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Comment Huh? (Score 1) 4

Where does it say that "computer science must be treated as science, by law"? It declares computer science to be part of STEM. STEM does not simply mean "science" - science is only the "S" in STEM. STEM means "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math" There's nothing inappropriate about computer science being taught in that grouping.

Comment Good job many iPhones only have 16GB of storage! (Score 1) 29

I have an iPhone 5s from work, and one of the benefits of these devices having so little storage coupled with the bloating of applications in the last couple of years is that is that it's just too much of a pain in the arse to install a new app. There is very little to entice me to spend money on the app store. ;)

Now I just wish all those websites that try to push you to their pointless app would stop interrupting my browsing.

Comment Re:Don't confuse The Republican Party with The Rig (Score 1) 352

[Quoting Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg] "All in all, then, what Paul is proposing is a big tax cut for high earners and businesses with almost no direct benefits for most Americans. ..."
For the middle class, however, the plan looks like a wash:H
And when you look at the article you see that it's mischaracterized. He claims "For the middle class, however, the plan looks like a wash" because the massive tax cut would be offset by two factors:

  1) The replacement of the corporate income tax with a 14.5% "business activity tax" that doesn't include labor costs as a deduction. He treats this as if it were a hidden 14.5% tax on goods, neglecting the compensating benefits of reducing the corporate income tax, AND the costs of computing it and changing business decisions to work around it, to zero. (Yes, some corporations manage to structure their operations so they can get their corporate tax below 14.5%, or even down to zero. Want to bet whether it costs them less than 14.5% when tax-hacking costs are included?)

2) The alleged reduction in benefits to the middle class from cuts in government spending. Do YOU think that the middle-class actually gets any substantial benefits from the government spending that would be cut? Then take into account that cuts in government spending tend to stimulate the economy BIG time (by not having so much of its blood drained every time it circulates another round), something that his source for this claim - the pro-business "The Tax Foundation" - explicitly ignores in its analysis.

IMHO Ponnuru's article was another hit piece - part of business interests' attempts to convince the voters that tax reform plans which favor the working / middle classes, growing the pie and letting them keep a bigger piece of it, are bad ideas, so they elect another shill who is in the moneyed interests' pocket.

Comment Code monkey (Score 3, Informative) 200

But it is possible to take someone with no experience and turn him/her into a code monkey in only 2 years.

And I think that that is the point with this. They aren't looking to educate new "engineers". They want cheap, fast labour. Code monkeys.

If one of those people goes on to learn more, on their own, so much the better.

If not, well the CxO's of those companies will claim that it is the fault of the workers.

Comment That because LBJ bought a war on the credit card. (Score 1) 499

20 years ago, a working man could pay for his rent with one week's salary. Now on the average it costs 2 weeks or more... and that's before you've paid for other necessties such as food, utilities, and car payments and gasoline.

A large part of that is that the government went on a spending spree that hasn't abated. The extra work is to provide the value that's sucked out to pay off the creditors and for the latest spending schemes. That value has to come from somewhere, whether it's devaluation of the currency (from more dollars chasing the goods) or the double-whammy of government borrowing sucking out the investment market, which means that money isn't making more consumer stuff AND it has to eventually be paid back, at interest, out of taxes.

There was some government debt for a long time. But the big fall-off-the-cliff turning point, IMHO, was when LBJ ran, first the Vietnam (undeclared) war, then also the Great Society welfare entitlement programs, on credit (meaning looting future generations). Then Nixon tried to fix things by unhooking the dollar from gold, and it's been unchecked government spending, explosive inflation, and accumulating debt and interest ever since.

Submission + - Economics is not a Science ( 2

The Real Dr John writes: A Nobel prize in economics implies that the human world operates much like the physical world: that it can be described and understood in neutral terms, and that it lends itself to modeling, like chemical reactions or the movement of the stars. It creates the impression that economists are not in the business of constructing inherently imperfect theories, but of discovering timeless truths. In 1994 economists Myron Scholes and Robert Merton, with their work on derivatives, seemed to have hit on a formula that yielded a safe but lucrative trading strategy. In 1997 they were awarded the Nobel prize in economics. A year later, Long-Term Capital Management lost $4.6bn (£3bn) in less than four months; a bailout was required to avert the threat to the global financial system.

Comment Re:So the taxes were collected from salaries inste (Score 1) 229

When you make a £28.4MM loss, you would expect heads to roll but instead FB continues to award their staff. The employees have been rewarded for their loyalty with a huge reward as their options/stock awards vest, which is something that FB can't apparently afford to keep paying out in the UK, based on their losses. They're either lying to HMRC or they're lying to their investors!

Submission + - Electoral system that Lessig hopes to reform is keeping him out of the debate (

schwit1 writes: Lessig has raised a million dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he's being given the cold shoulder by the Democrats when it comes to participating in the debates. I think he's got a good argument for being included — he's certainly as serious a candidate as those sad sacks Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee, and I'm hearing a lot more about his campaign than about the curiously somnolent campaign of Jim Webb.

Why are they keeping Lessig out? According to Lessig, it's for the same reason he wants in: "My view is that if we can get this message [of reform] into the debate it would change the dynamics of this Democratic primary entirely. This issue framed in this way totally blows up the Democratic primary."

Hillary and Bernie, he says, are promising the moon to voters, but can't deliver. Lessig told me, "If I can get on that stage and say the rocket can't get off the ground, and we have to change this dynamic first," the narrative shifts in a way that the leading candidates can't address.

Comment Re:Let's just not do it. (Score 1) 167

The main problem I see is that it seems like you're making a lot of assumptions based on geology here on Earth, such as which minerals are likely to be present at sites with particular geologies. Doesn't that depend a lot on the early planetary formation?

Chemistry works the same everywhere. What elements readily form compounds with other elements is the same everywhere. At what temperatures minerals begin to crystalize out of magma is the same everywhere. Etc. Economically valuable deposits of resources are locations in which chemistry tended to concentrate that mineral and leave it at an accessible location. The same parameters must apply to the moon just like on earth.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I had read that, just like you say with the Moon and heavy elements sinking to the core, the exact same thing happened to the Earth, and as a result, we have no heavy metals, including iron(!), accessible here on the crust left over from the formation of this planet.

90% of the mass of the Earth is oxygen, iron, silicon, and magnesium. And these chemicals tend to form compounds with each other. Consequently it's impossible for "all of the Earth's iron", for example, to have sunk to the core. More to the point, these oxides aren't as dense as the pure metals. For example, in the crust a lot of iron is found as limonite (that yellowish-orange color you often see in clays), which can be nearly as light as quartz. The largest single mineral component of the mantle (and thus the Earth) is olivine (commonly known as peridot when sold as gemstones), a magnesium iron silicon oxide.

Unlike the outer layers, earth's core is predominantly metallic iron, not oxides, and thus far denser. It's also highly enriched in many heavier elements which either don't readily oxidize or form heavy oxides. For example, platinium is found at about 5ppb concentrations in the crust, but is believed to be about 6ppm in the inner core, over a thousand times greater concentration. Uranium, thorium, gold, and countless other elements are vastly more common in the core than the crust. That doesn't mean that they're absent elsewhere. Even ignoring deposits from bombardment, you will often find small amounts of rarer elements in minerals with elements that they're chemically similar to.

You can see the nature of mixtures in what erupts to the surface as lava - an igneous flow will ultimately crystalize out into a wide range of tiny mineral grains - various feldspars, quartz, various iron oxides, etc. These crystals have different densities, and they're made from elements with different densities - but the forces keeping them in solution are greater than the forces working to fractionalize them. Differentiation inside magma takes a long time - for example, to get basalt rich in large olivine crystals, like picrite, the magma has to sit and slowly cool over many thousands of years, allowing the olivine time to crystalize out and the crystals time to settle to the bottom without the bulk of the magma hardening and trapping it - then the upper olivine-poor magma erupting, then the olivine-rich magma erupting (again, all without hardening to the point of becoming trapped in the magma chamber).

Or, to put it another way: salt is heavier than water, but the bottom of the oceans is only slowly increases with depth (and is highest near the surface where water evaporates, but that's a side point). It's a lower energy state for the salt to dilute than to all collect at the bottom.

nd that all our valuable ores (iron, gold, silver, even tin and lead) came from asteroid impacts over the eons, which is why they're concentrated in particular places.

That's not why elements are concentrated, as a general rule (although there are exceptions). Most concentrates are due to various geological processes involved in preferentially enriching or depleting minerals from a bulk. For example, you know the old miners' saying, "Gold wears an iron hat" (gossan) - do you know why that is? Iron and sulfur-rich rock tends to contain pyrite. Pyrite plus groundwater (and with the aid of bacteria) over time produces sulfuric acid. The acid leeches the rock around it. The minerals that dissolve in the acid concentrate where the water reaches the surface, often leaving iron stains/deposits, along with deposits of other dissolved minerals such as copper, which tend to precipitate out together. The minerals not eaten away by the acid (quartz and resistant minerals, including gold) tend to be concentrated underneath

(Totally unrelated side note: I actually have an iron bog on my land, and as a geology nut I find it fascinating, when most people would just find it disgusting muck ;) One of the IMHO most interesting characteristics is what looks like oil slicks on the surface. But if you actually touch them, you see that they're not a liquid, they're an iridescent film. It's a consequence of iron-metabolizing bacteria oxidizing Fe+2 to Fe+3 and releasing goethite as a byproduct. :) )

That's just one example of a process that concentrates minerals - there are countless. But in the world, wherever something is economically exploitable, there almost always was some sort of geologic process that highly concentrated it there.

And while it sounds like we understand a good deal about geological processes, I'm not so sure it's that complete: didn't we only figure out the southern part of Mexico was formed by a giant asteroid impact within the last few decades, and that that was the cause of all the caves and such along what's left of the rim of the crater?

The Chicxulub crater was discovered four decades ago, in the late 1970s. And in terms of our understanding of geology in general, that's a huge length of time. Remember, it wasn't until the 1960s that plate tectonics and the concept that large bodies still impact the Earth became the scientific mainstream. Modern geology is somewhat "young" compared to the other sciences. The foundations of astronomy became solidified people like Galileo and Copernicus, classical physics with Newton, etc, but even around 1800 variants of a "Noah's flood" theory were still mainstream in geology (the "Deluvian" or "Neptunist" theory), and the fact that fossils tended to align into layers was a newly discovered curiosity (commonly explained by the Neptunists as due to how they'd settle out in the ocean or flood).

Anyway, with asteroid impacts, the moon is full of them, as we can see easily with a small telescope, and unlike the Earth, there's been little tectonic activity and no atmospheric or water-based erosion. So wouldn't that mean that each impact site could potentially have a lot of valuable ores?

Impacts really don't work that way. Impacts over a certain size are basically converted into plasma on impact and explode. Even on earth, this does little to create economic deposits of minerals, as it's so spread out. On the moon, with low gravity and no atmosphere to get in the way, you're spreading the body of your impactor over vast distances.

There is one way in which impactors do sometimes produce valuable deposits, mind you. The aforementioned Sudbury deposit is a good example. The impact, as mentioned, blasted material all over the Earth - it was utterly obliterated. But the impact was powerful enough to create a melt pool all the way down to the upper mantle. The process in which it differentiated and cooled is complicated, but you can read about it here. But the key takeaway is, the deposits are overwhelmingly from the crust and mantle, not the impactor.

You also mentioned titanium being plentiful there. Wouldn't that be a good enough reason? Titanium isn't exactly cheap here.

No. First off, even titanium metal is cheap here - about $10/kg, which is nothing (platinum, by contrast, is $30000/kg, and there are countless things far more expensive than platinum). When your launches cost tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram (and even after future process refinements will still probably cost thousands), mining something worth $10-20/kg obviously is not going to pay off. But more importantly, most of the cost of titanium metal is refining titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide, after milling, costs about $5/kg. It's so cheap that it's the predominant white pigment used on Earth (white paint, sunscreen, etc... pretty much anything that you want to be bright white uses titanium dioxide).

How much fuel are we wasting because we still build cars out of steel instead of titanium?

Honestly, the main reason cars are mainly built out of steel is process-based. We have long-established historic processes for mass-manufacturing vehicles out of steel. Composites are generally much stronger per unit mass, and the raw materials costs can be kept lower than steel (glass or basalt fiber rather than carbon, vinyl ester instead of epoxy). But it's much harder to mass produce out of composites than steel - it's hard to get automated processes to produce parts of consistent quality.

Titanium is $10/kg. Aluminum is $1,50/kg. Steel is about $0,35/kg. So while none of these are "expensive" materials per kilogram, obviously when you're mass-producing multi-tonne objects the difference matters. Automakers are more and more incorporating aluminum into vehicles to (borrowing from Lotus) "add lightness". But it's also important to know that these materials aren't just simple substitutes for each other. Aluminum is 1/3 the mass of steel, but also not nearly as strong, and with a much lower melting point. Titanium has a high melting point and is roughly as strong as steel. Aluminum is generally harder to weld than steel, and titanium much harder to work with in general than steel. Also there's the issue of experience - there's more people with experience working with steel than aluminum, and vastly more with experience with aluminum than with titanium. The rarity of people with experience working with the metal makes such employees more expensive to employ.

The (former) wide availability of titanium in the former Soviet Union was not due to the widespread sourcing of titanium ore, but rather the communist government prioritizing it as a war resource and pumping large amounts of money into its production.

Venus is completely inhospitable at the surface for both humans and machinery, so I have no idea how we'd exploit mineral resources there.

I already discussed this. Google "phase change balloon". Keeping things alive for hours at the surface is not a problem - the Soviets did this with the Venera landers. You simply have to have a thermal mass to act as a cooling reservoir. Once your thermal reservoir becomes too hot, you have to return to altitude to cool or replace it before making your next "dive". It can be thought of as rather akin to mining the seafloor. Due to the limited time per dive, this would be grossly impractical to try to control such equipment from Earth - you need people "locally" to get rid of the latency issue. Hence the reason why there's actually some logic to putting humans on Venus.

If the Soviets could run sampling equipment on the Venus surface on a shoestring budget with 1960s/70s technology, there's no reason that we couldn't have surface mining equipment today. But obviously, every case comes down to economics.

Comment Re:Let's just not do it. (Score 1) 167

First off, our knowledge of the moon is not "some rocks the Apollo astronauts brought back". The Moon is one of the most studied bodies in the solar system, perhaps the second most studied. We have a pretty good idea of what makes it tick. There have been 70 successful or partially successful (overwhelmingly completely successful) missions to the moon, plus some considered "spacecraft failure" that still returned data. 6 of the successful missions are operational right now. There have been 16 missions to land softly on the moon, one of which then re-launched and landed again. There were also two impactor missions to kick up plumes for study. There have been 8 sample return missions, another of which is scheduled for 2017. Modern advanced orbiters have conducted detailed spectral scans of the whole moon and mapped details down to 50 centimeters. We know the thing pretty damned well. It wasn't until the second half of the 20th century that we even knew the Earth that well.

The moon is fundamentally disadvantaged when it comes to valuable mineral resources. Most valuable, rare mineral resources are heavy, as these tend to sink deep into planets during formation, leaving them depleted from the surface. The moon was formed in a collision whose dynamics left most of its heavier materials on earth and left it with lighter materials from itself and Earth. That's not to say that all light minerals are worthless - far from it. Beryllium is worth over $1k per kilogram, and it's quite a light element. But things like that are the exception, not the rule. The moon was then doubly disadvantaged in that the collision left it with a global magma ocean (with no tectonics to recirculate deep crust back to the surface). This led to crystals of lower-melting point and denser minerals to almost universally sink to the bottom, leaving the top layers rather monotonous in composition (a universal plagioclase crust). While various geological activities subsequently modified it (primarily impacts and, long ago, the mare basaltic flows), it was disadvantaged from the beginning.

Then there's the fact that minerals don't just pop up randomly - they need geological phenomena to concentrate them to economic levels, and they're found associated with various geological features and/or tracer minerals. For example, the aforementioned beryllium is found in granitic pegmatites associated with tin and tungsten. The moon has no granite - thus no granitic pegmatites. There are a few other types of minerals beryllium concentrates in, but they don't exist on the moon either. This doesn't mean that there's no beryllium on the moon - there is, it's been studied. But there's nothing to concentrate it to interesting quantities.

The biggest modification to the original lunar rocks has been the formation of the mare. These are ancient mass flows of tholeiitic basalt - not much diversity, except in the concentration of titanium. Lunar titanium concentrations are much higher than on Earth. However, titanium oxides are very cheap, common minerals. Melt pools from impacts also have the potential to be mineral concentrators (on Earth, the Sudbury impactor created some highly valuable mineral deposits in Canada). But there are two problems. One, these tend to solidify deep underground, meaning your mining becomes far more difficult and hardware/labour intensive (on a body that costs many tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram to land hardware on - even with a 10fold price reduction, you're looking at big problems). And two, all its modifying is plagioclase and ti-rich theolitic basalt. And of course, tectonic modification can concentrate minerals. While there have been tectonics on the moon, they're very limited compared to those on Earth.

Now, this isn't to say that there's *nothing* interesting on the moon. The moon is rich in what's called "KREEP" - Potassium Rare-Earth Phosphorus. It can be found from space because it's also associated with higher concentrations of alpha emitters like uranium and thorium (although not anything one would consider "commercial" quantities). Don't get too excited over "rare earths", most are actually relatively common and not that valuable (although subject to big price swings - lanthanium for example took an excursion from about $8/kg to a peak of $180/kg in 2010, then back down again). However, rubidium is associated with KREEP. Rubidium sells for over $10k per kilogram, so if there were any spots where the Rb was further concentrated (in bulk it's only about 25ppm, far less than is found in potassium-mining concentrates on Earth for example), and if someone ever actually created a market for significant amounts of rubidium on Earth (there isn't one), that might be a possibility.

Compared to the moon, Venus looks to be a mineral treasure trove. For example, there's a common belief that even though we haven't landed on any yet, that there's widespread carbonatite volcanism at Venus. Carbonatite volcanism is associated with economically important deposits of phosphorus, niobium-tantalum, uranium, thorium, copper, iron, titanium, vanadium, barium, fluorine, zirconium, cobalt, hafnium, gold, silver, and other rare elements. It's a super-rare type of volcanism on Earth (with only one currently-active carbonatite volcano on the planet) but appears to probably be abundant on Venus. Venera 13 landed on bedrock composed of melanocratic alkaline gabbroids - while not to the extent of carbonatites, gabbro is also often associated with concentrations of many valuable minerals. There's still wide debate over the nature of the "high radar reflective" materials, but they appear to be something that has boiled out of the rocks and then "snowed" or otherwise deposited out at higher altitudes. This natural "refining" process could potentially deliver high concentrations of rare minerals to particular areas, or take away "waste" from minerals in other areas (just like acid leaching does on Earth, but even more pronounced). Speaking of acid leaching, Venus has no shortage of acidic compounds ;) There's also some evidence that Venus's atmosphere may have at various times in its history been cool enough to form a supercritical state; this would not only present a powerful force for erosion, but supercritical CO2 is an excellent solvent. Another interesting property of Venus is its full-crust overturn at several hundred million year intervals - again, very interesting potential as far as minerals go.

Submission + - Obama backs away from law to access encrypted information

An anonymous reader writes: The Obama's administration has changed course and is backing away from seeking legislation that would give law enforcement agencies access to individuals' encrypted messages. "We are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services," said White House spokesman Mark Stroh. "However, the administration is not seeking legislation at this time."

Submission + - Priority of spending, country by country (

Taco Cowboy writes: A country's spending reflects its national stereotypes, according to household expenditure data compiled by Eurostat

Russians splash 8% of their money on booze and cigarettes—far more than most rich countries—while fun-loving Australians spend a tenth of theirs on recreation, and bookish South Koreans splurge more than most on education

Predominantly private health care in America eats up over a fifth of each household’s budget, whereas the European Union, where public health care is common, only spends 4% on it

In Russia, government-subsidised housing and heating make living cheaper, and this means money is left over for the finer things in life

The infographic is available at

Related links

Comment Re:Reasonable Doubt (Score 1) 112

No I disagree, as the data involved in matching is the result of a highly filtered process. There are many many data point's that don't support a match, as evidenced by the inability to replicate a match via any other method.

Simply using the matching data allows the filtering assumptions to go unchallenged.

If what's at issue is whether the tool selected the matches and hid the mismatches, and this can't be determined by comparing the defendant's genome against the tracable raw data that went into building the database, then the defendant's team gets to examine the software or the evidence is out. Agreed.

Defendant have the right to a thorough cross-examination. The database used, the filtering process are all relevant to the actrual likelihood of a match.

Here's where we're differing. I am claiming that, once a match is found, the quality of the match can be checked by comparing the raw data of the defendant's sample against the raw data that went into the database that was searched. Even if the data was reduced and encoded in some proprietary way to assist rapid searching and probability estimation by the proprietary tool, the match can be proven - as can the assertion that no exculpatory evidence was withheld - by providing the base data and ANY algorithm that performs the equivalent probability computation in a transparent way. If it gets the same numbers, that part of the issue is proven.

If there is some question of whether the tool used improperly obtained evidence in deciding to look at this guy's data, that would make its internals relevant. If there is some question that it may have identified other, equally good, matches and these were withheld from the defence, that might make the OPERATION of the tool relevant, without putting the workings of its innards into that category.

But IANAL. If the court says you're right on this it won't surprise me. (But their reasoning would be interesting.) Also: I won't complain if they kill database-fishing for "a wrong reason". B-)

Defendants have the right to compel testimony and other evidence to be produced if they can show it is relevant. Trade secret, patent, or copyright has no power to override constitution guarantees to due process.

Total agreement there.

Prosecutors should not be allowed pseudo-science or selective disclosure of data. In fact, knowing use of either constitute prosecutorial misconduct, [an offense] that can result in financial sanctions and or disbarment.

Total agreement there, too. (Also, IMHO: Such sanctions and/or disbarment should be invoked far more often than they are. B-) )

"I have five dollars for each of you." -- Bernhard Goetz