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Comment Re:When better isn't better (Score 1) 76

It took me a couple of extra readings, too. The tricky unstated part: while other atomic clocks are better than cesium clocks, they are not the standard.

TFA doesn't explain why trapped-ion clocks (the "better clocks" mentioned in TFS) aren't used to define the standard. Presumably, that's just the glacial pace of international standards setting, and perhaps a trapped-ion clock standard is working its way through the system but has not yet become the new standard. That's just my guess, though.

Comment Re:No reason to light up snipers these days... (Score 2) 303

I hope he's right about that. I suspect he may have thought that the last time.

Overthrowing dictators is always a good thing, but I consider it a tossup at best as to whether the new leadership actually wants to rule democratically. Egyptians voluntarily elected an Islamist party last time, and even if the Muslim Brotherhood is out, Islamist sentiments remain. I will hope for better, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Comment That's no thorn (Score 1) 258

ð is an "eth". A "thorn" is .

Old English used ð and more or less interchangeably. Different scribes used them differently, sometimes dependent on the position in the word. In IPA, ð is voiced (as in "this", transcribed /ðs/. (Thorn is unused).

I personally find it very confusing that "eth" is pronounced /ð/; I'd expected it to be pronounced // since in English "th" at the end of a word is generally unvoiced.

Comment Triple negatives make me antisocial (Score 1) 113

*Fail* to *diminish* *prosocial* (presumably the opposite of anti-social)... flip the negative, carry the two... and we get what we knew all along.

Look, I understand that scientists have to speak very precisely about their results so as to not overstate them. But surely there was a better way to write this headline.

Comment Re:Alternatively..... (Score 2) 128

Baffling, ain't it? It's free money. Somebody puts in an afternoon's worth of work, presses copies for next to nothing, and millions of dollars will come rolling in.

Usually when they're not doing that it's because one of the contracts wasn't clear. They didn't anticipate release of it when they negotiated the contracts, and they don't want to get sued. Unlike banging out a copy, negotiating a contract is work. Lawyer work, at multiple hundreds of dollar per hour.

A good case in point is WKRP in Cincinnati, which uses a lot of music. Rights to the music were negotiated at the time, but expired. In a lot of cases they had to rerecord the music with cover bands, and the licensing was still a pain.

They went through it (and are still working on it) because the show was very popular. "Spenser for Hire"... well... I assume they'll get around to it one of these days.

Comment Re:Cue anti-union rage (Score 3, Insightful) 467

Well, yes and no. It's not like the various people who pay tuition would find it dropping by the same amount if health insurance were suspended.

The fundamental theory of unions is that the price paid for an item is a function of both supply and demand. When demand is high, the seller can charge a price higher than the cost. The question then becomes, who receives the profits?

That's not a simple question to answer, as there are a lot of inputs, but in the case of low- to moderate-skill workers, the answer is generally that the employer gets 100% of the profits. The workers are easily replaced by ones who will demand less. (In the limit case, MUCH less, and the workers are reduced to subsistence wages.) A union is a way for the workers to demand a share of the profits, by agreeing among each other not to work for the lowest offered wage.

In those circumstances, the increased wages aren't coming out of the pockets of the customers. They're coming out of the pockets of the employers. That's the point.

There are even more complex economics going on with grad students, whose "job" is being subsidized by a variety of sources, for work that is well removed from market forces. Student tuitions have been going up faster than inflation, and the grad students are competing for that extra money with a variety of campus functions (everything from fat football coach paychecks to new buildings). A grad student union is really more a representation than a true union, but it serves one of the same functions: to represent the group in the negotiation for how much they will receive of the difference between costs and monies received.

Comment Re:Overthrowing the NSA. (Score 5, Interesting) 413

Question for me is, will they replace it with something more effective? Technocratic benevolent dictatorships are a lot more attractive on paper than they turn out to be in real life.

And if the military intends to (again) establish a democracy, will the people just vote the Muslim Brotherhood back into power? I may not like Morsi but he was the democratically elected leader, with no more than the usual level of shenanigans in the election. (And given the shenanigans that show up in the US, I'm not going to throw too many stones. They're different, in both kind and degree, but we're hardly beyond reproach.)

Comment Re:head transplant, or body transplant? (Score 1) 522

This is true, but we're not getting nearly the advantage out of it that cats or camels do, with their more biomechanically efficient lower limbs. You're running on your toes by comparison to sneaker-wearing runners, but not when compared to dogs, who couldn't put their heels down if they tried.

We're not dogs, nor are dogs us. But the point was to confirm one of the upthread posts: the knee and leg are not how you'd have designed them. Lots of other animals do better.

Comment Re:head transplant, or body transplant? (Score 4, Interesting) 522

You can certainly run a marathon on an artificial knee. You can't play pro sports, but you're talking about the top .00001% of all players. If you go down, there's somebody behind you who hasn't had to do a length recovery, and who hasn't had a knee replacement literally rammed into his bone.

Knee replacements aren't actually all that great yet; they've got a lifespan shorter than your original knee. Cartilage takes a pounding. My own personal gripe with the knee is the ligaments, which are exposed and subject to tremendous leverage: my replacement is stronger than the original. (Even though it's actually made of more biological parts, rather than a purely artificial one.)

The real problem with the knee can't be fixed by trying to replace its parts, but to reconsider the way the whole joint is arranged. Most mammals use their ankle joints for purposes that we put our knees to, and walk on their toes instead of on their heels. We mis-adapted that design to bipedal walking, rather than redesigning from scratch, which is what a good engineer would have done. Had we evolved from ground-dwellers, it might have worked out better on the knees, but we came from tree-dwellers who went back to the ground, and some good ideas were lost in the transitions.

Comment Re:Terrible article (Score 1) 314

This is in the print edition, not just an online blogger. Samuelson is one of their regular opinion writers.

Having hired him, they put very little editorial control over him. They hired him because they believe his opinion should be heard, without interference from their own opinions. They have a stable of both liberal and conservative voices, both of which are separate from their editorial staff (and all of those separate from their newsroom).

I personally find Samuelson's opinion on economics (his primary focus) as ignorant as his opinion of technology. But perhaps that's just my own bias showing, so the Post Writers Group is helping expose you to "both" sides of the story. (I don't think that "both" is a very helpful way to look at such things, but it's the way journalism has long operated in the US.)

Comment Re:Yesterday's news for nerds (Score 2) 447

IMHO, there's a better chance of the news acquiring a few facts, and squeezing out a little bit of the partisan punditry (as the various partisan pundits point out each others' lies and exaggerations), if you let the news age for a week. It gives it a chance for some of the knee-jerk reactions to die off and perhaps even for slightly more thoughtful ones to creep in.

Unless you're actually Edward Snowden, you'd have done just fine getting this news next week, or next month. I believe that the rise of instant news is part of what's making political discussion so vacuous.

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