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Comment Re:Could be a honeypot (Score 4, Informative) 157

Yeah, and the "who".

Their thought: "hey, well catch the bad guys who are trying to get around security!"
Reality: they catch the nerds who know how to hack barcodes and want to save 10 minutes of waiting in a security line.

But this is giving them too much credit. They are not thinking that far ahead. They are still stuck on shoe bombs (22 Dec 2001).

Comment Re:Wait (Score 4, Insightful) 48

Yes. That's what jumped out at me too. Revealing medical mistakes is a reason to do *more* autopsies. And any doctors or hospitals who are "uncomfortable" with that need to get out of the business. If you are not interested in having some QC to improve your processes, I don't want you involved in my medical care.

Comment Why are you asking permission? (Score 5, Insightful) 383

Why are you explaining and asking permission to use a tool? Download git, install it, use it, done. Standard practice, free, so what's the issue? Just do it. The management doesn't want to see how the sausage is made.

Also, there is a "manage your management" issue here. When the bosses ask if you need anything, you need to provide answers that they understand and can accomplish. Asking for something they don't understand and don't know how to get for you leads to them feeling stupid and ineffective. Line up your own tools without bothering them. When they ask what you need be ready with something that they can easily accomplish, like stocking the fridge with Mt. Dew.

Comment Re:What a sham (Score 1) 526

Well if the ER just gives the patient more homeopathic treatment it will save those 10s of thousands of pounds. Mission accomplished.

BTW, reading your .sig, I should have sprinkled my post liberally with ~s.

To some extent I am just being a smart-ass agitator. But the serious point within the snarking is that large health care institutions like NHS or Medicare don't care if you are healthy. They just want you to live and die while pulling as few dollars as possible from the pool, and without making a fuss that will cause them trouble. No one judges the administrators of these programs by how healthy the people in their program are.

Comment Re:What a sham (Score 5, Funny) 526

There is zero scientific evidence homeopathy works. Absolutely none.

Wrong. Your problem is in your definition of "works". Works mean achieves some goal you were trying to reach, and perhaps the goal you are thinking of is not the one NHS is trying to reach. Their job is not to cure everyone of everything. Their job is to *control expenses* while *minimizing complaints*. And it is very likely that providing homeopathy will help achieve those goals. Therefore it "works". Remember, even the homeopathy supporters admit that often treatments do not contain even a single molecule of the diluted substance. (cite ) I cannot think of a more cost effective treatment than water, maybe with a bit of food coloring. Even a small reduction in whining would make it cost effective. From an institutional health perspective it's pure genius!!

Comment Re:No longer vocalizations (Score 1) 173

Our vocal chords make clicks. In very low tones I can hear the individual clicks. I can see it being possible to for a person to gain the control over their voice to be able to make a single click, then do that at whatever interval they want. That doesn't really seem like a "tone" to me, but this must be what they are doing here.

Comment That was the beauty of Feynman (Score 1) 259

Feynman reveled in the multitude of phenomena that we do not yet understand, and he had a way of sharing that fascination and excitement with the student/listener/reader. Many of his lectures, to me at least, seem to primarily be attempts to describe the landscape of science, which things are known and where there is unexplored territory, or at least unanswered questions. And the picture he paints indicates that what we understand is a small percentage of the world/universe around us. There are so many basic things that we can observe, describe, and even predict, but we don't actually understand how they work. Like gravity.

Comment Smart people are dangerous (Score 5, Insightful) 374

Smart people are a threat to those who hold power. Especially the subset of smart people who are politically engaged and willing to put themselves at risk to protest and demand change. And among them, the subset who are world famous and therefore have easy access to the press, well, they are just beyond dangerous.

There is a long history of new dictatorial regimes wiping out, killing, or scaring away all of the educated class, thus making the general populace less likely to organize, garner international attention, or outsmart anyone in the regime. This fits the pattern.

Comment Provide an API (Score 2) 186

First of all, as someone who's work in parallel computing for a while, I think it's actually quite hard to define tasks that actually have value that can be broken down into such small and easy sub-tasks. And within the set of problems where you can do that, there is a pretty large overlap between what a completely untrained person can do and what a perl script can do. So the whole idea of an army of anonymous random humans adding microvalue that adds up to big value is problematic for me. Maybe there is theoretical value there, but so many things could go wrong.

Secondly, if you can clearly define a task like that, and what it is worth to you, why restrict your solution to humans? Provide an API and let me try to solve it algorithmically. If all you care about is getting the task done, what does it matter whether I get it done with a dozen Indian subcontractors, a thousand trained monkeys, or a clever little genetic algorithm?

Comment Re:That's not how it works (Score 1) 47

Actually you *can* do that kind of multi-dimensional filtering, equivalent to multiple AND statements followed by a GROUP BY. There are different data sets here, with different usage models. Perhaps most interesting is the Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Docs here: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/data_documentation/public_use_microdata_sample/

PUMS contains records representing individual responses to the American Community Survey (ACS). These individual responses include detailed data including housing data (# rooms, heating fuel, property value, mortgage, age of house, etc) and personal data (family income, vehicles, employments status, # children, language spoken, etc). Now, ACS is a sample, not a full enumeration like the decennial census, but the sampling is done carefully in an attempt to be representative. Full record definition here: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/data_documentation/pums/DataDict/PUMS_Data_Dictionary_2006-2010.pdf

Back to the confidentiality question: this detailed data is carefully altered to protect individual privacy while still being correct at an aggregate level. Here's what the site says about this protection:

"As required by federal law, the confidentiality of ACS respondents is protected through a variety of steps to disguise or suppress original data while making sure the results are still useful. The first means of protecting is the suppression of all personal identification, such as name and address, from each record. In addition, a small number of records are switched with similar records from a neighboring area or receive another collection of characteristics developed by using a modeling technique. Age perturbation is one example of procedures that disguise original data by randomly adjusting the reported ages for a subset of individuals. The answers to open-ended questions, where an extreme value might identify an individual, are top-coded. Top coded questions include age, income, and housing unit value. In addition to modifying the individual records, respondents' confidentiality is protected because only large geographic areas are identified in the PUMS."

Comment Re:That's not how it works (Score 1) 47

That's right, and even at the block level data may be swapped around between block or obfuscated in other ways that protect individuals while still keeping the data accurate at an aggregate level. I know it is easy to be concerned about this when looking at it for the first time, but Census has been seriously working for years on how to protect confidentiality while releasing quality data at as low a level as possible.

The Census site has a little info about this: http://www.census.gov/privacy/data_protection/statistical_safeguards.html

But more relevant is this link to the American Statistical Association, which goes into significant depth on the techniques used to protect confidentiality: http://www.amstat.org/committees/pc/index.html

On this page http://www.fcsm.gov/working-papers/spwp22.html we find a working paper from the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, which has deeper details on actual operations.

From that page, the "Statistical Disclosure Limitation: A Primer" document has an interesting section defining inferential disclosure - "occurs when individual information can be inferred with high confidence from statistical properties of the released data."

And the "Current Federal Statistical Agency Practices" describes the multi-dimensional linear programming used to prevent that, along with other techniques including geographic thresholds, population thresholds and coarsening.

So the summary is: Yes, it is a serious issue to be concerned about, but Census is taking it seriously, applying some real science and math to it, and it looks like they are doing a good job.

Comment More info about NIF - Start Trek connection (Score 2) 252

Seeing a lot of discussion, but not much real information here, so I'll contribute.

For starters, here is the website: https://lasers.llnl.gov/

And here is a page of that site that has some explanation about how it works: https://lasers.llnl.gov/programs/nic/icf/how_icf_works.php

I've actually toured this facility, and it was pretty damn cool. A few points that stuck in my memory:

The generally do one shot each night. They prep it during the day, then they all go home and it goes off at night with not many people there, because that's safer.

The electricity usage is intense but very short, lasting only around 20 billionths of a second. They do this by charging up their capacitors and then discharging them very rapidly. They said the air conditioning for the building actually uses more power than the laser.

They talk about the "seven wonders of NIF", which are seven advances in materials and technology that were made during the project which made it all possible. I thought the rapid crystal growing was pretty wicked. Info on them here: https://lasers.llnl.gov/about/nif/seven_wonders.php

In the actual ignition step itself, while you might think you shine the powerful laser on the thing you want to heat up, that's actually not how it works. They have the thing they want to heat, and near it (like 1mm) is this little metallic trough thing. They blast the laser into the trough thing and when the light hits that it creates microwaves, and the microwaves heat the target. Of course by the time it's done all those parts are completely vaporized.

Also of interest, around April this year the place was shut down for maintenance for a month. For about two weeks during that period some filming for the next Star Trek movie took place inside the NIF facility. So check out the pix and see if you can spot the NIF scenes when the movie comes out. It does kinda look like the engine room of a starship: https://lasers.llnl.gov/multimedia/photo_gallery/target_area/?id=5&category=target_area Obviously, the whole lab is full of nerds who like Star Trek, but they were not allowed to see what was going on.

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