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Comment What Would the Movies Do? (Score 2) 180

In answering this question for books it might be instructive to look at what happens in another artistic field, that of the movies. Although there are some major differences (Movies cost a lot more to make and therefore there aren't so many made each year for a start) the comparison might shed a little light.

With rating movies statistically there are a number of methods:

- Box office takings, such as Box Office Mojo

- DVD and Video sales

- Movie audience figures (when broadcast on television or similar)

- Industry awards, such as the Academy Awards or the Baftas

- Ratings from critics, such as Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic - Ratings from general users, such as IMDB

- and finally, "Best of" listings voted on by critics or interest groups.

I include the last not because it is really a very good statistical comparison as compared to any of the other methods, but because it is the only one analogous to the sorts of lists being considered in the Worlds Without End rankings.

To get a good statistical ranking for books or movies we need to get a comprehensive set of data that covers all (or most) of the entries, and which applies the same rankings to each. None of the rankings for Movies which I have listed really does that, but some do better than others in some ways at least. For example, ticket and unit sales cover all movies, though they have the problem that the number of people going to movies, and the price they pay per ticket, have increased over time so that the ranking metric isn't the same for all movies. It also has the disadvantage that ticket sales are not necessarily related to how good a movie is. Industry awards can probably be assumed to cover all movies released in a given year and therefore cover the whole population, but have the problem that the award givers may not cover all entries equally, and may be subject to bias. Critical judgement, whether from professional critics or members of the public, also have the problem of coverage - I personally cannot expect to be able to see every movie made, and the ones I do see will be affected by by things like advertising budgets which are not necessarily related to how good the movie actually is.

With books we do have some similar data sets. Figures for number of books printed, or sales on the likes of Amazon can be compiled, though these have the same problem of not being related to quality. I don't know of any compilation sites for professional book critics (anybody?), but there are sites such as Goodreads where members of the public can give their subjective rankings. Industry awards also exist, such as the Hugo or Nebula awards, but these have the disadvantage of being subject to politics (*cough* Puppies vs SJW anyone?). Finally, there are "Best of" lists, such as the ones cited by Worlds Without End.

Books have a problem compared to movies in that far more books get published than movies get made. While a good critic can expect to see all the movies that come out in a year (at least all those released theatrically), reading every book that is published is impossible. This eats into the quality of critical rankings out there, or even into Industry awards. Any "Best of the Year" list can't really hope to be definitive, because a book - especially a ground breaking, iconoclastic new classic - will take time to find a wide audience and be widely recognised.

For my money, I think the likes of Goodreads are probably the best bet as an objective, comprehensive and timely statistical source for rankings of books.

Comment All in the definitions (Score 5, Insightful) 80

The comment that the algorithm does better at predicting personality than a person's friends will depend very strongly on how you define a friend. I have a very large number of Facebook friends about whom I know almost nothing, so I am not at all surprised that an algorithm will do better.

Comment Re:There have been too many scams... (Score 1) 280

That's why you have Wikipedia...which will tell you that aneutronic fusion needs much higher temperatures, in addition, at least fifty times the density-time of D-T fusion, and generates three orders of magnitude lower power density.

In their paper in Physics of Plasmas they report having achieved the density and temparature necessary for aneutronic (hydrogen-boron) fusion. The new electrode will enable them to demonstrate a reaction which creates more energy than is required to trigger it - not a finished device, but one which will demonstrate its practicality and attach the funding necessary to commercialise it.

For more detail, an interview with the project founder can be found on the Future and You podcast here.

Comment Re:It's here (Score 2) 211

It should be on Google's home page, starting Saturday.

Perhaps it's not Saturday yet where you are? Or maybe it's locked by country-code or something?

Here in Australia we got it on Friday. And we got the special on local TV at the same time as the UK.

Comment Re:Reminds me of a joke a Welsh priest once told m (Score 1) 668

Why wasn't Jesus born in Wales?

Because God couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.

Irrelevant. Both the wise men and the virgin came from elsewhere.

Now I come to think of it - the wise men came from the East, which would be London in the case of Wales, while the virgin came form the North, which would be Scotland.

Perhaps your priest knew what he was talking about after all.

Comment Re:Not snacks but plenty of coffee (Score 1) 172

We had something like this happen were I worked. In our case we have a devices which dispenses boiling or chilled water and people make their own coffee. When it broke down and didn't get fixed immediately I went out & bought a cheap plug in kettle and left it in the kitchen. Made me very popular. Not that the situation is otherwise very close - our building is in the CBD and surrounded by good coffee shops.

Comment Re:Wait a minute... (Score 2) 243

This doesn't involve eating babies, does it?

For those who aren't English majors (or married to one ;-), 93 Escort Wagon is referring to a satirical essay written by Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public". Swift's "modest proposal" is that children of the poor Irish could be sold as food to wealthy English.

I can't tell if the authors of the article we are discussing are alluding to Swift's essay or whether they are thereby flagging their own proposal as similarly ridiculous.

Comment Re:Much to my surprise (Score 5, Informative) 263

I didn't like it much.

I went to see the movie with my kids last night, and liked it a lot less than I expected to.

SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS

My main gripe was the set up of how the city was held to ransom for an extended period of time, which simply didn't feel credible. We have a situation where the bad guys manage to hold a city of ~12 million people hostage for a period of about 6 months (not completely sure of the numbers here) by threatening to blow them up with the fusion reactor. The bad guys keep control by their initial army of outlaws who have been training in the city's sewers, augmented by the hundreds liberated from the Bastille - sorry, the prison. During this time no one is allowed to escape because of the threat to blow the nuke, a threat which is enforced from the outside, yet somehow the city manages to function after a fashion - food supplies are provided from the outside, and somehow enough order is maintained that the city doesn't simply collapse. I would expect plagues and famine and riots, not to mention fire after all the explosions at the start of the siege.

I found this all rather hard to buy. In terms of the story the extended siege is done to give Bruce Wayne time to heal up in his remote prison, and to make his spiritual journey that allows him to escape from it and return to Gotham. I find it hard to believe that such a siege with so many hostages could be maintained - this is a city after all, and would leak people like a sieve. Similarly, the maintenance of order would be a real problem in such circumstances. Least credible of all, I could not swallow that a thousand or so police offices could be trapped underground for six months, somehow supplied with food & such, then be busted out and run off to battle, fully fit and wearing clean uniforms. Really?

Did anyone else spot all the French Revolution/Tale of Two Cites references? I mean the conflict between aristocracy and underclass, the storming of the prison (the Bastille), the citizens' court against the oppressors, the final sacrifice and Bruce Wayne's epitaph, read from the close of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Interesting to see that put into a modern setting.

I wondered about some of the technology also. I thought the helicopter thing was pretty neat, though it was fortunate that the missiles fired at it were so slow that the copter could keep ahead while it outmanoeuvred them . Did Bane buy them from the lowest bidder, perhaps? I didn't really buy that the fusion core could be (a) so easily turned into a bomb, or (b) be removable from the reactor and still remain deadly without the need to keep it fuelled or maintained.

That said, there was a lot to like. I don't think I'll be in a hurry to watch this one again, though - unlike the first two movies in the series.

Australia

Submission + - Australian Federal Court awards damages to artist for false copyright claim (mallesons.com)

BarryHaworth writes: In a decision handed down earlier this month, the Australian Federal Court awarded damages to Aboriginal artist Richard Bell over a false claim of copyright infringement. The claim related to a take-down notice claiming copyright infringement from film footage used in a trailer for a film being made by the artist. The court declared Mr Bell the owner of the copyright and awarded him $147,000 in damages for lost sales of paintings and catalogues. The full decision can be found here.

At time of writing, Youtube does not appear to have caught up with the decision.

Comment Re:I'll bet the science fiction is well-covered (Score 1) 1244

I was going to suggest "A Voyage to Arcturus" but I've been beaten to the draw. I will mention that it is available on project Gutenberg.

Another author you might check out is Charles Williams, whose novels straddle science fiction & Fantasy (though heavily slanted towards the latter). These can be found on Project Gutenberg Australia.

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