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Submission + - I like my relationships like I like my source... open (

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at the University of Edinburgh Informatics department have created joke generating software in time to rival comedians at this month's Fringe Festival. Their system uses Google n-gram data and an unsupervised machine learning model to encode assumptions about what make jokes in the form: "I like X like I like my Y, Z" funny. The paper is being presented at the 51st annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics in Sofia, Bulgaria next week, read the paper here.

Comment Re: A good first step (Score 2) 121

Academic journals typically have an editor or group of editors who work for little or no pay. These editors decide whether a submission should proceed to peer review, select the reviewers, and oversee the communication between the reviewers and the submitting authors. Academics do this work for free because it is considered to be part of the vocation of creating and expanding knowledge. Publishers were necessary in the past because they handled the logistics of typesetting and printing and distributing the material, but now authors are able to typeset their own papers and distribute them through the internet.

The Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR) exempifies this change. Much of the editorial board of the Machine Learning Journal collectively resigned to form JMLR as an open-access journal. The new journal had all of the prestige and experience that the old one used to have, with virtually none of the costs, and is doing just fine.

Comment Re:further reason for a popular vote (Score 1) 642

First, it's going get get dumped the first time the "wrong" candidate wins the popular vote by 0.001% and some blue state has to vote all red or vice versa. Imagine all whining about the 'stolen' election in Florida, but an order of magnitude more annoying.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Under this system, the electoral college becomes a mere formality. People will of course be curious about how their state voted, but the determining factor is the popular vote, not the electors. It's a lot easier to justify "one person, one vote" than "one person, a variable number of votes according to a 250-year-old compromise that depends on your state's relative population."

Secondly, it's a huge incentive to cheat wildly in counting the votes. In order to prevent rampant cheating, you'd have to get all the States to agree on a single voting procedure and/or control of their election systems by the Federal government. If the latter's the case, you're right back to needing to amend the Constitution.

I don't follow. How is it more of an incentive to cheat wildly when you have to fake a 1-2% swing in 122 million votes nationwide compared to, say, the 5.5 million votes in Ohio?

Finally, there are plenty of States that aren't going to want this. If urbanization continues then a small number of urban centers will be setting policy for vast areas of the US about which they know little and care less. How many bitter gun-clinging, religious, 'fly over' states want to give over their power of self-determination to LA or NY?

By the same logic, right now we have rural areas disproportionately setting policy for urban areas. Under a popular vote plan, the rural areas would receive attention that more closely reflects their population. Is this a problem? Moreover, those states, and rural regions of those states, would still have disproportionate representation in the Senate and gerrymandered congressional seats: this proposal is only for presidential elections.

Also, I doubt the opposition would be that stiff in most states. There were only 19 states, worth only 189 electoral college votes, with a partisan advantage of more than 20 points in 2012 (i.e. more partisan than 60/40, ignoring 3rd parties). A national popular vote would allow the votes of the losing 40%+ in the other states and districts to still count.

Comment Re:further reason for a popular vote (Score 2) 642

Hmm, 100% of the States agree to this to make the change...

Alternately, 75% of the States have to agree for a Constitutional Amendment.

Yah, it's sooooo much easier to get the States to bypass the amendment process....

Read the article (here's the link again). Only 270 electoral votes' worth of states need to agree for this change. This is because a state is constitutionally allowed to allocate its electors in any way that it wants. Under the national popular vote compact, each state agrees to allocate their electors to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of what the state's own citizens do. Once enough states agree to this, it doesn't matter if the other 268 votes' worth of states decide to go along or not. The winner of the popular vote is guaranteed to get the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.

Comment Re:Couldn't we just charge them tuition? (Score 1) 689

It's worth pointing out that it goes the other way too. Any doctoral student from the US working/studying at a lab somewhere else will most likely be supported by grants to that lab, not with money from the US.

Where do you think Grant money comes from?

...from the government or other organization of "somewhere else," of course. I'm an American pursuing a PhD in Scotland, and all of my fees and living expenses are covered by funds ultimately either from the Scottish government or tuition to my university (and this tuition is zero for Scottish and EU students, except England, Wales, and Northern Ireland).

Comment Re:I'd hire him (Score 1) 368

As the saying goes, "the plural of anecdote is not data." Anecdotes by their nature are subject to sampling bias: an anecdote is not brought up unless it is somehow interesting. Taking a larger sample of anecdotes just inflates the sampling bias. You need to make sure your observations are representative, typically through taking a random sample or running a controlled experiment, to call it "data."

Comment Re:Congress Sucks (Score 1) 858

Health insurance is insurance. It survives because it takes calculated risks, and the general public is not a very good risk health-wise. The value and the problem with insurance is that it faces the reality that there are limited resources out there head-on. Now you may well be correct to say that using those resources for the benefit of only those who can pay is unfair, but what criteria do you use to ensure fair distribution?

The general public is a much better risk than the current system, which contains a disproportionate number of people who need more expensive treatments because they've been avoiding relatively cheap preventative care, or show up to the emergency room with no coverage at all. The health care reform prioritizes preventative care and universal coverage. You're right that the general public is a worse bet than only NBA players, but it's a much better bet than what we're covering now.

Comment Re:Supply and Demand (Score 1) 454

As a current PhD student (although not in astronomy), I think writing a dissertation is actually the most rewarding aspect of doing a PhD. First, during your PhD, you have a lot more freedom in determining the direction of your work than most researchers. As I understand it, funding agencies tend to require specific deliverables that constrain possible research questions after the PhD, but PhD research is much more open-ended. So a dissertation is an opportunity for a student to really spend some time thinking very carefully about something they care about.

However, this is only relevant if the student has the peace of mind to actually think carefully. I'm an American doing a PhD in the UK, and one of my main considerations for coming here was that UK PhD program(me)s are 3-4 years with no required courses. I did sit in on one course (for no credit) my first term, but was able to get started on my research right away, and will be submitting in December just over 3 years after starting. I've also been TA-ing (and tutoring, and marking) for one course, but it's been much less stressful than the American habit of throwing a grad student in front of 30 freshmen with little preparation.

DNA Analysis Probes the End of Human-Neanderthal Sex 160

An anonymous reader writes "Modern Europeans may have interbred with Neanderthals as recently as 37,000 years ago, after modern humans with advanced stone tools expanded out of Africa, according to a new study. In an attempt to understand why the Neanderthals are more closely related to people from outside of Africa, researchers from Harvard and the Max Planck Institute estimated that while the last sex between Neanderthals and modern humans may have occurred 37,000 to 86,000 years ago, it is most likely that it occurred 47,000 to 65,000 years ago."

Super Bacteria Create Gold 180

SchrodingerZ writes "With the price of gold skyrocketing in today's market, Michigan State University researchers have discovered a bacterium that can withstand high toxicity levels that are necessary to create natural gold. '"Microbial alchemy is what we're doing — transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that's valuable," said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.' The bacteria is Cupriavidus metallidurans, which is conditioned to be tolerant to heavy, toxic metals and to be 25 times stronger than most bacteria. When put into gold-chloride (a natural forming toxic liquid), the bacteria reproduces and converts the liquid into a gold nugget. The complete process takes about a week to perform. This experiment is currently on tour as an art exhibit called 'The Great Work of the Metal Lover.'"

OSU's Microbial Fuel Cell Could Make Waste Treatment an Energy Source 70

An anonymous reader writes "A team of engineers from Oregon State University has developed a breakthrough microbial fuel cell that is capable of generating 10 to 50 times more electricity from waste than other MFCs. The team hopes that their innovation will enable waste treatment plants to not only power themselves, but also sell excess electricity back to the grid. 'If this technology works on a commercial-scale the way we believe it will, the treatment of wastewater could be a huge energy producer, not a huge energy cost,' said associate professor Hong Liu. 'This could have an impact around the world, save a great deal of money, provide better water treatment and promote energy sustainability.'"

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