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Comment Re:Awful headline. (Score 3, Insightful) 356

I just read the paper, and wish I had mod points today. You are right, and your view seems very under-represented in this thread (though I am surprised that you are surprised that they released/held a press conference about a pre-print paper: even respectable researchers do that!).

The grant for the study was from CRIIGEN, a European nonprofit that exists to discredit genetically modified food: the research was certainly conceived with a conclusion already in mind. To be sure, Monsanto and others fund motivated studies of their own; this is a highly fraught and politicized area of research.

Considering the obvious bias of the researchers, I think their inability to point to any legitimate statistically significant effect of roundup or the corn is...significant. There were 9 experimental groups of 10 of each gender for a single control group, and while the food and water intake were "measured," the results of the measurements are not mentioned in the paper at all or correlated to the mortality. Instead of looking at the actual lifespan of the rats, the more dramatic binary condition of "mortality before mean life expectancy" was measured.

The vast majority of male rats died on their own, and majority of female rats were eventually euthanized due to massive tumors, something that can far more substantially be explained by the line of rat they used than by the experimental variables: they could have done a different study and as accurately declared that 80% of female rats fed only standard rat chow developed cancer. Among the 100 male rats, there was no even moderately significant result for mortality or tumors between the control and the experimental groups. Among the females, the Roundup groups showed the most tumors, but the GMO Corn + Roundup groups didn't vary significantly from the control! I don't think there is any consistent hypothesis that can adequately explain all of their results except for random variation, possibly modulated by food intake, but the researchers don't even try.

They devote a whole page to pictures of the most gross-looking rat tumors in the GM groups, and then a page to graphs of high-variation metabolic test results for the single experimental group female 33% GMO Corn v. the control. On the next page you see a table of selected blood tests between all 10 female groups, with the "significant" results highlighted. Unfortunately for the researchers, the variation is often "significant" both above and below the control group's numbers, and with no apparent correlation to the concentration of GM corn or roundup. Judging by the amount of apparent random variation between the experimental groups, there is no reason to believe that the control group's numbers represent anything like the real "mean" at all, so you would expect just what they got: a lot of variation from the control group in both directions, with some measures where it was the control group that was the outlier and thus the experimental groups are normally distributed on one side only. Just as with tumor count, the GMO+Roundup groups ironically had "better" numbers than either the groups on either GM Corn or Roundup alone.

I think that the paper can be summed up best by this rather apropos xkcd, with the difference that in this case it was the researchers themselves who made the headline. Their statistics, when even present, are crap, and they bring further discredit to the already-disreputable European anti-GM food movement. At the beginning of the paper, they claim that while glyphosate itself has been tested (negatively) for health effects, the total formulation of roundup has not, and its effects, if any, are unknown. Apparently, that condition still obtains.

Comment Re:Headline != article (Score 1) 429

Having read the whole text of the study, I agree with your summary of the study's conclusion as: killing leaders hurts terrrorist groups. In fact, the death of the leader by any means was found to be correlated with group dissolution, though the effect lessened with the age of the group.

This really doesn't speak to the efficacy of drone campaigns, however, except to indicate that should, in the future, a terrrorist leader be killed by a drone, that event would make the dissolution of his group more likely than if he had instead survived.

It is beyond the scope of the study (as the author explicitly acknowledges) to say whether drone warfare and the killing of various mixtures of militants and civilians increases or decreases militancy or support for terrorism. Further, the study covers a period of over 30 years ending in 2008: drone strikes were not really a factor. The slashdot headline is indeed misleading.

As for the conclusion of the study being forgone, the author notes at the beginning of the paper that the three previous studies of the same question came to the opposite conclusion. He makes arguments as to the superiority of his own statistical methods, but the noisiness of the dataset plagues him as well. This paper will doubtless not be the last word on the topic.

Comment Re:Wired distorts it (Score 1) 120

I wouldn't say that the Stanford blogger was "go[ing] to bat for" Google, since his findings are that Google's statement is highly disingenuous and, in part, outright false. I doubt that his actual conclusions will increase your respect for Google either, but reading them would at least allow you to dislike Google for the right reasons.

Comment Re:Still the best coverage in the US (Score 2) 331

I agree. I have a grandfathered plan and this news is somewhat alarming, but many times I have been with other people who have Sprint or AT&T that hit dead spots the moment they leave major metropolitan areas and the interstates. That was the reason I switched to Verizon in the first place. I can't really make a credible threat to leave Verizon, because even with whatever capped plan they introduce (the current ones are ~2GB only!) it is unlikely that Verizon will actually be worse in general than AT&T, etc.

Comment Re:Prior Art? (Score 1) 325

Though I must brush past all of the grammatical errors, malapropisms and mystifying jargon, to me this seems to be describing some sort of version of Twitter (or combination of Twitter and Amazon's "Mechanical Turk," perhaps), with lots of people tagging things, except "peer to peer."

Reading the actual patent reveals that the abstract is only tangentially connected to the patent claims: nothing whatsoever is "distributed" or "p2p," and the "invention" described in the independent claims is a combination of Facebook and Twitter in which some users can be anonymous and the central server periodically pushes "content" on you based on calculated conjunction with your interests. In fact, the "UKID," the "expert human agents," the "multiple developers," the "Universal Desktop Search" and "black box search module" make no appearance whatsoever in the claims. The claims actually seem like something that a patent troll with a modicum of sanity remaining could have written. It describes some sort of facebook/twitter thing that may not be legitimately novel, but which one could at least grasp the nature of and imagine existing.

Perhaps the abstract was written by someone's monoglot Hindi cousin (with the aid of Google Translate) as a joke?

It turned out that the "description" is the real joke. The following passage seemed representative to me.

The present Human Service Network (HSN) providing plugging interface for human brain to machine for active participation and interaction via this communication media, wherein brain to brain communication is established via Human Operating System (HOS) thus forming Human Grid (HG) by means of systematically designed taxonomies, ontology and filtering mechanisms with plurality of ways of exploiting Human Services offered via plurality of accredited human agents or knowledge sources selection in terms of HSN Messenger, HSN Mail service and HSN online portal.

The entire section strongly reminds me of Alan Sokal's famous "Social Text" experiment, in which he carefully constructed a morass of contradictory, fallacious bullshit comprised mostly of postmodern humanities buzzwords and random physics terms, and then submitted it to a sociology journal, which reviewed and published it.

Comment Re:A comment on Fark sums this up perfectly (Score 1) 343

Indeed! I haven't been able to get through a sitcom or (gasp!) ecchi anime in years, but I had never thought about the pervasive thematic similarity between the most popular American television genre and the most socially retarded (not a small accomplishment) subgenre of Japanese anime.

In fairness, lately I have been quickly overwhelmed by the awfulness of every prime-time TV show. If it's not on HBO, Showtime, or AMC, you can probably forget it; I don't mean to imply that those channels are unending fonts of quality, either, though, just that they seem to have a monopoly on it. There are certain pervasive cliches that I refer to as "network TV *" (e.g. "network TV" sex, precious grade-schooler, teenager, submissive husband, etc.), and the sitcom seems to be the ultimate distillation of such tropes. I have not yet been married, but I feel fully qualified to write an average episode of an average marriage sitcom. Network TV police drama is a close second; I couldn't presume to write an episode of "The Wire" without at least as much research and experience as David Simon--and even then, I would have get years of practice with scriptwriting--but shows like "CSI" or "The Mentalist" or "NCIS" are another matter altogether.

Although I don't have enough evidence to make a claim about the general population (indeed, if anything, I only have counter-anecdotes), I personally seem to have a regulation mechanism for media consumption. After I watch enough exemplars of any TV or movie genre (the threshold seems to vary according to maturity and innate or early-childhood-born preferences for the core content of a genre: it took hundreds of action movies to sour me, a few dozen TV dramas, and a handful of sitcoms, but two ecchi animes were more than enough when I discovered anime at age 17), the banality and derivative quality of the writing become painfully apparent, and my enjoyment is lost.

While I'm not sure about the specific genesis of my system of morality (for that matter, I can't confidently and accurately describe what it is), at least I can say that repeated exposure to unsophisticated or redundant themes makes me want to avoid further experiences with them at all costs. This is true of books and video games as well, the greater diversity of those media (especially written media) just makes it less obvious. I feel I can be on somewhat firmer ground in claiming that the average "serious gamer" tires of violence for its own sake very quickly, and requires increasing levels of sophistication and novelty in gameplay as well. 7-14 year-olds (the subjects of the study) may not be too far advanced in such tastes yet, but they surely will be. I realize that coming to demand variety in one's violence is far from a refutation of the claim that early exposure to violence impairs the development of empathy, but it at least speaks to the improbability of some positive craving or tendency to violence being created.

Perhaps the best source of empirical data on (late adolescent and adult) violence conditioning comes from the experience of the U.S. armed forces over the past century. Especially since WWI, there has been a constant reevaluation and evolution of soldier training practices, the result of which has been that increasing percentages of infantry troops actually fire their weapons, and do so with increasing purposefulness, when contact with the enemy (militarily) demands it. Nothing close to a "perfect" regimen yet exists, however, since even after very rigorous modern training, a large portion of deployed soldiers end up with traumatic mental disorders after experiencing the actuality of combat and killing (even though there is very likely much less "baseline" empathy between a contemporary American soldier and an impoverished non-English-speaking Muslim irregular than there would be with, say, an average WWII Wehrmacht private or even a VK). It is almost certainly much harder to desensitize a soldier of eighteen or more than a seven year-old, but such data do demonstrate that "real" violence has a vastly greater emotional impact than controlled training. For the 7+ age group (which can almost universally distinguish fantasy from reality, at least as far as video games go), it seems likely that actual interpersonal experiences with bullying or abuse by adults would similarly far outweigh the influence of media on mental development. If an absence of bullying and abuse proves insufficient to develop empathy, it seems unlikely that the (mere) absence of violent media would be different.

From a policy perspective, one might argue--aside from privacy, impracticality, or slippery-slope reasoning, that is--that legally restricting violent media from minors will only have the effect of arbitrarily punishing the (relatively) well-adjusted, since those who are are theoretically harmed by violent media are probably doomed by their genetics and/or upbringings alone. It is hard to imagine anyone removed from the hysteria of their arrest and trial seriously or successfully arguing, for example, that the infamous Leopold and Loeb were otherwise perfectly normal teenagers who were then unhinged by reading Nietzsche, or conversely that their actions represented anything like a standard reaction to the cultural and literary influences to which they were exposed.

Returning specifically to TFA, I will observe (regrettably, not deviating far from the /. party line) that based on the sparse summary of the pre-print article in the dubious sociology journal (publishing easily misunderstood, loosely empirical studies that promote the simplification of politically charged issues is many sociologists' raison d'être), it's hard to believe that the researchers discovered much evidence of causality one way or the other. Besides--regardless of the conclusions here--none of these sociology studies can legitimately pretend to definitiveness: even in the (marginally) more empirical field of psychology, there is little consensus about the primacy of or requisites for direct parental influence on child development. Even the finding of an overwhelming correlation in a study like this one would serve mostly to indicate future lines of inquiry, not to suggest or support an developmental model for empathy. Not much is known for sure about child development, including a good reason to believe that it is a simple or easily explicable process.

Comment Re:Horrible. (Score 1) 2254

Mine was also reinitialized to an improbable size. The "comment box size: rows" option, however, appears to work, and I have returned it to its original height, at least (though the width setting does nothing).

Comment Re:Great idea but not likely to happen (Score 2) 244

Assuming you keep your plugins updated, you are already sending the X-Do-Not-Track header with all of your requests. Since NoScript 2.0.9.x, it can be configured with noscript.DoNotTrack.{enabled, exceptions, forced}, and the default is enabled.

The maintainer of NoScript says:

As stupid as it may sound (why parties who are interested in tracking you would comply?), a mean to clearly express your will of not being tracked is going to be useful, especially when backed by law or industry self-regulation, as explained here. Therefore it seems in the interest of NoScript users and privacy-concerned netizens in general to participate in this effort.

I'm not sure that I agree with the rationale (legislation about HTTP headers? No thank you!), but at least there is one. He also responded to the Firefox proposal.

Comment Re:Cool stuff (Score 1) 107

It takes 20 images for each frame, at 30fps 1080p. You combine them yourself in post with the help of special software that can also apparently deduce the location and intensity of various light sources, allowing you to add rendered objects into the scene with realistic lighting.

Comment TFA is revealed! (Score 4, Informative) 88

Well, I read the full introduction of the paper, and the conclusion, skipping only the detailed plasma physics models & calculations. They do mention the strategy of putting an antenna through the plasma which can last as long as one fuel tank before it ablates, but they instead propose that (more elegantly) a small commercially-available 3 kW high frequency klystron amplifier (a lot less power than the radar) be placed at the surface of the aircraft, where it will disrupt a very small region of the plasma in a manner that will scatter ~.7 - 2% of the original incoming signal (which will resonates in a layer of the plasma) back to the aircraft; that is enough power for a 5 m. antenna and a commercially-available high sensitivity GPS receiver to pick it up. There is an analogous explanation for outgoing signals. They account for quite a few confounding plasma effects, acknowledge that there are some others that can't be modeled so clearly (or maybe they didn't think of), but predict that getting the system to work would be a not-so-difficult engineering challenge.

My first thought was, "Boy, I hope all the space opera authors read this preprint: no more signal attenuation from the plasma engines in the atmosphere!" Now there is one more area in which reality is exceeding a certain segment of--rather soft--science fiction (that I am only familiar with--AHEM--because of Baen's visionary no-DRM any-format ebook policy).

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