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Comment: Re:ulterior motives (Score 5, Insightful) 52

by solarissmoke (#44782915) Attached to: Using Raspberry Pi and iOS App To Catch Rhino Poachers

If you REALLY want to get the message across (desperate times call for desperate measures?) then having public executions for poachers seem like it would be a sizable deterrent for teens who want to make a quick buck (ivory is >$1000/kilo)

If only it were that simple. The poaching industry is not built around a bunch of hoodlums with guns making a "quick buck". It goes all the way up to the highest levels of government, with lots of people taking their cut along the way. There is complicity by people at all the stages of the process of getting the horns/tusks from the animal to the people who consume it. And if you think only poor people are involved in poaching, you couldn't be further from the truth.

There are insiders in the very organisations that are supposed to be protecting the animals who leak information to the poachers so they know when and where to strike without being caught. There are crooked officials at customs checkpoints who let the illicit goods through the ports. There are politicians and lawmakers who are handsomely rewarded for not enforcing existing punishments and not instituting harsher ones. Punishing the guy who pulls the trigger, however harshly, isn't going to stop all of this. He will be replaced by someone else equally desperate for money. And where poverty is rife, it's always worth the risk.

There are some more realistic ways to address to the problem:

  • - Try and educate the ignorant people in China and other (mostly far-Eastern) countries who think horns and tusks have magical powers (I am not optimistic about this, but hey, we have to try).
  • - Research ways to artificially create horn/tusk material in the lab (similar to what was done with pearls), and flood the market with it so that the value of the product plummets.
  • - Work on making the living animals more valuable to the local community. Engage them in conservation efforts and make sure they receive a meaningful portion of the income from tourism activity. There are efforts being made to do this but the government could do a lot more.

Unfortunately all of these things take time, which is fast running out.

Comment: Re:Maybe selection bias (Score 4, Insightful) 383

by solarissmoke (#40501935) Attached to: Gmail Takes Largest Webmail Service Crown
I'm pretty sure there are hundreds of thousands of Gmail users who have an old and defunct Hotmail account that they forward to their Gmail account (just in case that high-school sweetheart tries to get back in touch). They will be pushing up the Hotmail count, despite the fact that they aren't active users in any sense.

Comment: Read the PDF (Score 4, Interesting) 76

by solarissmoke (#40083635) Attached to: Machine-Guided Learning Matches Teachers In Study

They actually make some pragmatic conclusions in the report itself, and don't claim that machine-guided learning is some sort of panacea:

The findings in this study warn against “too much hype.” To the best of our knowledge, there is no compelling evidence that online learning systems available today—not even highly interactive systems, of which there are very few—can in fact deliver improved educational outcomes across the board, at scale, on campuses other than the one where the system was born, and on a sustainable basis.

...

We do not mean to suggest—because we do not believe—that ILO systems are some kind of panacea for this country’s deep-seated educational problems, which are rooted in fiscal dilemmas and changing national priorities as well as historical practices. Many claims about “online learning” (especially about simpler variants in their present state of development) are likely to be exaggerated. But it is important not to go to the other extreme and accept equally unfounded assertions that adoption of online systems invariably leads to inferior learning outcomes and puts students at risk.

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