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Anti-Ebola Drug ZMapp Makes Clean Sweep: 18 of 18 Monkeys Survive Infection

Artifakt Re:ZMapp experiments done on tobacco plants. (89 comments)

That depends on whether the monstrous fuck-up is just extinction of one plant variety or Triffidized tobacco.

3 days ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Artifakt Re:Learn something new every day... (141 comments)

A theory is something that has strong supporting evidence, and if you agree with Popper and Kuhn and various" Historians or Philosophers of Science", something that skilled people have tried to come up with alternatives, tested them, and the theory has survived where they didn't. Ideas that have been proposed, and maybe have a little supporting evidence, but are considered not tested enough, and not studied rigorously to see if they can be falsified, or if some other idea better fits Occam's razor, are called hypothesi (or often just interesting ideas until they get at least a little support). Yes, just who qualifies as skilled, which idea is actually simpler by the razor, how much testing is enough, and 'how much better at predicting what than the competing ideas are' are all somewhat subjective, and individual scientists are not exceptionally flawless at making those judgement calls. But that's true of just about everything. Science works because the method tends to correct for those subjective aspects, not make them more powerful as in so many other areas of human activity.

By this era, the theory that the sun was powered by Fusion of Hydrogen into Helium had a lot of evidence supporting it, such as the abundance of various elements in it and other stars, as determined spectrally. Try a web search for Hans Bethe if you want to know about the first evidence that helped raise this hypothesis to the status of theory, in 1930, although he didn't get the Nobel for his work until 1967. It's interesting to me that people are debating just what counts as a theory, and for this particular case, there's an exact date when a particular paper was published, and widespread agreement that this date and event is when the hypothesis got enough support to start calling it a theory. This is additional evidence that adds more support, and by the Philosophers of Science, ought to mean anyone who thinks they have a better idea will have to gather even more evidence and work even harder if they want their alternative to be taken seriously.
 

5 days ago
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Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

Artifakt Re:If you don't want science... (523 comments)

I'm sure that Von Neumann, Lemaître, Dirac, and Minkowski were concerned by the possibility of being put in a cell or killed (by the Spanish Inqusition, I guess).
Even Newton, who really was criticised rather unfairly for his Non-anglican variant Christian religion, apparently didn't feel the existing majority religion was going to lock him away or kill him.
Kepler, now there was a guy who had a real reason to worry, Bruno should have worried more. But since then? Historically, you had one period (the Counter-Reformation), when the Church of one region really had both the power and the intention to persecute non-Christian or variant Christian scientists, philosophers, and such. Evidently, that outweighs a lot of other eras and places. That the Roman Catholic church, 20 years before the trial of Galileo wouldn't, and didn't even have the means to conduct such a trial, and that there were other reasons for the sentence in G's case doesn't mean we should think religions ever act differently.
The sad thing is, most of your other points stand pretty well. If you said that movements like the one driving this proposed law can be compared to the Counter-reformation, or even the Inquisition, you would be on pretty solid ground.

about a week ago
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How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

Artifakt Re:Slave labor is still the best explanation (202 comments)

Working on a crew may have been an option the workers got to choose (here's why):
1. When a government taxes peasants, it's sometimes awkward to use the revenues. Imagine you are the guy who has to actually process the payments from a lot of really poor farmer types. Peasants may only be able to pay you with a share of their harvest. If they can't hand you gold coins, or anything easily stored and lasting, you end up having to sell their wheat or whatever to get the taxes into a form you can use.You have limited time to do this before the wheat rots in place. If there's not a lot of durable goods in the hands of the average Joe, and every time you insist on being paid in something easy to handle, it just drives up the price for those things, there gets to be times when nothing the peasants can pay you in is worth collecting.
2. Those same peasants work hard in harvest seasons, but they have idle time in other seasons. In a place like Egypt, where there isn't a real cold season, you can put that idle time to working seasons where the peasants don't have all that much else to do. Wars work for that, but if you get a war started, it may keep going until next planting season (This is serious - it keeps being a factor all the way up to the US civil war. Even that late in history, farming season was still an argument for people who's hitch was up and didn't think they should be delayed mustering out because they needed to get back home to help with the crops).
3. So you need to have a work project that can be stopped when planting and harvest seasons come on, and restarted without much waste, and that the peasants and craftsmen can both contribute to. This way, when all the granaries are full, you can offer people a chance to work off their taxes instead of paying them off in goods. You make the work just easy enough that it looks like a good deal compared to a share of the wheat, animals, and such the farmers raise, give the craftsmen shorter hours or some other perks for making stuff for the project, and you also gain having peasants that are trained to think they have to pay their taxes one way or another. How hard you work the peasants depends in large part on just how many of them you want to take the pay-in-work option instead of the pay-in-goods option - that means you really can't work them as hard as slaves, or too many will pick the pay-in-goods option, but if you make it a token duty, they'll all pick pay-in-work, and you don't want that either, so you set up a system where you pass out some prizes for best team, bonuses in beer, and such so just the right percentage pick work.

It's technically better than slavery. In fact, it's a precurser to modern wage slavery. The Egyptians practically invented giving people a token reward that makes them feel they are doing better than being slaves, but doesn't cost all that much, AND finding something more controllable than a war to occupy the masses idle time.

about a week ago
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How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

Artifakt Re:They made the blocks into wheels (202 comments)

Cradles have actually been found in archaological excavations, as the original article mentions. However, it also says the cradles as found don't have holes for ropes to tie them around the blocks, so we could be looking at a not very efficient design, for example one where the 'cradels" were really rockers which lay loose on the ground, and the workers have to keep building chains of rockers ahead of the blocks, piching up the trail or frockers as the block is moved, etc., or there's something we are missing, or the Egyptians didn't use these things for moving blocks (that last possibility seems really odd since the size of a cradle's straight edge seems to match really well with the correspondiing edge of the blocks). There's just enough ambiguity that professionals don't want to say the question is totally answered. The cradles actually found also don't really explain how bigger blocks, such as the 50 ton+ ones used to form the vaults over the inner chambers, and various statues and pylons were moved, but they could in principle. maybe someday, somebody will find some bigger cradles that match other objects equally well...

I'm going to propose the cradles were assembled around the blocks into rollers, but they were glued on. I have no evidence for that last, but what the hell.
I'd also like to point out, wood is somewhat scarce in that particular environment, and wooden items have both a low rate of preservation over archeological time and a high rate in post-dynastic days of getting burnt for fuel by people who didn't care about old stuff unless they could sell it, so we may never find ways to settle this question.
     

about a week ago
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Choose Your Side On the Linux Divide

Artifakt How is this sentence anything but unsupported? (810 comments)

"Fundamental changes in the structure of most Linux distributions should not be met with such fervent opposition."

The more fundamental a change is, the more it changes everything - that's basically why we call it 'fundamental'. Making fundamental changes says there's a lot broken. If I said we need a program to fast track educating doctors for rural areas, that's a moderate change to the US medical system, and might a good or bad fix for one specific problem. If I say we need to shoot all existing physicians and substitute Qui-Gong practicioners, that's a fundamental change to American medicine. If someone asserts a change is fundamental, they have also implied the existing system is nearly or totally borked, so they have a very strong burden of proof shifted entirely to them for making that assertion. Unless they can meet that burden of proof, the other side should win any debates.
          The smart thing to do is to claim that a change is not alll that fundamental, and changes only a limited subset of things. For example, I could argue that gay marriage is a limited change, in that it is still based on a moral principle many of us respect (that the people choosing it are consenting adults with normal understanding), and not a more fundamental change (such as throwing out any moral base, including the principle of informed consent, so that pedophilia would somehow become legal). Notice how it's been mostly anti gay marriage advocates that are trying to paint the issue like everything under the sun will change if the other side wins - that's because many people have figured out how this burden of proof stuff works.

about a week ago
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News Aggregator Fark Adds Misogyny Ban

Artifakt Re:Sigh (743 comments)

Even identical twins have only about a 50% chance of the second one developing Schizophrenia if the first one does. I guess that means Schizophrenia is a choice. Genetics is an aspect of etiology, and that may or may not include the etiology of sexual orientation. But, it's very risky to start aguing that people have a choice or else there has to be a gene that causes the effect 100% of the time, as nothing genetic works that way.

about a week ago
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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General

Artifakt Just what constitutes a bad actor? (149 comments)

I know of one actual Bed and Breakfast that takes in normal clients through one set of ads, and runs other ads in BDSM magazines and such and serves as a dungeon for that clientel. They apparently rely on not scheduling people who don't know what's in the basement at the same time as those who do or something like that - maybe weekends are for whipsters. Is it possible this counts as a "bad actor"?
            Or what about people who are subletting property they only rent, against their rental agreement? Not that that's right, but I could certainly see the New York state authorities focusing only on those cases and ignoring a lot of owner landlords who rent out unsafe property, or worse, the ones who use goons to frighten or actually beat people who are protected from price increases by rent control, to force them to break their leases and free the property to be rented at a higher rate. Leaning on little old ladies is a pretty blatent kind of 'bad acting", but is it even on the radar in this case, or is it all about getting the low hanging fruit of renters who generally can't afford lawyers rather than landlords who can?.

about a week ago
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BBC and FACT Shut Down Doctor Who Fansite

Artifakt Re:So much for fair use (186 comments)

Which is sad, because the US could do a lot better.

about two weeks ago
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Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials

Artifakt Re:There has not been any radioactive terror to da (66 comments)

If a group of unaffiliated individuals attack a country, that country has no recourse for nuclear retaliation.

Some governments, at least including the US, various UK states such as Canada and Australia, the PRC, and some continental European powers, have had agents working full time on just getting samples of radionucleotides from various fission plants, and analyzing those samples so that, if those nucleotides turn up in a dirty bomb or worse, an actual fission device, they can tell just where they were made by differences in various isotopic ratios, trace elements, and such. Knowing the source does not always mean those nations would retaliate against an attack from a group of apparently non-affiliated individuals, but it's certainly one piece of evidence in building a case for retaliation that would satisfy at least part of the international community. Nations have some interest therefore in reporting thefts of materials internationally, and various governments have some interest in setting up conditions for such reporting (i.e. in some cases, assuring the reporting country this will be classified and not released, and so hopefully not available for political candidate's uses.)
        I'd say that against groups such as you describe, it may not be possible to respond with nuclear retaliation, or recourses may be limited. It may also be desirable to respond with something less damaging to innocent bystanders, other nations, and the environment, even if a nuclear option is possible. This could go anywhere from a use of actual boosted fission devices within hours of the first event, to a much more measured response, possibly weeks or even longer after the first event.
          By the way, probably the most workable term for 'unaffiliated individuals' in US sources is "non-state actors", relatively short, straight-forward and to the point. In the US, emergency response teams called NEST would be responsible for the first stages of gathering samples from a dirty bomb incident or similar event, but their primary purpose is to stop such events before there is a detonation or risk to the public, if that's still possible when they become involved. NEST now stands for Nuclear Emergency Support Team, but in some older sources, the S stood for Search instead of Support. Calling one a NEST Team is redundant, but occasionally done by the media. NESTs are authorized to respond to incidents both inside and outside US borders, but just what that means in practice is unclear..

about three weeks ago
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Patents That Kill

Artifakt Re:And this is the same for copyrights. (240 comments)

The problem I see with any life+ based duration, is it selectively rewards people who have a big hit that keeps coming back into print early in their careers, and then live a long time afterwards, and the converse of that is it punishes the author who doesn't have much success until late in life, or worse, gets his or her career cut short by a fatal illness. You've suggested a system that (sort of) fixes the later case, but it doesn't address the first half of the problem. Also, any life plus system is going to look like a better deal if the author has heirs he or she cares about, and less of a deal if they don't. If the whole goal under the Constitution is to provide an incentive, we have to look very carefully at how some people may or may not feel "incentivised".

          To show you how your system might have worked if it had been in effect all along, lets take two Fantasy/SF/Horror authors:

          First, H. P. Lovecraft. His first real hit of a story was 1926, with Call of Cthulhu. Just about everything that got reprinted when he first gained posthmous popularity was written after that. Then he died of Bright's disease, in 1937. Under the system of that time, most, if not all, of his work was still in copyright. But, it was still the great depression, and after that, there were the wartime paper shortages, so Life +10 would leave his work coming out of copyright just about when there starts being a chance of it getting printed. With your 40 year clause, some of his original copyrights would have lasted until about 1974, by which time he was starting to be reevaluated, and effectively expired just about the time his work finally caught on. Under the system actually in effect, most of his work was still under copyright until well after the first film adaptation (Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee in the Dunwich Horror). He did not have any direct heirs, and probably would not have believed as he wrote his last works that there was any chance he was leaving a literary estate that might actually become worth more than the cost of a cup of coffee. His closest heirs were a pair of aging aunts, and by the time there were payments, they went to very distant relatives indeed.

        Second, Michael Moorcock. He starts writing professionally at 15, and some of his biggest successes were written by the time he was 20. In his 70s now and still going strong, he'd enjoy life +10 on most of his work, and it's not inconceivable that Life +10 might apply even to his most recent books. I don't know if he even has direct heirs, but he has been married a couple of times and had some living relatives, so I suppose it's at least somewhat likely there are children, or perhaps nieces or nephews. Under the existing system, he would theoretically have a longer period of protection, but that may not matter in practical terms. The older US or British systems, current law, or your system are likely to leave him about the same, financially, but current law is, in theory, better for him. However, it's a mystery to many people why his work hasn't been optioned more by Hollywood, to the point of a completed film or six. Your system just might ding him financially, if there are people who are hoping to get film rights cheap after he dies - they could just wait 10 years and let copyright on such Characters as Elric of Melnebone expire completely. Rationally, a shorter term may matter not at all or a great deal to him, but not just for the money.

 

about three weeks ago
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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

Artifakt Re:I don't get it. (541 comments)

First, you can take sample populations that 'exclusively possess" a particular feature, and they turn out not to. That is, it may be common for Danes to be blonde, but you can look at a large group of people from Denmark and see many people who don't have blonde hair, or otherwise don't fit whatever model of how that group should look someone is offering. You can try to filter your sample, for example, looking only at people who have records of descent from natives to that area going back five or ten generations, and that still will give you a population that has many exceptional examples wo don't have all the features you think make up a race. This happens near universally - you can go to more isolated villages or look at whole regions where it is believed the inhabitants lived cut off from other races, and you will still find that there are lots of exceptions. You can test this with 'extreme' examples - If you look at 100 Zulus, maybe half will look like stereotypical Zulus, and there will be 10% that are atypically short, lighter skinned, broader faced, narrower nosed or even with a "roman" nose, etc. (And it won't be the same 10% for each feature). Yeah, you're probably not going to find a blonde Zulu with epicanthic folds that stands 4" 3" as an adult in a sample of just 100, but you will find a lot of people who look not quite like what the standard model Zulu (or Polynesian Islander or Aboriginal Australian is supposed to be.

        Second, those physical racial features have mostly evolved over periods as short as 10,000 years. You can find cases where they may have had longer periods of isolation, but even those are pretty short as regards human evolution. For example, the best estimate for when proto-Asiatic ancestors of the Native Americans crossed the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska might be as high as 20,000 years, but most ethnolgists think that, a) people kept following along on that same route until much more recently, and b) the various Pacific peoples also made it to the New World sometimes by oceanic routes. So, even the differences between a 'typical' North Korean and a "typical" Cherokee probably accrued over less than 10,000 years. (And the differences between "atypical" ones of each group? They took the exact same total time. Try to visualize that.). That's set against an evolutionary history of roughly 100 times as long for the development of tool use, fire, and other innovations that show original thinking, invention, creativity, general intelligence and what some people still call progress. The genes that let some of our ancestors figure out how to make a better clay pot than the last design have been steadily circulating among populations and leaving behind artifacts in all cultures. If those genes are still very rare, then the claim is that genes for being smart, creative, and adaptable don't have any better survival value than the others, as they get into populations the same ways as the genes for short Zulus, but somehow, they are not being selected for, over periods 100's of times as long. In fact, it's a claim that creative intelligence has negative survival value.

The reason this "science" on racial differences is nothing but good old fashioned racism follows from these two points. The argument becomes "Intelligence has no survival value. Nature selects against it except under very special circumstances such as Ice Ages. Inferior genes water down the superior ones unless the superior ones are kept isolated from them." Ultimately, this becomes the "one drop of black blood makes you black" argument of the Civil War era American South. And none of that, from the claim that bad genes can water inherently good genes down until they vanish, to the echoes of apologetics for American slavery, is science.

about three weeks ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

Artifakt Re:The Jackson-Hobbit Syndrome in reverse (252 comments)

Space Vampires? They're Space Romans, not really even Space Romanians or Space Transylvanians...

about three weeks ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

Artifakt Re:It may be too late, (252 comments)

I hope audiences are not too tired of "dark", because Guardians set audiences up for one of Marvel's darkest ever story lines. "Darker" than the "Dark Phoenix Saga"? Try darker than 14 year old Kitty Pride with inoperable ovarian cancer.

Warning - Spoiler below, but about an old comics series, not about this movie

Jim Starlin loves to draw comics where Death is the punch line. In the Star Reach underground line, he wrote a story titled "The Birth of Death", and one called "Death Building", Marvel gave Starlin the opportunity to reboot a heroic character one time, and he brought Adam Warlock back as a character who swiftly learns that, within a few years at most, he will kill most of his friends and then die by suicide, in the process of creating a timeline where the schizophrenic anti-messiah he will otherwise become doesn't end up creating the most spectacular genocide evah! ).

End of spoiler
                                   

about three weeks ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

Artifakt Re:What's a reboot? (252 comments)

True, and it looks like we'll never have another Star Wars movie.

Weren't three enough?

about three weeks ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Artifakt Re:Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People A (390 comments)

One of the points of classical Capitalist Econ 101 is that, if a particular sector of industry consistently makes more than the average profits of business as a whole, tremendous, inexorable, possibly literally transhuman forces, (sometimes called the invisible hand) will push it back into line with the rest of the economy.

When a sector is making a 20% profit against an average for businesses of only about 3.4%, then classic Capitalism would say the forces trying to steer that sector back into line with the rest are about like a bunch of Mind Reading Giant Anime Robots, piloted by D&D 23rd level wizards and led by the Archangel Gabriel, doublewielding Nuclear Powered Uzis and riding the love child of Samatha Stephens and Hellboy.*

          Which makes it really bizarre to see people defending the sector's record profits as though they believe fervently in this free market/invisible hand stuff, but think the problem can be solved by debating with those people on Slashdot who 'just don't understand'. Yeah, shooting straw wrappers at him will stop Godzilla, too. How does it feel when the same theory that tells you it's morally right to defend this enormous profit margin also says the forces acting to take it away are literally more powerful than the combined nuclear arsenals of all the nations?

        Of course, you could believe that Adam Smith missed something there, but if that's so, where does this sense of absolute moral rightness, and the resulting tremendous need to fix all the people who disagree, come from?

* to use a metaphor that should be clear to the typical Slashdot reader.

about a month ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Artifakt Re: Expert:Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People (390 comments)

Technically, aspirin is a generic name in the USA, plus Australia, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Jamaica, Colombia, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, because (no kidding) Germany lost World War 1. In countres where it is still trademarked, the word should be written with a capital A, as Aspirin, the way you used it. The correct way to write the trademarked Johnson and Johnson wound care product is Band-Aid, with the dash.

But surely, even if some of the ACs above are a bit confused, that's not because someone still spends money on marketing brand names like 'Band-Aids". Surely they don't spend anything much on them, Let's see, for 2012, Johnson and Johnson claimed consumer wound care products resulted in sales of about 1 Billion US dollars, even, out of about 67 billion totak. Total advertising was 2.3 billion, so if we assume consumer wound care doesn't get a disproportionate share, that's 'only' approximately 34 million dollars a year. I don't think I'd call that next to zero. I will leave researching the budget Bayer spends for advertising Aspirin to most of the world, and specifically Bayer brand Aspirin (as it's described in the US and some other nations to get around that pesky genericness) as an exercise for the reader, but I have done the math, and it's actually larger than for Band-Aids.

about a month ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Artifakt Re:ROI for drug development (390 comments)

You do understand that many Christians believe that God is good,and if he commands them to do good things for other people it's because He has that sort of goodwill, and wants them to learn to feel goodwill too if they don't instinctively feel it, or express it if they already do. You make it sound like non-Christians doing this sort of charity actually feel goodwill, and the Christians don't, but do it for fear of punishment or displeasing an arbitrary source of commands. I know some Christians who are mostly driven by fear of an angry God, but I'd bet that most of the doctors, nurses, and other volunteers in a program like this are driven by a genuine desire to do good, and when they have moments of fear it's more about the risk of death than anything else. That goes regardless of belief systems, Christian, Islamic, or Secular Humanist.

about a month ago
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

Artifakt Re:ROI for drug development (390 comments)

Here's a good, reliable page on Ebola, Reston variant: (this assumes you don't think Stanford is a cheesy school, or in on the vast conspiracy to supress all conspiracy theories, or whatever).
http://virus.stanford.edu/filo...

from this page
"twelve of the 186 people tested had serological evidence of infection with EBO-R. 22% of the workers at Ferlite Farms had positive IFAT (indirect fluorescent antibody test) titers, which was significantly higher than at the other three export facilities."
              Those infection mumbers are low for a virus that normally attacks humans, like Ebola Marburg, in a setting with no precautions at all and lots of hosts, but the fact that humans have no significant symptoms from it says that the Reston variant virus does not colonize humans at all well, and so are at least marginal support for it being exceptionally likely to survive in the environment, compared to the more human lethal types. This just might indicate that Reston is airborne, but probably just indicates it survives a bit longer on surfaces or takes a little more exposure to some disinfectants to destroy than the commoner Ebola virus types. So you're halfway right about that - Reston is not presumed to have become air vectorable, it's just been raised as a possibility in discussion, and is still rated as less likely than some alternatives.

this particular shipment of nonhuman primates had a far larger number of deaths in Room F than would normally have been expected.
              And there goes your record - Reston is deadly to simians, at least to cynomolgus macaques. Unless you want to stand on your obvious spelling error (yeah, it doesn't kill "semians" - I hear not even Kryptonite kills them), the poster you are "correcting" was correct.

      Given a 25% accuracy rating and four spelling errors and two grammer errors in four sentences you would have a hard time persuading people to reject the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump's hairpiece is an Venusion Brainslug invader.

about a month ago
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Google Spots Explicit Images of a Child In Man's Email, Tips Off Police

Artifakt Re:Others?? (790 comments)

If this was found because the exact image is already on file with law enforcement, and his copy was detected by some hash function (MD5 maybe?), then it seems very, very likely there are other people passing that photo around. Whether guilty or not, this guy deserves to get a jury that will be able to understand that point, so his lawyer can raise relevant questions such as "If you weren't targeting my client before you had any evidence, how come you didn't find any of these others?". What are the chances that the jury will understand if there are any odd holes in the prosecution's case, even if the accused gets a lawyer who will try.
        People have all sorts of theories about the O J Simpson case, but one thing most of them have not heard is that the prosecution went back several times asking for larger and larger hair samples, but couldn't explain why to the jury. The prosecutor's expert witness told the jury that six hairs was enough to get 1 billion to 1 odds that it wasn't anyone else, or a billion to one against it matching the accused if he was actually innocent, and that more hairs would not be any more accurate. Then, the witness couldn't explain why they got those six hairs and then asked for a 36 hair and eventually a 200+ hair sample. In a high profile case with powerful lawyers, this sort of thing comes out, but would it in a case like this?

about a month ago

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