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Comment Economy mismanagement is a huge risk for MMOs (Score 3, Interesting) 96

Magic Online, the digital version of the famous trading card game, is currently undergoing a kind of "economic recession". Basically, trading for cards is facilitated by event tickets (roughly $1 in value) and booster packs (containing 15 cards, roughly $4 in nominal value) that act as a digital currency. Events are entered using event tickets as payment and they pay out as booster packs to the most winning players. This is done to avoid gambling laws.

What has happened is that number of players entering events has gone down while the amount of booster packs floating around has increased, so that the going price for booster packs has fallen to around 2 tickets (so $2 equivalent). This has made entering events unattractive for all but the top players, since the expected value of the prizes to win are now half of what they should be, while the entry fees remain the same. This further drove the number of players down, with many people selling their collections and leaving Magic Online.

Several months ago Wizards of the Coast set up an "economy strike force" that supposedly consisted of several people with "advanced math degrees" to solve this conundrum of a depressed economy. They finally announced their "solution" some weeks ago. It was to double the entry fees and basically cut the prizes to 75% of the old one.

The economy predictable tanked even harder, leading to more players selling out.

Comment Re:Universal wants me to use YouTube more (Score 1) 117

The CD is still very much alive, in my house anyway.

At this moment in time, I don't see myself ever paying for a digital music download, call me old fashioned but I need something tangible when it comes to music. (Though I do admit to downloading and paying for games through Steam and Good Old Games.)

To me, the CD represents excellent value for money, especially if I am paying around £10 UK for a piece of music I may well end up repeatedly enjoying over the next few decades.

Your CDs will not function a few decades from now.

Comment Re:Mouse brains are tiny. (Score 2) 109

They are smaller no doubt, but in both cases the blood brain barrier is just beneath the surface of the skull

No it's not. It's formed by the endothelium (thin layer one cell thick that is in direct contact with the cerebral blood stream) on the smallest capillaries that penetrate deep into the brain matter.

Comment Re:Science is fine, science-bashing is on the rise (Score 1) 320

So why is scientific error in the news so often? The submission skimmed right past it: public relations sabotage by political and commercial interests who stand to gain by casting doubt on science. Global warming deniers, anti-vaccine nuts, anti-evolution zealots, nontraditional medicine snake-oil salesmen ... there's money to be made, and votes to be won, by making scientists sound like they don't know what they're talking about.

And no, I don't have any rigorous data to support my claim. But according to the submission, I should treat all data as baloney and make my arguments based on truthiness alone.

There's nothing like that in the submission, why don't you read the articles linked rather than spout off "ermahgerd its a republican smear campaing!!!!!!1111one" like all the other idiots with their heads in the sand.

Comment Re:seems about the same (Score 2) 320

Funding is moving away from small, easily reproducible studies towards huge, billion dollar projects that can only be performed in one or two highly specialized research institutes. Even if you have the resources to replicate any study you want, some questions require following through an experiment for decades (pitch drop experiment), which limits reproducibility.

Comment Re:But that's the problem... (Score 2) 320

It is difficult to give exact figures because there are so far few formal studies quantifying the extent of the problem. We know that for example psychology retractions have quadrupled since 1989, a rate higher than the growth in the number of publications in the same period. It is also likely that most scientific misconduct remains uncovered or unacknowledged. It seems that few scientists admit misconduct, but many more know someone else who is committing it:

How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data

"an average of 1.97% of scientists admitted to having "fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once – a serious form of misconduct by any standard – and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices." (from

Submission + - Algorithm Clones Facial Expressions...And Pastes Them Onto Other Faces

KentuckyFC writes: Various researchers have attempted to paste an expression from one face on to another but so far with mixed results. Problems arise because these algorithms measure the way a face distorts when it changes from a neutral expression to the one of interest. They then attempt to reproduce the same distortion on another face. That's fine if the two faces have similar features. But when the faces differ in structure, as most do, this kind of distortion looks unnatural. Now a Chinese team has solved the problem with an algorithm that divides a face into different regions for the mouth, eyes, nose, etc and measures the distortion in each area separately. It then distorts the target face in these specific regions while ensuring the overall proportions remain realistic. At the same time, it decides what muscle groups must have been used to create these distortions and calculates how this would change the topology of the target face with wrinkles, dimples and so on. It then adds the appropriate shadows to make the expression realistic. The result is a way to clone an expression and paste it onto another entirely different face. The algorithm opens the way to a new generation of communication techniques in which avatars can represent the expressions as well as the voices of humans. The film industry could also benefit from an easy way to paste the expressions of actors on to the cartoon characters they voice.

Submission + - Why Does Science Appear to Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong?

azaris writes: Recent revelations of heavily policy-driven or even falsified science have raised concern in the general public, but especially in the scientific community itself. It's not purely a question of political or commercial interference either (as is often claimed when it comes to e.g. climate research) — scientists themselves are increasingly incentivised to game the system for improved career prospects, more funding, or simply because they perceive everyone else to do it, too. Even discounting outright fraud or manipulation of data, the widespread use of methodologies known to be invalid plagues many fields and is leading to an increasing inability to reproduce recent findings (the so-called crisis of reproducibility) that puts the very basis of our reliance on scientific research results at risk. Of course, one could claim that science is by nature self-correcting, but the problem appears to be getting worse before it gets better.

Is it time for more scientists to speak out openly about raising the level of transparency and honesty in their field?

Submission + - Problems with Simultaneity in Distributed Systems (

ChelleChelle2 writes: Despite the development of the Network Time Protocol to synchronize clocks between systems on the Internet, achieving simultaneity in distributed systems remains a major issue today. Part of the problem, according to Justin Sheehy, is that there is no “now” in computer systems—“the idea of ‘now’ as a simple value that has meaning across a distance will always be problematic.”

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Hacker-friendly smart watch?

RR writes: I'm interested in alternative control and notification methods, so the recent activity in smartwatches has been intriguing. However, the Apple Watch works only with iPhone and its gilded cage. Android Wear is "Google Now on your wrist," but Google Now is hardly useful on my phone, let alone my wrist. Also, both types of watches are large and always show a blank screen to save battery. Pebble looked intriguing, but to use it, you need a Pebble account, which has unacceptable Terms of use: You agree not to learn from Pebble to build your own thing, and you agree not to disparage Pebble. I cancelled my Kickstarter pledge when I read that. I don't want to hear anything about dumb watches that last forever and don't need to be charged every day. I already know. I want an alternate control and notification surface that is hacker friendly and also useful.

Submission + - Why Apple Won't Adopt A Wireless Charging Standard (

Lucas123 writes: As the battle for mobile dominance continues among three wireless charging standards, with many smartphone and wearable makers having already chosen sides, Apple continues to sit on the sideline. While the new Apple Watch uses a tightly coupled magnetic inductive wireless charging technology, it still requires a cable. The only advantage is that no port is required, allowing the watch case to remain sealed and water resistant. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, however, remain without any form of wireless charging, either tightly coupled inductive or more loosely coupled resonant charging. Over the past few years, Apple has filed patents on its own flavor of wireless charging, a "near field" or resonant technology, but no products have as yet come to market. If and when it does select a technology, it will likely be its own proprietary specification, which ensures accessory makers will have to pay royalties to use it.

Submission + - Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy.

Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. "That's going to be very hard to disprove," says Robinson. "We could be intruding on alien life."

2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. In particular, we need a lot of nitrogen â" and scientists had expected there to be a lot, based on the ordinary distribution of elements in planetary accretion. But there's much less nitrogen on Mars than we'd hoped.

3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. We could use bacteria to dispose of them, but it would be a very long-term process.

"It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."

Instead, Robinson says that Mars can't serve as a "backup planet," and that we need to fix our problems here on Earth if we're to have any hope of surviving for the timescales needed to set up an eventual colony there.

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