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Comment And then ... (Score 5, Interesting) 209

"CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document. Then, while carrying the computer from which the file was deleted, officials tripped and dropped it into an MRI scanner's powerful magnet. In an effort to free the computer it was struck repeatedly with a rubber mallet. Once freed, being alarmingly warm, the computer was submerged in water to cool. Later, the computer fell from the horse that was transporting it and it was trampled to pieces. The pieces were cast into the volcano."

Comment Technologically Inept Law Enforcement (Score 4, Interesting) 144

We can all have a good laugh at our lessers who don't know how to use computers, but some of them are in very powerful positions to do great harm to those they perceive as engaging in "criminal" activity.


A few years back a man with a badge came to my door and said that a threatening e-mail to the governor had been traced to my IP address. It took me a moment, but I recalled a sarcastic e-mail I had sent some months prior to the governor's office congratulating their efforts to take the state's education ranking from 49th to 50th with budget cuts. I used my university issued e-mail address, with my name and position clearly spelled out in the e-mail signature. I don't know if it was just the guy at my door who was ignorant of the facts of my particular case, or if that's what was really written down in their file. Basically some secretary dragged my unconstructive criticism to the "bad" folder and later I'm being questioned and accused of a crime (though not charged).


People in law enforcement may not realize how dangerous their ignorance can be to the general public. One can only hope by the time you're facing a judge you'll have at last found someone in the system with the freedom to act reasonably in the face of such ignorance.

Comment What's more obvious to me ... (Score 5, Interesting) 295

I just got back from a scientific conference with thousands of attendees from around the world. There were plenty of women around (still less than half, of course), but virtually no black people, and not too many Hispanics either. Lots of white people and Europeans and Asians. Just an observation - I'm not trying to emphasize any particular issue or value anything over anything else.

Comment How about No Language (Score 3, Interesting) 648

I knew a Professor (of biomedical engineering) who suggested it would be best to teach introductory programming outside of any language. Teach the concepts in their most general, basic form before allowing an individual language to force understanding into an arbitrary syntax.

I first learned in C++, then later relearned and made extensive use of Visual Basic, then switched to Matlab, and now I'm just starting to learn Python. I personally had a very difficult time with C++ and found Visual Basic to be much easier to grasp. That is likely the result of many things, only one of which is the specific languages I experienced.

In my opinion what's more important than the first language you learn is that you learn a few languages early on, all at once - the more varied the better. Seems to work for learning statistical analyses.

Comment Re:Preferable to Rarer, Larger Quakes (Score 1) 65

This is usually the response I get from folks who have been through big storms (and sometimes zero earthquakes). At least with earthquakes, it's been my experience that people who've been through one are much less anxious about them than those who haven't. I suspect the same can be said for big storms. The main difference that comes up between earthquakes and storms is the predictability or prior warning. While it is certainly true that you can see a storm coming, I would guess that earthquake prone areas have a much smaller damage cost average over time compared to storm prone areas (both in lives and dollars).

Given that lots of people live in earthquake and storm prone areas, I suspect the differences in impact between these types of disasters are largely psychological. Perhaps people from parts of the world where fatalities to such things are more common would have a different sense of which was 'worse'. In the developed world, preparation and building codes have relegated potential disaster choice to a largely financial decision.

Submission + - Robots and computers threatening 10 million UK jobs (

Qedward writes: More than a third of UK jobs — around 10 million people — will be replaced by robots and computers in the next 20 years causing a major shift in the labour market, a Deloitte report has claimed.

Advances in digital technologies, robotics and automation will continue to disrupt a variety of industries, affecting 35% of existing roles from a UK workforce of 30.76 million. The percentage affected in London is slightly lower at 30%.

The research, carried out by Deloitte with Carl Benedikt Frey, of the Oxford Martin School, and Michael A Osborne, of the Department of Engineering Science, at the University of Oxford, shows that lower paid workers are the most at risk.

For example, jobs paying less than £30,000 a year are nearly five times more likely to be replaced by automation than those paying over £100,000.

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