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Submission + - Should more math and equations be used in the popular press? ( 1

raque writes: The NYTimes (standard disclaimers apply) published two OP-EDs in their Philosophy section (first here second here), The Stone, discussing how Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle is abused. The second is a followup to the first. The author struggled to make clear his point and left the impression he was creating a strawman argument. In his followup he said that he was avoiding equations due to his writing for a general audience. I replied to both articles as Rtbinc, in the second I put up the following comment:

One of the issues is that Dr Callendar has is a fear of Math and equations in popular reading. A lot of other people are afraid of these few very pretty symbols. Lets do an experiment and see if using some equations and symbols drives readers into fits of terror and prevents their understanding as they cower shivering under their chairs.

The below is from Heinz Pagels in the Cosmic Code (available on Kindle from Amazon and Nook from B&N for about 10 bucks). It shows up on Google books too. Go look, it's fun.

One part of the Uncertainty Principal is (p)x(q)h – where p and q (the is pronounced delta, e.g., delta-p) are the sums of all of the uncertainties — or differences — in a huge pile of measurements of the position and velocity of some particle we're measuring – and h is the tiny, but still not zero, number called the Plank constant. The mathematical symbols haven't changed meaning, so if h ain't zero, neither p or q can be either. We can be as precise as we like, until we hit the Plank Constant. This is not some mathematical oddity, it is how the universe operates. That is weird, and that is one example of quantum weirdness.

The question for the experiment is: Would Dr Callendar have done better to use the equation in the first article instead of metaphors from TV and Movies? Or, did they so frighten you that you need a good stiff brandy and a foot rub.

So I'm asking the same question to everyone on Slashdot. Would Dr Callendar been better off just diving in and dealing with Heisenberg and quantum mechanics using the tools that were developed for it.

Submission + - Monogamy May Have Evolved to Prevent Infanticide (

sciencehabit writes: Human males and females have a strong tendency to live together in monogamous pairs, albeit for highly varied periods of time and degrees of fidelity. Just how such behavior arose has been the topic of much debate among researchers. A new study comes to a startling conclusion: Among primates, including perhaps humans, monogamy evolved because it protected infants from being killed by rival males.

Submission + - William Shatner Loses Bid to Name Pluto (

sciencehabit writes: A few months ago, when William Shatner, the actor who played Star Trek's Captain Kirk, heard that scientists were asking people to vote on names for Pluto's fourth and fifth moons, he lobbied that one satellite be called Vulcan, the home planet of Mr. Spock—and the name came out on top, far surpassing all others in the voting. Today, however, scientists announced that the moons will instead bear names that better reflect Pluto's role in mythology as the god of the underworld. One satellite will be christened Kerberos, for Pluto's three-headed dog, and the other Styx, for the river dividing the world of the living from the underworld. Kerberos is the Greek name for Cerberus, which placed number two in the voting, while Styx came in third. Why not Vulcan? Astronomers once used that name for what turned out to be a nonexistent planet inside Mercury's orbit, and its connection to the mythological Pluto was tenuous; so rejecting the name was—as Mr. Spock might say—the logical thing to do.

Submission + - Proof mooted for Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (

ananyo writes: Encapsulating the strangeness of quantum mechanics is a single mathematical expression. According to every undergraduate physics textbook, the uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to simultaneously know the exact position and momentum of a subatomic particle — the more precisely one knows the particle’s position at a given moment, the less precisely one can know the value of its momentum. But the original version of the principle, put forward by physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927, couches quantum indeterminism in a different way — as a fundamental limit to how well a detector can measure quantum properties. Heisenberg offered no direct proof for this version of his principle. Now researchers say they have such a proof. If they're right, it would put the measurement aspect of the uncertainty principle on solid ground — something that researchers had started to question — but it would also suggest that quantum-encrypted messages can be transmitted securely.
Your Rights Online

Submission + - Petition Requests Formal ACTA Ratification In Sena (

An anonymous reader writes: Techdirt reports that a petition on the US Government's We the People website raises the question of whether ACTA is enforcable as an executive agreement — which allows the President to sign the agreement without getting approval — when it covers intellectual property, which is the mandate of Congress, and would require a vote before it becomes a treaty.

Slashdot has previously covered Senator Wyden questioning the constitutionality of ACTA before signing; while the EU will be imminently signing ACTA into force.

Submission + - Was mega upload crushed to stop mega box? (

MrShaggy writes: "Our friends at dsl-reports that 'The kicker was Megabox would cater to unsigned artists and allow anyone to sell their creations while allowing the artist to retain 90% of the earnings. Or, artists could even giveaway their songs and would be paid through a service called Megakey. “Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works,” Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak in December. Megabox was planning on bypassing the labels, RIAA, and the entire music establishment.'"

Submission + - The state of stereoscopic 3D gaming on the PC (

crookedvulture writes: While 3D TVs have largely been a bust, AMD and Nvidia continue to push stereoscopic 3D implementations on the PC. This article takes a closer look at how HD3D and 3D Vision 2 compare and whether either improves one's gaming experience. The verdict is mixed overall, with eye fatigue and spotty game compatibility tarnishing stereo 3D's appeal somewhat. The fact that you'll need a high-end graphics card to ensure smooth gameplay (enabling stereo 3D essentially doubles the number of frames that must be rendered) doesn't help. However, newer games like Battlefield 3 and Batman: Arkham City really come alive when viewed in stereo 3D. With Microsoft standardizing a stereo API in the next version of DirectX, true 3D gaming could have a bright future on the PC.

Submission + - The HUD As The New Desktop Manager ( 1

esocid writes: Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu Project, is proposing the next direction for desktop managers, focusing on interaction and intent.

Even casual users find typing faster than mousing. So while there are modes of interaction where it’s nice to sit back and drive around with the mouse, we observe people staying more engaged and more focused on their task when they can keep their hands on the keyboard all the time. Hotkeys are a sort of mental gymnastics, the HUD is a continuation of mental flow.

It’s smart, because it can do things like fuzzy matching, and it can learn what you usually do so it can prioritise the things you use often. It covers the focused app (because that’s where you probably want to act) as well as system functionality; you can change IM state, or go offline in Skype, all through the HUD, without changing focus, because those apps all talk to the indicator system. When you’ve been using it for a little while it seems like it’s reading your mind, in a good way.


Submission + - KDE 4.8 Released (

jrepin writes: " KDE community have released version 4.8 of their free and open source software bundle. The new version provides many new features, improved stability and increased performance.

Highlights for Plasma Workspaces include window manager optimizations, the redesign of power management, and integration with Activities. The first Qt Quick-based Plasma widgets have entered the default installation of Plasma Desktop, with more to follow in future releases.

KDE applications released today include Dolphin file manager with its new display engine, new Kate text editor features and improvements, Gwenview image viewer with functional and visual improvements. KDE Telepathy reaches first beta milestone. New features for Marble virtual globe keep arriving, among these are: Elevation Profile, satellite tracking and Krunner integration.

KDE Platform provides the foundation for KDE software. KDE software is more stable than ever before. In addition to stability improvements and bugfixes, Platform 4.8 provides better tools for building fluid and touch-friendly user interfaces, integrates with other systems' password saving mechanisms and lays the base for more powerful interaction with other people using the new KDE Telepathy framework."


Submission + - INCITE Awarded 265 Million Processor-Hours

Weather Storm writes: DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, which supports computationally intensive, large-scale research projects, awarded 265 million processor-hours to 55 scientific projects, the largest amount of supercomputing resource awards donated in the DOE's history and three times that of last year's award. The projects-with applications from aeronautics to astrophysics, and from climate change to combustion research-were chosen based on their potential breakthroughs in the science and engineering research and their suitability of the project for using supercomputers. This year's INCITE applications ranged from developing nanomaterials to advancing the nation's basic understanding of physics and chemistry, and from designing quieter cars to improving commercial aircraft design. The next round of the INCITE competition will be announced this summer. Expansion of the DOE Office of Science's computational capabilities should approximately quadruple the 2009 INCITE award allocations to close to a billion processor hours.

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"I've finally learned what `upward compatible' means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes." -- Dennie van Tassel