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Government

Energy Star Program For Homes And Appliances Is On Trump's Chopping Block (npr.org) 253

Appliance manufacturers and home builders are in Washington, D.C., today to celebrate a popular energy efficiency program, even as it's slated for elimination in President Trump's proposed budget. NPR adds: You probably know the program's little blue label with the star -- the Environmental Protection Agency says 90 percent of U.S. households do. [...] The 25-year-old Energy Star program appears to be targeted simply because it's run by the federal government. It's one of 50 EPA programs that would be axed under Trump's budget plan, which would shrink the agency's funding by more than 30 percent. Critics of Energy Star say the government should get involved in the marketplace only when absolutely necessary. But that argument doesn't hold sway for the program's legions of supporters, which span nonprofits, companies and trade groups.

Comment Scott Adams disagrees (Score 2) 144

Scott Adams would like a word with you:

Kahan found that increased scientific literacy actually had a small negative effect: The conservative-leaning respondents who knew the most about science thought climate change posed the least risk. Scientific literacy, it seemed, increased polarization. In a later study, Kahan added a twist: He asked respondents what climate scientists believed. Respondents who knew more about science generally, regardless of political leaning, were better able to identify the scientific consensus—in other words, the polarization disappeared. Yet, when the same people were asked for their own opinions about climate change, the polarization returned. It showed that even when people understand the scientific consensus, they may not accept it.”

Notice how the author slips in his unsupported interpretation of the data: Greater knowledge about science causes more polarization.

Well, maybe. That’s a reasonable hypothesis, but it seems incomplete. Here’s another hypothesis that fits the same observed data: The people who know the most about science don’t think complex climate prediction models are credible science, and they are right.

In fact, there's more incentive to lie about climate science than cancer research: More immediate funding is at stake, more groupthink applies, it will be decades before others can prove you wrong, and unlike falsified cancer research, people won't die because you misdirected searcher.

And as for saying "the fraud was in the review process, not the work itself," that's like saying "Well, Anthony Weiner was only caught sexting. He never actually cheated." The odds that the fraud we've caught is the only fraud committed by those willing to commit fraud would seem pretty low...

AI

AI Programs Exhibit Racial and Gender Biases, Research Reveals (theguardian.com) 384

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionized the ability of computers to interpret everyday language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases. The findings raise the specter of existing social inequalities and prejudices being reinforced in new and unpredictable ways as an increasing number of decisions affecting our everyday lives are ceded to automatons. In the past few years, the ability of programs such as Google Translate to interpret language has improved dramatically. These gains have been thanks to new machine learning techniques and the availability of vast amounts of online text data, on which the algorithms can be trained. However, as machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities, they are also absorbing the deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of language use, the latest research reveals. Joanna Bryson, a computer scientist at the University of Bath and a co-author, warned that AI has the potential to reinforce existing biases because, unlike humans, algorithms may be unequipped to consciously counteract learned biases. The research, published in the journal Science, focuses on a machine learning tool known as "word embedding," which is already transforming the way computers interpret speech and text.

Comment Re:Still playing catch up (Score 1) 15

Even Valve only implemented refunds in response to a) growing legal rumblings and b) EA's Origin jumping the gun by going first and putting the publicity spotlight on Valve.

It's an issue where competition genuinely worked for the customer. It probably didn't hurt that threats of legal action in certain jurisdictions were hovering in the background.

Comment Then maybe Democrats should change policies (Score 1, Insightful) 341

Maybe if Democrats weren't relentlessly pushing for bigger government and SJW victimhood identity politics they could compete with Republicans.

But they chose a relentless drive for power and pushing the culture war over policies Americans actually want. Democrats deliberately pushed "blue dogs" out of the party so progressives could control it to-to-bottom. Democrats backed Bloomberg on civilian disarmament, backed Soros and Steyer on funding #BlackLivesmatter, insisted a man changing his name magically made him a woman, and then wonder why ordinary Americans no longer vote for them.

And really, where are Republicans stopping Democrats in such paradisaical deep blue enclaves like Chicago and Detroit?

The Internet

Tennessee Could Give Taxpayers America's Fastest Internet For Free, But It Gave Comcast and AT&T $45 Million Instead (vice.com) 341

Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to some of the fastest internet speeds in the United States, offering city dwellers Gbps and 10 Gpbs connections. Instead of voting to expand those connections to the rural areas surrounding the city, which have dial up, satellite, or no internet whatsoever, Tennessee's legislature voted to give Comcast and AT&T a $45 million taxpayer handout. Motherboard reports: The situation is slightly convoluted and thoroughly infuriating. EPB -- a power and communications company owned by the Chattanooga government -- offers 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps, and 10 Gpbs internet connections. A Tennessee law that was lobbied for by the telecom industry makes it illegal for EPB to expand out into surrounding areas, which are unserved or underserved by current broadband providers. For the last several years, EPB has been fighting to repeal that state law, and even petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to try to get the law overturned. This year, the Tennessee state legislature was finally considering a bill that would have let EPB expand its coverage (without providing it any special tax breaks or grants; EPB is profitable and doesn't rely on taxpayer money). Rather than pass that bill, Tennessee has just passed the "Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017," which gives private telecom companies -- in this case, probably AT&T and Comcast -- $45 million of taxpayer money over the next three years to build internet infrastructure to rural areas.

Comment Re:pioneered by Microsoft's leading industrial des (Score 1) 135

Going from TFA, it appears to refer to vapour-chamber cooling. Now that's not actually an MS innovation; it's already in use on tech such as very high-end PC graphics cards (it's on the Nvidia 1080 Ti in my PC). But this is probably the first time it's been used in a piece of mass-market hardware like this.

Comment Re:1080P 'modes'? (Score 0) 135

Having read the Eurogamer/Digital Foundry articles, the quote you pick out appears to mean that users with 1080p displays will be able to enable supersampling, where the console renders an image at 4k but then displays it over a 1080p output.

It's basically a very, very resource heavy version of antialiasing and has been available in many PC games for years now.

Comment Re:Had to sell it (Score 3, Interesting) 110

The Switch is an ergonomic nightmare. I've got mild RSI and I have to be very, very careful about using it undocked, or via the joycons attached to the grip. Fortunately, the Pro Controller, while expensive, is fine in terms of its ergonomics (though the lack of analogue shoulder triggers reduces its quality as a controller).

But the Switch itself is about as bad as you can get. In undocked mode, the control inputs are right on the very outer edge of the unit. If you have normal-sized hands, the only way to hold it is via "pinching" the edges. Your hand is entirely unsupported and will slip into a cramped posture by default. The same problem is also present with the joycons when using them undocked.

Modern video game controllers have "wings" for a reason, even though they are generally just hollow plastic. They fill the palm of your hand during play and prevent you from cramping up your hand. This is both more comfortable in immediate terms, and less likely to lead to problems with your hands over prolonged use. Nintendo have completely ignored two decades of ergonomic progress with the Switch. A lot of people will be happily using their units right now and not (yet) feeling any ill effects, but storing up all kinds of problems with their hands for later in life.

If you want to play Zelda, then go ahead. It's not really my cup of tea, but some people seem to like it a lot. But for the love of god, get a Pro Controller if you're going to do so. No game is worth inflicting long-term pain on yourself.

Comment Closing Gitmo required no congressional approval (Score 1) 566

Obama still didn't do it. true, he should never have promised to do it, but the Guantanamo Bay detention facility was not created by congress, and therefore did not require congressional approval to close.

ObamaCare, by contrast, is a law passed by congress (albeit without a single Republican vote) and signed into law by the President. Repealing it will also require congressional approval.

The two promises are quite different as they relate to the constitutional scope of presidential authority.

Earth

'Moore's Law' For Carbon Would Defeat Global Warming (technologyreview.com) 269

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: A streamlined set of goals for reducing carbon emissions could simplify the way nations approach the quest to reduce human impact on the planet. A group of European researchers have a refreshingly straightforward solution that they call a carbon law -- or, as the Guardian has coined it, a "Moore's law for carbon." The overarching goal is simple: globally, we must halve carbon dioxide emissions every decade. That's essentially it. The rule would ideally be applied "to all sectors and countries at all scales," and would encourage "bold action in the short term." Dramatic changes would naturally have to occur as a result -- from quick wins like carbon taxes and energy efficiency regulations, to longer-term policies like phasing out combustion-engine cars and carbon-neutral building regulations. If policy makers followed the carbon law, adoption of renewables would continue its current pace of doubling energy production every 5.5 years, and carbon dioxide sequestration technologies would need to ramp up in order for the the planet to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century, say the researchers. Along the way, coal use would end as soon as 2030 and oil use by 2040. There are, clearly, issues with the idea, not least being the prospect of convincing every nation to commit to such a vision. The very simplicity that makes the idea compelling can also be used as a point of criticism: Can such a basic rule ever hope to define practical ideas as to how to change the world's energy production and consumption? The study has been published in the journal Science.
Earth

Sea Ice Extent Sinks To Record Lows At Both Poles (sciencedaily.com) 211

According to NASA, Arctic sea ice appears to have reached on March 7 a record low wintertime maximum extent. On the opposite side of the planet, Antartica ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites (since satellites began measuring sea ice in 1979) on March 3 at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Science Daily reports: Total polar sea ice covered 6.26 million square miles (16.21 million square kilometers), which is 790,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 -- the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico. The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September. As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March. The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped: it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February. This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavorable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic. This year's maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 5.57 million square miles (14.42 million square kilometers), is 37,000 square miles (97,00 square kilometers) below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 471,000 square miles (1.22 million square kilometers) smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010.

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