Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×

Comment Cashless society = Surveillance society (Score 1) 294

A Cashless society is a Surveillance society - Absolutely.
This is why several governments actually put restrictions on cash purchases:
1000 Euros ceiling already exist in France and Italy for cash transactions. Bank withdrawals totaling over 10'000 Euros per year also get reported !

Cash payments, like bank secrecy, is what allows lambda citizens to keep a bit of privacy. When payments become traceable (1'000 € limit today), and important withdrawals are reported to authorities (10'000 € yearly limit), it is not drug dealers but the middle class that is targeted. The 1% richest and the powerful are still able to use other tricks to launder their money.

Comment Note comparable with our everyday driving yet (Score 1) 465

As the article states:

Now, you can't directly compare the two figures. Google's cars have been tested in pretty hospitable conditions, not facing, for example, the rigors of a New England winter. And, as Google engineer Chris Urmson, writes, they still "need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter." Additionally, the cars are still driving with "occasional" human control. But at the very least, the Google cars are slowly building a pretty good-looking driving record.

The "occasional human control" is the key point for me: so in dense urban areas, or when there are pedestrians around, I imagine that a human driver takes over?
I could easily get a kid to have a "perfect driving record" by letting him drive only on unencumbered highways under perfect conditions.
So yes, these results are nice, but they don't mean much formally. I'd like to know to what environments and events the car has actually been exposed autonomously...

Comment Re:Da Vinci vs. This vs. Laparoscopy (Score 1) 64

Some additional info:

As I commented in the original article, stereoscopic (=3D) laparoscopy has existed for more than 20 years:

Articles such as show that the cost/benefit was of "3D" was being evaluated in 1992 (this study is not made "in-patient", as it was easier to measure performance in an artificial setting). The point is that stereoscopic endoscopes and display equipment were available, and I know surgeons who were trying them, but felt that the extra cost and discomfort were not worth overcoming.

3 holes are commonly needed for a laparoscopic procedure: one for a camera, two for two instruments held by the main operator; a 4th hole is sometimes used to insert an additional instrument (allowing an assisting surgeon to lift the liver or hold an organ out of the way).
I've seen many projects for robotized cameras (to avoid needing the additional helping hand), or projects to offer instrument tracking or even enhanced reality (showing visual cues on-screen).

The "robotic claw" is named in the article as "Kymerax": it's basically a "classic" instrument with some added joint/degree of freedom. It's main purpose is to improve ergonomy: facilitate access and improve comfort for the operator by allowing the "tip" of the instrument to be bent or turned. Videos of it can be found online, for instance:

The Da Vinci system is indeed much more complex and expensive. The classical instrument is replaced by robotized manipulator with additional degrees of freedom (a bit like the hand-held Kymerax, but on a robotic base). The operator works from a console intended to offer improved ergonomy, with manipulators that allow more flexible motion.

hth -Ivan

Comment What about educating people ? (Score 1) 1276

There are several long-lived democracies that can prove these scientists wrong. Switzerland would come to mind.
Democracy is foremost about cohesion, about open debate, about seeking compromise. Most of all, democracy requires educating people to think critically, and ensuring that some fundamental values are shared. This foundation doesn't come automatically and needs to be maintained, but it is worth the effort.
Of course a democracy also needs leaders that promote big changes and ideas. A democracy ought to provide an environment where such leaders can flourish.
There is no ideal outcome, but we can agree as Churchill said, that "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time".

Comment Re:"stupid decision" is a better title. (Score 1) 815

Dear AC,

Perhaps if you read a little you'd see that this didn't come from the bottled water industry nor is there any evidence that bottled water manufacturers were claiming or even planing to claim this. The submission came from two doctors: Prof. Dr. Moritz Hagenmeyer and Prof. Dr. Andreas Hahn who think the EU is getting a little stupid with their regulations and I'm inclined to agree.

The article states "German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels."
Did I miss something? Do you believe their request was disinterested?

Your statements are kind of cryptic as they don't appear to form any cogent argument defending the EU's decision. Do you simply believe that should an unbranded source of something exist (say Vitamin C) then there is no grounds for a branded product containing it make a health claim? (i.e. "Contains Vitamin C - which prevents scurvy").

If the unbranded source is readily available and consumed in every home, the promotion of the branded version with misleading therapeutic claims is debatable, ethically at least.
Here's a better analogy: Should I be allowed to sell oxygen tanks and claim that "regular breathing of significant amounts of oxygen helps fight hypoxia" ?

Or is it that you doubt the science behind the alleged benefit? That is, that water doesn't help you reduce the risk of development of dehydration. If so then your comments about "tap water" are even more strange as in that circumstance tap water also doesn't help you.

The science is weak, especially when the claim recommends "regular consumption of significant amounts of water". What is a "significant amount" ? Excess water intake does have detrimental health effects. Proactive drinking is recommended to prevent dehydration in some circumstances (lasting physical exercise, exceptional heat, to the elderly), but in general listening to one's thirst is adequate. Also, if someone actually suffers from dehydration, a significant water intake can be dangerous; if you want a simple advice, slowly chewing and eating a vegetable is a better bet.

I'm not saying the EU doesn't have more urgent things to deal with, but had I been asked to rule on the appropriateness of the claim, I would have reached the same conclusion.

Comment Beer ! (Score 1) 815

My friend living in Japan was bringing local colleages to a training to be performed in Germany. As they passed through the security controls (this was before the US 9/11), he discovered that one of his Japanese friends had dozens of bottles of water in his carry-on. He asked him why...
The explanation given by the colleague was that he had heard that beer is the water of Germans, Germans only drink beer (yes, it's a popular joke...). But he doesn't drink beer and he needs water...

Comment Sound decision, rationale (Score 5, Informative) 815

Through most of Europe, tap water is perfectly drinkable, and healthier that bottled water. So what this European committee ruled on is whether companies selling bottled water have the right to promote them by claiming that they have a therapeutic benefit. I think it's quite ok to reject this claim.

In my office, we have this big fridge distributing bottled drinks, made available by a company linked to Coca-Cola. It comes with printed claims and brochures explaining what we need to drink at least 4 x 5 dl per day (the machine contains free bottles of 5 dl).
I'm an MD, and while a liquid intake of 1.5 to 2 liters is generally needed, it is wise to get most of it from the tap, or from soups and vegetables. You can certainly live well without any "drinks" - and premature death is guaranteed to those who would drink four bottles of these sugary drinks every day.

Comment Re:Wow (Score 2) 832

One of the anti-vaccine idiots even had the balls to say that it was up to the scientific community to disprove that vaccines are dangerous.

As much as I hate the anti-vaccine FUD, constructive science cannot use the same tactics. Science and Pharma companies also make mistakes, and some vaccines have been withdrawn for very valid scientific reasons after years of use.

When Bill Gates says "Because the mothers who heard that lie, many of them didn't have their kids take either pertussis or measles vaccine, and their children are dead today", it suggests that all mothers who refused that their child gets vaccinated by measles had their child die, which is total BS. His intentions may be good, but I reprove the tactic.

When you look at a disease like Chicken Pox in childhood, in our developed countries, the complications are rare enough, that it is fair to demand hard proof of the benefit and safety of the vaccine - while I might send my 5 year old child to play with a neighbor who has Chicken Pox, knowing that at that age the disease will be mild (if at all, if he has not unknowingly been exposed in the past). A choice I make for myself or my family, and a solution that a company sells to our society, do require different levels of scrutiny.

I was also skeptical of H1N1 vaccines last year, did not go for it. This year the current flu epidemic in Switzerland is predominantly H1N1, and guess what, we now handle it just as any other flu, and all is ... as with any other flu. Thinking of the billions that were spent on H1N1 flu vaccines last year, I remain certain that there could have been better uses for these funds (e.g. obesity prevention).

So yes:
Pharma companies must be held accountable, and ought to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the products that they sell. And when it comes to the scientific or pseudo-scientific communities, whether pro- or anti-vaccine, we must be equally weary of the financial or egotistic interests they may have. As a discerning society, we must carefully choose the solutions that we invest in.

Comment Re:Its the Cognitive Load (Score 1) 545

I really would not worry about WPMs; but how would I look at a programmer who has never bothered to learn touch-typing?

A self-respecting programmer ought to learn touch-typing, just as he ought to know more than one programming language, ought to read and educate himself to new techniques, and ought to master an editor, and to use other tools that relate to his field of activity (profiler, packet-sniffer, debugger, ...).

Looking for the next key to type takes away some of your attention; and you don't want a programmer to pick short variable names only to save himself some typing (seen before...).

Comment Re:The WHO needs to shut the fuck up (Score 1) 372

Interesting follow-up announcements by WHO today (source: )
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the relatively low number of confirmed deaths from swine flu didn't mean the virus wasn't a pandemic.
"A pandemic has nothing to do with severity or number of deaths," he told The Associated Press. "A pandemic literally is a global spread of a disease."
He said WHO was "always very measured and sober in what we said and we always described the virus as causing overwhelmingly mild disease. "We cannot control how people react to this information," he added.
So the WHO says that it is technically a pandemic, but that did not mean that it is critical since it produces a "mild disease".
The problem is still with the media coverage that has surrounded a single strain among the existing flu pandemics - and the influence it has had on decision-makers (biased risk management).

Comment Re:The WHO needs to shut the fuck up (Score 1) 372

> "I am a doctor,..."

Which only proves that doctors and science don't have to mix. Or as the old joke says, what do you call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of their class...

First time I am referred to as the bottom of class type of guy. I would never have mentioned my background if it was not because of a comment in the message I replied to. I am a doctor, I do talk with specialists, and I do put together my own opinion which may or may not be aligned with the mainstream.

"But the vaccine itself has also been more aggressive, and normal safety checks and clinical studies were bypassed.."

Wrong. The side effects, or lack thereof, were also tracked very closely.

My statement was that some new techniques and adjuvants were used in the manufacturing of some of these vaccines, and that the market launch and broad use of them were initiated without some of the precautions that are usually taken.

The risk may have been acceptable, but has to be considered as part of the global assessment.

It's not normal to have ICU's full of people from the flu.

Wow, I have never heard of this happening. Any references?

Vaccines are one of medicines greatest contributions to world health.

The greatest contribution to human health has been improved sanitation. Vaccination against small pox, DiTePer, Tuberculosis, etc has also been a real leap forward.
But as you probably know, when it comes to measles, mumps, chicken pox, and flu (outside of specific target populations), the benefit remains debated in the scientific community - especially when it comes to long term effects on the population or following generation.

The fact that you would refuse a safe vaccine and put patients at risk pretty much says it all.

I am not in contact with patients; this said, I do not consider that personnel who refused the vaccine (2/3 of them in some areas) are unethical: transmission is primarily prevented by hygiene measures (hand washing...), and by taking a leave(and/or mask etc) once getting symptomatic.

Nice strawman. Pharma does not get rich on vaccines. If they did not receive subsidies they would probably stop producing them. It's the reason they haven't modernized production-it's not cost effective.

Wow talking about fallacies... Are you suggesting that the H1N1 vaccine has not been a profitable venture for their manufacturers? Have you not seen how shares of H1N1 vaccine-making companies were influenced by related news reports?

You sound like: "Pharma companies only care for you. You need them. Watch more TV."

My key point remains that, in this case like in others, there are real unknowns - still today, even if less than a few months ago.
We can only wish that political decisions would always be fact-based and objectively weighed. The truth is that they are not, as history and lobbying has often proven.

When there are uncertainties, and a powerful group benefits from a given decision, I simply advice everyone who is able to think in his own mind to think critically.

My family and myself (3 to 70 years old) have chosen to not be vaccinated, and I believe like many that money has been squandered in this H1N1 "pandemic" affair.

This is a neutral and uninterested opinion, from someone who has some understanding of medical issues and risk management in general. I have no love or hate for pharma companies, and have absolutely no conflict of interest.

Kind regards,

Comment Re:The WHO needs to shut the fuck up (Score 3, Informative) 372

I am a doctor, and like many in the medical field, I am fed-up with all the BS related to the swine flu.

Every time that news agencies (Reuters, AFP, etc) publish headlines saying "12500 deaths from the Swine flu" but omit to state in the article that the "classic" seasonal flu kills hundreds of thousands worldwide every year, this is inappropriately biased. I think we can call this fear-mongering.

Ok, the H1N1 strain might be a bit more aggressive. But the vaccine itself has also been more aggressive, and normal safety checks and clinical studies were bypassed; the vaccine injections themselves have caused hospitalizations and casualties. And many have been put under pressure to get vaccinated, even if we did not want to ("you don't get vaccinated for yourself, you get vaccinated to protect those around you..."). I am fortunate that I have been able to resist.
So the "pandemic" might have been worse, but the negative side effects of the vaccine itself might have been much more dramatic as well.

Another core issue is that we must manage risk objectively, and focus our resources (which are always limited) in the areas where are going to provide the best return, to the best of our knowledge at that point.
We have squandered billions of dollars on flu shots, benefiting the pharma industry, with a probably dubious and very short-term benefit to the people. With their powers, and leveraging WHO announcements, big pharma corporations have pulled all these funds towards them, benefiting only themselves and their shareholders.
Some flood-resistant levies and earthquake-resistant buildings are still waiting to be built. New sports facilities, more gym hours in school, promotion of healthy lifestyles, are all things which may have been better investments, providing better returns for the money.

Governments and health authorities must objectively assess which investment is likely to be the most beneficial to their community.
Because of pressure from pharma lobbies, and the leverage that the WHO has provided by declaring a pandemic, I am certain that the risks were not weighted and assessed objectively, and that precious health funds were squandered in a way that only benefited to the pharma industry.

This is not only a "hindsight is 20/20" kind of thing, but a real societal problem.

Slashdot Top Deals

Like punning, programming is a play on words.