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Comment The spin that title implies is a problem (Score 2) 117

Yes, Amazon is claiming First Amendment protections for their users of Alexa and NOT for Alexa "herself".

But let's not have that interfere with the sensational title of the linked article: "Amazon argues that Alexa is protected by the First Amendment in a murder trial".

Contrary to that title the author wrote:

The heart of Amazon's claim is that Alexa devices could provide insights into a person's entire life, and having two days worth of audio would be an unreasonable invasion of that privacy. Knowing that law enforcement has the ability to request data from these devices and peruse them at will would have a chilling effect on people using the services--which clearly would be bad news for Amazon's business.

"Such government demands inevitably chill users from exercising their First Amendment rights to seek and receive information and expressive content in the privacy of their own home," Amazon lawyers wrote, "conduct which lies at the core of the Constitution."

[adding bold and underlining, clearing up smartquotes and another annoyances]

Comment Re:What about the "hot pole" theory? (Score 5, Interesting) 412

There are a couple of problems with your ideas.

Basically the most any planet in any star system could cover is approximately 2% of a star during a transit (as a comparison a transiting Jupiter seen from another star system would cover about 1% of the Sun). This is despite our estimate of when a planetary body would become massive enough to become a brown dwarf is about 80 times the mass of Jupiter because the mostly hydrogen gas in any gas giant is highly compressible. A planet with twice the mass as Jupiter would have a diameter only slightly larger than that of Jupiter, very much less than the 1.26 (= 2^[1/3]) growth that would be expected by simple linear growth.

If a body instead were large enough to become a brown dwarf, then the interplay of the light being generated by fusion at its core becomes more important and its size would balloon out to many times that of Jupiter. And, of course, a brown dwarf would be easily detectable spectroscopically.

Thus ANY planet in orbit around Tabby's Star that was transiting in front of it simply could not cause the brightness of the star to dip by as much as 22% as was once seen. There is the FAINT possibility that somehow what was observed was a planet within our own Kuiper Belt that happened to transit Tabby's Star during Kepler's observations, and that being MUCH closer to Earth than Tabby's Star's distance of about 1500 light years would allow it to cover more of that star, but there is the problem that a Kuiper Belt gas-/ice-giant should have been glaring obvious to our Spitzer Space Telescope which specializes in the infra-red range.

Your idea of the dimmer poles precessing towards us contains contradictory ideas: the planet causing this somehow has to be massive AND close enough to cause this, and yet has to have an orbit that is at least a couple of hundred Earth-years in length. This "newly" detected dimming was determined from photographic plates taken at different times from 1890 to around 1990.

My suspicion is that what we may be watching is a relatively short-lived (meaning less than tens of thousands of years) phase of Tabby's Star evolving from a main sequence star at the very earliest stage of becoming a (super-)giant. There is just barely enough helium accumulated at its core that its fusion only fitfully begins only to sputter out when the additional heat generated by that hotter fusion diffuses that core to below helium-fusion levels. Of course this "current" sputtering was generated tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago at the core (taking that long for the scattered light to reach the star's photosphere and thus become visible to us), but when helium fusion actually takes hold then the star ballooning out to become a (super-)giant will overtake that sputtering.

Comment Re:Fundies just can't stand the heat (Score 1) 943

Um, RTFOP [opinion piece, since the second link in the original post is clearly Coyne's personal blog].

The question was "are science and religion compatible" with Coyne taking the con side and Haught taking the pro side. There was probably some points that both sides made which were on the evolution "debate" (in quotes because evolution is no longer a science question but one of public policy) but the overall question was the more general one.

Comment Re:anybody read the review? (Score 1) 166

I did read the review before its site got Slashdotted and it was a relatively mild rebuke of the restaurant, saying that it was new so it might be understandable not to have everything fully running but since he had other options for Japanese food the reviewer wouldn't be returning, the "Benihana experience" not being enough of a draw. It got a bit more angry in the comments because the manager of the restaurant obviously was attempting to "astroturf" the review with counter reviews supposedly from different people but apparently from the same IP. The reviewer did NOT accuse the restaurant of illegal or unethical practices, only of unnotable presentation of mediocre food.

Also, the legal actions seem to be the responsibility of the manager of the restaurant and not at all related to Benihana of Tokyo as a corporate entity. Cory Doctorow actually contacted their COO in his article at BoingBoing and said exec understandably refused to comment directly about the suit.

Comment General travel stuff (Score 1) 1095

For seeing the sights in London I heartily recommend London Walks (requires Javascript). They feature several trips which go all across London and have many for particular locations like the British Museum (which has 13 acres of floor space, so it's easy to get lost) which can optimize your time by hitting the highlights for general touristy stuff (leaving you time to go back for further perusal of those or looking for off-the-beaten-track items of personal interest). Do take advantage of some of their day-long trips to places outside of London such as those to Salisbury and Stonehenge, or to Canterbury and Leeds Castle, or to Bath--especially if you plan on staying in London for the entire time. Visiting only London and saying you've been to the UK would be like visiting New York City and saying you've been to the USA. If he is giving tours at your time in London, I suggest taking in the Jack the Ripper walk with Don Rumbelow (who literally wrote the book on Jack the Ripper).

Someone recommended getting the Oyster Card, but you might check to see if the London TravelCard may be better for you. The TravelCards are only available to people visiting from outside the UK and can be cheaper than getting an Oyster Card. Here is a side-by-side comparison. Note that the TravelCard can also be purchased through the AAA.

Check with your bank and your credit card companies for their foriegn exchange fees and use the best card for your purchases and walkabout cash. Please check NOW--you don't want to find out that your cards are unusable overseas when you get there. You might avoid the convenience kisok ATMs in favor of those at banks for obvious reasons.

Above all else, remember: you will NOT see everything!. You can literally spend years seeing the sights of London alone much less those of the UK, so don't try to take it in all at once by limiting your visits to, say, the British Museum solely to an afternoon. Take your time and enjoy your time away from work, and if you miss something this time you can always catch that particular sight the next time you visit.

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