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Comment Crap article. (Score 5, Insightful) 113

And by that, I mean both the Tamba Bay and the Slashdot article. There is nothing anywhere about how she got the biodiesel from algae, which at this point is the only interesting thing about the experiment. It mentions photoautotrophic cultivation, which just means that the algae use light to grow, which is a big no-shit-Sherlock. It mentions osmotic sonication, which is a fancy word for using sound waves and osmotic principles to get the detergent into the cell innards. Google searches turn up no indication of how the experiment was set up, what the actual results or anything of interest. The best thing I got was a list of who else won what other categories at the fair.

So we have two utterly known principles being applied to biodiesel generation from algae, and somehow this makes news as a breakthrough. Yawn.

Which leads me to my second rant: the insistence of news organizations to hail science fair winners as geniuses who solved a problem no one else could (I'm specifically looking at the stories about the kid arranging solar cells in a tree shape). It completely oversells the experiment, turns the kid into something they're not, and covers up the actual interesting item: that you can do cool science in your home that goes beyond baking powder volcanoes. It could even be science that is relevant to an existing topic of interest to actual scientists, which should put the kids on a good trajectory to actually solving the problem. But no, instead we are presented with kid geniuses who solve world hunger, and I get to fend off all kinds of dumb questions and comments about science, the state of technology and why we're not listening more to kids.

Now get off my lawn.

Comment Re:So what's the problem? (Score 1) 463

Utterly, completely, fantastically, wrong. Exhibit A: Castle Crashers, which is still in the top 5 of the most popular XBLA games ever, and it was released by someone who, until then, had only released a flash game. Exhibit B: Orcs Must Die, whose developer had until then never published an XBOX 360 game. Exhibit C: Limbo, whose single developer had never published any game on any console before. And those are just the games I bought.

I understand that MS is making quite a few mistakes, but it also seems that a lot of the "issues" are lies and misunderstandings repeated in the Internet echo chamber.

Comment Re:So the correct action is... (Score 1) 601

The slight problem is that rhinos aren't cows. You can't ranch them in the traditional sense. The only thing you can do is to provide them with the space, the environment and the partners necessary to reproduce, and then hope you don't have to ever get close to them again. That means... wide-open parks that cannot be reasonably policed. Which invites the same poachers.

That said, I'd also like to see responsible horn harvesting. It can only drop demand for illegally obtained horn. The trick is to make sure people can verify it was responsibly harvested.

Comment Re:Don't Do The Dig ... (Score 1) 601

So you're saying that without this law, companies would actually stop the dig and check for what's going on? No, they would do exactly what they were doing even after the law was enacted.

All that this shows is that laws that ask people to self-report and incur significant costs due to the self-reporting are going to fail. There are a couple of solutions to it, whether it is to have the public pay for the cost (not going to happen in Texas), to not grant construction permits in areas with caves or to have an archeologist attached to every construction, but just passing a law that says "you will pay significant money anytime something happens that no one will find out about" is silly. It also shows that self-regulation is a complete boondoggle that works only for the most masochistic corporations, or where there is great publicity attached to every event that is supposed to be self-regulated.

Comment Re:Of course. (Score 5, Interesting) 749

I fully expect news to surface that he was into drugs, has been accused of sexual assault, a slacker and general no-good person. We already have the slacker/stupid angle (he didn't graduate high-school!). Maybe they can find somebody who said that he smoked pot at some point, and his girlfriend is probably going to be labeled a stripper, or at least her pole-dancing video is the only thing anyone is ever going to mention.

Comment Re:It's incredible to me (Score 1) 322

You, and pretty much all the other gun nuts, have this fantasy that you'll be facing the intruders or attackers at the ready, hunkered down behind a bulletproof couch or car, dispensing justice with your True American gun of BadAssery.

Here's how those things actually pan out: intruders quietly get into the house, either through an unlocked door, through an open window or through a broken window. By the time you realize what's going on, they are either pointing a gun at you, took what they came for or decided it wasn't worth it to rob an occupied house. And for every anecdote about a home owner chasing off dangerous criminals with guns, I'll give you a story about a home owner gunned down by intruders while they were looking for their gun. See for example the deaths of the district attorney in Texas.

For muggings and robberies in the street, you're looking at even worse odds, because the attacker by definition pulls the gun on you before you do. Unless, of course, you walk with your gun drawn at all times, and then you're still open for someone to surprise you from behind. And finally, to be the hero in a mass shooting, you actually need to shoot the murderer. I'd like to see you identify the right guy from a crowd of 5-6 people all pointing guns in various directions.

And for a real fun fact, I'll give you a neat robbery scenario. Friends of ours woke up one morning with all the carpets gone in their apartment (persian rugs can fetch nice sums). Turns out the criminals had actually broken into the apartment and gassed it with sleeping gas.

In short, guns are an illusion of safety. Someone who wants to get you will get you, because they always have the benefit of surprise.

And this entire business of stopping a dedicated army with rifles and guns is an even bigger illusion. Syria is nicely illustrating why.

Comment Re:Assumptions (Score 1) 293

Increasing energy efficiency is STILL a good thing, because it means that the increased use of it comes at a lower cost, raising overall standards ofThe living.

In other words, this is an interesting observation, but completely irrelevant to the question of whether increased efficiencies are something to promote or not. They are only relevant to the question of how "how much energy are we going to need in the future" and to "what kind of policies do we want to pursue if we want to reduce the usage of energy". The answer to the latter is always "use tax".

Comment If Life Wasn't So Busy, My Own (Score 5, Informative) 335

How Will You Replace Google Reader?

(Disclaimer: I'm going to use the term 'bandwidth' universally instead of the more correct 'latency' or 'throughput' so normal people can hopefully understand this post) The biggest problem I have with every alternative I have tried is that they are built with the most annoying design flaws. They are so painful to me that I am certain these flaws will be look back upon as the geocities of our modern day web development.

When I fire up an alternative, the responsiveness that was in Google Reader just isn't there. And it always seems like the alternatives require you to hit "refresh" on their interface and then what happens? It apparently makes a call out to every single RSS feed to get updates. On the surface this may seem like standard HTTP way of thinking about things. But it makes for a shit user experience. I have thousands of RSS feeds. Thousands. And if I hit refresh in this paradigm, my browser makes 1,000+ HTTP GET requests. It's not a lot of data but if even one of those requests is slow, it's usually blocking on ceding control back to me.

So let's iterate improvements on here that will get us back to Google Reader style responsiveness, shall we? Well, one of the simplest improvements I can see is to do these requests asynchronously with nonblocking web workers. You can attach each of them to the div or construct that each feed is displayed in and only have them work when that feed is visible (for instance if I am collapsing/expanding folders of feeds). You can grey out the feed until the request comes back but if another request returns first, it is parsed and inserted and activated to my vision. That way if comes back faster than NASA's Photograph of the Day, I can read while waiting for my images.

But the core problem is that I'm on my home computer on a residential cable modem and, let's face it, Cox sucks. So what I think Google was doing was sacrificing their bandwidth to actually "reverse" the request from client to server. And, in doing so, they could package up all your updates and ship them out in one request (probably compressed). So, this is how I would approach that. Instead of doing a heart beat HTTP GET to check for RSS updates, I'd build a WebSocket and instead of requesting information, the client (browser) would be listening for information. The event/listener paradigm here would save both the user and the RSS host a lot of bandwidth but it would cost the host of the feed reader service some of that bandwidth (although much less). So basically the client JavaScript would load the page just like normal but instead of continually sending HTTP GET requests, a WebSocket would merely inform the server which feeds are active and listen for updates coming in from the server.

On the downside, this greatly complicates the server side. You need to have one be-all end-all "cache" or storage of all incoming feeds that any user is subscribed to. And for each of these feeds, you need to have a list of the users subscribed to it. And now your server will need to maintain the HTTP GET requests to and NASA in order to get updates. When it gets an update, there's two ways you could handle it (user queues are complicated so I won't suggest that) but the most basic way is to send it right out to everyone on that subscription list who has an active WebSocket session established with their account. If a new WebSocket session is established, they simply get the last N stories from their subscriptions (Google included pagination backwards binned by time). To alleviate even more bandwidth from you, you could store it on the client side with HTML5 Web Storage and then the first thing the Web Socket does is find the last date on the last stored element and send that across to the server to establish the session. The server responds with any updates past that time. And from there your WebSocket is merely listening and inserting elements into the page when they arrive.

Of course, after you valiantly save your RSS providers from death by a thousand cuts, you yourself face that same fate. And now you know why Google scheduled a turn off of Reader ...

Submission + - Death of Trees Correlated with Human Cardiovascular & Respiratory Disease (

eldavojohn writes: PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, which has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits.

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