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Comment Re:Gerrymandering (Score 1) 215

I live in a so-called "majority-minority" district which was considered a lock for a minority candidate since its creation. The incumbent has done such a poor job that he came fairly close to losing the election in 2010. The response? They adjusted the lines to pull extra minorities into his district to ensure that would never happen again.

Incumbents tend to enjoy advantages in terms of resources and name recognition that can make them inherently more difficult to beat, even in the absence of race politics.

A local challenger can be further hamstrung by platform elements adopted at the presidential, federal, or state level that are unpalatable within a district (or unpalatable to a significant group living within that district).

There's a further vicious circle at work where a party decides that a seat is unwinnable, and therefore doesn't put any resources into recruiting effective candidates or running more than a pro forma campaign, and therefore finds that the seat is unwinnable, and so doesn't put in any effort...

There are at least two routes around the problem. First, find a credible non-minority candidate who can demonstrate an ability to work with groups (majority and minority ethnicities) within the district. Not only does this require time and effort, but it may also require the candidate to butt heads with the state or federal party. Second, the cynical route is for your party to find a minority candidate of its own. You've just told me that the district has lots of them; can't you find any of them who want to represent the (Republican) party locally?

The downside of that second approach is that you can't go blaming race anymore when the party still loses; you might have to start looking at why your policies are so unappealing to the minority population.

Comment Give to the needy and nerdy (Score 4, Insightful) 302

I hope that your school system isn't requiring its students to buy expensive graphing calculators out of their own (or their parents' own) pockets, but that's another diatribe.

If you have more calculators than you need for your own lending program, and the other math teachers (if any) at your school are also adequately equipped, then share them with other schools in your area. There's probably a classroom not too far down the road - perhaps across the tracks? - where they don't have a large number of kids carelessly abandoning valuable electronics.

Comment Re:This is what you get... (Score 1) 585

As opposed to what you get when your official policy is to reject the "invisible friend in the sky".

You seem to be playing some none-too-subtle semantic games.

A theocracy's official policies flow from whatever the government believes are (or can cynically represent as) the wishes of their invisible friend in the sky.

The Soviet Union, on the other hand, simply stated their official position on invisibly sky friends - no one is allowed to worship them - and carried on with the business of governing however the hell they wanted.

In a theocracy, theism guides policy. In the former USSR, policy forbade theism, but their policies weren't a consequence of their religious beliefs.

Comment Re:1.5% from a survey? (Score 1) 158

I'm a little bit concerned that they might not be properly accounting for multiple comparisons. The test involves six fonts, and the correction that they suggest assumes that this means there are six comparisons. Is that really the correct approach?

There are actually fifteen pairwise comparisons possible (A-B, A-C, A-D, A-E, A-F; B-C, B-D, B-E, B-F; C-D, C-E, C-F; D-E, D-F; E-F). Using the - admittedly conservative - Bonferroni correction, the result is no longer significant.

Comment Re:Nitrogen (Score 1) 434

I bought some to hold a 1 gallon gas can where I did not want the gas to possibly leak out and was hoping to prevent any gas fumes. It worked, the bags are completely air-tight.

This may be a workable short-term solution for you, but beware that plastic bags not explicitly designed for exposure to organic solvent (like gasoline) liquid and vapours may be prone to failure, sooner or later. Solvent exposure can do all kinds of aggravating things to plastics, including causing them to fog, to swell and weaken, to become rigid and brittle, or in the worst case to dissolve into sticky goo.

Comment Re:Shuttle on back of a 747 (Score 4, Insightful) 63

Um, carrying a shuttle on the back of a 747 is how it's typically transported. About as geektastic as a furniture shipment, by now.

I suspect that it was very seldom flown to New York City, however. Many millions of people would have had the opportunity to see such a flight for the first time.

And honestly, your smug dismissal of this event as being "as geektastic as a furniture shipment" marks you as being as wannabe-cool and faux-jaded as the hipster who won't listen to any band he's already heard of, because "they're so last week".

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 1) 312

To tell the truth, I actually left the phrasing the way it was as a deliberate bit of pedant-bait. You know as well as I that the W/s was nonsensical in the context in which it was used. The fact that it is possible to combine SI units in virtually any way doesn't mean that it makes sense to do so in every situation. The original poster's comment was analogous to saying that "My bucket holds 5 liters per second." While L/s are perfectly valid if we want to talk about a flow rate, or even how fast one might use the bucket to bail out a sinking ship, it's a silly unit for talking about capacity. The fact that there exists conditions under which W/s wouldn't be nonsensical doesn't make it sensible in this particular situation.

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 3, Informative) 312

So using that as a basis for comparison, seti@home is consuming 1,432,500 watts per second.

No, it isn't--a "watt per second" is a nonsensical unit. The watt is already a rate of energy consumption, equal to a joule per second.

Based on data provided by the EPA ( ) which reports carbon output as 6.8956 x 10-4 metric tons CO2 / kWh, seti is producing 3,556 metric tons of CO2 per second!

No, no, no. A kWh (kilowatt hour) is an amount of energy equivalent to drawing one kilowatt (one thousand watts) continuously for one hour: one thousand joules per second, times 3600 seconds per hour, gives 3.6 million joules per hour in one kWh. For comparison, one kilowatt is the amount of electricity drawn by roughly fifteen incandescent light bulbs, or by one smallish toaster. The average U.S. household uses on the order of 1000 kWh per month.

Using your estimate of 1,432,500 watts - 1432.5 kilowatts, trivially equivalent to 1432.5 kWh per hour - for the power draw for SETI@home, we get a consumption of 0.398 kWh per second. Using your figure of 6.89E-4 tons CO2 / kWh, that comes to 0.000274 tons per second, or about 274 grams (a little over half a pound -not three thousand tons - per second). In total it comes to about a ton of CO2 per day.

That's not a negligible amount of CO2. It comes out to the equivalent of the electricity use of about a thousand U.S. homes. (Note that that doesn't include household CO2 contributions from other sources, particularly fossil fuels burned for home heating, water heating, clothes drying, and transportation.) But it's also not an egregiously large amount of electricity--the U.S. has, what, a hundred million households?

Comment Re:Gold (Score 1) 400

That they are MORE STABLE than fiat currencies is not the same thing as them being static.

While I see your point and agree with the general thrust of your post, I'm willing to call 'bullshit' even on this milder assertion about gold.

Today, gold trades for about $1600 (USD) an ounce. Ten years ago, it traded for about $400 per ounce. I can't be bothered to look up the exact numbers, but inflation in the United States probably ran about 2% per year over the same period; the price of goods denominated in USD therefore increased by 15-30% over the same period.

As far as I know, nothing happened in the last decade to so dramatically increase the intrinsic value of gold as a metal. So the difference between the 30% increase we should have seen and the 300% increase we actually saw is down to speculation and volatility. Among the putatively unstable fiat currencies, which demonstrated a decade of 10%+ per annum deflation and thereby ruined their nation's economy? Certainly none of the major reserve currencies (USD, GBP, EUR, JPY) had such troubles.

Comment Re:Beats current techniques (Score 4, Insightful) 274

You could have the tissue alive right until you chuck it on the grill. mmmm, tender meat.

Well, no, actually.

The tenderest beef has been dead for days or even weeks. As the cells within a cut of beef die, they release enzymes that slowly digest connective tissue (mostly collagen). "Live" steaks would contain intact, live cells that wouldn't have a chance to release any digestive enzymes before being cooked.

Comment We're being actively misled about purpose of this (Score 3, Insightful) 115

Other posters have already observed some of the obvious flaws in this scheme.

Satellites fail, for the most part, when their rechargeable batteries quit and/or their consumable manoeuvring fuel runs out. These are among the heavier components aboard many satellites, so our hypothetical 'repair and resupply' launch is already going to be costly and heavy before you add all that unique and highly flexible hypothetical manipulator hardware. From any sort of rational economic standpoint, if you're going to launch a heavy, expensive satellite, you might as well launch a replacement (with all-new hardware, up-to-date electronics, incorporating the lessons learned from the previous iteration, etc.) instead of trying to fix or cannibalize the dodgy one in orbit.

Trying to service multiple satellites with one launch of our Swiss-Army-knife repair droid gets even worse, because manoeuvring between orbits tends to be very costly in terms of fuel (prohibitively so if a significant change in inclination is contemplated) and therefore weight.

And how user-serviceable are most satellites? Anything that's already in space now (or that is likely to be launched in the next decade) hasn't been designed to be repaired, modified, or scavenged after launch. Are we really solving the 'space junk' problem if our repair droid is inadvertently leaving behind a cloud of dropped screws and broken hardware? One satellite is easy to track and avoid. A haze of screws and plastic chips is not--and will still put a hole right through the ISS.

The folks at DARPA are sometimes crazy, but they're not usually idiots. Presumably they've been able to come up with the same objections as Slashdotters, and they probably realized them faster than we did. So what's really going on?

1) A stripped-down version of this tool could be used to attach de-orbiting or manoeuvring thrusters to disabled satellites that happened to be occupying (or threatening) particularly high-value orbital real estate. The ISS has to be periodically repositioned to avoid the occasional bit of space junk. Further up, there's a limited amount of space in geostationary orbit, and a malfunctioning satellite could be trouble as either a source of physical or radio clutter. If the program fails to produce its rather pie-in-the-sky 'dream' goal, it could still develop this useful sideline.

2) The military would love to have the capability to selectively damage, disable, and/or capture 'enemy' space hardware. This program would complete nearly all the steps required to develop such a capability, but under the shiny, happy patina of putative civilian applications.

Comment Re:If you are out in public why expect privacy? (Score 1) 84

Also blanking out prisons and women's shelters, doesn't make much sense to me. The Swiss government obviously didn't learn from the mistakes of other governments or Barbra Streisand. Experience has shown, that hiding information, which would normally be publicly accessible, only helps publicize that information even more and attract it undue attention.

The point, I think, is not to conceal the existence or location of these facilities (which can, after all, be readily established using a telephone book), but rather to more-thoroughly protect the privacy of the individuals visiting or making use of them. As Google has acknowledged that their face- and number-plate-blurring algorithm is only about 99% effective, the Swiss solution is to insist on specific exclusion of these particularly-privacy-sensitive locations. (It was deemed that "Oops, we're sorry that the battered woman in the window of the shelter was part of the 1% our algorithm missed" wasn't a sufficiently robust response.)

Comment Re:Why do we need real images? (Score 1) 84

I use Street View for when I want to know what the View is from the Street. Another poster has mentioned shopping for real estate, but that's far from the only use. I use it for the utterly prosaic purpose of identifying landmarks and storefronts when I'm planning a vacation or shopping trip to an unfamiliar destination. The top of a building just doesn't look like the side of a building.

Comment Re:Huh. (Score 3, Insightful) 454

Grandparent: 5 random lower case characters + one upper case = 26^6 * 6 NOT 52 ^ 6

Parent: 5 random lower case characters + one upper case = 52^6. It would be 26^6 if and only if you knew exactly where the upper case letter was, which is an unreasonable assumption. Adding an upper case letter would eliminate a straight lower-case dictionary attack entirely and double the pool of possible characters from 26 to 52. There are 6 places, so 52^6.

The grandparent poster has done the calculation correctly, if it is assumed that the cracker knows that there is exactly one uppercase character.

We're all agreed that if there is a 6-letter all-lower-case password, there are 26^6 possible passwords (26 possible character choices in each of six positions), right? For five lower case letters and one upper case letter, we draw five lower case letters (26^5 possibilities) and one upper case letter (26^1 possibilities, because it can't be a lower case letter), and we have 6 choices as to where in the password we place the upper case letter: 26^5 * 26^1 * 6 = 26^6 * 6 possible passwords.

Alternatively, consider our six-letter all-lower-case password and its 26^6 possibilities. We have a dictionary that starts aaaaaa, aaaaab, aaaaac and ends with zzzzzz. If we add exactly one (no more, no fewer) capital letter, then each entry in our original dictionary is replaced by six new passwords, one with a single capital letter in each position: Aaaaaa, aAaaaa, aaAaaa, aaaAaa, aaaaAa, aaaaaA, then Aaaaab, aAaaab, aaAaab, aaaAab, aaaaAb, aaaaaB, and so forth--again giving us 26^6 * 6 possible passwords.

That said, it would be unusual for our hypothetical cracker to have access to that sort of specific information about a password. Why would he know that there was exactly one upper case letter? Far more likely would be some sort of rudimentary password screen that required our password to contain a mix of capital and lower case letters--that is, at least one upper case, and at least one lower case. In that more-likely scenario, the parent's calculation is closer to the mark. Each of six positions could have any one of 52 values (26 upper- and 26 lower-case letters), giving 52^6 possibilities, from which we subtract 2*26^6 options, representing the forbidden all-lower-case and all-caps passwords, leaving 52^6-2*26^6 possible choices.

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