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Comment: Re:Smokers (Score 1) 90

by Artifakt (#47554919) Attached to: Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

Why are you even debating the point over smoking, when you (and I) have no idea what the other 'few groups' are? Maybe next on his list is all the Red-headed people because they all didn't even die when Batman knocked them all into that vat of chemicals. Until I hear who the other few groups are, I'm going to assume that mindless hatered and lack of understanding of basic medicine are not even among this niblick's top 10 biggest issues. Hell, the other "few groups" probably include Underweight Belgians, Manx Cat Fanciers and Left Handed Whittlers.

Comment: Re:There have been attempts before (Score 1) 37

by Artifakt (#47553009) Attached to: How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium

Any hypothesis that doesn''t allow being disproven isn't science. period. That's hardly silly to point out. I may have been too polite by phrasing it in basic English - maybe I should have jumped right on a bunch of working scientists with the bold claim they had departed fully from the basic scientific method, before actually taking the time to read the original paper in detail and recrunching all their numbers, if that would make you feel better. Better yet, why don't you take "Let's You and Him Fight" elsewhere? I'm raising the question of whether the researchers took something into account, not accusing them of not understanding falsifiability as a fundamental of science, and if you want to turn a legitimate question into an accusation that insults both them, and me by the implication I would make it without doing a lot more work than could be done in the few hour since this article was posted, why don't you make that extraordinary claim, and sign your real name to it. A letter to the journal that published the original paer is appropriate there, not discussion in a non-vetted online "news" source. So I didn't spell out that I thought there were implications for falsifiabilty like I was lecturing the thinking impaired, particularly when I would much rather hear just what the paper's creators think are possible tests rather than assume they just didn't think about it.

            This also isn't a question of either whether Jurrassic Park got something scientifically right or whether Michael Crichton was a good author. That was just an example many readers would recognize. I could have used examples they wouldn't have even seen before, but I picked one they might know.

            Tell me, when somebody says there's hugh potential trouble in the nation's underfunded infrastructure, and mentions, as just one example, how many truck drivers are putting in excess hours and falsifying logs, does that make the whole article, in your mind, about trucker's bad penmanship? The real questions (now pay attention this time) are firstly "Do humans have a blind spot in the way they percieve flocking, even though there's 'logical' arguments why they should not, and we aren't bothering to look for evidence of a blind spot because those arguments make it so easy to ignore?", and secondly "Is an experimental model of flocking only going to be scientific if the researchers first make sure they have accounted for that blind spot?" My argument is that both questions need to be answered yes. Since that's my opinion, I'd also argue that a good mathematical model that ignores this, vrs. a bad mathematical model that just knowingly fakes flocking well enough, becomes like a better Planetary Epicycle model vrs. a worse one or even a deliberately false one. It doesn't matter much if the planets don't move in epicycles at all.

          I'd also say it's vitally important to figure out why the human brain seems to have many such blind spots - for just one, watch all the people, on all sides of the debate on the Theory of Evolution, who keep slipping into talking about what "Nature's Goals and Intentions" are. That's either because English (and at least most other languages) has/have a lot of superstitious cruft built in and we need to work at improving that or we will never be able to communicate properly, or it's something more fundamental to the human brain, and if it is the latter, figuring it out is probably going to be the biggest scientific achievement of whatever century it happens.

Comment: There have been attempts before (Score 3, Interesting) 37

by Artifakt (#47548069) Attached to: How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium

One factor not mentioned in the summary, is that bad computer models for flocking can still generate what looks like realistic flocking behavior. The herd dinos in Jurrassic Park are an example of this - the animation formula assumed each dino was instantaniously aware of all the rest, without allowing time for their nervous systems to work, but the flocking motions still looked right to most people, including professionals. People should remember too, humans probably have some pretty good mechanisms built into their brains for analyzing flocking, so that our ancestors, going at least as far back as the ape-like ones, could successfully hunt birds in flocks, and we collectively and historically certainly have had a lot of practice at that. We, as a species, ought to have some skill at detecting what constitutes real flocking behavior, but if we do, it doesn't always make a bad formula look jarring or wrong. So when somebody claims they have a real formula for what's going on when birds and such flock, the next question is "Can this claim even be proven or disproven?"


Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut 92

Posted by timothy
from the right-under-their-noses-and-stomachs dept.
A newly discovered virus has been found by a San Diego State University team to live inside more than half of all human gut cells sampled. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has a Wikipedia page of its own.

Comment: Re:Stability (Score 3, Interesting) 85

by Artifakt (#47540515) Attached to: Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

That's not as challenging as you seem to think. For Nightfall, you could start with the assumption that there's at least one particularly massive star, not so big as a typical A or O that won't stay on the main sequence long enough for life to evolve, but bigger than our G 2 sun, say a G 4 or 5 or even something in the F series. The other five suns can be much lighter, all the way down to red dwarfs in some cases (and the story seems to describe at least one that is). Those small stars don't have nearly the light output of the bigger one - with the right options, The planet can orbit the main star at a distance quite a bit greater than Earth orbits our sun, and be close to the exact optimum of its "Goldylocks" zone or somewhere on the cool side. Then smaller stars could exist in various configurations, and their output is low enough that if they are at, say 5 x what that planet would call an AU, they would essentially just move the planet's climate a bit towards the inner edge of the "goldylocks" range. So long as they don't nudge it completely into the hot zone, why wouldn't life cope? (Note that we are talking about their light ouput raising the planet's temperature, not them gravitationally nudgeing the planet about - gravity and how stable the planet's orbit can be if the orbits of the suns themselves are changing, that's a seperate question) Fictional Kalgash would have to orbit the biggest sun of the group and it would have to count as being near the cooler edge of the life bearing zone before you figure in the other stars, but even before the lesser suns temporarily shift into a quasi-stable configuration that prevents night from occuring except once every several thousand years or whatever, there would be various configurations that would make night a very short lived or rare and irregular thing, and life would be used to that. There are other issues, such as how do plants dispose of waste products on Nightfall world, but those issues don't vary much if there's a short night every few months or only in a thousand years - plants would have to adapt for situations much less prolonged than the current one. If we call the Nightfall orbits "perfect", then even very imperfect multi-star systems would find life constantly facing this problem.I'm thinking that by your argument, it's all too easy to say things such as "Life in Binary systems? Impossible!," and even "Life when the day lasts more than 24 hours 17 minutes? Absurd!", and things like that. I'll refrain from quiting Jeff Goldblum at this point, but hope you will consider this.
        Then there's the question of how sensitive to light the natives eyes are. If nights have always been at least short and irregular for much longer than the perfect situation has existed, we should expect the natives to not have very good night vision, as there's less demand to evolve it, so talking about relative optical wavelength outputs and such is very hard to do meaningfully.I'm not sure how we could criticise the work as SF on that basis.


Wikipedia Blocks 'Disruptive' Edits From US Congress 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the history-no-longer-written-by-the-victors dept.
alphatel writes: Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" behavior. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits, a bot that automatically tweets Wikipedia changes that come from Congressional IP addresses. The biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication.

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation' 310

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.

Poetry For Sysadmins: Shall I Compare Thee To a Lumbering Bear? 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the admin-admin-burning-bright-in-the-office-fluorescent-light dept.
itwbennett writes Don't forget that July 25th is Sysadmin Day — a good day to show love to the folks who save your butt again and again when you mess up your computer. Forget the chocolate and flowers, long-time sysadmin Sandra Henry-Stocker has tailored some poems to celebrate these under appreciated, hard-working souls.

Comment: Re:I also measure distance (Score 3, Interesting) 190

Even though they measure the same thing, the Becquerel is a very, very small unit. If somebody was talking about the risk of a dam breaking, and used the cubic centimeter for measuring the volume of water behind that dam, perhaps with a note that a single cc of water can killl a person if they choke on it just right as a justification, wouldn't you still prefer a unit such as gallons, or cubic feet or cubic meters, Wouldn't that be better in helping asses the real consequences of a dam failure even though we are measuring the same thing? Or wouldn't it be better to give information on just how many acres downstream would be flooded and how many people live on that floodplain, even though that's all a very different kind of measurement? There are plenty of cases where either a similar measurement that uses units more in keeping with the situation or a measurement of something different may either or both be better.
          Using SI units is a good thing overall, but what if those units are many orders of magnitude outside of the thing they were designed to measure and there's a non-SI unit that isn't? Or, what's the point in preferring Km./liters over miles/gallon if we are talking about how much fuel it took to send Voyager 1 outside the heliopause? Neither one is very useful when we are not exactly sure just where the edge of the solar system is, or how to measure it, and Voyager will keep on coasting many light years farther in the end, if its trajectory even has an end in the lifetime of the universe.
            I see using becquerels in this case as similar to someone being opposed to a government project, so they give how much it costs in the currency of some nation currently undergoing hyperinflation, so the project costs a bajillion, bajillion, Saganillion Elbonian Smerdlaps, That's not the same thing as writing about the US economy for a European audience and converting to Euros, or writing about the European economy for Japan and converting to Yen. Even though we know a conversion rate for the uints, and it's fixed as of a given date,,using some units for currency could still be an attempt to make the numbers sound so large they prejudice the average reader more than they inform. You should look at what level of information the average person reading an article from that particular source will have in deciding whether a difference of units is simply a difference or if there's some intent to mislead - and since you asked it as in what way X is :bad?", hopefully we can agree attempts to mislead are bad.


VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-he-was-wearing-pants dept.
theodp writes: Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree.

Comment: Re:Bigger Colliders (Score 1) 218

by Artifakt (#47516069) Attached to: China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC

Inside a typical accellerator, the vacuum is typically about one-millionth of an atmosphere. At an alltitude of roughly 100 km., the air density is about 1/2,200,000 the density at the surface. That's obviously good enough,, but at that altitude drag still brings orbiting objects down to earth quite quickly. The quick rule of thumb is to have something up there long enough to be useful, minimum orbital altitude is about 300 Km. So yeah, vacuum is the least of your obstacles - you'll have more than you'll ever need.

Comment: Re:no thanks (Score 1) 171

by Etcetera (#47512589) Attached to: Firefox 31 Released

Firefox has gone down the ugly-UI-shuffle-for-the-hell-of-it route, Chrome sends an astounding amount of telemetry back to the hive-mind, and IE's performance is still a total joke even if I can see past the OS implications and numbingly-bad design. Are niche browsers all we have left?

It's rather ironic that seamless integration with the OS is much less of a privacy issue than seamless integration with remote servers nowadays....

The Media

Print Isn't Dead: How Linux Voice Crowdfunded a New Magazine 56

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the something-about-paper dept.
M-Saunders (706738) writes The death of print has been predicted for years, and many magazines and publishers have taken a big hit with the rise of eBooks and tablets. But not everyone has given up. Four geeks quit their job at an old Linux magazine to start Linux Voice, an independent GNU/Linux print and digital mag with a different publishing model: giving profits and content back to the community. Six months after a successful crowdfunding campaign, the magazine is going well, so here is the full story.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir