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Comment Re:Android is not Linux ... (Score 5, Informative) 321

While I generally agree that it's a huge WTF to think a consumer phone would be like that, when Android first appeared one of the most popular phones was the Maemo-based N900, a Linux smartphone that did indeed ship with a terminal client. Many Slashdotters seemed to consider it the pinnacle of phone design at the time, so it's perhaps not too surprising they were caught off guard by the notion that a Linux-based iPhone killer would have completely different priorities than preceding Linux-based phones. (Or, to paraphrase: "No terminal. Fewer buttons than a Nomad. Lame.")

Study: Our 3D Universe Could Have Originated From a 4D Black Hole 337

New submitter TaleSlinger sends this quote from Nature: "Afshordi's team realized that if the bulk universe contained its own four-dimensional (4D) stars, some of them could collapse, forming 4D black holes in the same way that massive stars in our Universe do: they explode as supernovae, violently ejecting their outer layers, while their inner layers collapse into a black hole. In our Universe, a black hole is bounded by a spherical surface called an event horizon. Whereas in ordinary three-dimensional space it takes a two-dimensional object (a surface) to create a boundary inside a black hole, in the bulk universe the event horizon of a 4D black hole would be a 3D object — a shape called a hypersphere. When Afshordi's team modeled the death of a 4D star, they found that the ejected material would form a 3D brane surrounding that 3D event horizon, and slowly expand. The authors postulate that the 3D universe we live in might be just such a brane — and that we detect the brane's growth as cosmic expansion. 'Astronomers measured that expansion and extrapolated back that the Universe must have begun with a Big Bang — but that is just a mirage,' says Afshordi."

Comment Re:Alien Names, Necessarily Silly, Never Believabl (Score 1) 116

I think the criticism is actually fair; it's stupid to always quote humans saying "Xchryxchub" when they're actually saying "Krikoob," as that implies they're better at pronouncing the weird alien name than they really are. Going to the trouble of inventing an orthography for their weird alien language in our alphabet, and then disregarding it, is part of the superfluous exotica complaint that Orson Scott Card levelled (and in the fantasy department, I believe Diana Wynne Jones has said something similar.) For that matter, maybe "Krikoob" should be spelled "Crickube"—a completely natural English spelling, but nothing disappointingly baby-ish.

There's an exception, of course: eventually the weird orthography would become legitimate if the two cultures remained in contact long enough and the aliens were thoroughly studied by our linguists. The onus is then on the author, like any explorer describing a newly-discovered civilization, to document and explain the correct pronunciation as best he or she can. (And if that gets tedious, perhaps a civilization with thirty different velar plosives isn't really appropriate for writing stories about. Much like diarrhea, comparative shopping, and trying to get ketchup stains out of a casual shirt, not everything makes good reading material.)

Comment Re:Names...? (Score 1) 116

That's more a product of an inappropriate choice of orthography. I'd be willing to bet his non-English readership was somewhat better at getting the names right, as would those with a Classics education (and given the age of his writings, much of his initial fanbase would've had such.) When a real constructed language is used, the problem of conveying the correct pronunciation becomes hilariously complex, since the orthography has to be internally consistent more than it has to be transparent to the reader.

Still, there are ways authors can provide cues—have characters mispronounce the name ("Leg-o-laz?" asked Frodo. "No, it's more like Le-go-lass," said Gimli. "I wish I could actually hear you saying that instead of just having to read it on the page," whined Pippin. "This example isn't really going where it was supposed to," said Gandalf.) or use an alternative orthography when English speakers use the name in an English context.

Comment Re:Twice as much work for instructor, 5% benefit? (Score 1) 169

In my experience, having been to a university where it was up to the individual professor, they claim it's a matter of copyright, and want to retain the rights to control the distribution of their lectures in case they decide to monetize it or something. And I'm pretty sure some of them just don't want there to be a permanent record if they make a mistake!

Comment Re:7.2 bil...That's $7.20 in poor peoples' money (Score 4, Insightful) 189

Personally I'm a little sceptical about the "last quarter" part. The tablet market isn't saturated like the PC market is, making it an unfair comparison. And since a PC is still more essential to most households (and laptops can be price-competitive with tablets), it's inevitably going to be the preferred thing to upgrade in the long term for those who can't afford both pieces of hardware. It seems much more likely that the demand for tablets will eventually decline once the market's more mature, and stay in the shadow of the PC until the content creation situation changes, especially with cannibalization by so-called "phablets."

Comment Wasted opportunity (Score 3, Insightful) 189

Think of all the embracing, extending, and extinguishing they could've attempted! Probably not a good business decision, in retrospect. I bet MS's phone market share would've looked a lot better if they'd developed a super-fancy Exchange-oriented business email client for a line of custom Android phones rather than developing WP8.

Comment Re:Alien Names, Necessarily Silly, Never Believabl (Score 1) 116

I had a somewhat longer post prepared originally, which was essentially a complaint about how no one ever seems to go the imperialist route for naming and call things Betelgeusian (notable exceptions: Martians and Terrans.)

The natural thing for two cultures in contact, at least up until the later half of the 20th century, was for words to be assimilated more fully. The silly letters get massaged into something more legible, and sometimes even calqued or translated. Hence for hundreds of years we had "Canton" instead of "Guangdong" for a certain Chinese province. Still unfamiliar, but not rawly alien.

In my opinion it would make more sense if we saw more of these compromises, particularly for far-future settings where lots of contact would've been standard. Eventually new words, no matter how alien, get assimilated.

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