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Comment Re:You know what they call alternative medicine... (Score 5, Interesting) 517

For example, I believe its generally accepted that acupuncture [] does something, we're just not sure how and what.

The problem with acupuncture studies is that they can't be done double-blinded: that is, the acupuncturist always knows whether he is doing "real" acupuncture or "sham" acupuncture*. This then leads to a bias effect, in which the patient is unconsciously cued as to whether or not the treatment "should" work, and expectation effects are stronger than any purported acupuncture benefits (e.g., Bausell et al 2005, Eval Health Prof). I remember a study, which I cannot dig up at the moment, in which the researchers gave acting lessons to the acupuncturist to ensure that they behaved in exactly the same way with respect to the patients between real and sham treatments, and when they did so acupuncture did not outdo the placebo.

* You can, in theory, do double-blinded by randomly assigning patients to one of two technicians, both of which were naive to acupuncture treatment before the study's beginning. They are then trained equally on two different sets of acupuncture points, one valid and one invalid, with no knowledge of which one of them is which. However, objectively this isn't really a fair test of acupuncture: consider the case where you tried to tackle the effectiveness of heart surgery using the same model.

Comment But it's still inflation? (Score 1) 194

Having read the original paper to the best of my ability (which is not perhaps very good), as far as I can see, the "critics" are arguing that the gravitational ripples might not have been caused by inflation directly, but by another process which happens to be a by-product of inflation. So unless I'm missing something, even if the critics are right, BICEP2 has still provided proof of inflation.

Comment In other news... (Score 1) 427

When you control for species, there are no differences between humans and lizards.

It's good that sexual discrimination legislation has (mostly) sorted out the problem of women not being paid the same for equal work. That doesn't change the fact that, on the whole, there's a salary gap. As the linked article points out, some big factors out of this are the fact that women tend to leave their jobs more early, to have more intermittent commitments to work. The article seems quite content to leave the implication that, basically, this means that it's all the fault of women for just not caring about their career enough. Much more relevant would be an examination of why women are more likely to have this lack of commitment, and whether e.g. bullying in the work place, or unfavourable maternity/paternity leave arrangements are contributing to this. In the UK, for example, the statutes are actually quite sexist in this regard: statutory maternity leave is available for a year, but statutory paternity leave is only available for at most half a year, and that requires that the mother return to work; otherwise it is only two weeks. Which means that, should a couple wish to start a family, it is necessarily the mother that is going to take the brunt of time away from work and the perceived lack of career commitment that will result.

Comment Launched by DWP (Score 4, Interesting) 266

The article summary is a bit misleading. Universal Credit has from beginning to end been the child of the Department of Work and Pensions. The Government Digital Service, the in-house IT design expert office, is technically part of the Cabinet Office, but that's only because it's a centralised IT design service meant to serve all branches of the government. Also, the summary skips over the critical part of the article: the GDS is pulling out because the project is being run in direct contradiction with their own recommendations. Looking at the situation, it's difficult to apportion any part of the blame for the project troubles to the Cabinet Office; it seems to lie entirely on the shoulders of the DWP.

Comment Re:Metafilter (Score 1) 473

I too wonder why more sites don't adopt it.

Because of the initial chicken-and-egg problem. The Slashdot moderation system requires a large base of committed users willing to spend time on moderation, but if new users are only exposed to an unmoderated comment system, it's hard to convince them (or at least, the worthwhile ones) to exert any effort on the system. Even on existing sites, you're faced with the problem that the undesirable users are more committed to the site than the desirable ones, and enabling user moderation will make that so much worse in the short term that it will choke off the long-term. By virtue of its age, Slashdot circumvented this: no real competition, no expectation of moderation at all initially, and novelty of the moderation system all served to build a large base of potential moderators at launch of moderation. Even then, it's hard to estimate what degree of the success was just luck.

Comment "Scientists from Caltech"? (Score 4, Interesting) 190

Maybe this is a silly, minor thing, but it bothers me these sort of blurbs always just talk about faceless "scientists." Does it really take that much work to find out who the principal researchers were? Maybe more people would be inspired to get into science if it actually seemed to come with some measure of face rather than anonymity in a lab coat.

Comment It's the upcoming cuts, not the recession (Score 5, Insightful) 393

The issue here isn't that there's iPhone apps being developed during a recession, it's that money is being invested in a duplication of services when the government is looking to slash spending by up to 40% across the board. When we're looking at a devastation of public services, it's hard to condone spending intended to benefit a minority of Britons with access to a luxury device.

Why Are There No Popular Ultima Online-Like MMOs? 480

eldavojohn writes "I have a slightly older friend who played through the glory days of Ultima Online. Yes, their servers are still up and running, but he often waxes nostalgic about certain gameplay functions of UO that he misses. I must say that these aspects make me smile and wonder what it would be like to play in such a world — things like housing, thieving and looting that you don't see in the most popular massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. So, I've followed him through a few games, including Darkfall and now Mortal Online. And these (seemingly European developed) games are constantly fading into obscurity and never catching hold. We constantly move from one to the next. Does anyone know of a popular three-dimensional game that has UO-like rules and gameplay? Perhaps one that UO players gravitated to after leaving UO? If you think that the very things that have been removed (housing and thieving would be two good topics) caused WoW to become the most popular MMO, why is that? Do UO rules not translate well to a true 3D environment? Are people incapable of planning for corpse looting? Are players really that inept that developers don't want to leave us in control of risk analysis? I'm familiar with the Bartle Test but if anyone could point me to more resources as to why Killer-oriented games have faded out of popularity, I'd be interested."
Role Playing (Games)

Genre Wars — the Downside of the RPG Takeover 248

Phaethon360 writes "From Bioshock and Modern Warfare 2 to even Team Fortress 2, RPG elements are creeping into game genres that we never imagined they would. This change for the most part has managed to subtly improve upon genres that needed new life, but there's a cost that hasn't been tallied by the majority of game developers. 'The simple act of removing mod tools, along with the much discussed dedicated server issue, has made [MW2] a bit of a joke among competitive players. Gone are the days of "promod," and the only option you have is to play it their way. If Infinity Ward are so insistent on improving the variety of our experiences, they don’t have to do it at the expense of the experience that many of us already love. It really is that simple. If they don’t want to provide a good "back to basics experience," they could at least continue to provide the tools that allow us to do that for ourselves.'"

EA Shuts Down Pandemic Studios, Cuts 200 Jobs 161

lbalbalba writes "Electronic Arts is shutting down its Westwood-based game developer Pandemic Studios just two years after acquiring it, putting nearly 200 people out of work. 'The struggling video game publisher informed employees Tuesday morning that it was closing the studio as part of a recently announced plan to eliminate 1,500 jobs, or 16% of its global workforce. Pandemic has about 220 employees, but an EA spokesman said that a core team, estimated by two people close to the studio to be about 25, will be integrated into the publisher's other Los Angeles studio, in Playa Vista.' An ex-developer for Pandemic attributed the studio's struggles to poor decisions from the management."

Comment Re:Why? (Score 2, Informative) 658

Compare that to the other religions. To the best of my knowledge, there is no super-secret ultra-eyes-only version of the Bible that only the elite Christians get to read. There is no "not for the viewing of non-believers" version of the Qu'ran that only the most devout Muslims get to read. But there are secret Scientology documents which explain core beliefs of Scientology that the general rank and file of the CoS do not have access to.

Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Esotericism is, at least historically, a common religious practice. Gnosticism, Mormonism, at least a few Buddhist sects, and arguably the Masonic tradition all spring to mind. All of these have the idea that there are truths which should not be made available to the uninitiated, as they are not prepared to receive them correctly.

So this is the complicated problem: there are no really good grounds for condemning Scientology as a religion. The problems arise, rather, from the Church of Scientology as an institution. Letting aside the heavy-handed tactics used to recruit new members and to protect the Church, the fees charged for initiation seem to shift the practice from esotericism to exploitation. It's worth pointing out that very few people have objections to the Free Zone, emphasizing that the primary objection to the Church of Scientology is fundamentally organizational, rather than religious per se.

The Courts

Submission + - Julie Amero granted new trial (

Dynamoo writes: "As previously covered on Slashdot, Connecticut teacher Julie Amero was facing the possibility of a 40 year jail term because of a spyware infection on a school computer.

The judge in the case today ordered a new trial citing that the original evidence was flawed. This comes after a campaign by security experts and bloggers to have the earlier conviction overturned. It looks unlikely that Amero will actually be tried again, which looks like a great victory for common sense."

It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - Computer case made from stuffed beaver

gotw writes: "Wow, someone has built a working PC inside a stuffed beaver! Quite macabre, oddly fascinating. Welcome to compubeaver. Gross. The creator gives a full photographic run-down of the creation process."

Submission + - Public Toilets Database with Maps and Locations

William writes: "A publicly accessible database has been set up at . You can search for public toilets in 19 countries and find out information that includes the address, Googlemaps and detailed information about the facility as well as geographic coordinates. A user can submit comments and enter new locations. There is a wiki, forum and mailing list linked from the main page of the database with information related to public toilets. It is hoped that public exposure to this resource will add to it's content and help expand coverage.

For more information contact:

or go to:"

Feed EU Court Calls Employee Computer Monitoring A Human Rights Violation, In Some Ca (

The European Court for Human Rights has ruled in favor of a woman who sued the British government after her boss in her public-sector job monitored her personal phone calls and internet use while she was at work. While the decision does set some precedent that monitoring employees' personal communications, even if done on work time over work equipment, contravenes the EU's human-rights laws, it also makes it clear that it's only in certain circumstances. Basically, to avoid legal problems, an employer has to have a policy covering acceptable use of its systems and equipment, and that policy has to say that employees' communications could be monitored if it wants to spy on employees' communications. While it seems a little strong to call this a human-rights violation, and it would seem wise to err on the side of caution and assume your employer can or will monitor what goes across their networks, the court's decision doesn't seem unreasonable. If employers want to waste their time trying to find all that lost productivity by spying on their employees, some disclosure would probably be appreciated. If only all potential human-rights violators would be so courteous.

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The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford