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Comment: Re:To me, this is a step backwards (Score 2) 208

by splodus (#47181595) Attached to: Lego To Produce Three Box Sets Featuring Female Scientists

My wife is an engineer and I trained as a cognitive scientist. When my daughter was born we both fully expected her to have no interest in 'girly' things, especially as the house was already full of interesting 'boy' stuff from her brother. My wife has no make-up, a couple of dresses for formal occasions, no shoes with heels... hopefully you get the picture.

At every step she has chosen the stereotypical girl toys, the colours pink and purple, fairy stuff, pretty dresses and so on. She nagged us for make-up for dressing up, and when we said no she improvised with felt-tip pens. She dresses her dolls and puts them to bed each night, reads to her cuddly toys and hangs up her dancing dresses in order of size, colour or favoritesest.

I'm rather glad it turned out that way because she is popular at school and I know she won't suffer some of the cruelty my wife did as a child growing up slightly different to the other girls in her class.

But nevertheless it continues to amaze me that she fits with her peer group for toys, interests and preferences and it seems to have made no difference whatsoever that she is surrounded by science and 'boy stuff' at home.

And she did not play with lego at all, despite having access to large amounts of duplo, technical lego and a range of figures until I bought her the pink fairy castle set.

It bothers me too about branding things gender specific and all the pink and purple and stars and rainbows. It's a self-serving cycle and I don't see a way out short of legislation. It's harmless enough to begin with, but the danger is that no boy would be seen with a 'girls toy' or 'girls book' and that a lot of girls think 'boys stuff' is boring, or worse convince themselves they don't like it just because they think it's not for them...

Comment: Re:Dumb logic (Score 2) 747

by splodus (#46483595) Attached to: Measles Outbreak In NYC

Those who are against vaccination believe there is a connection. I think it could be easier to convince them that vaccination is the lesser of two evils than that there is, in fact, no connection.

A slogan that says something along the lines of 'Death from measles or autism, which is best for your child?' might be more successful with these people than 'the evidence does not support a link between vaccination and autism'

Comment: Re:Intent vs. Goofing around. (Score 1) 99

by splodus (#38463750) Attached to: Reinventing Xerox PARC As a Money Maker

That's a good question. In the UK it used to be the case that the main funding councils (known collectively as RCUK) would fund any original research based on its contribution to the field. Under the 'Pathways to Impact' criteria all RCUK and most of the other councils require a submission with all applications stating to whom the research might be useful and how they will benefit. In theory there does not need to be an economic benefit provided there is some societal benefit (for example digitising and annotating an original manuscript for distribution via the web). However with science and engineering, commercialisation seems to rate very highly in deciding who gets funded and who doesn't.

There are a few funding councils not part of RCUK that currently do not seem to require impact plans. One is the British Academy, which will fund researchers at any higher or further education establishment in the UK in the same way that they all used to. The trend though does seem to be away from esoteric research and towards more 'results oriented' projects, with data management plans, project management, risk assessment, stakeholder analysis and so on becoming de rigueur even with charity-funded calls.

I don't know about other countries though, it could be that they are looking at us with bafflement wondering how on earth we think we can predict the unexpected outcomes we want before they've happened...

Comment: Re:Intent vs. Goofing around. (Score 2) 99

by splodus (#38460882) Attached to: Reinventing Xerox PARC As a Money Maker

I don't doubt that those who are granted funding at UK universities, having satisfied the 'impact' criteria, will often invent or discover things equally useful but totally unexpected.

What troubles me is that by making every research project comply with the impact criteria, other avenues of inquiry are cut off. At the moment, a proposal to find out (for the sake of argument - I've no idea if it's a good question) why dandelions are yellow would not get funded, but a proposal to boost the yield of rape seed might.

To me it's along the lines of saying that researchers from certain geographical locations, or birthplaces, or with project names beginning with P, will not get funded. It's an arbitrary and misguided hurdle that threatens to kill projects that might otherwise deliver top quality research. No obvious application at the time funding is granted, but subsequently leading to benefits for many.

I mean, there's already lots and lots of commercially focused research, it's not like we're short of people trying to make money...

Comment: Research for its own sake is disappearing... (Score 5, Insightful) 99

by splodus (#38459650) Attached to: Reinventing Xerox PARC As a Money Maker

The funding councils that back research at UK universities now require an 'impact' plan; evidence that what is being funded will have a 'positive' impact in terms of society and commercial interest. This was brought in by the previous government, and backed by the current one. At the time most researchers were set against it, pointing out that so many of the inventions and discoveries that have been so beneficial to us all came not from a will to research a specific issue, but from something else, and hence little more than an accident.

I thinks it's troubling that the idea of research for its own sake seems to be dying. In effect we're limiting the overall breadth of investigation, and perhaps that will result in fewer 'useful' discoveries after all.

Comment: Re:Not just an exercise in consumerism (Score 1) 239

by splodus (#38389534) Attached to: For the conventional gift-giving winter holidays:

If it happened every day it wouldn't be special.

We make all our gifts, the making is part of the celebration. Not many friends and family make gifts for us, but all realise we do not want expensive things and get us stuff that they think we'll enjoy (we particularly like things that are second hand, and appreciate that they will have taken some finding).

Sounding a bit like a hippie, but really it is the thought that counts, and thinking extra hard about people once or twice a year makes everyone feel better.

Comment: XP - can't be bothered to change (Score 4, Insightful) 417

by splodus (#37628524) Attached to: I typically run Windows ...

I just can't be bothered to learn another version of Windows unless I have to, and I've not heard of any compelling reason to move to Windows 7.

If and when XP is no longer an option I'll spend the time become a competent user of linux (as opposed to the barely capable user I am now)

Comment: Re:So what? (Score 1) 279

by splodus (#36575978) Attached to: UK Hacker Ryan Cleary Has Asperger's Syndrome, Court Told

She was generally a pleasant person but distinctly odd. Her father and brother were ASD (her mother told our administrator once when she called about some missing coursework). She was very bright - once spotted an arithmetic error in a 12-page handout within about 10 seconds of getting it, but term marks were always poor, just the bare minimum of effort to get through.

Overall there was nothing very specific that you could call a 'symptom', just inappropriate socially. She would frequently interrupt me in class and wouldn't 'get the message' that the others were irritated. Once another student said 'we hear a lot about you, who are you?' and she replied 'you hear a lot from me, not about me'. Another time she got an Excel handout that began 'double click the icon on the desktop' - she looked, literally, on the desk in front of her, even though we had been using the terminology for weeks in class - it was a different context and the knowledge didn't transfer.

Interestingly I read her 'disabilities review form' and she wrote candidly about what it was like for her. She said that she wished the tutors would 'discipline her for interrupting in class' and that she wished everyone wore name badges. She also said that the reason she chose our university is that we asked the right questions about her condition, and that she turned down places at each institution that referred to wheelchairs (of course most use a single generic form).

So, yes, it was her condition that led to this sort of behavior, but whether it was 'classic' asperger's I couldn't say.

Comment: Re:So what? (Score 3, Informative) 279

by splodus (#36575048) Attached to: UK Hacker Ryan Cleary Has Asperger's Syndrome, Court Told

I don't know what this means legally exactly but in UK law there is the defense of 'diminished responsibility'. For example, someone who would normally be convicted of murder may instead be convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility if they were suffering from an abnormality of mind.

However what you seem to be suggesting is that if someone with a previously diagnosed condition would like it to be taken into account, then they shouldn't if sufferers of that condition usually try to get on with their lives? If so I think that's a difficult point to argue. Those with schizophrenia try to live normal lives and take responsibility for their actions but surely no one would claim that a sufferer who commits a crime whilst experiencing delusions was responsible.

It's a matter of degree. I once had someone with asperger's in one of my classes and it was very difficult indeed. She once walked into my colleague's office, ignoring him completely, and began browsing his bookshelf! Now, if she had walked out with one of those books, would she have been responsible for theft? Legally? Of course. Compassionately? I would make allowances based on her condition...

Comment: We have something like this in the UK (Score 4, Interesting) 133

by splodus (#36539520) Attached to: Australia's 2 Largest ISP's Start Censorsing the Web

It's a 'voluntary' scheme whereby the biggest six ISPs implement a block list maintained by an organisiation called the 'Internet Watch Foundation'. They claim that only child pornography sites are blocked, but of course there's no way to know what is on the list.

Recently the first efforts to expand block lists to include 'other illegal' content have been made, and to set up a list for copyright-related restricted sites.

It seems governments have realised that legislative oversight is a bit of a nuisance, and it's just easier to coerce and/or bribe big business to get what you want.

The Courts

+ - 11-Word Extracts infringe Copyright in Europe 2

Submitted by splodus
splodus (655932) writes "The European Court of Justice, which is Europe's highest court, has ruled that a service providing 11-word snippets of newspaper articles could be unlawful. Media monitoring company Infopaq International searches newspaper articles and provides clients with a keyword and the five words either side. This was challenged by the DDF, a group representing newspaper interests, as infringing their members' copyright. The court has referred the issue back to national courts to determine whether copyright laws in each country will be subject to the ruling. The full ruling is available at the European Court of Justice website."

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.