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Comment Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score 4, Informative) 498

It's worth pointing out that XKCD's pretense that four random words are easy to memorize was based on them choosing four easy to memorize words. If I just have /usr/share/dict/words pull up random words for me, here's the first five passwords it comes up with:

It's a good thing that XKCD's Munro doesn't choose four random words from /usr/share/dict/words then, isn't it? The cartoon shows 11 bits of entropy associated with each word. That means a dictionary size of 2^11: about 2000 words. (In contrast, a typical /words file might have a hundred thousand entries. That's fifty-fold larger, so you get about 5.5 extra bits per word, but would indeed lead to the utterly useless output you've shown.)

The General Service List contains the top 2000ish most-often used words in the English language. I used the version compiled in 1995 and found here, mostly because it was the first version I could grab online. Pulling random words from the first 2000 entries, the four words I got (on my first three passes) were:
competition behave exact toward
experiment miserable there lord
spare page circle rabbit

Right out of the box, it's not what I would call a disaster, though a few of the words are a bit cumbersome, length-wise. (For reference, your /usr/share/dict/words selection only contains one word - "weave" - from the GSL.) If you started from, say, the top 5000 words, you could probably cut it down to a 2000-word list where every entry was non-obscure, had between 4 and 8 letters (the average word in the GSL has a length of 5.8 letters), avoided difficult-to-spell words, and eliminated similar-sounding words.

Comment Re:Interesting story (Score 4, Informative) 553

No commercial airline flight is 24 hours. There used to be a 19 hour one for a Singapore to New York flight but that's no longer in service.

The Mashable report quoted in the Slashdot summary uses a slightly different phrasing from the original LinkedIn report. The LinkedIn article actually says "after having spent 24 hours cramped in an economy seat on Qatar Airways".

Poking around a bit on Kayak, I see a bunch of Qatar Airways itineraries from Lagos, Nigeria (LOS) to JFK that involve three segments, with stops in Doha, Qatar (DOH) and western Europe (CDG, FCO, MAN, etc.). Total travel time is 27 or 28 hours, with nominal times in flight adding up to about 23 hours. Add an hour in a holding pattern somewhere (or queued up for takeoff on a taxiway, or waiting for a gate to open up), and the poor guy could easily have spent 24 hours in an economy-class seat on his way to JFK. Yeah, the phrasing's a bit sneaky since he would have had a couple of short "intermissions" to stretch his legs...but still, if we figure he arrived at LOS two hours before his flight, he would have been stuck in the international air transport system for better (worse?) than thirty hours all told.

Comment Re:Let's go even further! (Score 1) 181

No upper management. And no board. Now that is a scary thought. How would companies run without people in charge? We need someone there don't we?

Well, the Swedish approach was to look at the individual job responsibilities of the CEO, and determine if all of those functions could readily be absorbed by other people or bodies within the company (where they weren't already overlapping - and sometimes conflicting - anyway). So if you want to go ahead and do the systematic hard work, there's nothing that prevents you from figuring out which positions could (or should) be eliminated, with their responsibilities reallocated to other staff.

Of course, it's waaaaay easier to just go the observational humor route and declare "Hey, everything is so much better in the office when the boss is away, amiright? Let's get rid of 'em all!" So, kudos for that contribution.

More seriously, I see a couple of obvious gaps that you would need to fill, right off the top. For one, you need to develop some mechanism for larger-scale strategic direction. In the Swedish company discussed, that role was filled by the company's board of directors. For another, you need to have some sort of framework for handling civil and criminal liability issues when someone eventually screws up. Where does the buck stop, ethically and legally?

Comment Re:Free Motorcycles (Score 1) 295

Like I said, one can fiddle with the numbers to swing the accounting a fair bit in one direction or the other. As you've demonstrated, if one makes optimistic assumptions about the age of the donor and maximizes the number of recipients by assuming a strict one-organ-per recipient (include just one lung at a time, and no multiple-organ transplants--bear in mind that the vast majority of pancreas transplants are actually pancreas-kidney, for example) and 100% organ recovery and transplantation, one can choose to make the math give you the result you're looking for.

It's very sticky if you want to score tissues that aren't necessarily lifesaving or for which artificial or animal alternative sources exist. (It's ethically problematic to suggest, for example, that more dead motorcyclists are a good thing because it will improve the supply of cadaveric ACL replacements, especially given that many patients could instead receive an autograft of their own tissue.)

It doesn't help that you're neglecting the last and most important part of my comment acknowledging that a very substantial fraction of potential organs won't be converted into actual transplants: helmetless motorcyclists who die too far from care or too quickly for their organs to be recovered; ones who have communicable diseases, malignancies, or other medical conditions that exclude them from donation; and so forth. (Going forward, helmet laws will only be suspended if you're over 40, free of hepatitis and HIV infection, have recently been screened for cancer, and are biking in an area with excellent ambulance service within 1 hour of a major transplant center. Hmmm...) Each dead motorcyclist is only "worth" 60 years multiplied by the fraction of viable organ recoveries--which probably comes out to well under 50%.

Finally, we're using "accounting" in a couple of different ways, here. I was using it purely to refer to life-years saved or lost. If we actually want to look at dollars and cents, it gets really ugly really fast. In the United States, the total billable costs for a heart transplant (including 30 days of pre-operative screening and prep, organ procurement, the transplant operation itself, and the subsequent 6-month period of recovery and rehab) comes out to about a million bucks. A single lung or a liver transplant are both well over half a million apiece. Kidneys are well clear of the quarter million mark.

From a purely financial perspective, it's waaaaay less costly to just let the motorcyclist survive and the potential transplant recipients die in a few months or a year, rather than let them be brutally expensive surgeries with steep and ongoing maintenance costs. Amortizing that heart transplant over the likely life of the recipient (or the transplanted organ) runs a hundred grand plus per year. Oh, and don't forget the cost of care and rehab for all those brain-damaged motorcyclists who don't manage to actually die from their head injuries....

Comment Re:Free Motorcycles (Score 1) 295

I've said for years that helmet laws probably costs lives.

Maybe, but not necessarily. It depends a lot on your accounting. A 20-year-old dumbass male might expect to have around 60 years ahead of him, most of which will be time spent in good health.

His kidneys will probably last about 10 years in each of their recipients, so count 20 years "saved" total.

The median survival time for heart transplant recipients is also about 10 years.

Liver transplants tend to do particularly well; the median survival is closer to 20 years.

Lungs are a lot pickier; the median is closer to 5 years, but is steadily improving.

Add that all up, and we're just shy of breaking even (55 life-years for the recipients, versus 60 life-years lost by the motorcyclist). On can fiddle with the parameters to swing things a bit either way. In some cases, the liver can be split into two lobes; the larger right lobe goes to an adult and the smaller left lobe to a child recipient. Some recipients only need a single-lung transplant, so one pair of lungs can go to two recipients. And we're getting better at keeping transplanted organs functional for longer. And, of course, some dead motorcyclists are 40-year-olds having a mid-life crisis.

On the flip side, some recipients may need multiple organs (heart-lung, heart-liver, etc.).

More important, not all organs will be viable--not every helmet-less fatality leads to a full complement of usable donor organs. For reasons of underlying disease or quirks of the donor's physiology, it may not be possible to transplant some organs. The fatal motorcycle accident may damage some other organs beyond repair. The accident may even occur in a location or under circumstances where none of the organs can be recovered for donation. That is going to tip the scales a long way against the "benefit" of more brain-dead motorcyclists.

Frankly, we have more than enough cadavers now; what we need is for more of them to donate their organs. Presumed consent (an opt-out rather than opt-in) system would be far more effective than suspending helmet laws.

Comment the equivalent of about 300 miles? (Score -1, Troll) 128

...a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles.

"The equivalent of about 300 miles"? What does that mean?

Oh, it means "about 300 miles". Or even "a distance of about 300 miles". Right. But this is a 'technical' topic, so we need to use more and bigger words. The best words.

Unless there's some sort of weird space-time physical equivalence principle the authors are alluding to, in which case a half hour is actually 300 miles long.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 1) 175

But regarding their testing, it was certainly a small scale test of known technology, but you underestimate the value of such tests. There's massive amounts of theoretical aspects they have to plow through first, move gradually to small scale live tests and finally piece it all together in one big PoC. After the small pieces are theorized and tested, it takes exponentially less time to piece them all together in the end.

I wouldn't say I underestimate the value of small-scale tests so much as I would say that Musk and company have been deliberately obscure about exactly what they were testing, and have been downright misleading about the distance between where they are now and what they claim they will be able to deliver. We were shown a dog-and-pony show constructed to meet an artificial publicity deadline, not a well-explained demonstration as part of a clearly-elucidated development roadmap.

When I read comments like yours, it reminds me of anti-innovation corporate voices I have to battle against on a daily basis.

Hmm. Do you misrepresent your progress and conceal the nature of your accomplishments to your corporate masters too, then? That could be your problem.

Look, I'm a scientist in an academic setting, but with private-sector collaborators. I do both "pure" and "applied" research. I contribute to both peer-reviewed papers and patent applications. I can tell the difference between healthy skepticism and blind anti-innovation. The problem with Musk's Hyperloop demo isn't the idea, or the technology, or the dream--it's that he doesn't tell us what the demo is actually doing. It's like writing a scientific paper that starts with the usual Abstract and Introduction, then jumps straight to a one-liner Conclusion and a big Discussion about the implications of the work and all the cool stuff that's going to happen in the future. He just skipped over the Materials & Methods and the detailed Results. We aren't told what we're actually looking at or what it can really do, just to take on faith that it's awesome. That's my issue.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 2) 175

Mod parent up.

The "first successful test" appears to have been a small test sled on a short, low-speed test track. Yes, they showed they could drive a piece of metal with a linear induction motor, but that's just demonstrating an application of known technology. Vancouver's SkyTrain has been using linear induction propulsion since 1985 as part of a regular, boring, functional public transit system. Similar technology appears in Toronto (the Scarborough Rapid Transit line), New York (the AirTrain JFK airport link), and at least a handful of other sites.

Practically speaking, one could have done the same demo by taking a 30-year-old SkyTrain car, stripping the body and seats out, and flipping the induction drive unit sideways to be compatible with the vertically-mounted induction track shown on the Hyperloop demo system. (You'd get great acceleration, too, since you can dump much of the car's weight--and you wouldn't care about the components surviving for more than a few seconds of photo op.) Maybe there were major technological advances under the hood, but the breathless hype all glosses over any meaningful description of what might have been accomplished.

Comment "Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys? (Score 5, Interesting) 64

"Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys?

A large-scale pure-science project. A tool that will advance modern astrophysical and astronomical research. A landmark technical achievement.

But it came from funny-looking furriners (not just funny-talking, like them ones from Yurp). So we must be sure to cast the headline in the most derisive terms possible. It's not a research tool that shoestring SETI projects will be able to snag a bit of time on--no, it's an "alien-hunting telescope".

I mean, my God--snippets of Aricebo's time have been used for alien-hunting (and alien-spamming) for decades. It was used to send publicity stunt messages to M13 in 1974, and to some nearer stars in 2009. SETI@home users have been crunching Aricebo data looking for little green men since 1999. And yet, oddly enough, no one ever seems to refer to Aricebo as an "alien-hunting telescope". Why is that?

Comment Re:Dude, you're messed up. (Score 1) 364

You'd rather break someone else's bones than total a car where everyone escapes injury free? That's messed up.

Heck, it probably even falls down (er...) on a strict monetary cost basis. A broken bone caused by a vehicle colliding with a pedestrian likely has a bunch of associated soft tissue injury, which can lead to all kinds of expensive-to-manage (and -treat) damage. The straight-up hospital bills plus lost wages for pedestrian victim can very easily pile up to more than the insured value of a car--making those priorities a net loss for society even if we assign no value at all to preventing pain and suffering.

Of course, it's also silly to pretend that the car is "smart" enough to confidently and reliably predict what will be a moderate injury versus a potentially-fatal one. The car doesn't know if a wound is going to suffer a serious infection. The car doesn't know if a bone fragment is going to sever a major artery. The car doesn't know if the pedestrian will suffer a serious brain injury when her head hits the pavement. Pretending there's a firm choice between totalling the car and non-permanent injury is a fiction--the choice is between totalling the car and a risk of serious or fatal injury.

Comment Re:Donating blood after a disaster (Score 1) 1718

There's a lot of dumb posts on this story, but this one makes my top 5.

I'll just quote the front page of the American Red Cross' website:

Our hearts go out to all those who are affected by the tragic shooting in Orlando. The Red Cross has received a tremendous outpouring of support and we are grateful for all who have responded. The blood needs from this tragedy have been met. In the event of an emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that can help save lives. That’s why it’s important that eligible individuals schedule an appointment to give blood and platelets in the weeks and months ahead.

Emphasis added. Don't take it from me, take it from the Red Cross.

Comment Donating blood after a disaster (Score 2) 1718

"Posts directing people where and how to give blood have been removed."

While straight-up removal of such posts may not be the best approach, the intent behind such removals is likely honorable.

Donated blood needs to be screened for infectious diseases and otherwise processed before it can be used; it generally takes at least a couple of days before blood from a donor's arm can get to a patient's bedside. The blood that helps the victims of the Orlando massacre isn't the stuff that the Red Cross collects today and tomorrow; it's the blood that was donated last week or the week before. And blood has a limited shelf life--creating a big oversupply now doesn't help unless there's an enormous disaster in the next few weeks.

Donating blood now might make the donor feel good about themselves, but it's not actually a particularly constructive thing to do. If you want to help, put a reminder in your calendar to donate blood in two or three weeks, after this glut has made its way through the system. Or donate blood when the Red Cross (or whichever agency handles blood products in your jurisdiction) indicates a shortage. Better yet, get in the habit of donating blood regularly--help maintain a stable blood supply over the long term.

Comment Re:SJW bullshit (Score 1) 231

I guess no men wrote anything decent this year?

I'm sure that George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris (winners, Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation) would be surprised to hear you say that.

No they wouldn't be surprised at all. They wrote a movie featuring strong women that was very popular with feminists. They know this is why they got to be the tokens this year.

So you're shifting the goalposts, then? It has to be men writing about men only. Got it.

(And I'm not sure why, even with your special pleading, you think you can ignore the inconvenient fact that men were amply represented among the nominees.)

Comment Re:SJW bullshit (Score 1) 231

I guess no men wrote anything decent this year?

I'm sure that George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris (winners, Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation) would be surprised to hear you say that.

Or, for that matter, Charles Gannon, Ken Liu, Lawrence Schoen (Best Novel nominees); Eugene Fischer, Usman Malik (Novella nominees); Michael Bishop, Henry Lien (Novelette); David Levine, Sam Miller, Martin Shoemaker (Short Story)....

But since you can't read more than four lines into a Slashdot blurb, I suppose it isn't surprising that you don't know much about good writing.

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