Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

Comment Nonsense? Nonsense. (Score 2) 164

First off, film was *not* designed to capture an accurate spectrum. If you took a picture of bouquet of flowers, and compared the spectrum of that image to the original's, the spectra would be quite different even if the color reproduction was perfect.

That's because color isn't a physical property like wavelength. It is a physiological response to wavelength. This sounds like splitting hairs, but it's not. Two different mixes of wavelengths can produce the same perceived color if they stimulate the cones in human eyes the same way. Birds and reptiles have *four* primary colors instead of three (we know this by studying the cones in their eyes). By avian standards mammals are color-blind to colors we obviously don't even have names for. If they looked at our "accurate" color pictures, it wouldn't look right to them at all. Starlings that look black to us might appear a deep -- something to other birds.

Second, while the goal for film might be to reproduce the same color response in humans as if they were looking at the original scene (although that's debatable, e.g. Kodachrome, Technicolor), in engineering an objective is only as good as the tests you measure success with. Up until the 1990s, movie studios shot images of models (the human kind) holding color strips to help film technicians to establish a consistent color balance (link with "China Girl" pictures). These were inserted into the prints so you could check that the print was developed properly. But since models in these pictures were *white*, the test only ensured good results for white skin.

Finally film is far from perfect in reproducing human perception. How many times have you seen an amazing scene, shot a picture, and have the picture come out "meh"? You have to understand the properties of the recording and playback media, and consciously take them into account to get a controlled result.

Comment Re:Resistant to anti-ship missles? (Score 2) 229

...any ship that gets within range of them [anti-ship missiles] is basically always sunk....What exactly are these ships being built for...?

To answer your explicit question, Zumwalt is being built primarily to attack land targets with cruise missiles. Some people doubt we need a new ship class to do that though. I expect one of the things they hope to achieve is much smaller manpower requirements. According to the Wikipedia (take that as you will) Zumwalt will mount almost as many missile launch cells as the Arleigh Burke class destroyers (80 vs. 90), but require less than half the personnel (140 vs 300) to operate.

As for your implicit question, apparently the designers hope that a combination of long range attack weapons (2500 km for the cruise missiles), stealth, and anti-missile systems will keep the ship safe. The stealth measures aren't just anti-radar, it's acoustic too. Again according to Wikipedia, the Zumwalt will be about as quiet as a Los Angeles class submarine.

If the Zumwalt class destroyers prove to be nearly as capable as the Arleigh Burke class, and roughly as safe (instead of safer as hoped), just the smaller crew size would justify them even at twice the cost. You might lose just as many ships, and twice the treasure, but you'd only lose *half* as many men.

I'm pretty liberal, and I don't think much of wasteful military boondoggles like the F-35, but I'm not opposed to the *concept* of the Zumwalt. The issue will probably be in the execution. We seem to have lost the capability of doing large projects like this without turning them into train wrecks.

Comment Re:55% (Score 2) 198

Well, the thing about literary opinions is that they can't be entirely disproved, but I don't think that a reading of Ovid's poem supports your construction. I do endorse preparing for the future, though. It's just that speaking from experience youth passes a lot faster than you expect.

Comment Re:55% (Score 4, Insightful) 198

If it's important for you to travel the world before you die, then do it right away even if you *don't* have the markers for some degenerative genetic disease. See to your priorities as soon as is humanly possible, at least until they develop a test that tells whether you'll be hit by a bus on your 50th birthday.

The advice "carpe diem" ("seize the day") is as good now as it was 2000 years ago when Horace wrote those words:

You should not ask it, it is wrong to know impious things, what end the
gods will have given to me, to you, O Leuconoe, and do not try
Babylonian calculations [i.e., astrology]. How much better it is to endure whatever will be,
whether Jupiter has allotted to you more winters or [whether this one is] the last,
which now weakens upon the opposed rocks of the Tyrrhenian
Sea: may you be wise, strain your wines [i.e., prepare it for immediate drinking], and because of short life
prune long anticipation. While we are speaking, envious life
will have fled:seize the day, trusting the future as little as possible.

Comment Re:The govenment should just double spending. (Score 1) 767

Because doubling spending will fix the ecomony.

It might.

I don't think spending is necessarily a good thing or bad thing in itself. It seems to me that it depends.

The problem is that people don't seem to be able to grasp those two little words. The details of what you spend it on matter, and the economic context you spend it in matters. People often view these things backwards, letting Congress spend freely during full employment periods where the private economy can put every dollar it can get its hands on to work right away, and demanding that the government tighten its belt during periods when the private sector is desperately searching for safe places to stash its cash.

It depends. If you can't grasp that, you're just a mouthpiece for political slogans.

Comment Re:Lost wages? What about back pay? (Score 1) 767

Depends on where you are in life and what kind of job you have. If you're under thirty and in a job that pays $100,000, you absolutely benefit from the shutdown, unless you have a gambling problem or something. If you're fifty years old, making $35,000 picking up trash, and you have pay rent on an apartment big enough for four kids, it might not be so much fun.

Frankly, I don't understand this attitude that it's fun not to go to work. Yeah, vacation is one thing, getting locked out is another. I've always enjoyed working. And I know people who work for the federal government who care about their work, like scientists who were locked out of their life's work. You think back pay is such a great deal for them?

Comment It's not surveillance fatigue. (Score 1) 610

It's *outrage* fatigue. We live in a world with a "24 hour news cycle", which doesn't mean "news" in the old fashioned sense of painstaking shoe-leather journalism and fact checking, but quick and cheap shoot-from-the-hip opinion from hired gun pundits.

So trying to get people excited about government surveillance these days is like offering a joint to a man in an opium stupor.

Comment Reminds me of this guy I once met at a conference (Score 1) 178

He was a retired navy officer and his kid had invented this ultrasonic gizmo that killed mosquito larvae. The idea was you'd lower it into a mosquito breeding source, push a button, and a massive ping of ultrasound would burst the buoyancy bladder of the larva and it'd sink to the bottom of the water and drown.

It was very cool tech. He had it set up in a fish tank. He'd put some larvae in the tank, push the button and squeak! They all burst like popcorn. And the device had its applications, particularly in fixed installations like sewage treatment plants. But the big money spinner was going to be catch basins -- the storm drains you have on every street. After a big rain you'd have your inspectors drive around neighborhood, lowering the sci-fi gizmo into the drains and zap all the larvae.

The guy figured that there must be a gazillion storm drains in the country that need treatment. What he didn't figure on was how hard it was to compete with the existing, low tech approach. You put a college kid on a scooter with a messenger bag full of 120 briquettes. Have him ride up and down the street, chucking a briquette into every basin he sees -- he doesn't even have to stop. In the time it takes to zap two or three catch basins with the gizmo, you've got the whole street done and you don't have to come back after the next rain. It's good for the rest of the mosquito season in most places.

The lesson is that cool technology does not a business plan make. They company's still in business, you can google them if you like. Their product does have some useful applications, but it's not the Mosquito Magnet[tm] sized runaway hit they thought it was going to be.

Comment Re:Obama should agree to delay the individual mand (Score 1) 501

Well, if deficits really don't matter, then a sensible compromise would be to ax the medical device tax and add it to the government's annual operating deficit. The tax is projected to bring in $2.9 billion/year over the next decade (the source of the "30 billion" figure that's been thrown around), which is about a 0.1% reduction in federal revenues. That's a lot of moolah in absolute terms, but not relative terms.

I think deficits do matter, but it *depends* on the economic context, which means right away we've lost most of the people in this conversation.

Comment Re:Opening a new opportunity? (Score 1) 548

Maybe not Playboy, but I'd say it's a pretty good bet that this stuff isn't going away.

If the summary is true, what we're looking at is an inflation of transaction costs. It's harder for authors to tell their stuff and for readers to buy it, because the large markets that most people participate in have been barred to them. Playboy doesn't solve that problem, for one thing because its not going to be perceived as a friendly place by female customers. What the author wants is for his or her smarmy little masterpiece to be easy to impulse-buy, quietly and nearly anonymously, without the reader being forced to register for a special smut site.

What losing access to Amazon and B&N would mean to authors is that titles which are marginal sellers (including most erotica) won't be worth selling at all. But people don't write because it's a sensible career move; they write because they like to write or have a compulsion to write or have a fantasy of what being a writer means. So nearly all those books that are being banned will still be available, but in non-commercial forums. "50 Shades" started life as *Twilight* fan-fiction and was later re-worked. Even if it could never have been published, it would have been written and distributed anyway.

Comment Re:Romance and Erotica is not the same (Score 3, Interesting) 548

This is pretty close to correct, I'd say, but it's a *literary* analysis. Erotica, category romance, and romantic fiction are *marketing* categories.

Category romances are formula driven. More than any other kind of genre fiction, category romance about guaranteeing a *repeatable* reading experience. So category romance publishers have very specific parameters for each of their imprints, such as (real examples here) "features a young heroine who is sexually awakened but inexperienced," or "Strong, gorgeous, medical professional heroes at the top of their game with hearts of gold, and heroines to match." If enjoy one Harlequin® Medical Romance (no joke -- they're serious about meaningful branding), the editors go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that you'll like the next one you'll pick up. If you're the sort of reader who might purchase a Harlequin® Love Inspired (Harlequin's Christian Romance line) novel, you can be certain it doesn't contain any unpleasant surprises.

In the romance publishing business what sets apart "erotica" from category romance with an erotic elements is that all important "happily ever after" ending. Having a romantic story that ends happily isn't enough, it's got to be "happily ever after" which is something different. And the story has got to get there following the particular imprint's formula. I actually respect that. They're not my cup of tea, but category romances retell myths that people want to hear over and over again. That's really no different than endlessly rehashing the hero's journey in fantasy literature. The challenge for any writer of genre fiction is to renew the myth; to bring it to life for the people who want to experience it.

As for the erotica market, I have done book critiques for a friend who writes stuff for that market, even though her stuff makes me want to flush my eyes with bleach. I don't think the market for non-romance erotica is as elaborately segmented as for romance, but I think it will get there. My erotica-writing friend has a lot of fans, enough to put her on the NY Times best seller list, albeit briefly, but that's outstanding for a genre novel. And they clearly like reading about sexual acts in graphic detail: kinky stuff with restraints and pain and multiple simultaneous penetrations. Yet they have nothing but contempt for "50 Shades" which they consider tasteless swill. It's pretty easy to see what their beef is in that case; the heroine of 50 shades is a "bottom" in BDSM-speak, and my friend's heroines are "tops". But there are other tribal divisions in the erotica fanbase whose explanation completely eludes me.

People try to divide science fiction from fantasy or romance from erotica from pornography, but ultimately the market isn't out literary ontologies; it's about matching up authors with readers who might enjoy their work. Suppose you're an author who's written an urban fantasy novel with erotic scenes and a happy ending. You could offer that very same story to Harlequin (a romance publisher), Exotica (an erotica publisher), or TOR Books (a traditional sci-fi and fantasy imprint of Macmillan). Any one of those publishers might take the book on, but what their editors ask you to do with it before it is published will be radically different.

Comment Re:First world problems. (Score 2) 791

This is where reality differs from theory. In theory, all micro-USB devices would be able to swap chargers but I know of one person (anecdote, but true nonetheless) who upgraded his phone, used the charger from his old phone, and fried his new phone due to differences in voltage and power.

You think you are making the argument against following the standard, but actually you are making the argument *for* the standard. Either the first phone's manufacturer failed to follow the standard's specification for voltage output in his power adapter, or the second phone's manufacturer failed to comply with the standard's specification of required range of input voltage.

Also, if compatibility is mandated then how will new features be developed without potentially damaging legacy devices?

Well, if you *don't* follow the standard, then you ought to use a proprietary connector.

There's two issues to consider: the justification for the existence of a proprietary connector, and the justification for *using* that connector on a particular device. Apple's lightning connector provides *two* twisted pairs, power, is very compact. The question is whether phone and tablet users require the particular set of capabilities it provides. You can of course concoct scenarios where you might want to use those capabilities, but that's not the same as creating the best possible experience for users.

Comment Re:This takes the prize. (Score 2) 257

Truly there are things about Apple for which we can be critical. An office building is not one of them.

Personally, I think the building is cool. I think that companies should do better than to just shove their workers into cubicle farms and expect them to be happy and productive.

That doesn't mean that this project should be above criticism. It's more than just a building; or even an ordinary campus. It's a one-of-a-kind project. Projects like this are risky; if this doesn't work out Apple will own one giant, very expensive white elephant. What's more lavish corporate headquarters are often a sign that a company has jumped the shark -- that it's focused on ego and not on making customers happy while controlling costs.

A friend of mine once worked for a high tech company that attempted a lavish, beautiful, eco-chic campus. As the costs spiraled, they decided to reduce the scope of the project so that only management and marketing moved into the fancy new campus. Engineering remained in their giant cubicle farm miles away. Yes, they went there. The compny spent ten years building that new headquarters, but two years after moving they were forced to sell it. They were asking 62 million, which would have been selling at a loss. They got 30.

I don't expect Apple's new headquarters will be a disaster like that. I believe and hope it will be a great success. But people are right to be skeptical of a project like that.

Slashdot Top Deals

A computer scientist is someone who fixes things that aren't broken.