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Nearby Star Forecast To Skirt Solar System 135

PipianJ writes "A recent preprint posted on arXiv by Vadim Bobylev presents some startling new numbers about a future close pass of one of our stellar neighbors. Based on studies of the Hipparcos catalog, Bobylev suggests that the nearby orange dwarf Gliese 710 has an 86% chance of skirting the outer bounds of the Solar System and the hypothesized Oort Cloud in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth. This news about Gliese 710 isn't exactly new, but it's one of the first times the probability of this near-miss has been quantified."

Comment Re:GATTACA (Score 1) 268

GINA should never had to have been enacted, since it shold never have come to this....

The Supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, has this to say:

  • 4th Amendment - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • 9th Amendment - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • 10 Amendment - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
  • 14th Amendment, Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Why do our Congressmen, President, Justices, and States ignore the Constitution? Why do the people let them?


7 of the Best Free Linux Calculators 289

An anonymous reader writes "One of the basic utilities supplied with any operating system is a desktop calculator. These are often simple utilities that are perfectly adequate for basic use. They typically include trigonometric functions, logarithms, factorials, parentheses and a memory function. However, the calculators featured in this article are significantly more sophisticated with the ability to process difficult mathematical functions, to plot graphs in 2D and 3D, and much more. Occasionally, the calculator tool provided with an operating system did not engender any confidence. The classic example being the calculator shipped with Windows 3.1 which could not even reliably subtract two numbers. Rest assured, the calculators listed below are of precision quality."

Comment Re:Home schooling vs. school duty (Score 1) 1324

You gave lip service to home-schooling, which is nice, sort-of, but then came this indefensible rant:
Home school kids are massively underdeveloped socially, they miss out on a lot of cues that the rest of the population learned the hard way in social environment.

I'm calling you on the carpet -- this is your big chance. Prove it!

I never actually met someone who actually believes that our public school system, by and large, produces such well-adapted children. Nor have I met anyone who crows about the academic prowess of our elite Federal public schools.

I do hear *lots of* concern about drugs, rape, murder, school fights, dropouts, peer pressure, depression, suicide, ADD/ADHD, racism, bullying, teen pregnancy, AIDS/HIV, lack of discipline, school riots (!), hazing, poor grades, and on and on, in the public schools. Some of our good/safe local public schools have metal detectors, since students have brought guns into their lockers. How is this good "socialization," again?

Oh, by the way, my wife and I worked in the public school system for a few years (K-12 and junior college) and personally know many ex-elementary public school teachers who now home school! One of the reasons we all don't public school? Socialization!!! (Now, I do think colleges are generally safer than junior/senior high schools, but that's another story). Increasingly, our friends who teach in public schools are pulling their kids out, in favor of home schooling!

Do you have kids, BTW, or is this just a hypothetical rant -- "if I had kids?"

Uhm, maybe look up the definition of "socialization" or "socialize", some time. It's probably not a "good thing" at all, unless you like the thought police:

If this is what you mean by "socialize," which of these these attributes would you call "good" with a straight face:
      1. To place under government or group ownership or control. (Is this good -- really?!?!?! Public school *does do* this!)
      2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable. (I'll grant you this one, maybe, if you like an institution defining it for you)
      3. To convert or adapt to the needs of society. ("Bend to our will and do our bidding, slave!")

How about "socialization," itself?
      1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position. (Should public school be telling our kids about their "norms" or "values" -- really?)
      2. the act or process of making socialistic: the socialization of industry. (OK, we're defining the word with the word, here)

What is "socially normal" about a child spending his waking hours with a bunch of rowdy people/class clowns/bullies/jocks and picked-on kids/nerds/outcasts/druggies -- all part of a pecking order, all part of a high pressure/peer pressure "society," all kids roughly his/her own age for 13 years? How is this in any way like "society," outside of school? This "society" of public school is institutional, artificial, and orthogonal, compared to "normal" society.

As far as socialization of home schoolers is concerned (as I guess you are redefining the term "socialization"), prove it with actual evidence, please. I call foul. Please define your term, too.

You need to read John Taylor Gatto, some time, and remember that he's a public school expert and taught in NY public schools for about 30 years. He's also a researcher of public schools. He's a sharp critic of public (and even private) schools and he has ample evidence to destroy your tired old assumption, which is not based on fact.

Not only do public school students lack mental acumen, they also lack social skills, the facts show.

Hey, I at least sited an expert on the subject who's "been there, done that" and who's researched his position. What about you? (Prove your bald assertion, please!)

OK, here are more articles, in case you actually care about this issue (some expert articles, some opinion):
here, here,
here, and here.

Now, not all public-school kids are wusses, jerks, whatever, but I don't see the positive fruits of public-school "socialization." On the other hand, however, public-schoolers are generally *far less* well-adjusted (socially) and don't compete with the rest of the industrialized world (academically). Do a Google search on "school violence statistics" some time. The 2.3-2.4 million articles returned ought to change your view on public-school "socialization" a bit.

Anecdotally, my own four kids are home-schooled and they are not only "sharp as tacks", but they don't give in to peer pressure, don't believe the thought police, or do "group think" like the other kids. They are well-adjusted, instead of wussy pushovers. They don't start fights with other kids, either.

Not only that, but our kids do not lack for friends, group and individual interaction, etc. When we see them interact with other kids, we notice how well they behave, and so do the other parents, and the other kids.... They play with their neighbor kids, go to church, play well with each other, go on numerous field trips, respect other children, respect each other, have lots of friends, respect their parents/elders/relatives, aren't dysfunctional, get invited to (and go to) numerous birthday parties, play online games (with real people they actually met in real life), watch most of the same cartoons, read very extensively about world cultures and have multi-cultural friends, yada, yada, yada.

The "social skills" my kids have (and I am concerned about them having *great* social skills) are more important than the bogus "are your kids popular in school" and do they "conform to peer pressure" acid tests most people apply to home-schoolers.

Home-school is not right for every parent, every family, or every kid; nor is private school; nor is public school. In the USA, we have this nice thing we call "freedom" and it reintroduces competition and choice in schooling.

I'll apply some acid tests of my own: Is your public-school kid a.) The Bully, b.) The Picked-On Kid, c.) The Already Burned-Out Child, d.) The Poor Performer, e.) The Angry Child, f.) The Depressed Child, g.) The Drug Addict, or h.) A Child that no Longer Relates with You? Or, are they i.) The Increasingly Rare "Functional" Child?

Again, prove it.

Comment How about something really useful, like OOB mgmt? (Score 1) 172

Instead of just sending a display somewhere wirelessly, why not include out-of-band management on all its desktop and laptop motherboards, wired or wireless?

I like the idea of WiDi, but WiOOB would be more useful.

Imagine the sea change if all desktop/laptop/server machines could be securely and remotely KVM managed over IP, if the user wishes.


Zombie Pigs First, Hibernating Soldiers Next 193

ColdWetDog writes "Wired is running a story on DARPA's effort to stave off battlefield casualties by turning injured soldiers into zombies by injecting them with a cocktail of one chemical or another (details to be announced). From the article, 'Dr. Fossum predicts that each soldier will carry a syringe into combat zones or remote areas, and medic teams will be equipped with several. A single injection will minimize metabolic needs, de-animating injured troops by shutting down brain and heart function. Once treatment can be carried out, they'll be "re-animated" and — hopefully — as good as new.' If it doesn't pan out we can at least get zombie bacon and spam."

Comment Re:Great (Score 1) 1231

I have had a great experience, so far, and I shouldn't....

Starting around midnight, this morning, I upgraded from 64 bit Jaunty Studio, which was setup like this:
    Jaunty Studio was "upgraded" to Kubuntu
    Used Intel graphics -- the kind of card Jaunty particularly hates
    64-bit Flash, 64-bit Java, 64-bit Firefox
    MythTV with all the add-ons I could throw in...

I *should* be a poster child for problems.

I only had 3 minor issues:
    ~/.ICEAuthority permissions issues (easily corrected)
    An issue when switching to text mode using Ctrl+Alt+F{1,2,3,4,5} (should be easily correctable in grub)
    Mythtv-status no longer knows how to calculate drive totals (I think that's easily fixed, but haven't looked)

Everything is so much snappier, but that could be due to Jaunty vs. Intel Graphics wars or it could be due to a mem leak on Jaunty (I can't prove that one but I swapped heavily until the upgrade).

Comment Re:Great! Another language to learn! (Score 1) 235

As a long-term Perl programmer, myself, who switched to Ruby, virtually everything you're talking about is either an ugly hack or is an add-on via CPAN or is only available in 5.10+.

As for features available in 5.10+, that's totally fair, but I abandoned Perl around that time. As for Moose, it's not part of the core language today.

Maybe if a production-ready version of Perl 6 ships by late 2011, I may give it a try, then. Is it truly ready for prod, now? If so, I'm interested.

Don't get me wrong; Perl 5 is a popular, very powerful dynamic language that I programmed in for 12-13 years, myself.

To say, however, that Perl 5 is better than Ruby 1.8/1.9 in every respect or to equivocate between the already available Perl 5 and the maybe-it'll-be-released-real-soon-now-perhaps Perl 6 isn't fair and smacks of fanboyism.

It's not like I am comparing 2 languages, one of which I never programmed in.

Comment Re:Don't forget: (Score 1) 258

As to the study - I think this is one of those correlation vs. causation issues. The study is worried that seasonal flu vaccine -> swine flu infection. When, in reality, it is more likely that:
High risk of any flu infection -> obtaining seasonal vaccines
High risk of any flu infection -> contracting swine flu

I do agree and that's why I think most studies border on pure junk science.

This study seems, at least to me, to be more likely to be accurate than most studies, due to factors in the original article.

But, you're right, correlation and causation or correlation vs. causation?

Comment Re:Great! Another language to learn! (Score 1) 235

Lifted straight from Python? How's that? The syntax doesn't even superficially resemble Python's. Where do you get proof for that (I looked and see nothing to back up your claims)?

Perl got objects in 1994, with Perl 5. Python was released in 1991. It *could* have happened the way you describe, but I don't see evidence of that. I bet some Pythonistas would challenge that assumption.

In Python, as far as I can remember, nearly everything is an object (except, basically keywords and immutable types), with the ability to call methods on most things, even many immutable types, such as numbers:
>>> (1).__add__(2)

In Ruby, where essentially everything (other than keywords) is an object:
>> "hello world".length
=> 11

How does Perl compare to either of these, even Python?

Ruby 1.8 and Ruby 1.9 are production-ready, as is Perl 5.

Perl 6 is "any decade now." I don't see a sequitur leap to a comparison between Ruby 2 and Perl 6, since you started by comparing Ruby 1.9 to Perl 6.

Very few people worry about Ruby 2, while Perl 6 is considered a "big deal" to Perlers. Perl 6 is still on the drawing board and is in a severe state of flux, many, many years later. I think the Perl 6 project has failed due to scope creep. Ruby 2 is rarely discussed, since it's not a "big deal," so it hasn't suffered from that kind of "bit rot," yet. Ruby 2 is just a relative glimmer in a few people's eyes, even if it, like Perl 6, is a long-term project.

Comparing Ruby 1.9.x to Perl 5.11.x may be more of a valid comparison, in terms of what they mean to the next big leap.

Both Ruby 1.8 and 1.9 have severely more powerful OOP constructs than Perl 5. All three of these are prod-ready.

Still, Perl 6 is supposed to greatly break compatibility. Ruby 1.9 doesn't greatly break compatibility, and 2.0 is also expected to be easy to port, but we'll see. Perl 6 is mostly a different language, according to what I've read.

Perl 5 has bolt-on class-based objects. These superficially resemble C++/Java/C#'s classes. Ruby has objects resembling the king of OOP: Smalltalk. There's a big difference, there.

Ruby has open classes, true exception handling, method_missing(), duck typing, and reflection. Lambdas are truly useful (check out iterators).

Even though Ruby is extremely dynamic, it is strongly typed, without getting in your way -
    This is an error:
        "hello world" + 5

    This is not and returns an integer 5:
        "hello world".to_i + 5

In Perl 5, this is not an error:
    "hello world" + 5;

So, in Perl 5, if you accidentally set a variable wrongly, you still get an answer, instead of an exception you can handle. This can be catastrophic to data integrity. `use strict;` and `my $variable;` don't help this situation.

I just have one question, in closing.... Have you spent at least 6 months trying to become proficient in Ruby? If not, I challenge you, as a former Perler. Try it for 6 months, part-time....

See if you get as hooked as many of us have.

Comment Re:Great! Another language to learn! (Score 1) 235

Sorry, Mojo is "like" Rack. Mojolicious is more "like" Rails. I use the quotes around "like," because both are weakly inspired by Rack and Rails, not close to being "clonish" like Groovy on Grails.

Speed, by the way, is *not* one of Ruby's strengths, although its performance and scalability are greatly improving and have more "tweakability."

I am having trouble backing up the performance differences claim (one that used to be easy to do) -- perhaps Perl has finally closed this gap over the past couple of years.

However, the opinions that PHP is cleaner and easier to learn are shared by many:

I used to be a believer in Perl (and PHP, for web development) but have changed my mind, due to Ruby.

As a programmer, are you open to change and trying new stuff? Why not learn from other languages, like Ruby, Lisp, or Smalltalk, to become a better Perl programmer?

Comment Re:Don't forget (1918): (Score 2, Interesting) 258

There was something odd about the Spanish Flu, which was a more deadly version of H1N1. It attacked and killed the healthy and young far more than the sick and the weak, the very young and the elderly.

Now, the report, below says that the two H1N1's are "distant cousins" and "totally not related", but...

The newer "swine flu" H1N1 strain also seems to be following that pattern -- killing teens and "the very healthy" more than the old or young people, in spite of their relative health.

The Spanish Flu made the body attack itself -- the healthier you were, the worse the reaction Click Here:

  • Spanish flu
    Main article: 1918 flu pandemic

    The Spanish flu, also known as La Gripe Española, or La Pesadilla, was an unusually severe and deadly strain of avian influenza, a viral infectious disease, that killed some 50 million to 100 million people worldwide over about a year in 1918 and 1919. It is thought to be one of the most deadly pandemics in human history. It was caused by the H1N1 type of influenza virus.[4]

    The 1918 flu caused an unusual number of deaths, possibly due to it causing a cytokine storm in the body.[5][6] (The current H5N1 bird flu, also an Influenza A virus, has a similar effect.)[7] The Spanish flu virus infected lung cells, leading to overstimulation of the immune system via release of cytokines into the lung tissue. This leads to extensive leukocyte migration towards the lungs, causing destruction of lung tissue and secretion of liquid into the organ. This makes it difficult for the patient to breathe. In contrast to other pandemics, which mostly kill the old and the very young, the 1918 pandemic killed unusual numbers of young adults, which may have been due to their healthy immune systems mounting a too-strong and damaging response to the infection.[2]

    The term "Spanish" flu was coined because Spain was at the time the only European country where the press were printing reports of the outbreak, which had killed thousands in the armies fighting World War I. Other countries suppressed the news in order to protect morale.[8]

Perhaps there is something to this study. Now, I don't believe studies as a rule and I have criticized the same, but logic and history seem to add evidence to the *strong* correlation.

As to this study, I think it's a lot closer to being airtight than most (very large sample size, fractional percent margin of error, good science, peer reviews, findings being scrutinized and met with skepticism):

  • "There are a large number of authors, all of them excellent and credible researchers," he said. "And the sample size is very large - 12 or 13 million people taken from the central reporting systems in three provinces. The research is solid."

Sadly, I'm not as dubious of this Canadian study as others and will weigh my options for my family.... :-(

Comment Re:Great! Another language to learn! (Score 1) 235

BTW, PHP is the undisputed king in web development and compares favorably with Java and C#, in terms of sites, code, and jobs. It's also faster, easier to learn, and cleaner than Perl.

Perl definitely has more legacy code and sites than Ruby on Rails, sure.

I'd submit that RoR code is better/cleaner and supports larger teams of coders.

Even if all you do is get proficient with Ruby and later RoR, you will change the way you code in Perl/PHP/whatever.

BTW, if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, see CakePHP, Groovy on Grails, ColdFusion on Wheels, the Castle Project, and Mojo. RoR is influencing frameworks on PHP, Groovy/Java, Cold Fusion, C#, and Perl, respectively.

Comment Re:Great! Another language to learn! (Score 1) 235

...yet in practice, CPAN has trouble compiling large numbers of libraries on "tier 2" platforms, such as AIX and HPUX.

Try getting Expect from CPAN for HP/UX, some time.... Expect works, Perl works, does not.

In practice, even Solaris 8/9/10 has issues where package A depends on version x.y.z of package B which conflicts with version a.b.c of package C, and package C needs a newer version of package A than will compile on Solaris, due to C-library vs. issues.

Where I worked, it was often nightmarish to compile/make the 150+ CPAN packages and install tons of GNU libraries, to make a typical Apache-based website that had both Websphere and Perl apps. We loved Perl and touted it, even as we were cursing CPAN packages under our breath.

To me, an ex-Perl programmer, it doesn't matter if it compiles on "hundreds" of platforms, if my platform runs only the parts of CPAN I don't need....

Also, I wrote well-documented code, compared to most Perl programmers. Yes, I have read much Perl code over the years, at work, home, and on the 'net -- my own and others.

Perl is notorious for unreadable code! Just check the opinions of *seasoned* Perl programmers on the net. There is an attitude that "if it was hard to write, it should be hard to read."

Perl has never been known for clear, clean code -- short code but not clean code. It's "blessed" object model, for instance is an ugly, bolt-on hack.

I have no interest in Perl 6, ever since I read that its backward compatibility with Perl 5 was even worse than Python 3 was with Python 2.x (which has a converter) and also after I spoke to somebody on the Perl 6 team who said that the spec, years later, was not even close to complete. Two years later, it still isn't.

Who really trusts Perl 6 in a mission-critical production environment? Many do daily with Java, C#,, Python, Cold Fusion, Ruby, asp, vbscript, etc. Perl 6, of course, isn't "finished" yet.

I believe Perl 6 has no future. This was the final nail in the coffin for me to explore this up-and-coming Ruby. Many Perlers, back then, were open-minded enough to try Ruby, as were many in the Java world.

I made the switch, and while I am still more proficient with Perl (after 13 years of Perl 4/5 vs. about 1-2 with Ruby), I find a "programmer's joy" with Ruby and a learning experience nearly every time I use it. My code is cleaner, more readable, more concise, and more reusable in Ruby. It is fun, enlightening, and better for scripting.

Try Ruby, you might like it. I've "evangelized" Ruby to Perl and Python addicts at work. Much to their delight, Ruby becomes something they quickly begin to prefer over Perl and Python. Almost every time they use it, they find the same "profound enlightenment" moments I have. Lispers have this same experience, although probably to a greater degree.

Nobody is saying you have to be an exclusive Rubyist. I still do use Perl, for the quick-and-dirty. I still use bash and am learning Python.

I now know a little Rails, which (make no mistake) has a steep learning curve.

Who says RoR doesn't work in practice? Twitter? LinkedIn? Hemnet? Shopify? Doodlekit? 43Things? Nope.

In each of the above cases, the site either has to scale/perform like crazy, has complex data needs, needs rich content, or all of the above. It works in practice...

Again, be open-minded and try Ruby. You just might like it. Unlike Perl 6, it's here and now. If you are stuck in a Java-only environment, try JRuby 1.x, which is Ruby for the Java masses.

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