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Comment Re:Java and C# (Score 1) 565

I've got news for you - that wasn't considered "good style" back in the day, either, except perhaps for a few cases that involved lots of complex mathematics that were hard to break down with any efficiency. Outside of the modeling community, this has been considered detrimental for something like 50 years - you'd have to go back to the 60's to find a time when it was acceptable.

Not that it wasn't often done - but then on the other hand one can find pretty ugly modern "object oriented" designs as well.

"Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone."

Comment Re:Choice to Make (Score 1) 254

No correlation to cancer? That's not what studies [sciencedaily.com] are showing. I've also read that cell phones sitting in pockets have been connected to reduced sperm count.

The problem (as you note later when you say that "There's no reason why one study should be inherently more valid than the other" - actually this is false; many studies have methodological errors that invalidate them - but your basic idea is correct: that the results of any single study are inherently unreliable) is that a single study (or even several studies) is not enough to be any more than suggestive.

As you quickly learn in Statistics 101, "The improbable thing will happen with exactly that probability". Let's assume that there really is no correlation between cancer and cell phones - then we should expect that at least 1 in 20 studies will show that there is an increased risk of cancer associated with cell phone use (This is assuming that there are no methodological errors that might increase that number). If this is not immediately obvious to you, then you need to review Statistics 101: The "1 in 20" criterion is that there is a 19 out of 20 chance (95% probability) that the conclusions of the study are correct. Sometimes the dice just don't fall your way, and your study reaches the wrong conclusion.

Sorry to be so pedantic, but it seems there is a great deal of misunderstanding of the nature of statistical studies, even amongst people who ought to know better (I have plenty of horror stories from researchers in major Universities, but that's another topic altogether). A single study proves little, other than perhaps to suggest the need for further verification. That's why there is such a great deal of emphasis placed on reproducibility - not simply to reduce methodological errors, but also to reduce sampling error.

Comment Re:1,000 years? (Score 4, Insightful) 416

Also, it may not be vulnerable to humidity in a controlled environment, but in the outdoors, a few seasons of freezing/melting and it'll be shot. Water beats rock every time.

I really don't care if my archival storage can stand being left outside for several years, because I don't intend to do that. I'd be quite happy if it were at least as durable as a book, which if well made and with reasonable care can last at least a couple hundred years, possibly over 1000 under ideal conditions. So what if it can get ruined if it's left in the rain? If I care enough about the data, I just make a few copies and put them in different places and hopefully if I've chosen well at least one will survive. Right now it's not at all clear that typical CD's and DVD's are even as durable as cheap pulp paperbacks.

Comment Re:A good test (Score 1) 440

This is a good point. I certainly don't have a problem in principle with taking tests (in fact I usually do fairly well on them if I have some knowledge of the subject - in high school I was on the math team, and I would routinely place well above other kids who were just as smart as I was but who just weren't as good at taking tests), but it does seem reminiscent of the typing pool: Your value as an employee is directly related to how many words/min you can type. If the position has even a whiff of being essentially like the typing pool, it's probably a low-level or even entry-level job.

Comment Test the right things, consider legal issues (Score 2, Interesting) 440

Testing isn't necessarily a bad idea, but it can create problems as well as solve them. In most software development environments, any testing should usually be used to weed out unsuitable candidates rather than to produce a single number that will be used as the primary hiring guide. Other things like interpersonal dynamics can also be important, for example. Multiple-choice tests are probably the least useful, because they test specific bits of knowledge rather than broader concepts; that may be useful in a classroom where you're testing the student's knowledge of a specific curriculum, but most real-world software development positions (other than perhaps the very most entry-level jobs) are more about design and problem solving and not so much about things like the details of a specific computer language. Essay tests of whatever sort would usually be the most useful, but also the hardest to design and grade.

Even worse, if you aren't careful, in many places and depending on whether you are a public or a private entity, you can potentially open yourself up to things like discrimination lawsuits if you don't end up hiring whatever person received the highest score on the test even if they don't fit some of your other criteria very well.

I would certainly not want to give a test that wasn't in person - there are far too many ways to get scammed: For example I've had someone ask if I could "help them out" with an online employment test - not just asking me for one or two bits of information, but essentially asking me to take the whole test for them! If you are doing a "worldwide" search, that creates problems for a small software group - the cost of flying a number of candidates to your location can be astronomical.


Comment Re:yeah right (Score 2, Interesting) 484

25,000 square miles is a lot of land to give up, even if it's desert.

A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that 25,000 square miles is about 9.4 million lane-miles, or about 2.4 million miles of 4-lane roadway. This sounds suspiciously close to our total inventory of highway miles of all sorts, everything from Interstates down to country roads, so I suspect that that's where that number came from. I would certainly have a great deal of concern about the issue of wear-and-tear on major highways built using this technology; dealing with that would have to cost more than making normal solar panels, and all they have to do is just sit out there in the sun.

It would seem that there are lots of other places you could put that many solar panels that wouldn't have quite as much of the wear-and-tear issues: roofs of all sorts, for example. Since you don't really need 25,000 square miles of solar panels given current solar panel efficiency and current power needs, that would appear to be a better place to site them first. If it isn't cost-effective there, it won't be cost-effective anywhere.

Comment Re:Alternative biochemistries and definition of li (Score 1) 267

Where did you get that idea? I see no grounds for requiring increasing complexity for evolution, and indeed, since the overwhelming majority of life on this planet is microbial, as it always has been, there is fair evidence against such a claim.

"Complexity" in this context should be understood to say little or nothing about the physical size of the organisms or their multi- or unicellular nature. It is, rather, a comment about the size of the potential gene space for the organisms. Humans tend to think of "complexity" in very anthropomorphic terms, but even modern prokaryotes are still pretty complex organisms and have an enormous potential gene space. If the biochemistry of the life-forms does not allow for very much diversity (remember we're talking about life that presumably does not use DNA or RNA and possibly not even any of our amino acids), there is very little for evolution to work with. It's not hard to imagine a situation where such organisms might relatively quickly reach their maximum potential and evolution - even microbial evolution - effectively stops.

Comment Just how are they planning to collect this?! (Score 3, Informative) 485

Since this is a "4% tax" it sounds like they must be planning to levy it as a sales tax to be collected by any vendors who have to collect New York sales tax for transactions within the state; otherwise it doesn't make any sense to talk about "4%". One alternative would perhaps be that it could be a bandwidth tax to be collected by all of the New York ISP's - which would be more collectible: in most cases, your ISP certainly knows where you live even if (as in the case of wireless) it's only where you receive your bill.

But if it's going to be a standard sales tax, that raises all sorts of other problems. Most obviously, it provides a significant disincentive for companies selling downloads to locate in New York; it would be hard for them to collect tax from some company based in Canada, for example. But it also raises the question of how a company knows who they're dealing with; with many payment options, the customer's location need not be given, and since this is an Internet download if the company does ask for an address it would be easy enough for the customer to enter an out-of-state address to avoid paying the tax, and the company would never be the wiser. If the state requires them to use IP addresses to determine the customer's tax liability, it can often be difficult to determine the exact state for an IP address in a border area or in many other situations, and doesn't even address the problem of proxy servers that might be used deliberately or otherwise to avoid paying the tax.

Since the TFA is rather short on specifics, it's hard to tell how unworkable this might be, though whenever the Legislature - any Legislature - is in session, hare-brained schemes abound. It does sound like they're trying to see just how many people they can annoy with this kind of law.

Comment Re:Alternative biochemistries and definition of li (Score 1) 267

Can a given chemistry lead to increasing complexity, or is it just a dead end?

Why is "increasing complexity" a requirement for life? It's clearly a requirement for evolution, but I don't see any reason why something "lifelike" but alien might not have a very simple "maximum complexity" compared to standard carbon-based earthly life forms.

Comment The odds don't alter ... (Score 2, Insightful) 267

I don't know what the original article said (the site is thoroughly slashdotted), but finding life based on alternative chemistry won't "alter the odds" - it will just alter our computation of the odds. That immediately raises my suspicions since it suggests that the article was written by a journalist rather than a scientist, and consequently that it might be severely distorted.

Having said that, there are a lot of possible alternative chemistries that don't involve non-carbon-based life: substituting arsenic for phosphorus as mentioned here need not also substitute something else for carbon, so the most likely possibility is that such life would be carbon based but still "alien." As far as we know now, at Earthly temperatures and pressures carbon is a far more plausible basis for life than anything else, and so far we haven't even found much that's very promising at other temperatures and pressures. But I'm not at all sure that we have sufficiently explored alternative temperatures and pressures to rule them out as possible habitats.

Comment Re:You don't undertstand orbital physics (Score 2, Insightful) 155

There might well be a few fragments of several kilograms, but the fragments most likely to have a sufficient change in momentum to be able to deorbit that quickly could hardly be very large: The total sum of the momentum of all of the pieces before and after the event needs to remain constant; most of that debris is still going to be traveling at orbital velocities.

This event was visible in broad daylight, at 11:00 in the morning. Whatever it was, it must have been a pretty good-sized object.

Comment Re:Odd timing (Score 1) 242

This is a standard result of classical epistemology - it's certainly not original with Dawkins, it was already ancient generations before he was born. Proving a negative (any negative) is very difficult and usually impossible in just about any subject other than mathematics and logic and the like. Similarly we can't prove that flying saucers don't exist - but if anyone were to exhibit an example of any of these things, then that's all that's needed to prove that it does exist.

It's an amusing coincidence that you were reading that at the same time but I'm not quite sure what it's supposed to prove.

Comment Re:Not a surprising result ..... (Score 1) 242

It's hard to be sure since the original article is not a proper journal article, but if I understand it correctly, the pups were swapped between the mothers at birth. This clearly allows for considerable influence of the birth mother, even though it would not be as strong as it would be if she had raised the pups as well. Various nutritional and hormonal influences might be at work here - in fact this struck me as a major weakness in the study: they should have swapped the embryos at a very early stage in development, but that's less convenient. In any case I do not think it is necessary to posit either some kind of "psychic connection" or full-blown Lamarckianism.

And yes, I did read the article in question before I posted. And FWIW, my degree is in evolutionary biology. I know it's /., where flames are the order of the day, but I think your comments are uncalled-for.

Comment Not a surprising result ..... (Score 3, Insightful) 242

Really, this is hardly a surprising result. There are many possible mechanisms that suggest themselves, operating either on the embryo or on the newborn - parents who are more intelligent are likely to be able to pass on more of what they've learned and/or provide a "richer" environment for their offspring, even if we're only talking about mice. The mammalian brain is remarkably plastic.

The real problem for the Lamarckian paradigm is that once you've optimized the environment, socialization, and gene expression for the animals in question, it's hard to propose a mechanism for making more radical changes through "acquired characteristics" - and in fact no such changes have been observed. This study does not change that fact.

The original article sounds to me to be altogether too credulous and sensationalistic.

Comment Re:Space junk falling in other places (Score 2, Informative) 155

Gravity is a foreign concept to some.

I hate to break it to you, but I seem to recall that ol' Isaac had a lot to say about momentum as well. If it's going to come to believing your speculations as opposed to Newton and Einstein, well, you're going to lose every time, at least in my book.

The satellites were pretty much shredded into perhaps tens of thousands of little bits - and the bits and pieces are going to have a variety of orbits and velocities. I don't think I ever said that NONE of it could be deorbiting this quickly, just that it's very unlikely that very MUCH of it could be doing so, and that it requires a fair amount of debris to make a visible display. Moreover given that the pieces almost certainly don't all have exactly the same velocity, it's highly unlikely that very many of them would deorbit simultaneously.

Gravity is only part of the story.

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