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Submission + - When does "the observed" become fact? When does data suggest "knowledge?"

An anonymous reader writes: Our eyes can be deceived, no doubt about it, but, what do we do when "data" does not fit known patterns? When does the observed turn into fact? I am sure that Ohm did enough readings on voltages and currents to say the observed turned to fact: E=IR. But, some things are not as clear as reading a meter. What do we do then? Is the observer always declared wrong, or at some point do we change the "observed" to "fact?"

Here is a story about "officials" — (as in doctors, nurses, police) who say they saw a 9 year old boy walk backwards up a wall. Do we disbelive the observers or do we somehow after enough "viewings of such events" say that it is possible to walk up a wall or be demon possessed?

Here is the story ->

Submission + - This 400-HP 3-Cylinder Race Car Engine Can Fit In Your Hands 2

cartechboy writes: Motorsports used to be about lots of horsepower, torque, and big engines. In recent years there's been a shift to downsizing engines, using less fuel, and even using alternative energy such as clean diesel and hybrid powertrains. Today Nissan unveiled a 400-horsepower 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine that weighs only 88 pounds. This engine will be part of the advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain that will power the ZEOD RC electrified race car that will run in the 2015 LMP1 class during the race season. Nissan says the driver of the ZEOD RC will be able to switch between electric power and gasoline power with the batteries being recharged via regenerative braking. Even more impressive, according to Nissan, for every hour the ZEOD RC races, the car will be able to run one lap of the Le Mans' 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe on electric power alone. If true, that will make it the first race car in history to complete a lap during a formal race with absolutely zero emissions. If this all works, we could be witnessing the future of motorsports unfold before our eyes later this year when the ZEOD RC makes its race debut at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

Comment The Mac demoed had 4X the RAM of one sold (Score 2) 129

I've heard Apple people describe this with the too-kind phrase "tradition of demonstrating a wolf in sheep's clothing." That is to say, the Mac he was demonstrating was different from the Mac Apple was selling: it had 512K of RAM. The only Mac available for purchase at launch had 128K and was not capable of running the MacInTalk speech synthesis software.

This was indeed a Steve Jobs tradition; I recall him demonstrating a NeXT in Boston--brilliant demo, brilliant showmanship--and the NeXT he was demonstrating had an internal hard drive, which delivered much better performance than the product available for sale which ran entirely off a read/write optical drive.

Comment Taylor's "Scientific Management" (Score 1) 314

Very reminiscent of the sad story of Frederick Taylor and "Scientific Management." Taylor meant to be a good guy, and believed he researches on the best ways to organize industrial work would be a good-for-everything win-win. He advocated good pay, good treatment, frequent breaks, etc.

He actually believed that scientific management would put an end to labor-management conflict: "The great revolution that takes place in the mental attitude of the two parties under scientific management is that both sides take their eyes off the division of the surplus as the all-important matter, and together turn their attention toward increasing the size of the surplus until this surplus becomes so large that it is unnecessary to quarrel over how it shall be divided."

Labor unions opposed "scientific management" as just a kind of speed-up, a way of squeezing workers, and that essentially is how it was applied. In his later years Taylor regretted what he said was the misapplication of his methodology, but the damage was done.

And so it is with the open office. What might originally have become a well-intentioned effort at innovating on office architecture quickly became just a way of squeezing workers--almost literally, into smaller and smaller spaces, with facile "proof by repeated assertion" that it was an actual improvement on what had gone before.

The best that can be said about it is that cubicles are at least better than the arrangements of some office in the 1960s and 1970s, which looked just like classrooms but with bigger desks.

Submission + - Court Says Craigslist Sperm Donor Must Pay Child Support

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: David Stout reports at Time Magazine that what began with a Craigslist ad from a lesbian couple calling for a sperm donor in rural Topeka, Kansas ended in court on Wednesday with a judge ordering the sperm donor to pay child support. The Kansas Department for Children and Families filed the case in October 2012 seeking to have William Marotta declared the father of a child born to Jennifer Schreiner in 2009 so he can be held responsible for about $6,000 in public assistance the state provided, as well as future child support. "In this case, quite simply, the parties failed to perform to statutory requirement of the Kansas Parentage Act in not enlisting a licensed physician at some point in the artificial insemination process, and the parties' self-designation of (Marotta) as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve (Marotta) of parental right and responsibilities to the child," wrote Judge Mattivi. Marotta opposed that action, saying he had contacted Schreiner and her partner at the time, Angela Bauer, in response to an ad they placed on Craigslist seeking a sperm donor and signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities. "We stand by that contract," says Defense attorney Swinnen adding that the Kansas statute doesn't specifically require the artificial insemination be carried out by a physician. "The insinuation is offensive, and we are responding vigorously to that. We stand by our story. There was no personal relationship whatsoever between my client and the mother, or the partner of the mother, or the child. Anything the state insinuates is vilifying my client, and I will address it."

Comment How could this ever be determined or verified? (Score 3, Insightful) 533

How could this ever be more than a guess? How could it ever be determined, documented, or verified?

And for that matter, what is the definition of whether something is "the same" piece of code? For example, if the same source code compiles to different instructions on two platforms, are they running the same code?

How about if one of them actually compiles code that gets executed, and the other optimizes it out?

Comment Predicting the past? (Score 1) 146

"[they believe they have found an algorithm that might] predict which fiction books will be successful. Their algorithm had as much as an 84 percent accuracy rate when applied to already published manuscripts in Project Gutenberg and other sources."

I can predict the success rate of already published books with 100% accuracy.

Backtesting is usually bogus because it means nothing unless the experimenter can precisely enumerate the total number of rules that were formulated and discarded--including those formulated and discarded intuitively--before arriving at the one that tested well. If you consider 100 possible systems, the chances that at least one of them will test with results significant at the 1% level is 63%.

Also, "A Tale of Two Cities" IS in the Project Gutenberg database, right here, which doesn't give me much confidence in anything else they say...

Comment It's not antigravity--neither is a helium balloon (Score 1) 59

We "countervail" the effect of gravity whenever we lift something. It might be said that we "countervail" the effect of gravity whenever we are not falling.

Words DO have meanings, and according to the American Heritage Dictionary, antigravity means "The hypothetical effect of reducing or canceling a gravitational field." H. G. Well's fictional "Cavorite" in "The First Men in the Moon" meets that definition precisely.

Ways of lifting and pushing things around without anything solid touching them are cool, especially if the levitation is more or less stable and under control, but hardly miraculous. The old trick of levitating a lightweight ball in the jet of air from a vacuum cleaner's exhaust falls in that category, and so for that matter does an air-bearing motor.

Comment "The Way of All Flesh," by Samuel Butler (Score 2) 796

This book is more irreverent and more subversive than Mark Twain. And it is very funny and an entertaining read. It's especially good if you happen to be feeling annoyed at your parents.

He said: "Oh, don't talk about rewards. Look at Milton, who only got â5 for 'Paradise Lost.'
"And a great deal too much," I rejoined promptly. "I would have given him twice as much myself not to have written it at all."

Surely nature might find some less irritating way of carrying on business if she would give her mind to it. Why should the generations overlap one another at all? Why cannot we be buried as eggs in neat little cells with ten or twenty thousand pounds each wrapped round us in Bank of England notes, and wake up, as the sphex wasp does, to find that its papa and mamma have not only left ample provision at its elbow, but have been eaten by sparrows some weeks before it began to live consciously on its own account?

All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it- and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will allow. He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most; God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.

Never learn anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for it shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend your time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful to you than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if you do not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any time by those who want them.

Nothing is well done nor worth doing unless, take it all round, it has come pretty easily.

Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether they are good things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the world were to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the things that are being wrought by prayer.

And, best of all:

[Mendelssohn] wrote "I then went to the Tribune [a room in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence]. This room is so delightfully small you can traverse it in fifteen paces, yet it contains a world of art. I again sought out my favourite arm chair which stands under the statue of the 'Slave whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino), and taking possession of it I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours..." I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave himself for having sat two hours on that chair. I wonder how often he looked at his watch to see if his two hours were up. I wonder how often he told himself that he was quite as big a gun, if the truth were known, as any of the men whose works he saw before him, how often he wondered whether any of the visitors were recognizing him and admiring him for sitting such a long time in the same chair, and how often he was vexed at seeing them pass him by and take no notice of him. But perhaps if the truth were known his two hours was not quite two hours.

Comment Matches my limited mid-sized-company experience (Score 4, Interesting) 185

I worked for over a decade at a midsized company, founded in the late sixties, whose business was the manufacture of $30,000-$100,000 high-tech products. The development process included internal firmware, quite a lot of interesting and non-obvious mechanical and optical engineering, and driver software.

To say they were casual about intellectual property was putting it mildly. The mindset seemed to be, basically, that they copied good ideas from the competition and expected the competition to copy ideas from them. (I do mean IDEAS though, nothing more). They felt their business success depended on getting needed products to market in a timely way, and that it was all about good execution of ideas, not exclusive possession of ideas.

All of us software people put copyright notices on our code because we just thought it was good practice, but nobody told us to do so or send out memos on how to do it or monitored us to make sure we were doing it right.

I created a mini dust-up once when the head of marketing told me to send the complete source code to one of our software drivers to another company--a 200-age listing--and I said sure, but that I wouldn't do it without written directions from an officer of the company. He was furious that I would even question his directions and insisting that it was inappropriate for me to demur because it was no big deal, and I replied, sincerely, that I didn't think it was a big deal, either--in context it really wasn't--but that nevertheless I thought I needed to have that level of authorization, and that since it wasn't a big deal it shouldn't be hard to get it. It's not that he was being a PHB, either--the point is that nobody in the company quite got it that maybe you didn't just send out half a pound of listing on a casual say-so.

For a while, there was one mid-level manager who liked patents and embarked on a semi-systematic effort to get things patented, and recognize engineers by posting framed notices about the patents that they had gotten--there were maybe about ten such frames on the wall by the time he left. But it was not part of the corporate culture.

I don't remember ever hearing about the company suing or being sued over a patent except for one case, where it was embroiled as a party in a lawsuit involving some software components they had purchased and licensed from another firm.

Comment Sounds like a possible "disruptive technology" (Score 1) 210

...the kind that starts out regarded by the established players as almost a joke, who ignore it because its not what the important customers are asking for, just some bargain-hunting fools... then the low-end, joke product develops its own specialized market, gradually improves, starts eating the lunch of the big guys, and somehow they fade away.

The Ford Model Twas regarded as such a piece of junk the "Ford joke" became a genre in itself, and people published entire BOOKS of nothing but Ford jokes. "Does your Ford make a racket?" "Oh, no, only when it's running" etc.

Comment It's all good. (Score 1) 1

This sort of dispute ends up in many cases with very judiciously-phrased final, stable wordings. And it's no sillier than academic disputes, which often involve the deployment of ego and reputation to decide things like whether Pluto is a planet.

"Odium ignorantum
Est odium infantum;
Sed odium doctorum
Est odium ferorum."

(The ignorant fight like children, Ph.Ds like wild animals).

Comment How did they want it returned? What did they say? (Score 2) 617

The story stays Zavvi says "We have tried to contact you on numerous occasions to give you the opportunity to return this item to us (at our cost and no inconvenience to yourself)."

So let's use some common sense here. Assuming they were telling the truth... if a company called me and explained the error, apologized, issued no threats, but ASKED me to send it back, offered to send me a prepaid return sticker, and offered to schedule a pickup if I didn't want to take it to a dropbox, I wouldn't fuss. To me, it would all be about the amount of work I'd have to do to return it. Make it easy for me to do, sure I'd do it.

The legal threats are stupid. Their percentage of returns acting nice will be as large or larger as the results of acting nasty. And if they take legal action they'll not only occur expenses, they'll turn every one of those customers into enthusiastic broadcasters of ill-will.

Comment You should learn MORE THAN ONE. (Score 1) 3

I think it is very important to get exposed to several different computer languages, fairly early in the game. And I don't mean different like C and C++ and C#. I mean really different, languages that drive in the richness of ways you can express algorithms.

Few things are as tedious as the language snob who thinks that whatever language his comp sci course used is best, or the one that has the largest number of job openings is best.

I don't know what would be a good set to suggest, and I am most familiar with antiques; but if we assume that one of them is going to have C-like syntax, then I would suggest, as mind-stretchers: assembly language--of course; some language in which "loops" are not central to the language, examples being APL or FORTH or PostScript; some language in which symbols rather than numbers are paramount, such as LISP or SNOBOL; some language in which indentation is significant, such as MUMPS or Python.

Comment And you don't need a one-way mirror... (Score 4, Interesting) 161

At one now-defunct Fortune 500 company I worked for, they were sort of reluctant to apply any informal techniques like watching users try to use software (without instructions or coaching), because they had a nascent Human Factors group that wanted to build a facility with one-way mirrors and video cameras, and they kept telling everyone that you needed to have a facility like that in order to learn anything.

On numerous occasions at numerous companies I've simply corralled someone, anyone, who had not yet used the software, and asked them to try to accomplish basic tasks with it. "Please forgive me for not helping, I just want to see how far you can get without help. I'll help you if you really get stuck." And then I've watched them as they tried to use my software.

I always learned a lot from this, and I learned it very quickly, and a lot of what I learned was really trivially easy to implement. You can so easily miss the blindingly obvious when you are familiar with the software yourself.

The worst advice--well, maybe not the worst, but bad advice--tended to come from people giving advice that they imagined was on someone else's behalf. You really do NOT know what things people are going to find easy or difficult until you actually watch them try.

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