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Comment: Re:Quid pro quo (Score 1) 187

by ruhri (#46890017) Attached to: Grading Software Fooled By Nonsense Essay Generator

Excellent reply. A+. ;-)

I, of course, absolutely agree with your original statement, but I also think the GP wanted to point out the much more important ethical aspect: should we build and use machines for something that is such a profoundly human activity, i.e. the communication and exchange of ideas? Taking the Kantian approach here as you so eloquently pointed out in your post: Since I as an essay writer (and reader, FWIW) expect to communicate with humans, using machines for either or both of these tasks contradicts the very purpose of such communication, thus violating the categorical imperative.

Comment: Re:Quid pro quo (Score 1) 187

by ruhri (#46886677) Attached to: Grading Software Fooled By Nonsense Essay Generator

As someone who graded hundreds of essays while serving as a teaching assistant for a senior-level engineering ethics course, I have to say that I find your lack of integrity rather appalling.

As someone who served on the IEEE ethics committee I find your appeal to argumentum ab auctoritate rather appalling. You should know the distinction between ethics and morals. One could make the Utilitarianist case, in which (arguably) the behavior cited is morally OK. One could also make the Kantian argument that (arguably) comes closer to what you were condoning.

Regardless of how much time the TAs did or didn't spend on the essays, however, the students had the same obligations, and rightfully so.

As an assignment for your ethics class: please elaborate, under which ethical systems, the above statement holds true or not, and why.


Cruise Ship "Costa Concordia" Salvage Attempt To Go Ahead 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-the-best-of-things dept.
dryriver writes "A daring attempt to pull the shipwrecked Costa Concordia upright will go ahead on Monday, Italian officials have confirmed. The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather conditions were right for the salvage attempt. Engineers have never tried to move such a huge ship so close to land. Thirty-two people died when the cruise ship hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012. It has been lying on its side ever since. Five people have already been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship. The salvage operation is due to begin at 06:00 (04:00 GMT) on Monday, and it is being described as one of the largest and most daunting ever attempted. The head of the operation, Nick Sloane, told AFP news agency that it was now or never for the Costa Concordia, because the hull was gradually weakening and might not survive another winter. Engineers will try to roll the ship up using cables and the weight of water contained in huge metal boxes welded to the ship's sides — a process called parbuckling. This procedure must be done very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which has spent more than 18 months partially submerged in 50ft of water and fully exposed to the elements. The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m euros ($800m; £500m) and could cost a lot more by the time the operation is complete."

New All-Solid Sulfur Based Battery Outperforms Lithium Ion 322

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-comes-the-power dept.
olsmeister writes "The new all-solid battery design uses solid sulfur and lithium, and outperforms existing lithium-ion batteries with four times the energy density. The battery can maintain a capacity of 1200 milliampere-hours per gram after 300 charge-discharge cycles. More work needs to be done, but one would think this new technology could have applications in renewable energy storage, electric cars, and consumer electronics."

+ - Teenager Expelled and Arrested for Science Experiment

Submitted by ruhri
ruhri (1480067) writes "A 16 year-old girl in Florida not only has been expelled from her high school but also is being charged as an adult with a felony after replicating the classic toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil experiment.

This has quite a number of scientists and science educators up in arms. The fact that she's African American and that the same assistant state attorney has decided not to charge a white teenager who accidentally killed his brother with a BB gun has some thinking whether this is a case of doing science while black."

+ - High school student faces Federal charges for scientific curiosity

Submitted by SemperCogito
SemperCogito (1517121) writes "This petition at ( explains:

Kiera Wilmot is a Florida high school student with a perfect behavior record and good grades. She was recently arrested, hauled from school in handcuffs, expelled, and now faces Federal charges — all because of shameful over-reaction by school officials and law enforcement.

Out of curiosity and the scientific spirit, she mixed some common household chemicals together, creating a vigorous reaction that blew the top off the container she used. No one was hurt — no damage was done. But instead of appluading her boldness of spirit and connecting her to a science teacher that could mentor it, she is being treated like a criminal!

This travesty of justice and education must be stopped. Reinstate her, and wipe her records clean. Then celebrate her!

More on the story: Her principal's email address:"


The Twighlight of Small In-House Data Centers 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-goodnight dept.
dcblogs writes "Virtualization, cloud services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) is making it much easier to shift IT infrastructure operations to service providers, and that is exactly what many users are doing. Of the new data center space being built in the U.S., service providers accounted for about 13% of it last year, but by 2017 they will be responsible for more than 30% of this new space, says IDC. 'We are definitely seeing a trend away from in-house data centers toward external data centers, external provisioning,' said Gartner analyst Jon Hardcastle. Among those planning for a transition is the University of Kentucky's CIO, who wants to reduce his data center footprint by half to two thirds. He expects in three to five years service provider pricing models 'will be very attractive to us and allow us to take most of our computing off of our data center.' IT managers says a big reason for the shift is IT pros don't want to work in data centers at small-to-mid size firms that can't offer them a career path. Hank Seader, managing principal of the Uptime Institute, said that it takes a 'certain set of legacy skills, a certain commitment to the less than glorious career fields to make data centers work, and it's hard to find people to do it.'"

Comment: Good Times! (Score 4, Interesting) 212

by ruhri (#39769379) Attached to: Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary

Ah, I remember. Atic Atac. Moon Buggy. The Hobbit. All great games. But of course the coolest thing was to program that sucker. I always liked the Basic dialect better than Commodore's (which was far more popular in my school), and even liked the weird tokenized entry method. But the real game changer for me was when I bought (yes, bought!) a Pascal and a Forth compiler. Man, Forth rocked. It still is one of my favorite programming languages.

Funny enough, my father was really opposed to me getting one, so an (older) friend of mine had to buy one for me and "lend" it to me until my father finally gave up and let me outright own it. A Ph.D. in EE later I'd say it was a good investment...

Too bad at some point my brother ended up with it and rather than giving it back for proper conservation he discarded it. I miss it dearly.

Comment: Re:Firing in US (Score 1) 582

by ruhri (#39643969) Attached to: Interview With TSA Screener Reveals 'Fatal Flaws'

You expressly referred to the differential in power between employee and corporation, which is completely irrelevant to this story.

It may or may not be relevant to this story (it'll be very interesting to see how this plays out). It is, however, very relevant to the argument I was commenting on, which tried to establish an analogy between an employer/employee relationship and a relationship between consenting adults.

BTW there already exist "whistleblower laws" to protect government employees from being fired for pointing out ways that a government bureaucracy is behaving outside of bounds.

I am very well aware of that. I just pointed out to you that, from your original post, you did not seem to be aware that the TSA belongs to a different branch of government than the judiciary and that this fact invalidates your original argument of the TSA being "unable to act as an impartial referee".

If those existing laws did not work to protect her (a dubious assumption, considering, as others have pointed out, that there was less than a week from her sending her letter to a congressperson and her firing), what makes you think that another law would do any better?

Since I am aware of existing whistleblower legislation, I did not advocate for any new or additional laws. In my original comment, I just argued against the assumption that legislation regulating the relationship between employers and employees is unnecessary because it equates to a relationship between consenting adults. And obviously, Congress agrees with me.

Comment: Re:Firing in US (Score 2) 582

by ruhri (#39643161) Attached to: Interview With TSA Screener Reveals 'Fatal Flaws'

Excuse me for assuming the the USA had a system of checks and balances. The last time I checked, the TSA was part of the executive branch, and has to abide by laws that the legislative branch created. So we have two branches here, one making laws, one carrying them out. Wait, why don't we create a third branch as an arbiter, let's call it the judiciary?

Comment: Re:Firing in US (Score 5, Insightful) 582

by ruhri (#39643069) Attached to: Interview With TSA Screener Reveals 'Fatal Flaws'

Ah, nice. Latching on to the one thing I've neglected for the sake of argument, and for that sake only. Thanks for biting.

This is where the power differential kicks in. Your relationship with your employer is not symmetric. The potential impact on the employer is much lower than on the employee. That's why you need an impartial arbiter or a union (yeah, I know, good luck with that...)

And since you mention the word "friend" here, let me say that you'd be a pretty crappy friend who dumps someone you care about without trying to help him first, which is exactly what the agent tried to do in this case. Also, in this case, this is not only a matter between the employer and employee, because the safety of a third party is affected. As such, it becomes a matter of public safety and an ethical issue. Responsibility also means not just walking away from a bad situation.

Comment: Re:Firing in US (Score 5, Insightful) 582

by ruhri (#39642875) Attached to: Interview With TSA Screener Reveals 'Fatal Flaws'

Nope. Because the US is (mostly, there are obvious and absurd exceptions) governed in a way that assumes consenting adults can engage in mutually beneficial relationships without a nanny telling them what to do as if they were five year old children. In Europe most laws are written to the point where they assume the ordinary citizenry are mentally handicapped five year olds that needs to be monitored, watched and told what to do at all times by responsible adults.

I prefer the government treat me as an adult.

Are nanny analogies now the new car analogies on Slashdot?

Anyways, here's what's wrong with that picture:

Let's ignore the massive differential in power between a corporation/employer and an employee for a second and accept for the sake of argument that your assumption of both parties being consenting adults is valid. Of both parties in this case, only one acted responsibly, and that is the employee. The TSA chose to throw a tantrum worthy of a five year old and go "Lalala, I can't hear you!". At that point, I'd like to have a mechanism in place to make both parties behave responsibly. And that, pretty much, is the definition of a law (to lay down what "responsible behavior" is) and this subsequently implies it must be enforced by an impartial entity (judge, jury, whatever is customary in your local law system).

Isn't that the way it's supposed to work even in the USA? Why is everybody so afraid of laws and regulations when time and time again experience shows that especially those with a lot of power act like 5-year-olds any time they can get away with it?

"Mr. Watson, come here, I want you." -- Alexander Graham Bell