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Comment Zebra F301: The Official Pen of Radio Astronomers (Score 1) 712

At least, when I was there, the NRAO facility in New Mexico had Zebra F-301 BP ball point pens in the stockroom for any sufficiently intelligent-looking person to use.

As an artist, I love doodling and sketching with ball point pens, wanting to vary from light fine details to a firmer line, and then write some math or a grocery list, then doodle more. I'm happy with 0.7mm lines from the F301, but Zebra probably makes other pens with skinnier lines.

I used to like one of the big brands because it used to be okay, but then their product seemed to go downhill, blobbing more than I like (zero).


Has Plant Life Reached Its Limits? 209

hessian writes with this news from the New York Times: "Since 2000, Dr. [Steven] Running and his colleagues have monitored how much plant growth covers terra firma, using two NASA satellites in the agency's Earth Observing System. After they crunched the numbers, combining the current monitoring system's data with satellite observations dating back to 1982, they noticed that terrestrial plant growth, also known as net primary production, remained relatively constant. Over the course of three decades, the observed plant growth on dry land has been about 53.6 petagrams of carbon each year, Dr. Running writes in the article. This suggests that plants' overall productivity — including the corn that humans grow and the trees people log for paper products — is changing little now, no matter how mankind tries to boost it, he said."

Submission + - Medicare Bills Rise as Records Turn Electronic

theodp writes: As part of the economic stimulus program, the Obama administration put into effect a Bush-era incentive program that provides tens of billions of dollars for physicians and hospitals that make the switch to electronic records, using systems like Athenahealth (which made U.S. CTO Todd Park a wealthy man). The goal was not only to improve efficiency and patient safety, but also to reduce health care costs. But, in reality, the move to electronic health records may be contributing to billions of dollars in higher costs for Medicare, private insurers and patients by making it easier for hospitals and physicians to bill more for their services, whether or not they provide additional care. Hospitals received $1 billion more in Medicare reimbursements in 2010 than they did five years earlier, at least in part by changing the billing codes they assign to patients in emergency rooms, according to a NY Times analysis. There are also fears that features which can be used to automatically generate detailed patient histories and clone examination findings for multiple patients make it too easy to give the appearance that more thorough exams were conducted than perhaps were. Critics say the abuses are widespread. 'It's like doping and bicycling,' said Dr. Donald W. Simborg. 'Everybody knows it's going on.'

Submission + - Programming Languages For Desktop Applications (phoronix.com)

jones_supa writes: Bart Massey, an X.Org Foundation Board of Directors member brought up open questions concerning why desktop applications are harder to develop than for mobile/web and whether the choice of programming languages is to blame. During the talk he also observes how the classic widget metaphor requires a lot of boilerplate code and abstraction which might not be intuitive to manage anymore. On the other hand creating apps with rich interactivity in a browser is rather clunky too. The audience brings up QML as one solution to help the burden. What are your thoughts?

Submission + - Post Homo sapiens homonids (eurekalert.org) 1

ISoldat53 writes: Researchers have identified a group of Africans that appear to have diverged from the H. sapiens gene pool. See the RTFA for details. We have spent years trying to find out where we as a species come from; it's interesting to speculate on where we are going.

Submission + - Google Faces Heavy Antitrust Fines in the EU (networkworld.com)

SquarePixel writes: Europe's competition watchdog is considering formal proceedings against Google over antitrust complaints about the way it promotes its own services in search results, potentially exposing the company to a fine of 10 percent of its global turnover. Google is accused of using its search service to direct users to its own services and to reduce the visibility of competing websites and services. If the Commission found Google guilty of breaking E.U. competition rules, it could restrict Google's business activities in Europe and fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue (US$37.9 billion last year).

Submission + - Intel talks Cloud Gaming (intel.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Intel researcher Daniel Pohl (also known from projects like Wolfenstein Ray Traced) talked at the Cloud Gaming USA conference about three challenges in cloud gaming today. First cloud games are just the same as their PC and console versions and don't make use of a potential, more powerful cloud to enable more features and higher quality rendering. Second the topic of latency, not only regarding internet, but along the full way from user input to the screen is analyzed in detail. Last an outlook discusses the huge increase in screen resolutions over the next years and therefore the challenge regarding bandwidth and compute. Both slides and a video of the talk are available.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Engineering in the Ancient World 1

lostmy4digitUID writes: As a profesional engineer and a historical hobbyist I have have been researching some of the greatest ancient accomplishments. What i found was that some of the greatest accomplshments are not as well know in the mainstream as they should be. When we hear about ancient engineering we hear about the Giza pyramids, Stonehedge, or the Nazca lines. I am contemplating writing a book about the lesser known but far more impressive ancient accomplishments such as the Ba'albek stone in Lebanon which weighed about 1200 tons (2.4 million pounds) or the construction of Pumapunku in Bolivia which displays perfect 90 degree angle cuts with out any tool marks ( supposedly built by a civilization that was illiterate). There are many more examples such as the Antikythera mechanism which is arguably the worlds first complicated machine. I would like to ask the group think machine for any other examples and possible explanations for such advanced engineering in such prinitive times.

Submission + - What Causes Spaghetti Code? (Not the GOTO)

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Michael O'Church writes that spaghetti code is an especially virulent but specific kind of bad code related to the dreaded and mostly archaic goto statement, a simple and powerful control flow mechanism that makes it difficult to reason about code, because if control can bounce about a program, one cannot make guarantees about what state a program is in when it executes a specific piece of code. Goto statements were once the leading cause of spaghetti code, but goto has fallen so far out of favor that it’s a non-concern. "Now the culprit is something else entirely: the modern bastardization of object-oriented programming," writes O'Church adding that inheritance is an especially bad culprit, and so is premature abstraction: using a parameterized generic with only one use case in mind, or adding unnecessary parameters. Object-oriented programming, originally designed to prevent spaghetti code, has become one of the worst sources of it (through a “design pattern” ridden misunderstanding of it). An “object” can mix code and data freely and conform to any number of interfaces, while a class can be subclassed freely about the program. "There’s a lot of power in object-oriented programming, and when used with discipline, it can be very effective. But most programmers don’t handle it well, and it seems to turn to spaghetti over time," concludes O'Church. "I recognize that this claim – that OOP as practiced is spaghetti code – is not a viewpoint without controversy. Nor was it without controversy, at one time, that goto was considered harmful.""

Submission + - Open Hardware Spectrometer Kit (publiclaboratory.org)

mybluevan writes: The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science is putting together an open hardware spectrometer kit on Kickstarter. The kits are built using an HD webcam, discarded DVD, and a couple other odd bits. They've also put together a kit for your smart phone and open-source software for desktop, Android, and iOS. Need to analyze the contents of your coffee, the output of your new grow lights, or a distant star on a budget? Just build your own spectrometer, or pick up the limited edition steampunk version.

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