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Submission + - Game Preferences Among Atheistic and Religious Individuals (

hessian writes: Burris and Petrican (2011) recently showed that atheists are less capable of internally simulating vivid, emotionally evocative experiences relative to those who identify with religion. Consequently, relative to religious individuals, atheists were expected to find the engaging, multisensory experience offered by virtual gaming environments to be an especially appealing form of play. This hypothesis was supported. Indeed, atheists did not rate narrative-oriented tabletop games more appealing than did religious individuals, and rated them as less appealing compared to agnostic/no religion individuals. The disparity in atheists' game preferences was further polarized by individual differences in psychological absorption. Atheists' preference for “what you see is what you get” video game environments over tabletop games that require greater imaginative effort for less immersive benefits may reflect a broad orientation that provides an experiential basis for disbelief in the unseen.

Submission + - Can you break this code from Boards of Canada? (

hessian writes: This is probably another dumb marketing scheme, but it looks like viral inseminators have been sneaking around this URL for a Boards of Canada promotion. Unlike most of these, however, it involves some actual hackery content

Any ideas? I know nothing about this ‘Boards of Canada’ band (except the soundtracks from Until the Light Takes Us) but I have to admit a quickening of the pulse at an OpenVMS prompt.

Submission + - Conservative Opposition to Internet Sales Tax Getting Louder (

hessian writes: The Senate moved closer to passing the Internet sales tax on Thursday. The chamber had already started debate on the measure, dubbed the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” but the vote last week bypassed any hope of a filibuster. Some conservative groups are increasing their efforts in opposition to the tax.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by Grover Norquist, presented the constitutional case against the Internet sales tax. The case is in response to recent comments by David French, a lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, who said, “The industry is evolving very rapidly, and the law today is a 20th-century interpretation of an 18th-century document that is holding back the entire retail industry as it adapts to 21st-century consumer preferences and demand.”

Submission + - Earth's core far hotter than thought (

hessian writes: New measurements suggest the Earth's inner core is far hotter than prior experiments suggested, putting it at 6,000C — as hot as the Sun's surface.

The solid iron core is actually crystalline, surrounded by liquid.

But the temperature at which that crystal can form had been a subject of long-running debate.

Experiments outlined in Science used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt.

Submission + - The STEM Myth (

hessian writes: As the EPI report lays bare, the common wisdom about our STEM problem is mistaken: we are not facing a shortage of STEM-qualified workers. In fact, we appear to have a considerable STEM surplus. Only 63 percent students graduating with a STEM degree are able to find STEM jobs. Beyond that, if there was an actual shortage of STEM workers, basic supply and demand would predict that the wages of STEM workers would be on the rise. Instead, wages in S sTEM fields have not budged in over a decade. Stagnant wages and low rates of STEM job placement strongly suggest we actually have an abundance of STEM-qualified workers.

The EPI report tends to focus on the relevance of these findings to guest worker programs and other immigration issues. The tech industry has long suggested that it cannot find STEM workers in America and therefore needs immigration changes that will enable it to bring in more workers from abroad. Skeptics have rebuffed that the tech industry really is just interested in cheaper STEM labor and that its proclamations about a dearth of STEM-qualified domestic workers is just a convenient cover story. This report provides ammunition to the latter camp to say the least.

Submission + - Bioengineers Build Open Source Language for Programming Cells ( 2

hessian writes: The BIOFAB project is still in the early stages. Endy and the team are creating the most basic of building blocks — the “grammar” for the language. Their latest achievement, recently reported in the journal Science, has been to create a way of controlling and amplifying the signals sent from the genome to the cell. Endy compares this process to an old fashioned telegraph.

“If you want to send a telegraph from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the signals would get degraded along the wire,” he says. “At some point, you have to have a relay system that would detect the signals before they completely went to noise and then amplify them back up to keep sending them along their way.”

Comment That was the allusion, not what SirGarlon missed. (Score 1) 199

But a Machiavellian, like any true politician, does it for his own sake, not for theirs -- and Machiavelli thus talked about how to reconcile this fundamental selfishness with the need to keep the people's support.

This is what I was alluding to.

SirGarlon doesn't understand, and when he says:

the closest relevant chapter in _the Prince_ is

I realize that he's projecting -- this was the only thing he could find that he thought was relevant, and he mistook that for reality at large. An unfortunate mistake.

In the process, he missed about a dozen more relevant quotations. That's why you read more than the Cliff's Notes, kids!

Comment Think outside the box. (Score -1, Flamebait) 199

If government is allowing you to see these "leaks," they're benefiting in some way from the environment that results.

To assume that government is actually constrained by such things is to assume benevolence in government; perhaps it is most beneficial for them that you think this is all they have to reveal.

It's not paranoia to realize that in an age of utter selfishness, people will hoard power and use it deviously. What would Machiavelli do?

I dunno, release about a billion documents unrelated to what he's actually trying to hide.

Comment Not all of us do. (Score 1) 79

Why do americans put the metal genre under the "rock" tag?

Not all of us do, and in fact, I'm very glad to meet someone else who agrees with me that this is an important distinction.

Metal is its own genre, composed by its own standards. It emerged from rock (specifically, prog rock, soundtracks to horror films, loud hard rock and early punk combined) but it is not rock.

If you're up for some analytical historical data, would you read The Heavy Metal F.A.Q.?

Comment Cold War I was real; so is Cold War II (Score 5, Insightful) 124

I must respectfully disagree with Schnier on this one.

A cyber Cold War doesn't come about without another Cold War having occurred first.

In this case, Cold War II is playing out between NATO, the Russians the Chinese.

Just like Cold War I, this one is rooted in a practical geopolitical concern: who will be the ruling superpower for the next century?

Expect a Cold War II, if you're lucky. If not, expect WWIII, which will probably be more limited than the last two but still devastating.

Comment Food for thought regarding standardization. (Score 3, Interesting) 302

If we all had two image/sound/video formats (lossy and non-lossy), one time format, one type of graphics card and CPU, one file format or data transmission format, one (spoken) language (which we'll all move to eventually given enough centuries), or (horror) one OS or programming language, software would be much more exciting to write, knowing it will stand the test of time.

I get dreamy thinking about this. It would simply everything. However, I have one thought of caution.

Standardization creates a single point of failure.

Allowing solutions to exist simultaneously, and develop independently, allows there to be no single point of failure and for multiple solutions to be tried at once.

I think there's a reason nature (insert name of deity or deities if you'd prefer; I'm agnosticism agnostic!) chose to go with natural selection. While less efficient on the surface, it works in every situation and eventually, produces a time-tested quality result.

Just food for thought, not a contrarian argument.

Comment He side-steps the issue, confronts a bigger one. (Score 4, Insightful) 302

This was the core of his rant:

The combination of Canonical and community is what makes that amazing. There are lots of pure community distro's. And wow, they are full of politics, spite, frustration, venality and disappointment. Why? Because people are people, and work is hard, and collaboration is even harder. That's nothing to do with Canonical, and everything to do with life.

He's side-stepping the issue in that the point is that Canonical wields more power than the average contributor, and thus is in more of an authoritarian relationship.

However, he's hit on a bigger point, which is that in any collaborative software project, someone needs to be the silverback who forces everyone else to focus, or people do only what they want to do and blow off the unfun stuff.

Unfortunately, unfun stuff includes refinements to code to make sure it works well, drivers, documentation, gnarly bug fixes, and the like.

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