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Comment Re: 'unreliability' (Score 4, Interesting) 189

These kinds of myths and frauds aren't unique to Wikipedia. For example, there's a myth out there that prior to the Vietnam War, soldiers were reluctant to kill the enemy, and that during WWII, about half of them would either refuse to fire their guns at the enemy, or would aim to miss. This story is repeated a lot, because it's an appealing idea. It paints human nature in a positive light, it says that fundamentally we don't really want to kill other people, and it takes a lot to get us to do it. In this narrative, people are fundamentally good, until the military corrupts us and turns us into killers. Unfortunately, it's a myth, based on academic fraud. The "discovery" is based on the work of a single researcher, who never published any of the primary data or interviews his conclusions are supposedly based on, and no one- certainly no military historian- has ever found even a shred of evidence to back it up. If you think about it for even a moment, it becomes obvious that it has to be a fraud. The Japanese fought to the death over those little scraps of coral in the Pacific, preferring to commit suicide to surrender. A group of Marines isn't going to be able to take those islands unless every single soldier is fighting with the willingness and intent to kill the enemy. Contemporary accounts of the battles make it clear they were bloody and vicious, and the behavior of American soldiers wasn't always merciful. One diary talks about machine gunners gleefully using parachuting Japanese aviators as target practice, and the skipper got pissed- mostly because they were wasting ammunition.

Years ago, this myth was exposed by an article in the New York Times. And yet the myth keeps getting repeated. A couple of years ago, I saw this nonsense being perpetuated- ironically, in an article in the Times. I wrote the editor of the article to complain that he was repeating something that the Times itself had debunked, and that they should publish a correction; they never did (the Times are a bunch of smug, lazy hacks).

I do think Wikipedia is probably worse for this than most other sources of information, but the bigger problem is that people are insufficiently skeptical. We assess information based on how well it fits what we already know, and what we want to believe- instead of trying to verify it. Slashdot is a perfect example of this- people constantly prefer to pull bullshit facts out of the air to support their opinions, rather than spend two minutes to read the original article or look up a statistic online.

Comment Re:meanwhile overnight... (Score 1) 503

Here's the current list of the top 5 most read articles on the New York Times:

1. Jetliner Explodes Over Ukraine; Struck by Missile, Officials Say

2. Obama Points to Pro-Russia Separatists in Downing of Malaysia Airlines Plane

3. Fallen Bodies, Jet Parts and a Child’s Pink Book

4. Maps of the Crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

5. World Leaders Match Anger With Calls for Inquiry Into Ukraine Plane Crash

I'm going to really go out on a limb say that Putin has already lost the propaganda war here...

Comment Re:What about range on this smaller car? (Score 2) 247

People will like the smaller car and lower price,but if it doesn't have the range... they will not flock to it...

A lot of families have more than one car. You could have a large, gasoline powered car to go visit Aunt Mabel or on a camping trip in the Grand Canyon, and a smaller electric car for commuting, runs to the supermarket, etc. The hope is that eventually electric vehicles will have the range, rapid recharge rate, and charging infrastructure that they can compete with and replace gas engines; in the meantime the technology may already be mature enough to compete in particular niches. The nature of disruptive technology is that it initially plays to its strengths and gets a foothold in a market where conventional technology does not perform as well, and as it improves it eventually moves in and takes over from the conventional technology.

That being said, we are a long way away from a fleet that is all-electric or even substantially electric. It's growing rapidly compared to where it was a few years ago (basically, no electric cars), but it's still a tiny segment of the automobile market. According to Wikipedia, .62% of all cars sold in 2013 were electric. Even if that were a much higher figure- say, one-third of all cars sold each year- the average car is around 10 years old. So assume we replace ten percent of the fleet every year, then it would take years to reach a fleet that was one-third electric. Internal combustion engines are not going to go away any time soon. Tesla's stock price is soaring but GM, Ford, and Chevrolet still sell a lot more internal combustion engines than Tesla sells electrics.

Comment Re:Helpful Genes (Score 0) 133

They're both big-game hunters, but had a very different approach to it. Neanderthals had stabbing spears; they basically ran up to their prey and stabbed at it. The problem with this approach is that you have to get very close to the prey. It's hard to get close enough to a horse to kill it with a stabbing spear. It might be easier to get close to a slow-moving animal like a mammoth or wooly rhino, but then you face the problem that if it's in range of you, you're in range of the tusks/horns/feet. It's possible to kill large animals this way- saber-toothed cats did- but dangerous.

When Homo sapiens show up, they've got an entirely new technology- the atlatl, or spear-thrower. They can throw a dart 60 feet with enough force to impale a large animal. This means they don't need to get as close to strike. It also means that when they do strike, the prey can't hit back. The difference in build between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis seems to reflect this different hunting strategy. Neanderthals are short and stocky, like wrestlers. Homo sapiens are long and lanky, like basketball players. For the one, strength is key. For the other, speed, agility and long-distance throwing are key.

This may also explain the different effects that the two had on the fauna. When Neanderthals show up, we don't see any major extinctions. When Homo sapiens show up in Eurasia, we see the disappearance of mammoths, wooly rhinos, Irish elk, etc. The run-up-and-stab it hunting approach of Neanderthals wasn't that different from the hunting strategy of saber-toothed cats from the prey's standpoint. Raining sharp sticks of death down from dozens of meters away was radically different than anything the local fauna had ever faced before.

Comment Re:Reputational Damage (Score 5, Funny) 346

So basically what happened is that someone started typing an email to "" and got as far as "Joeblow@g" before the autocomplete helpfully added "". And then they hit "send". Through a combination of carelessness and cluelessness, this employee managed to put hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of customer funds at risk. Well, given what happened the last time Goldman made a mistake of this magnitude, it's clear that there's only one course of action for the company. And that's to give this employee a massive bonus.

Comment Re:perhaps a slice of crow for the US? (Score 5, Interesting) 86

It's unquestionable that the U.S. has let this thing loose; the U.S. has perhaps the most advanced cyberwarfare capabilities (at least in terms of offense) as any country on earth, having developed these weapons and techniques they can't complain too much if other countries start using them as well. However the idea is that cyberwarfare, just like conventional warfare, can and should be governed by a code of conduct. The idea would be that targets that would be considered off-limits to conventional attacks would also be off-limits to cyber-attacks. So it would be considered acceptable to attack the enemy's command-and-control network, their radars, their weapons systems, or military shipping and transport... but not to attack civilian infrastructure such as electricity, water supply, trains, banks, the stock market, etc. etc. So far, U.S. actions are consistent with this policy; we have attacked Iran's nuclear facilities but haven't tried to take down their banks or power plants, even though we probably could. You can see this policy in action where the U.S. recently accused a number of Chinese soldiers of engaging in cyberwarfare against the U.S. The issue wasn't that they engaged in cyberwarfare, which we expect the Chinese to do. It was that they were attacking civilian targets for corporate espionage, and the U.S. wanted to send a message that while they expect the military to be attacked by the Chinese, and it's a legitimate target, it's not OK to target U.S. companies.

In the current case, it would appear that Russia doesn't accept the U.S. argument that civilian infrastructure should be off-limits. Whether the U.S. can complain here or not is debatable. The U.S. has targeted civilian infrastructure during conventional operations; they knocked out the power in Serbia during actions in Kosovo, for example. So the Russians could easily argue- and not without merit- that if it's OK to take out the power in Serbia using a stealth bomber and a conventional bomb, it ought to be OK to turn out the lights in the U.S. using a logic bomb.

Comment Re:Attribution (Score 2) 86

To establish guilt in a crime, you try to identify who has means, motive, and opportunity. The working hours provide you information on opportunity; not to say that someone from China or North Korea couldn't attack during Eastern European business hours, but this tends to point to Eastern Europe as being the most likely source.

That brings us to means. Who has the capability to launch a campaign of this scope and duration? Anybody can launch a cyberattack, but relatively few countries have the resources to launch attacks against multiple organizations, in multiple countries, over many years. The big players in cyberwarfare are a relatively exclusive club, and would include the United States, Israel, China, North Korea, and Russia. So our suspect is almost certainly one of those countries.

Which brings us to motive. Who might want to attack these countries? The U.S. has a long list of enemies; certainly China, North Korea, or Russia might be interested in attacking the U.S. or at least having the capability to do so. Having the U.S. on this hit list tells us little. But what about the other countries? They include Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Greece, and Serbia. With the exception of Serbia, every single one of those countries is a member of NATO. And NATO was created specifically to counter and deter Russia. So now put it all together: the attacks appear to be coming from Eastern Europe, the only country on the list of cyberwarfare powers in that area is Russia, almost all of the countries are part of a military alliance designed to counter Russia...

Comment Re:Classic Obama (Score 5, Insightful) 211

Is anybody surprised? Claim to support Net Neutrality and give the power to the Cable lobby. He's done this before and he'll do it again. Hypocrite-in-chief.

I don't know what the hell to think about Obama anymore. The guy we elected was smart, charismatic, capable, articulate; he ran a brilliant campaign that took out the heavily favored Hilary Clinton. He came across as a man with the intelligence, principles, and pragmatism to fix the nations problems... or at least not fuck it up as catastrophically as George W. Bush did. So where the hell did that guy go?

I remember the early Obama speeches when he wasn't just a speaker but an orator, he the fire of a black preacher... he had conviction. That was the inspiring thing about him. Yeah it was pretty words, but he seemed to really believe it. Now he just seems to mouth the speeches, like they're just empty words put there by his speechwriters. At times when people ask him questions he seems barely able to articulate an answer and to fumble for words... more and more, he's that barely-keeping-it-together guy we saw during the second debate against Romney. He seems dejected, run-down... and increasingly it seems like the administration can't do a damn thing right. They're as bad as Bush ever was on drone strikes and warrantless surveillance- worse, in fact- Guantanamo isn't shut, the VA is a clusterfuck, Iraq is falling apart again, the response to the Crimea was half-assed... and now this?

I still like the guy, as a person. I think he means well. But I get the impression that he's burned out, disengaged and depressed, that he spends his days staring at the ceiling of the Oval Office and counting the days until his Presidential Library opens and he gets to take lucrative speaking gigs. And that meanwhile, with the Commander in Chief checked out, the various special interests and agendas are having a field day, and doing what they do best- turning government of the people, for the people, and by the people into the plaything of moneyed special interests, the uber-rich, and the military-industrial complex. Anyway, that's my theory. I think he means well, and he came in trying to fight the machine, but it was one man against an entire machine. And the machine ultimately broke him.

Comment Re:normally id be all for this. (Score 1) 58

if this were an education project or something i could have at my library id think this is awesome, but we spend more on defense than the next 4 largest spending countries combined. we're constantly sold on the idea that america is broke, so broke that an entire party of the government often times refuses to increase our debt limit. nearly every american highway is riddled with potholes, highschool kids have to pay a portion of their textbooks in many cases, and the entire city of detroit is about to cut off water service to a quarter of its population. The only thing that ever seems to happen in america is war. we dont have the cash to keep street lights on anymore, but we sure as shit have cash to burn for training some syrian rebels. it didnt work the first or second time, but we sent troops back to iraq for a third round of 'father knows best' diplomacy by the gun, and now we have augmented reality for the troops?

There is unquestionably a lot of wasteful military spending, but complete disengagement isn't necessarily the answer. If Obama had moved to support the Syrian moderates earlier- instead of just saying he'd support them and doing fuck-all- then perhaps the Syrian extremists wouldn't have taken over a third of Iraq. If Obama had negotiated to keep on troops in Iraq, perhaps the country wouldn't have fallen apart so quickly. If Obama hadn't completely walked away from Iraq, then maybe Maliki wouldn't have pushed the Sunnis out of power, leaving the country receptive to a takeover by Sunni militants. Powell's Pottery Barn principle also applies here: you break it, you buy it. Maybe we shouldn't have gotten involved in Iraq. Ok, *certainly* we shouldn't have gotten involved. But we did; and it wasn't just a George Dubya Bush thing, pretty much the whole country either supported him, or else was indifferent enough to go along with it. Yes, the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites goes back centuries... but under Saddam they weren't slaughtering each other. The fact that they are now is in large part due to U.S. intervention. As much as Obama and the rest of the U.S. would like to walk away from this disastrous mess, we got involved. We broke it, now we own it.

Comment Re:Spy glasses? (Score 1) 58

The idea that there's a technological fix for every problem is a very American attitude, and this idea seems particularly widespread in military circles. The fact of the matter is that the CIA is incompetent, and no amount of technology in the world can fix the fact that our intelligence agency is run by idiots. To cite just a few examples, the CIA screwed up on WMD in Iraq, failed to anticipate the Arab Spring, was caught off-guard by Putin's invasion of Crimea, and despite repeated warnings from the Kurds and others, failed to anticipate the recent moves by ISIS to take territory in Iraq. To be fair, predictions are hard, especially about the future. And it's hard to take credit for crises averted, or things that go on behind the scenes, so it may well be that the CIA occasionally does something right and we don't hear about it. All the same, these idiotic glasses seem to sum up everything that's wrong with the CIA. What next, will they try assassinating someone with an exploding cigar? Oh, wait...

Comment Re:Thanks for the tip! (Score 5, Funny) 448

I'm in complete agreement here. We desperately need some way to tell legitimate Kickstarter campaigns from frauds. For that matter, the entire internet is full of scams and con-men waiting to take your money. That's why my team has developed iScam, the revolutionary new fraud-protection device.

Inside every iScam is a tiny induction coil that is powered by negative energy. When negative energy released by a scam such as this one activates the device, it generates a current which in turn activates a blinking LED, with the frequency of the blinking being proportional to the negative energy field. Simply aim the device at your computer screen, or hold it up to the phone when you get that too-good-to-be-true offer, or even point it at your lover... if there's any deception in the area, iScam will be activated and you'll be alerted!

Pledge just $15 and we'll send you one device. For $25 we'll send you two. For $100, we'll send you an improved prototype with even more sensitive scam-detection algorithms. And for the especially gullible-those of you who have lost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to scammers before- you need the top-level security provided by iScam Pro, which has a more powerful induction circuit, both increasing the range of the device and allowing it to detect even the tiniest fib! Pledge just $999 and we'll send you an iScam Pro. With our patented technology, you'll be safer than ever. And best of all, it's all environmentally friendly and fair-trade, with 10% of all proceeds going to benefit orphaned pandas.

Comment Re:Administrators (Score 4, Insightful) 538

1. Academically inclined people who like every working group, believes that solving problems demands more of their own group. Engineers wnat more engineers, accountants, more accountants, etc.

This is a problem in two ways. First, one of those groups- the leadership and administration- is in charge of determining how the pie is cut. Unsurprisingly, over time we find that the people who cut the pie end up with larger and larger slices, and the people doing the baking, rolling the dough, grinding the flour and cutting up the pumpkins (it is a pumpkin pie in our example, because I like pumpkin pie, and if you don't, you can write your own pie-based metaphor) get less and less. Good leadership and management are critical to the success of an organization, but administrative bloat just increases the paperwork and make life more difficult for everyone else. Now the guy rolling the dough has to fill out a bunch of forms and get a performance review, and the guy buying the flour has to go through a complicated procurement process instead of just going down to the store. So this creates inefficiency and waste within the university.

The other issue is the degree to which university education is itself wasteful. We're fed the line that we need more PhDs to be competitive. This is a vicious lie, spread by self-serving academics. One recent article found that only 15% of biology PhDs got a tenure-track job within 5 years of receiving their PhD. I don't know what the figure is these days, but I guarantee you that with the economic downturn and the surge of grad school enrollment after the financial crisis, that percentage went down. I don't necessarily have a problem with a system that rejects 85% of people and keeps only the 15% who are good if the cut is made early. The problem is that you're forcing people to invest 5-6 years in a PhD (perhaps on top of a couple years of MS), and then another 5 years as a postdoc... and then you're casting them off. Training up a bunch of people to do jobs they will never realistically get to do is exploitative, cruel, and wasteful. It reminds me of a parable told by Zhuangzi, about a student who paid a great deal to a teacher to be taught the art of dragon-slaying... he graduates only to find that there's no market for his highly specialized skills, because he can't find any dragons. Grad school is a lot like that.

Graduate school primarily exists to serve one need- not the need of a student for education, not the need of society for a highly educated workforce- the need of academia for cheap labor. Graduate students exist to help teach courses and run experiments, cheaply. They are the cheap, hard-working, moderately skilled migrant fruit-picker of academia. Recently I was given this advice on a grant proposal: don't hire a postdoc, they're expensive and if they're actually any good at all, they'll just try to get a job and leave. For the same price, you get two grad students, and they're guaranteed to stick around for the duration of the PhD. Great. So instead of throwing a lifeline to some dumb bastard of a postdoc who was stupid enough to go into academia, we're going to instead create two new people who will in a few years go on to compete with the first poor fuck in the impossible quest for a tenure track job. But the incentives are structured by the university and the granting agency so that we will end up doing just that.

That's my reward for being in the 15%. I get to go from being the exploited, to the exploitee. No longer a whore, but madam of my own whorehouse. Hopefully I'll still be able to look myself in the mirror in a few years. I try to rationalize what I'm doing by saying hey, at least I'm honest. I tell prospective students just what they're in for. I will never, ever say "in a few years there will be a lot of retirements, and a lot of jobs will become available". They've been saying that for 20 years, and they'll say it for another 20, and it will never, ever happen. And if I ever say that, please shoot me. But there's a problem. Grad students are naive. They're kids. They're young, dumb, idealistic; they think they're invincible. And this generation was told they're all specially uniquely wonderful, and the world exists to grant them their hearts' desire. You give them the reality- the world is cruel, the system is designed to exploit them, not to see them succeed- and they won't listen. It's the Lake Wobegon Effect: everyone is above average. Tell them that only 15% of the PhDs get that research job, and 85% of students think they'll be in the 15%. It's the remaining 15% of students who have the self-awareness to realize that they aren't necessarily going to get a job, they have hope.

Comment Re:Administrators (Score 5, Insightful) 538

In my department, the faculty work in a run-down, dilapidated old building. Offices are barely large enough to hold weekly meetings with undergraduates, and it's difficult to get the lab space you need to do research. Half a dozen postdocs and graduate students are crammed into a single office. The building is infrequently cleaned- the walls, bathrooms and offices are filthy- and they don't even empty the trash cans in the offices anymore. The workers went on strike to get something like a 1.5% annual raise- which is not a raise by any stretch of the imagination when you factor in inflation. It just means your salary isn't cut.

Meanwhile, administration gets a shiny fancy new building, with huge meeting rooms and offices, and the head of the university gets a big fat raise- and they were already paid about ten times what a starting faculty member would make.

A good administrator is worth their weight in gold. They make things happen, they facilitate research and teaching, and make it easier for everyone else to do their job. But bad administration... bad adminstration is like a parasite. They turn things around. Instead of supporting the university, they see the rest of the university as working to support them. Instead of focusing on doing groundbreaking research, they want faculty to get government grants which pay overhead- i.e., support for administration. Somehow, there's never enough for the people who actually make things happen. But there's always enough for the people at the top of the university hierarchy. It reminds me a lot of that scene in 'Animal Farm' where the milk goes into the pigs' slop;

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