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Comment Re:Desperation tax (Score 1) 301

It's odd to me that this comment is moderated as 'Funny'. I'd have called it 'Insightful'. The lottery *is* a tax on desperation.

When state lotteries were proposed (against considerable opposition) a major argument in their favor was that they would replace 'playing the numbers', the profits from which went to organized crime. But the Mafia doesn't advertise. The states display their rolls of brightly colored scratch-and-sniff games like so many bins of candy, and we are deluged with ads (hey, you never know).

The lotteries are a tax on poverty, desperation, and ignorance. IMHO, they should be legal, but unadvertised except at point of sale.

Fat chance, huh?

Submission + - AT&T offers LTE just to cap users who use it (xda-developers.com) 1

realized writes: We have all heard of soft caps put on by cell phone carriers. AT&T, Verizon and others alike have all said that they will (and have already started to), “throttle” users in the top 5% of data usage. With LTE starting to be deployed to multiple markets now this seems to be more of a problem. AT&T and Verizon are selling LTE phones and once users realize they can watch movies, download games, etc without lag on the new technology, are overnight getting capped. At LTE Speeds of 30-50MB/sec it’s very easy to hit the “soft cap” in place. The cap, according to some XDA members, seems to be anywhere from 4gb to 8gb/month. What is the point of offering LTE if you aren’t able to handle the small percentage of users that have LTE devices in those areas? Is this a bandwidth problem or a licensing problem with the wireless spectrum? Is 4, 6, or even 10 gb/month really abuse?

Submission + - US says Genes should not be patentable (nytimes.com)

Geoffrey.landis writes: A friend-of-the-court brief filed by the U.S. Department of Justice says that genes should not be patentable.

“We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to the longstanding practice of the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the practice of the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies that have in the past sought and obtained patents for isolated genomic DNA,” they wrote.

The argument that genes in themselves (as opposed to, say, tests made from genetic information, or drugs that act on proteins made by genes) should be patentable is that "genes isolated from the body are chemicals that are different from those found in the body" and therefore are eligible for patents. This argument is, of course, completely silly, and apparently the U.S. government may now actually realize that.


Pope's Astronomer Would Love To Baptize an Alien 308

Ponca City, We Love You writes "The Guardian reports that Guy Consolmagno, curator of the pope's meteorite collection and a trained astronomer and planetary scientist, says he would be 'delighted' if intelligent life was found among the stars. 'But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it — when you add them up it's probably not a practical question.' Consolmagno adds that the traditional definition of a soul was to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions. 'Any entity — no matter how many tentacles it has — has a soul.' Would he baptize an alien? 'Only if they asked.' Consolmagno dismisses the ideas of intelligent design as a pseudo-scientific version of creationism. 'The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it didn't originally mean at all. It's another form of the God of the gaps. It's bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning.'"

Fine-Structure Constant Maybe Not So Constant 105

Kilrah_il writes "The fine-structure constant, a coupling constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction, has been measured lately by scientists from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and has been found to change slightly in light sent from quasars in galaxies as far back as 12 billion years ago. Although the results look promising, caution is advised: 'This would be sensational if it were real, but I'm still not completely convinced that it's not simply systematic errors' in the data, comments cosmologist Max Tegmark of MIT. Craig Hogan of the University of Chicago and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., acknowledges that 'it's a competent team and a thorough analysis.' But because the work has such profound implications for physics and requires such a high level of precision measurements, 'it needs more proof before we'll believe it.'"

Submission + - Feds Shut Down 200 Prescription Drug Websites (cnn.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: CNN is reporting on 200 website pharmacies (in Utah and Illinois) under investigation for selling prescription drugs online without the user having a valid prescription. CNN's investigative reporting claims that Kyle Rootsaert, owner of two online pharmacies, is responsible for the shipping of more than 30,000 prescription drug packages across the United States in the first half of 2010. The White House's Office of National drug Control Policy made the statement that 'This is a pretty large ring of at least 200 websites that acted as internet pharmacies that were basically selling drugs — prescription drugs — without requiring a valid prescription. These affidavits indicate this was a multiyear, multimillion-dollar operation involving thousands and thousands of prescriptions. Going back in time, there were even deaths involved with this organization.' The majority of these prescriptions were "authorized" by Dr. William E. Morrow of Layton, Utah.

Nuclear Energy Now More Expensive Than Solar 635

js_sebastian writes "According to an article on the New York Times, a historical cross-over has occurred because of the declining costs of solar vs. the increasing costs of nuclear energy: solar, hardly the cheapest of renewable technologies, is now cheaper than nuclear, at around 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Furthermore, the NY Times reports that financial markets will not finance the construction of nuclear power plants unless the risk of default (which is historically as high as 50 percent for the nuclear industry) is externalized to someone else through federal loan guarantees or ratepayer funding. The bottom line seems to be that nuclear is simply not competitive, and the push from the US government to subsidize it seems to be forcing the wrong choice on the market."

Southwest Adds 'Mechanical Difficulties' To Act Of God List 223

War, earthquakes, and broken washers are all unavoidable events for which a carrier should not be liable if travel is delayed according to Southwest Airlines. Southwest quietly updated their act of God list a few weeks ago to include mechanical problems with the other horrors of an angry travel god. From the article: "Robert Mann, an airline industry analyst based in Port Washington, NY, called it 'surprising' that Southwest, which has a reputation for stellar customer service, would make a change that puts passengers at a legal disadvantage if an aircraft breakdown delays their travel. Keeping a fleet mechanically sound 'is certainly within the control of any airline,' Mann said. 'Putting mechanical issues in the same category as an act of God — I don't think that's what God intended.'"

The Race To Beer With 50% Alcohol By Volume 297

ElectricSteve writes "Most of the world's beer has between 4% and 6% alcohol by volume (ABV). The strength of beer achieved by traditional fermentation brewing methods has limits, but a well-crafted beer that is repeatedly 'freeze distilled' can achieve exquisite qualities and much higher alcohol concentrations. An escalation in the use of this relatively new methodology over the last 12 months has seen man's favorite beverage suddenly move into the 40+% ABV realm of spirits such as gin, rum, brandy, whiskey, and vodka, creating a new category of extreme beer. The world's strongest beer was 27% ABV, but amidst an informal contest to claim the title of the world's strongest beer, the top beer has jumped in strength dramatically. This week Gizmag spoke to the brewers at the center of the escalating competition. New contestants are gathering, and the race is now on to break 50% alcohol by volume."

Comment Remember graphology? (Score 3, Informative) 292

For a time in the '70s, World's Fairs, science expos, etc. might feature handwriting analysis by computer. A large, impressive, punchcard-based machine would read your signature or other writing sample and produce a 'description' of your personality.

Graphology has at times significant support, and its use has been explored by criminologists. Nowadays, it's generally considered to be a crock. One of the areas where graphology was earliest discredited was in its (in)ability to tell the gender of a writer.

The Daily Wail article makes similar claims to those made for graphology, including the ability to determine gender, and proposes some of the same uses for the new technique. I suspect this will wind up on the crock-shelf next to graphology.

Comment The problem is time... (Score 1) 609

Programmers work 50+ hour weeks, need to spend time maintaining skills they may not be using in their current job (to be ready for the next one), and need to spend time acquiring new skills (or else risk becoming obsolete). Add to this time for sleep, meals and the occasional shower.

So the question for me, as an early-career programmer, is: do I spend the 15 free minutes I have per week re-learning Linear Algebra, or studying Zizzmo++?

And please don't make the obvious lewd suggestion about how to spend 15 free minutes -- I do that in the shower!

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1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.