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Comment Re:A book so good it was banned! (Score 1) 701

This was the book that inspired David Hahn, aka "The Radioactive Boy Scout." For those of you who aren't familiar with his story, he basically taught himself chemistry, partially from The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, and ended up attempting to create a breeder reactor in a shed in his family's back yard. The site was ultimately shut down by the EPA. The original Harper's Weekly story on this is here, and the author of that story also expanded it into a full-length book.

(Among other things, incidentally, The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments teaches you to make chlorine gas. Fun for the entire neighborhood!)

Comment Re:Han didn't shoot first. (Score 1) 264

This post violates my self-imposed rule about not getting involved in Star Wars fights on the Internet, but:

If I tell someone about the scene in question, and they ask me, "Did Greedo shoot?" then a perfectly reasonable and accurate answer is: "No. Han shot first." I.e., Han shot before Greedo had the chance to do so. Would Greedo have shot him, given the chance? Maybe. We don't know. Han shot him first, before he had the chance to react. The word "first" in this situation does not necessarily imply the existence of multiple shots.

This may actually be the nerdiest thing I have ever posted online, which is really saying something.

Comment Re:You ares testing students the wrong way (Score 1) 241

When you started university, you were probably not able to access the Internet and quickly Google the exam question to find a copy-and-pastable answer on that computer you lugged into the exam room with you.

There have always been classes where students are allowed to use certain tools during the exam (open book, calculator, whatever). Being able to simply ask someone -- or in this case, search the Internet -- for the answer to the question has historically not been an allowed option.

Comment Terrible science reporting (Score 3, Informative) 189

As usual.

The original paper is located here. From the conclusion:

"The most troubling finding of our study is how little password distributions seem to vary, with all populations of users we were able to isolate producing similar skewed distributions with effective security varying by no more than a few bits."

And yet in TFA this gets transformed into "old people use strong passwords and young people use weak ones!" and everyone starts wondering what could account for this. It also makes the study sound as though it specifically focused on user age, or that user age was the most interesting result, when in fact there were several other significant (yet still small) variations in different groups in the study, e.g. Indonesian users tended to use much weaker passwords than German or Korean users. They also found that users who tend to log in from multiple locations also tend to use stronger passwords.

So why is the old people/young people thing the single takeaway that gets headlined and reported? It's not like what I just wrote would have been particularly difficult to outline or explain, even in a brief news article. I blame laziness on the part of the reporter.

Comment Make it easy, affordable, and convenient (Score 3, Insightful) 417

...for people to legally get content, and you'll become ludicrously rich. In the 90s, everyone was using Napster and Limewire and whatever else to download all of their music, because the other option was going out and buying CDs, which was not easy or convenient, and often not particularly affordable.

Now everyone downloads their music from the Internet legally, primarily via iTunes or Amazon. Why would I want to deal with the hassle of a file-sharing site, where I might download mislabeled files, files containing viruses, or even just files that were ripped with crappy settings so that the sound quality is poor, when instead I can pay a reasonable fee and instantly download a high-quality music file to the device of my choice? Easy, affordable, convenient. All of this nonsense about stopping piracy and using "kill switches" are just the dying cries of industry executives who don't realize the world has changed whether they like it or not.

Comment Re:Google Rx glasses? (Score 1) 122

The early 2000s, actually. But my problem wasn't with the comfort or feel; that was never a problem. It was more that I missed the protective aspects of my glasses, and also I had trouble with distance focusing after I'd been looking at a computer screen for a while. (Which made driving home from work a dicey proposition.)

Really it comes down to the fact that I actually enjoy my glasses and have no desire to get rid of them, which is also why I haven't gone for LASIK. But it sounds like Google will have options for us anachronistic types who like our lenses, so I'm content with that.

Comment I had a co-worker (Score 2) 405

I had a co-worker who always listened to NPR through her headphones at work. I have no idea how she ever got anything done.

Like most people I know, I tend to listen to instrumental music (classical, bluegrass, whatever) when working or studying. Silence would probably be better but unfortunately I've never had a working environment where silence was an option. I'd like to find whoever came up with the concept of an open office plan, lock him inside an elevator, and then blast top 40 music at him 24/7, for his sins.

Comment Re:How to write without political bias? (Score 1) 221

It's impossible to write a completely neutral article, in my opinion. There's limited space in a newspaper (or for a blog article, or for a TV news spot, or whatever) so you have to choose what to say, and how to say it.

Say that two people both write an article about a piece of civil rights legislation being passed by Congress. Both people can write an article that is completely factual and accurate, and yet the two articles will likely have significant differences. Different people might be quoted. Different descriptive phrases will be used. One writer might focus on the lengthy debate that preceded the legislation's passage. The other might choose to focus on the legislation's effects. And so on, and so forth. And without even intending to do so, one writer might come up with an article that seems more sympathetic to the Democrats, and the other might seem more sympathetic to the Republicans.

This is unavoidable; but what is avoidable is writing an article that slants one way or the other on purpose. If you analyze a particular news organization's articles in the way that the researchers in the article did, and you find that the majority of bias is going in one direction, I think that's a problem. It's not possible to avoid all bias, but it is possible to attempt to write articles that are as factual and neutral as possible, and I believe that if you do that, you're not going to skew too far to one side or the other.

I also think that as a more practical matter, having an editorial staff that reviews and corrects articles before sending them out is critical, because then you've got two sets of eyes, minimum, on all of your material. But as news budgets are being slashed everywhere, particularly for newspapers, editorial oversight is going by the wayside. Most publications don't even appear to employ proofreaders these days.

Comment Re:If you make a stupid joke (Score 1) 174

Where did I suggest violating anyone's rights? Someone tweets that they're going to blow up the airport. Some law-enforcement official is detailed to go have a quick chat with this person and make sure it's a joke. Nobody needs to be arrested, nobody needs to be convicted of a crime, nobody needs to lose their job. I think that's an entirely reasonable use of law-enforcement resources and not representative of insane paranoia. Insane paranoia is what actually happened.

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