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United States

White House: Use Metric If You Want, We Don't Care 1145

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-yielding-an-inch dept.
Earlier this year we discussed a petition on the White House's 'We The People' site asking the administration to adopt the metric system as the standard system of measurement in the U.S. Today, the administration issued a disappointing response. Simply put: they're not going to do anything about it. They frame their response as a matter of preserving a citizen's choice to adopt whatever measurement system he wants. Quoting Patrick D. Gallagher of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "... contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation. ... Ultimately, the use of metric in this country is a choice and we would encourage Americans to continue to make the best choice for themselves and for the purpose at hand and to continue to learn how to move seamlessly between both systems. In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, "speak" metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers. ... So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on."

Comment: Re:Small effect big consequences (Score 3, Informative) 157

by wildsurf (#43455405) Attached to: Memory Effect Discovered In Lithium-Ion Batteries

Any '07 Roadster owners out there care to share how well the batteries are holding up?

My '08 Roadster (there are no '07 roadsters) has 33k miles on it, and after 4 1/2 years, its battery capacity has been reduced about 8%. I now get 225 miles on a full charge, down from 244 on day 1. That's even better than Tesla's initial projections, actually.

Comment: Re:Here we go again...... (Score 2, Informative) 278

by wildsurf (#43444655) Attached to: Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery

Evolution? If his is so, why do we not see a continuum of life over the spectra of species?

We do; they just aren't all alive at the same time. As you go backward into the past, the genotypes of humans and other apes (e.g. chimpanzees) gradually converge, until several million years ago, they are the same. Taken as a whole, there HAS been a continuous spectrum of creatures from humans to apes. (And traced far back enough, between all living things.) It staggers me that people find this difficult to understand.

Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 201

by wildsurf (#42964449) Attached to: Japanese Probe Finds Miswiring of Boeing 787 Battery

It has 171 miles of wiring. Let's assume that we want to add connectors every 100 feet; That gives us 902,880 connectors.

Um, you're off by two orders of magnitude. 171 miles / 100 feet = 9,029 connectors, not 902,880. So the failure rate cutoff (assuming the rest of your calculations are correct) works out to 1 in 3600. Care to re-analyze?

Comment: "Sequential" Plates (Score 1) 178

by wildsurf (#42747301) Attached to: DMVs Across the Country Learning Textspeak
Several years ago, a friend of mine was issued the CA sequential plate: 2GRT269. She immediately swapped it out for a custom plate, which, ironically, was much less memorable.

In a similar vein, once in a while I check the availability of the "sequential" plate 3XIV159. (I'd call it my Pi Plate: 3 14 159. Get it?) But it still seems to be in use. I wonder if its owner realizes what it means?

Comment: Re:Iowa voter fraud (Score 2) 221

by wildsurf (#41851453) Attached to: IEEE Standards For Voting Machines
Ok, hang on a sec.

Regarding the straw man, the study itself states: "At this point of our analysis, the cause appears to originate with electronic voting equipment; the problem does not exist when manual methods are used." But the Iowa example shown two pages later flatly contradicts this. See p.5 and p.7: Linked Study

Regarding Iowa: "GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts"... Perhaps, but the scope of these inaccuracies were magnitudes different than the purported "vote-flipping" implied by the study. Romney lost less than 50 votes on the statewide recount (relative to Santorum), compared with the study's implied 7850-vote gap. Data from the missing eight precincts couldn't come remotely close to closing this gap. So even correcting for the found inaccuracies, we're left with over 99% of the purported discrepancy unaccounted for. Were the fraudsters simply 99% successful at covering their tracks? If so, wouldn't there be many fewer precincts with discrepancies? The ~50 vote recount correction could easily be due to random human error.

Regarding cherry-picking: there is no question that there is a bulletproof correlation between precinct size and vote ratios, in Iowa in this primary. (The null hypothesis has been proven false, in other words.) The real question is whether that correlation ITSELF correlates strongly with the type of balloting/counting used, and for this there are very few data points shown. Are there counterexamples (places where electronic voting was used but the anomaly is not seen, or vice versa)? How many? What distinguishes the ballot-counting process in the Iowa Caucuses from, say, FL Palm Beach County (where there was no anomaly observed)? What were the correlations, if any, in all these different states and counties, of precinct size vs a priori voter registration (Republican / Democrat ratio)?

Can anything be gleaned from this? Again, it would be nice to see the study peer-reviewed, and to have stronger logic why the correlations COULDN'T be a result of "natural causes", rather than just we can't think of a way. (I agree that there is no other immediately obvious explanation, but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist.)

Comment: Re:Any stats experts want to weigh in on this (Score 2) 221

by wildsurf (#41850797) Attached to: IEEE Standards For Voting Machines
As a career mathematician / software developer, NOT prone to conspiracy theories, this study nevertheless got my statistical Spidey sense tingling. If I were determined to rig an election, particularly through electronic voting/tallying, this is EXACTLY how I would do it; selectively target larger precincts, because the vote flipping is less likely to be noticed there. (And more importantly, because spot-tests of the system are unlikely to cast enough votes to trigger the mechanism.)

That said, the study is sloppily done, not peer-reviewed, and prone to accusations of cherry-picking. They claim to have replicated their results all across the country, but provide no data to back this up. (E.g. they should show a scatterplot showing voting mechanism vs. "anomaly" strength, for a large number of states or counties.) And their shining example, the 2012 Iowa Primaries (actually Caucuses), DID use paper ballots and precinct-level tallying, yet still showed the anomaly. I'd like to hear their explanation for how they think the fraud could have crept in here. They also use Duval County, FL 2012 Primaries as another example of the anomaly, but paper ballots were used there as well. I don't know if the tallying was per-precinct or centralized for that election; if it were centralized, the fraud could easily happen there because it's a single point of failure.

More than anything, I would LOVE to get Nate Silver's take on this study. Perhaps he would have some intuition for how the precinct size / vote correlation might have arisen "naturally," and presumably he has access to the databases required to re-run the study on a larger scale. Either way, it's absolutely clear that paper ballots and transparent precinct-level tallying are essential to ensure fair elections. They can pry my cold, dead trees from my cold, dead hands! ;-)
Facebook

Facebook Patents Pokes-Per-Minute Limits 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-touching-me dept.
theodp writes "The USPTO lowered the bar again on Tuesday, granting U.S. Patent No. 8,296,373 to four Facebook inventors for Automatically Managing Objectionable Behavior in a Web-based Social Network, essentially warning users or suspending their accounts when their poking, friend requesting, and wall posting is deemed annoying. From the patent: 'Actions by a user exceeding the threshold may trigger the violation module 240 to take an action. For example, the point 360, which may represent fifty occurrences of an action in a five hour period, does not violate any of the policies as illustrated. However, the point 350, which represents fifty occurrences in a two hour period, violates the poke threshold 330 and the wall post threshold 340. Thus, if point 350 represents a user's actions of either poking or wall posting, then the policy is violated.'"
NASA

NASA To Investigate Mysterious 'Space Ball' 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the that's-gonna-leave-a-mark dept.
redletterdave writes "In mid-November, a hollow space ball fell from the sky and crashed into the earth in Namibia, the African nation situated above South Africa and west of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Authorities recovered the sphere in a grassy village north of Windhoek, the country's capital. The hollow ball, which appears to be made of 'two halves welded together,' has a rough surface, a 14-inch diameter and measures 43 inches around. The strange globe created a crater 13 inches deep and almost 12.5 feet wide, but was found almost 60 feet from the landing spot. Paul Ludik, the police forensics director investigating the case, says the dense ball weighs 13 pounds and is made of a 'metal alloy known to man.' NASA and the European Space Agency will both help investigate the strange occurrence."

A penny saved is a penny to squander. -- Ambrose Bierce

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