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Comment Re:Not necessarily popular with the Chinese, eithe (Score 1) 535

I think you should learn a bit into Chinese language and characters to understand how indispensable the characters really is. Consider English example of "bat", "bet", "bad", "bed", which are voiced very similarly. If spoken by non-native speakers with heavy accent, these words may be confused with "pat", "pet", or "pad". (Even in English, some accent-heavy people pronounce "pen" and "pin" identically!) A Chinese analog would disambiguate with "baseball bat" instead of just "bat" and so on. The problem is that such situation is much worse in Chinese than in English and it occurs even in daily use. This is why that most words are represented by two characters. Note that the pairing does not introduce new characters and thereby not adding to the "grinding". It's just adding new complexity to the language. Reading newspapers would require only about 4,000 characters (out of about 100K total) with about 300 tone-syllable combinations, giving about 13 of each left for disambiguation. Knowing about 2K is enough for daily conversation. Mind you these are still common use, including in formal signs or speeches. This is NOT uncommon as you've claimed.

Also, in Chinese, using more refined characters would show your erudition, politeness, or even social status. Politeness can mean everything for Chinese. So, you see, language isn't restricted for informational purposes only. It can also convey mood, politeness, formality, etc.

Note that new words are formed by juxtaposing two or more characters in an unusual way. With each character giving its individual meaning, the people could guess the meaning of the new word. If the people are deprived of the character and, say, have to read the pinyin, the meaning wouldn't be as obvious. Example: Xi3 yi1 = laundry becomes xi3 yi1 ji1 = washing machine. If the people don't know the characters, the meaning of xiyiji isn't immediately obvious. This fact makes Chinese language very intuitive and even facilitates learning. Children in China cope with this complexity pretty well. Their literacy rate is 97% in 2010.

The barrier of entry is as much as East Asian people learning English. Chinese and English are two completely different languages. For East Asian people, such barrier isn't as much, akin to the barrier of entry for learning French for English-speaking people.

Therefore, Chinese characters are indispensable.

Comment Re:Is C++ ever the right tool for the job? (Score 1) 509

Yes. C++ (and Java) are indispensable for scientific software. In scientific software, the spec is ever changing as the science progresses and hence the flexibility to morph the programs as needed and maintainability are of paramount importance. On the other hand, we need the speed.

Some of these can be resolved by invoking ready-made C libraries and then called in higher level languages such as Python or R or Matlab. However, in many occasions, this luxury isn't available (e.g., Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulations or custom EM algorithm).

Comment Re:Not necessarily popular with the Chinese, eithe (Score 1) 535

If you look at the wiki URL I cited, you'll immediately notice the problem. Chinese language IS a very terse and highly economical language with many symbols, sounds, and tones. In speech, people *disambiguate* words by pairing the words with "word-complements" (I don't know what they're called) to achieve the intended meaning. HOWEVER, the pairings are limited to daily use. Even then, there are still ambiguities. Take, for example, the word "shishi" in Pinyin. You get 23 matches. Even if you add tones, you STILL have ambiguities. If you look at the word list, they're not rare, right? If I say (in Pinyin) "shi4shi4 nan2 liao4", what does it mean? Is it "affairs of the world are hard to guess"? Or "everything is hard to guess"? Or "the state of the affair is hard to guess"? Or "affair of this world is hard to abandon"? In this situation, people disambiguate even further by putting in more "word-complements". Note that the phrase is a common complaint! It is so context specific.

Also, languages are NOT limited to spoken language. How about poems? Stories? Formalities? Jokes? Puns? If the words are written, especially in poems or terse narrative, they can be paired in almost every way and can create a very very powerful poem or narrative. Or puns! Oh man! There are so many puns based on this very fact.

Now, can you say that Chinese character is dispensable again?

Comment Re:Not necessarily popular with the Chinese, eithe (Score 5, Informative) 535

You seem to look at Chinese words from Japanese perspective. Correction:
1. Chinese characters are logogram.
2. Classical Chinese is mainly monosyllabic, while Modern Chinese is mainly disyllabic for disambiguation purposes. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-Eating_Poet_in_the_Stone_Den
3. Chinese characters *are* indispensable. Pinyin or other romanization techniques (plus tones) simply cannot convey the same meaning as the original characters, though you can guess. Remember that Chinese language is tonal and tones for one character can change depending on the other word(s) it is paired with. Even with the tonality marks, there are still ambiguities remain in the romanized version of the words. The same problems occur in other "simplification" or "phonetic abugidas" (e.g., bopomofo). Tonality does not exist in Japanese. See the wiki URL above.
4. Since Chinese characters are indispensable, you have to sight-read them. Yes, some phonetic clues do show up, but not always lead you to the right one. Also, there are false friends, alternative spelling (even worse in Japanese), and one dot or one slash difference may make dramatic differences in sound.

The Internet

Submission + - Google, Microsoft Cheat on Slow-Start. Should You? (benstrong.com) 1

kdawson writes: Software developer and blogger Ben Strong did a little exploring to find out how Google achieves its admirably fast load times. What he discovered is that Google, and to a much greater extent Microsoft, are cheating on the 'slow-start' requirement of RFC-3390. His research indicates that discussion of this practice on the Net is at an early, and somewhat theoretical, stage.Strong concludes with this question: 'What should I do in my app (and what should you do in yours)? Join the arms race or sit on the sidelines and let Google have all the page-load glory?'

Submission + - Transparent, light-harvesting material produced

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used in development of transparent solar panels. "Potentially, with future refinement of this technology, windows in a home or office could generate solar power," said Hsing-Lin Wang, a co-corresponding author of the paper and a researcher in the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos.
Java

Submission + - The Oracle Lawsuit Will End w/ Google Owning Java (theserverside.com) 3

potemcam writes: The only real strategy that makes any sense here is that Oracle is strong-arming Google into actually taking Java off their hands. There is little doubt that the Oracle lawsuit has legal, if not technical, merit. If this lawsuit goes to court, Oracle will end up with a settlement in the high hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. Of course, this whole thing won’t go to court. Court isn’t the end game of this lawsuit.

"With this lawsuit, Oracle isn’t just refusing to hold onto the lifeline Google is throwing them, but instead, they’re trying to use that very lifeline to actually strangle their rescuer."

The big end game here is Java ending up in the hands of Google.

Earth

NASA Data Reveals China's Industrial Air Pollution 133

eldavojohn writes "China's skyrocketing industrialism comes at a price to the environment, according to Canadian scientists who used NASA data to publish a report on worldwide air pollution (PDF) in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The biggest problem appears to be a bright red mass in Northeastern China around the Yangtze River Delta — a rapidly developing piece of China's explosive economy. There doesn't seem to be a lot of acknowledgment from the state media, but blogs are picking it up as one of the few sources of data on air pollution for the area. The sad fact is that particulate matter in the air less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter is not classified as pollution by the Chinese government, so they have no official measurements to provide. If you're in Shanghai and looking for a breath of fresh air, you've got quite the journey ahead of you."
Technology

Submission + - Did the tech boom create class inequality? (slate.com)

Ynsats writes: Slate has an article that is 4 parts, finishing September 8th. It's titled "The Great Divergence: Did the Tech Boom Create Inequality?". It takes a look at how computers and automation have affected the economy and created an income divergence in the middle class. It addresses the size of the divergence and how it has created an environment of inequality in the workforce and is eroding the middle class. The premise is that these inequalities were caused by the tech boom and the rapid automation of moderately skilled jobs by the computerization of those tasks. It addresses the disparity by comparing it to previous economic trends and discussing the differences. It's an interesting read and while some points are obvious to anyone who has been paying attention there are some perspectives and points that are not so obvious. It's a good article and worth a read.
Canada

Submission + - CRTC approves usage based billing in Canada (www.cbc.ca)

qvatch writes: "The CRTC has approved Bell Canada's request to bill internet customers, both retail and wholesale, based on how much they download each month.
The plan, known as usage-based billing, will apply to people who buy their internet connection from Bell, or from smaller service providers that rent lines from the company, such as Teksavvy or Acanac.
Customers using the fastest connections of five-megabits per second, for example, will have a monthly allotment of 60 gigabytes, beyond which Bell will charge $1.12 per GB to a maximum of $22.50.
If a customer uses more than 300 GB a month, Bell will also be able to implement an additional charge of 75 cents per gigabyte."

Welcome to the future, hope you don't want to innovate.

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