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Comment Re:Verizon is doubling the phone-subsidy to $350.. (Score 1) 520

Virgin Mobile here in Canada is (i'm guessing) the same idea; they use other carriers' towers, you buy the phone at Wal-Mart.
And seriously (not to be a shill) but their pre-paid service is vastly cheaper than any of the competition where I live (Saskatchewan). I thought the prices were pretty comparable, then I realized the other providers add service and 911 fees on top of the prices they advertise, and charge that much again for call display or voicemail. I pay $20 a month plus $0.10 a minute with unlimited texting, call display and voicemail; it doesn't get much better considering how little I talk. Not sure about their data plans though. I just can't see why people get 3-year phone plans... crazy.

Comment Finally! (Score 2, Informative) 81

My older brother is the design head for the University of Saskatchewan team, the front-runners of the past competitions. Suffice to say they're really excited about it, since this competition has been delayed month by month since about a year ago! It'll be neat to see everything actually all come together.

You can watch a sweet (if cheesy) video about the team on their website.
Biotech

Scientists Learn To Fabricate DNA Evidence 256

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that it is possible to fabricate blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor, and even to construct a sample of DNA to match someone's profile without obtaining any tissue from that person — if you have access to their DNA profile in a database. This undermines the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases. 'You can just engineer a crime scene,' said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper. 'Any biology undergraduate could perform this.' The scientists fabricated DNA samples in two ways. One requires a real, if tiny, DNA sample, perhaps from a strand of hair or a drinking cup. They amplified the tiny sample into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique called whole genome amplification. The other technique relies on DNA profiles, stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person's genome. The scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot, creating a library of such snippets. To prepare a phony DNA sample matching any profile, they just mixed the proper snippets together. Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, says the findings were worrisome. 'DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,' says Simoncelli. 'We're creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.'"

Comment Re:As a Canadian, my thoughts (Score 1) 394

people should have ownership over ideas

I disagree.

Any ideas that I have are, to a considerable (possibly entire) extent, inspired or formed by the ideas that I've been exposed to prior to coming up with "my own" ideas. Really, when you think about it, can any creator take 100% credit for whatever it is they produce? Take philosophy for example, when someone writes up a book with some new philosophical theory, it's guaranteed that the ideas of philosophers going back centuries contributed to the new work.

Maybe the best example is chord progressions and jazz music. A whole pile of great jazz tunes were based on the chord progressions of songs by old timers like Gershwin - jazz artists would take the exact same chords, write new melodies, and improvise great tunes out of them. Imagine though, if copyright law had included chord progressions - jazz music as an art form would likely not exist. And really, why shouldn't chord progressions be copyrighted too? After all, Gershwin came up with some great ones. But the loss to society and culture would have been severe (although nobody would have noticed at the time). And at the same time, Gershwin when he wrote those chords would have been inspired by the musicians of his time that he listened to. So jazz musicians ripped off Gershwin (and other tin pan alley composers), and these guys ripped off previous composers, and society benefited enormously from all of that.

That's something that's all the more apparent today, since something created in one part of the world can be immediately visible worldwide, and won't be forgotten for years. For culture to grow and thrive, you need to be able to rip off, build on, and be inspired by the artists, creators, and inventors that came before you or are your contemporaries. That doesn't happen nowadays.

But the idea itself? You don't deserve to be paid just because you thought about something and put it on paper.

Well, maybe paid a little for putting together previous creators' ideas in a new combination. But in exchange, you have to let other people do the same with yours.


Also, a bizarre but fascinating exploration of perpetual copyright and the future, by Spider Robinson: http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

Comment Re:summarizing the article for you... (Score 2, Interesting) 461

This is something that was *very* important to Gene Roddenberry. IIRC, he was very upset at some background voiceover chatter in the first film about a Starfleet dreadnought.

Mod parent up! :) To me, this has always been one of the coolest (and most unique) things about Star Trek. It's cheesy I know, but the conception of a (relatively) peaceful, hopeful future where the heroes were more so explorers and ambassadors and less so warriors - that's really cool. Especially keeping in mind that this was made in the thick of the cold war, where a lot of people thought there might not be any humans left in two decades. That whole concept has kind of been lost in more recent Star Trek ("Enterprise", mostly) and maybe SF in general, which partly makes sense since it doesn't make for really exciting television, that's for sure.

But still. The thought of an optimistic, bright future universe is really something. Props to Gene Roddenberry for being ahead of the curve on that one.

Comment Re:Which country? (Score 1) 243

Actually, the company that makes it (MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates' space division) was very almostly sold to a US defense contractor last spring. Which would kind of have sucked for Canada's space industry, since that company is basically ...our only one.

So really - back off, get your own robot space arms! : ) Cool, thanks, eh?

A bit of canadian history - in the late 50s, Canada had developed the world's most advanced jet interceptor (the Avro Arrow). When it was cancelled in 1958, almost every single scientist and engineer working on it moved to the States to work on the US space program. The Canadian aeronautical industry never recovered (but at least we can take credit for all the cool stuff NASA did in the 60s!). People really worry that if MDA Space ever gets sold off, the same thing will happen again.
http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/04/10/mdablock.html

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