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Comment Re:Strongly RESTRICT Code Commenting (Score 1) 580

There are just 3 good reasons for comments in code: (a) to refer to a published paper describing an (obscure) algorithm, eg '[fast graph traversal algorithm, M. M. Balakrishnarajan and P. Venuvanalingam ,Computers & Chemistry, Volume 19, Issue 2, June 1995, Pages 101-106] , (b) to indicate an arcane, obscure usage, which would be better eliminated, but sometimes cannot be eg in device drivers, when merely addressing a device register has side effects, (c) to very briefly document major parts of program flow-meaning, if this isn't otherwise obvious.

A fourth reason: if you use something like Sphinx to autogenerate documentation from your code, then you should probably include at least a one-liner saying what each function or method does, and maybe you want to describe the parameters and the return values. (If you're using a language like Python, then of course you don't have the types of the parameters or the return values in the function definition, so you should document them.)

Comment Re:When science fails. (Score 1) 229

One thing I have never been able to figure out is how you can repeat experiments on origins (of matter, of forces, etc).

You form a hypothesis about the big bang happening, and you deduce that if it had happened, then you would be able to observe certain phenomena now, if only your measurements could be made precisely enough. (I'm not a physicist or an astronomer, but maybe the phenomena would involve the residual energy in the vacuum of deep space, or the distribution of certain elements in stars, or something about general relativity, or I don't know what.) When technology has improved enough, or when you have designed a careful enough experiment, you carry out your experiments and see if you observe those phenomena. If you don't see what you should, then you have to say that your hypothesized account of the big bang must be wrong.

Comment Re:Landsberg's last book annoyed me enough (Score 1) 229

As an example, the heart of his "more sex is safer sex" argument used in the title is that overall risk is reduced if *certain* *people*, those with lower odds of having disease, have more sex. Then the people they have sex with are having safer sex than if with someone else. Alas, it rests on the contention that if the "safer" people have more sex, every act *displaces* another sexual interaction - the possibility that simply more sex will occur, the added interactions being safer, but *not* displacing a less-safe one, is not allowed for.

I haven't read this book, but if you start with n sexual interactions, k of which are unsafe, and then you add m more, all of which are safe, then the fraction of unsafe sexual interactions has decreased: it's gone from k/n to k/(n+m). Therefore the risk in any particular interaction is less.

(A similar computation works even if the new interactions aren't all safe, but just more likely to be safe than the old ones.)

Comment Re:Okay, You Have the Floor (Score 1) 507

The same fallacy applies to your post about what RIAA is doing. While what the RIAA curriculum is teaching might be counter to your moral beliefs (i.e. you may believe that all information should be free and copyright laws are an abomination), unless it is factually inaccurate it doesn't matter.

Of course it matters. Schools don't have an infinite amount of time: even if they follow your "fact-based" approach (whatever that means when it comes to writing or indeed any sort of art), they still need to make decisions about which facts to include. If the facts are wrong, it's easy to discount them. But if the RIAA (for example) comes up with lesson plans based on (let's assume) an accurate description of copyright law, then I would say that it's still not worth the time. Work on math, science, history, writing, music, any number of things before spending time on this.

Comment Re:The ability to check your work is crucial! (Score 2, Insightful) 339

I believe the ability to check your work is crucial.

So learn how to check your work. First, look at your answer and try to determine whether it makes sense, and then see if you made any silly algebra mistakes. Then if you're learning integration, for example, take the derivative and see if you get the original function back again. If you're learning differential equations, plug your purported solution in and see if it is actually a solution. In many situations, you have more than one method available to solve a problem, so try both and see if they produce the same thing.

In the real world you don't have a solution manual, so it's a valuable skill to be able to check your work without one. Furthermore, some students use solution manuals badly: if they don't get the right answer, they tinker with their work until their answer matches the right one, with no understanding of what they did wrong or what they did to correct it. It's a good idea to not have all of the answers available; for calculus, half seems about the right proportion.

This, of course, is precisely backwards of how math is taught. They try to teach the mathematic principles, and then from that you are supposed to deduce how to do the problems. This has never worked for me.

I'm not sure what you're talking about -- mathematics is taught lots of different ways: there is no single, monolithic, method for "how math is taught."

Comment Re:Not Really (Score 1) 752

By trying to pick and choose winners and losers in the marketplace, the government distorts the market and creates inefficiencies.

I'm curious: do you feel the same way about the minimum wage? Child labor laws? Requirements that new cars have seat belts and airbags? Do all of these create inefficiencies in the marketplace?

Data Storage

Tips For Taking Your Laptop Into and Out of the US? 940

casualsax3 writes "I'm going to be taking a week long round trip from NYC to Puerto Vallarta Mexico sometime next month, and I was planning on taking my laptop with me. I'll probably want to rip a few movies and albums to the drive in order to keep busy on the flight. More important though, is that I'm also going to be taking pictures while I'm there, and storing them on the laptop. With everything in the news, I'm concerned that I'll have to show someone around the internals of my laptop coming back into the US. The pictures are potentially what upsets me the most, as I feel it's an incredible violation of my privacy. Do I actually need to worry about this? If so, should I go about hiding everything? I've heard good things about Truecrypt. Is it worth looking into or am I being overly paranoid?"

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