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Comment Somebody didn't read the reference material ... (Score 1) 284

@Anonymous Coward

I know this is Slashdot, where actually reading background articles can get you disqualified.

However, it so happens that even a cursory glance at the articles you linked to show that, although there is reason for concern, your claim is heavy on hyperbole and light on justification.

If researchers use patched versions of their statistical packages, and don't fall prey to the error described in the Scientific American article you linked to, their results should be Ok.

Researcher can usually improve the validity of their results by consulting with a proper statistician before they rush off to publish, but that holds in many more areas of science.

Comment What's the problem? (Score 1) 195

Am I supposed to be shocked? Those terms don't strike me as particularly unreasonable.

I mean ... raising children is a chore and costs a lot of money. Think of it as free board and tuition for the first brat so that you can safely experiment a little on the first and get it right with the second and the third. I call that a public service!

In addition ... the NSA has all my data already and just in case ... why would I want object to them collecting more on me? That would be un-patriottic, no?

In addition I'm not doing anything on the site that would upset my employer.

So err ... where's the problem? I find the honesty of the TOS rather refreshing actually.

Comment Old Nonsense (Score 1) 387

There is no fundamental change of course in physics.

Firstly: particle physics is far from the only branch of physics and it makes zero sense to judge the "philosophical foundations of physics" by particle physics alone.

Secondly, it is hardly uncommon to have experimental measurement abilities and theorising out of sync. It was only about 75 years after the Schroedinger equation was proposed that we got anything like direct physical confirmation of the shape or orbitals.Gravity lenses confirming general relativity were observed well after the theory was published. And so forth.

Given how far outside our current experimental and observational abilities the current crop of particle physics lies, a century until we can come up with experimental or observational make evidence does not seem excessive. It's just the way things are.

In the mean time there is plenty of time to get to grips with the theoretical difficulties of getting useful predictions out of string theory. We have seen progres, but another century doesn't seem excessive here either.

Why can't we let people get on with it ... and focus on more "mundane" physics like quantum mechanics? It's not as if that's anything like a dead branch of investigation either.

Comment Read the article ... (Score 3, Informative) 496

Well ... to some extent. Lets look at the article itself, shall we?

From the (Bloomberg) article: "From software developers and mathematical modelers to geriatric nurses and care workers, a mismatch in qualifications means companies are struggling to fill posts, even though the unemployment rate at 20.4 percent is the second-highest in Europe".

Yea, right. Mathematical modelers are always thin on the ground and software developers can be, depending on what you ask. Geriatric nurses are an impopular specialisation, and demand is growing fairly quickly. Working conditions tend not to be the best though, so it's not the most popular specialisation. Takes a year and a half to qualify though, and not many hospitals are willing to pay you to do it. Those that are pay you a pittance, fire you the day you graduate, and start with the next bunch of trainees.

Problem is: can you trust current industry demand to guide your choice of curriculum?

Answer: No you can't. Companies (with the exception of the likes of Shell, IBM, GM, Unilever etc.) don't plan any further ahead than 6 months. Easier and cheaper that way. So, current industry demand isn't a very good indicator.

And this: "Pimentelâ(TM)s client asked him for list of candidates trained in "Agile" project management techniques for helping companies boost their productivity by using more I.T. systems. The client was offering as much as 200,000 euros ($220,000) a year -- almost 10 times the average salary in Spain."

Salary's pretty good, especially for Europe. But "trained in agile". Does that mean "attended a few lectures in scrum or whatever"? No. From the rest of the article: you need to have sufficient experience to know what software development is and what the issues are. And then the article lets it transpire that you'll be talking with senior management ... on your project. Sounds like a "development lead with experience in agile" position to me. Definitely not for your average coder, with or without course in "agile" development bolted on.

I can only conclude that the Slashdot headline is a bit misleading. The Bloomberg headline is more accurate, and the article goes on to lambast the Spanish educational system for not paying sufficient attention to industry needs (STEM subjects).

However ... about a year and a half ago I made the acquaintance of a (very smart) Spanish PhD in experimental physics who (1) couldn't find a fitting job opportunity in Spain when she graduated (6 years ago) (2) went abroad to do a doctorate (3) was subsequently unable to find a faculty position (two years ago) in Europe) and went to work as a data analyst for the government.

Several interesting things in this story: she couldn't find a decent job even though she was smart, motivated, and well-educated, she had to look outside Spain to do a PhD (well, some would call that a valuable education in itself), then couldn't find a job in the field for which she had just qualified (experimental physics), and went to do work for which she wasn't "formally" qualified but for which she was quite well prepared (kudos to that HR department).

Now think of your average HR department. Would they have hired her as a data analist? Nah ... too many boxes not ticked. No Hadoop experience, no Java programming certificates, no certificate in SAS, not SPLUNK certified, no Python programming certificates, no Linux certificates (although she did her PhD work on Linux systems like all physicists). Yup. Probably no MS Office certificates either (but perhaps those can be overlooked).

So it's a sum of circumstances: insufficient attention to trivial but "in-demand" qualifications on part of educational authorities to please box-ticking HR departments, HR departments being generally unable to bring any understanding and intelligence to their job (costs too much to have somebody working there who actually understand what the job entails, right ... so keep with the box-tickers). industry as a whole being unable to provide reliable forecasts of future personnel demands.

Comment Re:Oversimplified thinking (Score 1) 246

@Anonymous Coward

Disagreed!

Nobody forces you to be on the power grid (you can install your own diesel aggregate and solar panels), nobody forces you to get tap water (feel free to install a cistern and order up a tanker to fill it, or brush your teeth with bottled water), and (depending on where you live) you may be allowed to install a septic tank and a chemical toilet where you live.

The point is: you can survive perfectly well without utilities; it will just mean additional expense. Same with Google. Nobody forces you to use it, but most of your clients will. So as a business you haven't got a lot of choice really.

Comment Re:Interesting technology, but with potential risk (Score 1) 156

@Anonymous Coward

With parcels you have to wire in a detonator of some sort. Therefore parcels tend to be scanned for wires and subjected to sniffing for explosives and other chemically and biologically hazardous materials. This sort of scrutiny rarely happens with your own drones before they take off (or while they are airborne).

Unlike drones, parcels also tend to be traceable to the sender.

Neither of which are favourable conditions for a would-be terrorist, right?

Comment Interesting technology, but with potential risk (Score 1) 156

This is an example of a technology that holds promise when used responsibly, but also grave dangers and downsides.

One of the dangers is how it can be abused.

For example, if I were in charge of ISIS terror operations, I would now be researching the feasibility of delivering semtex parcels to e.g. veteran's homes in the US by drone. The addresses I can buy on the Internet, drones are available, and painting one in Amazon colours will ensure it doesn't attract a lot of attention when it takes off. The "payload" would have to be a fairly powerful explosive because of the drones' limited carrying capacity, so something like semtex would be preferred. Now, acquiring semtex locally or smuggling it into the US without getting caught (let alone operating a network in the US to deliver it to the "operators") will be a problem, but what have we got dedicated followers for, right? We can afford operational losses, as long as at least a few shipments get through.

Or a targeted release of anthrax or small-pox, or whatever you've got.

I really wouldn't need to score many 'hits' to unleash a huge wave of publicity, would I?

Even three to five "hits" would compromise people's sense of personal security in their very homes, and lead to a nation-wide outcry. Besides, the operator may well be secretly pleased we're only asking him to risk arrest and pilot a drone, not to detonate the parcel while it's strapped to his butt, so it might be easier to get volunteers. Not bad for a relatively cheap and simple terrorist operation, eh?

Terrorism threats will be with us for years to come, so let's be a little cautious and also consider what new windows of vulnerability we may be opening up here, Ok?

Comment Oversimplified thinking (Score 3, Insightful) 246

@ Aighearach

In my opinion you've missed the point of Epstein's article.

Epstein contends (and I agree) that Google's services are so pervasive that it really has taken on the role of a public utility, while still being an ordinary commercial enterprise without any responsibility whatsoever to anyone except their shareholders.

By its very nature, Google *cannot* be transparent about its page-rank algorithm because the instant it is, every SEO con artist in existence will proceed to abuse that knowledge and undermine the quality and usefulness of Google's search results.

The bottom line is: Google is a company that provides a service that's as essential as power, water, roads, trash collection and sanitation that's beyond oversight and cannot (ever) be transparent about its service. How would you like that same level of transparency and total un-accountability with other utilities?

What you call "freedom", I call risky concentration of power without checks, balances, or oversight. An appeal to "freedom" is, I think, an oversimplification. Why not allow utility companies to switch off the power, the water supply, or block the sewers if they it would be in their corporate interests to do so? When water authorities ration water usage because supplies are running out, everyone is up in arms, but you'd like to lie down and take it if it's in the corporate rather than the public interest? After all, nothing stops you from buying bottled water, does it? Or installing a swimming pool as a backup water cistern, right? How about allowing the wastewater treatment plant to shut down the sewers in the city centre if somebody (perhaps a restaurant) dumps a load of fat down the sink that plays hob with their sewage treatment?

What Google does (and must do) to keep its services humming really does lead to injustice in individual cases.

To that extent I agree with Epstein. Where I disagree with Epstein is whether it's worth the price in this particular case. However, with Google, whilst transparency is impossible oversight isn't. We may well need regulations and oversight for search engines somewhere down the line.

Comment Burying sites (Score 5, Interesting) 246

One of the things Epstein takes issue with stems from Google's tendency to retaliate against websites that create artificial websites referring to the one they wish to promote.

This is a way of taking advantage of the way the page-rank algorithm works, in that it counts "incoming links" (they're doing a weighted, iteratively calculated count, but lets keep things simple).

Left to its own, there would be little the page-rank algorithm can do against such obvious abuse of the algorithm to self-promote certain sites. Thus, in the best traditions of the unenlightened self-interest that so pervades our society, the wellspring of the Commons is poisoned. The best of it is that it's all "legal" (there is no law against). As a consequence the value of Google's search results is at risk, and with it the public service they provide.

Rather than seeking redress from the law (which simply doesn't offer any), Google decided to mete out its own kind of justice: it corrected the search rank of sites that do this downward (manually or otherwise) so that they were starved of traffic. The message Google sends with this is: pull this one on us and we'll bury you.

In cases of genuine abuse (websites inflating their rank through this kind of "Search Engine Optimization" I agree with this measure. Unfortunately downgrading a site's search rank is a powerful weapon which, even when used without malice, can lead to injustice against which there is no appeal. Simply because either people or algorithms that do the downranking will make mistakes.

Alas, our world is not perfect. On the whole however I prefer Google to protect its search algorithm from abuse by SEO con artists at the expense of killing the odd innocent website. Sorry but my interests are better served by having high-quality search results than by preventing injustice.

Comment Classic example of incompetent research (Score 3, Informative) 249

Go ahead, have a look at the underlying paper: https://torrentfreak.com/image...

It's a classic example of methodological incompetence. Got your popcorn? Let's start the show.

Their dependent variable is piracy rates (between 0 and 100) as published by the BSA. Not one word about measurement uncertainty in those data. Remember how the MPAA and the BSA used to estimate sales losses due to piracy? That's right: list_price x (penetration_fraction x population of PC's - license sold). I kid you not. And they calmly rely on piracy data from those sources.

Then their explanatory variable: the so-called IQ measure. They cite the "seminal" work of Lyn,R. VanHaanen, T ()

Unfortunately for the authors of the latest "correlation paper", the work of Lyn and VanHaanen is anything but uncontroversial. I quote from one of the Lyn and VanHaanenpapers:

First, we believe that these estab- lish beyond reasonable doubt the validity of our national IQ. This was initially disputed by a number of critics. For in- stance, Ervik (2003, pp. 405â"6) asked âoeare people in rich countries smarter than those in poorer countries?â and con- cluded that âoethe authors fail to present convincing evidence and appear to jump to conclusions.â Nechyba (2004, p. 1178) wrote of the âoerelatively weak statistical evidence and dubious presumptions.â Barnett and Williams (2004, p.) rejected our national IQ as âoevirtually meaninglessâ; Volken (2003, p. 411) described them as âoehighly deficientâ; and Hunt and Sternberg (2006, pp. 133, 136) rejected them as âoetechnically inadequate⦠and meaninglessâ. The answer to these criticisms is that our national IQs are validated by their high correlations with scores in tests of mathematics, science and reading, as shown in Table 1, and also with the numerous other economic and social phenom- ena documented in subsequent tables. These high correla- tions would not be present if our national IQs were meaningless.

Gettit? The fact that there are high correlations "proves" the validity of their inference that there are meaningful relationships. Did they go to Trump University or what?

In this vein I especially like the high correlation (see http://www.tylervigen.com/spur... ) between per-capita cheese consumption and people who died by becoming entangled in their bedsheets.

I wonder if the authors thought to control for that.

As far as serious research is concerned, this is the end of the line, but lets go on and have a look at their model, shall we?

They model the value of a fraction through a straightforward regression model: SP_i = \alpha + \beta IQ_i + \lambda X_i + \epsilon_i

Oops, and there we have the little matter of using straightforward regression to model a fraaaaction, instead of something like logistic regression. For those who don't immediately spot the problem, see e.g. here: http://www.theanalysisfactor.c...

Ordinary linear models are simply unsuitable to model fractions. A point that's common knowledge with statisticians, but one that's apparently lost on the authors (and the authors on which they base their work).

Right, lets continue and look at the graph they show with their regression line. Each country counts as one (China has the same weight as the e.g. Senegal and the US has the same weight as the Comores. Look ma, no weights! Sounds good eh? When you look at their graph, China shows up as one serious outlier with an "IQ" score of about 110 and a "piracy" score of about 80%. Only 1 bln people up there. Close by, in the bottom-right corner of their graph is the good ole US of A, weighing in at about 270 mln people, with almost the same score for "IQ" (98) and a "piracy score" of about 20.

Now where I come from, that counts as a correlation of approximately zero and an utterly meaningless model. Doesn't seem to deter these guys though.

The article and the study in is are bunk.

Comment Classic example of incompetent research (Score 1) 249

Go ahead, have a look at the underlying paper: https://torrentfreak.com/image...

It's a classic example of methodological incompetence. Got your popcorn? Let's start the show.

Their dependent variable is piracy rates (between 0 and 100) as published by the BSA. Not one word about measurement uncertainty in those data. Remember how the MPAA and the BSA used to estimate sales losses due to piracy? That's right: list_price x (penetration_fraction x population of PC's - license sold). I kid you not. And they calmly rely on piracy data from those sources.

Then their explanatory variable: the so-called IQ measure. They cite the "seminal" work of Lyn,R. VanHaanen, T ()

Unfortunately for the authors of the latest "correlation paper", the work of Lyn and VanHaanen is anything but uncontroversial. I quote from one of the Lyn and VanHaanenpapers:

First, we believe that these estab- lish beyond reasonable doubt the validity of our national IQ. This was initially disputed by a number of critics. For in- stance, Ervik (2003, pp. 405â"6) asked âoeare people in rich countries smarter than those in poorer countries?â and con- cluded that âoethe authors fail to present convincing evidence and appear to jump to conclusions.â Nechyba (2004, p. 1178) wrote of the âoerelatively weak statistical evidence and dubious presumptions.â Barnett and Williams (2004, p.) rejected our national IQ as âoevirtually meaninglessâ; Volken (2003, p. 411) described them as âoehighly deficientâ; and Hunt and Sternberg (2006, pp. 133, 136) rejected them as âoetechnically inadequate⦠and meaninglessâ. The answer to these criticisms is that our national IQs are validated by their high correlations with scores in tests of mathematics, science and reading, as shown in Table 1, and also with the numerous other economic and social phenom- ena documented in subsequent tables. These high correla- tions would not be present if our national IQs were meaningless.

Comment Company specialising in monetizing valuable IP (Score 1) 130

@seven of five

Allow me to correct you, because the term "patent troll" is unknown in business circles, largely dated, prejudicial, defamatory, and may open you up to legal action.

What you really meant to say is that the Chinese company affected is one that specialises in monetising Valuable Intellectual Property, by which means it spurs Innovation, while not necessarily being a practising entity.

There, fixed that for you.

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