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Comment Re:What is the point? (Score 1) 103

The way I see it, people who live in heavily urbanized areas with high population density (such as Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London), could see a benefit to this device. It's relatively cheap (unlike a Segway), much more compact (i.e., skateboard size) and therefore more maneuverable, and best of all, it saves SOME effort.

There is a large segment of Japanese society that is aging and not able to walk as far as they once could. My mom fits into that category. She's relatively healthy but when you're pushing 70, it would be nice to be able to enjoy longer walks with one's family and friends.

That it can also go uphill shows it has clear benefits: there is the younger generation--college students, for example--who can now get across campus faster. A skateboard won't go up hills. They can stow the device into their backpack once in class, not needing to take time to lock up a bike.

Just because a person can walk does not mean that they would find it REASONABLE to walk in certain situations. For example, I can walk 12 miles. But I don't WANT to walk 12 miles to and from work every day; it is absurd to think that this is an efficient use of my time. At an average pace of 3 miles per hour, that is 4 hours out of my life. I could cut that in half with this device, making it reasonable, and I don't arrive sweating as I would if I were to RUN at that pace.

Comment Re:Defending scoundrels (Score 1) 410

So, you are suggesting that it is okay to allow ideas and ideologies such as those held by ISIS? That the idea in which one should enforce a caliphate in which people, both children and adults, can be arbitrarily accused of "apostasy" and thereby summarily executed by beheading, is not a dangerous one and that it should be allowed?

Moreover, you are so appalled by Popper's view that you find it "chilling," implying that this quote is in itself a dangerous idea--yet fail to recognize the contradiction.

The notion that there are no dangerous ideas, only dangerous acts, is fundamentally flawed; one that is (and has been) correctly rejected by logically sound philosophical discourse.

Comment Re:Defending scoundrels (Score 1) 410

I will see your H.L. Mencken and raise you a Karl Popper:

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."

-Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies.

For more information, refer to "the paradox of tolerance."

Comment And as usual, Slashdot commenters miss the point (Score 4, Insightful) 280

"So not by the color of their skin."
"Why is Slashdot so focused on counting penises?"
"Leftie vs. Rightie pitching."
"Diversity can go only so far. There are no women playing in the NFL and no men in the LPGA."


The point, as so many have so persistently failed to grasp, is not simply that there are no female competitors on the US team. It's not simply that the top mathematics students overwhelmingly tend to be male. These are all true, but the point is not that this happens because males are intrinsically better at math. The point is that there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that the brains of females are any less capable of developing mathematical proficiency and talent in this age group (or any age group, for that matter). Pointing to the existing disparity as evidence is a fallacy: once, not too long ago, there were no black baseball players.

Instead, the point is that there exists a systematic, cultural, and longstanding bias against encouraging and fostering scientific and mathematical proficiency in female students, and the purpose of bringing this up in the context of the IMO is to again remind Western countries such as the US, that this imbalance exists not because women just "happen" to be worse at math, but because women are DISCOURAGED from doing math and continue to be discouraged. And to be absolutely clear about this:

1. That does not necessarily mean that men are treated preferentially (in the sense of being given an easier time in STEM fields), but rather that women who attempt to persist in STEM paths tend to face a higher likelihood of varying degrees of sexism and sex discrimination from both peers and instructors that would not happen if they were male. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is overt, but always, it is treatment that would not have happened if they were male.

2. This cultural attitude against women expressing interest in mathematics and science is not exclusive to men. In fact, it is very often women oppressing other women through peer pressure--in particular, the desire to conform to standards of behavior and personal interests that are more aligned with traditionally "feminine" pursuits. If you are a female teenager interested in math who had the remarkable fortune of not having had your parents ever ask you "why would you want to be a math major? Wouldn't that be too hard," or teachers who didn't think that "girls just don't seem to have the persistence and capability to do the kind of abstract thinking required for mathematics," you would no doubt find that your fellow female friends would almost invariably NOT want to be mathematicians or scientists. And that is also a form of bias that perpetuates the lack of females in mathematics.

The way a lot of guys react to gender inequality really fails to understand the basic problem. When someone calls out institutionalized sexism, that is not an indictment of individual male behavior. It is an attempt to call to attention a structural problem that is being perpetuated by continued obstinacy on the part of people (both male and female) who don't want to take the time to think about what it might be like to be in someone else's shoes for a change.

Comment Why have children? (Score 3, Insightful) 692

The assumption that people will reproduce if given the opportunity to live indefinitely is flawed.

For many people, the urge to reproduce is strongly motivated by the idea that we want something of ourselves to leave behind when we are gone: we want someone to care for us in our old age; someone to carry on our memory. For people in developing countries, having children is a way of having extra labor. If, however, we do not regard death as inevitable, then the motivation for reproduction is also reduced. The need for extra labor is also reduced, in that there will be more healthy adults of working age in the population.

That is not to say that nobody would choose to have children. There may be a period of adjustment where people would still have lots of kids out of habit and out of a desire to hedge one's bets, so to speak, but once people start hitting ages around 150 without signs of slowing down, most will quite likely start to realize they would be better off not reproducing.

But there's always the idea that the only way you can live forever is if you agree to not have children...I'd say there is no shortage of people who would take up that offer.

Comment Re:She has a point. (Score 5, Insightful) 628

My problem with the Lena image has nothing to do with the context. It has to do with the fact that it is an entirely outdated test image with poor properties to visually assess the effects of image processing algorithms. It wasn't chosen carefully (as the historical background indicates) with this purpose in mind. Retrospectively, a variety of academics have justified its suitability (e.g., the fine detail of the feathers, the texture of the hat, contrasted with the smooth skin tone; as well as the uniquely human ability to perceive minute aberrations in facial structure), but this is really a post-hoc rationalization not supported in the face of such facts as the image as it is frequently used is not even color balanced.

I'm well aware that researchers want a way to be able to compare their results with published papers from decades ago, and Lena provides an easy way to do that. But let's be honest here: it's lazy. To truly make reasonable comparisons, you'll invariably need to test algorithms against each other over a wide variety of inputs, not just a single input; therefore, the real work of implementing earlier (even if known to be relatively inefficient, outdated, or poorly performing) algorithms is a necessary part of making those comparisons.

As for the context...honestly, if you don't know what it's like to be a woman living in a male-dominated world, it's not really your place to be able to say "it's just a face" or complain about how "feminazis make a shitshow out of everything." I don't personally object to the image's content. But I absolutely understand why others would. And that's what makes the difference in maturity level.

Comment Re:This is a bug not a feature (Score 4, Interesting) 328

While I agree that the preference for low color temperature illumination indoors is to some extent a matter of past experience, I claim that there is also a physiological basis for this preference, and that this too contributes (although does not entirely explain) to the reason why people like tungsten light.

The Purkinje Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... is the basis for the Kruithof curve http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... which quantifies a relationship between the color temperature and illuminance of a light source that is regarded as pleasing/comfortable for human vision. That is to say, at lower illuminance, human color vision is mesoptic (a blend of photopic or "cone-based" and scotopic "rod-based"), and so is less sensitive to longer visible wavelengths than shorter ones than at high illuminance, where photopic vision dominates. This partly explains why, in a dark room, blue LEDs frequently seem almost painfully bright compared to red ones (another component is that the blue LED may actually be brighter). Therefore, for the purposes of indoor illumination, our eyes tend to find high color temperatures to be "harsh" or "glaring."

Nevertheless, to a certain extent, this perception can be overcome with exposure and time. But I do think that the evidence suggests it is not simply a matter of what generation one grew up in, or that such preferences have no physiological basis.

Comment Re:My two cents... (Score 1) 606

Such behavior may not rise to the level of criminality, but there's no reason why OSU should not feel entirely justified in expelling these students. Expulsion is a consequence of either gross academic misconduct, or severely antisocial behavior that is against university policy. OSU isn't the government and its students do not have a legal right to attend. Otherwise, anyone could just decide they want to go there regardless of admissions.

These students did what others did: they applied and were accepted under the condition that they would behave according to university standards. Expulsion is the university's mechanism of saying that they cannot tolerate such behavior, as in their view, what they did was so egregious that their continued enrollment would be critically disruptive to the campus.

It's unfortunate you don't seem to understand the difference between legal action and expulsion. The latter is like getting fired from a job. You violate company policy, you get fired. End of story.

Comment This is about accountability (Score 5, Insightful) 467

The police only investigate serious crimes or imminent threats where either a lot of money or someone's life is on the line, and even then, they aren't fast, accurate, or trustworthy. The legal system does not have the time or the motivation or the resources to deal with what is the online equivalent of schoolyard antics.

That is not to say what these idiots were doing was trivial or harmless. But let's put it this way: suppose every time you had someone come up to you and say something completely disgusting and violent to your face, that your response was to do absolutely NOTHING except file a police report, do you really think that would stop such behavior? If someone punched you, are you just going to stand there and not defend yourself, instead electing to wait until you can go to the nearest station and file a report?

The bottom line is that you cannot reasonably expect to have a free internet while at the same time tell the government or law enforcement that users must be held accountable for their online actions. People suggesting that victims simply shrug off such behavior are either themselves psychopaths or have never themselves been the target of such abuse. And to then call out the victim for vigilantism is the height of delusion. Oh, but what if this opens up a slippery slope of unchecked vigilantism and real-world consequences for people who are the mistaken subject of retaliation?

Um,... I have some news for you: it's already lawless out there. It has always been. You can't simultaneously tell people to shrug off the trolls because "oh well that's the internet for you," yet cry foul when people fight back, saying "but what if innocent people lose their jobs?" That's hypocrisy. People are already suffering real-world consequences of the behaviors of trolls. You are just selectively inured to it because it happens a LOT more often and it's been going on for a lot longer than people successfully fighting back...and when they do fight back, it goes viral and makes the news because so many people are so desperate for a solution that it feels good to see the good guy winning for once.

That should tell you how completely nonexistent civility is in the online realm. People SHOULD be accountable for their actions online. But don't fucking tell me that it's the job of the government to do that for me, because we all know how PERFECTLY that works. What a joke. Accountability is not actually kicking someone in the balls for being a jackass. It's being able to carry out the promise of that consequence.

Comment Government lawyer = power hungry idiots (Score 5, Informative) 431

"We understand the value of door locks and the importance of home security," she said. "But we're very concerned they lead not to the creation of what I would call a 'zone of lawlessness.'"

Yes, you could get a warrant to enter a person's home, but in theory, only with probable cause--although law enforcement doesn't even bother with that anymore, under the guise of "national security" or "defending freedom" or "imminent terrorist danger" or some other vague excuse. Which is all the MORE reason why encryption is necessary, because unlike physical property, digital property deserves even greater protection from government intrusion, especially when the agents of that government--such as this lawyer--dare to openly speak the way they do. It proves the government is not trustworthy. Our private information is a record of our thoughts and actions in a way that physical property does not and cannot compare.

The fact is, I'd rather risk the vague possibility of a terrorist threat than be subjected to the certainty of a tyrannical government. The real terrorists are those who use fear and propaganda to advance oppressive tactics, repeal individual rights and freedoms, all in order to enshrine power and money for themselves. As I have said about law enforcement: if you don't like that your job is "hard" or "dangerous" or made more so as a consequence of technology, that's your problem. It doesn't mean that law-abiding citizens have any obligation to facilitate the rolling back of progress so that you can stay lazy and expend the absolute minimum amount of effort required.

Comment As a mathematician... (Score 5, Insightful) 106

I find Werthiemer's characterization of this gross oversight to be..."regrettable."

Let's remind the reader and put the role of NSA mathematicians in context: In the world of mathematical research, what the NSA knows is by construction a superset of what the academic community knows. That is to say, NSA researchers have at their disposal the body of all published mathematical literature, in addition to any discoveries they have made internally, whereas non-NSA mathematicians do not have access to the latter. If a flaw in a commonly used cryptographic scheme is discovered by the NSA but is unknown in the public arena, this immediately leads to an exploitable situation.

Thus, when outside researchers discover an issue, this tells us NOTHING about if or when the NSA knew about the same flaw. It also means nothing for NSA mathematicians to apologize or write in public correspondence what their version of events was. Their lack of credibility does not stem from the existence of such flaws; no. Neither does it necessarily follow from the lies they have told in other respects. On this point I must be completely clear. Their lack of credibility stems from the aforementioned and inherent information asymmetry. To attempt to infer the sincerity of the message based on indirect evidence, past behavior, and allusions to glorious historical efforts is to be misled from the fundamental reality, which is that the NSA and its mathematicians are under no obligation to tell the truth because they undoubtedly possess mathematical secrets that the public does not.

That said, I am gratified that many preeminent mathematicians working in the fields of number theory, cryptography, algebra, combinatorial analysis, and cryptanalysis do not choose to work for the NSA and instead remain in the academic community, on the premise that the advancement of humankind necessitates the openness of the process of discovery and the unrestricted dissemination of mathematical research.

Comment Doesn't matter (Score 1) 340

Like those who eat up the partisan politics in the US, or those who refuse to accept evolution as established science, the pro-Putin apologists don't care to be told the evidence was fabricated. That's not going to change their belief that it is genuine. Nothing will shake their beliefs. If you could show them actual video footage of the shooting of the plane by the separatists, if you could bring forth the actual people who shot the plane down and secure their confession in person, the response would be that the video footage was doctored, and the confessions coerced.

The rest of the world knows that Putin is ultimately responsible for this, but history is littered with the resolute convictions of idiots who will stop at nothing to defend the despots they have lionized. But should Putin fall, these people will be the first to disavow their allegiance, saying they were never in support of him in the first place.

Comment Can't have your cake and eat it too (Score 1) 553

Corporations want you to be smart enough to do your job, but not so smart as to challenge them on salary, outsourcing, or mismanagement. Be a well-behaved cog in the machine. Well, you can't have it both ways. If you want your obedient and unquestioning slave labor from India, you can't expect them to have critical thinking skills. If you want your creative, forward-thinking, initiative-taking workers to move your company forward, you better treat them with the respect they deserve and reward them commensurately with the value they bring, or else they will go elsewhere.

What companies have been doing for ages is pit the former group against the latter. The latest incarnation of this phenomenon is to hire loads of H1B workers to depress wages and squeeze the talented people out of the job market until they become willing to work for less money. But they still get treated like crap, so they eventually get disgruntled and leave, but from the company's perspective, hopefully not before some of the magic they brought rubs off on the slave labor. Problem with that is the companies are realizing that this doesn't work so well in the long run.

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -Ronald Reagan