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Comment A documentary for context (Score 1) 117

"The Core" is a recent, hour-long documentary that provides some illustrative background (and CG) for the iron crystal theory, and explains some of the major difficulties in drilling below the crust. It's an episode of Horizon , a long-running science documentary series. You can watch the entire episode in 720p on YouTube.

Comment Re:Truly Remarkable (Score 1) 249

Since it is such a potentially high profile experiment...

As you alluded, the import of this study is not the demonstration that food affects gene expression. That premise is the basis of the science of nutrigenomics, a discipline that is revolutionary and tremendously exciting, but which precedes this experiment. Similarly, it has been known for several years that dietary microRNA affects gene expression.

Obviously, Discover Magazine is a popular magazine, not a scientific journal. TFA introduces the reader to dietary microRNA as a regulator of gene expression, but falls short of contextualizing the research within nutrigenomics.

Comment The people (Score 1) 591

Piracy evidences the unstoppable propagation of art and ideas within and across cultures. To characterize it as a "market failure" only acknowledges the failure of the economically powerful to co-opt and monetize this particular mode of circulation. Even if media prices plummeted to lows that media companies would consider unthinkable, piracy would continue because the impetus to subvert would remain, and the demand for alternative distribution methods, file formats, and content would survive.

Comment Re:What else is in it? (Score 1) 181

It's not a garbage island. It's tiny flecks of plastic which sometimes are maybe dense enough to form sludge. The whole garbage-land myth is a great let down.

Yeah, it's a major let down. I mean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the size of Texas, but people can't even walk on it, and the denser debris doesn't even float. Bummer! And the smaller North Atlantic Garbage Patch is more than 3,000 miles long, but doesn't even have the decency to constitute a land bridge?! After those let downs, the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch hardly even seems worth mentioning, especially when so much trash washes onto islands anyway. Why bother looking for "garbage islands" when the garbage just comes to us?

Comment Wrap around (Score 1) 655

This question delights my nerd gland, since I endeavoured to watch all 695 episodes of the classic Who. I started in 2008. The pace and writing of the new series are very different from "classic" Doctor Who.

Because there are so few landmarks of linearity from one Doctor to the next, I think it's safe to start with whichever Doctor you like best. Since I have good memories of watching Tom Baker episodes when I was a boy, I started with Robot, the first Baker serial. I didn't want to have to wait ages and ages to get to the Baker stuff, and I also didn't want to end on the sour notes of McCoy and McGann. Starting with Baker and then looping back to Hartnell also meant that I would conclude with the transition from Pertwee to Baker, which was perfect.

I'm now halfway through the Troughton years (Doctor #2). It's pretty arduous slogging through the lost episodes, but you get used to it. I took a break from Who for a while and finished Blake's 7.

My personal ranking:
1. Tom Baker (a Doctor who's fun, has presence, conveys brilliance, and shines despite the show's meager budget)
2. Hartnell (the most dignified and patient doctor; the gentleman scientist)
3. Pertwee (grey pompadour ftw. He might climb this list someday.)
4. Davison (hypertensive fun. Cricketing whites 24/7.)
5. Troughton (too bad many of his episodes are boring)
6. Colin Baker (a bit angry and dysfunctional)
7. McGann (what a wimp!)
8. McCoy (utter retardation)

Comment How many people here could fix that 5-yr-old Mac? (Score 1) 507

Patti Hauseman stuck with her five-year-old Apple computer until it started making odd whirring noises and occasionally malfunctioning before she bought a new computer for Christmas — actually, a refurbished one.

How many people here could have easily fixed Patti Hauseman's old Mac? How many people here even need to consider the symptoms for more than two seconds in order to think of all the probable causes? Now think of all that waste. Now think of all those extremely grateful people you could help by volunteering your services. What if the computer breaks down, and mom and can't even afford to buy a used one? These are common problems with easy solutions.

Whirring noise and occasional malfunctioning. When the machine still worked, the hard drive might have been failing. A fan might have become clogged, and eventually seized. Many of us even like fixing these things (as long as we're not overwhelmed by relatives' requests). Of course, there's also teaching, installing OSS, donating hardware, and so on.

So, how to start? A few ideas:

  • Idealist.org is an international posting board for volunteer and job opportunities.
  • Freecycle is an international clearinghouse for people requesting and/or offering gratis goods and services.
  • Volunteer networks like VolunteerMatch (USA), Volunteering Australia, Volunteering England, and so on make it very easy to match your skills and interests to active projects
  • Local computer volunteer centers, such as InterConnection in Seattle, Washington
  • Post a bulletin at your local grocery market. Many supermarkets and most community markets have notice boards for such things.

I started thinking about this a year ago when I was in a charity shop in Los Angeles. A man was buying his grandson a used computer, and the boy was so excited. The grandfather didn't know anything about computers, and the boy was just beginning to learn. This shop has an employee just for the computer section, but that's rare. The grandfather asked the shop assistant lots of questions while the enthusiastic grandson tried the demo PCs. The assistant helped them to find something they could afford, although many of the displays for sale had major defects, and some of the PCs were unnecessarily noisy. I still wonder what kind of computing experience that boy and his family have now.

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