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Comment Re:Not available for streaming at the moment (Score 1) 34

I don't think Amazon even thinks what it's doing that way.

Amazon's corporate philosophy I think can be summed up this way: Bezos wants Amazon to do everything and win at it. It wants to sell books. It wants to publish books. It wants to stream video and produce the content it is streaming, and provide infrastructure for its competitors like Netflix -- and devices upon which consumers play that content. It's only a matter of time before it becomes a virtual manufacturer of things like cars -- it already sells them.

So a win here wouldn't be a win for Amazon as a streaming service; it'd be a win in its quest to play a role in everything people consume.

Comment Re:Distances (Score 1) 116

If I were picking a number out of thin air I'd certainly go higher. The question is how he arrived at that number, and I suspect economies of scale have something to do with it. Scale can do funny things to your calculations. Things can get harder, then easier, then harder again as you go up.

I once had a colleague whose first engineering job out of college was to do a reverse engineering specification on a prototype submersible; the Navy was pleased with the low cost of the prototype and thought it might like a second one. The problem was that the prototype was made by scrounging surplus bits and pieces; building a second one that was exactly the same would have cost 10x as much because you'd have to hunt down an exact replacement for each part. But if you were building a 100 units, you probably could do it for 100x the cost, because you could amortize the project's fixed costs over more units: source the odd parts, reverse engineering them if necessary, or doing design revisions with an eye to making it reproducible.

Comment Re:Never worked before, will never work now (Score 1) 100

I too find it hard to believe that there is any empirical justification for trying this. That said, I'd like to know what they think indicates this will work. I'm wondering whether they might be dealing with some kind of post hoc ergo propter hoc scenario where cloud seeding efforts coincided with changing rainfall patterns.

In any case, the place they're trying this appears to be Qinhai Province, up on the Tibetan Plateau. The population density there 7.8/km^2 -- roughly similar to Wyoming (5.97/km^2).

Comment Re:The questioner reveals their own dishonesty (Score 1) 358

Under Obama, we stopped counting people as unemployed if they gave up looking for a job. Such people are difficult to track is the argument.

Actually unemployment has always been calculated that way. It's the way economists do the calculation, not some kind of nefarious political innovation.

As for tracking the people who give up looking, the labor department does track them. How else do you know that the participation rate is low? The thing is that while unemployment (as it has always been reckoned) has recovered to pre-Great Recessions levels, participation rates remain unusually low, and that's just something you have to take into account when you're comparing unemployment rates in 2008 to 2016: the denominator has a distinctly different character.

What really gets interesting is if you look at who is not participating. The lions' share of non-participants are Boomers nearing retirement. This isn't a happy statistic, however. I think it reflect the synergistic effects of age discrimination and long-term unemployment. We also have high rates of underemployment as well -- people who are highly skilled working low-skill jobs for example.

The overall picture is mixed, fair-to-good-ish for many but extremely grim for sizable numbers of people.

Comment Re:Who Has EVER Trusted Government Data? (Score 3, Insightful) 358

Who trust government data? Anybody who uses a USGS map. Or a weather forecast that uses satellite data. Or who uses a GPS (both the satellite signal and the base map, which is compiled by private companies from government sources).

Now any statistic is capable of misleading, if you choose to misinterpret it. Take unemployment. I think that figure is accurate, it just doesn't mean what people think it does. By 2016 unemployment had recovered to where it was before the Great Recession, but if you think that means the government is fraudulently telling you that the job picture is good, that's you misinterpreting what it means. The low unemployment rate masks (a) relatively low labor participation and (b) disastrously low job growth and labor participation in certain regions of the country -- particularly rural and small to middle-sized cities. How do I know this? Well, government data, obviously.

You are conflating "data", with "information" and "opinion". The Food Pyramid is opinion, not data. If you think for yourself and drill down into the facts a bit, you'll find that government data is pretty useful. Opinions, less so.

Comment Re:You just now started worrying? (Score 1) 358

If you think that the Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility I suggest you go back and look at the changes in Federal deficits by fiscal year when they are in charge. Note that if a president takes office in FY X, FY X+1 is the first budget he submits and FY X+2 is the first budget that fully reflects his priorities.

Comment Re:Distances (Score 1) 116

Japan's maglev system is proven technology, already at the low end of the Hyperloop speed range and projected to reach over 900km/h in time. Hyperloop is expected to hit around 1200km/h, so I just can't see the benefit being great enough to outweigh the disadvantages.

The reason to choose Hyperloop over Maglev isn't speed, it's projected cost. Musk thinks he can build the things for $11 million/km. That's about a quarter of what maglev would cost -- assuming that Hyperloop even works.

There isn't a lot to choose between 30 minutes LA to San Francisco and 45 minutes. Over longer haul routes the technology is supposed to eventually go much, much faster than maglev, but the key in the near future will be to beat maglev on cost over medium distances. And to actually work.

As for comfort, Hyperloop proposes to turn intercity travel into something more like a cross city subway ride. In fact (assuming it works) you'll be able to get from New York to Washington DC in less time than it takes to cross Brooklyn on the MTA.

Comment Re:Contrast this with the incoming administration (Score 1) 295

Solar is getting no where near to the price of coal. We're still paying 0.528kWh for solar here in Ontario, the price we were paying for coal when the last plant shut down was 0.043kWh.

Of course when you're shutting down coal power plants the price of coal is going to drop. Canadian coal demand dropped by 45% in the ten years prior to Thunder Bay shutting down, you have to look at those prices in the context of a collapsing domestic market. Coal prices would have been much higher with stable or growing domestic demand.

Latitude and climate also affect the cost of solar, and last time I checked most of the population of the US (which is the country we're talking about here) is south of Ontario. Solar is much, much cheaper in Florida for example. But even where I live in Massachusetts (same latitude as SW Ontario) you can get rooftop solar panels for US $2.50 / watt (6.25 Canadian) if you pay for them yourself and your house is favorably situated. That means to beat the Can $0.043/kwh benchmark, solar panels here in Boston have to run for about ten years. Solar panels have an expected service life of thirty years.

Of course when you get into realistic economics things get complicated. But a lot of my engineer friends have chosen to pull the trigger on rooftop solar, and they aren't afraid of doing ROI calculations. It's not for everyone yet, nor is it a solution for everything. But it's economical for some people in just about every part of the continental US, and that's a significant development.

Comment Re:As someone with a masters in this -exact field- (Score 2) 300

If you are a true master, you should be able to explain concepts in a way that even a child can understand

This is, in a word, horse pucky. It's the same reasoning my niece uses to justify her anti-vaxxer beliefs: the quacks and charlatans she listens to are more credible than epidemiologists and immunologists because they're easier to understand. This is the real-life equivalent of the joke about searching for the $20 bill under the street light because where you actually lost it is inconveniently dark.

If it were true that a child could understand anything, there wouldn't be a need for education. You'd just find a "true expert" to explain, say, fluid dynamics to a random bunch of people off the street and then set those randos to work designing aircraft. Or cryptographic systems.

There's an unfortunate cultural trend to devalue anything that requires mental effort and dedication to understand as elitist bullshit. This is a dangerous development, especially when combined with our national vanity: ever since the Moon landing we see technological and scientific leadership as a birthright. It's not. It's something we have to earn, and continue earning every day by dint of hard labor.

The humbling truth is that real understanding in many things requires trekking a long and arduous road. It's a near certainty that you don't actually understand General Relativity; crude analogies about balls and rubber sheets notwithstanding. General Relativity is like a mountain that looks easy to tackle from a great distance, but the fact is it takes years of toil before you can even grasp how arduous the foothills of Mount Einstein are.

Comment Re:Gouge the middle class to make them poor (Score 0) 288

Of course, the nuclear family of the 1950s had:
a 1200 (not 2200) sqft house,
formica (not granite) counters, ...

But the house was owned - with a mortgage affordable on a single income and substantial equity in place.

The car was also either owned or being purchased on an auto loan (rather than leased), again with substantial equity from the down payment, and again paid for out of that single income - which was also feeding and clothing the 2.3 children and taking a nontrivial vacation once a year or so.

And I have no idea where you are getting those square footage numbers. Our family's houses (we moved a couple times once Dad got done with his degree and was buying rather than living in a student ghetto) were substantially larger than you describe, and were typical of the neighborhoods around them.

Yes, Formica: It was the big deal of the time. Granite is a recent vanity - and a REALLY STUPID idea if you actually USE the kitchen to prepare food on a regular basis. Drop a ceramic or glass utensil on a granite counter and it breaks. Drop it on Formica-over-plywood-or-hardwood and it usually bounces.

stainless steel appliances,
automatic dishwasher,
automatic dryer,
*might* have had a TV (not a 54" LCD),

Yeah we had all those boxes (though the appliances were be enamel rather than stainless). Also a console sound system - pre "Hi Fi" - AM, FM, and four-speed record changeer with diamond needle in the pickup.

The non-electronic appliances lasted for decades, too. (Even the electronics lasted a long time with occasional maintenance - which was required for vacuum tube based equipment - and was AVAILABLE.) Quite unlike the modern stuff. (My own family has been in our townhouse for about 17 years now and is on its third set of "stainless steel appliances", thanks to the rotten construction of post-outsourcing equipment by formerly high-end manufacturers. We're even on our third WATER HEATER: The brain of the new, governent mandated, eco-friendly, replacement flaked out after less than a year - and the manufacturer sent TWO MORE defective replacement brains and one defective gas sensor before lemon-replacing it.)

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