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Comment Re:Legendary... (Score 1) 232

It was a book of tricks, but it was also about showing possibilities that many people overlooked. The book iirc didn't just show specific tricks, but went into the though process behind how those tricks were developed and went in depth about how they were implemented. So it was a primer course to developing your own tricks. As such it was more than just a trick book.

Comment Re:If any slightest illness was ever even *suspect (Score 1) 440

It's not the fear of lawsuits, really, how would feel as a person if you donated this peanut butter and a toddler died of botulism or salmonella. I would feel terrible. It would be a horrific thing. You think you are helping a person in real need, but instead, you kill them.

1 million jars of peanut butter, it's not so far fetched. Plus spot checking is only as good as the sample.

Comment Re:If any slightest illness was ever even *suspect (Score 2) 440

Because that message isn't going to get down to the consumer level. Those goods are going to get passed down, and down, and down, and finally someone who doesn't have the right information will not make an informed decision.

Okay, so fine, mark the containers with a stamp. Now stamping 960k with a "at your own risk" message exceeds by far the cost of destroying the peanut butter.

It is easy to assume that Costco is stupid. But there is strong evidence that Costco isn't stupid. So that leaves us with the possibility that they've looked at the problem logically and this is the best solution.

Comment Re:And so this is Costco's fault? (Score 1) 440

Insurance is not the magic cure-all. For big enough corporations, there is no insurance. It's self-insurance. Costco may be big enough that they can't even get that type of insurance. Even if there was insurance, that doesn't solve the underlying problem. Liability is liability, whether hedge against or not.

The real thing here is that Costco should not be selling a defect product, or even giving it away. There is no way to totally waive liability - and there probably shouldn't be - for selling something defective. If the containers are leaking they are simply put, unfit for human consumption at any price or for any population. There is some food that is expired but not spoiled, and this is perfectly ethical to sell in a transparent way or to give away. But once it's a defective product - leaking peanut oil - it's simply not ethical to allow it to be consumed by humans. For one thing, it's going to be nasty. It's mixture is affected.

Comment Re:Isn't this a lot like programming? (Score 1) 107

No, biological processes are inherently non-deterministic, and this becomes more apparent the smaller the scale. At the genetic level, it's all about probabilities. I suppose you could argue the same about computation since circuits are now getting small enough for quantum effects to show up, but I don't think most programmers are explicitly modeling random bit flips! On large scales, when you're talking about big programs with lots of different possible inputs, it's often more effective to model them statistically, I agree, but the underlying processes are still quite different.

Comment Re:Next goals: (Score 3, Insightful) 107

Co-evolution only looks "co" on very large timescales; every new trick our immune systems have come up with has been in response to something a pathogen already came up with. Sure, there always can (and will) be new plagues, whether the victims are trees or people. I just think they're a whole lot more likely to come from the nigh-uncountable number of random "experiments" taking place in the wild than they are from anything done in a lab.

Comment Re:In other words... (Score 1) 284

Corporations don't go to prison for violating censorship laws. The members of the group, employees, owners, and members go to jail. They are the ones who have their assets taken.

That last bit would be a lot more persuasive if it weren't for the concept of limited liability. The whole idea of corporations owning assets, signing contracts, etc. is that the owners of the corporation are to some degree insulated if the corporation "does" something such as breaking a contract that could lead to the loss of those assets--but it really ought to work both ways. As things stand right now, the privilege pretty much only seems to go one way.

Comment Re:Next goals: (Score 4, Informative) 107

Honestly, I think that fear is overblown. Vertebrate pathogens have had hundreds of millions of years of optimization in the most ruthlessly selective "laboratory" ever known, and while there are obviously some pretty deadly ones out there they haven't managed to wipe us out yet. Nothing we do in a lab is likely to come close, in terms of coming up with something that can spread wildly on its own.

I used to work between a synthetic bio lab at one end of the hall and an infectious disease lab at the other. Ask which one scared me more.

Comment Re:Isn't this a lot like programming? (Score 2) 107

In a lot of ways, it is similar, but there are some important differences. The biggest one, I think, is that programs are (or had better be!) deterministic: make a particular change and a particular thing will happen every time. Living systems, even relatively simple ones like yeast cells, are stochastic: make a particular change and the probability of a particular thing happening increases or decreases. What you're counting on when growing a culture of mutated cells is that enough of the cells will behave in the desired fashion to make the behavior of the colony predictable, but the underlying randomness remains.

Comment Re:Whatabout we demand equal time of our views ins (Score 4, Informative) 667

Being a scientific organization is one of the major listed justifications for tax exempt status - assuming the other criteria are met.

The part in bold there is kind of the point. Scientific organizations--actually educational organizations of all kinds--can indeed apply for non-profit status, but they have to prove they meet the standards. Churches are assumed to qualify a priori.

Comment Re:"Creationists" (Score 1) 220

The AC does have a point: "creationism" (and "intelligent design") are potentially ambiguous terms to people who aren't engaged in the evolution debate.

Then if they want to engage in that debate, they should learn how those terms are used. AC's sub-Objectivist ranting doesn't make me think he's interested in that level of intellectual effort, though.

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