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Comment Re:Africans are idiots. (Score 1) 205

I'm skeptical that China's current political environment can sustain the kind of dynamics that are very useful to get innovation. Somehow it doesn't seem very conducive to innovation to have to worry about what the Thought Police thinks you're up to, to have to deal with bureaucrats and a very top-down style of economic policy, not to be able to freely communicate with others (including foreigners) or move about your own country, etc.

On the other hand, China has the benefits of long term planning, large population, school systems that produces large quantities of scientists and engineers. Additionally, they now also have all the factories in their back-yard, lots and lots of money and a government very actively seeking to increase R&D.

In the US, we have talent wasting away in manipulating money in wall street producing no value, small term profit agendas that cannot seem to develop industries that could happen 10-20 years down the line like alternative energy technologies and a school system that is failing to produce students interested in science and technology and a culture that doesn't really laud scientific and technological innovation, a population that understands every nuance of the prime directive from Star Trek but nothing about the prime number theorem.

I guess I support the opposite view that China will succeed in innovation. USSR had similar problems you listed above but was able to innovate and advance scientific knowledge. Like the large number of medals in the Olympics, I think China will catch up and lead innovation in many fields but they will very carefully pick at what they want instead of letting it happen from individual scientists and engineers.

I don't know if your above statement is a sort of restatement of American exceptionalism, but I don't think that China being an innovation leader in a field makes US less of an innovator. I would love to see China and US both innovating and competing and I think it would be better as a world and a better US. I find that people in the US are irrationally scared from a little competition from China.

Comment Re:There are several factors at play here (Score 1) 368

Ideas are plentiful

Ideas are infinite and ideas are possibly independent of humans as well. When we talk about ideas, we are possibly talking about a subset of those that would lead to better human lives; finding those good ones among the many useless ones is what is not plentiful. It's not evident that just having more people could lead to finding those good ideas, especially if there are rewards for good ideas.

Ideas are easy

Again good ideas are not easy.

There are fewer 'good' big ideas left

For all we know, there might be an infinite number of good big ideas and would probably never be fewer of great ideas.


Every teenager knows something about the intricacies of operating systems and telecommunication systems now - something of a niche 10 years ago. People use the freeway everyday where 100 years ago it would be niche. The tail of a distribution is still an infinite, under a condition can be a [0,1] distribution.

Good-old-fashioned nostalgia

Today's benefits were ideas of people generations ago and the whole point of the article was that maybe good ideas aren't being promoted as well as before. We have to keep a careful check to make sure new good ideas are constantly being generated even though the benefits will not probably be realized in our lifetimes.

Comment Re:Could Someone Help Me Out With This? (Score 1) 844

As an engineer that uses math on a daily basis, the more I read about the rising debt the more confused I am.

First mistake is to compare personal finance with budgets. Governments can easily print extra money to pay off debts and balance budgets. This would lead to inflation and problems related to it but it could be done.

The main reason given for deficit spending is that it will stimulate private sector investments and thus lead to a surplus budget in the future. If your plan of cutting spending and raising taxes are instituted during a recession, it could lead to a dangerous downward spiral where less spending reduces the private spending which in turn reduces taxes and budget and so on.

But, indefinite deficit spending is not sustainable and has to balanced by surpluses in the past or future. However, the timespans for governments and countries is generations and the expectation and burden of such a surplus might be left to a generation that is not even born yet.

Comment Re:Can't deliver 1080p now. (Score 1) 354

Few sources, even Blu-Ray, consistently deliver 1080p now. Get close enough to a display to see the pixels, and notice the compression blur that stabilizes once motion stops.

1080p is just a resolution. Compression blur has nothing to do with resolution.

The next logical step is a higher frame rate. 24FPS for movies is way too slow. Cameron ("Titanic", "Avatar", etc.) has been bitching about this for years. He likes pans over highly detailed backgrounds, which produce strobing effects at 24FPS. Movies should be at least 48FPS, and maybe 72FPS. (The Showscan tests [] indicate that viewers notice improved quality up to about 72FPS, but not above that, so that's the limit of human perception.)

This has nothing to do with TVs. TVs can provide much higher than 72 FPS. This is the codec/standards problem and the bottleneck here is not the TV.

Comment Re:Joe Sixpack isn't even using his 1080p right (Score 1) 354

1080p is just resolution - 1080p in itself is meaningless in terms of quality; DVDs can be unscaled to 1080p resolution and those DVD players are delivering 1080p resolution but it looks like crap.

Blu-rays with components will look better because there is less compression artifacts than DVDs and the color depth (number of available colors) is higher than in DVDs. Again sitting 10ft will not diminish the higher color depths. As for cable boxes, the cost of cable is more per year than the cost of a TV and upgrading to HD cable is a bigger investment than a new TV.

Comment Re:24 people? (Score 1) 244

Why do research like this on just 24 people? That is NOT a statistically valid sample size. So this study is not only obvious, it's invalid.

You probably meant statistical significance and it doesn't just depend on the sample size. It also depends on the noise and error in the thing being studied.

Damn it, just once I'd like to see a "research team" submit a report that says they spent the grant money on hookers and blow.

You don't know how grant money works. It's not really possible to spend grant money on hookers and blow - mostly because they don't you receipts and partly because Dell doesn't sell blow and you can't charge hookers to the hotel bill without it being extras and such.

Comment Re:I'm not an expert, but.. (Score 3, Insightful) 84

I would say : Wouldn't the fact that everyone is infringing on the patent without ever being aware or having heard of such a patent existing have something to say about "being obvious to someone skilled in the field.."?

I have to correct so many of my colleagues who say something to the tune of I'm going to work on this problem, produce a great result that's patentable and profit, to which I say you can patent anything. Suppose you are writing an algorithm to process data for some scenario X, you can patent something like the use of a data structure that enables the processing in scenario X - you can break it down into multiple claims that say data structures for holding parameters, for holding temporary data or for holding the kitchen sink. Of course, it's obvious that a data structure has to be used somewhere in the process in the algorithm for scenario X but the patent is worthless unless scenario X starts occurring so frequently that it's worthy to have spent the money acquiring the patent.

So, software patents aren't really patents of a solution to a problem, they are sort of a recognition that a problem is or will be important. Take Amazon's one click patent. The implementation is obvious but the value in the patent is that people want to buy things with 1 click.

Comment Re:dynamic range is the real issue (Score 1) 294

An RMS volume limit can I suppose to a degree.

There are purists who want dynamic range and all that and the rest of the people who want to listen to the music in cars or when walking. The solution should be simple - two masters - 16 bit, 44Khz CDs with loudness for the car/walking people and an HD version that is 24 bit, 96 Khz with full dynamic range that listen to music in their anechoic chambers.

Blu-rays now have that mode, Master-HD or something like that that does uncompressed 24/96 sound. I don't know why music recordings aren't released that way but crushed into a CD for general use.

Comment Re:Hardware normaliser (Score 1) 294

Normalizing is different than loudness (as used in the context above).

If you really want uniform loudness, look for something called loudness maximizer ( compressors also will do the trick but you get way too many parameter knobs on those). It makes everything equally loud and so louder stuff doesn't have any advantage. In old school receivers, there used to be the magic loudness button that would render music listenable in noisy environments.

Loudness comes from dynamic compression (which is different than data compression and mechanical compression in engines). Some parts of the music are quieter than others and what dynamic compression does is normalization so that all parts of the music are equally loud. Of course, it's little more complicated than that because it might be quieter in a frequency range than others and so compression not only has to be done with time but with frequency also.

Comment Re:Good lectures need done once. (Score 1) 240

I agree. And since the norm at many large universities has been that lab/work sessions can be conducted by underpaid 'TA' grad students, and the only work responsibility for the anointed professor is to give the lectures, perhaps it's time to lay off a big bunch of those high-paid professors. They've made themselves redudant by stepping outside the pedagogical process and the cost savings at our publicly funded schools will be immense.

Giving undergraduate lectures isn't what a professor primarily does. It's just the necessary crap of being a professor.

Most professors would rather spend their time on research oriented work rather than lectures, esp. undergraduate.

Comment Re:All Smart Phones Infiringe (Score 1) 148

EVERY SINGLE COMPANY that ships a smart phone today, KNOWS that they are infringing on a patent held by someone else!

I wouldn't say KNOWs. Software patent claims are vague and general that violations are open to interpretation.

Also there are so many software patents out there that have 50-60 claims where most claims that are obvious. You could implement something and that would violate a patent you didn't know existed.

Comment Re:Rubbish. (Score 2) 82

Just like hard disks, flash memory cost capacity is tied to materials engineering - in case of flash memory it is the insulating material in the cells. In the next 15 years, I'm sure there will newer materials or material configurations found that will enable process shrinks. Right now leakage is not a problem since the data lifetime is estimated to be around 15 years. Also, flash memory is manufactured in a slightly different method than CPUs or other circuit boards.

Also, flash memory can be used for multiple bits per cell as the electronics mechanisms of reading and writing data are improved; interference can be minimized and other techniques to increase cell density can be used.

I think there is possibilities that could enable flash memory to dramatically decrease in cost per bit.

Comment Re:Wait? What? (Score 1) 835

The problem is that there is no method of immigration for Mexican economic migrants. Immigration methods are marriage, lottery, excellence - technical, artistic or athletic, asylum from persecution, or investments of over half a million dollars. None of these are applicable for an economic migrant to take advantage of the better economic climate across the border.

In other words, there is no proper way. The only proper way is not to attempt to immigrate.

Comment Re:Of course (Score 2) 538

I need a perfect solution to the Traveling Salesman Problem

There are many algorithms that get you 99.99% close to the optimal solution of the traveling salesman problem. Most NP-hard problems have very very good approximation algorithms.

The conversation should go like this:
Manager: "I need a perfect solution to the Traveling Salesman Problem - I just signed a 7-figure contract saying we'd provide that in 2 weeks."
IT: "There's no way to do this perfectly, we can do it 99.99% close to perfectly.
Manager: "That's perfect enough for me. Thank you, there's a lot of money riding on this."

Comment Re:Of course you don't. (Score 1) 651

The reason is because there is no standard for being an engineer and anyone with a degree in engineering will call themselves an engineer and moan about working conditions.

A good engineer can make $70K-$100K/year right off school. After a few years experience and specialization, they can easily get twice that or take the path of consulting or startup which could make you millions. Even if just working, you could have a few million at retirement.

With trades you do things like it's been done a thousand times before with small variations. With engineering you are creating new ideas and technologies at the cutting edge. With trades you can also earn high as you become very good at your trade but trades also require a lot of years of hard work for low pay before you become good at it.

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