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Comment Re:Males are not a population (Score 1) 454

2) Random chemicals in the environment are mutating the Y gene faster (so change is not coming from a benefit just a lot of random change)

All mutations in genes are random. The changes themselves aren't caused by any benefit. The changes happen no matter what.

A mutation that does not actually bring about any difference will just get passed along without effect. A mutation that changes something can have a positive or negative effect on the prospects of the person with that mutation passing it along. Over time, mutations that are either beneficial or neutral to prospects of reproduction make their way through the population.

Submission + - M.U.L.E. is back! (planetmule.com)

jmp_nyc writes: The developers at Turborilla have remade the 1983 classic game M.U.L.E. The game is free, and has slightly updates graphics, but more or less the same gameplay as the original version. As with the original version, up to four players can play against each other (or fewer than four with AI players taking the other spots). Unlike the original version, the four players can play against each other online.

For those of you not familiar with M.U.L.E., it was one of the earliest economic simulation type games, revolving around the colonization of the fictitious planet Irata (Atari spelled backwards). I have fond memories of spending what seemed like days at a time playing the game, as it's quite addictive, with the gameplay seeming simpler than it turns out to be. I'm sure I'm not the only Slashdotter who had a nasty M.U.L.E. addiction back in the day and would like a dose of nostalgia every now and then...

Comment Re:not a thermal insulator and heat tax (Score 1) 194

Data centers could learn a thing or two from Scottish distilleries.

The process of distilling produces, as its waste product, absolutely pure water that is just below boiling temperature. There are rather strict environmental regulations that prohibit the distilleries from putting the water back into streams without first cooling it to the temperature of the stream. Different distilleries have come up with different solutions to this problem. Several of them maintain rather large, extremely shallow manmade lagoons, which quickly cool the water to much closer to air temperature as the water enters at one end and exits at the other. At Aberlour, they pour the water over a pile of large rocks, with the water being cool by the time it reaches the bottom. The most ingenious use is at Bowmore, where the water is used to heat an indoor public swimming pool run by the distillery for the local community.

Yes, there's potential harm to ecosystems by releasing heated water into rivers/streams, but there are ways of cooling that water that are relatively inexpensive, some of which even adding virtually no operating costs once the capital expenditures are complete.

Comment Re:10lbs...throwable? (Score 3, Interesting) 270

First off, the summary says that the military keeps requesting progressively smaller robots. This one might be 10 lbs, but there may be a 5 lbs version in the future.

As for usefulness, it depends on the application, and how mobile the robot is once it hits the ground. For example, in a firefight situation, a robot might be able to move through the crossfire (perhaps even taking a couple of bullets in the process) in a way that a human could not.

Personally, given that urban house-to-house combat is much more prevalent these days, I'd be more interested in a robot that would have no trouble climbing stairs and turning doorknobs. Better to send a robot into booby-traps than humans...

Comment Re:'Maker Logic' seems natural to me. (Score 1) 274

At a company I used to work for, I got in trouble with my supervisor and the CEO upon completion of a huge project on which I was the lead developer. When we first defined the scope of the project, my immediate supervisor asked me about how many programmer-hours it would take to complete the project. After a day of going over the spec with the programmer who would be overseeing a major component of the project (I'd be building the other major component myself), I said it would take about 1400 programmer-hours.

My supervisor assumed that the 1400 hours figure was a complete BS answer, and that no project could actually take that long to build, so he lowballed it in his estimate to the higher ups as 1000 hours, figuring that his stellar management skills (that is, calling us away from working to sit in meetings to talk about why the project was so massive) would help trim the time down. Of course, my figure included assumptions that the client would surprise us with unexpected data flow and that we'd waste a whole lot of hours in meetings.

The week after the project launched, when the timesheets were compiled, it turned out that the project had taken 1375 programmer-hours to complete. My immediate supervisor was furious, because he honestly felt that I'd been kidding about the 1400 hour figure, even though I'd provided solid documentation of the breakdown of the work. (It didn't help that he didn't actually understand the project, or why it was complicated.)

That next week, the CEO gave me an hour long reaming about the project. Apparently, the company lost a huge amount of money on it. It seems that my immediate boss had reported to his superiors that his estimate of 1000 hours was based on applying a 15% overrun to my estimate of how long it would take, and that there was no way we would take longer than 1000 hours. The company had then based the price quoted to the client on the 1000 hour figure, with a reasonable profit margin on top. Of course, the 1375 hours spent on the project was well above the break-even point on what should have been a hugely profitable project for the company, all because my supervisor didn't like my estimate...

Comment Re:Urban Transit (Score 2, Interesting) 806

Actually, the site is freerangekids.wordpress.com and it's the woman who caused a huge stink in the mainstream media for letting her son take the subway alone in NYC.

I'm raising my own kids in Manhattan, as I was raised here. My older son is just 3, so he's not yet old enough to cross streets by himself, but we let him run down the block when it's not too crowded, and he knows to wait for an adult at the corner. In our neighborhood, there's more of a hazard of him running into an oncoming stroller when he isn't paying attention than to falling victim to some sort of mythical pervert, especially since with the huge number of people with young kids on the sidewalks, everyone keeps an eye out for things that are truly out of place.

The best example is in the playgrounds. The kids who are old enough to cross the streets by themselves go to our local playground by themselves. (NYC recently announced a campaign to increase the number of playgrounds so that there is a playground within a 10 minute walk of every legal residence in the entire city. Estimates are that it may take fewer than a half dozen additional playgrounds to achieve that.) The youngest kids are watched by parents or caregivers. My brother described going to meet up with my kids at the playground one time, when they were with their caregiver. He described walking into the entry of the playground and standing there, looking for my kids. As he did so, he watched every single caregiver size him up, then make sure that they were between him and the kid they were taking care of. The instant he connected with my kids (and it was obvious from their caregiver's response that my brother was a welcome, familiar face), they all relaxed and went back to letting the kids be kids. In speaking to some of the caregivers, there's enough of a community in that park that an unfamiliar adult wouldn't be allowed to walk off with any kid who didn't know him/her, even if it's one of the older kids who's there alone.

One of the worst parts of the car culture in most parts of the US is that people don't interact with each other. Living in a pedestrian-centric place, there's a real sense of community. I can recognize the people who I see every single day, even if I don't actually have any interaction with them. It's how humans lived for thousands of years, and there's still something to be said for it...

Comment Re:If you're dealing with phone numbers (Score 5, Informative) 509

While you're absolutely right about the reasoning behind NYC, LA, and Chicago getting 212, 213, and 312, you're a little off on the 989 and 979 area codes, which are much more recent.

In the original system design, all area codes had a middle digit of 0 or 1. The convention was that a middle digit of 1 was used for area codes that only covered part of a state, while a middle digit of 0 was used for area codes that covered entire states. Furthermore, an area code could not begin with a 1 or a 0. and an area code with a middle digit of 1 couldn't have 1 as the third digit. (This left the shortest dial time area code for a statewide code as 201, which went to New Jersey.)

As early as the late 1950s, the idea of single area codes for some states went out the window (with NJ splitting into 201 and 609 in 1958) because of increasing population and proliferation of phone service.

By the late 1980s, the rules were further changed to allow for area codes with middle digits other than 1 or 0. Area codes like 989 and 979 weren't introduced until the late 1980s at the very earliest, by which point very few people were still using rotary phones. At one point, I had heard that the middle digit value of 9 was reserved for the future to allow for four digit area codes, but I can't vouch for the accuracy of that recollection. There are plenty of other rules, some of which you can see summarized here...

Comment Re:It just comes naturally with experience (Score 1) 880

Have you ever watched a baby play with a new object?

Remember that a baby is just as intelligent as an adult, they just lack all of the experience, so they approach the world with no preconceived notions, including the idea that results are repeatable until they can prove it for themselves.

A baby will try the same things over and over again, testing to see if the same thing happens. I watched my two year old go through phases where he would go through the process of changing one thing in a system, then repeat his experiment a few more times to see how that changed the outcome, then he'd try it with another change.

My mother (a scientist by training and profession) observed that it's amazing that children are born with an innate understanding of scientific method, yet somehow our society and/or education system manage to strip them of that understanding, which comes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

So maybe the trick isn't to teach them to be skeptical, but to take steps to insure that they never lose the skepticism with which they're born. Unfortunately, most people wait until it's way too late to do that.

Media (Apple)

Submission + - Apple settles Think Secret out of existence

jmp_nyc writes: Think Secret has just posted a press release on their site, reading as follows:

Apple and Think Secret have settled their lawsuit, reaching an agreement that results in a positive solution for both sides. As part of the confidential settlement, no sources were revealed and Think Secret will no longer be published. Nick Ciarelli, Think Secret's publisher, said "I'm pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits."
Since Think Secret has disabled commenting on the story on their site (big surprise), I figured /. would be the perfect place to pick up the topic.
Portables (Apple)

Submission + - World's biggest iPod-compatible devices

jmp_nyc writes: It won't have the biggest screen, or the highest resolution, but Apple just issued a press release announcing that they're partnering with several airlines to offer iPod integration for passengers.

Now, my first thought was "why would anyone want to listen to their iPod through a plane's crappy sound system? It turns out that the plan is to have docks that will allow passengers to route video from the iPod to the screen on the back of the seat in front of them. While those screens are usually far from the best quality LCD screens, there are certainly going to be people who will deal with the slightly larger, crappy screen in exchange for not having to hold the iPod while watching video during the flight, not to mention not having to worry about battery life while in flight.

Since this uses Apple's proprietary dock connector, is there any real hope for the competition to catch up with them now? I somehow doubt Microsoft is getting Zune connectors installed at other airlines.

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