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US Senate Passes Internet Tax Bill 69 To 27

2short Re:bollocks (678 comments)

Karl Marx was describing Communism, not socialism. HTH.

about a year ago
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Swedish Engineer's RC Plane Gets a Balloon Lift To Space

2short Re:Edge of space? (90 comments)

No. Going into orbit is a matter of velocity. You can go as high as you want, but if you're not going very fast sideways, you won't orbit.

The speed you need to go sideways to orbit goes down as you go higher. The speed you need to go sideways to stay up via aerodynamic lift goes up as you go higher (and air pressure goes down). The crossover, where generating enough lift would require going faster than orbital speed is the Karman line. Above that, you can't stay up via aerodynamic lift, you must orbit or come down.

Atmospheric drag makes it impractical to approach orbital speed at less than about 200Km, but in theory, if you had a big enough engine and streamlined enough plane, you could fly along at less than orbital speed up to about 100Km up; beyond that, you must stay up by orbiting: it's impossible by flying.

So stories about flying a plane to space are silly, because the most widely agreed on definition of space is the altitude that it is theoretically impossible to fly a plane at.

about a year ago
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Swedish Engineer's RC Plane Gets a Balloon Lift To Space

2short Re:Edge of space? (90 comments)

"It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?"

No, they just don't engage in spurious precision. They could have said 107.2527 Km (or whatever the calculation came to exactly), but that would imply their calculation was that precise, and it isn't.

Picking a value for something that doesn't have an obvious definition but people would like to agree on the definition of is what old, official-sounding (because they are) standards orgs are for. If you want to argue with their choice, feel free, but attacking it for not supplying unwarranted precision doesn't make much sense. Better arguments can be had by questioning their definition of "space". But then you're going to be arguing that 100Km is too low (which I might agree with), or arguing a balloon can take you to space (which I find ridiculous).

about a year ago
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Swedish Engineer's RC Plane Gets a Balloon Lift To Space

2short Re:Edge of space? (90 comments)

"what would make a good fundamental 'minimum altitude' to say 'space'?"

My intuition says if you can/do get there using the atmosphere to generate lift (planes & balloons), it's clearly not space.

The typical distinction is more arguable but, in my opinion, a reasonable principle:
If the atmospheric drag at a given altitudes orbital velocity is too high to allow you to orbit, it's not space. If the atmosphere is thin enough to allow you to orbit, it's space.

That's a somewhat fuzzy definition, but that's appropriate; "the edge of space" is a fuzzy concept. But: it's a fuzzy line whose bottom is maybe as low as 100Km up (really, orbits below twice that are impractical). 33 Km isn't space or near it; It's the stratosphere.

I'm not sure where the uncertainty in your 50% chance of making orbit comes in, but if that's your line, you're arguing for 100Km, minimum.

One can argue endlessly and pointlessly, (but maybe enjoyably) about exactly what altitude should be called space. But it won't stop me being driven crazy by every stupid article about high altitude planes & balloons that says they went to space or "the edge of space". Articles that reference "the edge of space" invariably mean well less than half way to any reasonable minimum definition of "space". "The edge of dirt" would be more accurate.

about a year ago
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In the 2012 U.S. presidential election:

2short Re:squeaky wheels (707 comments)

No third party has gotten anywhere in the last 150 years. On the other hand, vast, radical changes in the platforms of the two major parties have occurred thanks to the efforts of activists working within those parties.

If you want to tilt at windmills, vote third party in presidential elections. If you want to effect real change, pay attention to major-party primaries for local elections. There will be more diversity of position that at higher levels, and the winners will be the ones running for higher office in the future, or influencing who does. Also accept that voting for the candidate who is closer to what you want is sensible, even if they are not a perfect fit.

Your political agenda may or may not have any chance at all. But if it does, that chance is by coop-ting a major, not replacing one. Ask the religious right, for example.

You're free to disagree with any of that, but I think my larger point is inarguable:
  If you want to significantly change American politics, casting your vote for President won't be enough, and is a ridiculous place to start.

about 2 years ago
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Nate Silver's Numbers Indicate Probable Obama Win, World Agrees

2short Re:Everyone loves a winner. (881 comments)

After your research, no doubt you can answer a few questions for me:

Does he support abortion rights or oppose them?
Does he support an individual mandate for health insurance or oppose it?
Does he support setting a timetable for withdrawal for Afganistan or oppose doing so?
Does he support cutting payments to providers under Medicare Advantage or oppose doing so?
Does he support the US military intervention in Libya or oppose it?

Those are just off the top of my head, but according to my research, the answer to all those questions is "Yes, he supports and opposes that". I don't actually have a problem with politicians changing their minds, but the main thing I see Romney being consistent on is that he hasn't changed his mind

about 2 years ago
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Nate Silver's Numbers Indicate Probable Obama Win, World Agrees

2short Re:Assuming Independence (a common fallacy) (881 comments)

The chance that the polls are systematically biased in one state are not independent of the chances that they are systematically biased the same way in another state.
    For example, if polls under-represent those with cell phones and no land lines, and that skews them toward Romney, that's likely to be similar across states. Same thing if pollsters attempts to correct for that effect over does it and systematically skews them toward Obama. Repeat for a variety of other possible sources of systematic bias.
    That's the main reason Nate's own aggregation of his state-by-state probabilities comes out substantially lower than the naive one done by the linked site.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For Developers To Start Their Own Union?

2short Re:Unions are archaic (761 comments)

So if I and most of my coworkers decide to voluntarily exercise our individual right to freedom of association, and form a group to negotiate on our behalf, I take it that's OK. And if the company voluntarily negotiates a deal with us according to mutually acceptable terms, that's all good. And if one of the terms of that deal is that the company agrees not to hire people who aren't members of our group...

Unions, and "union shops" are an emergent result of people exercising their individual rights collectively. To whatever extent you think such outcomes represent market failures -- bad emergent results from the exercise of reasonable rights -- these would need to be corrected via regulation. As they are in various cases; just as regulation prevents some employers from using their reasonable right to fire who they wish to quash employees freedom of association.

about 2 years ago
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Einstein Letter Critical of Religion To Be Auctioned On EBay

2short Re:Definition of not thinking for ones self. (414 comments)

Scientific knowledge doesn't require taking anyone's word for it, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from others. Even if I can't figure out the law of gravitation until Newton tells me what it is, that doesn't mean I have to take his word for it: I can drop some various masses and measure their acceleration, and check Newton's claim myself. In fact, I have. (Spoiler: He was right.)

My time is not infinite, so I'm not going to repeat the work of every scientist who has come before me. Much of the time, I will actually take their word for it (Particularly if "they" includes not just the original discoverer, but a bunch more people who didn't take their word for it.) The distinction is that I don't have to take anyone's word. Darwin doesn't ask me to believe in evolution because he said so; he lays out the evidence he observed and the deductions he made from them, and invites me to follow along. I haven't gone to the Galapagos and checked out the finches, but I could. If Origin of Species had washed up on a beach, unsigned, the case it makes would be exactly as strong. It doesn't matter what I think of Darwin, the evidence and argument stand or fall on their own. Contrary to religious precepts, scientific knowledge depends upon the word of none.

about 2 years ago
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Einstein Letter Critical of Religion To Be Auctioned On EBay

2short Re:Definition of not thinking for ones self. (414 comments)

"All knowledge can only exist if people accept someone else's story regarding the event"

Horseshit. "Nullius in verba" or it ain't science.

about 2 years ago
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Einstein Letter Critical of Religion To Be Auctioned On EBay

2short Re:Church and Einstein (414 comments)

Actually it was Mussolini who claimed to make the trains run on time, but didn't.

Subjugation of women, slavery, genocide, and infanticide are all approved and even required by easily found Bible verses. And there are plenty of examples of religious believers who followed the instructions.

Survival of the fittest on the other hand "would be prevalent"??? WTF? It's as universal today as ever. It's also not a result of adverse human action, nor does it have a moral dimension of any sort. The fact that organisms more suited to survival in their environment are more likely to reproduce isn't bad or good, it's just true. And stupidly obvious, IMO.

about 2 years ago
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Will Write Code, Won't Sign NDA

2short Re:true (438 comments)

"The United States, for example, has no federal law on trade secret protection..."

Yes we do; and a bunch more at the state level. Among other things, to qualify for trade secret protection, these laws requires that you make a good faith effort to keep the information secret. By, in the classic example, requiring NDAs of everyone you voluntarily disclose it to. It's not that it's easier to sue someone for stealing your secret if they signed an NDA. It's that even if they didn't, and you didn't tell them the information, but they stole it through some more devious means, you can't sue them for stealing your secret because you didn't try to keep it secret in the first place. If I tell you my secret without an NDA, it isn't a secret, and anybody else who gets their hands on it can use it.

more than 2 years ago
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Will Write Code, Won't Sign NDA

2short Re:good way to be underemployed (438 comments)

NDAs are a document that makes it possible to sue someone else who steals my trade secrets. If I tell you without an NDA, it isn't a secret, and I can't sue someone else for stealing my trade secret if it isn't a secret. You can't "run off with insider info" if you didn't sign an NDA, because if they told you without an NDA, it wasn't insider info - it was info they just told to people with no obligation not to disclose it. If you don't sign an NDA, you're free to use the info, and so is anybody else on the planet.

If they've got secrets worth keeping, they're idiots if they don't require an NDA, even from people they don't expect to steal their secrets. The articles point is that if they want an NDA for initial high-level discussions well before employment, they are idiots for thinking they have secrets worth keeping.

more than 2 years ago
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Will Write Code, Won't Sign NDA

2short Re:Naive, because most investors (especially VCs). (438 comments)

"The person sending you an NDA isn't saying to you that you're going to steal their stuff, they're saying to you 'I don't know you very well.'"

More likely, they're saying "If someone else steals my idea, I'd like to be able to tell a court it was a trade secret, which I can't if I just go telling it to people without an NDA". The guy in the article is giving good, but nuanced advice: If someone wants an NDA for an idea they'll be explaining over a cup of coffee to see what you think, they have an inflated concept of their ideas importance. If someone want's an NDA before employing you for work with a specific secret, that's appropriate, and the article author explicitly says he'll sign.

more than 2 years ago
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Will Write Code, Won't Sign NDA

2short Re:Naive, because most investors (especially VCs). (438 comments)

Note the well known successful freelance programmer will sign an NDA pertaining to something specific once actual employment is on the table; just not for high level initial discussions; which makes sense.

Refusing to sign an NDA ever is naive, or at least ignorant of basic trade secrets law. If I've got a secret really worth keeping; or rather keeping my ability to sue people for stealing, I need you to sign. The main reason to ask you to sign an NDA is so that it is easier to sue someone else in the future. Even if I don't think you'll steal my idea, somebody else might, and I can't sue them for it unless I can show I actually tried to keep it a secret. Typically, by requiring an NDA from everyone I disclose it to.

Refusing to sign an NDA before high-level preliminary discussions is reasonable for the reasons the article discusses. It's not that the legal situation is different, it's that if I'm not at the point of actually employing/funding you, you don't need to know the kinds of secrets it's worth keeping. The articles point is that if I want you to sign an NDA before high-level preliminary discussions, I am probably mistaken about whether my secret is worth keeping. And you probably don't want to work for me before I figure that out.

more than 2 years ago
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Pirate Bay To Offer Physical Item Downloads

2short Re:Bad idea (343 comments)

If you are replacing broken plastic parts as na1led suggested, why would they be a different substance? In any case, the parts I immediately thought of were the stupid little plastic brackets that hold my dash panels on. They aren't some hi-tech super material; they're cheapest plastic the manufacturer could get. That's why they broke. I could print replacements out of several stronger materials for a fraction of what the dealer would charge me. (If I didn't like the sweet baling-wire look I've got going.)

more than 2 years ago
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Apple's iBooks EULA Drawing Ire

2short Re:Work == File == Document != Content (308 comments)

Apple claims some rights over what you make using their software. I know of no other software that does this, and the very idea strikes me as objectionable and worthy of ridicule, regardless of practical effect.

I've not used the software, but your description suggests it's a stupidly trivial program that does almost nothing, so maybe it doesn't matter in practical terms. Then again, Apple bothered to add this clause to their EULA, so Apple thinks it matters.

more than 2 years ago
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Microsoft Pushes For Gay Marriage In Washington State

2short Re:Glad to see Microsoft taking this position (678 comments)

My marriage is a marriage, thank you, and I shall not begin describing it otherwise to please some religion I don't subscribe to. Anybody who wants to start performing and recognizing non-marriage "Religious Unions" is welcome to do so, today.

more than 2 years ago
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Bad Astronomer Phil Plait Responds

2short Re:Wait whut? (55 comments)

When you "photoshop" something, literally or figuratively, you know what result you want. If you adjusted your adaptive optics based on whether the image looked like an extra-solar planet, that would be a problem. If you adjust your adaptive optics to make a laser guide star appear the way you know it actually does look, and as a result you start being able to image extra-solar planets, that's not "photoshopping", it's calibration. The friend in question is wrong.

more than 2 years ago

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