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Comment: Re:It's a Losing Battle (Score 1) 58

by wattersa (#44390717) Attached to: Attorney Jim Hazard is Working to Open-Source Law (Video)

LaTeX to generate documents is pretty resourceful. How do you manage drafts that need to be exchanged with a client or opposing counsel when they ask for a "track changes" version? What font(s) do you use?

I hate Word and its auto formatting more than any other program, so I use InDesign. Templates, high precision, access to pro-level graphics placement and text wrapping, preflight, customizable PDF output, and more. I use Courier Final Draft (sinful, I know) because monospace makes it easy to do tables of contents and authorities. But I'm debating whether to use Century Schoolbook in the future.

Comment: Re:Blast from a past (Score 1) 101

by wattersa (#40686653) Attached to: Rob CmdrTaco Malda AMA On Reddit

The Reddit front page is hopeless. It's like the Firehose on this site. The Subreddits are where the action is really at, and most seem to have enough moderators who are interested in the specific subject matter to handle the large number of dupes, bin spam, etc. that get posted. Here are some examples of great parts of Reddit: popularized Rage Comics. Anyone can make a comic and the moderation system works pretty well for those. provides interesting trivia facts has far more relevant and interesting content than the Science section here. Same with the section. was created to let users share true stories of creepy things happening that are just too personal or random to share elsewhere. provides users with interesting legal developments. provides a community of explorers a place to share cool photos.

And many, many other sections that I've never seen.

Anyone can create a Subreddit and assign moderators. It's a Darwinian system where the best content (theoretically) makes it to the top with minimal intervention by the moderators; it's based primarily on up voting and down voting by the entire user base.

The disadvantages of Reddit are many; for example, regardless of how cool you think your own story, picture, etc. is, it often gets only a couple of up votes and never appears anywhere significant. Depending on how you sort comments, you only see the ones that occur early on and never see interesting comments that might have been posted well after the story was submitted. Because anyone can submit a link, but links can usually only be submitted once, someone might post a link to a news story before you but the story gets no up votes and so effectively you can't post it. There seems to be a significant desensitization to gore and NSFW posts-- you never know what the link you click on will show when it's just a random URL on and could be a horrific injury or death, child porn, disease, surgery, etc. There are sections of that site that you don't even want to know about. Imagine a section devoted exclusively to truly disgusting shock porn, like TubGirl x 1000. It's /r/spacedicks. Trust me, don't ever go there.

Overall, I find Reddit a better site. The news is fresher, the comments are just as good as here, and there are way more comments to be read on Reddit than on the typical stories here. They don't have the "first post" problem because those posts immediately get down voted into oblivion. Also, Reddit has separate sections for people of opposite views on many subjects, such as /r/atheism (constant Christian bashing) vs. /r/Christianity (constant bible thumping). They also have less tech-savvy users, which provides a better cross section of internet users in general and allows better discussion of non-technical subjects. But there's also better information on technical subjects. For example, Or, the time a Canadian astronaut randomly did an AMA (ask me anything) about his visit to the International Space Station, and the result was great discussion on space-related subjects not found anywhere else:

Let's be honest, Slashdot is a fading site. They need to do better to compete with Reddit in many areas.


+ - CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "A new particle has been found, thought to be consistent with the Higgs boson. More data will be analysed in the coming months to verify is this is indeed the particle that, in a field, is able to give other particles their mass.

"The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. “The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks." -CERN"

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Power Draw? (Score 1) 540

by wattersa (#40455543) Attached to: Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

By the time the mission launches ten years from now, there may be more advanced broadcasting methods and codecs available. It doesn't need to be and probably can't be live with today's technology, whether due to the number of cameras or amount bandwidth/editing required, so maybe the astronauts would do some of the editing while there. Or, there could be automated camera switching/editing triggered by personal locators or simply sensors in the portions of the habitat where someone is actively working so bandwidth isn't wasted filming empty rooms or whatever. They also could hold regular meetings which would be a highlight of the TV coverage, or have a scheduling system. It doesn't need to be high definition, just something of YouTube quality.

> Is the following statement morally reprehensible to you? "I know you've had a long day but...."

No. Much is asked of those to whom much is given. I would gladly take this opportunity.

Comment: Re:will i still have to pay child support? (Score 1) 540

by wattersa (#40455143) Attached to: Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way
In other words it will be just like The Shining (1980) but in space! What could possibly go wrong?!


On that note, the sexual dynamics among a group of two men and two women isolated from the outside world for at least two years could create quite a firestorm on reality TV, not to mention extensive fodder for gossip magazines.

Comment: Re:Are you guys stupid or something? (Score 1) 239

by wattersa (#40203323) Attached to: No Intelligent Aliens Detected In Gliese 581

Yep, no idea whether such beacons are even possible. I can't remember where I read about it, and I don't know how much fissile material it would take to alter the spectrum. Probably a huge amount. Well, if we achieve fusion power, I guess there will be a lot of leftover Uranium to use for this purpose. Shooting raw Uranium ore into the Sun might indicate to the observer that fusion power has been achieved as well.

I guess it does make more sense to permanently alter the spectrum, perhaps by throwing asteroids with high metal content into the Sun continuously, which surely a Kardashev-level II civilization could do, but then you'd have the problem of variations in the spectral emissions that might just look random to an observer, even assuming they were continuously monitoring the star. Also, the K-II civilization might not be blessed (cursed?) with the incredibly large number of asteroids that we have, or may wish to use them for mining.

> Any life out there capable of generating a signal that could be detected at interstellar distances is likely far more advanced than us, certainly those capable of modulating their sun are, and may quite possibly have discovered technologies much better suited to interstellar communication than radio or optics.

Indeed, solutions 9-30 in Webb's book deal with these possibilities.

Comment: Re:Are you guys stupid or something? (Score 1) 239

by wattersa (#40200987) Attached to: No Intelligent Aliens Detected In Gliese 581

Many of the issues in these threads are discussed in the excellent book Where is Everybody?, which provides fifty solutions to Fermi's Paradox of why the Universe is not teeming with intelligent life.

However, you make an excellent point regarding the recent Heliopause discoveries, which occurred well after Stephen Webb's book came out in 2002. You might want to get in touch with the author and share your insight. I couldn't find an email address for him.

There's only one solution I can think of to the issue of RF transmissions being masked by the Heliopause. And that would be altering the spectrum of the Sun in a recognizable pattern.

For example, shooting a large (like, ridiculously large) amount of nuclear waste into the Sun might cause an alien spectral analysis to show an unexpected band of ionized depleted Uranium along with other elements in spent fuel. If that band appeared and disappeared yearly in a prime number or Fibonacci sequence, an alien astronomer with our level of technology or greater would be able to deduce:

1. The length of the Earth year and, I presume, the distance from the Sun to the Earth if they have their own Kepler mission.

2. The fact that Earth has achieved fission but not fusion nuclear power and related technologies.

3. That Earth has not yet annihilated itself through the discovery of nuclear technology.

4. That Earth is ready to receive a strong, directed communication that can penetrate the Heliopause.

5. What form of communication should be used to send the signal to Earth given the technology it possessed at the time the signal was initially transmitted. Perhaps that would involve altering their own star's spectrum if RF is impossible.

And many other facts.

However, there is a problem. No one seems to have done this yet. If it were possible, surely we would have seen such a beacon by now in all of our spectral analyses of all of the stars visible to us in the Universe.

Unfortunately, that would support solution number 50 in Webb's book: The Rare Earth. Sad, but apparently true at this time.

If we are going to propagate throughout the Galaxy, as we must do anyway to ensure survival within the next billion years before the Sun boils off the Earth's atmosphere, it looks like our civilization will be the one that solve's Fermi's paradox.


+ - Whose Cameras Are Watching New York Roads?->

Submitted by NormalVisual
NormalVisual (565491) writes "License-plate reading cameras are popping up on utility poles all over St. Lawrence County in upstate New York, but no one is willing to say who they belong to . One camera was found by a utility crew, removed from the pole, and given to the local police. "Massena Police Chief Timmy Currier said he returned it to the owner, but wouldn’t say how he knew who the owner was, nor would he say who he gave it to....(Andrew) McMahon, the superintendent at Massena Electric Department, said one of his crews found a box on one of their poles and took it down because “it was in the electric space,” the top tier of wires on the pole above the telephone and cable TV wires, and whoever put it there had taken a chance with electrocution. He said they had never received a request or been informed about its placement.""
Link to Original Source

+ - Machine Learning Algorithms to Crack Morse Code->

Submitted by
mni12 writes "Morse code has been used since early 1840's and is still a very popular mode of communication especially among ham radio operators. While it takes some effort for humans to learn Morse code it is a very efficient way in communicating short messages over radio waves, especially under noise, interference, propagation fading or other adverse conditions. Experienced human operators can easily outperform any publicly available Morse decoding software.
I have done some experiments with machine learning algorithms, especially with Self Organizing Maps (SOM) applied to real-time decoding Morse code in real world noise & interference filled signals. Early test results look promising but I would like to turn to Slashdot community for some advice and ideas.

What kind of machine learning algorithms would be applicable for real time Morse decoder when signals contain a lot of noise, interference from other stations, fading, irregular timing and other problematic features?"

Link to Original Source

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.