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Comment Re:What the hell? $600K? (Score 1) 48

Just the accounting you'd need to sell the thing to the government would cost you $100K. Oh, and you'd have to pay yourself or someone else to take part in the bidding process or apply for the granted, and that has to be recouped as part of the sale cost. Er... you were planning on paying yourself for your time, weren't you?

Also, there's a big difference between building a prototype from junk you scrounged and building a reproducible product. When you build a product the second copy should be exactly the same as the first but cost less. Duplicating a one-off prototype exactly usually costs more. Why? Proof of concept prototypes are cheap because you make them with surplus stuff you have lying around or can buy for fractions of a penny on the dollar. You can be opportunistic. The problem is any particular set of opportunities (e..g the $10,000 assembly you picked up at auction for $50) aren't reproducible.

I had a colleague whose first job out of school was writing up a detailed specification for a prototype midget submarine a defense research lab built for the Navy. The Navy was pleased at the low cost and so they wanted to be able to build a second one just like it. Well it turned out that a second one would have cost a hundred times as much they'd have had to pay manufacturers to reverse engineer stuff or start up production lines. It was one of the pointless, futile tasks you dump on newbie engineers before you know you can trust their work.

Comment Re:Basic Journalism... (Score 3, Insightful) 63

That's an asinine argument. Other people who should do it don't do it, so I won't do it either.

Wikileaks won't do it because Assange is a chaos-monger posing as a crusader. Wikileaks should do curate its leaks because when you possess information you act responsibly with it, e.g., don't expose people it is about to identity fraud.

Comment Re: Sounds Familiar. (Score 3, Interesting) 155

This was known and discussed. But they found microgravity to be a compounding effect of radiation exposure

This just drives home how much of a risk interplanetary flight is right now. And we really don't have great solutions that don't involve great masses of shielding. Artificial magnetosopheres for example are insufficient to deal with GCR.

Comment Pretty lame as far as scandal material goes. (Score 2) 170

If you want to see Democrats sniping at each others' candidates or complaining about what the party's up to, just go on any Democratic blog.

It's not a scandal. It's not a secret. It's not even a problem -- not even when people get hot under the collar and start acting like assholes. George Washington was elected unanimously by the Electoral College, but in every election since then politics has been turning Americans into assholes.

And that is a good thing. You can't make politics 100% civil without pushing out unpopular opinions.

Comment Re:Wait... Who got that other half of the $$$ rais (Score 5, Informative) 33

I spent about fifteen years of my career in the non-profit sector, so I have some perspective on this.

Raising money in a non-profit is just like selling stuff is for a for-profit. Generating gross revenue is relatively easy -- if you spend a lot of money you can rake in a lot of dough. What's a bitch to generate is net profit. In the non-profit sector we don't use the term "profitability" very much, so the metric that's often used to describe financial is "cost to raise a dollar." For typical fundraising activities cost-to-raise-a-dollar runs from 0.25 to 1.5 dollars/dollar.

Take junk mail. The cost to raise a dollar for a well-run direct mail campaign is in the range of $1.25 to $1.50, so if I want to raise $115,000 to spend on other things I have to scale my direct mail campaign to bring inover $258,000 gross. As you can see I chose a net target that was exactly 1/1000 the size of the ALS bucket challenge net, so you can compare the efficiency of the processes readily. The cost to raise a dollar for the ALS bucket challenge is actually better than a well-run direct mail campaign -- $0.91.

And it should be more efficient than direct mail, because direct mail is about the least efficient method there is. The marginal costs are huge because you pay for the names and addresses as well as printing and mailing of each piece, and most of those pieces will end up in the landfill unopened. So if direct mail is so inefficient, why use it? Because the financial inefficiency doesn't matter to the organization doing the fundraising. The end result of my hypothetical direct mail campaign is that my organization has $115,000 it didn't have before. That probably pays for one and half full time staff positions (at the low do-gooder wages we pay) for a year.

So the ALS challenge was in the financial efficiency range of methods normally used by non-profits, albeit a little towards the inefficient end. That doesn't really tell us if the campaign was responsibly run or not; to know that you'd have to look at all the expenses and compare those to costs in other viral Internet fundraising campaigns. But the bottom line is that the ALS association ended up with $115 million it didn't have before.

Can you think of a way of raising $115 million in a few months? I thought not. So presuming the guys who ran the campaign didn't spend the money on hookers and blow, I wouldn't be unduly concerned by a cost-to-raise-a-dollar of $0.91 if I was on the board.

Should donors care that the ALS challenge was a little high on the cost-to-raise-a-dollar metric? Well, I look at it this way. People did it because it was fun and for a good cause, and two years later we can point to concrete and significant scientific results from the money raised. That's not only pretty good, it's pretty damned awesome.

Comment Re:This is NOT a matter of trademark violation (Score 2) 244

Not necessarily. Take a look at the relevant portion of the Lantham Act. It would have to fit one of the provisions therein. It might make a false suggestion of affiliation, but it's arguable.

15 U.S.C. 1125 - False designations of origin, false descriptions, and dilution forbidden

(a) Civil action

(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or

(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities,

shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.

Comment Re:anti-science environmentalists (Score 1) 181

Actually, it's thoroughly impossible to tell how the new standards work based upon by the linked articles, but it sounds like in plain language that Florida is using a computer model that could allow more flexibility in discharge permitting. This can lead to better results, whether your definition of better is "more rationally defensible" or "more in line with what my donors want." Determining which way it is better requires review by a competent expert. It might be both.

The real issue here is this phrase from TFA: "one of a kind." That's not so good.

It's important in managing environmental data to do things in the usual way. This is contrary to the way public thinks about new technologies. If there's a new iPhone, you expect it to be better in every way or at least as good. It's not like that with scientific methods; new techniques are proposed because they have certain advantages, obviously. But they always have one big disadvantage: their results are hard to compare with what you already know. You need to do a lot of work to justify doing things a new way, otherwise you can find yourself unable to compare what is happening now to what was happening before.

Fortunately Florida can't do this on its own; it has to get EPA approval. Since this is an administration that is generally favorable to environmental regulation, if they can get this past Obama's EPA that will help give these new methods more credibility.

Comment This is NOT a matter of trademark violation (Score 1) 244

You violate a trademark if you mis-represent a good or service as that of the trademark holder. And it has to be in the same trademark category that they registered. Having a trademark does not grant ownership of a word, and does not prevent anyone else from using that word. Use of a trademark in reporting and normal discussion is not a violation.

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