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Comment Re:Applied Materials has always looked to Asia (Score 2, Insightful) 426

It's a little more complicated than that, but I hear the sentiment loud and clear.

US education has suffered under a series of bad ideas over the last couple of decades, and the Christian Right is just the latest blow.

We've weakened our standards --even in some cases eliminating old criteria-- driven in part by the 60's- and 70's-style liberal (sigh, and I am a liberal) idea that it was more important to encourage as many children as possible, rather than tell some kids, "Look, you're going to struggle with this, but you're going to learn it to level X. Once you've gotten to X, we may decided to put you on track A, B, C depending on how you're doing." Some schools do this, but seem to do it badly or only partially, or focus on the gifted kids rather than cracking the whip on the other 95% of kids (who aren't stupid, but just need to work their asses of to get certain subjects done.)

We've pegged all sorts of things --accolades, funding, pay-- to test performance (No Child Left Behind and it's ilk were just the latest version of this) and so teachers, schools, districts, even entire states lowered their standards or in some cases just cheat (surprise, surprise.) And, perversely, when standards of whatever quality are not met the same management is left in place, with the same teachers, and resources are what are changed (== lowered.) Who's crackpot idea was this? (And, no, I'm not Bush-bashing, since he was not in fact the originator of it and it has, so far, seemingly been taken by a wide variety of people as 'on the right track.')

The idea that schools are funded by property taxes / local district revenues is so deeply buried in the "American Way of Doing Things" that I don't know that I've even heard this mentioned in the last 5 years as the huge source of problems that it is. Adjunct to that is the very American idea that quality of education is not a right or requirement; we have a public system of education that is in many ways similar to private education. And the parents in 'good' districts fight tooth and nail to prevent funding from going to 'bad' districts, for obvious reasons; state and federal funding that goes to schools is the first to be cut; and poor schools get hit disproportionately by the above, NCLB.

Parents aren't held responsible and responsible parents have little to no interaction with the school or resource support from the school unless they want to go to the (somewhat extreme) of being a "PTA mom". And teachers aren't given the base-pay and incentives to work 6- or 7-day weeks, often 12 hour days to make enough difference in kids lives where they get the kind of recognition for being "one of the good teachers." (Another perverse trade-off, where there is this common but rarely called out template where "good" teachers are good because they sacrifice themselves to the job, to their kids. But why don't we expect e.g. you to sacrifice yourself to your job?) Then there are "those" parents: not every precious snowflake is a star. Some are just average. Average is called average for a reason.

Mmmm, oh, did I mention the number of "single subject" teachers (math, chemistry, physics, etc.) that have been cut or replaced because those teachers are/were more expensive than general teachers?

And NONE of that even begins to touch on the pervasive (still, even in the age of /. :>) attitude that being smart is bad, speaking up is bad, displaying knowledge is bad; scientists and specialists are weird and not quite 100% trustworthy, etc. Sure, it's 'cool' amongst some adults, and there is a general techno-lust that has developed since the 90's (or even 80's), but that is certainly not the same thing.

So, yeah, the Christian Right heaping it on is a kick in the balls, but it's not the downfall. What is different about it is they are openly and *specifically* hostile to some scientific results (tough certainly not all), and the scientific framework in general. That is scary, and politically dangerous. But I think it remains to be seen whether they are the worst threat or merely the most annoying.

Comment Re:There is a law against that... (Score 1) 544

Erm, well, no.

First off, let's take a fact-based number, like say there is a 1 in 5 million chance of two 'fingerprints' matching, and there is no other physical evidence available... you committed, essentially, the perfect crime but forgot to wear your latex body suit (admit it, you have one.) So there are, round number, approximately 1,300 people on the planet that have the hashcode as you; as this is the only piece of physical evidence, there is 1 in 1300 chance that you are the guy...

But we can probably ignore the 2 / 3 of the planet without ready access to air travel. In fact, we can reasonably rule out (though doing so exhaustively would in fact be exhaustive) 99.9% of people who were not anywhere near the crime scene. But lets assume, for arguments sake, that you live in a large metropolitan area with say, 20 million people; so there are 4 other people running around your metro area. Let's assume that all of you have perfect alibis because you really did not commit the crime and the other three are equally innocent, or are trained assassins. In this case, you are screwed. You will have to live with the accusation never quite beaten.

However, since the above scenario is fanciful, it is much, much more likely that other information (other physical evidence, camera or witness sightings, alibis, previous criminal records, etc.) would come into play.

DNA evidence is not perfect; especially when labs are sloppy (Go Los Angeles!), prosecutors are lazy, corrupt, or racist (Go... too many places, especially historically... but still), witnesses are as completely subjective as they have repeatedly proven to be, etc. But then your argument is with the criminal justice system and it's failings overall, not with some pulled-out-your-arse thing like DNA fingerprinting "will match one or two million other people on the planet" And it's surely imperfect, but it's not improved with nonsense like this...

Sorry to come down so hard, I just can't believe this is modded up +3, Insightful. :(

Comment Re:It's not like someone just made this up (Score 2, Informative) 416

Uh, please tell me you are not referring to the Lancet article by Dr Whackjob (Wakefield for the interested) The one that all the co-authors pulled out of, the Lancet withdrew it's endorsement from, and the author was discredited for not only cooking data but for not revealing that he has both direct and indirect financial conflicts of interest (including, if I remember correctly, a patent application outstanding for a new vaccine... or vaccine preservative... something, I forget.)

All the big, peer reviewed studies have revealed only one, single fascinating correlation between autism rates before and after both mixed and "mercury-containing" vaccines... 0 (or, technically, 0, since I believe in the big British one autism rates continued to climb in the non- or different vaccine group... which the above mentioned Dr. Whackjob then attempted to explain as being because there were still stockpiles of the old vaccine, a claim that was also resoundingly discredited... and so forth.)

Comment Why is this even newsworthy? (Score 1) 794

Aside from the head-shaking, "Look at this idiot over here" value, why is this even newsworthy? The whole concept of banning salt-use is so preposterous that this will tank without debate. Even in an F'd up state like NY (sorry NY, I couldn't help it, as I'm from Cali.)

The fact that people are attempting to logically debate this, using it to snip at Dems (and back at Repubs), debate drug policy, etc. just shows the extent folks are liable to get sucked into stupid arguments. For every 1 ill-thought out or knee jerk bill you hear about in Congress there are, oh, roughly 50 in the states... so, again, why is this even comment or newsworthy? Even for Slashdot (sorry /., I couldn't help it, as I'm from... Slashdot.)

Comment Re:Old old story. (Score 2, Insightful) 203

Mmmm, I think your view is overly simplistic; here's my expanded view:

Firstly (1), The Kindle is awesome. Not perfect, but after roughly (and literally!) 2000 years, someone improved the book. Will it take, mmm, 5 or 10 more years get he new form right? Yeah. (And can we take a moment to reflect on the 'holy crap' aspect of improving something as durable as books?) The hounds of anti-DRM and anti-stuff-in-general-that-does't-work-exactly-the-way-I-say-it-should can bray on, but if they are that concerned and passionate about it, I'd like to see the results of their labors.

Secondly (2), as Amazon hasn't yet seemed to respond in any real way to the Kindle-DRM (as opposed to the PC), I suspect --via the 'proof is in the pudding' argument-- that they don't give a crap.

Corollary (2.5), it has been publicized and well analyzed that it is the (traditional) book publishers that want the DRM and are scared by e-books; this year has seen a large increase in the number of titles available and the sales figures for e-books. You can thank Amazon, largely, for that. In all seriousness, while e-books are as inevitable as digital music, I worry that these kinds of 'shenanigans' will slow the transition, even if they are are necessary (See point 4.)

Thirdly (3), the idea that 'They', as in the idiot masses, are, well, idiots is so... 1990's :) 'They', in my experience, are more and more aware of how things work, in the often disparaged way that 'They' know who to call when something is broken. You know... they same way idiot 'You' relies on 'They' to get the trains running on back on-time, build the new state-of-the-art office building you work in, sort out your business taxes, and fix your ruptured spleen. Expertise comes in a lot of forms and people seem to forget this, or to forget it enough to regard their personal expertise --surprise, surprise-- as some kind of God-selected first place prize in the interests and employment contest. (See next point)

Finally (4), "They' have come to depend on the fact that 'you' are doing what you do, even if they don't understand it (See previous point :>) So when they get DRM free music on iTunes, can rip their old CDs to their hard drive, etc. 'They' are quite happy that 'You' have been outfighting the good fight; and if all it costs them is a little unheard derision, that is still free. And since it is their foot- and wallet-power that actually drives the decisions these companies make --it was, after all and let's be honest, kids and college students and masses of lazy 20- and 30-somethings **not** buying CDs and ripping Fairplay that ultimately won the music DRM fight-- the smugness being lorded over 'they' isn't only tired, it's factually incorrect.

Comment Re:Idle computer resources (Score 3, Insightful) 295

"Real" nerds buy their computers... off the shelf and then quickly head off to using their computer to develop, write, model, proof, design, etc. things that are actually interesting and/or difficult.

The days are so far long gone when building your own box was a qualification for being a nerd (somewhat sadly, but only somewhat.) Now it is a qualification for being a factory worker, producing cheaply assembled and cheaply purchased commodities.

Comment Re:nuts (Score 2, Interesting) 235

Frankly, ten years from now, game developers will probably wonder whether it's worth the trouble anymore translating their games for the US market.

Well, that hardly seems likely, even if the US is still "only" the number one market in 10 years :) (Maybe a different story 20 - 30 years out.)

While I could imagine a collapse of UK/US to just "ENG", but I seriously doubt the English speaking market is going anywhere (UK, US, AU, CA, NZ, de facto second language for many in India, lots of other people who don't get to have games/manuals/books/etc. translated to their native language as part of the standard 8 or 10 translations done for most modern products.) Perhaps in another 100 or 200 years, English and Chinese will have begun to merge for real (if Chingrish isn't already on that path) but you're going to continue to have a huge English market if for no other reason than right now 400million+ speak English as a first language, and the majority of those are in countries that are not under any kind of population pressure or serious resource pressure (think US and Canada.). Also, you forget the language diversity within China... out of 1.2 billion "only" 850+ million speak Mandarin as a first language.

China is rising, yeah, the US is going down, yeah, blah, blah, blah. It makes a nice headline and gets peoples' emotions up a bit, but the truth is more like, "China is rising and the US is... rising much more slowly. But is way, way far out ahead." Anyway, did anyone really thing the world could remain so massively imbalanced in power and prestige forever? (The answer, apparently, at least if you listen to news and posts like this, is "Yes.")

Comment Re:Make sure. (Score 3, Interesting) 221

Hmm, interesting point, and idea. Though I imagine in RL the cost of that much aerogel would be prohibitive, at least at this point.

I think the self-correcting factor comes in 10x, 1000x, etc. flavors, depending on velocity/mass/coefficient/altitude. I think 100,000 years is the figure I heard at one point (no source, sorry) for non-LEO objects. So while your correct that waiting a few decades corrects the LEO problem (or perhaps a few centuries) for nearly anything, the HEO objects would, I imagine, be much more dependent on e.g. a massive drag coefficient to momentum ratio (HEO objects are subject to atmospheric drag... just a tiny, tiny amount.) A sail-like structure is going to dwarf the drag of e.g. a bolt. My idea was that perhaps it would be possible to turn that problem into a mechanism of operation for the device.

But now I'm clearly off into my own SF :)

Comment Re:Make sure. (Score 1) 221

This also leads me to think that you'd need less of a 'net' and more of a 'sheet'. One would then wonder, depending on altitude and sheet size, when atmospheric drag becomes an issue.

I suppose you're strategy could be to release a large number of such contraptions to successively sweep/drag debris far enough into the atmosphere that they would quickly succumb to drag and burn up. Just hope you miss all the satellites... "Woops, sorry China/Russia, we swear that really was an accident..."

Comment Re:Power hungry money grubbing grab-asses (Score 4, Interesting) 128

Ummm, your ignorance is astonishing. Or your hyperbole.

If you're trying to draw a parallel between the Chinese Gov't and US Gov't because of some difficulty you had with taxes or some annoying permit you were required to get (probably by your local Gov't, and not even the Fed)... ahh, why am I even bothering trying to answer this rationally. Dude, read a book. I'd start with the dictionary and the definition of the "Authoritative." Then try reading a year's worth of articles about life in China. Then, reflect on how much of that information you wouldn't be reading if you lived in China (or what hoops you'd have to jump through to read it, and what consequences there would/could be for disseminating it.)

Then, put your money where your mouth is and move there and take your flippant attitude toward gov't with you. Please, express it loudly and unabashedly as much as possible. And then, after ten years, let's have this discussion again.

Comment Re:It's all hosted from my apartment! (Score 1) 451

You better only send mail to your server then, 'cause otherwise there are copies of it floating around on other servers, even if only temporarily; and since the recipient you send to also has not right to privacy according to this, the bar is much lowered for the police/gov't to look at the recipient's account to see communications from or to you. Though, IANAL.

Reread the summary; hence the collective gasp and apoplectic sputtering. While it is generally targeted at "your email account" on a "third party server" nothing in it looks to my eyes (again, IANAL) like it actually restricts it to that, especially given his broad justification --that by "exposing" your email to an ISP you are foregoing any assumption of or right to privacy. Which essentially drops the bar for declaring an email 'non-private' to it having been, to borrow a term from elsewhere, tainted merely by the *potential* for exposure to anyone other than yourself and the intended recipient.

Hence: GASP. GAG!!!

Comment Re:What about just doing what you love? (Score 2, Insightful) 551

Uhm, not to intrude on your scree with something as trivial as real life, but lots and lots and lots of people care about making money and lots and lots of people have either undeveloped or multiple interests (or are otherwise undecided) --particularly in the age range of 16 to 26 when they will be getting the degree(s) thought of as required by many careers-- and might end up choosing amongst those possibilities and/or competing interests based on (at least partially based on) predicted future earnings. What is wrong with that?

"Pursue your dreams, man!" is fine and all, but you're greatly oversimplifying if you think that a.) money is not a part of dreams for lots of people, and b.) comfort and ease (what most people translate future money into) aren't powerful motivators right alongside grand schemes and pursuits. You're also assuming everyone has very powerful academic or career interests, when a lot of people really just want to get enough money so they can go hiking or play volleyball or take the motorcycle out on the weekend.

Takes all kinds...

Comment Re:No one should have expected (Score 1) 1364

But this is completely different than a vote, IMHO. The processes, people, money, etc. that get an initiative/referendum/etc. (insert your state's terminology) need as much light on them as possible. I'm all for the votes being kept secret, when it comes time to voting. This allows for an informed and --hopefully-- clean process.

Also, I'd like to note the similar situation that came up during the Prop 8 before and after here in CA: A lot of people were angry that names of supporters of Prop 8 were published. And in typical conservative fashion (that is a bit of flame-bait, but I think anecdotal experience and lately medical/psychological studies have begun bearing this out) the reaction is fear, paranoia, and suspicion. This largely fell into two categories, "If people know that I supported this they will not use my service/business/store/etc." and, "Gays could come and get me and my family! They know where we live now!"

So, in case one, my response is "So what?" It is hilarious to me that people who want to set rules and restrictions (they enforce banning gay marriage) on other people via the government so quickly turn around and cry foul and fearful when even the possibility of individual choice (I choose e.g not to have bigots install my siding.) Hilarious. But, let me make it clear: There is no such thing as a guarantee that I will give you money. It could be because your service sucks, you're Arabic looking, you're openly gay, you support inequality and segregation, etc. It seems that people are always behind that concept until it comes to them.

Case two is more important. We do need to protect the ability to express and legislate unpopular ideas. But neither one of those has any guarantee or even promise of anonymity. The KKK has a right to march down my street, but everyone still gets to see that they are the KKK. It's always been a difficult balancing act, but that goes with the territory. So... "Suck it up." Additionally, back to the hilarious feelings, I wonder if there has been any well document "retaliatory" or "hate crime" attacks on straight people? I'm sure there must have been at least a few, at least in a bar or something. But I wonder how that stacks up against the various and numerable crimes that have been perpetrated against gays? Beatings, killing, maiming, etc. Is it maybe that the folks most against gay rights feel they have the most to fear only because they see their own reflection in the mirror?

Comment Everyone goes rushing in... (Score 2, Insightful) 484

Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon it would be good to look for the downsides of this wonderful, almost free, all-natural cure for our ailing internal combustion engines. A cursory look around at some sources (I'll let you do your own homework) will reveal several downsides to this plant.

Problem number 1: Not really good for anything but fuel. Plants currently grown provide food, clothing, or, in some cases, building supplies. Some plants grown now even provide for multiple outputs. Corn (food, feed, fuel, chemicals) is a great example. Soybeans are another good example.

Problem number 2: As I'm sure at least a couple of folks will figure out from the numbers, you'd need to grow this stuff on a truly massive scale to put a dent in the amount of hydrocarbon fuel now supplied by petroleum. That scale would be so massive as to make #1 a significant problem. Do you want to eat or drive your car?

Problem number 3: Some people will look at #2 at either a small or large scale and answer that they want to eat and to drive (or sell fuel to the people that drive). And that will likely mean cutting down and/or burning more forests to make more farmland which seems a bit counter-productive.

Problem number 4: A high enough demand for biofuel will tip the balance on what gets produced. As acres of land previously growing food are switched over to growing biofuels, the cost of food will rise. There are a couple of ways of looking at or explaining this the easiest being that as the supply of food drops against a constant (or, really, growing) demand the price people are willing to pay for that food rises. In any case, the poorest people, many of them in fact farmers, will then suffer a proportionally higher cost to feed themselves even though they may participate only indirectly in petroleum or biofuel consumption.

Problem number 5: YAIS (Yet Another Invasive Species). Read about this plant. It is a badass. It's a badass because it comes from a place where hardly anything else can live and all the animals and insects are looking for something, anything to eat. You don't want to plant this in Ohio. Or Brazil. Or China. Or anywhere else that you don't plan on having this as an invasive and problematic pest plant for the next 1000 years.

F'ed up, huh? I know things like biofuel are meant only to be a stopgap to bridge us over to more efficient and/or less immediately damaging fuel conversion technologies and fuel sources, so it's not 100% right to bash them and say 'This does nothing!' but I think it is useful to play the Devil's advocate given the amount of excitement often heard in the same breath and the corresponding lack of analysis that too often accompanies it.

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman