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Comment Re:They did it to themselves (Score 1) 151

Farming hardware - tractors, harvesters, etc - has traditionally been *very* reliable and long-lived. In other words, what you might call "overbuilt". They have a hard time comprehending why their computers don't last longer than 3-4 years. I have to try to explain modern economics to them.

Is there perhaps a larger moral to be learned from this? Is there something about farm equipment -- or FARMERS -- that's different?

Just a thought, but farming is one job that actually requires long-term financial planning. I've known a surprising number of people who appear to live "paycheck-to-paycheck." Even smart people with advanced degrees -- some of them with advanced math skills. But they simply can't manage money enough to not spend basically everything that's in their bank account before the next paycheck comes in.

And our modern systems of credit make this possible. Decades ago, loans were rare; a large percentage of people saved up even for big purchases (cars, etc.) rather than taking out credit. But today everything is split up into convenient monthly chunks, spread out over a pay period or two.

Farmers can't plan like that. They plant stuff one season and won't see profit until the end of the year. And droughts and pests and unusual hot/cold spells occur, and this year's crops don't live up. So, as a farmer, you MUST have to still think in terms of saving for "hard times" and in a multi-year budget span, or you'll likely go backrupt in just a few years. (Admittedly, this is something I heard a couple decades ago from old farmers; I don't know what the business is like these days where small family-owned farms have become such a rarity.)

So -- coming back to the parent's example: is it coincidence that farming equipment has maintained standards for durability as farmers have to plan for decades of expenses to justify a purchase for a large piece of equipment? While meanwhile most of American society happily accepts lower prices in exchange for junk products with shorter lifespans? -- the same people who carry balances on credit cards with ridiculous interest rates?

The unfortunate trend is that even the old "reliable" manufacturers of things like appliances seem to have bought into the "planned obsolesence" ideology, so even if you parents had an appliance that lasted for 20, 30, or even 40+ years, it may be likely that the same brand product will only last 5 years for you... even if they are still charging a premium price for their "brand reputation." I personally would happily pay a much higher cost for something if I know it's worth it in terms of durability in the long-run, but I find it harder and harder to find product lines that I trust enough to take a chance on the higher expense.

Comment Re:/. editors: why do you maintain this shit hole? (Score 1) 741

Donald Trump broke this place.

Just wondering -- is Trump responsible for the ever more invasive ads here? Because it's over the top now. Beyond the pale. I started my migration to SoylentNews about 6 months ago. I've still be checking in here periodically, but if these ads don't stop, I'm DONE with Slashdot. I know everyone says that, but the ads now are simply unacceptable.

(And yeah, I can and do run adblockers, but I sometimes view the site without them... this is terrible.)

Comment Re:Lifestyle disease (Score 1) 145

When I read the reports I *never* got the idea that they were recommending refined flours, sugar, or other similar sources of sugar or starch. The closest I can come is a recommendation for baked potatoes...which is still sort of valid, though now we (or at least I) worry more about the starch.

Here's a story from Luise Light, who was a leading nutritionist at the USDA when the "Food Pyramid" was originally adopted. After the nutritionists submitted their recommended guidelines to the Secretary of Agriculture, here's what happened:

When our version of the Food Guide came back to us revised, we were shocked to find that it was vastly different from the one we had developed. As I later discovered, the wholesale changes made to the guide by the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture were calculated to win the acceptance of the food industry. For instance, the Ag Secretaryâ(TM)s office altered wording to emphasize processed foods over fresh and whole foods, to downplay lean meats and low-fat dairy choices because the meat and milk lobbies believed itâ(TM)d hurt sales of full-fat products; it also hugely increased the servings of wheat and other grains to make the wheat growers happy. The meat lobby got the final word on the color of the saturated fat/cholesterol guideline which was changed from red to purple because meat producers worried that using red to signify âoebadâ fat would be linked to red meat in consumersâ(TM) minds.

Where we, the USDA nutritionists, called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings (changed to 5-7 servings a couple of years later because an anti-cancer campaign by another government agency, the National Cancer Institute, forced the USDA to adopt the higher standard). Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries. Moreover, my nutritionist group had placed baked goods made with white flour â" including crackers, sweets and other low-nutrient foods laden with sugars and fats â" at the peak of the pyramid, recommending that they be eaten sparingly. To our alarm, in the âoerevisedâ Food Guide, they were now made part of the Pyramidâ(TM)s base.

Light's account of this has appeared elsewhere in lots of sources. Although we probably can't verify every one of her personal memories, it seems clear that the nutritional guidelines WERE deliberately altered to emphasize processed foods, including starches and sugars... granted, part of the alternations weren't really about encouragement, but rather removing warnings against them. But still -- it's pretty much "smoking gun" evidence against what you said.

(BTW -- apologies for the all the crappy characters showing up. I used to edit stuff I pasted in to conform to Slashdot's archaic encoding standards... but since they are now barraging me with invasive ads, I can't be bothered to respect this site anymore and will likely be leaving permanently anyway...)

Comment Re:Obama is to blame (Score 1) 741

You apparently feel no blame at all should fall on anyone but Trump, even though Trump didn't come into the picture until recently and the shooter has been falling for years. Yet you twist the truth to blame Trump for a tragedy much longer in the making - sick man, you are as sick as the shooter or heading that way.

And yet, from your previous post, you "apparently feel no blame at all should fall on anyone but Obama." I quote:

What triggers this shooting was a vet who couldn't get assistance from the VA [wibw.com]. After eight years, that is on Obama - as is Obama and supporters stirring racial tension and giving focus to a violent angry drunk man.

Look -- I feel like I have to say this on the internet every other day now, but events can have multiple causes. They certainly always have various factors that have to be in place for them to come to pass.

I frankly don't know this man. I haven't researched his story in detail. And I certainly don't feel that *I* have any business pontificating on the internet about what "triggered" this event.

In legal terms, this is generally known as the "proximate cause," something more immediate in the chain of causality. For all I know, this guy could have been ultimately set off because somebody gave him the green Jell-O instead of the red Jell-O in the lunchline that day.

Anyhow, YES, if this guy was denied proper care from the VA because of some shortfalls under Obama, SOME of the causality may be blamed on Obama (or, probably more likely, on various underlings who made poor decisions too).

On the other hand, Donald Trump has spent nearly the past 2 years creating a climate of xenophobia and hatred against immigrants in his rhetoric. GP wants to blame this entirely on Trump, but I'm sure that's not the case. On the other hand, you seem to want to shift the blame entirely AWAY from Trump and focus on a potentially more remote cause. (And note -- even if this guy was denied VA care, do you have specific proof that it was an Obama policy that denied him that care? Did Barack Obama personally reject a request from him for care? Or was this part of a chain of causality that actually makes more sense to blame someone who made poor decisions at a lower level?)

I really don't know. But I do know that Trump tries to get attention every day. He seems to thrive on "speaking" (tweeting) directly to the "people." If some of his anti-immigration rhetoric was heard by this guy, could it have had some significant impact?Maybe, as the news story you cite says, "this wasn't who he normally was," but a combination of mental problems AND pervasive news stories on immigrants as enemies in the conservative media... maybe that was something?

Again, I certainly don't have all the facts. But can we all just take a step back here and CALM THE [BLEEP] DOWN!?! Stop trying to find the one person to blame for anything. As I mentioned above, Obama was not the single person in charge of every decision at the VA. And Trump is certainly has been created by plenty of other supporters egging him on and encouraging him to continue his rhetoric.

There's lots of blame to go around. But can we all just acknowledge that -- regardless of the proximate causality chain here -- the current climate of xenophobia is likely to result in increased violence against immigrants overall??

Comment Re: Fake News (Score 1) 270

1. That was just an old theory, and not a widely accepted one.

2. Given what we've just seen, it demonstrably isn't.

That doesn't mean that there aren't compounds formed at great pressure that can remain stable at moderate pressures and represent very dense energy sources - there surely are. Metastability is a very real thing. But apparently not in the case of metallic hydrogen at ~STP.

Assuming that this actually even was metallic hydrogen; even that is somewhat in dispute.

Comment Re:Drone has no passenger at all. Results, not err (Score 1) 244

> What error in judgement did they make that makes them liable?

That's not the legal, or fair, standard. The results of my actions are the results, whether I made an error in judgement or just got unlucky.

Actually, you probably will want to read up on tort law, specifically standards for negligence. In the most detailed legal analysis, there are a number of elements to proving negligence. Along the line, you must establish that a defendant had a "duty" to act in a certain way and then "breached" that duty in some way. But you also not only need to prove that the defendant's actions caused something, but that they were a direct and legally relevant cause of the harm. Events always have multiple causes -- a lot of tort law is about sorting out which causes are legally relevant and which aren't.

Example: if you run over a pedestrian because you were drinking a soda and not paying attention to the road, a plaintiff generally can't bring a successful action against the shop that sold you the soda. Yes, the fact that you were distracted due to the soda was a cause of the accident, but it wasn't a legally relevant cause, because you were the one driving poorly, and your choice of distraction isn't the fault of the soda shop.

On the other hand, if you run over a pedestrian because you were drinking a bottle of whiskey, and you had bought that bottle after walking into a liquor store noticeably drunk, and surveillance footage has you on camera saying, "Yes, I'm gonna drink this and I'm gonna be drivin' all over town tonight -- I'd do give a crap if I hit someone..." -- well, in that case, the pedestrian who was struck might actually have a case to sue the liquor store, because they sold a dangerous item to someone already in a state unable to handle it and someone declaring he was going to use it improperly.

We could just as easily create scenarios with your "log in the road" example too where one person bears primary legal responsibility, or another party, or both. The problem with accidents and driving is that, unlike most other tort cases, the pervasive and required "insurance" has led to default assumptions about where liability must lie in almost all scenarios. Thus, even in cases where a provable manufacturer defect was the primary cause of a crash, you'll frequently still see insurance companies of the drivers arguing over having to pay damages too. That's just not always the case in most other legal scenarios -- in some cases, the product manufacturer may be primarily liable and a suit against the user could NOT be successful (and would even be summarily dismissed by a court) depending on the assumptions of "normal" product use and what happened.

According to your legal theory of negligence, consumers in fact could NEVER sue product manufacturers, since the "results of your action are the results"... and you're apparently solely responsible for them, even if the product blows up unexpectedly on you -- it was your fault for using it in the first place.

Maybe such a thing will be sold some day. Right now, cruise control amd automatic braking aren't anywhere near what you've described.

Then the cars aren't actually "self-driving." Until a car has the ability to handle ALL reasonably foreseeable road conditions as well as (or better than) a human driver, it should not be sold as a "self-driving car." And note that "reasonably foreseeable" has to do with the legal issue again. Just like the soda shop can't reasonably foresee that you'd hold a soda cup up in front of your face for a full 10 seconds while driving before plowing into a pedestrian, there are likely going to be scenarios where people try to operate "self-driving cars" in situations that a car manufacturer might never consider. But there will also be plenty of conditions it WILL consider "reasonable," and if the car causes an accident in those circumstances, they should be held liable.

If UPS's truck rear-ends me on an ice-covered road, I'm going to sue UPS.

This is an incredibly bizarre argument right in the middle of what you claim to be basing on your strict direct proximate causation theory of negligence. Unless the UPS packages deliver themselves to the doorsteps of customers, surely the UPS truck has a guy in the truck. Why aren't you suing HIM, according to your theory of negligence?? What does UPS have to do with it? If that guy hadn't started up the truck and ordered it to go on its route, the hazard wouldn't have been created.

And of course UPS DOES have something to do with it, because they deployed the truck fleet. So even if there is a closer proximate cause (the "driver" of the truck putting it on the road), there may also be a corporation behind that action that should assume some of the blame. That is EXACTLY the same legal argument (which you implicitly assumed to be the case) that argues for the self-driving truck company as liable. Just as UPS chose to deploy the fleet, so Tesla chose to market the trucks as "self-driving." Depending on whether UPS operated the trucks under specs or not, you may be able to successfully sue UPS or Tesla or both.

Bottom line: events have more than one cause, both in the real world and legally. Not all of them are legally the most important. And a guy sitting in the back seat of a "self-driving" car is generally not going to be as responsible as the company that marketed the car as "self-driving" to begin with. And car companies can't be allowed to get away with no liability with a 25-page statement saying, "Don't ever use this car under X, Y, Z, and 9583 other conditions" when that's not practical. If they are going to sell it as a "self-driving" car, it needs to be able to operate under a reasonable set of road conditions that can be foreseeable.

To take your example of icy roads, well, on a single trip, road conditions may change from clear to icy. A true "self-driving" car must be equipped with some mechanism to detect potentially unsafe road conditions and to warn the passenger that travel is no longer safe. If the passenger then chooses to override that mechanism and have the car continue driving anyway, there should be a clear warning that he is now legally responsible for any damages the car may cause while operating outside of parameters. Without such a detection or warning system, why should a passenger be liable in something marketed as a "self-driving" car? Part of the duty of drivers is to pay attention to road conditions. A "self-driving" car by definition needs to be able to detect that and adjust its behavior.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 204

Indeed, on both counts. And in particular I like the word "rogue planet". Again you have an adjective imparting additional information about another object ("Rogue X"), "rogue" can be readily quantified ("Not in a stable orbit around any particular star or cluster of stars"), and it's a very evocative term. And rogue planets are absolutely expected according to our current models. They'll be incredibly difficult to find, but they're out there.

We're also coming to the realization that there's a lot of objects, potentially including large ones, that are only tenuously bound to our solar system. And it's likely that we readily exchange this mass with other nearby stars over cosmologic timescales; parts of our solar system (primarily distant ones) likely formed by other stars, and things that condensed during the formation of our star system are likely now orbiting other stars.

Comment Re: Fake News (Score 4, Insightful) 270

No woman I've asked likes the way brown diamonds look- even if you call them "chocolate".

The weird thing is, I can't imagine why anyone would like a plain diamond. It just looks like glass. Rubies, emeralds and sapphires are colorful and can compliment ones eyes, or clothes or accessories, while diamonds just don't attract attention. Unless there's a dozen of them, in which case you're bankrupt.

Of course, I'm just a man and I wouldn't understand anything a woman wants.

Comment Re:Weak/nonexistent punishments for faulty notices (Score 1) 81

All patent applications are signed under penalty of perjury. However, the US Patent and Trademark office disbanded its enforcement department in 1974. So, you can perjure yourself on a patent application with impunity.

Unless it's testimony in a criminal case, or the perjury trap in front of a grand jury, or something they want to prosecute like lying on your tax form, the Federal government is in general lassiez faire about perjury, or even encouraging of it with their reluctance to prosecute, especially perjury committed by a so-called intellectual property holder.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 204

The short of it, Jupiter moves things around; it's very good at scattering other bodies, even large ones. First it dragged outer populations into the inner solar system, then scattered inner solar system material out, and then on its retreat pulled outer solar system material back in. It's actually a very big deal that it did that, as it brought ice into the inner solar system.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 2) 204

1. "Adjective nouns" need to have similarity to "noun" but aren't necessarily a subset. Gummy bears aren't a subset of bears either.

Gummy bears are not a scientific term. Besides, the IAU itself already uses the word dwarf in this manner. Dwarf stars, dwarf galaxies... but carved out an inexplicable exception for dwarf planets.

I'd like to see a citation on this. I highly doubt that you can simulate the formation of a solar system where multiple Mars analogues can coexist in the same orbit

False equivalency. There's a difference between "two Mars sized planets existing in the same orbit" and "Mars' orbit having been cleared". And more to the point, the biggest problem with the concept of Mars clearing its orbit is that its orbit was already largely cleared when it formed. According to our best models, Jupiter reached all the way in to around where Mars' orbit is today, and had cleared almost everything to around 1 AU. Earth and Venus accreted from planetesimals between each other. Mars accreted from planetary embryos ejected to the space in-between Earth and Jupiter. Without Jupiter's migration, simulations produce an Earth-sized Mars and several planetary embryos in the asteroid belt on eccentric / high inclination orbits, something akin to the situation between Neptune and Pluto - except with the embryos nearly Mars-sized.

3. In a geological sense yes. But the current definition of planets is based on orbital mechanics, after which Earth is a lot closer to Jupiter than to Ceres/Pluto.

Huh? By what aspect of orbital mechanics? By semimajor axis and velocity, Earth is much closer to Ceres than Jupiter. Are you talking inclination and eccentricity? Then we should boot Mars in favour of low inclination / eccentricity asteroids.

4. Hydro-static equilibrium as a dividing line is way worse. There are roughly 100 TNOs where we don't really know whether they are elliptical.

Hydrostatic equilibrium can be very easily estimated based on mass, which can be approximately deduced within a range of feasible albedos and densities, and very accurately deduced if the body has a moon. By contrast, it's almost impossible to estimate neighborhood clearing to any distance beyond Neptune, or at all in the case of extrasolar planets. Which, to reiterate, the IAU definition says aren't planets, even though they have an extrasolar planet working group.

We'd have to visit each and every one of them with a probe just to put them in the proper category.

This is utter nonsense.

Meanwhile, it's completely clear which bodies qualify for the "clearing its orbit" rule.

No, it's not. We have virtually no clue what lies in the outer reach of our solar system. As we speak there's a search for a new planet that could be as big as an ice giant. It's a huge open question as to whether it would have cleared its neighborhood, and it will be very difficult to ascertain.

All currently qualifying planets have roughly 99% or more of the mass in their orbit in themselves. Ceres has 30%.

You seem to have some weird concept going on that "semimajor axis = orbit". Ceres has nothing of significance in its orbit. The asteroids are not all in the same orbit. They're certainly more likely to cross each others orbits, but that's not the same thing.

And again, since you apparently missed it: the reason that the inner solar system is largely cleared except for the asteroid belt (and the reason that the latter exists) is Jupiter. Mars did not clear its own neighborhood.

5. The definition should be mutable. Why should a planet that gets ejected keep counting as a planet?

You seriously have to ask why something that hasn't changed but is in a different location shouldn't suddenly be declared to be something entirely different? If you take a rabbit to Canada does it suddenly become a dwarf rabbit?

6. I highly doubt life could form in a non-cleared orbit.

Once again, you're stuck on this misconception that the only orbital parameter that exists is the semimajor axis. And also apparently a notion that stable orbital resonances don't exist.

Orbits can come in a wide range of forms. If you want to see how crazy they get, check out Epimetheus and Janus ;)

As for a life bearing celestial in orbit around another (gas giant) planet: I don't think anybody feels bad about calling that one a moon? As in "Yavin 4".

The funny point with your example being, that whenever you illustrate a large round (hydrostatic equilibrium) moon in sci-fi - Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, whatever - people invariably keep calling it a planet and having to correct themselves. We inherently recognize "large, round object with relevant gravity = planet", and have to shoehorn our minds into not using that term.

7. "Within each other's periapsis and apoapsis" seems like a reasonable enough definition that neither Ceres nor Pluto qualify for.

Once again, you ignore most orbital elements (seriously, stop right now and go read the Wikipedia article on orbital elements). We don't live in a 2D solar system. And your notion is oversimplified even for 2D.

All of this, let alone other aspects such as mass ratios, resonance, metastability, etc. And it gets even more complicated when you view the solar system not as a 2-body problem but a multi-body problem. Then things like horseshoe orbits, Lagrangian points, etc come into play.

8. Yes that's silly but that'll probably be changed easily enough and has no effect on Pluto.

1) It's over a decade later. Where's the fix?
2) It's just a symptom of how horribly hasty and ill-thought-out their action was.

9. How are you planning to ascertain hydro-static equilibrium for an exoplanet if we can't even do it for Varuna.

What are you talking about? Varuna is the size of Ceres. The fact that it hasn't been declared a dwarf planet by the IAU is again a symptom of the IAU's dysfunction on this issue. See #18. By contrast, we'd have no snowball's chance in hell of identifying all potential orbit crossers for it.

The fact that you bring up Varuna makes me think that you feel it shouldn't be a planet because it's an oblate spheroid. If so, that just reveals yet another problem with your understanding: you need to go look up the definition of hydrostatic equilibrium. Hint: if Varuna wasn't an oblate spheroid, then it wouldn't be in hydrostatic equilibrium.

Comment Re:TL;DR something you claim is cogent...? (Score 5, Informative) 204

The IAU spend months in total hashing out this issue and three days talking in meetings before the vote

That's just the issue: that's not what happened. The IAU discussion was a disaster. Here's the timeline:

2005: The IAU appoints a committee to investigate the issue and generate a proposal. The committee investigated the issue for a year.

The IAU meeting is scheduled from 14-25 August 2006.

16 August: The committee recommends a definition based on hydrostatic equilibrium. No "cleared the neighborhood" nonsense. They publish their draft proposal.

18 August: The IAU division of planetary sciences (aka, the people who actually deal with planets) endorses the proposal.

Also 18 August: A subgroup of the IAU formed which opposed the proposal. An astronomer in the group (aka, someone who studies stars, not planets) - Julio Ángel Fernández - made up his own "cleared the neighborhood" definition. While most of the membership starts to trickle away over the next week, they remain determined to change the definition.

22 August: The original, hydrostatic equilibrium draft continued to be the basis for discussion. There were some tweaks made (some name changes and adjusting the double-planet definition), but it remained largely the same.

Late on 22 August: Fernández's group manages to get to just over half of the attendance at the (open) drafting meeting, leading to a very "heated" debate between the two sides.

22 to 24 August: The drafting group begins to meet and negotiate in secret. The last that the general attendance of the conference knew, they'll either end up with a vote on a purely hydrostatic definition, or (more likely) no vote at all due to the chaos. Attendence continues to dwindle, particularly among those who are okay with either a hydrostatic definition or none at all.

24 August: The current "cleared the neighborhood" definition is suddenly proposed and voted on on the same day. Only 10% of the conference attendance (4-5% of the IAU membership) is still present, mainly those who had been hanging on trying to get their definition through. They pass the new definition.

It's not generally laypeople who are upset about how it went down, it's IAU members. Many have complained bitterly about it to the press. The IAU's own committee of experts was ignored, in favour of a definition written in secret meetings and voted on by a small, very much nonrandom fraction of people, the vast majority of whom do not study planets.

If there's one thing I hate, it's people who pretend that anyone who opposes the IAU definition does so because they're ignorant morons overcome by some emotional attachment to Pluto, when in reality it's been planetary scientists themselves who have been the definition's harshest critics, because it's an internally self-inconsistent, linguistically flawed, false-premise-based definition that leads to all sorts of absurd results and contradicts terminology that was already in widespread use in the scientific literature.

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