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Comment Re: Nobody knows yet (Score 2, Interesting) 165

Yes, we read the same post.

The EU is not going to endanger nearly 20 percent of their economy to make a point. It would be far more dangerous to damage the EU economy than the optics of a successful Brexit.

There is not any leverage on either side. Both must get along and negotiate a mutually beneficial deal, or slit their own throats with a childish tantrum.

Yes, I agree they will cut a deal. This will probably happen after months of threats and bluster from both sides. It definitely won't be a pure "screw the Brits" deal. It will contain a few concessions, probably minor restrictions on free movement, which May can point to as victories. These will be the exception rather than the rule. By and large the post-Brexit economic reality will probably resemble the pre-Brexit reality, except that Britain will exercise less influence in EU affairs. The market access will come at a price. The notion being touted that the UK is sufficiently important by itself to set the terms of the deal it wants is simply wrong.

Comment Re: Nobody knows yet (Score 1) 165

Thanks for demonstrating the point.

The EU needs the UK. They are not going to cripple their own economy to make some mafia-esq mutilation to show that "nobody leaves, or else."

Both sides will negotiate a fair trade agreement. Life will go on.

Demonstrating the point? Did we read the same post (by Rei)? The UK does not have the leverage it thinks it has. This is a game of brinksmanship on both sides and there is no incentive for the EU to back down and be generous. Admittedly there is also no incentive for May or the Tories to back down at this stage. The difference is that it's their fault we all made it to this point.

Comment Re:Unearthed Plague (Score 1) 77

I thought that Yersinia Pestis has been known to be the organism responsible for the plague for a long time, this confirms it. From memory the theory was that the black plague was caused by a strain that was much more virulent than the one normally found now.

The article states that they have found bacterial DNA in 5 samples and are still looking for more to reassemble the genome of the plague bacterium so they can compare it to the current genome.

It's been shown that most of the plague variants alive today are descendants of the 1347 plague (the Black Death). The same goes for all the genomes we have from intermediate epidemics between 1348 and now, which will probably include the 1665 plague once the genomes are known. The big discovery is that there are almost no genetic differences between any of these strains. The strain that killed all those people in 1347 was basically the same strain you can find in prairie dogs in the American Southwest today. No one so far has provided a good explanation for why the 1347 outbreak was so much more deadly. Some of the offered explanations include coinfection (i.e. people were sick with something else and the plague finished them off), different living conditions, or maybe different vectors. Plague depends on a rodent and flea population and both the rodents and fleas in 1347 might have been different from today's.

Comment Re:In 1348 the Black Death took 60% (Score 4, Informative) 77

Interestingly, I believe we still haven't conclusively determined yet that the Black Death was also caused by Yersinia pestis. Some interesting alternative explanations exist. Or at least they did a few years ago.

The fact that Y. pestis is responsible for the Black Death was conclusively determined a few years ago. In fact, the paleopathologist quoted in the featured article, Dr. Kirsten Bos, is the first author of a 2011 Nature paper presenting a genome of Yersinia pestis recovered from the remains of victims of the Black Death:

Kirsten I. Bos*, Verena J. Schuenemann*, G. Brian Golding, Hernán A. Burbano, Nicholas Waglechner, Brian K. Coombes, Joseph B. McPhee, Sharon N. DeWitte, Matthias Meyer, Sarah Schmedes, James Wood, David J. D. Earn, D. Ann Herring, Peter Bauer, Hendrik N. Poinar, Johannes Krause. “A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death”. Nature 478: 506–510. doi:10.1038/nature10549

Comment Re:Unearthed Plague (Score 1) 77

It's easily treated with antibiotics, and those of European descent are thought to be resistant to it. If I recall my Wikipedia correctly.

It is treatable by antibiotics but can still be bad if you wait too long. And there is no evidence that those of European descent have any greater resistance to it.

At one point there was a paper which speculated that the CCR5 delta 32 mutation, a very rare mutation that exists and confers resistance/immunity to HIV, might have arisen as a selective response to the Black Death. But that was mere speculation, and it's not even been conclusively shown that having CCR5 delta 32 even helps you in the event you get plague. Nevertheless that is where this "Europeans are plague resistant" meme probably began.

Comment Re:If only... (Score 1) 264

The most sexism I've encountered while attending university was in the economics department. Flagrantly sexist jokes that would get a computer scientist crucified, shown to a an auditorium full of freshmen students, the majority female. You've fallen for a smear campaign.

So, just so I understand here, you're saying that there is worse sexual harassment outside science and technology, therefore harassment within science and technology doesn't exist / is not a problem.

Do we really have to spell out how that is not an argument?

Comment Re:Ministry of Truth? (Score 1) 389

Actually they didn't do exactly that, as the borders of Russia aren't identical with the borders of the U.S.S.R. For example Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, etc. were all part of the U.S.S.R. but not part of Russia. They did temporarily call all former Soviet states the "Commonwealth of Independent States" (C.I.S.) but that only lasted a couple years before they printed new maps with everything wholly changed.

Comment Re:Ministry of Truth? (Score 2) 389

Oh FFS. There are plenty of arguments to make to associate the office of the presidency with Orwell but this is one of the weakest.

Obama is not retracting all textbooks that reference the mountain and throwing anyone who ever went there in some Stalinist gulag. He's changing the name back to what it was before some random dude named it after a guy from Ohio who had never been there. If this is Orwellian, then so is any government-initiated change of any kind.

Comment Self-reporting is inherently biased (Score 5, Insightful) 141

This Chronicle of Higher Ed story looks at whether these MOOC addicts think they're learning as much as they would in a traditional college course.

It's been psychologically demonstrated that people who volunteer their time up-front to some activity for which they're not receiving other rewards (e.g. payment) are biased towards finding the activity fulfilling, even if it wasn't really, simply so they don't feel foolish for having wasted their time.

I have no doubt many of these people are learning things and they would probably drop out if they weren't, but self-reporting is no way to measure the efficacy of MOOCs as learning tools.

Comment What's new here? (Score 3, Interesting) 167

All of Matematica, Maple, and MathCAD have had their own worksheet/document formats since the mid-90s at least. They have gone through many incarnations but I believe all of them now support embedding code, graphics, marked-up text, etc. Maple's Document format certainly does.

Exactly what is new about this, other than a new name and, well, further grist for Stephen Wolfram's publicity mill?

Is the idea simply to have a thin-client reader and offload most of the computation to remote servers? Because if so then that is the innovation, not some new document format.

Comment Re:A cousin of the Moa? (Score 1) 137


While the rest of the bird kingdom in NZ devolved their wings, the world's biggest eagle, The Haast Eagle enjoyed the easy life, often making short work of the Moa from time to time.

I read something once where a scientist was conjecturing about what the first interaction between a human and a Haast Eagle, a raptor adapted to carry off and eviscerate 2-meter tall bipeds, must have been like.

[Proto-Maori guy stepping out of seafaring canoe]
Wow, nice island. Hey, what the hell is that?

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