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Comment: Re:Nothing new here ... (Score 2) 45

by Anubis IV (#48044343) Attached to: 35,000 Walrus Come Ashore In Alaska

You're quite correct that we shouldn't be quick to jump to conclusions, but the article he links does make the point that there doesn't seem to be a correlation between the recent years in which mortality events occurred (2009, 2011, and 2014) and the years in which lower ice levels were recorded (2007 and 2012). Moreover, we shouldn't need to wait for a peer reviewed study before we simply discuss the topic (I'm not saying you said we should, just pointing out that we should feel free to do so).

As you said, it's possible there were other causes in the past and that climate change is the cause now. That certainly seems to be what the WWF is suggesting, given that their statements strongly support the notion that dwindling ice levels are the cause for these migrations, but for that to be the case, we'd expect to see some sort of a correlation, and there really doesn't appear to be one, at least based on what the link above says.

Comment: Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 812

by Anubis IV (#48042609) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Pointing out that a notable point has an intuitive representation is not the same as arguing that the unit of measure is intuitive, just to state the obvious.

I'll most certainly grant that having freezing at one end of the 0-100 spectrum is super-convenient, since knowing when it's freezing outside is actually of use to us and placing it at 0 makes a great deal of sense. In comparison, having it at 32 feels downright arbitrary. But what about the other end? Setting aside grade school, when was the last time that you actually checked the temperature of boiling water, rather than simply applying heat until you brought it to a boil? If you forgot that 100C corresponded to when water boiled, would it actually make any difference at all, or are the degrees beyond about 40C ones that you really don't need to know at all for everyday life? Which is to say, I was discussing the entirety of the 0-100 scale in each system and their relative benefits.

Consider the sorts of human-level descriptions we'd typically apply to ranges of temperatures. Terms like, "freezing", "cold", "chilly", "cool", "pleasant", "warm", and "hot" can each correspond to incrementing ranges of 10 in the Fahrenheit system: 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, respectively. But due to the lower level of granularity in Celsius (each Celsius degree is 9/5 the size of a Fahrenheit degree) and differences in points of origin for the units, we end up with more arbitrary cutoffs for those sorts of human-level descriptors. It may just be my ignorance due to having not grown up in and around Celsius, but how would you describe, say, the 20s? The 10s? To me, they seem to span too wide a range to fit neatly into a descriptor like the ones I used above, and any attempt at defining a range in which those sorts of descriptors would apply would necessarily involve picking seemingly arbitrary points.

Continuing, in Fahrenheit, we know that at the bottom of the scale is one extreme of what humans can reasonably endure, and at the other end is the other extreme. Granted, it wasn't designed that way, but it does roughly work out that way, and as such it's simple to make use of in daily life.

Again, I don't think that these sorts of niceties/minor benefits in favor of Fahrenheit outweigh the overall benefits that come with switching everything to metric, including temperature, but denying that any benefits at all exist is, as I said, a pet peeve of mine.

Comment: Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 812

by Anubis IV (#48038289) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Pointing out that we each learn through experience is missing the point. What he's getting at is that Celsius is water-centric, whereas Fahrenheit is human-centric.

Just to put this out there at the start, I'm an American who thinks we should be switching to metric since I believe it to be the all-around vastly superior system, which of course includes switching to Celsius so that we don't have to be doing silly conversions between units. That said, it always kinda strikes me as being Borg-like when metric users repeatedly intone mantras along the lines of "you will learn as we have learned" while failing to acknowledge the inherent uniqueness in other systems that in many cases evolved that way because it made the particular task it was being used for easier or more pleasant. What makes metric great is that it strips out the disjointedness that comes from all of these unique systems by unifying them under a common system, but in the process we lose advantages that those systems may have been designed to overcome.

If my mostly-metric-using petroleum engineering pals are anything to go by, there are still a few specific cases where they greatly prefer to use Imperial units, simply because the nearest metric unit analogues make the computations significantly more onerous to manage. For me, a humble software developer, however, the unit of measure I'll miss the most is Fahrenheit, given that there's something rather nice about having a human-centric unit of measure that is intuitively linked to who and what we are. Because we use a base-10/decimal number system, 0 to 100 is a scale that all of us understand, and basing it around our own limits as humans makes for an intuitive understanding. -20C to 40C can certainly be learned, of course, and it isn't arbitrary, but there's nothing intuitive about it.

Again, I do think that the metric system is the superior all-around system, and I recognize that we will eventually learn to use and love metric just as easily as we did other systems today. I'm not suggesting we should stick with Fahrenheit; it's worth giving up for the sake of having a unified system. Even so, it's a pet peeve of mine that many people who grew up with metric (not necessarily you) are so eager to evangelize it as the overall best system that they refuse to acknowledge the possibility that there may be specific domains where the alternatives really do provide a better experience or an easier time using them.

Comment: Re:FP? (Score 3, Interesting) 812

by Anubis IV (#48037255) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

I get where your teacher was coming from in thinking it should be made as obvious as possible, but the primary problem we contend with in making it obvious is one of ambiguity, not recognizability. Commas are frequently used for denoting entries in a series in a sentence, and numbers oftentimes appear in a series. Consider the following:
A) 123,456, 789,0
B) 123, 456, 789, 0
C) 123, 456,789, 0

Effectively, we're relying on the spaces to provide necessary meaning. (A) represents two real numbers, (B) represents four integers, and (C) represents two integers and a real number, but at a quick glance, it isn't necessarily apparent which is which since the only difference between them is where the spaces are located. Moreover, had a space been forgotten due to a typo, it would have substantially altered the meaning of the series, and unlike words that may be affected in a similar way (e.g. "good one" vs. "goo done"), which are relatively easy to recognize as typos within context, we rarely have useful context clues with numbers from which to recognize that a simple typo has occurred.

Contrast that with the use of the decimal point:
A) 123.456, 789.0
B) 123, 456, 789, 0
C) 123, 456.789, 0

It's clear where each number begins and ends, and what quantity it represents. That said, decimal points have the potential to become ambiguous when dealing with the ends of sentences, but even there, they are unlikely to cause confusion, given that it's rather rare that we have back-to-back sentences with the first ending in a number and the second beginning with one. Besides which, even when we do, we generally have ample context clues in the text that can help us to recognize that one sentence has ended and another has begun.

Just as I don't see how most of* my fellow Americans can keep arguing for using Imperial units, I don't understand how some Europeans can continue to argue for using commas instead of decimal points. Using an entirely different punctuation mark may be a better option than either the comma or the point, but if we're constrained to choose between the two, I have yet to hear a great case for why the comma is the superior choice.

* I say "most of", because I actually have had several of my engineering friends, particularly those in petroleum engineering, provide specific examples of situations in which they greatly prefer to use Imperial, rather than metric, units. Apparently it's one of those situations like weight vs. mass where the two units aren't actually analogous, and working with the metric unit ends up making the computations significantly more convoluted. In most other cases though, they, and I, tend to prefer metric (even if I don't necessarily think in terms of metric on a daily basis).

Comment: Re:I wasn't fundamentally altered by it. (Score 5, Interesting) 191

by Anubis IV (#48012005) Attached to: The Odd Effects of Being Struck By Lightning

Years ago when I was in junior high or early high school, my father was taking my younger brother and I to go shopping. I could hear a thunderstorm outside as we were shopping, but we lived in south Florida, so that was nothing out of the ordinary.

As we were heading out to the car after our shopping was done, something occurred that never happened to me before or since: I heard a crack at the exact same time that I saw a flash of light. I didn't see a source for the flash, just the light, seemingly all around. I had been standing next to my dad, who was holding my brother's hand while we were in the parking lot, but when I turned to see what their reactions were to what I assumed was a REALLY close strike, my dad was on the asphalt on his knees with his hands gripping the top of his head. The umbrella he had been holding had fallen to the ground, my brother and I were getting soaked, and my father wasn't responding to us when we asked him if he was all right.

After about a minute, my father was finally able to respond, and was actually rather embarrassed by the whole thing, since he could see and hear us, but was simply incapable of responding. We didn't know exactly what had happened, since none of us had actually seen the lightning strike, but we knew it had to have hit close, given that none of us had ever heard the crack of the strike happen at the exact same time that we saw the flash of light. My brother mentioned that his heart was racing oddly as well.

When we got home, sure enough, we found a little scorch mark on the top of my father's head that was hot to the touch, and over the course of the next week or so, he discovered that his sense of smell had been damaged, with things smelling differently than they should. It ended up being about a year before he could smell things correctly again. We figure that my brother may have also gotten some of it through him, given that he was holding my dad's hand at the time that it happened.

It was probably a good 5 years before the three of us stopped being skittish when outside in a lightning storm, and even to this day I treat them quite a bit differently than I used to, despite having grown up with them around all the time and generally having practiced good habits around them (even at the time of our strike, there were tall poles and trees (that we weren't under) all around us, so it always seemed odd to me that the strike landed where it did).

Comment: Re:I propose the Extreme test. (Score 1) 478

by Anubis IV (#47976431) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

I'm well aware that blood clots are a common complication. Nonetheless, they usually manifest earlier than two months after the surgery (I misspoke when I said "a few weeks"), which is when she died, and there was no mention at the time of her death that a blood clot was the cause. As far as I'm aware, it was ruled to be simple heart failure. Besides which, I can think of plenty of other examples regarding people I once knew:

- There was the little old lady who used to do the gardening at a church I attended. Her daughter decided that even though nothing had changed, it was time for her mom to stop gardening, and so prevented her from leaving the house to do so. The little old lady died in her sleep within the month.

- There was the couple I knew who were adopted grandparents to my brother and I. The husband was a diabetic and eventually passed away in his 70s after numerous complications. His wife had been his primary caregiver for years. She died in her sleep shortly thereafter, despite having been in excellent health.

- There was a mother and son I knew who lived together. He was severely mentally handicapped, so she acted as his primary caregiver, despite being in her 80s (he was in his 50s). A car ran a red light and T-boned them as they were crossing an intersection one day. The son was killed instantly, while the mother was physically unharmed. She passed away in her sleep within the month.

Is this proof of anything? Absolutely not. But I've seen too many people stop doing whatever it is that gets them up in the morning, lose the spark in their eyes, and then take a nose-dive for me to consider it purely coincidental.

Comment: Re:Big is the new Small (Score 1) 277

by Anubis IV (#47973855) Attached to: Phablet Reviews: Before and After the iPhone 6

You pretty much nailed it. What the summary failed to take into account was the most obvious factor: that the culture surrounding smartphones has changed.

Two years ago when the Note launched, phablets looked ridiculous, the UIs weren't designed for screens that large, and reviewers who hadn't used them before didn't even know how to hold them properly. Those early ones really weren't that great, but the fact that the general population wasn't ready to accept them since they looked so out of place didn't help any either. Even so, enough people bought them that they stuck around and started to shift what people considered to be normal.

Fast forward two years, and Samsung's continued push into the phablet space has made some major inroads. At this point, a 4" screen on a high-end phone is seen as small, UIs have done some catching up to be more usable on screens that large, the general population is more educated on how to use a screen that large, and people have begun to recognize the benefits of larger screens. Suddenly, they no longer look quite so ridiculous.

I know as scientists and engineers we want to be able to say with certainty that "X is the best at Y", since things that are true should remain true. But the bigger truth here is that the world changes, and this is one of those instances. What made sense 2 years ago may not make sense today, simply because our perspectives and tastes have changed. Hell, if you can remember all the way back to 2007, you may even recall that the 3.5" screen on the original iPhone was thought to be pushing the limits of what was reasonable, given that it was practically twice the diagonal size of much of the competition it was going up against. The trend back then was to go as small and thin as possible, but the original iPhone forced us to shift our expectations and perceptions of what was normal.

Thin is still a trend, but small isn't any more. Samsung successfully shifted that. It should come as no surprise then, that modern reviews would reflect that change in public perception, and would look more favorably on a large screen today than they did 2 years ago, regardless of who the manufacturer happens to be. And, in fact, that's exactly what's going on, given that Samsung's recent, large-screen phones have been stealing a lot of thunder from Apple, which is what necessitated this move on Apple's part in the first place.

Comment: Re:I propose the Extreme test. (Score 1) 478

by Anubis IV (#47968837) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

My grandmother served as a volunteer at her local Salt Lake City hospital for about 30 years, starting around the age of 65. She also traveled the world, going on mystery vacations that took her everywhere from China to Peru to the France, and was doing that all the way into her 90s as well. She was able to live independently in her home the entire time, still was hosting get-togethers with her friends right up until the end, and still made it down into town a few days a week to get her hair done or do other errands. And since her house was paid for long ago, she could easily live off of my grandfather's Army pension, allowing her to be generous with her time and the money she got from her other retirement holdings.

She broke her leg when she was 101, and despite the doctors not thinking she'd manage to survive the surgery to repair it, she did so with flying colors and was doing well in recovery afterwards. It wasn't until a few weeks later that someone broke the news to her: she would never be able to walk unaided again, nor would she be able to live independently any longer. She passed away within two days. I firmly believe it was a case of losing the will to live.

All of which is to say, people can and do live active, fulfilling lives well past 75, and I see no reason to cut off life early if the life is still being lived well. Volunteering is a great suggestion. You get to be involved in improving other people's lives and can see them benefit from your efforts. But without something to motivate people or keep them moving, people tend to die quickly. I've seen it happen time and time again, as have most of us, I'd assume. And I'd hope that it's the case for me as well: when I stop being able to contribute, I don't want any extraordinary measures used to lengthen my life. I outright let my retirement advisor know that I didn't plan to be alive for long after I retired, since I plan to work late in life in one capacity or another, and when I can't work, I plan to keel over shortly thereafter.

Comment: Re:Still 28nm (Score 2) 125

by Anubis IV (#47955229) Attached to: NVIDIA Launches Maxwell-Based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 GPUs

At this point I think it's safe to write off TSMC's 20nm fab process. It's not gonna happen [...]

Except that it already is shipping. Apple's A8 chip used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is manufactured using TSMC's 20nm process. And given Apple's proclivity for consuming entire manufacturing lines for their products, it's entirely possible that TSMC had to turn away other customers if they wanted to keep Apple, simply because they lacked the capacity to do otherwise. It also makes sense why they haven't been able to talk about the fact that they had a major customer lined up, given how religiously Apple likes to control their product announcements and the fact that they didn't even announce the devices until a week or two ago.

Comment: Re:But the movie selection still sucks (Score 2) 178

by Anubis IV (#47946365) Attached to: Native Netflix Support Is Coming To Linux

Your logic is all flipped. The question you should be asking is simply, "Am I getting $8 worth of entertainment?" Netflix has never had a great selection of the latest stuff (even back a few years ago it wasn't that great), so if you're analyzing the value proposition through that lens, you're ignoring the actual value that it provides. Rather than asking what they don't have, the type of question that should be asked is if what they do have is worth the paltry asking price.

The more I've used Netflix, the better it's gotten at making recommendations, and at this point my queue is mostly filled up with great movies I either missed the first time around or had never even heard of at all but which Netflix recommended to me. And while it definitely doesn't hit a home run with each and every one of them, it's better at providing good recommendations than most of my friends are, so I'm getting tremendous value out of the service since it's supplying me with an endless stream of films I'm enjoying, despite it lacking the latest and greatest. But for those times when I'm impatient and can't wait to watch something that was just released, only paying $8/mo. for Netflix means that it's easy to justify supplementing it with rentals from Amazon, iTunes, Redbox, or some other service.

I find that I'm much happier in life if I stop asking what I lack, and start focusing on what I have. Maybe Netflix really doesn't offer any value to you since you're only interested in watching new releases, and if that's the case, that's fine. But if you have any interest at all in watching stuff you may have missed the first time around, Netflix continues to be an absolutely incredible deal, and it'd be a shame if you missed out on it because you couldn't look past its lack in another area.

"It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try, but the result's the same." - Mike Dennison