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Comment: Re:What's so hard about using the time-honored (Score 3, Insightful) 241

by tburkhol (#48018125) Attached to: At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert

Here's the problem: the person who takes your order is not the person who delivers your order. There needs to be some way for server A to identify you to server B. Possible solutions:

Assign a number to customer, and expect customer to answer to that number. Problems: depersonalizing, customers forget their numbers, "thirteen" sounds like "thirty"

Let the customer assign an identifier for his order, providing some illusion of personal service. Problems: customer identifier may be confusing, customers may get annoyed if server A does not use the mystical spelling customer has in mind, servers may spend more time massaging the identifier than actually preparing product, server B may not pronounce the same identifier as server A recorded

Photograph customers for product delivery. Problems: privacy fanatics, bad pictures, servers turn incidental photodocumentation into DMV-like picture-taking ritual

In sum, there is no good way to make high-volume service look like personal service. People pretty quickly see through efforts to disguise it. While many people are willing to play along, occasional servers and customers will both manipulate these systems for their personal amusement. Misspelling your name is the barista equivalent of building paper-clip animals. Giving a fake name is the equivalent of painting your stapler purple. Try not to get bent out of shape when they call you "Susquehannah" instead of "Susquanna" or "Todd" instead of "Tom": they aren't trying to annoy you; they aren't trying to learn your name; They aren't likely to remember you next time; the content of your name is irrelevant to the process; and and effort to "get it right" only delays people around you.

Comment: Re:Not ad hominem (Score 2) 167

by tburkhol (#47977587) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

I'm not an expert in the field but what I saw of the comments were very specific about reuse of figures and data without citation.

If those claims have merit, then they should be sent to the NIH's Office of Research Integrity (since the research was NIH funded). NIH will do a proper, 3rd party investigation. Look at the original data and find out whether the supposedly copied bands are copies or just similar in appearance. Find other potential instances. Try to find out whether it's the PI, staff, or trainee(s) behind any manipulation. The ORI has the power to impose actual sanctions, as opposed to just innuendo. Making anonymous accusations on pubpeer is not the way to improve science.

Comment: Re:10^5 slower? (Score 1) 100

by tburkhol (#47887981) Attached to: Scientists Capture the Sound Made By a Single Atom

If you know what they mean, than it means something. Why are you complaining about language not living up to your arbitrary standards when it performs its purpose, to confer meaning?

Because that kind of arglebargle obfuscates their message. Just because the slithy toves do gyre and gimble in the wabe, does not necessarily make the borogroves all mimsy.

There's a place for poetry, and a place for clearly stated information.

Comment: Re:forest (Score 3, Insightful) 100

by tburkhol (#47887931) Attached to: Scientists Capture the Sound Made By a Single Atom

If this is all about an excited atom causing other atoms around it to move in a chain reaction (which is what we already know eventually causes our ear drums to vibrate, get converted to neurological signals to the brain and perceive "sound") then it pretty much seems like the most ridiculous waste of time and money in an experiment of which everyone knew the outcome I have heard of in a long while.

I disagree. The macroscopic phenomenon of sound comes from vast numbers of atoms acting in aggregate, and their effect dissipates rapidly as the initial energy is spread across more and more atoms. That can't happen at the quantum level. These folks suggest that, at a small enough level, the interaction becomes quantized, such that "sound" energy might transfer from one atom to exactly one other atom. ie, that the "billiard ball" model of atoms bouncing off each other can be reduced to a quantal exchange of energy very much like fluorescence resonance transfer.

Clearly, not a good way to listen to the latest Katy Perry song (if there is a good way to listen to the latest Katy Perry song), and pretty clearly not the ordinary definition of sound as a subjective phenomenon. If you're a physicist, trying to explain your study of quantal energy exchange among atoms to the lay press, "sound" is probably a pretty good metaphor.

Comment: Re:The sins of the father (Score 2) 540

by tburkhol (#47878837) Attached to: Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

The US Army is hardly the world's largest. Get a grip.

In terms of headcount, the US has the 3rd largest military, behind China and India. (North Korea is 4th) The US military employs 70% more people than the Russian military.

In terms of spending, the US has no close competition. The US spends 3.5 times as much as the next largest spender (China), and accounts, by itself, for more than a third of global military spending.

Comment: Re:Super-capacitors? (Score 1) 491

by tburkhol (#47870329) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

As an investor in renewables, China is well in the lead of ever other nation.

Either the Pew report or that article is giving you an incomplete picture. China, despite being a leader in nuclear and renewable power, is also going balls out to build coal-gasification plants.

China, by dint of having 20% of the world's population and 18% of the gross world product, is an enormous investor in everything. In contrast, Iceland, despite being a "developed" country highly dependent on geothermal energy, is one of the smallest global producers of renewable energy (53% = 80 PJ, vs 20%=440 PJ in Germany or US 12%=2,300 PJ).

You have to keep in mind whether the important number is absolute investment, per capita investment, or fractional investment.

Comment: Re:Well, we really should be at that stage by now. (Score 4, Funny) 491

by tburkhol (#47870225) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

Why is it then possible and viable to have nuclear powered submarines but not ships?

The navy does not expect its submarines to operate at a profit. This is partly because they know that the market for nuclear missile-generated craters is fickle, so their sales are going to vary dramatically from year to year, include whole decades at a stretch where they may not deliver even a single warhead. It is partly because their other principle cargo, national influence, is very hard to value objectively. Most companies carry this product as "goodwill," and serious accountants completely disregard it in valuations.

The whole business model of nuclear submarines is a sham. A ponzy scheme foisted off on a credulous public awed by technology and investor story time, run by directors spending other people's money, but guaranteed to collect their own luxurious salaries regardless of whether the business ever turns a profit. 50 years without delivering a single megaton warhead...you'd think investors would wake up.

Comment: Re:And low-emission transport trucks, too (Score 1) 491

by tburkhol (#47870159) Attached to: To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

Here the guardian describes how they put out more than 50million cars each: http://www.theguardian.com/env...

That article talks almost entirely about sulfur, which is only one aspect of pollution, and arguably less important for vessels/vehicles that spend their time hundreds or thousands of miles from populated areas.

They compare a car with annual use of 15,000km, carrying approximately 100 kg of cargo (1000 ton-miles), with a ship that travels 200,000 km carrying 150,000,000 kg of cargo (20,000,000,000 ton-miles). ie, based on equivalent use, one massive container ship is equal to 20 million cars. If that container ship produces sulfur equivalent to 50 million cars, despite using fuel with 2000 times more sulfur than terrestrial diesel, then I'd say they're doing a damn fine job of pollution control.

Comment: Re:come on Google Fiber (Score 1) 341

by tburkhol (#47763697) Attached to: Comcast Tells Government That Its Data Caps Aren't Actually "Data Caps"

They're offering service in areas that are already flooded with ISP options, this is not progress.

That's a bit of hyperbole, isn't it? Yes, google is rolling out to relatively high-density neighborhoods, but none of these are "flooded" with ISP options. At best, they have one cable option, one FIOS option, and one DSL option. To the best of my knowledge, there is nowhere in this country that you can choose between two cable providers.

You may also be forgetting that, when the incumbent ISPs were themselves startups, they didn't offer much in the way of rural service, either. In fact, most of them had to be paid by the government (and are still being paid by the government) to extend service outside of the most profitable neighborhoods.

Of course, that was 20-50 years ago, so you can be forgiven for imagining that Comcast launched in 1969 to 100,000,000 homes scattered across 80,000 square miles. I, for one, am happy to see anything vaguely resembling a new entrant in communication services. If they can only roll out to one city block, or even just one apartment complex, and provide better, faster or cheaper service than the legacy behemoths, I'll be happy to see them succeed.

Comment: Re:Simple economics. (Score 1) 80

by tburkhol (#47367191) Attached to: Time Warner Cable Customers Beg Regulators To Block Sale To Comcast

Free market capitalism is very beneficial to the consumers...when there is open competition.

You have to remember how the government has framed "competition" for companies like Comcast. Comcast and Time Warner are not competitors, any more than New York's MTA is a competitor of San Francisco's BART. Comcast competes with other "Internet Service Providers" or "Video Services" in its exclusive territorial boundaries. ie: Comcast only competes with AT&T, Verizon, and Dish.

As long as you can manage the double-think of "competition" specifically excluding the relationship between multiple providers similar technology, you will understand how having a single, national, coax-cable-based company increases competition, specifically with the twisted-copper-based company (AT&T) and the satellite-based company. As long as you can manage the double-think of competition, you will see that there is no barrier to any new company developing and distributing "Internet" or "TV," as long as that company doesn't use coax or twisted-pair wires. See how easily Google has been able to enter the ISP business by using fiber?

Comment: Re:Big Difference (Score 1) 210

by tburkhol (#47347497) Attached to: Fox Moves To Use Aereo Ruling Against Dish Streaming Service

The only problem for a select few is that Aero had chosen a choice location for its array of antenna and some people can't get a good signal due to metal walls or distance from towers.

But, don't you see that that is exactly the value that Aereo was offering? Space for me to put an antenna that would reliably receive the digital broadcasts that were supposed to be so much better than analog, even in the middle of a forest of concrete and steel. How fondly I remember the pre-digital days, when I could get (slightly staticky) broadcasts from 30 miles away. With great anticipation, I waited on the new digital signals that claimed to provide clearer pictures over even greater distances. Imag.....y dis......nt.......it turns out.....digit....sts don......fully.

Are you saying Aereo would have been OK if they'd sold one of those OTA DVRs and colocated them at their warehouse? Aereo's fatal flaw is that they rented people a homogeneous device rather than selling them one of a menu? That, my friend, is a legal Rube Goldberg much more intricate than the technical workaround Aereo intended.

Comment: Re:Administrators (Score 1) 538

by tburkhol (#47292555) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

Not the OP, but I can add some. In the biological sciences, it has definitely become common for PhD's to do several post-docs (in the conventional sense of a 2-3 year position) or to do extended post-docs of 6 or more years. There are many reasons for this. Some people go into advanced science because they like doing experiments, and postdoc is the last level where you get to be heavily involved in bench work. Some people prefer to be 'behind the scenes' as the lab manager or head technician, but it's administratively difficult to create a position with that title, so the head technician may be an essentially permanent postdoc. Some of it is because people will take a sub-optimal job to accommodate their spouse or partner.

Some of it is because there are a lot more PhD graduates than tenure track positions or extramural funding, and professors really only know how to train students to become professors. So, students enter the post-doc pool as a sort of purgatory until they find a tenure-track job, rather than search for other work to apply their PhD skills. The recession basically halted academic hiring for 5 years, so now there's a big backlog of graduates with lots of time spent as postdocs. A recent Assistant Prof search I was involved in wouldn't even consider candidates without a Science or Nature publication. Candidates averaged about 4 years post-doc, and some were 10.

As always, it's important to remember that these positions are technically university jobs, but they are created by an individual researcher based on extramural funding. They're not jobs created by a dean to do the university's work more cheaply than a tenured professor. There's a sense in which postdocs are like research-track adjunct professors (and may even get that title eventually), but the problem form of adjunct professors are temporary positions created by a Department or College to meet its functional mandate (teaching) without distracting a professor from his income-generating activities.

Comment: Re:Administrators (Score 1) 538

by tburkhol (#47292479) Attached to: Teaching College Is No Longer a Middle Class Job

One of the main reasons for rising tuition, especially at public universities, is the disappearance of taxpayer support. Support for public universities is down 25-30% in the last 25 years. Universities make up for that by raising tuitiion and shifting faculty from teaching to extramural-funded research. And by lowering salaries.

The big difference between tenure-track and adjunct faculty is that tenure-track faculty are expected to pay their own salary through grants and contracts. Professors are profit centers for universities, and the less time they spend teaching, the more income they can raise. Adjuncts are cost centers.

Comment: Re:What moron puts IPMI public facing? (Score 2) 102

by tburkhol (#47285619) Attached to: Supermicro Fails At IPMI, Leaks Admin Passwords

IPMI is awesome for managing servers. All the supermicro mobo's I've ever used had a dedicated ethernet port to make sure the IPMI was on a separate, dedidcated, not-internet connected network. The real problem is that they will (or at least would) fallback to the normal ethernet port for IPMI if the dedicated port was not connected.

So the risk here is anyone who bought nice Supermicro hardware, didn't bother to learn about the IPMI, and only connected the normal ethernet port. It's not going to be a problem for people running 5,000 servers in a datacenter. It's going to be a problem for SOHO guys whose web server has a BMC they don't know about communicating on the same port.

Passwords are implemented as a result of insecurity.

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