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Comment Just another way to vandalize stuff (Score 1) 106

This is just another way to vandalize stuff. I owned a far cheaper version of this 30 years ago. Its called a baseball bat. Before that, I had a tack-hammer. My ancestors had a version too, but they called it a "brick". Even earlier versions were called "rocks".

If we're lucky, cities will start passing ordinances to make mere possession of these a crime, since there is no legal purpose for these.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 2) 45

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment Re:Different people, different rules (again) (Score 1) 1028

The DNC put a baker out of business because they wouldn't bake a gay wedding cake.

Here is an actual event

Really? I've heard various iterations of this story but I have not heard one where the Democratic National Committee actually put a baker out of business as you claim. Do you have a source for that?

If someone chooses to be a bigot, and then the negative publicity of their bigotry causes their business level to drop to zero, that is a long ways from having a political party come in and somehow magically put you out of business. Furthermore, if you sell a product to someone, and then you fail to deliver that product as promised, the person who paid you for that product has a right to seek their money back. And if your timing on denial of said product is such that an important event is now disrupted, the customer has a right to seek additional compensation for that as well.

Had the actual, extant (as opposed to your fantasy) baker just had a sign on his door declaring his bigotry, he could have avoided all this as the customer who wanted a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage never would have bothered going in.

Comment Re:The litmus test (Score 1) 72

Not really. There's only confirmation bias. It can be on the part of the reader or on the part of the journalist but it's just as bad either way. People will even take OBVIOUS satire sites and take them seriously so long as it fits their internal narrative.

"Journalists" do this too. They will ignore stories that don't fit their narrative. They will rush to judgement when it suits their narrative.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 106

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 3, Interesting) 250

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 303

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

Comment Very interesting, but could cause other problems (Score 2) 45

This is pretty cool. I think in general it's a good idea, however I can see it causing entirely new sets of problems. As drivers we recognize the difference between what we ought to do, and what we must do. For example, there are times when crossing a double yellow line would result in my death, while there are other times I cross the double yellow line safely and without risk to avoid a hazard in my lane or on the shoulder. My concern is people will start seeing these visual aids as things they *must* do. Thus in the process of trying to adhere exactly to the virtual markings, they become oblivious to the actual hazards that are more important. In one of the pictures they show two lane markers projected, which is where the car ideally should travel. On the right there are barriers that are actual hazards that are taking up part of the lane, and to the left is the other lane, which may or may not be an actual hazard. So if I am concentrating on the projected markers (which I assume are "intelligent" because they are dynamic), will it be obvious enough that I am travelling into another lane and that I must make sure the lane is clear of other vehicles first?

The real question though is this... if the car has that much information about the environment to project images that tell you what to do, why isn't the car doing the driving in the first place?

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