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Comment Fanboys Unite! (Score 1) 121

Who knew we would already segment into different fanboy camps for commercial space flight.

In one camp we have the SpaceXers quickly pointing out that New Shepard "only" made it to the Karman line, which really, any mall drone can do. Pshh.

In the other camp, we have the Blue Origin supporters pointing out that getting a rocket to the edge of space and _landing_ it is a pretty cool feat in and of itself.

Then there are the Rutans, (rightly) pointing out that SpaceShipOne did this a few years back. So, what's new?

The Armadillos, unfortunately, are still trying to avoid becoming roadkill on the way to the party.

Here's the camp I'm in: This is commercial spaceflight! Non-states are succeeding in getting rockets and such into space! Let me repeat: we have companies sending craft to FREAKING SPACE! THIS IS AWESOME! THEY ARE ALL AWESOME!


Comment Re:Ask me, I work there (Score 1) 187

I'm late to this thread, but this seems like a good place to add one more key point that's important and likely lost on the causal crowd here.

The DNA referenced here is just that: DNA in a blood sample. Except for the basic genotyping done looking for specific diseases (which looks at miniscule portion of the DNA), there's almost no data associated with these samples.

To actually sequence the DNA from these samples would be a tremendous undertaking and be very expensive. For example, pre-natal sequencing firms (Sequenom, Natera, et al) sequence around 100k samples a year each using techniques that look at maybe 10% of the genome, still a long way from fully sequencing individuals. And, those methods are all sequencing a blend of mother/fetals blood, so they're not really identifying.

There's little to fear today from nefarious use of these samples. But, the long term issues are real and something the legal and scientific communities need to address.


Comment Re:How can there be? (Score 1) 622

Where are mod points when I need them? You nailed the real issue. All the other comments on this thread seem focused on the outliers and the semantics of "unlimited". The reality is that data caps are used to mis-price resources in order to extract more money from the customers.

Luckily, I'm still on AT&T unlimited for my iPhone and have Grande as an option for un-monitored home service (1Gb, mostly symmetric ;) ). I'm dreading the day when I lose cellular unlimited and need to start worrying about overages.


Comment Re:let them start their own (Score 1) 135

I'm not defending Elsevier's business practice, but I'm pointing out that your trust in academic's experience is misplaced. While academics serve on the editorial boards, they aren't involved in the day-to-day business of the journals and privy to all it takes to manage one. Their job as editors is selecting research for review and publication, not managing its actual publication.

I have friends on the editorial boards of these journals. They're great researchers, but they are in no way qualified to be managing the operational aspects of disseminating research. And even if they could, is that really the best use of their time and resources?


Comment Re:let them start their own (Score 1) 135

I'll disagree with this. As someone who's spent a fair amount of time in both academia and industry, it's always shocking how little the academic side understands the true cost of things. So much in that world is paid for indirectly via the institution or someone else's grants (for instance, most university supercomputing resources are paid for by grants that the end users are never involved with). On top of that, academic labor is very cheap. Grad students and post-docs typically cost a quarter of their counterparts in industry.

The "best" path forward they have is to use grant-funded university computing resources to host the journals and grad student labor to maintain the infrastructure. This takes away the computing resources from their stated goal as research resources. You could claim that hosting research papers is a legitimate use, but given that there's no research value in developing the software for an open access journal (every publisher has something like this and PLOS does it too - there's nothing novel about it), this isn't research.

More importantly, using academic labor for this undermines the careers of those academics. Grad students and post-docs should be advancing their research careers, not developing and maintaining software infrastructure. This is abuse, plain and simple.

So, in protesting fees that basically cover the cost of managing journals and infrastructures, the academics will shift the infrastructure and labor costs to themselves. This will compromise their ability to do research (there are only so many hours in the day) and lead to an inferior product (grad students are not qualified to manage complex, production software projects).

I'll agree that we need a new model in publishing, but this isn't it.


Comment Interactive Sounds Effects (Score 3, Interesting) 151

This year I added some interactive sound effects to the porch using some synths and a Theremin.

For the base soundscape, I used two synths running loops that were out of sync to create a basic gloom-and-doom texture. The first synth (Korg Kaos Pad, using SYN-9 with Pad Motion for the loop) had a low-frequency sound that moved around a bit to create the sonic floor. The other synth (Korg Monotribe) was looping at at the lowest temp setting (maybe 1 Hz?) with a simple noise-based sound with the LFO set to sweep both pitch and filter to create a knocking sound. It was creepy.

For the interactive element, I placed a plastic skeleton on the vertical antenna of a Theremin (Moog Theremini) and set it so it would start "screaming" when kids were about 2 feet away (I initially set a larger radius, but that led to it constantly sounding when kids were on the porch and diluted the effect). A note on the skeleton invited kids to shake its hand

I placed my studio monitors under the table with the Theremin. They had enough bass to let the synth effects sound spooky (rather than hollow). Combined with some lights and the fog machine (fog machines work fine - I just have the cheap one from Walmart), the effect was pretty good. Some kids refused to get near the skeleton after they heard it the first time, but others would play around with it and try to figure it out (the Theremin was covered in a blanket, so it wasn't obvious how it worked).

Next year I plan to expand the set up a bit and add some additional speakers and proximity effects around the walkway.

Fun stuff.


Comment Re:What if I don't want to own a car? (Score 4, Insightful) 397

"We're probably already there, in general human drivers suck."

Data, please? People make this claim all the time, but given that there are over a billion trips a day in the US and only around 120 fatalities, I'd say humans drivers pretty much have this thing down. The fact that people can make it around in their cars in myriad weather conditions, successfully navigate unfamiliar terrain, and quickly respond to sudden changes in circumstances (kid darting out in front of them) speaks volumes to how good human drivers are.

I watched a Google self-driving car cross an intersection this weekend (in Austin). It was moving very cautiously and then slowed down to a walking pace on the other side of the intersection, leaving a trail of human-driven cars stuck in the intersection while it decided to turn down a side street.

The "human drivers suck" crowd sounds very much like the "there's a thug with a gun around every corner" crowd. Some people seem to enjoy thinking the world is more dangerous than it really is.


Some sources:

Comment Time Sink? (Score 1) 112

I'm not sure this will attract the best candidates. For a Master's program, candidates from from three pools:

(1) Students who just finished undergrad and want additional specialization before entering the workforce
(2) Working professionals who want to return to school to gain additional skills or enter a new field
(3) Those who never found a job and are trying to wait out the market in school

Of these, only (1) and (3) likely have the time to commit to a MOOC. (2) could (and many people do this), but will always have their normal responsibilities taking priority.

The problem is that a MOOC is a huge time commitment. If it's the only way to get into a Master's program, you're taking a huge risk if you're already working and have responsibilities. The GRE/GMAT + an application + interview is reasonable to ask for something that's not guaranteed and likely has an acceptance rate of 10-20%. A three month time commitment isn't. This will simply exclude the most desireable and qualified group of students and limit the pool of applicants to those who had the free time to commit to it.

It's kinda like companies that require programming assignments prior to interviews. That tactic, while trendy and popular, tends to exclude the top 10% coders simply because they have better ways to spend their weekends and evenings and know it.


Comment Re:Thankfully... (Score 4, Interesting) 103

Uber is great in the same way was great: they're burning their investor's money to run an unsustainable business. I loved getting 40lb bags of dog food delivered for free and I love paying less than the driver is making for my Uber rides. As a consumer, I win!

What's new about Uber compared to is that Uber is the VC world's experiment in seeing if they can create illegal businesses and then use their huge piles of money to change the law in their favor. This is what should really scare everyone.


Comment Re:Rule #1 (Score 1) 281

Huh? We're a small shop and use Jira just fine. But, we also don't blindly apply Agile(tm) either. We use agile (as in the manifesto version, not the Certified versions).

Jira is a productivity tool for managing tasks and workloads. If it's not effective for you, find another way to manage things. But, do find a way to manage your tasks and issues in a traceable manner. If you don't see the value in that, your process is likely the problem and no tool will fix it.


Comment Amdahl's Law (Score 3, Insightful) 281

The basic idea behind the Mythical Man Month is essentially Amdahl's Law for human (instead of compute) resources. At some point, there's just no getting around it.

But, just like with parallel and distributed computing, there are always people who don't understand the basic tenets of it and think they've found a way to transcend it (I'm looking at you Hadoop users).

Learn it and never forget it:


Comment Re:Progressivism (Score 2) 258

*sigh* The core concept of progressivism is what most of us want - policy based on our current best understanding of how the natural and social worlds work. The fact that it's been used to promote questionable policies in the past shows its flexibility: as we learn more, those policies are abandoned. The alternative, blindly holding on to policies that have been proven not to work (supply side economics on the right, Marxism on the left) just shows... what? That adherents are too proud to admit mistakes and evolve?

It's true that in modern American/Western politics the term has a slightly different connotation, but to pretend that the idea of using data and knowledge to find good policies is new (which the OP claimed - millennials are the first generation to use data!) is silly. Smart people for centuries have been trying this approach and it's never caught on with the general public.

The fact that my original post got modded "funny" shows just how hard it is to get people to think seriously about this approach.


Comment Re:Not going to happen (Score 4, Insightful) 247

That's not exactly correct... the Google cars have incredibly precise maps of the roads they're on, not just the route, but maps of the actual surface of the road (e.g., where the potholes are). That level of detail available to the onboard computers is pretty much the same as having sensors on the road. It requires an incredible amount of prep work. Of course, map updates could be handled by sensors on other cars constantly providing real time information. It's a cool approach, but only practical when you have that level of detail available.

Google, et al, are showing very controlled research projects. Even though they're testing in the real world, they're still highly controlled experiments.

Sure, many of the problems are resolvable using this approach, but what we don't know is what new problems will evolve once there are more than a handful of self driving cars on the road. More research will help identify these, but anyone who's done real science or engineering knows that what works at small scale rarely scales as you would hope/expect.


One picture is worth 128K words.