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Comment Re:A little? (Score 2) 59

I once made a list of the usual sites that distracted me from work, and black-holed them in my hosts file. At first I was amazed at how often I would reflexively attempt to visit one of those sites before remembering my self-imposed blockade.

Interestingly, I don't think it made much of a difference in my overall productivity. I find that creative output comes in waves... I have days of pure concentration and peak output, followed by lulls where I occupy myself with busywork. The blockade really only impacted the lulls, since I didn't do much browsing during productivity peaks anyway. If my productivity during the lulls improved, the gain too small to be significant, and it came with the cost of increased annoyance.

After a few months, I got rid of the blockade.

Comment Pyrrhic victory (Score 3, Insightful) 426

I wonder what the advertisers think they'll gain if they manage to win this particular arms race. A wider audience of eager ad consumers?

Ad-block users aren't just people who don't like ads, they are the subset of the population who disliked ads enough to install a blocker. It's like when Microsoft changed the registry settings users had deliberately set to avoid the Win 10 "upgrade"... all they'll succeed in doing is angering those users.

Bypassing my ad-block won't turn me into a happy consumer of ads, but it will turn me away from that site.

Comment Re:The Internet of Things (Score 1) 77

You can't spell "idiotic" without IOT. Maybe I've gone prematurely old, but I have yet to come across an IoT feature or device that doesn't strike me as unnecessary, dangerous, or both.

At a minimum, who the hell thought the ability to remotely unlock the door was a good idea? (Yes, sure, I know you can construct some hypothetical scenario where such a thing is useful, but weigh that against risks inherent to such a feature.) I could maaaybe see "remotely lock the door" as a good feature, but the system had better be physically constructed in a way that it can only ever engage the lock.

Comment Computer to transcribe, paper to think (Score 4, Interesting) 192

Over the years I have gotten better at taking notes on a computer, to the point where I can make well-organized, nicely formatted notes in real time. I memorized a few shortcuts like Ctrl-Alt-1, 2, or 3 for various headings and subheadings, wrote a few macros to insert code blocks, etc. Since my typing speed is much faster than my handwriting, and the flexibility of being able to go back and edit or rearrange things, the computer is now my preferred method for taking notes during a lecture.

However, the minute I need to think creatively (whether to organize my thoughts, troubleshoot a problem, or create an outline for a new document), I immediately go back to pen and paper. I'm not entirely sure why... one would think that the ease of cutting and pasting on a computer would make it better suited for keeping up with fluid nature of creative thought, but no. Something about the tactile nature of the page makes it easier to think clearly, scribbles and all. I suspect it has to do with thinking habits ingrained from early childhood... or I might just be a Luddite at heart.

Comment Polygraph 2.0 (Score 2) 84

The TFA assumes that stylometry gives somewhat reliable results. It doesn't. Something as simple as an editor cleaning up a work can throw off the analysis.

Even in the optimal scenario (an unedited work by a single author who isn't trying to hide or imitate a different style), the best algorithms have abysmally high failure rates.

(KNN)â"50 neighbors: 0.69 success, 0.28 fail
Decision Tree 0.58 success, 0.42 fail
Mean Margins Tree 0.65 success, 0.36 fail

Stylometry is reasonably effective at correctly identifying when two works by the same author have the same style. It is garbage when it comes to determining when two works have different authors. If I were to guess, I'd say the problem is that the variation in style between authors (compared to the variation within a single author's work) is not always wide enough to allow for reliable identification.

Stylometry is interesting, certainly, but the prospect of such an unreliable method being used for important is alarming.

Comment Re:Necessary anywhere (Score 1) 126

How about closer to the sun than the L1 point, so that the radiation pressure is balanced by the gravitational pull of the sun?

Of course, L1 isn't a stable Lagrange point, so you'd have to expend energy to counteract gravitational perturbations from the other planets and fluctuations in solar radiation... but given the amount of solar energy you'd be collecting you'd have plenty of power to spare for manoeuvring.

No, the real problem would be the size of the damn thing. L1 is about four times the distance of the moon from the earth, so to block even 1% of the sun's light you'd need a shade almost half the moon's diameter.

Comment Re:Stephen Wolfram's greatest talent (Score 5, Informative) 105

I myself was curious, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Seems like he educated himself in particle physics when he was very young (started publishing papers at age 15), got accepted early by St. John's College when he applied at age 17, switched to CalTech at age 19, and got his Ph.D. a year later.

Now, obviously he was allowed to fast forward through the years of grinding that are normally required before you can enter college or work on a Ph.D. thesis. Given that he was already publishing widely cited physics papers at the age of 18, that was probably a good call on the part of his instructors.

Comment Re:Honestly ... (Score 2) 65

Even better, companies should stop the rampant collection of non-essential information.

Large databases of sensitive information are just massive breaches waiting to happen. If it's not a SQL injection attack, it will be some other exploit (heartbleed, shellshock, logjam, etc.) Even if you could magically defeat every exploit, the data can get exposed by any malicious or incompetent administrator. If nothing else, authorities with sufficient interest in the data could simply compel the database owners to turn it over.

When it comes to protecting amassed information, the only winning move is not to play.

Comment Re: So? (Score 1) 735

Nope... even if you got 100% of your electricity from dirty, dirty coal, the efficiency of the electric car is still so much higher than that of a standard gasoline ICE that you'll still end up putting less CO2 in the atmosphere for the same distance driven. A big coal-fired generator is a lot more efficient than a lot of small car motors.

Comment Re:Stupid people are stupid (Score 2) 956

Someone with MOHAMMED in their name carries wires and a circuit board and a clock display around in a box, and it makes noise to boot, what do you expect people to think?

Sadly, I'd expect them to do what you just did... leap to idiotic conclusions based on mindless prejudice. Watching people like you in positions of authority has drastically lowered my expectations over the years.

Comment Re:Why does he waste his time? (Score 2, Informative) 172

Will this be useful for solving real-world problems here and now? Probably not.

Does it help us better understand the universe? Absolutely.

The black hole information paradox is important in physics because a pretty fundamental idea of quantum mechanics is that it shouldn't be possible to destroy information. Burn a book? The complete information about all the molecules in the book are still encoded in the wave function of the system. Annihilate it with anti-matter? The information is now carried by the resulting gamma ray photons. You can make it difficult or impossible to recover the information, but the theory says you can't actually destroy the information itself.

This is why black holes are so interesting... having stuff disappear behind a one-way event horizon is basically the same as information destruction. It was a pretty fundamental paradox.

Now, whether you care about advances in theoretical physics is up to you, but to answer your question "who cares?"... I do. Nerds do. Join us... the universe is a wondrous and beautiful place.

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