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Comment Re:Unfortunately no and I have a reason (Score 1) 305

The Abelson and Sussman textbook, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, uses LISP (actually Scheme). There are quite a few LISP fanatics who passionately feel it is still the best programming language made, citing such reasons as the simplicity of writing an interpreter for it. However, that textbook is pretty difficult. The authors didn't appreciate how hard recursion can be for many students to understand, and LISP and functional programming in general uses recursion so heavily it's the proverbial hammer for every nail of a programming problem.

Well, that's what you get when you beta test your textbook with MIT students. But that said, CLRS is no picnic for people who aren't very good at math, either.

Comment Re:Analyzing a car purchase over 1 year? (Score 1) 33

True. And the cost/arrest concept is broken too. Would the arrests have been made anyway? Could they have been made another way?

When people have a tool they use it, whether it is the use-case that was supposed to justify the purchase -- and that can be a good thing (because the widget is earning its keep) or a bad thing (using a tool that's overkill, to expensive to operate, or counterproductive). The real question is what did they specifically buy this for? If the cost justification was that it was going to allow them to make x arrests per year, it's probably a failure. If the cost justification is some other kind of scenario that doesn't necessarily happen every year (e.g. the Beltway Sniper), then the question is whether they're using this thing reasonably.


Why MakerBot Didn't Kickstart A 3D Printing Revolution ( 248

Bre PettisâS once said MakerBot gave you a superpower -- "You can make anything you need." But four years later, mirandakatz writes that though MakerBot promised to revolutionize society, "That never happened." At Backchannel, Andrew Zaleski has the definitive, investigative account of why the 3D printing revolution hasn't yet come to pass, culled from interviews with industry observers, current MakerBot leadership, and a dozen former MakerBot employees. As he tells it, "In the span of a few years, MakerBot had to pull off two very different coups. It had to introduce millions of people to the wonders of 3D printing, and then convince them to shell out more than $1,000 for a machine. It also had to develop the technology fast enough to keep its customers happy. Those two tasks were too much for the fledgling company."

Comment Re:Stop using cars at all. (Score 1) 234

Which precisely describes the opposite of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens.

Nobody is saying you ought to be forced to take the streetcar from Mayberry to Petticoat Junction. From Monmarte to the Bastile -- transit makes more sense than driving, especially if you factor in time for parking.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 3, Insightful) 77

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 230

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 5, Interesting) 322

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 451

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

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