Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:68 percent of scientists are idiots? (Score 3, Informative) 485

by tburkhol (#48938645) Attached to: The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know

GMOs usually need far fewer pesticides sprayed on them, that is pretty much the point of them most of the time.

This depends entirely on the modification. The two most popular GMOs are "roundup ready" and "Bt." Roundup-ready plants are resistant to glyphosate, which allows farmers to use higher amounts of the herbicide. "Bt" plants produce their own insecticide, which allows farmers to reduce their external application of such agents. As glyphosate resistance transfers to weed plants, biotech companies have begun developing resistance to other herbicides: the next step in the evolutionary arms race.

Comment: Re:More ambiguous cruft (Score 2) 485

by tburkhol (#48938593) Attached to: The Gap Between What The Public Thinks And What Scientists Know

It may be safe to eat, but there are other issues with GMO food than that. Setting loose genes in the environment for other organisms to pick up for example.

No one has genomic techniques to successfully create a protein from whole cloth. All GMO techniques involve transferring an existing gene into a species that lacks that gene. eg, "Roundup ready" crops contain an Agrobacterium enzyme to supplement their own EPSPS (enolpyruvylshikimate-phosphate synthase). So if your concern is just that these genes are "in the environment," then they already were.

Their commercial use greatly increases the quantity of those genes in the environment, in the same way that commercial farming has greatly increased the number of cows and corn plants. And it's distinctly easier to transfer genes laterally among closely related species (say, wheat and grass) than less related species (say, bacteria and grass), although one of the attractive features of agrobacteria is that they have long been know to mediate lateral gene transfer (ie, tumor formation) into plants. A farmer purposefully planting and cultivating 1000 acres of any single species gives that species a massive advantage over any species dependent solely on birds and bees for propagation.

Modern, monoculture agriculture methods make us more susceptible to a potato-famine like event, regardless of whether the monoculture has been engineered or not.

Comment: Re:inflation embiggens numbers (Score 1) 521

by tburkhol (#48924127) Attached to: Apple Posts $18B Quarterly Profit, the Highest By Any Company, Ever

I was refering to the media who is constantly bashing oil for their "profits" when they say nothing about apple

You do see that there's a fundamental difference in the business of oil and Apple, right?

The oil guys are, basically, taking stuff out of the ground and selling it to you. Their profits derive from carefully controlling the supply so that there is always a shortage. So that their customers are always competing for the privilege of giving them money. People give money to the oil companies because they have to.

Apple is in the business of creating technology that didn't exist before. They're moving society, if not culture, forward, and making the world different than it was before. Their profits derive from being more creative or more fashionable than other tech companies, not from artificially restricting supply (much). People give money to Apple because they want to.

Comment: Re:I wonder... (Score 1) 94

by tburkhol (#48915195) Attached to: Researchers Tie Regin Malware To NSA, Five Eyes Intel Agencies

Yeah, maybe. I'd think that if they wanted to do that, they'd have done it already. But maybe they just haven't had the opportunity. Seems to me the horse is out of the barn.

Seems to me that the CIA is not quite as omnipotent as their propaganda claims. Julian Assange has not had serious appendicitis, let alone a tragic heart attack nor freak accident, and we all know exactly where he is. How many years did it take to track down OBL, while he sat eating take-out in the suburbs?

No, I think it's pretty clear that the CIA have trouble finding their asses with both hands. Most of the time that doesn't matter too much, because the media is happy to believe without question that the identified bad guys were really bad, and the public would rather believe in James Bond than Maxwell Smart. I'm sure there are a few very clever and very capable people within CIA, NSA, etc, but I'm equally sure that they are, by and large, massive, hidebound bureaucracies employing legions of tenured civil servants whose sole goal is to get home in time to catch the evening weather report

Comment: Re: Anti 1984 sign (Score 1) 282

by tburkhol (#48913179) Attached to: EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance

When you walk the streets of your home town, do you wear a mask and costume to hide your identity? No -- your face is visible. You are a private citizen, you have the right to be left alone or to interact with others as you choose, but you are always identifiable by your face. I feel the internet should be the same way -- you should always be identifiable.

The problem with this analogy is that in the physical world I can arrange to have privacy. I can meet with other individuals outside of the public eye. I can whisper in their ear so that only they hear communication. I can go to remote places where there are no observers. The CIA and KGB developed excellent methods for completely anonymous communication in the physical world, almost all of it based on the economics of real world surveillance: it costs money to watch someone in the real world. On the internet, there is a record of everything, and that record lasts as long as someone else chooses. It costs almost nothing, per person, to surveil the internet, especially if you forbid encryption and anonymity. Do you really want prospective Singularity One clients to see drunken pictures from USask? Or to know that you're bipolar? I mean, that's stuff that you're proud enough to have voluntarily posted to public forums, but a lot of people would find it embarassing.

We all have stuff we're embarrassed by. That same CIA and KGB have a long history of using such embarrassing, not-quite-public information to manipulate people, even to making them violate their own ethical standards. Are you so anxious to give them that power over you? Are you so anxious to give that power to the North Korean government and to the Russian mafia?

Comment: Re:Now using TOR after WH threats to invade homes (Score 2) 282

by tburkhol (#48912973) Attached to: EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance

Surveillance does not make people less free. Does an audience at a theater make an actor less free?

What? Are you seriously trying to suggest that the role of police/security forces is comparable to a theater audience? Because I'm pretty sure that the audience pays actors for the privilege of watching them, whereas I am paying the police. I talk about my boss, my wife or my mother very differently when they're standing next to me, so I claim that an observer absolutely does restrict my freedom.

If repressive things happen with the gathered data then that would be a problem but not the surveillance itself.

OK, so when it's a private citizen, we should watch them closely, all the time, in order to identify when they might be thinking about committing a crime, but when it's the police, we should have no restrictions or preventative measures unless someone can document that the police have committed a crime. The crime rate for police is similar to civilians: they're human beings, not gods. They should be held to standards at least as high as you're proposing for civilians, and probably higher, given the special powers we invest in them.

Comment: Re:Exactly (Score 2) 106

by tburkhol (#48866215) Attached to: Gender and Tenure Diversity In GitHub Teams Relate To Higher Productivity

This, and studies like it, are used to impose diversity on groups that would otherwise not have it, whether by intentional exclusion or by unintentional "doesn't fit the organizational culture." It's not surprising to me that groups which are spontaneously diverse are productive, and I'm perfectly happy to go with the 'open minds accept diverse solutions and diverse people' argument. The question that interests me is whether you can impose social diversity on a group, force them to open their minds, and subsequently become more productive.

I can certainly see where putting a person of color, or a woman, in a group of racist, misogynist bigots would disrupt their happy groupthink and break up their productivity. Regardless of whether that productivity started out a little lower than an equivalent group of non bigots.

Comment: Re:building municipal broadband is prohibited (Score 1) 160

by tburkhol (#48855187) Attached to: A State-By-State Guide To Restrictive Community Broadband Laws

Its called the "commerce clause" and even "originalist" extraordinaire Anton Scalia has no problems with that (see his concurrence in Gonzales vs Rauch).

People buying their internet from a local municipal broadband service is about as far from "interstate" as you can get.

I didn't realize local, municipal broadband networks typically forbid out-of-state packet transmission. No wonder everyone hates them: it would absolutely suck to have some local-only network come in and block my access to actual inter-state and inter-national network access.

If they really are doing that, they should probably come up with a different description of their network: it's certainly not "internet." Maybe "cripplenet" or "inbrednet."

Comment: Re:What does it mean? (Score 2) 160

by tburkhol (#48855137) Attached to: A State-By-State Guide To Restrictive Community Broadband Laws

82% of households have access to two or more broadband providers:

This describes a pretty bogus form of "competition." This statistics means that 82% of households can choose between 4Mbps AT&T/DSL over twisted copper and 20 MBps Comcast/TW over coax. That's an extremely limited form of competition, similar to claiming that Tyson Chicken competes with Midwest Beef, or that Audi competes with Peterbilt.

There are limited regions where you can choose between multiple DSL providers (although this will usually require that you pay AT&T for dial tone and either AT&T or a second company for DSL). There are no regions where you can choose between coax providers.

Comment: Re:Abroad? (Score 2) 191

by tburkhol (#48855091) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

I'm a bit confused. US law assigns no rights at all to inventors. How exactly is going abroad going to benefit Japanese inventors? Which countries are they supposed to go to?

In the US, you have some power to negotiate with your employer, or to choose among employers based on their patent assignment/reward policy. If you think your work is going to be very lucrative, you can ask for a share of the commercialization value.

Article 35 more or less does what a lot of people here are asking for: it requires companies to compensate the people actually responsible for an invention. The problem is that one has no idea whether an invention will actually be commercially successful or not, so Article 35 resulted in a standardized practice of paying inventors a fixed bonus (~$10,000) for an invention, regardless of whether that invention was worth $1,000 or $100,000,000.

Comment: Re:Hang on WTF? (Score 3, Insightful) 191

by tburkhol (#48855051) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

It seems to me only logical that the entity that commissioned the work, invested the resources and made it happen ie the company should own the patent.

What you're proposing sounds like zero incentive to invent while being employed. Doesn't make much sense psychologically.

The guy was paid to invent stuff. It's not like he was a cashier or even a QA engineer who just happened across LED technology in his spare time. His employer gave him a salary, a staff, and a bunch of fancy equipment to play with, and (presumably) instructions somewhere between "make something cool" and "make us a blue LED." If he hadn't invented anything, he would (again, presumably) have been fired for failure.

Certainly, a rational company should offer some reward to their successful R&D teams. Some kind of bonus equivalent to what the executive team gets for profitable years. Failing to offer any kind of success incentive is going to encourage the better employees to leave (as happened in this case), and hurt long-term competitiveness.

The question is whether you want the government to mandate what share of an invention the responsible human gets and how to share that out across multiple involved parties. eg: presumably the project manager gets a share, but what about the guy running the chemistry lab that prepared the AlGaN? What about the tech who pipetted compound A into container B as instructed? Or the guy washing glassware? Should it be the same share for a guy who refines the blue LED as for a guy who bundles a flashlight in a key fob? Japan's article 35 seems to be just such a law.

Comment: Re:If you want personal patent... (Score 1) 191

by tburkhol (#48854983) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

I own your invention because if I didn't pay you to clean the toilets, you would be out in the streets. My warm building was a resource you used. You are okay with that argument?

Kind of a ridiculous argument. Cleaning toilets is not an explicitly creative job function

If your employer pays you to develop a blue LED, then they should own the rights to the thing you develop. I have no idea what the structure is in Japan, but in the US, employment contracts are generally quite clear on that. That contract may stipulate some share of royalties, but is more likely direct, royalty-free assignment. In fact, if "develop a blue LED" includes developing or improving a silicon doping process, or results in a turquoise LED instead, your employer will own that process and LED, too.

If your employer pays you to clean toilets, and you figure out that you can jam a toilet brush in a PVC pipe and not have to bend over so far, it'll be a lot harder for them to claim rights. Especially because your employment contract probably won't say anything about intellectual property.

Comment: Re:Understand your rights!! (Score 1) 291

by tburkhol (#48844153) Attached to: Innocent Adults Are Easy To Convince They Committed a Serious Crime

I have noticed that on a lot of TV police programs, the cops start interrogating the suspect and he doesn't exercise his right to be silent. They treat it as if it's an intellectual game and the suspect has to convince the cops of his innocence. It's like TV cop programs are propaganda for the cops to convince people that the "right thing" to do is to convince the cop that you're innocent.

This is exactly it. People learn an awful lot about how to behave in unfamiliar situations from stories they've heard (fact or fiction), and we hear a lot of criminal investigation stories. Those have a long history of being pro-police propaganda: partly because they need to cooperation of police consultants; partly because most people want to see 'bad guys' punished and to believe that the police never get the wrong guy. The stories are driven by dialog, so if all you have is an interrogator and a guy refusing to speak, viewers change the channel.

You can't learn law by watching TV any more than you can learn brain surgery. The world does not work like Dragnet, CSI or Law and Order.

Comment: Re:Bribocracy (Score 4, Interesting) 484

by tburkhol (#48818363) Attached to: IEEE: New H-1B Bill Will "Help Destroy" US Tech Workforce

How much effort does it take to do some research and verify whether a 10 second political ad is truthful?

In politics, "truth" is very flexible. For example, it is true that the Obama administration has reduced the number of annual drone strikes by 80% (over the past five years, in Yemen). It is also true that the Obama administration has increased the number of annual drone strikes by tenfold (over GWB). Likewise, Obama has both increased deficit spending by $1.3T, and reduced deficit spending by $1.2T (although even these numbers are suspect, depending whether you consider 2008 spending to be "Bush's budget" or "Obama's budget." This is one of the reasons you'll hear a lot of percentages and deltas in political ads - they can avoid telling you the denominator or reference point. They can choose a reference that makes their point, regardless of whether that reference is reasonable or relevant, and technically be truthful.

This is the reason no one believes a politician, unless he's saying something they already thought was true.

Comment: Re:Umm, no. (Score 1) 187

That's the power of the new mathematical language, and that's also the reason that the old results, while mildly amusing to read about, are not important milestones for modern mathematics.

You need to be careful to distinguish between "inventing" and "popularizing." Developments in the renaissance, and particularly the printing press, made it much easier to communicate ideas of all sorts, but that doesn't mean I'm going to credit Gutenberg as the father of mathematics. Your "New" mathematical language is an extension of all the old mathematical languages, invented by people who had learned the mathematics of the day. If it really is easy to discover the old, solved problems in that "new" language, it is because those solutions were embodied in the creation of that language. If you think notions like the existence of Zero are not important to math, then you have a naive understanding.

If you want to talk about the clear expression of specific ideas, I will refer you to Hooke's Law of elasticity, as he expressed it, ca. 1650: ceiiinosssttuv.

I'd rather be led to hell than managed to heavan.

Working...