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Comment I wonder if they've fully considered.. (Score 1) 379

I really have to wonder if they even consider gaming the primary market for this next Xbox, or if they are thinking that the Xbox will find its way into homes primarily as a unified entertainment system. If the latter is their goal, they must believe that most families aren't going to own multiple expensive gaming devices, so once established they have a captive market on the gaming front.

Of course if they are wrong, they might literally cause the decline of gaming in society. If we operate on the premise that modern young people are "addicted" to media in general, and gaming in particular, Microsoft is assuming that they can spike the price in their drug and extract more from the junkies. In the real world when this happens, the junkies typically turn to crime (I suppose piracy in this case, though I'm not a big advocate of copyright), stop using, or move on to another drug (sometimes a homemade variant of the original).

What we might very well see in the future is a shift in media consumption habits away from the big publishers to smaller studios making games for pc and mobile devices, underscored by a drop-off in "traditional" gaming in general (as people start to see more value in a movie and a meal for $20 instead of paying $60 for a 10 hour long game). If the big publishers actually implemented a steam-style pricing model that could change, but I seriously doubt any will try. Companies very rarely evolve into an entirely different animal, and a Steam-esque change would be one hell of an evolution for the likes of EA and Activision.

Comment Re:Of all states? (Score 1) 686

Exactly this.

Where I grew up (Minnesota) the combination of salt and ground heave in the winter does a huge amount of road damage, as I imagine it does in a great many states. Right now the gas tax is helping to offset that, but as vehicles using alternative power sources take over that revenue stream destabilizes. And there isn't a good argument for allowing that to happen; what I'm reading here is a combination of "But I don't wanna pay for it!" and "We should be punishing those gas users in whatever way possible!", neither of which refutes the fundamental truth that the roads need to be funded and the only "fair" way to do so it to tax based on benefit/use to/by the individual.

If you don't want to pay your share and thought your Prius was the ticket to getting out of it, tough. And while encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles isn't a bad goal, the price of electricity combined with falling battery prices and rising fossil fuel costs should do that anyway. Frankly, if you still want to do some social engineering why not do so blatantly with a tax credit/refund on electric vehicles that diminishes as income increases? That way there isn't a regressive tax on the poor, and the goal is clear as day.

Comment Re:Since it's clear nobody RTFA (Score 2) 733

Without commenting on the activity, I'll give my experience with this... When I was on the farm, groups of guys used to some around with giant nets and ask to capture all the pigeons in our barn. Theyd hang the net from the roof and spook the birds, causing them to fly across the barn into the net and be captured. We always let them, as it saved us the trouble of poisoning the disease infested things before they crapped all over everything.

Anyway, the hunters said they used the birds to train their dogs for pheasant hunting. You use the pigeon in place of a clay target, teaching the dogs not to be shell shocked and to grab the bird when it falls. Seemed like a plausible story to me. Plus, I've lived all over rural America and have yet to come across a pigeon breeding operation. Seems like that would be a lot of trouble to go through just to get a marginally more challenging target to shoot.

Comment Re:Common requirement (Score 0) 240

No one is preventing anyone from taking the course. Coursera is being prevented from offering the courses (until they fill out some trivial paperwork) due to consumer protection laws. Being a business (and a for profit at that) that deals in education (whether student driven, ad driven, university paid, whatever) consumer protection laws apply to them. Its an important distinction. If they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts Coursera (or the Universities represented) could put everything they have up without offering certificates or insinuating they are a university and this problem would go away. The content isn't the problem, and their speech isn't being limited anymore than McDonald's is when they are prevented from running commercials claiming Big Macs increase the IQ of those that consume them by 150 points guaranteed.

Comment Re:And post it on YouTube as a warning (Score 1) 240

And Minnesota residents have the right to decide if actual academic institutions can set up courses (online or otherwise) in their state. Thats the issue here, not the information. The fact that this is a collaboration with major universities is actually a strike against it, though it would take all of a week to fix the problem assuming everything is legitimate. Should the law be rewritten to only apply to universities charging money and/or offering "certificates" of some kind? Yeah, probably. But when the law was written 20 years ago I suspect the idea that MIT would be offering free education through magical supercomputers (considering we're talking pre windows 95 here, before the widespread use of internet even) probably wasn't seriously considered. But don't let the triviality of the paperwork or the reasonable circumstances get in the way of a good libertarian rant.

Comment Re:Self-stabilizing system (Score 3, Interesting) 480

And where do you propose they get their hands on large quantities of gold/silver through the embargo? Plus, the only real way such a thing *might* work is if you smelted the coins using some crap metal like tin with a vanishingly small amount of precious metal. Because trading in pure precious metal would require salt sized grains (at best) for any reasonable transaction, with the price of metal in today's market.

The gold standard and similar ideas are moronic for a variety of reasons, but even ignoring their inherent faults those systems have to use paper notes backed by some scarce item (be it gold, gems, whatever) due to the fact that trading items that are by definition scarce in small amounts is difficult at best. Maybe when there were a few million people actively involved in the economy of the day (think Rome at its peak) this was doable, but a few billion? Not a chance.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 292

I suspect this isn't complaining about what happened, but rather part of a long process of turning public sentiment in the United States in favor of war with Iran. Not that war will certainly happen, but the political establishment has decided that if Iran doesn't capitulate on the nuclear issue soon (6 months to a year, from the sounds of it) a war is inevitable. In their minds, a war might as well happen before the bomb rather than after it, as Iran will almost certainly try its luck against Israel at some point anyway (being Israel is a major hurdle to Iran's regional ambitions).

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of this is a blatant effort to goad Iran into doing something stupid (like a largely pointless "cyber attack") just to manufacture a justification to allow immediate intervention. After all, without the justification the public can always grumble that there wasn't enough effort put into diplomacy, and since any attack to stop nuclear weapons production is going to be preemptive there really isn't a way to play that concern down other than having an ulterior reason for an attack. Trying to find a reason afterwards if you are wrong (like in Iraq, where WMD's were replaces with "well, Saddam was a crappy person anyway!") doesn't typically work well.

Comment Re:and the benefits are? (Score 1) 128

Yeah, fluff I say! Like that electricity, with its expensive lines! Why do they need that when a torch and icebox will do? Or phone lines! After all, most conversations can be done by letter just as well. And what a waste roads are, the moving carriage is little more than a toy. A horse is just as fast and doesn't need a paved way! The audacity of these bumpkins, being born outside of my privileged environment...

Eherm... got carried away. My point is, your lack of imagination can be applied to the most important technologies of the modern era. Its a good thing people in the past had more vision. If you don’t develop rural infrastructure you prevent those areas from ever seeing development. This forces people into densely packed cities, which past a certain point causes FAR more health and environmental issues than can ever be made up simply from living close together. With the advent of telecommunication we should be encouraging movement to rural areas, not discouraging it. And unless you have a crystal ball theres no way you can say with any certainty that a modern internet connection wont suddenly be just as important as phones or roads. What if Kahn Academy or the MIT lecture series really take off, and the oppertunity of high quality cheap education arrives if you have a video-quality internet connection? It seems more and more likely that could be the case.

Not to mention you're picking social winners and losers, essentially just accepting the creation of an underclass for your own perceived benefit. Don’t try and play it off as one guy living on Everest begging for internet, a sizable portion of the population lives in rural areas. And contrary to seemingly popular belief, not everyone moves to the country with a lot of money for the health benefits. Lots of people start there, and couldn’t scrape the money together to move to an expensive urban area (assuming they even had skills marketable in a city).

Comment Re:Cost of fertilizer and pesticide production? (Score 1) 452

Its a murky situation. Presumably the costs you talk about are passed through the goods, and a rough profit per bushel comparison should tell you everything you need to know, including energy and land costs. Its tough here because "organic" makes money largely by being a higher priced niche product. Presumably the more mainstream it becomes the less profitable it will be, though if a significant organic farming infrastructure popped up that would help offset it.

Environmentally, its awful tough to pick a winner as well. If organics help reduce pesticide and fertilizer effects in settled areas, but require an increase in productive area that ends up established in a few million square acres of pristine rainforest, did the environment "win?" Frankly, probably not.

The big selling point for organic is human safety, but there has yet to be shown any kind of widespread human harm from modern pesticides. Speculation is rampant, but so far common pesticides, used properly, don't seem to pose any significant risk to people. Measured against the very real human harm from organic food causing a massive surge in food prices (from lack of supply or increased input costs, likely both), conventional farming seems to win for now.

Comment Re:Still needs more research (Score 4, Insightful) 398

Guessing youre the same AC who started this. Everything is toxic, in sufficient quantity. The link you give lists that particular pesticide as having no discernable carcinogenic effects and a very low toxicity relative to any reasonable exposure. Did you even read your own link? Pesticides in general do have some risk to humans.

The rule of thumb is that if it kills an insect keep an eye on it, because insects aren't that far from humans. Herbicides are by and large harmless unless you swim in the stuff. But the fear mongering you are doing isn't based on research. Its the same kind of conspiracy theory logic as the anti-vaccine crowd uses. This story is indicating an interesting side effect for a specific insect which ingests a toxin via an unforseen channel in a quantity not thought to be harmful. It could be a great example for a risk analysis course. It is not, however, a sky is falling moment for modern society, nor an "I told you so" moment for the GMO movement. If true, minor tweaks to the existing system fix the problem. Stop pretending its the end of the world.

Comment Re:Still needs more research (Score 2) 398

Yes, you can switch to organic food. Note, however, that these are neonicotinoids -- they act on insects in the same way as nicotine (which used to be widely used as an insecticide, and is still used by organic farmers), but are designed to lower acute toxicity in mammals. So, assuming you're a mammal, rather than a honeybee, you might actually be choosing the more dangerous option. (Of course, with any pesticide, the levels of application are kept such that the amount in the final product shouldn't be harmful to humans, so the risk to you eating the produce is vanishingly small either way -- nicotine toxicity is more an issue for the farm workers applying the concentrated product.)

The FDA and EPA do a reasonably good job of making sure pesticides for food crops are pretty safe for humans, both acutely and chronically, because that's what they do. They don't test everything so thoroughly for honeybees, which is why it was assumed that if levels were kept below acute toxicity levels, there'd be no problem. It doesn't follow that it's a problem for humans.

Somebody mod this AC up, hes 100% spot on. Who modded the parent up anyway, its a wikipedia link from someone with an obvious paranoid bias. I mean he thinks corn is pollinated by bees for God`s sake (its wind pollinated).

If these studies are confirmed (and there are various critiques rolling in, so we'll see) they will tell us that the amount of neonicotinoid present in the kernel, a number so small as to be considered zero for the sake of human consumption, is just enough to essentially get bees drunk if fed directly to a hive in quantity (what the beekeepers are doing). The solution is to stop using HFCS in hives; make the things either gather pollen naturally or drink cane-sugar water. Its a pesticide... that it was lethal for insects which prey on corn was never in question. What is facinating is the potential secondary effect here. It might force the EPA to beef up its testing procedures (though I doubt it... pretty hard to discover something like this without large-scale testing).

Comment Re:They recently lost their court case (Score 2) 145

I got to watch a very interesting lecture on this a month ago, so I'll chime in. Oh, you should cite something for your first claim, otherwise you're playing the "no true Scotsman" game.

For one, what was known as "fracking" up to very recently was done using straight wells, as in drilled straight down. Part of the reason these natural gas deposits haven't been exploited is that most shale (where the gas is locked in) is in very thin, very wide (ranging over hundreds to thousands of miles) formations. A vertical well only works if the shale is deep, which is a lot less common. Today's fracking is done by drilling down into a thin shale formation, then twisting the bit 90 degrees and drilling sideways a great distance. You then inject a fluid (mostly water and extremely finely ground silica, from northern glacial sand deposits) which, as I understood it, uses a combination of friction and pressure to cause micro-fracturing (fracking) all along the hole. Methane trapped in the shale flows via these fractures into the well, which at that point you just need to cap off and begin to process. Its incredible technology.

Anyway, back to your arguments (and those of a couple others). A large horizontal hole in the upper crust, purposefully cracked along its length, extracting large amounts of gas from the surrounding stone is absolutely changing the balance of crustal forces in that region. "But its only a little hole, and rock is big and heavy!" Its a system in close to perfect equilibrium, and we are altering it. A single shovelfull of earth can cause a mudslide, if the system is in balance. I see how it can be confusing, but fracking is probably causing some earthquakes.

And for those saying "who cares about Oklahoma," you should know that the largest shale region in the United States forms roughly a triangle with New Jersey, Pensylvaina (or was it Ohio... grab a geologic map if you care), and the Carolinas as the points. There are also good spots in other parts of the South. But my focus here is that New York is on top of this shale, as are many other major east-coast cities. The numbers for how great natural gas can be (because the US potentially has so much of it) are assuming the exploitation of the East-coast reserves. They might start in Oklahoma and the Dakotas, but it will come to your door very soon.

All that said, it still might not be dangerous. If you can find some way to reasonably quantify the damage from small earthquakes and have it paid for via a small tax on the producers (property devaluation would be trickier...) it could still be exploitable. What worries me more is that the fluid being used almost certainly has small amounts of something unpleasant in it, as if it didn't the fight over keeping the formula secret wouldn't be nearly this vicious. Also, methane leaking into the aquifer thats above the shale is a real concern. In theory, fracking is perfectly safe because you can seal the hole with a liner and cap, essentially re-plugging it and isolating the aquifer again (which the rock formation itself has done for eons, else there wouldn't be a lot of gas down there). But what happens when you increase the number of earthquakes in the region by over an order of magnitude? Do those caps stay in place? If no, then there is a real issue that needs to be resolved here.

Comment Re:Correct (Score 3, Informative) 328

"Idiot proof" - right there you just lost a couple points. Build a better nuclear reactor and the world builds a better idiot. Not that I'm against nuclear reactors, I just agree with the original premise - failures *will* happen with any system. Multiple independent fail-safes and dead-man systems are necessary for a system like this.

Theres some truth to that, but i meant it in the sense that human interaction isn't needed in the slightest, nor is any real mechanical action other than liquid flowing downward. Its not like "modern" (as in what operates now) reactors, where there is a time limit on the response within which some human being has to respond. Every human being could vanish from the earth in an instant, and a liquid sodium reactor would turn itself off 100% of the time. You take the human out of the equation.

Comment Re:Correct (Score 5, Informative) 328

For those who don't follow reactor tech and don't know whats being talked about, liquid sodium reactors use literally a vat of salts and radioactive material in a magma-like sludge. There is a plug at the bottom of the vat with a melting point that is well above operating spec, but well within reach if the reactor lost cooling. If all other failsafes are disabled, the plug melts and all the molten sludge runs into 2-3 smaller tanks. The reaction then stops being self sustaining, and you just have to recover the containment units and repair the reactor. Its literally idiot proof barring a fault line opening a chasm beneath the plant or a direct asteroid impact.

There are also gravity-fed means of cooling conventional reactors, but I wouldn't call any of them fool proof. Liquid sodium seems like the best bet to me from a safety standpoint, at least as far as using up existing nuclear material. Thorium reactors show promise as well, but since we have a ton of reusable nuclear material liquid sodium would be my choice from a practicality standpoint.

Comment Re:There's always a downside (Score 1) 533

>>>meteorologists, veterinarians, heavy equipment operators, heavy equipment mechanics, small engine mechanics, welders, plumbers, geologists

No (they let the weather predictions to the weather bureau, same as us). No (they hire vets). Yes (as if that's hard). Maybe (some fix their equipment but most hire mechanics). No, maybe, no (plowing the earth does not make you a geologist).

I worked on a farm. It doesn't take a high IQ. If it did, most of humanity would have starved during the last 10,000 years of agrarianism. It's actually very simple (though time intensive). Which is why they propose crockpot theories like "Windmills make un's sick! I've got lists I downloaded off the conspiracy sites."

Working on farm is like any other menial labor, but owning and successfully operating a farm (being a farmer, rather than a hired hand) sure as hell takes a brain: especially running a small farm.

You don't hire all your vet work done and turn a profit at the end of the year; most farmers will have refrigerators stocked full of different vaccines, antibiotics, etc., and self-treat animals most of the time.

Its also cute how you dismissed small mechanics like an ass. I'm sure you're thinking about a pull start lawnmower, but diagnosing the problem on a grain conveyor in a feedbunk setup or a blower on a silo is a giant pain and definitely takes knowhow. And as for large mechanics, again, you don't just "hire a mechanic" and stay in business. Repair bills can be five figures in labor for really nasty problems on big equipment.

You also sure as hell do learn how to weld, do plumbing (and might even own your own backhoe attachment to do real work), and definitely know more practical geology than an average person. Fertilizer is expensive, and modern farms do extensive ground sampling (an agronomist does the actual sampling and analysis) to generate soil maps. Because "fertilizer" is a general term for you stupid city folk (see, I can be a patronizing ass too! No real offence intended city folks, making a point), and in reality there are a whole host of mineral deficiencies that can undermine productivity. A single field might need several different minerals in different areas, which are applied selectively to save money and maximize yields.

Theres more than that, but I wont get into it. The point I'm making here is this: people like you are the reason there is such a blind hatred of "city dwellers" (a friend of mine uses the term “cidiot” to poke fun at my now city dwelling self) in a lot of rural areas. Your mix of casual arrogance and ignorance (just stick a seed in the ground and it grows, right? Cause it’s that easy, and agriculture today is so much like agriculture a thousand years ago) really turns people off, and makes them more dismissive of your advice on topics you might actually be qualified to comment on. Ever wondered why a fair amount of farmers are willing to marginalize and dismiss science, even when it seems like it shouldn’t be controversial? Because people have marginalized and dismissed rural people for decades, especially university educated people who really should know better.

By the way, while I'm mentioning it, the term "flyover states" has almost certainly been involved in the decline in the democratic party in the Midwest (The DFL used to be huge where I'm from, now it is really struggling). It doesn't even matter what the conservatives are selling, when a farmer listens to a bunch of ignorant bullshit followed by a "flyover state" crack from some Northeast moron they instantly get the urge to cast a fuck you vote for a Republican in a national race. A lot (most, it seems like, but thats anecdotal) of local governments in the Midwest are majority democrats. Food for thought.

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