese have no lack of smart people, but they're subtly and powerfully burdened with the habit of "self-censorship" to avoid offending the Communist Party and with the Confucian habit of observing "face-saving" deferment to the opinions of their alleged superiors. Sounds similar to and worse than just about any government agency in the West, eh?

These are my own thoughts, and only one puppy was temporarily scared into hiding under the couch during the production of this post. I also killed a small spider, but the dratted thing was trying to crawl into my coffee cup.

Comment: Ridiculously Easy to Trip Up (Score 3, Insightful) 78

by resistant (#44859291) Attached to: Mitsuku Chatbot Wins Loebner Prize 2013

I checked out the website for the Mitsuku chatbot and took a rather pessimistic poke at it.

Chatbot: [boilerplate noises omitted] ... "What is your name?"
Myself: "I'm the fiddler."
Chatbot: "Who made you the fiddler?" [A reasonable, albeit somewhat peculiar, response.]
Myself: "I took too long once to feed my peckish cat."
Chatbot: "Where did you take it?" [Instant FAIL.]
Myself: "I took it to new heights of frustrated noises." (Bonus straight-man response.)
Chatbot: "Where did you take it?" [Parrot-like repetition raises the chat to new heights of FAIL.]

As always, two lines were enough to trip it up. The third line was a bonus that only amplified its shortcomings. I'll admit to cheating a little by using a couple of words ("peckish", "frustrated") that might have required contextual glossing by less educated individuals, but those words were still relatively common. All known chatbots seem to rely on fairly simple-minded word triggers, and even a minor requirement for context sensitivity is enough to make them fall flat on their nonexistent faces. Anyone possessing even remote familiarity with efforts at artificial intelligence knows this, of course, but hope springs eternal.

(Notes for the lazy: The word "peckish" is a common slang term for "hungry", and http://www.mitsuku.com/ is the website for the chatbot in question.)

Comment: Back to the Future ... or Past ... or Something (Score 2) 265

by resistant (#43334511) Attached to: How To Communicate Faster-Than-Light

That's pretty cool. Of course, I knew about this post yesterday, before you'd even thought about writing it up on Slashdot. I'm not exactly how that worked, but thinking too hard on it makes my head hurt. I think I'll go lie down for a while and hope the future catches up with the past or something weird like that.

Comment: Extortionist Heaven (Score 2) 215

by resistant (#42846109) Attached to: Samsung Laptop Bug Is Not Linux Specific

We all know perfectly well that malware makers will start including a module that purposefully bricks Samsung laptops so that extortionists can threaten to wipe out a batch of corporate-owned laptops in one blow if the company refuses to cough up a substantial amount. No matter how this affair plays out, I can't see it ending well for Samsung.

Comment: Mass-Media Report (Score 5, Informative) 470

by resistant (#42371529) Attached to: Specific Gut Bacteria May Account For Much Obesity
In retrospect, I guess it couldn't hurt to mention at least one mass-media report that doesn't seem too excitable:

Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising. The Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet designed to inhibit the bacterium linked to obesity and found that he lost 29 per cent of his body weight in 23 weeks. The patient was prevented from doing any exercise during the trial. Prof Zhao said such a loss in an obese patient using this diet was unprecedented. The patient also recovered from diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

It will be fascinating to see what happens when other teams try to replicate these results with larger, more statistically significant groups than just one individual. ^^;

Comment: Mass-Media Report (Score 1) 1

by resistant (#42371421) Attached to: Specific Gut Bacteria May Account for Much Obesity

In retrospect, I guess it couldn't hurt to mention at least one mass-media report that doesn't seem too excitable:

Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising.

The Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet designed to inhibit the bacterium linked to obesity and found that he lost 29 per cent of his body weight in 23 weeks. The patient was prevented from doing any exercise during the trial.

Prof Zhao said such a loss in an obese patient using this diet was unprecedented. The patient also recovered from diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

It will be fascinating to see what happens when other teams try to replicate these results with larger, more statistically significant groups than just one individual. ^^;

+ - Specific Gut Bacteria May Account for Much Obesity-> 1

Submitted by
resistant
resistant writes "A limited study from China offers the tantalizing possibility that targeting specific gut bacteria in humans could significantly reduce the scope of an epidemic of obesity in Western countries:

"The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer’s gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4kg of 174.8kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics."

As usual, sensationalist reports have been exaggerating the import of this very early investigation, and one wonders about that "diet of whole grains." Still, there could be meat in the idea of addressing pathogenic bacteria for the control of excessive weight gain. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a brave scientist insisted in the face of widespread ridicule that peptic ulcers in humans usually are caused by bacterial infections, not by acidic foods."

Link to Original Source

Comment: A Jingoistic Sentiment (Score 3, Funny) 210

by resistant (#42356523) Attached to: DARPA's Headless Robotic Mule Takes Load Off Warfighters
Many of the the superstitious, ill-educated tribesmen that U.S. ground troops regularly encounter already think the Americans are witches. A headless donkey scampering along with supplies will really mess with the heads of the rag-heads. Maybe some of them will flee in terror instead of shooting at our soldiers. Really, what's not to like? You'll excuse me for a moment whilst I cackle in wicked laughter and stroke my black cat with the unnaturally intelligent glow in its eyes. ^_^

Comment: Modern Shunning (Score 3, Informative) 354

by resistant (#42352263) Attached to: Taking Sense Away: Confessions of a Former TSA Screener
One wonders what would happen if an ad-hoc, "name and shame" reputation network were to identify TSA agents everywhere they went. It's easy to imagine the near-universal environment of hate stares, extreme rudeness and occasional violence from victims of the TSA's Orwellian tactics putting direct pressure on TSA employees themselves to drastically reform their arrogant policies.

Comment: Playing Games With Names (Score 2) 705

by resistant (#40887237) Attached to: Meat the Food of the Future

The marketing problem with insect consumption for Western audiences could probably be addressed by focusing a non-objectionable label on one particular kind of insect, much in the way that "beef", "pork", "chicken" and "fish" are labels for specific kinds of animal. The relatively innocuous term "cultured grasshopper meat" sounds a lot better than the generic term "squashed, processed bugs", for example. Once the idea of eating bugs ... pardon me, "cultured insect meat" gains traction, acceptance for this new food will naturally expand over time to other insects.

Admittedly, I expect the idea of eating yucky wormies will catch on very, very slowly indeed with Americans, no matter how enthusiasts try to make them sound appetizing by frying them up or making delicious-looking meat pies out of them. Personally, worms will always make me think of the squishy, nasty messes on the sidewalk after a hard rain, and I'll smack anyone who tries to get me to actually eat them.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein

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