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Submission + - Kicking ACTA's Ass: Geist's 10 Minute Takedown at European Parliament (

An anonymous reader writes: As protests in Europe against ACTA have grown, skeptics have argued that most criticisms are based on misunderstandings or incorrect information about the treaty. This week, the European Parliament held its first public workshop on ACTA and Canadian professor Michael Geist took ten minutes to demonstrate why the agreement raises major concerns on process, substance, and likely effectiveness. The video and transcript are a must for anyone looking to become informed on ACTA with a full report apparently coming soon.

Comment What if the content is no longer retrievable (Score 1) 1009

What if through some (magical) combination of hardware and software, after say two months, if you didn't log in, the contents became completely irretrievable? Then if you were arrested, you only had to hold out for two months before they would have to release you. Contempt of court means that they can only hold you while you can possibly give them what they need. If it is impossible for you to comply, which would be true after two months, they have to charge you with something else (obstruction of justice?) or release you.

Comment Why? (Score 3, Insightful) 235

Only a completely de-normalized flat-file database would need anything like that number of columns. That would mean many duplicate pieces of information, and a complete maintenance nightmare. The only purpose I can see is to have views of existing normalized data for fast searching, but that would be read-only data.

This is a feature in need of an application and I can see very few applications.

Comment Monolith facts (Score 1) 199

Some monolith facts:
  1. The monolith can be any size, but the proportions are 1:4:9. It's actually infinitely dimensional, so the next three are 16,25,36. Notice the pattern?
  2. The monolith is found on the moon in the crater Tycho. Tycho is the one with all the streaks coming from it on any picture of a full moon; like arrows pointing at the crater saying "find monolith here".
  3. When the sun hits the monolith for the first time in the 4 million years since the apes were impregnated with the idea of the use of tools, it sends a message to the rebroadcast station near Jupiter (Saturn in the book) saying this planet has sufficiently advanced to be able to reach their moon, check them out!

Comment foldit can't be just a game (Score 1) 80

The primary problem with foldit is that it can't be just a game. Since it is trying to simulate science, the game designers can't simplify features to increase playability. So when player frustration sets in due to the complexity, there is no simpler version or cheat mode. You are competing against nature, and nature is a bitch.

This causes many people to give up on foldit after a short while, because it takes time to learn what gains points. What is cool about the game is that many of the best players know relatively little about biology. It's a game that anyone can play, it's just hard to do well at it. If you like logic puzzles, crosswords, soduku, chess, or Go, you will probably like foldit.

Comment Bill always expected to give away his money (Score 5, Interesting) 407

In 1994, Bill Gates gave an interview to Playboy. He stated then that he was going to give away his money. In it he says:

PLAYBOY: Does your net worth of multi-billions, despite the fact that it's mostly in stock and the value varies daily, boggle your mind?

GATES: It's a ridiculous number. But remember, 95 percent of it I'm just going to give away. [Smiles] Don't tell people to write me letters. I'm saving that for when I'm in my 50s. It's a lot to give away and it's going to take time.

PLAYBOY: Where will you donate it?

GATES: To charitable things, scientific things. I don't believe in burdening any children I might have with that. They'll have enough. They'll be comfortable.

Comment Some people are just very good at this (Score 5, Interesting) 144

I played for a few months a year and half ago. I was better than most at it, but there was one guy who almost always got the best score on every protein he worked on. He was a mutant at it; the Michael Jordan of protein folding. I joked that it was like The Last Starfighter , he was being selected for being taken off planet by the aliens who developed the game. He had a way of identifying parts of a protein that could be modified to improve it. By studying people like him...on what they see that nobody else does, can lead to improved automated algorithms, which can lead to significant improvements in medicines.

Finding optimal folds of proteins is an NP-Hard problem, so having any heuristic algorithm improvements can vastly increase the chance of having automated tools find useful folds in reasonable amounts of time.

Comment Lost Story Telling (Score 2, Interesting) 170

The best way to describe Lost is in the words of one of its main actors, Terry O'Quinn. He called it The Mysterious Gilligan's Island of Dr. Moreau. (An allusion to The Mysterious Island, Gilligan's Island, and The Island of Dr. Moreau.) Flashbacks and flashforwards in story telling is not new. The Mahabharata and Arabian Nights used it.

Comment Why doesn't Google apply a global filter for CC#s? (Score 2, Interesting) 95

All CC numbers have a particular pattern, and there is even a check digit. Why doesn't Google provide a global filter in their search index so that any keyword that matches a credit card number is not indexed? And pages with CC numbers not cached, or blanked in the cache?

Sites such as bulletin boards frequently get somebody being stupid and posting their credit card number. The mods fix it, but the Google spider gets there first.

Comment Old typewriters didn't have a zero or one key (Score 1) 806

This is because on typewriters (yes, I know most of you haven't ever seen one), they frequently didn't have a zero or one key. You had to use lowercase "l" for one and capital "O" for zero.

As for old laws that were typed on a typewriter, getting them changed requires legislation, which is very expensive and time consuming, unless they can pass some sort of "meta-legislation" that changes all lowercase "l" to one throughout the law where appropriate.

Comment Article wrong, GMT correlation not wrong (Score 5, Informative) 600

The most commonly used correlation of the Gregorian Calendar and the Maya Calendar is the GMT correlation, after Goodwin, Martinez, Thompson, the main proponents. In this correlation, December 21, 2012 will be the end of the 13th Baktun. The only other correlation used by any but fringe scholars places the end of the 13th Baktun two days later on December 23rd. These guys are proposing a new correlation because of some reading of the Venus pages in the Dresden Codex. However. as has been known since at least the 1950s the Venus pages work exactly right with the GMT correlation, so these guys are just wrong about their correlation.

The reason for all the hoopla about 2012, is that in the Maya Calendar, the last creation ended on a 13th Baktun. The lunatics suppose that since the last creation ended on a 13th Baktun, the Maya supposed that this creation would also end after 13 Baktuns, but there is no evidence that the Maya had any such beliefs. There is a date on the West Panel of the Temple of Inscriptions from Palenque that refers to an anniversary of the crowning of the king, Pacal, that makes it quite obvious that the Maya believed that there was a 14th through 20th Baktun.

So, in summary, these guys are wrong about the new correlation, and all the 2012 nutjobs are wrong about even the Maya believing that 2012 was the end of this creation. For more information, see the presentation on the FAMSI (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies) web site by Mark Van Stone that fully details what is known and what is true about Maya beliefs about 2012.


"2012" a Miscalculation; Actual Calendar Ends 2220 600

boombaard writes "News is spreading quickly here that scientists writing in a popular science periodical (Dutch) have debunked the 2012 date (google translation linked) featuring so prominently in doomsday predictions/speculation across the web. On 2012-12-21, the sun will appear where you would normally be able to see the 'galactic equator' of the Milky Way; an occurrence deemed special because it happens 'only' once every 25.800 years, on the winter solstice. However, even if you ignore the fact that there is no actual galactic equator, just an observed one, and that the visual effect is pretty much the same for an entire decade surrounding that date, there are major problems with the way the Maya Calendar is being read by doomsday prophets." I wonder what Amazon's return policy on a box full of 3 doomsday wolves shirts is?

Comment Only 10% of users even consider changing defaults (Score 1) 339

I was at a meeting at Microsoft recently. A program manager on Visual Studio said that in their metrics, only 10% of the people ever open the Options dialog in a program, much less change anything. For that reason, the default configurations have to be right, and it takes a very strong argument to add the feature to make changing the default configurations even possible.

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