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Comment Re:But really that's not how it works. (Score 1) 228

If you read the words "the gene for ..." relating to human beings in anything other than a medical context, you can be 95% certain that reading further is a waste of your time.
This reveals a basically magical, not scientific, idea of what "genes" are. Or a scammer.

Even in medical contexts, there is a vast gap between identifying a genetic variation associated with a disease and figuring out what the gene actually does and how the disease actually arises. It's the *beginning* of the real research.

A lot of this crap works along the lines of "Ooh, people with abnormalities in this gene can't speak" from which is deduced "Eureka! we've found the gene for language!"

Comment Mass Media coverage with no Peer Review (Score 4, Insightful) 215

The dead giveaway on Theranos is the splurging of publicity in mass mainstream media without anything at all published in relevant peer-reviewed specialist journals.

As soon as anyone asks why they would do that, the answer is obvious. You'd think.

Comment Re:Question (Score 1) 316

There is, as a matter of fact, a right answer to this question, if you do interpret it in the usual way with "or" as XOR, at least when the bullet is high-velocity.

The answer is "chest."

The key is "high velocity." This means that if the bullet is stopped by your body, the kinetic energy will cause massive tissue necrosis. Head or guts, you're just dead. Limb, you'll lose it if you live.

Chest, if it goes through heart or aorta, you're dead. But most of the space is lung, and the bullet will go straight through you, and with luck and prompt care you may survive pretty much intact.

I was told this by a South African trauma surgeon with great experience in this very area, in the context of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.

Comment Re:Easy grammar (Score 1) 626

Kenji Miyazawa, a very well known Japanese author of mainly children's stories, was very interested in Esperanto. The anime version of his "Midnight on the Galactic Railroad" has Esperanto in all the written materials you see in honour of this.

This was in the early part of the twentieth century, when there was a lot more interest in Esperanto worldwide. It probably is the case that there was at any rate more interest in it in Japan than you might have expected.

Comment On the other hand... (Score 4, Interesting) 365

A study on anonymous hiring practices in France showed that anonymization resulted in fewer minority candidates getting hired. Their explanation is essentially that the companies who care enough about diversity to participate in this sort of study are already subtly biased in favor of minority candidates, and anonymization put a stop to it. Considering the amount of focus big tech companies are putting on diversity, there's a fair chance the same thing is happening here too.

Comment Re:In fairness... (Score 3, Informative) 119

(They spoke Aramaic long before they became Christian, of course.)

The people in question call themselves Assyrians at the present day; there are some Akkadian words preserved in their Aramaic language even now, although Akkadian itself probably died out in the earlier part of the first millennium BC.

The name "Syriac" is itself from a worn-down version of the same name; it was once used pretty much as the equivalent of "Aramaic" but is now generallly used to describe only one particular version of Aramaic which was a major literary language of Western Asia in early Christian times, and is still used as a liturgical language by Nestorian Christians as far afield as India. The script is used to write several modern Aramaic languages spoken by Christians.

These ancient communities have suffered greatly in the Middle East wars of recent times, and a huge proportion have left as refugees.

Comment Re:In fairness... (Score 1) 119

Wrong Assyrians. The ones you're thinking of spoke Akkadian and wrote cuneiform.

Eventually their (Christian) descendants ended up speaking Aramaic like practically everyone else in the Near East at the time (it was the official language in the Western part of the Persian Empire); the modern Assyrian language is one of the many forms of modern Aramaic (now split into several different languages, much as Latin evolved into several different languages over much the same period) and this script is properly called Syriac, specifically Estrangela.

Comment Surprisingly badly written article (Score 5, Informative) 144

"About one-fifth of university-aged people in East Asia now have this extreme form of myopia, and half of them are expected to develop irreversible vision loss. "

It doesn't actually say what "this extreme form" is, exactly. Presumably cut out in editing and nobody noticed that this was left stranded. There was probably a reference to so-called "high myopia", which does indeed cause people typically in their teens to go from the ordinary fully-corrected-with-glasses myopia to being much more so, with potential "myopic degeneration" of the retina. It's a mystery why this only happens to some myopes.

The figures are scaremongering. Although this has indeed been a notable public health problem for a good while - the government of Singapore has been concerned about it for over a decade - it is nonsense that 10% of student-age people will go blind from it.

I'm an ophthalmologist. I specialise in diseases of the retina.

Comment Re:TFS just has marketing (Score 2, Interesting) 71

Yeah I'd like some more meat to the story as well. Amazon Glacier achieves its pricing by using low-RPM consumer drives plugged into some sort of high-density backplanes; supposedly they are so densely packed that you can only spin up a few drives at once due to power and heat issues. Hence the delay.

I assume Google is doing something similar, maybe with somewhat better power or cooling since they're offering faster retrieval times which implies that perhaps they can spin up a higher percentage of drives at a time.

Comment Re:Orbital (Score 1) 443

It's not a terribly serious setback in the history of space flight, but it could be a serious blow to Orbital.

Their whole program is built around the idea of using old surplus Soviet-era rocket engines, originally designed for the ill-fated N1 program. (The N1 program, as a sidenote, is responsible for one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history when one of its launch vehicles had a failure shortly after takeoff. On top of a zero-for-four launch record, it's not the program I'd pick to emulate.)

My understanding of the Soviet engines is that they have some design features that make them lightweight for their output, but represent tradeoffs not typically taken on Western engines, due to the risk of "burn through". But some people--perhaps including Orbital--thought that the designers had solved the problem and the risks were overstated.

Too early to tell right now, but if the engines turn out to have a fatal flaw, that would be bad for Orbital. It'd probably be good for SpaceX, since they're the obvious alternative, but it'd leave NASA down one contractor for the commercial launch program.

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"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982