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Comment: Did we check for confounding variables? (Score 1) 187

by roystgnr (#47108095) Attached to: Temporary Classrooms Are Bad For the Environment, and Worse For Kids

Or is there really nothing other than CO2 levels which correlates strongly with the use of portable classrooms and with absenteeism? Perhaps low socioeconomic status has nothing to do with which school districts have more trouble affording permanent buildings? Perhaps higher numbers of children per family are unrelated to which schools are overcrowded?

It's hard to tell, when the bibliography consists of "studies show".

What's sad is that this is still better-than-average science and science reporting. We got an actual transcript, and the correlation seems to be at least a step above the "people who wear parachutes are more likely to die in skydiving accidents!" level which is so good at grabbing headlines.

Comment: If A is evidence, then ~A is contrary evidence (Score 3, Interesting) 279

by roystgnr (#45144813) Attached to: David Cameron Wants the <em>Guardian</em> Investigated Over Snowden Files

Had the Guardian not complied, I suppose David Cameron's response would have been "I thought they were guilty, but when they refused to voluntarily cooperate with my national security adviser and cabinet secretary, I started to reconsider."

No? But if not, then he is just trying to rationalize some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" nonsense.

Comment: The carriers are trying to scare Google (Score 4, Interesting) 163

Seriously, what else could *possibly* motivate AT&T to announce "Austin" rather than one of the hundred other similar markets they could be moving into? Are they looking forward to making half as much revenue as they would if they entered a city with no gigabit competition? Are they proud that they'll be increasing the maximum speed available to Austinites by 0% rather than increasing the maximum speed available in another city by 9900%?

Of course not. They're showing Google, "moving in on our turf won't be profitable, because we'll try to undercut you every time you make a move, so you might as well give up and leave us with our oligopoly."

It'll be fascinating to see what Google's response (both in terms of words and actions) will be. Does "don't be evil" include "don't concede to evil"?

Comment: It doesn't matter if NK or Iran follow suit (Score 1) 615

The USA and USSR didn't build tens of thousands of nuclear warhead because we needed to be able to "destroy the world ten times over" or whatever the pro-disarmament phrase was; we built that many weapons so that even if 99% of them were destroyed in a massive surprise first strike, the remainder would be able to destroy the first striker just once. The threat of retaliation then outweighs any incentives for anyone to commit a first strike.

But none of that applies to threats from NK or Iran. They have neither the technology nor the economies to hit a thousand hardened silos in a massive surprise first strike, and they're not going to be able to change that without decades of obvious development, so even a couple hundred warheads is still more than enough to pave over either country with glowing green glass. The problem with proliferation is a different one: when a nuke in a random incoming shipping container destroys some major harbor city, how do we even know whom to retaliate against?

Comment: Re:People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (Score 1) 1063

by roystgnr (#42562545) Attached to: US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

The report is full of claims which completely neglect all those factors. Do you need direct quotes?

My "blase comparison" is a more apples-to-apples version of a less precise and therefore more misleading claim made in the news article. Is your disdain towards their distortion even a fraction of your disdain towards my correction?

Comment: People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (Score 1) 1063

by roystgnr (#42558325) Attached to: US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

Japan's life expectancy in 2010 was 82.9 years, according to the World Bank. In 2006 it was a little lower.

Japanese-American's life expectancy in 2006 was 84.5 years, according to HHS quoting the NIH.

Everybody discussing this issue without taking confounding factors like Simpson's paradox into account should basically be ignored, if you have no chance to respond to them. If you do have a chance to respond to them, then try pointing out facts like the above and seeing if the conversation turns from trying to explain how "the U.S. health disadvantage is pervasive" to trying to explain the opposite. If it doesn't, then you know that their original "explanations" were generated from bias rather than from evidence.

Comment: Is "for everyone" on the table? (Score 1) 2987

by roystgnr (#42290313) Attached to: 27 Reported Killed In Connecticut Elementary School Shooting

The proposals I've seen always turn out to be "give up the right to bear arms for everyone not wearing the right uniforms". But that idea has also been frequently tried, and it doesn't always work well either, and when it fails the ensuing death counts have gone into the millions.

Comment: What predictions become self-fulfilling? (Score 2) 130

by roystgnr (#42173047) Attached to: Even Capped Prediction Markets Can Be Manipulated

Systems don't generally exist in locally-unstable equilbria, because if perturbations generate their own positive feedback and if the system isn't carefully protected from even the slightest perturbation, then it will have already left the unstable equilibrium.

So, although it sounds cynically wise to claim that "people want to vote for whoever they think will win the vote", any such effect must not be very strong. The first partisan victory would have tilted the scales toward a partisan landslide which would have set up a partisan shut-out, and we'd shortly be laughing about "second-party voters who throw their votes away" the way we talk about "third-party voters" (where plurality counting really *does* create such positive feedback) today.

Comment: Anybody here encrypt their email? (Score 1) 228

by roystgnr (#41970809) Attached to: Petraeus Case Illustrates FBI Authority To Read Email

A decade or so ago, we finally admitted that the encryption cat was out of the bag, US rules loosened, and web browsers stopped coming in "128-bit encryption that you can't export" versus "56-bit encryption that the FBI or the teenager down the street can crack" varieties.

At the time, many people were cynical enough to speculate that this new "we won't worry about bad people using encryption" policy meant that NSA mathematicians had discovered algorithms for cracking our strongest ciphers.

Yet I don't recall anyone being so cynical as to realize the truth: we don't worry about bad people using encryption because (most) ecommerce vendors are the only ones not too lazy to use encryption. You'd think that a four-star general trying to hide an affair would at least try out PGP...

Comment: Someone call the "obvious patent" police! (Score 3, Insightful) 315

by roystgnr (#41632365) Attached to: DRM Could Come To 3D Printers

Perhaps the people who have approved decades of "existing idea X, but on a computer" and "existing idea-on-a-computer X, but over the network" claims will decide that "existing idea-on-networked-computers X, but using a 3D printer" claims are where the obviousness line is finally being crossed?

Comment: Don Boudreaux summed this up nicely (Score 5, Insightful) 170

by roystgnr (#41428589) Attached to: How Internet Data Centers Waste Power

in this letter and comment.

The most ironic point: "Should we discover (as we undoubtedly would) that tens of thousands of copies of today's NYT were printed, delivered, and sold to subscribers who never read Glanz's report, do we conclude that the NYT needs a new and less-wasteful business model?"

Comment: ...you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld (Score 1) 622

by roystgnr (#41339825) Attached to: YouTube Refuses To Remove Anti-Islamic Film Clip

And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

Even if you don't believe in bright-line ethical rules in favor of free speech, surely any consequentialist calculation of what will happen by bending this rule has to include not only the present murderers' reduced incentive to complain but also any future complaintants' increased incentive to murder.

Comment: Re:Actually Miguel... (Score 2) 933

by roystgnr (#41167015) Attached to: How Apple Killed the Linux Desktop

Certainly "with compiz, it's snazzier" - for a while with Gnome2 + Compiz, even non-Linux blogs were filling up with "wow, you could make your computer look like *this*!" Youtube videos. Has anybody seen videos of Gnome 3 or Unity which impress non-users?

The newest XFCE + Compiz on Ubuntu 12.04 doesn't seem to be stable enough for me, though. Not sure which of them is to blame (or if it's NVidia's drivers, something else...)

Comment: Re:What did you expect? (Score 1) 355

by roystgnr (#39741485) Attached to: FBI Seizes Server Providing Anonymous Remailer Service

The additional facts and context are much appreciated. However:

Now, I'm not trying to say "knocking every anonymous remailer off the internet is justified". Please don't assume I think that.

Do you instead think that "allowing unlimited anonymous communication is justified", even if it means that false bomb threats become as common as litter? Although I'm sure we'd all agree that ethically there's a middle ground between these two points, that may be a moot point if technically no such middle ground exists. And I don't see a technical middle ground, do you? Either truly anonymous speech is possible or it isn't. The mixmaster software can't distinguish between good and evil messages passing through.

Neutrinos are into physicists.

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