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Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy

Idarubicin Re:Link to PNAS article (112 comments)

Because the "actual papers" are behind paywalls...

1. Not always the case. Some journals (or articles) are open access.

2. Many Slashdot readers have access to paywalled journal articles through our schools or employers.

3. Abstracts are virtually always free to access, and often still provide better information than news coverage.

4. Links are cheap, and there's no reason to avoid providing links to both the lay summary and the actual paper.

4 days ago
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Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy

Idarubicin Link to PNAS article (112 comments)

Direct link to PNAS abstract.

Why, why, why is it that Slashdot always reports on new scientific discoveries with a link to a lay press summary or a press release, and never gives us the useful link to the actual papers with the real words by actual scientists? Aaaargh.

4 days ago
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Dealer-Installed GPS Tracker Leads To Kidnapper's Arrest in Maryland

Idarubicin Re:So? (271 comments)

Scary thing you said one: The video should no bearing on the issuance of a warrant. As a rule, warrants should be issued on how reasonable a search it is, and likely to turn up evidence. Not, how horrifying the crime is.

Oh, I don't know. The seriousness of the potential crime -- for which the police have genuine probable cause to suspect has occurred -- probably should have some bearing on the warrant that is issued. There is a balancing of interests here, which you actually have buried in your own comment. "How reasonable", in your words, likely includes "how horrifying" as one of its elements--you just saw an opportunity to try to score a cheap rhetorical point.

Unless, of course, you believe that a judge should award a warrant with the same breadth and alacrity whether the video shows a kidnapping or the theft of a candy bar.

about two weeks ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

Idarubicin Re:I hate these "get out the vote campaigns (468 comments)

As well as those "register to vote the day of the election" deals. If you can't be bothered to pre-register to vote, or need to be pestered to vote, then you probably get 100% of your info on candidate's and issues from the mailers and TV/radio commercials.

I voted in a municipal election in Toronto, Canada earlier this week. Not on the voter's list? No problem--you can register at one of the city clerk's offices. There's five of them, serving a population of 2.6 million people. Oh, and they're open from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday. So that should be a snap to get to, as long as you don't have a full-time job, or a child to care for, or mobility issues. (You don't mind choosing between a couple of extra bus fares and eating lunch, do you?)

I followed the campaign closely, I was aware of the major issues of the day (as well as the minor issues that didn't get nearly enough coverage), I had strongly-held opinions based in thorough, extended research--and I registered to vote on the day of the election.

The notion that all people who didn't register in advance are somehow lazy, unworthy, and incompetent is canard that punishes the working poor, the single parents, the handicapped. Looking in from the outside, it's apparent that it's one piece of a larger Republican campaign to disenfranchise as many Democratic-leaning voters as possible. It's a story that is propagated by Fox News, the viewers of which are exemplars of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

about three weeks ago
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CHP Officers Steal, Forward Nude Pictures From Arrestee Smartphones

Idarubicin Re:Prison time (275 comments)

How the fuck is this modded insightful? Even at 0? This is the type of shit that gives SJW ammunition in claiming that IT culture is hostile to women. I like to believe the words that come out of my mouth when I argue that point.

You know, I just put together now that "SJW" is intended to be an acronym for "Social Justice Warrior" (which is in turn intended to be a derogatory phrase meaning, as far as I can tell, "uppity feminist"). For some weeks now, I have been pondering what the internet has against straight (or single) Jewish women. Now it makes a lot more sense.

That the "reasonable" faction of the male IT world - that the parent poster would like to think he represents - seems to believe that the SJW caricature represents a non-trivial force that is conspiring against him is troubling. That the acronym SJW exists and is presumably widely understood in his circles is rather more revealing about (his part of) "IT culture" than he probably thinks.

Don't get me wrong, the parent poster is better than the grandparent asshole who believes all rapes are imaginary--but just being better than the anonymous trolling asshole isn't setting a high bar.

about a month ago
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3D-Printed Gun Earns Man Two Years In Japanese Prison

Idarubicin Re:In Japan (331 comments)

One beer? You're an idiot. Who'd want to live in a society where job loss and de facto permanent unemployment occurs at the slightest infraction?

When it's an infraction that is easy to avoid? Yeah, sign me up. (And what's this "permanent unemployment" nonsense?)

No one accidentally has a beer, and no one accidentally gets behind the wheel of a car. If there were a way to ensure that selfish assholes only put their own lives at risk, that would be one thing--but this situation isn't that. Incidentally, I feel the same way about the people who think they're still good drivers when they're on their cell phones. (To be clear, that's everyone who is driving while using a portable electronic device. No, you aren't special.)

about a month ago
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3D-Printed Gun Earns Man Two Years In Japanese Prison

Idarubicin Re:Good, it should be that way! (331 comments)

After all, we need a government-mandated monopoly on violence.

Here in the US, we have democratized violence. Anyone, no matter their station in society, has the God-given right to be violent.

Not quite true. You have to be white, and preferably wealthy or a member of a police force, and preferably directing that violence toward a person of color. Being from a red state helps, too.

about a month ago
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Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

Idarubicin Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (237 comments)

Agreed. That means for the foreseeable future (twenty years or more as any substantial breakthrough in efficiency would be apparent now for something that would be productized in the next ten years) rooftops are not enough. Ignore the space required for storage and you still have huge amounts of land being chewed up for energy production that are not available for anything else: agriculture, residential, commercial, manufacturing, ...

To give the devil his due, the best locations for solar installs tend to be sites that aren't very valuable for agriculture, residential, commercial, or manufacturing use. They're out in the desert. This isn't to say that desert land is valueless (economically or environmentally) but generally it is a type of land that - until now - we have had very little incentive to exploit, and there is an awful lot of it.

about a month ago
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Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

Idarubicin Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (237 comments)

current numbers. things are only going to get more efficient both on the server side and the solar panel side.

There's a limit to how good things can get on the solar panel side. The best multi-junction photovoltaic cells, at the cost of great complexity, are able to reach about 45% efficiency in the laboratory. The absolute maximum theoretical efficiency is about 85% (requiring materials and manufacturing processes that haven't been discovered and probably don't exist). One server per square meter is still pitifully low density. On the bright side, the cooling problems get to be much easier to deal with, I guess.

As for the per-server power draw decreasing--that's true, though it's happening slowly. And the trend has certainly been to increase the number of servers in a data center (or the number of blades in a rack) much, much faster than the per-server energy consumption has gone down.

This isn't to say that I'm opposed to rooftop solar. The balance between rooftop area and demand is much more favorable if you look at, for instance, suburban homes (which are admittedly otherwise environmentally disastrous). And rooftops are 'dead' space otherwise, that might as well be doing something useful like producing electricity. My point was only that the suggestion that all would be solved if the data centers put solar panels on their rooftops (or even their parking lots and windows) was nonsense. And, incidentally, that the most efficient places to put solar generating facilities are actually a long way from where the majority of people are living.

about a month ago
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Can the Sun Realistically Power Datacenters?

Idarubicin Re:Obligatoriness Extraordinaire (237 comments)

data centers generally aren't lacking for available roof space so no taking up any more land.

Above the atmosphere, at the equator, the average insolation (that is, the amount of incoming solar energy, averaged over the course of a day) is about 400 watts per square meter. At the bottom of the atmosphere in an ideal location (like the Sahara) it's closer to 300 W/sq. m. In most places where people want to have data centers, the number is closer to 200 W/sq. m...or worse. And the efficiency of commercial solar panels runs about 20%, so you're down to 40 watts per square meter.

200 watts is (optimistically) about the draw of a single server, so you're looking at powering one server for every five square meters of rooftop. If you want to run on rooftop solar, then you're going to have to design a data center with very short racks and very wide aisles.

about a month ago
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Astrophysicists Use Apollo Seismic Array To Hunt For Gravitational Waves

Idarubicin Re:Gratuitous LIGO Slam (25 comments)

The experiment referenced is a fabulously clever re-use of existing data, but it has nothing whatsoever to say about the funding case for LIGO. LIGO, like many cutting-edge experiments, requires very long-term technology development before it can produce a positive result. Some science requires long-term thinking, not just until the next quarter or the next election cycle.

Indeed. One wonders what remarkable scientific discoveries and conclusions will result from creative analysis of today's data, forty years hence.

...At least, as long as we actually do continue to fund new instruments and research, and don't insist that all data collection is now 'done', and that all the work that remains is winnowing smaller and smaller pieces of useful information from the last century's scientific output.

about 2 months ago
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CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program"

Idarubicin Re:In other words....Don't look like a drug traffi (462 comments)

Oh I understand the issue just fine. But, they have to have a minimum level of proof to do the seizure and they also have to defend the action in court if/when the property owner objects. A judge will rip them a new one if they don't come up with justification and the property owner objects. There are checks and balances here.

No ,they don't need a minimum level of proof to carry out the seizure. They need a minimum level of proof to defend the seizure in court--which is a totally different ball game. Attorneys cost money, even if fees are eventually awarded many potential plaintiffs can't afford to be out of pocket for the time (months or years) required for a case to make its way through the courts. Seizures made against out-of-town and out-of-state victims are even harder to challenge--it can be quite costly to repeatedly travel to a distant jurisdiction's courts, even if you can afford to take the time off work. And to challenge even a blatantly illegal seizure is to invite additional scrutiny and future harrassment.

If crooked cops can hit the 'sweet spot' of around a few thousand dollars, in most cases it's going to be too much of a hassle and expense for a victim to fight.

about 2 months ago
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Iceland Raises Volcano Aviation Alert Again

Idarubicin Re:Bah, character-set ignorance. (38 comments)

I feel embarrassed every time I see an English-language site render this as "Bardarbunga", when that "d" should be "th". Yes, the letter "eth" looks like a lowercase d with a crossbar and erectile dysfunction, but it's pronounced like "th".

The reason is because the Icelandic alphabet has two different letters that produce a sound that could be written "th" in English. The letter eth (Ð or ð) is a voiced "th", like in "they" or "this"; whereas the letter thorn (Wikipedia link, since Slashdot won't render it) is unvoiced, like in "thistle" or "theater". By convention, eth is transliterated as "d", whereas thorn is transliterated as "th". It does make some sense, as "d" is a voiced consonant, so that in addition to the look being similar, the naive pronunciation isn't horribly wrong. (And it means that someone seeing a "th" in an English transliteration of Icelandic text knows that it's unvoiced, so they'll get the pronunciation right.) And for better or for worse, it's the accepted transliteration, so if you want to fight it you're fighting against convention.

The gross transliteration error that kills me is when someone substitutes P or p for the thorn and turns something like Thingvellir into Pingvellir. That's just horribly wrong.

about 3 months ago
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Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

Idarubicin Re:TFA betrays Ray Henry 's ignorance of planning. (258 comments)

Exactly correct. If the target date for an "interim test storage site" is 2021, that's only 7 years out.

Let's allow a year to figure out what the specs ought to be, a year to request and evaluate proposals from possible contractors, a year to build prototypes, a year of testing, a year to fix problems identified in testing, a year to manufacture the first few final-version railcars, and a year for overruns. That's a seven-year timetable right there.

Unless we want to be running late, paying tons of money out in overtime, and getting railcars that kind-of-sort-of work right most of the time...then yeah, right now is a good time to start on this stuff.

about 3 months ago
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San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant Dismantling Will Cost $4.4 Billion, Take 20 Years

Idarubicin Re:Not a bad deal (343 comments)

... FWIW: Three Mile Island (Shutdown in 1979) still hasn't been completely decommission. in 2011 they invested another $30 Million to retrofit the Spent fuel pool cooling system. These Plants are incredibly difficult and costly to dismantle and clean up.

If the $4.4 billion price tag for the San Onofre facility is anywhere near the right ballpark, a $30 million expenditure 35 years down the road would be, in today's money, a rounding error.

It also should go without saying that we do have 30+ more years of experience with decommissioning nuclear facilities now than we did in 1979. And San Onofre, unlike TMI, was not the site of a significant accident that damaged its core and contaminated the facility.

about 4 months ago
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States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

Idarubicin Re:Short-Lived? (778 comments)

...and that money taken from McDonalds will result in higher prices at McDonald's making everyone's earnings seem less driving wage increases, ad infinitum,.

Wages - and especially that subset of wages which are paid at the legal minimum - represent only a fraction of the total costs of operating a McDonald's restaurant. All wages together are about 25% of the total costs, and that includes a non-trivial number above-minimum management and support staff. So even if we make the unreasonable worst-case assumptions that a) all employees do earn minimum wage, and b) that increased wages don't result in any improvement in average employee productivity (because employees are physically healthier and because of reduced turnover) then a 1% increase in minimum wage only makes for a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac.

And a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac doesn't actually equate to a 0.25% increase in actual cost-of-living. The effect will be smaller or negligible for businesses where staff costs represent a smaller share of total costs, and where dealing with businesses in which employees are already better paid than minimum wage.

And finally, there are a number of costs associated with minimum-wage workers that you're already paying out of your own pocket, without realizing it. Wal-Mart and McDonald's know perfectly well that minimum wage isn't a living wage. Food stamps, state-subsidized health insurance programs, school lunch programs--that's money you're paying because Wal-Mart isn't. Forcing McDonald's to pay its employees a living wage (or closer to one, at least) means that your Big Mac's price is (less) subsidized by the government.

about 4 months ago
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The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

Idarubicin Re:Railroads killed by the government... (195 comments)

Most of the Interstate is supported by fuel taxes. Fuel taxes are paid for by drivers. Who use the Interstate. So, I'd say that it's a pretty good case of 'user pays'.

Used to be more true, not so much today. The Highway Trust Fund - which is funded by a combination of federal fuel and vehicle taxes - has been bailed out before ($35 billion between 2008 and 2010) and is out of money again this year. And the federal government has turned over responsibility for the interstate highways to the individual states, so a big chunk of the construction, maintenance, and repair bills actually comes from the states.

Looking at 2010 numbers, total spending nationwide on highways was about $155 billion. The federal gas tax brought in $28 billion; state and local fuel taxes amounted to another $37 billion; plus state and local governments picked up another $12 billion from tolls and non-fuel taxes. All in all, that's about $77 billion in revenue for $155 billion in expenditures. Drivers are paying about...51% of the cost of the highway network.

For comparison, I note a comment below that shows in fiscal 2012 Amtrak spent $4.036 billion and had revenues of $2.877 billion. In other words, Amtrak riders paid 71% of their costs out of pocket--a much bigger share of the costs than highway users.

about 4 months ago
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Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Idarubicin Re:Just an opinion... (123 comments)

Given how relatively time-consuming research is(and how negative results, however valid, tend to have difficulty moving papers), it would be...surprising... to hear that one percent of the scientists are co-authoring 41 percent of the papers on sheer productivity.

Actually, not so surprising, depending on how the analysis is done. And it also depends a lot on how you want to measure "sheer productivity". A supervisor who helps design the experiment, interpret the data, write the paper, and communicate with journal editors probably spends fewer hours than the trainee (grad student or postdoc) who actually does all the bench work--but that doesn't mean that the supervisor hasn't earned an authorship credit.

If Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, and Elsa are all graduate students in Dr. Frink's lab, and each of those students publishes two papers over the course of their PhD programs, then all of those students are going to be authors on 2 papers each, and Frink will be an author on 10 papers. Dr. Frink is 1 out of 6 scientists - a bit less than 17% - but is on 100% of the papers. If you have a big lab in a relatively hot (or well-funded) field, then your name is going to be on a lot of papers.

And papers these days - especially the high-impact, widely-read, highly-cited papers - tend to have a longer list of authors. If you look at the table of contents for the most recent issue of Science, the two Research Articles have 26 and 12 authors. Out of the dozen or so Reports, one has 4 authors, two have 5, all the rest have more. Speaking personally and anecdotally, my last three manuscripts (in the biomedical sciences) had 8, 3, and 7 authors.

Going back to "1% of scientists are on 45% of papers"--well, if those are all six-author papers, then that top 1% is only responsible for a 7.5% share (45 divided by 6) of the "output". Given that there is a very long tail of authors who only have 1, 2, or 3 authorships in their lifetime (the majority of PhD graduates never end up conducting research as university faculty; there just aren't enough jobs), I am willing to believe that there is a small fraction of productive, top scientists whose names are on a disproportionately large share of papers.

about 4 months ago
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Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Idarubicin Re:Just an opinion... (123 comments)

The intellectual penury that comes with serving with a leader in a given field seems to be gladly endured by most young researchers. This story ignores the fact that, although the senior researcher's name may be at the top of the paper, the junior researcher's name is right there below it.

Actually, in many of the sciences (mathematics and parts of physics are notable exceptions, where authors tend to be listed alphabetically) it is usually the graduate student or postdoc who did most of the work who is the first author on the paper. The senior researcher - a principal investigator who actually has the academic appointment, who may have secured the funding, and who is ultimately responsible for the lab - is generally listed as the last author on the manuscript. ("Middle" authorship has the least cachet by far.)

Broadly speaking, young scientists and trainees want to accumulate as many first-author papers as possible, to demonstrate their scientific productivity. Faculty members - senior scientists - want to accumulate last-author papers, to demonstrate that their labs are productive.

about 4 months ago
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Physicists Spot Potential Source of 'Oh-My-God' Particles

Idarubicin Re:WTFis "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs" (144 comments)

WTF is "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs"?

That should technically be something like "as much kinetic energy as a well-thrown baseball". In other words, about 50 joules: what you get from a baseball at about 60 miles per hour. So, not major-league fastball fast (90+ mph) but quite a respectable velocity.

And we're not going to talk about assorted forms of chemical or nuclear potential energy in the baseball. If you set fire to a baseball, you could get quite a bit more thermal energy. And you could get a heck of a lot more energy out of a baseball if you fused all its component atoms down to iron.

about 4 months ago

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Idarubicin hasn't submitted any stories.

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Thoughts on moderation--the missing mod

Idarubicin Idarubicin writes  |  more than 11 years ago There have always been a few denizens of Slashdot who have insisted that they will always metamod any negative moderations Unfair. Those who insist on such an absolute stance probably will not have their minds changed by my little journal entry. Not only might they feel smug about their little 'principle', but they are also saved from making the effort to read and understand negatively moderated comments. It smacks of laziness, really.

I digress. Here I intend to address the 'new' breed of metamods. They have a stated predisposition against negative mods (here, for example) but are willing to consider the content of a post. Looking at the negative mods:

Troll and Flamebait. Both of these mods suggest that the moderator knows the intent of the poster. Although it may seem apparent, the individual could be misguided, stupid, or (gasp!) even correct. Regardless, since we cannot glean intent (with certainty) from the post, these mods are always Unfair.

Offtopic. Unless a post is way out in left field, there really isn't a need to use this mod. It may be a crutch for a moderator who doesn't want to sound 'mean'...or a blind for a moderator who just doesn't 'get it' and wants to hide a post that is over his head.

Redundant. One man's redundant is another man's detailed shade of meaning. Again, tough to apply, except to the karma whores who have posted the full content of a linked article...for the third time.

Overrated. The chink in the armour. This moderation is not subject to metamoderation. It can therefore be abused, and should probably be eliminated. To quote (approximately) a fellow Slashdotter--unfortunately, one whose name I do not know--"the Offtopic mod is like saying, 'it sucks, because.'" It just doesn't seem to be a good reason. It fails to explain the reason for the moderation to anybody--poster, other moderators, metamoderators.

So what's the missing mod? I've just finished saying we can dispense with one moderation already--why replace it? The new mod that I propose is -1, Factually Inaccurate. Sad as it is, there is currently no moderation appropriate for a clear, polite, reasoned post based on objectively incorrect information. These posts may be flagged as Trolls or Flamebait because moderators don't know what to do with them. Moderators may throw up their hands and just mod up correct replies. They may use the flawed Overrated mod.

None of these techniques exposes the moderators thinking to the poster, and moderation leaves them open to vindictive (or 'corrective') metamoderation. By introducing a -1, Factually Inaccurate mod, metamoderators will be encouraged to check facts for themselves--read more of the thread, and so forth. The reason for the moderation will be crystal clear. Finally, the moderator will be encouraged to know his stuff before he goes out on a limb and claims a poster is wrong.

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