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Comment Re:That's nice (Score 1) 717

I bothered to read it and there are some cringeworthy abuses of statistics in there. I'm not particularly on either side of the gun control debate at the moment, either, so I didn't go in looking to pick a fight with either side. Just to point out some of the failings, though:

They use Greenland as one of their prominent countries with a surprisingly high murder rate compared to the US. Seriously? Your statistic is muders per 100,000 people and you focus on a country with a population of around 50,000? These numbers are far too sensitive to noise to take any real meaning away from. And the other countries cited weren't terribly surprising to see. They're all countries that still have some pretty extreme cases of poverty. Desperation leads people to do terrible things. We're one of the world's wealthiest countries. I would hope to see us compared more favorably to the other wealthy countries of the world.

Then we get into that whole "well, it's not so bad if we don't count black people" bit. Let's ignore the potentially offending bit of that and focus on the numbers. Oh! So if we remove our underclass murder rates, then things are closer to Europe. Well, yeah. Because we removed all of the underclass murders from our numbers, but not theirs. This isn't a reasonable comparison to make at all. If you're going to futz with the numbers, you at least need to futz with ALL of them so they're on equal ground.

Finally, we get to my favorite. The correlation between gun ownership and murder rates by country. There's a pretty chart of the data! The author's eyeballs conclude that it looks like higher gun ownership is related to lower murder rate. Now, I look at the same chart and mostly come away thinking there's not much correlation either way, but if I had to choose a side, I'd side with the author and say things are a slight lean in his favor. Thankfully, the author has brought statistics to the table this time and goes on to say that there's a statistically significant -0.23 correlation coefficient between murder rate and gun ownership.

...beg pardon?

This is such a small correlation coefficient as to be essentially meaningless. Checkthis page on correlation coefficients and look at the visualization of what different coefficients look like near the top. Correlation of -0.23 is basically nothing.

Again, I'm not an advocate for a lot of this increased gun control legislation. A lot of it has sounded pretty terribly written and thought out. I am an advocate for the proper use of statistics to back up arguments, though, and this article doesn't do it for me. This isn't the first time I've been to American Thinker, and honestly, it's becoming a game for me to go through and see where the authors misuse numbers. That's why no one wants to take your article seriously. You have sources, but the existence of sources does not make their content credible.

Comment Can I disagree a little with everyone? (Score 1) 384

I understand where Dave's coming from, and I agree that "because you'll make tons of money doing it" argument might not be the most effective, but I also disagree with his reasons why you should learn to code. I think we're missing the ball with this all or nothing thing. There seems to be a focus in both and Dave's arguments on learning to code to eventually work as a programming. Kids should learn to code in school because it's a useful tool and it helps them learn to solve problems. They should learn to code because computers surround us and everyone could benefit from being able to use them more effectively.

No one's arguing that English should continue to be required because it's going to get me a lucrative English degree down the road. English classes instead teach us how to express ourselves clearly and help expose us to different ideas and viewpoints through the assigned reading. We require all sorts of classes because it results in well rounded students who can go out into the world and make better decisions based on this knowledge. Integrating programming into our curricula is just a logical step towards helping our children adapt to an increasingly technological world. If it convinces more of them to check out CS or programming jobs down the road, fantastic. This argument that you should only learn things you're passionate about and want to work in is crap, though. We're talking about middle and high schoolers, here. We should be exposing them to all sorts of fields so they can learn and develop their passions.

Comment Re:Google has done this already. (Score 3, Interesting) 95

While replacing their expensive encorder certainly helps, Google has a long way to go to bring down their pricing. In particular, the LIDAR unit on the top is probably dominating the price. The model in question costs around $75,000 and as far as I can tell, Google isn't getting rid of it anytime soon.

Of note: I expect that the LIDAR unit in the Oxford car is also dominating the price, and expected price decrease in the future would be achieved by going camera-only.

Comment Re:Online education should mean one thing (Score 1) 575

Just a nit with your complaints on CS education: Why, exactly, is it a bad thing for an intro CS course to force students to stick to certain language features to solve a problem? The point of an intro class is to make sure you understand that core portions of the language. Sure, there are often many clever ways to solve the problem and creativity is a huge part of CS, but for an intro class, I don't see this restriction as a big deal. These restrictions are basically checkpoints: yes, the student understands the difference between for and while loops. Yes, they understand how to employ a switch statement instead of if/elseif/else.

Comment Re:What about creating good citizens? (Score 1) 188

I don't see anything in this article that indicates that these students won't be getting a broad education full of History, Gov't, Literature in addition to STEM subjects. It even says right in the article that this is not a vocational school. It is just a public school that happens to have a more focused curriculum. That doesn't mean that the school can ignore the rest of a normal high school education. In fact, because it is a public school, still, I suspect it will be required to cover the same breadth of topics as any other public school in the state of New York. (Anyone from New York out there that could enlighten me on this front? I know it was this way for my home state.)

It seems to me that this school is just focusing in on electives related to software development. Maybe some courses will be mandatory that elsewhere the students would have chosen to take. If this school offers students what effectively seem to be better electives options in regards to their interests, though, why is that a bad thing? And why the assumption that this focus will have any effect on their ability to be good world citizens? Even my CS engineering degree in college required me to branch out beyond my major. I see no reason why a high school would do differently even if they weren't legally obligated to.

Comment Re:Surprisingly probably not (Score 5, Interesting) 188

So I went to a similar school to this back when I was in high school, but the focus was general engineering vs. a specific focus like programming. I don't feel like I missed out on any social development or (as some might fear) academic variety as a result. The school, much like this one, had to meet state curriculum requirements, so the specialization was more like one class a year and then slightly more focused electives later on.

Socially, we still had a good mix of people. Sure, it wasn't as rich or diverse a group of personalities as I would've encountered my normal high school, but I'd petition that this actually helped me develop my personality far more than the standard experience would have. I think being around so many like minded people let me comfortably act like myself for the first time in my academic career. I was less afraid of ridicule for personality quirks that, in hindsight, really weren't that big a deal to begin with. I didn't exactly cut myself off from the rest of the world, either. I still interacted with folks from my middle school days outside of school time and stayed involved in my home high school's extracurricular music program to help maintain those ties.

Meanwhile, during all of this, I developed a simple set of skills that helped me adapt to college more quickly than many of my peers and, I feel, left me more prepared for what was expected of me. I have mild concerns that this school could be too focused too early, but I don't think that the diversity will be as big an issue as you believe.

Comment Re:Best UI? (Score 2) 1223

To address each of the UI problems you listed here...

The profile photo problem...really? Click edit profile, click the link that says change photo...seems pretty straightforward to me. It was the first place I looked. This raises an interesting UI issue which is that intuitive for one person is clearly not for another. I agree that there can be absolutely atrocious choices for UI (for example, your complaint about circles. I have yet to find a person who is thinks Google+ handles this the right way) but I'm not sure the profile photo problem you had is the best example.

This wall complaint, though, is absurd. You're making the mistake of thinking Google+ is Facebook. There is no such thing as a wall. You don't post to someone else's wall in Google+. I know people who find this irritating, but this is NOT a UI flaw. This is a fundamental difference between Facebook and Google+.

Personally, I haven't had many huge problems with the UI. I enjoy the UI more than Facebook's, at least.

Submission + - U.S. Robots Win Big Down Under 1

An anonymous reader writes: US teams dominated the MAGIC 2010 autonomous robotics competition, mapping and neutralizing simulated bombs at the 250,000 sq. meter Royal Showgrounds in Adelaide, Australia. Leading the pack with a team of fourteen robots was Team Michigan, principally from the University of Michigan, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, and RASR. This contest marks the beginning of practical robots that not only think for themselves, but also actively coordinate with a human commander.

Review: Civilization V 399

Turn-based strategy is an underrepresented genre of video games. Perhaps it's because they aren't as flashy, or aren't as embedded in the public consciousness as the more popular types of games. Or maybe because it's so damn hard to build them right. The first Civilization game came out 19 years ago. (Feel old? Sorry.) Despite changes in design leadership over the years, Sid Meier and the Firaxis crew realized that they had a solid foundation, and poured their efforts into refining everything that worked, and revamping everything that didn't. Civilization V reflects not just a few years of direct development after the launch of Civ 4, but also nearly two decades of continually evolving game design. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.

Submission + - Robot soldiers team up for DoD competition ( 2

jstrom writes: Six finalists have been announced for the final round of the Multi Autonomous Ground-Robotic International Challenge (MAGIC 2010). The contest, which is sponsored by the American and Australian defense departments, aims to quickly boost the autonomous capabilities of robots deployed on the battlefield. Each team is asked to field a robot collective to autonomously map large-scale urban environment and neutralize IED-like props, while tracking and differentiating between non-combatants and enemy soldiers. The finalists, composed of three US teams in addition to teams from Japan, Turkey and Australia, will compete for US $1.6M in prize money at an undisclosed location in Australia this November. Team Michigan has posted videos (torrent) of their system in operation and animations of the algorithms they are developing. The other US finalists include the University of Pennsylvania and Robotics Research.

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