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Comment Re:True (Score 3, Interesting) 530

At my high school we were called "eggheads" (by the faculty) and subjugated by deliberately putting us in situations that were boring and humiliating. My favorite was the policy of always pairing an egghead with the dumbest kid in the class for group projects. One time my forced study partner was arrested (for assault and arson no less) and could not come to class. When I asked for a new partner I was told that it was my responsibility to make up for it, that I should be learning some sort of lesson from this and that perhaps if I had forced this mentally unstable gorilla of a human being to do his work, he would have been too busy to get arrested. They took pleasure in punishing the eggheads for being different.

I wound up barely completing high school after being suspended for nearly an entire school year. I was so disillusioned by the years of anti-intellectualism that I didn't even want to go to college, but I wound up going to my state school just to be around my friends. Wow, what a difference. Suddenly I was rewarded for all the things that I had been punished for. Years later, at a fancy ivy league university, I met all the other "smart" people that floated to the top and was amazed by how seemingly marginal they were intellectually. The one thing they all had in common was that they went to private/magnet schools and had educated parents. They were nurtured and encouraged and motivated to go to good colleges.

To this day I am fascinated at how far behind I am and how hard I have to work to make up for those early years. I never learned how to use my brain and apply myself so I wound up a collection of random knowledge that I picked up outside of school rather than the focused and trained--though arguably less naturally talented--minds that wind up doing all the things that we normally think smart people should do (i.e., scientist, engineer, fancy pants professor).

Comment Bill of (Some) Rights (Score 3, Insightful) 107

Apparently the Fourth Amendment has all sorts of exclusionary clauses that us mortals can't see. Secure in papers and possessions? Well, email isn't really paper... No searches without warrants? It's ok if the police thought they had one. And tracking you without your knowledge isn't really a "privacy" issue. The Second Amendment, however, is clearly iron-clad, exception free, future-proof, and literal except that "militia" really means "individuals." Interestingly, though, I still can't own a plastic gun because undetectable guns are illegal--though perhaps all the loopholes in the Fourth Amendment supersede the Second Amendment? I can't wait to see how SCOTUS views equal protection when it comes to sexual orientation. Is it an iron-clad, literal right or are there more invisible exceptions that only special people in black robes can see? Or maybe it will suddenly be states rights issue this time (but not drugs, no the commerce clause clearly covers those.)

Comment Absolutely Not! (Score 2) 292

As a scientist I have to say that we are the last people who should build something this large. For starters, our efforts are better spent doing science. Many of us are also old and out of shape. I suggest that, instead, we find some contractors to build it--they probably need the work more anyway. However, if it is decided that scientists should indeed build a collider, I want to be in charge of the hollering: "Shake it madam! Capital knockers!"

Comment Re:One has to wonder. . . (Score 1) 313

According to FB logic, the car park in Seinfeld that loans your car out to hookers while it's parked is a perfectly legitimate business model. As is the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when the parking garage attendants take Cameron's Ferrari for a joy ride. Let's just hope Zuckerberg doesn't open up a string of daycare centers.

Comment Re:A New Low for Science "Journalism" (Score 1) 171

Read what they wrote: "methanosarcina evolved the ability to break down nickel and make methane." You can't break nickel down without doing nuclear chemistry--you can only change its oxidation state. It's clear to anyone with even a basic grasp of chemistry that methanogens use nickel enzyme complexes as catalysts, but the author of this ridiculous failure of journalism clearly thought that methanosarcina produce methane from nickel.

Comment Re:Eheh and his mother was sane? (Score 1) 1719

How many rights do YOU need? What is it about the concept of a right that is hard to grasp? Is there some new twist to "rights" that says that you can only exercise one to the limit that someone else thinks you need to?

So, by way of the Second Amendment, I have an absolute right to posses as many "arms" as I want end of story, period (does that include biological weapons?). Do I also have a right to privacy, or can the government tap my phone and read my email without a warrant? Do I have a right to get gay-married or does equal protection not extend to sexual orientation? Do I have the right to put whatever I want into my body, or can the government ban drugs? Do I have the right to travel freely, or can my passport be revoked or my flying privileges suspended? How about the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness? Do I have the right to take my own life (it is mine, after all), or should the government intervene if, say, I'm being held awaiting trial or serving a prison sentence? Do I have the right to live, or do I surrender that right if I commit a certain crime? I think taxes infringe on my right to liberty, can I stop paying them and still keep my house? I'm positive that a few things that make me happy would make you very angry and vice versa.

Which is it is? Is the world black and white: do we all have absolute rights as dictated by some dead guys? Or can some rights can be limited for the good of society? Or do you get to pick which rights are absolute and which can be tempered and regulated? If not you, then who? Hey, maybe we should vote on this sort of thing?

Comment Re:it tells you one thing, at least (Score 1) 1719


As other posters have pointed out these things are almost always planned. A guy in China stabbed twenty some people the very same day. Imagine how easy and cheap it would be to put together a few pipe bombs jacketed with small ball bearings; that would create every bit as much horror and death in a room for children as this guy was able to do using guns. You can't control the materials for that either without really crippling society. Any intelligent (though not necessarily sane) person who wants to hurt a large number of people in our society can find a way to do so, with or without a gun.

Guns are not the problem. The real danger is the mentally and our total lack of will to deal with them. This guys mother knew and had talked about him burning himself days before the incident. She obviously understood things were very wrong but did nothing. As a society we at most pump people with dangerous mental pathology full of drugs their own doctors hardly know what effect will have and send them back out among us. In probably the majority of cases we do nothing about them at all. Certainly its true in the 20th century, having people committed was abused. It might be unfair and cruel to lock many of these folks away in psych wards but at least they'd not be out hurting people. Lord knows I don't like health care reform the way it was done but at least some seriously disturbed people might get near to a profession who could possible declare them a threat and get something done about them.

Notice how every, single argument against gun control follows the same "why bother" pattern: Guns aren't the problem, murderers are murderers without or without them, therefore (and this is the important part) there is no point to attempting any reforms because they are pointless. Why bother banning high capacity clips when you can make them so easily from some sheet metal or springs? (I heard that one this morning on the radio.) Why bother regulating assault rifles when there are already so many of them that it won't make a difference? Why bother making it harder for people to buy handguns when criminals will get them illegally anyway? Why bother regulating one type of gun when any gun is potentially lethal?

Sure, it makes no sense to treat the symptoms of mental and emotional disorders rather than the cause and pumping depressed kids full of drugs is a bad idea, but WTF does that have to do with guns? The problem is with insane policies, not insane people (except maybe the crazies that keep voting for them.) Does it really make sense that I can only hunt ducks with three shells in the gun (which is enforced by game wardens), but that I can walk around in public with a 36-round clip in a concealed handgun? I mean, seriously, we regulate the crap out of guns when it comes to hunting, while we let people with violent criminal records who are on terrorist watch lists buy handguns over the counter, but not board airplanes. And any idiot can buy an RPG and an assault rifle at a gun show. There aren't even any laws against gun trafficking in the US. I can sell rifles from a lemonade stand on the street corner or over the Internet, but not marijuana seeds because somehow drugs are a far bigger threat to children than gun-wielding maniacs.

I am just so goddamn sick of the "guns don't kill people, people do" crap. We banned non-metallic guns in the 80's (i.e., guns that would not show up on X-ray or magnetometers) unequivocally and the King of England did not invade, nor did the black helicopters descend in droves to unsuspecting suburban neighborhoods. We can certainly ban guns whose only purpose by design is to kill as many people as possible and it won't infringe on the sacred rights of hunters, target shooters, or collectors... either that are charge $5,000 a bullet. Maybe Chris Rock should run for office. How's Al Franken doing?

Comment Re:He is mistaken (Score 2) 171

And methanosarcina are archaea, not bacteria, a fact that was three clicks away from the Wikipedia entry on methanosarcina, which is apparently too many clicks for Slashdot or Medical Daily (but New Scientist got it right). I suspect that what was actually presented at the meeting was a cogent hypothesis for how methanogens contributed to the Great Dying following an increase in bio-available nickel. What we get is the result after several application of the stupid filter that is the Internet.

Comment A New Low for Science "Journalism" (Score 1) 171

Setting aside the lack of detail and the characterization of an untested hypothesis as a theory, if you follow the link in TFA about the dissenting opinions you'll find this gem:

Methane explosion

But just what caused that massive methane release remained a mystery. Daniel Rothman, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues wondered whether ocean-dwelling bacteria that churn out methane were the culprits.

His team found through genetic analysis that bacteria called methanosarcina evolved the ability to break down nickel and make methane as part of its metabolism about 251 million years ago. The bacteria may have exploded in population, thereby releasing the ocean's vast methane reserves. And because the bacteria add an oxygen molecule to methane during metabolism, an exponential rise in methanosarcina may have catastrophically depleted ocean oxygen levels.

So now bacteria are performing alchemy (converting Ni to CH4) and "adding an oxygen to methane" no longer produces methanol (CH3OH) or formaldehyde (CH2O), rather it is apparently just "methane with an added oxygen" which is apparently still a potent greenhouse gas.

Comment Re:Wow, 3% = doom? (Score 1) 609

From TFA: "1,082,370 U.S. citizens employed in the life sciences, such as biology and genetics, as well as physical and social sciences. Of these, approximately 31,000"

Wow, those are some massive cuts. An entire whopping 3% of the people may lose their jobs!

People just don't get it. The US government does not need to cut its budget by 3%. It needs to cut its budget by 50% or more. Many programs and federal departments need eliminated entirely. It's not even about the $16 Trillion debt. If the government ran honest accounts, it's about the $200 Trillion debt.

Don't worry, citizens of America. That's only some $650,000 per person that the government has borrowed on behalf of each and every one of you. No problem, right?

Not all, but many of those 1,082,370 US citizens invested about a decade in their education before entering these fields. (I am a physical scientist and for me it took 12 years of education before I could enter the work force.) When you put pressure on people willing to devote that much effort into education just to prepare for a job, you will create a brain drain. So much of the remarkable leaps in science and technology in the US during the 20th Century were the result of reverse brain drain where, for example, soviet countries weren't willing to invest in science, driving their best and brightest to the US. Also, in this case "lose their jobs" does not mean the same thing as it would to, for example, a software engineer. When Apple cuts back its work force, people lose their jobs at Apple, and then find employment elsewhere. When you gut research funding, people lose their jobs, period. They are then forced to compete in other fields where they are 1) over-qualified (on paper), 2) competing with people much younger (the decade of education), 3) paid less, and 4) wasting the decade of education that was in all likelihood partially funded by taxpayer dollars to begin with. And, over time, the result will be fewer new technologies, less innovation, and less economic activity that would otherwise have been derived from said technologies and innovation. The ROI of government research dollars over time beats anything Wall St can cook up. For an obvious example, look at what the space program did for plastics, composites, and other "space age materials." The materials in Tiger Woods' driver got their start with government investments in research 50+ years ago.

The US government absolutely does not need to cut its budget by 50% or more, that assertion is unadulterated lunacy. First of all, it would induce a total economic collapse from which the country would never recover. Think of the downstream job losses just from the defense contractors that would go out of business. Second, the government needs to reduce the difference between revenue and spending, which can happen by increasing revenues (in the form of increased economic activity or higher taxes/fees/tariffs/etc) and/or by cutting spending. Also, "borrowing on behalf of each and every one you" is an intellectually dishonest over-simplification of what sovereign debt actually means in the post gold-standard era. The economy is debt-driven; without fractional reserve lending and other debt-creation processes there would be no capital with which to drive the economic engine. The discussion should be over what is a healthy ratio of debt to economic activity.

Comment Re:America's hand is being forced... (Score 1) 609

If you make say 200k net profit before taxes this year and end up with say 170k of it in your pocket after tax, then you project you'll make 250k net profit before taxes next year and would end up with say 200k in your pocket because you've been bumped up another tax bracket. 170k is a comfortable place for you, and you could use some extra help. You hire an employee at 40k/yr(including benefit costs yada yada for simplicities sake) which gets you down to 210k profit before taxes, but drops you down a tax bracket(which for arguments sake we'll say the limit is at 220k) However since you're down the tax bracket you end up making 178.5k. Thus the total cost of that employee to you wasn't the 40k you're putting into the economy, it was the difference between 200k and 178.5k. Which is only 21.5k. You've hired yourself a mid-level employee at a total cost of something barely above minimum wage plus some minor benefits.

Just to be clear, because a shocking number of people do not understand this concept; you aren't "bumped up to another tax bracket." The tax system is progressive; if taxes go up on earnings above 250k, then you only pay higher taxes on the amount of money above that threshold. e.g., if you earn $250,001 you will only pay higher taxes on $1.

Comment Re:Field Sobriety Test (Score 1) 608

The last thing that confounds this is age. The distribution of fatal and non-fatal accidents with age is quite scary. A stoned 40 year old -- I mean a seriously wasted 40 year old stoner -- with a risk of accident 3 times his age-linked norm -- is a safer driver than a stone cold sober 19 year old. "Silverbacks" -- drivers on the high side of 75, where one's eyesight, hearing, and brain are all breaking down -- are safer still. Why? Because they drive (sober or not) carefully, and in particular far more conservatively than younger risk taking overconfident drivers. I'm living through my own sons' driving experience -- one at age 17 has his first car, now multiply scarred from driving it a whole month. One now 22, who at 18 took his eyes off of the road for a second on a curve stone cold sober and totalled the car he was driving (and fortunately walked away with nothing more than a couple of scratches). The one who hasn't done any serious damage to a car is the one who is now 25 but who waited until he was 18 to get his license at all and who is by his nature someone who doubts their own abilities and hence drives just a bit scared, even more so now that he's a parent and has given up drinking altogether. It is this youth-related rashness that is by far the greatest risk factor on the road -- greater than alcohol (and linked to alcohol!).

Incompetent, inexperienced, and reckless drivers will be ticketed/fined/jailed if they violate traffic laws. Driving while young is probably one the most dangerous conditions aside from drunk or exhausted. So why set a legal limit for pot use if you don't have one for cough medicine, alertness, etc? I've seen people on the freeway reading a book while driving, not to mention text messaging, which is way more dangerous that driving while stoned. You and I know that young drivers are dangerous from observation and in fact the statistics reveal the same, which is why many states are restricting where/when and with whom kids can drive. If driving while stoned was really dangerous, not only would we all have anecdotal evidence of it, but there would be statistics to back it up because stoners would be getting busted left and right. Instead, we find quite the opposite--it's nearly impossible to even conduct studies because no one gets busted for driving while stoned (and not also drunk).

The sane thing for states to do would be to lower the drinking age to 16, legalize pot and encourage its use instead of alcohol among the younger set (ideally in metered, legally regulated concentrations since marijuana is wildly variable in THC type and content), and raise the driving age to 19. Before age 19, issue only provisional driver's licenses -- daylight hours (6 am to 6 pm) plus driving directly to or from school or work, otherwise mandating an adult licensed driver such as a parent in the car, with heavy penalties (a year with no driving privileges at all) for driving with a nonzero BAC. Raising the driving age over 20 would be even better -- 20 is something of a cusp for driving risk, the point where it starts to come down. As it is, it is far more dangerous to be 17, male, sober and straight, driving a car than it is to be a stoned 60 year old who has had a couple of beers, especially if there are other 17 year old males in the car to show off for.

You shouldn't encourage kids to do drugs. Pot is harmless to adults, but there is mounting evidence that it can impair brain development. Some states have already implemented very similar restrictions on young drivers. Oregon, for example, implements almost all of those rules on drivers under 18, with progressive restrictions if an underage driver gets a ticket.

Comment Re:Field Sobriety Test (Score 1) 608

In my experience it varies greatly from person to person and situation to situation much more so than alcohol. Sure, people's tolerances and ability to metabolize ethanol vary, but alcohol impairs pretty much the entire nervous system, whereas THC acts on very specific parts of the brain, which is probably why it is so hard to find a metric for "too stoned to drive." Personally I won't drive after taking allergy medicine (loratadine) because it screws with my attention span, but I'm pretty sure it isn't illegal to do so anywhere.

There were times in college where I was so high I couldn't feel my own head, could hardly carry on a conversation, and was mildly hallucinating. The dude I was smoking with pretty much breathed pot smoke in place of air; he grew it in his attic (and was really good at it) and worked part time as a freelance DJ. I had no qualms about letting him give me a ride home because, even though we'd smoked the same amount, that was his nth bowl for the day and my first for the week. And he had no qualms about giving me a ride because he didn't want his friends driving while THTD.

On the other hand, I used to road bowl on the frequent, long car trips I took in college. Just a puff here and there to make the music more enjoyable and the ride less boring. Never once did I feel even remotely impaired, nor did I ever have an accident or even get pulled over. I know some old hippie stoners that probably haven't driven sober since the early 60's and who have perfect driving records. I've lost count of how many people I know that have been injured or died in alcohol-related accidents.

Now, studying while high is just silly. Smoking after studying can be relaxing and, in my experience, in no way impairs learning (I literally got perfect scores on exams doing just that in college). On the other hand, I've known people whose heart stars racing the second the smell pot smoke and who become clumsy, paranoid, buzz-killing idiots when the smoke; they should not drive while high. Mixing pot and alcohol before driving is a recipe for disaster.

Comment Re:This is a loaded question (Score 1) 951

System Restore--that's a good idea. I'm pretty sure I switched it off (I do by habit) but I don't explicitly remember doing so. One thing about Windows that, in my opinion, has been a design flaw since Day One is that it expects you to use it daily. When you only boot it up once a month (I'm a parent, not much time for gaming) it wants to install a thousand updates and trigger all sorts of "cron jobs" all at once that normally run daily, weekly, or monthly. I could easily see System Restore thinking "Oh, you haven't backed up for a month--better do that as soon as you start up."

I have been using Linux since the 90's (and MacOS, OSX, BSD, and every flavor of Windows except Vista) and have always understood why most people prefer Windows to Linux. Not everyone likes chasing down bug reports, compiling drivers, and hacking configuration files. However, I have to give props to the Ubuntu people. For the first time ever I have been recommending that people install Ubuntu because it has really become hassle free, particularly on less-than-bleeding-edge hardware. In my sample size of the two people who agreed, both have been very happy with Ubuntu and haven't looked back.

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A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you. -- Ramsey Clark