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A Protocol For Home Automation 116

jfruh writes "Marshall Rose, one of the creators of the SNMP protocol, has a beef with current home automation gadgets: it's very, very difficult to get them to talk to each other, and you often end up needing a pile of remote controls to operate them. To fix these problems, he's proposed the Thing System, which will serve as an intermediary on your home automation network. The Thing System aims to help integrate gadgets already on the market, which may help it take off."

Comment Re:Psychology question (Score 1) 19

You're welcome! I started doing Q&As after I kept getting random off-topic bio questions on news stories. They've dried up a little, but clearly people are still checking for these journal entries, despite not asking for them, since you and several other people found this one.

Stockholm syndrome is actually a coping mechanism that prevents depression. If you love your captor, that distracts you from the fact that you're imprisoned and being abused. BPD tends to manifest following a lot of deep shatterings of trust (at least, in my experience with some friends who've had it), so it's more likely to manifest after (or perhaps as) the illusion of love falters or is proven less than perfect.

A few months ago I wrote a short article talking about some computer-like aspects of how the brain works. One of the features in particular that I examined was dreaming behaviour—how sleep gives the brain time to refresh itself and clean up artefacts and imperfections in how it works and what it knows. One of the dangers of not getting proper sleep is overfitting—the expectation that everything must fit an exact category, value, or relationship; this is the same as neurosis when it happens in our reasoning skills. In other parts of the brain, though, overfitting can cause hallucinations and inconsistent logic as the brain tries to fill in gaps that it can't handle, features that are a hallmark of both schizophrenia and extreme sleep deprivation. If you've ever seen the film A Beautiful Mind, it's pretty easy to appreciate how tightly linked Nash's genius was to his propensity for paranoid delusions.

The food–love association does play a role in depression- and anxiety-triggered overeating. In particular, chocolate, much moreso for women than men, has a pretty profound effect on oxytocin (not to be confused with oxycontin!) levels, a hormone that enhances feelings of love and connectedness. (If you can't sympathize with this from personal experience, I'm told that lavender has a similar effect.)

As for body image: many corset wearers would go so far as to have their lower ribs removed in order to achieve a better hourglass figure. And given that wearing a corset for a long period of time dramatically increased chances for complications during pregnancy, I think I'd say it was pretty messed up. (Although sadly the maternal mortality rate during delivery was quite awful for most of Western civilization's history.)

However, the media was much less effective at conveying ideals of beauty in the past—due to an line in the Old Testament, cosmetics were widely regarded by most people as being only for prostitutes—and so the average person wouldn't have been aware of such pressures until well into the 20th century when film stars began to set the standards for beauty. That being said, the name anorexia nervosa dates back to the 19th century, and there have been cases throughout history. See Wikipedia.

Comment Re:"waiting list"? Actually, no. (Score 1) 19

Increasingly female faculty are reading studies like this and taking corrective action, but you can imagine there's still lots of room for improvement. As Barres articulates, the meme responsible for the overall disparity is that men have a broader variation than women in intelligence (which, sadly, I myself have believed in the past), but this goes back to some very flawed and old IQ test results that, unsurprisingly, can be influenced by your level of self-confidence! If you go through his slides (and I really recommend you do), you'll see that there are some pretty big names that defend the notion as it stands even though they should know better than to trust the source.

Comment Re: Firmware update? Unlikely. (Score 1) 162

Oh yes it is. Why else would this exist or this be so aggressive? If you're a programmer, then you are a witch and you are suspicious; end of story. No one with any lawmaking responsibility knows what you might be capable of, but it's probably at least as bad as this. Therefore, this happens. How does it feel to be branded a potential enemy of the state just because of an aptitude for creative problem-solving?

Comment Re:"waiting list"? Actually, no. (Score 1) 19

This exceedingly well-informed (and justly so) guy pretty much covers and has experienced everything there is to say. Perhaps the most bizarre thing is how deep the bias about perceived skill runs; Barres argues that seemingly well-adjusted people will unconsciously view a female scientist's work more critically simply based on gender (although his own anecdotal experience is hardly under rigorous control and it's possible he really did get better.)

On the other hand, when I got to graduate school and was going through potential PIs, I commented to one of them (the only woman in the bunch and one of the few in the department) that the gender balance was much weaker than it had been at my alma mater—there, both the students and the faculty were within 20% of parity, despite both departments being CS. Her view was one of internalized pressure, that a lack of suitable role models in prestigious institutions directly causes assumptions about one's own abilities, so women don't generally push to try and get into better programs.

Looking back, I can't exactly say I disagree with her assessment. If I'd had any friends at all in undergrad and hadn't been quite as ignorant about the gender disparity when I toured the campus the first time around, I might've stayed in my home town. (No doubt to the polite chagrin of my parents.) As it turned out, though, I ended up in a cross-departmental posting, and my lab is actually mostly female—or was, anyway, until last month, when the newest students started. Now it's 50/50, I guess, not counting the male PI and a perennial undergrad or two.

Comment Re:Psychology question (Score 1) 19

I'm not a psychologist (and Slashdot just ate half my post), but I might be able to satisfy your curiosity on this matter.

Evolutionary psychology is an ideology that holds that most human quirks were, at some point, useful. Usually this involves some romanticized neolithic society, and it's been shown many times that it's probably mostly garbage and definitely depends on circular reasoning in some cases, but there are some things that can be somewhat explained by it. Depression seems to be one of them.

Another key evolutionary consideration, which is not part of evolutionary psychology, is that modern, Western society lowers the bar a great deal. Life puts expectations on us that are quite different from the expectations it put on our ancestors, and that means that some traits may be more excusable, or even desirable, when they were previously a problem.

Depression rates are not uniform. Depression is triggered by experiences, so if you live under good conditions or are preoccupied with survival, then it's probably not a concern at all. Check out this global map—it's too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but you get the impression that there's circumstantial meaning behind it. There are genetic considerations, of course, but they mostly just seem to promote pessimistic behaviour. (Two more notes: Europeans have a much higher rate of having the particular gene variant from that last link. Unrelatedly, both France and Louisiana show up as having very high depression rates on those two maps. Might be something heritable going on there.) It seems easy to suggest that this kind of pessimism might actually be useful, in that it makes us more critical and cautious if it doesn't break our backs.

Schizophrenia is another Western civilization linked illness (annoyingly, this graph is coloured backward from the other Wikipedia one.) Evolutionary psychology falls down in this case; a schizophrenic may occasionally make a convincingly weird prophet, but it generally seems to be a bad thing. At the same time, researchers think that schizophrenia, like autism, is affected much more by chemicals in the environment. Perhaps more plausible is the second line of reasoning, that it comes linked with the demands of a more analytical mind. Certainly John Nash would say so. As people gain the freedom to marry who they please, the likelihood of two similar people accidentally causing the genetic equivalent of inbreeding increases.

Eating disorders are a whole other planet. The modern anorexia rate is a result of pop culture; it literally didn't exist a century ago. Compulsive overeating is seen in many animals, on the other hand, and seems to just be an unexpected scenario—if food is available, we eat it. Eating yourself to death is pretty hard when you have to burn a thousand calories to hunt a deer or gather berries. We rely on self control and other social constructs to stop these things. (And four hundred years ago, being overweight was considered a sign of wealth, and was hence attractive in Europe.) Don't mistake obesity for overeating, though—it's well-established at this point that many obese people actually have an obscure immune disorder that causes an intestinal infection, which then causes weight gain. It's purely bad luck, but probably caused by bad factory farming practices.

BPD, as a mixture of neurosis and psychosis, rather simply comes from absolute and extreme demands mixed with an analytical predisposition. It's a little less common (2-6% of Americans), but it's pretty straightforward to understand how the same experiences that give rise to depression can cause it.

Stockholm syndrome serves a rather clear-cut evo-psych purpose—if you don't learn to befriend your captors, you've got a much higher chance of being killed by them. Assuming the captors are a tribe you've just been assimilated into, this suddenly becomes pretty critical. Also keep in mind that Stockholm syndrome is the deep end of the pool; if you scale the mechanism back to less hostile situations, it's essentially the same thing that happens when you try to make peace with someone who hates you.

Comment Re:"waiting list"? Actually, no. (Score 1) 19

It's hard to know if that'll be entirely necessary. I understand as a father you feel a profound need to protect, but it actually is getting better. You might want to consider sending her to another university, however; schools with an overall more balanced program tend to have an easier time drawing women to more polarized fields.

Comment Re:"waiting list"? Actually, no. (Score 1) 19

This is probably the fifth or sixth time since I started posting on Slashdot actively two or three years ago. However, it is the first time someone has... solicited on the behalf of another, and the first time the inquirer had the forethought and considerateness to post directly (and insistently) on a very visible and irremovable journal entry rather than a private email or an obscure story comment.

As most of these messages seem to come from older people, I remain optimistic that this kind of thing is continuing to die out and is not yet at some kind of asymptotic background level.

Comment Re:Could US Attorney Carmen Ortiz Help Her? (Score 2) 189

No, no, no: Swartz was able to download JSTOR articles at all because, as a research fellow at MIT, he had the exact same kind of access agreement. All he did was scrape stuff from the JSTOR site using that access. The submitter was wrong to write that portion of the summary.

...and at any rate, (most) NIH-funded research must become publicly accessible via PubMed Central within 12 months of publication, so this, too, is something of a non-story. Paywalls aren't quite as thorough (or elite) as we sometimes think.

Comment Re:I wish they'd do it here. (Score 2) 372

It's also believed to be why programmers become nocturnal; the pure white light of a computer monitor screws up part of the Circadian rhythm. It's quite possible that all of New York will become even more insomniac after this change. The blueness of the light is surprisingly important; pure blue light is around four times more potent than white light in treating seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression caused by lack of daylight.

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I consider a new device or technology to have been culturally accepted when it has been used to commit a murder. -- M. Gallaher