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Submission + - Bill James (1984) on the Meaning of Data

nightcats writes: At msnbc.com, Craig Calcaterra quotes a nearly 30-year old piece by the original baseball sabermetrician Bill James, on the meaning and use of computer-generated data. Worth pondering by geeks and non-geeks alike:

There is, you see, no such thing as “computer knowledge” or “computer information” or “computer data.” Within a few years, everyone will understand that. The essential characteristics of information are that it is true or it is false, it is significant or it is trivial, it is relevant or it is irrelevant...Computers are going to have an impact on my life that is similar to the impact that the coming of the automobile age must have had on the professional traveler or adventurer. The car made it easier to get from place to place; the computer will make it easier to deal with information. But knowing how to drive an automobile does not make you an adventurer, and knowing how to run a computer does not make you an analytical student of the game.

Science

Why Published Research Findings Are Often False 453

Hugh Pickens writes "Jonah Lehrer has an interesting article in the New Yorker reporting that all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings in science have started to look increasingly uncertain as they cannot be replicated. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology and in the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only anti-psychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants. 'One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work,' says researcher Jonathon Schooler. 'He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.' For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. 'If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved?' writes Lehrer. 'Which results should we believe?' Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to 'put nature to the question' but it now appears that nature often gives us different answers. According to John Ioannidis, author of Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, the main problem is that too many researchers engage in what he calls 'significance chasing,' or finding ways to interpret the data so that it passes the statistical test of significance—the ninety-five-per-cent boundary invented by Ronald Fisher. 'The scientists are so eager to pass this magical test that they start playing around with the numbers, trying to find anything that seems worthy,'"
Businesses

Submission + - Chinese IP Acquisition Tactics Exposed (sina.com.cn)

hackingbear writes: In an interview published in Sina.com.cn (here is the google translation,) Chinese rail engineers gave a detailed account of the history, motivation, technologies of Chinese high-speed rail system. More interestingly, they blatantly revealed the strategies and tactics used in acquiring high-speed rail techs from foreign companies. Here is the summary and paraphrase. At the beginning, China developed its own high-speed rail system known as the Chinese Star which achieved a test speed of 320km/h; but the system was considered not reliable or stable enough for operation. So China decided to import the technologies. The superior (leaders) instructed, "The goal of the project is to boost our economy, not theirs." A key strategy employed is divide-and-conquer: by dividing up the technologies of the system and importing multiple different techs across different companies, it ensures no single country or company has total control. "What we do is to exchange market for technologies. The negotiation was led by the Ministry of Railway [against industry alliances of the exporting countries]. This uniform executive power gave China huge advantage in negotiations," said Wu Junrong, "If we don't give in, they have no choice. They all want a piece of our huge high speed rail project." For example, [Chinese locomotive train] CRH2 is based on Japanese tech, CRH3 on German tech, and CRH5 on French tech, all retrofit for Chinese rail standards. Another strategy is buy-to-build. The first three trains were imported as a whole; the second three were assembled with imported parts; subsequent trains contains more and more Chinese made parts. "Some exporters were reluctant to transfer technologies. But we have explicitly requested such from the beginning. They cooperate eventually because they find profits in this huge project. This is business. There is no stealing [of technologies]." In conclusion, Wu boasted that now there are a dozen countries, including the US, are interested in Chinese high-speed rail techs, because they know more than any other single company and the Chinese version is cheaper too.
Nintendo

Submission + - Nintendo Warns 3D Games Can Ruin Children's Eyes 1

Hugh Pickens writes: "Fox News reports that Sony has posted a cautionary note on its Japanese website that "“vision of children under the age of six has been said [to be in the] developmental stage,” adding that 3D content “delivers 3D images with different left and right images, [which] has a potential impact on the growth of children’s eyes.” The notice went to say that Sony recommends that all viewers take regular breaks while watching 3D video or playing stereoscopic 3D games (google translation). Dr. Michael Ehrenhaus, an ophthalmologist with New York Cornea Consultants, thinks Nintendo and Sony may be getting ahead of themselves with these disclaimers. "It's hard to say that it'll ruin development," says Ehrenhaus. "I don't foresee it as a major issue, they're just being overly concerned." Ehrenhaus says the disclaimer comes from worries about the eye strain people can get by focusing on something for long periods of times and that young children may suffer from a condition called amblyopia or "lazy eye," where one eye sees better than the other. Eye strain from 3D may turn out to be merely the latest in a long line of fears about television and video gaming similar to the widespread worries that arose after flashing lights in games led to rare epileptic fits, or the old wives tale about sitting too close to the television. "A lot of these myths never really play out," Ehrenhaus says."
Image

German Kindergartens Ordered To Pay Copyright For Songs Screenshot-sm 291

BBird writes "Deutsche Welle reports: 'Up until this year, preschools could teach and produce any kind of song they wanted. But now they have to pay for a license if they want children to sing certain songs. A tightening of copyright rules means kindergartens now have to pay fees to Germany's music licensing agency, GEMA, to use songs that they reproduce and perform. The organization has begun notifying creches and other daycare facilities that if they reproduce music to be sung or performed, they must pay for a license.'"
Linux

Submission + - Putin Orders Russian Move to GNU/Linux (blogspot.com) 2

Glyn Moody writes: Vladimir Putin has signed an order calling for Russian federal authorities to move to GNU/Linux, and for the creation of "a single repository of free software used in the federal bodies of executive power". There have been a number of Russian projects to roll out free software, notably in the educational sector, but none so far has really taken off. With the backing of Putin, could this be the breakthrough free software has been waiting for?
Government

Submission + - UN Supports WikiLeaks' Right To Publish (eweekeurope.co.uk) 6

geek4 writes: A UN statement argues the human right to publish in the public interest, but restraint should be exercised
Following a bad few weeks for WikiLeaks, Santa seems to have arrived early to deliver a surprise gift in the form of backing from the United Nations.

In a joint statement by two UN officials, member states have been reminded of their duty to observe citizen rights to access information held by national authorities.

The rebuke from Frank LaRue, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Catalina Botero Marino, the inter-American commission on human rights special rapporteur for freedom of expression, will upset the right wing faction in the US government and provide support for WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange as court proceedings are ranged against him.

Earth

Submission + - Skills to Thrive in a Post-Collapse World 1

Ponca City writes: "Jeffrey Green writes in Counter Currents that some experts see a perfect storm emerging for a dramatic collapse of Western civilization claiming we’ve reached environmental, economic, and geopolitical tipping points and points out that some skills will be far more valuable than others if such a societal breakdown occurs. "Imagine fulfilling human necessity without consistent fuel or electricity, large-scale food production, or fully-stocked pharmacies and hospitals," writes Green. "The only form of wealth in a collapsed civilization is the knowledge and skills to produce something of human value." For example, skills involving food production will be the most valuable in a post-collapse society and learning to grow your own food is a must. Obviously, it is necessary to feed your family, but you will also be able to trade your abundance for other items. Other skills likely to help you sustain yourself in a hand-made local world include food preservation, medicine, animal husbandry, construction, water purification, and alternative energy. "Remember, knowledge of and skills to produce human necessities will be the only form of wealth creation in a hand-made world. Knowledge is something that no one can take from you.""
Democrats

Submission + - Electric Car Subsidies Are Handouts for the Rich (slate.com)

Atypical Geek writes: Charles Lane, writing for Slate, argues that subsidies for electric cars are an example of 'limousine liberalism'; a lavish gift for well-off Americans to buy expensive cars for the sake of appearing green. From the article:

How rarefied is the electric-car demographic? When Deloitte Consulting interviewed industry experts and 2,000 potential buyers, it found that from now until 2020, only "young, very high income individuals" — from households making more than $200,000 a year — would even be interested in plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars.

Lane also takes issue with the billions of dollars in subsidies offered to automakers for the manufacture of batteries, arguing that research (warning, PDF) concludes that the money will not help in jump-starting the economies of scale that will drive down prices. At least, not as much or as quickly as the President has argued.

The Obama administration claims that offering subsidies for early adopters will open a wider market for electric vehicles, bringing costs down to mass-market levels. Lane counters that such a market does not exist because the majority of Americans have no interest in purchasing electric cars.

Of all the findings in Deloitte's market research, the most poignant was its profile of electric car "non-adopters." They have average household incomes of $54,000, live in the suburbs and rural areas, and depend heavily on their cars. There are millions and millions of non-adopters all across America. They are the middle class.


Education

Submission + - Does the Internet Make Humanity Smarter or Dumber? (wsj.com)

Nemilar writes: The Wall Street Journal is running a pair of articles asking whether the Internet is making humanity smarter or dumber. The argument for "smarter" is that the internet is simply a change in the rules of publishing, and that the bad material is thrown away; the second story critiques the "information overload" aspect of the internet, claiming that we have traded depth of knowledge for velocity and span. What do you think? Does the internet make you stupid?
Software

Submission + - Aye-Yi-Yi Candy

theodp writes: It is not difficult to present data in clear, accurate, and meaningful ways, argues Stephen Few. So why then are we stuck in a vicious cycle of data impoverishment? Vendors show us bad examples of data visualization, explains Few, and we emulate them in our work. Most software vendors have decided that they can satisfy us with razzle dazzle—pie charts that spin and bars shaped like pyramids, says Few, and so far we haven’t discouraged them by refusing to buy their silly products.
Science

Colliding Particles Can Make Black Holes After All 269

cremeglace writes with this excerpt from ScienceNOW: "You've heard the controversy. Particle physicists predict the world's new highest-energy atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, might create tiny black holes, which they say would be a fantastic discovery. Some doomsayers fear those black holes might gobble up the Earth — physicists say that's impossible — and have petitioned the United Nations to stop the $5.5 billion LHC. Curiously, though, nobody had ever shown that the prevailing theory of gravity, Einstein's theory of general relativity, actually predicts that a black hole can be made this way. Now a computer model shows conclusively for the first time that a particle collision really can make a black hole." That said, they estimate the required energy for creating a black hole this way to be roughly "a quintillion times higher than the LHC's maximum"; though if one of the theories requiring compact extra dimensions is true, the energy could be lower.

Submission + - Are There Enough Smart Developers for Google? (earthweb.com)

jammag writes: If you compare how astoundingly smart a developer has to be to land a Google gig, versus how many developers are really that smart, you wonder: will Google soon run out of semi-geniuses? But, opines a veteran developer, the search giant's hiring practices actually miss the point. Developers need all sorts of skills, like the ability to work with others and adopt to workflow change. He creates his own list of questions – the real ones that any development firm should ask.
Earth

Submission + - Crumbling reactor springs tritium leak (rutlandherald.com) 1

mdsolar writes: The decrepit nuclear reactor Vermont Yankee http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/07/09/08/2036240/New-Legislation-Proposed-For-Nuclear-Safety has sprung a radioactive leak similar to those at other poorly run reactors in Illinois (Braidwood, Byron and Dresden), Arizona (Palo Verde) and New York (Indian Point). The problem of radioactive tritium leaks even threatens Champagne from France http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/radioactive-champagne-30-06-06 And, 55 people were intentionally poisoned with tritium in India last year http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2009/12/tritium_poisoning_at_indias_ka.html

Tritium and its decay product helium 3 are incredibly valuable and there is currently a shortage of helium 3 http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/11/23/1859204/Program-To-Detect-Smuggled-Nuclear-Bombs-Stalls What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?

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