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Comment Re:Is that all (Score 1) 545

It's inevitable that a certain fraction of people go off the deep edge. People are irrational, even (or perhaps mostly) people who are convinced they are entirely rational. Rationality is a fragile thing because emotion and confirmation bias are deeply woven into everyone's thinking.

For normal people are few more powerful emotional impulses than the urge to protect children. It should hardly be surprising that children come to harm from it.

Comment Re:DCMA Fair Use / Parody (Score 1) 215

Ah, but is it a parody of the copyrighted elements? That's the tack I'd take if I were Samsung's lawyer: this is not parodying Samsung's IP, it is quoting Samsung's IP in a literal, non-transformative way that is not actually parody.

Of course in my heart I'd hope to lose, but that argument is no more ridiculous than many others that have become established case law. Issues like privacy and IP are where fundamental values we have as a society cut against each other and generate innumerable weird corner cases.

Comment Re:So it appears . . . (Score 1) 180

It's not just how hard you check, but how incisively. It's easy to satisfy yourself that software's anticipated failure modes won't happen. What's tough is discovering ways of screwing up that have never happened before.

That's why there's no substitute for experience. This gets back to the very roots of rocket science: the path to success passes through many, many failures.

Comment Re:Not to Sound iIke a Snowflake... (Score 4, Insightful) 227

It's not only that. The problem with most theories of eugenics is that they draw from experience with agricultural breeding of domesticated species. Humans are not domesticated; we're a wild species with massive genetic diversity compared to, say, purebred Arabian horses.

This means that with us sexual reproduction still does what it is supposed to do: generate genetic diversity in offspring. Look at large families. You get some who are tall and some who are short; some who have Grandpa Joe's nose and others that have Grandpa John's jaw, others who get both or neither. Even with litter of pedigreed puppies you'll get one total loser and if you're lucky one champion; and pedigreed dog litters are much more alike than any set of human siblings. And that's just physical traits; in terms of interests, talents, and success there is massive variability among siblings, although there is some correlation, in part due to economic circumstances, upbringing and education.

Nature works this way because variability is good for the species, and that variability comes from combinations of genes being shuffled. Add to that the massive behavioral plasticity of our gigantic brains, and the idea that you can sample some of, say, Steve Jobs DNA for successful CEO markers is ludicrous. If you'd raised Jobs in a different family and sent him to a different set of schools, and didn't get him luck out by ending up close friends with Woz, then while he may well have been quite successful in some other way, he wouldn't have been the Steve Jobs we knew.

Of course, willingness to go along with the DNA test is a good test for one phenotypical trait: the willingness to put up with pseudo-scientific baloney.

Comment Re:Here's the full menu (Score 1) 171

People who don't believe that VP picks have always been analyzed this way are naive. Lincoln picked Andrew Johnson because Johnson was from a border state (Tennessee) that could go either way. The primary goal of a VP pick is to help you win. Everything else is secondary.

The VP pick is all about picking up votes from electorate segments you might not otherwise get (Palin/women), or solidifying shaky part of your coalition (Biden/labor and left), or being young when you are old or vice versa (Quayle). Coming from a swing state or an adjacent state with major media market overlap (Edwards, Ryan, Pence, Kaine) puts you on the inside track. Naturally, sometimes those calculations go hilariously wrong.

It's safe to say that almost nobody ever picks the person they think would be the best president as their running mate; it's ways the person who would be the best running mate. The last time I think that anyone picked someone on the basis that they'd be the best president was when Bob Dole picked Jack Kemp -- who wouldn't be my choice for President, but I'm pretty sure he'd have been Dole's.

Comment Re: Hilarious (Score 2) 185

When you have a tablet, you can do things like punch in what defense the other team just used to provide statistical analysis of what the next best play is, or what kind of defense to run if your opponent is doing X often.

I'm guessing this is another case of a solution in search of a problem.

The reason this happens is that as a technologist faced with helping someone solve a problem you have no choice but to imagine what you would need to do that person's job. But if you want to have a better than random chance at success, you have to really understand the people who will use the system and what they would need.

I'm guessing Belichick of all people doesn't need a computer to give him a statistical analysis of what the best next play is or how to set up his defense -- although you or I sure as hell would. What sets Belichick apart from all the other ruthless, unprincipled, hyper-competitive control-freak coaches is that he's a smart bastard who is obsessive about research. If I had to take a wild stab at what kind of technical aids he needs during a game, the broad theme would be "communication", not "analysis".

By the way, does anyone else find it bizarre that the NFL provides stuff like computer tablets and headsets, but the teams are in charge of supplying the footballs?

Comment Re:Earth (Score 1) 124

And of course that would be a once-in-a-lifetime of the Solar System opportunity. Venus and Earth are in many ways twin planets. There is no other candidate in which you could build a self-sustaining biosphere powered by the Sun yet protected from it.

Insofar as the future survival of the human race depends upon space exploration, the most likely scenario will in artificial space-borne structures. It's hard to see the advantages of living down inside the gravity well of a planet like Mars given that the atmosphere is incapable of supporting terrestrial life, and even if transformed to have Earth-like pressure will be unprotected from solar and cosmic radiation that will in the course of time strip it away. Why not simply build large space structures?

I find the argument that we need a human expedition to Mars to secure the survival of our species to be weak. That justification is neither a necessary nor sufficient case for manned Mars exploration. We should go to Mars to satisfy our curiosity about the universe; to indulge the human urge to explore; and to understand our own planet better. But make no mistake: we have no backup planet, nothing we could terraform into anything remotely as congenial to our survival as this one is. We need to preserve the Earth to preserve our genetic and cultural heritage, and for the younger among us to continue enjoying our planet's uniquely congenial and satisfying biological wealth well into unprecedented old age.

Comment Re:Domain Names, not "Internet Addresses" (Score 1) 146

Anyone who calls a Domain Name an "Internet Address" probably doesn't know very much about either...

Prepare to lose on this one.

Take "broadband"... What is the antonym of "broadband"?

Why "narrowband", of course! Except according to the (unfortunately false) doctrine that the meaning of a word belongs to the community that coins it, the antonym of "broadband" ought to be "baseband". The "base" in "baseband" refers to zero hertz; a band that includes 0 Hz is the baseband in any kind of signal encoding scheme.

In our alternate world ruled by engineers, "broadband" refers to a signal that does not have to include 0Hz, and which thus can be frequency multiplexed on media such as coaxial cable or fiber optics. This allows us to make use of that medium's full transmission capacity, which means we can serve more people with greater transmission bandwidth.

The simplicity and precision of this way of using language warms my engineer's heart. A layer 1 signalling scheme that can be frequency shifted for multiplexing is "broadband"; one that cannot is "baseband". If you want to tell me a service is "fast", give me a number and a unit so I know whether you're talking throughput or latency.

But you can't expect people trained in marketing (whom I have nothing against by the way) to use language with this kind of beautiful precision. Marketers deal in imprecision, and like it or not they have much, much more influence on the direction of language than we do.

As soon as marketers wrapped their brains around "broadband" implying higher throughput on a shared medium, the term was pretty much destined, not just to lose its virginal purity, but to become their property as language pimps.

DNS exists so ordinary people don't have to deal with actual Internet addresses. It makes Internet Protocol invisible to them, so as far as they're concerned the term "Internet Address" is up for grabs. I always assume when someone who is not a techie says "Internet Address" he's talking about a domain name or URL.

Comment Re:He isn't really gay (Score 1) 617

You're saying that gayness is a cultural construct. Good for you, because it is.

However that's not quite the same as saying it's something you can ignore, any more than race is something you can ignore just because it's a scientifically bankrupt notion. You can't escape being imprinted by your formative experiences.

I do think the gay thing may be different in a few decades; millennials have a much more fluid notion of sexual orientation.

Comment Re:"Gay Culture" is blind devotion then? (Score 1) 617

Trump won't do anything for gays because he's politically incompetent.

The way you win the general election is you unite your party, win over the independents, and split the other guy's party. You know, what Hillary has been doing -- not because she's a genius, because that's what everybody but Trump understands that you have to do. Trump keeps playing to his base, alienating independents, and making it hard for others in his party to support him. And whenever any Republican needs to distance himself from something Trump has said, the fool jumps on Twitter and burns bridges.

And there's Trump's ground game. He doesn't have one. Clinton does, and it is formidable, well-funded, and expertly organized. She's been planning her GOTV (get out the vote) operation for eight years. Why? Because decades of experience shows these operations work.

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