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City Council Ordered To Stop CCTV In Taxi Cabs

Landak Re:Believe it or not... (101 comments)

Ahh, my apologies -- I'd assumed that Southampton was small enough that they were a town council (which is analogous to a parish one, but with a harder job of cleaning the toilets!). Do'h!

about 2 years ago

City Council Ordered To Stop CCTV In Taxi Cabs

Landak Believe it or not... (101 comments)

The organisation doing the "telling off" here, the Information Commissioner's Office, is actually surprisingly good at these sorts of cases, on these sorts of scales. I know someone who was being followed by his landlord (by PIs -- looking for any breach of his tenancy agreement), and the ICO prosecuted all involved; a solicitor was disbarred and the landlord might face criminal prosecutions. In this case, the relatively small bit of government -- a city council, the smallest 'unit of democracy' in the UK -- being told off here has no choice but to take the ruling and stop taping everyone's conversation (and/or sexy fun time) in the back of a cab.

Quite why it is that the ICO can tell off Southampton Council for recording people routinely, and yet can do nothing about the fact that everyone's movements across and through London are routinely tracked, however, escapes me. There are more CCTV cameras in london per capita than anywhere else in the world; one need only walk around outside and be followed, tracked and dated whenever you're going anywhere. Automatic CCTV numberplate recognition algorithm will automatically fine you for stopping on a (double) yellow line for more than a minute, or for straying into a bus (or, now, unfortunately, "Games") lane, irrespective of whether or not you had any choice in the matter. I find it depressing that the specific extra-governmental regulatory body designed to stop these sorts of things is so powerless when it comes down to telling off people who actually are important.

about 2 years ago

Steve Jobs Dead At 56

Landak heWoz. (1613 comments)

I spent my childhood admiring Steve, and actually had him and Woz as something of an idol. He has died far too young, but left a legacy that many can only dream of. Rest in peace.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Math Curriculum To Understand General Relativity?

Landak Re:Same Question for Particle Physics (358 comments)

There's a wonderful book called "Quantum Field Theory In A Nutshell", by a guy called Zee. It's fantastic. It's also about the most concise introduction that I've found; you might also get a kick out of reading Feynman's doctoral thesis. In short, be prepared for a whole bunch of Lagrangians (or, more precisely, Lagrangian Densities) and proofs that you see once, scream loudly, and then forget about. I don't know how much understanding of quantum mechanics you have, but you need an awful lot of it, specifically Fermi's Golden Rule. Again, as a mathematician you'll find this easier than perhaps most. I can recommend this book as an introduction to quantum mechanics, which starts from a knowledge of linear vector spaces in the Dirac notation. After that, Zee (and many, many glasses of whisky) will get you the rest of the way (inasmuch as there is a 'way', or anything at the end of it). The Higgs mechanism in particular is beautiful. You don't need to remember your curvilinear coordinates very well, but Lie algebra is vital. The trouble with particle physics is that a lot of it is phenomenological -- you'll find High Energy Physics, by Donald Purkins a very good introduction to the experimental side of it, and that side is important. Good luck!

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Math Curriculum To Understand General Relativity?

Landak Roughly speaking, learn maths. (358 comments)

First off, you don't state how much knowledge of maths and physics you _actually_ have beforehand, This makes answering the question an awful lot harder -- a 'college course in calculus' could be evaluating simple derivatives, or it could be some nasty vector calc and differential equations. In the order that they come into my head, you need to understand _intimately_ vector calculus (leading to Einstein notation -- play with it and become comfortable with it!), methods of solving partial differential equations, multivariate calculus, and how to properly play with differentials (i.e. proofs that start with statements like "df(x, y) = \partial f / \partial x dx + \partial f / \partial y dy"). You'll also need to properly understand matrix algebra, and ideally what tensors are (hint: generalisations of matricies that follow certain properties). You should be able to prove vector identities in Einstein notation, and be quite comfortable manipulating 'hardcore maths'. Honestly, just go away and play with maths until you understand it fully, you understand where it comes from, and you can use it without thinking about it at all. After that, try and become familiar with special relativity. This will be hard. Feynman explains everything very well in his lectures, but he doesn't list any problems: the best way to learn physics is to derive a true statement (like the lorentz contractions) and go away and shove it in all sorts of different situations (i.e. answer problems with it). The book by French & Taylor is commonly well-received; there are many different textbooks. Find a good set of problems, and answer them. Then, when you understand modern Special Relativity, get a large GR book -- there are many; Gravitation, or "General Relativity for Physicists" is a good one -- and read it. _Think_ about it, and answer the problems at the end of every chapter. If your book doesn't have questions at the end of each chapter, go away, and get one that does. Make sure you do them, and if you don't get something, find out why. If you can't find out why, ask someone who can. Finally, a taught undergraduate level course in GR would be a fantastic introduction after a well-defined amount of knowledge has been acquired. The lecture notes from the course at my home institution can be found here.

more than 2 years ago

Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line

Landak Re:one line to many cashiers (464 comments)

I believe that a sufficient summary of your excellent post would be "Language is descriptive, not prescriptive, biatches". Am I correct?

more than 3 years ago

String Quartets On the Web?

Landak Classics Online (228 comments)

Classics Online, owned by the decidedly non-RIAA Naxos label, is by far the best source I've ever found. Not only do they have *everything* from Anonymous Four onwards, but they're not Evil, don't have any DRM, give away a free track a week, and frequently have "samplers" of composers you'll never have heard of, where you get ~20 tracks for £2/$2. I'm not affiliated with them, but I am a rather satisfied customer.

about 4 years ago

Firefox Tab Candy Alpha

Landak Shiira (189 comments)

The OS X-only, Webkit based (japanese) browser, Shiira, has had this "tab-sposé" feature for years. It was written during a period when Safari "showed promise" but was nowhere near properly usable, but doesn't appear to be well maintained at the moment, which is (imo) something of a pity.

about 4 years ago

Some Birds Can See Magnetic Fields

Landak Re:Why haven't we evolved to see IR or microwave? (238 comments)

Evolution doesn't particularly care if something is good, just if it is "good enough". We've evolved to the great humbling oafs that we are now throughout a variety of intermediate stages -- but all of them have something in common: we've been on earth, and, it is believed, underwater. Let me just show you two graphs; one of the measured absorption coefficient of water (beware the axes: it's a semi-logarithmic plot), and, secondly, the absorption spectrum of the atmosphere. If you look at one and then the other, you'll see that the only window where both materials aren't as clear as the reason for Jar Jar Blink's conception is roughly the range ~300-~1000nm. This corresponds to what we dub "the visible spectrum" and is the part of the EM spectrum where the vast majority of life on earth is either pigmented or sees -- where "the sun is brightest", as most of the light from the sky is reaching the environment in which organisms live (aquatic or not). It also roughly corresponds with the peak of the Sun's blackbody spectrum. When you consider that we can measure light from all over the universe coming to us in wavelengths ranging from the tens of metres to less than a tenth of a fermi [femtometer], you have to concede that we really are a product of our environment. Oh -- and IANAL, IANABiologist, but I am a biophysicist :-).

more than 4 years ago

London's Mayor Promises London-Wide Wireless For 2012 Olympics

Landak How long will Digital Britain last? (130 comments)

To the joy of nerds everywhere in the UK, it seems like the Digital Britain bill might not last very long with the current Government.

Whether or not Cameron and the conservatives can splinter away from Murdoch enough to let this happen remains to be seen, but I am currently naive enough to be genuinely optimistic about the results of having liberals in power for the first time in over a century.

more than 4 years ago

Research Suggests Brain Has a 2-Task Limit for Multitasking

Landak Musicians (257 comments)

What about professional musicians, who have to concentrate on far many more things than two at once? Organists, in addition to playing anything up to five keyboard manuals with their hands and one with their feet (simultaneously reading anything up to twelve lines of music, though in practice usually never more than five), have to listen to a choir and/or congregation, watch a conductor, and read the music, all at the same time. Some of them can even sing competently one line whilst doing so!

Whilst I can accept that it is very difficult to consciously concentrate on more than two things at once, somehow some people can train their subconscious into doing so -- when sight-reading music, I experience a lovely sensation, almost as if my brain is being "split" down the middle -- if I concentrate for too long, I start to develop a headache and feel exceptionally exhausted. It is a most wonderful feeling, and nothing else in the world quite comes close (although doing some rewarding mathematics isn't far behind). I would not be surprised if it were possible to find many more examples of people concentrating on more than two things at once, "simply" through getting other bits of their brain to do the dirty work. Juggling on a unicycle while jumping over a skipping rope, anyone?

more than 4 years ago

Big Bang Could Be Recreated Inside a Metamaterial

Landak Re:metamaterials are just periodic structures (113 comments)

Saying "metamaterials are just periodic structures" is like a circular argument - perfectly valid, but not very interesting. It so happens that currently all of the structures we've manufactured with a refractive index that is negative somewhere, have that 'somewhere' outside of the visible spectrum. This is due entirely - it is theorised - due to our aqueous origins when we were evolving eyes and doesn't make the materials any less fascinating! As the understanding behind these structures grows, we might be able to produce more and more exotic 'period structures' that have a refractive index closer to glass (i.e. a real refractive index in the visible that rapidly becomes purely imaginary [dissipative] elsewhere). The same is true of Type II superconductors - just because they're periodic structures that we don't understand fully yet doesn't mean that they're not useful to society at large!

more than 4 years ago

In the UK, a Plan To Criminalize Illegal Downloaders

Landak Re:anonymous? (382 comments)

Whilst it is true that the politicians currently probably did find Oxford a university for the upper-classes, this is no longer the case; I am currently an undergraduate there, and I come from what you would call a single-parent-family 'lower class' background. Likewise, I have friends there - scholars indeed - who have mums who were heroin addicts and whatnot. Please don't perpetuate the myth that Oxford is purely for the toffs of Eton and Harrow. Oxford is for the bright, the able, and honestly doesn't care wherever the hell you come from.

about 5 years ago

Wikipedia Moving From GFDL To Creative Commons License

Landak Might I be the first to say... (90 comments) this the start of the end of the GFDL?

more than 5 years ago

What Did You Do First With Linux?

Landak Installing gentoo (739 comments)

My first linux experience was installing (bootstrapping, iirc) Gentoo.

Believe it or not, it wasn't my last!

more than 5 years ago

NYC Wants Ideas For "Taxi Technology 2.0"

Landak Re:Electric Cabs (302 comments)

Here in England, every large delivery van I see in city-centres out delivering goods at ~5am is electric. If TNT et al can globally turn a giant van into something smothered with "Zero emissions vehicle" and similar marketing speech, why can't NYC?

more than 5 years ago

Worst Working Conditions You Had To Write Code In?

Landak Re:Hmmmmm (1127 comments)

As I have found out to my detriment: you can come back to the code later.

The woman, however...

more than 5 years ago

Eavesdropping On Google Voice and Skype

Landak Believe it or not (62 comments)

Believe it or not, Skype carries the second largest number of international calls in the world, second only to AT&T. With a volume like that, you'd imagine that any potential vulnerability may well find someone interested in applying it, very quickly. Like, for instance, the NSA...

more than 5 years ago

Finnish Court Dismisses E-Voting Result

Landak I am glad. (114 comments)

That, for all else that is wrong with our system of democracy here in the UK, we have not forgotten how to use a pen and a piece of paper. When elections are being held, there's something rather reassuring to see a (usually rather dented) black box padlocked shut with a small hole at the top, and a large number of people queuing up to put their slip of paper in. It's worked quite well for the last 300 years. I really don't know what's wrong with it...

more than 5 years ago

Copyright Scholar Challenges RIAA/DOJ Position

Landak Re:Deep pocket lobbyists will get you everything (168 comments)

If tomorrow you had to pay for all the music you listened to, I'd go straight to my piano and wonder when the truck of gold would arrive at my door ;-).

more than 5 years ago



Church of England Apologise to Darwin Posthumously

Landak Landak writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Landak writes "The Church of England officially apologised today to Charles Darwin, one hundred and fifty years after he published his groundbreaking book "The Origin of Species". The apology has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the church's director of mission and public affairs, who said that the church's "Victorian hierarchy showed too much 'anti-evolutionary fervour'" back in the 1860s.

His statement says:

People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and Churches are no exception. When a big new idea emerges that changes the way people look at the world, it's easy to feel that every old idea, every certainty, is under attack and then to do battle against the new insights. [...] The Church made that mistake with Galileo's astronomy and has since realised its error. Some Church people did it again in the 1860s with Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. [...] So it is important to think again about Darwin's impact on religious thinking, then and now."

The apology, 126 years after Darwin's death was yesterday branded "pointless" by the naturalist's own family, but it is a sentiment that many would wish to see hop across the pond!"


Study shows smart people more likely to be virgins

Landak Landak writes  |  about 7 years ago

Jack M. writes "'Each additional point of IQ increased the odds of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% for females', Jason Malloy writes in a coherent(!) blog-posted discussion of research previously done by institutions such as the University of North Carolina and MiT's college magazine (PDF warning); the results reiterate what every slashdotter has known for quite some time and prove to be an interesting piece of statistics. "Only 65% of MIT graduate students have had sex", writes Jason before breaking down the results by major: "[The chart shows] that 0% of studio art majors were virgins, but 72% of biology majors [...] and 83% of biochem and math majors were virgins!".

Ironically, or perhaps encouragingly, Computer Science majors were further down the bell curve than I personally expected, with roughly 40% of CS Majors declaring virginity. The majors most likely to have virginal scholars are Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Mathematics (physics does not appear on the chart), and the major with the least number of virgins, at 0%, was Studio Art."

Link to Original Source


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