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Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding Is a Superpower

Latent Heat Is a lame Seth Rogen flick worth dying for? (212 comments)

My question is whether a Hollywood B movie is a cause worth anyone -- our military and diplomatic people, civilians movie goers -- risking their lives?

I am not saying I have an answer for that.

This is not a First Amendment question because in this case a corporation that regards themselves in the business of entertaining people has decided that they don't want to risk releasing this movie right now. Yes, they are caving to a threat, but the movie is their property under Copyright to do what they choose, and they choose to not show the movie as of now. They could have just shown the movie, shown the movie but put metal detectors and guards up around the theatres, or maybe even demanded protection from the threat by the government.

There is a broader embrace of free expression in our society going beyond the First Amendment, and caving against the threat undermines free expression. But there is no law against giving in to blackmail -- there are only laws against taking justice into your own hands in acting against a blackmailer. We only wish, sometimes, that the Westboro Church, the book-burning Florida cleric, and the Egyptian movie-making dude would give in, and this wishing out loud by Administration officials gets pushback regarding First Amendment concerns, but there would be no wrong if those people had caved in light of the threats facing their free expression.

So (if presumably it was North Korea) threatened violence within our borders, they haven't violated any law because they are not under US law. On the other hand, such a threat could be construed as an act of war, submitting to such a threat diminishes our honor to the extent that free expression is one of our cherished values, and nations have gone to war over questions of honor -- many times. In other words, to cave humiliates us as a nation in our own eyes, which by definition, is a matter of honor.

Do we want to fight back for our national honor? Does honor, or the principles of honor in this dispute with North Korea rise to the level of risking lives in a war? I am not saying there is a simple answer, but when people say that going to war over "honor" is competely stupid, this example should come to mind. That North Korea effectively has veto power over what is shown for movies in US theatres is a question of honor (we will attack you if you show this movie) -- no one has died (yet), but do we want to live this way? But on the other hand, is a dumb Seth Rogen pic a cause worth dying for?


Dr. Dobb's 38-Year Run Comes To an End

Latent Heat Oh yeah, he was a orthodontist (155 comments)

I believe the original subtitle of the magazine was "Running Light Without Overbyte."

Back in the day, the new "microcomputers" had limited speed, memory, and address range. The emphasis was getting those machines to do useful work.

These days, we have thrown up our hands, and we smother the problem with more hardware.

3 days ago

"Advanced Life Support" Ambulances May Lead To More Deaths

Latent Heat Re:Diana Spencer (112 comments)

France is famous for those ambulances that treat patients rather than what they derisively call "scoop and run" of U.S. practice. Diana's ambulance was said to have stopped by the road more than once to administer treatment according to the rolling medical facility model. There are certain things for which a surgical facility offers the only treatment, and they don't have that inside that ambulance.

The whole thread is about whether "Advanced Life Support" ambulances are the correct thing. Yes, there are always differences to raise an objection to any one case comparison, but these famous cases at least cause one to think whether rolling medical facilities vs scoop-and-run are better.

about two weeks ago

You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

Latent Heat You must be new around here . . . (327 comments)

. . . yeah, we pretty much know this, but sshhh! Don't tell anyone!

about two weeks ago

"Advanced Life Support" Ambulances May Lead To More Deaths

Latent Heat Diana Spencer (112 comments)

I has been said that President Reagan survived the same type of vascular damage that Princess Diana did not.

about three weeks ago

Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

Latent Heat Measuring is really, really hard (367 comments)

For a long time I had tried to quantify the amount of air infiltration into my house using a measuring cup, a clock, and a humidity gauge. I am interested in this because I am interested in energy conservation, and I am interested in conservation owing to concerns about exhaustion of resources, which includes the resource of the atmosphere as a place to accept CO2.

The idea is derived from mass balance. Humid outside air entering the house displaces dryer conditioned air leaving the house. If you measure humidity inside and outside, calculate the partial pressure of H2O vapor inside and outside, measure the condensed liquid from your dehumidifier or A/C drain, voila, you know the rate of air exchange.

This is far from my own idea -- I read about it in a government report that came about in the "1st Energy Crisis" of the 70's and early 80's in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo followed by the Iranian Revolution. The usual way to measure air infiltration is with a blower door, but this way seems to require less fuss. The air infiltration number by this method, however, are "all over the place."

What went wrong? I don't have any incontrovertible "science" quantifying any of this, but I have some guesses, hypotheses to some people, beliefs to others. One, the amount of air infiltration varies with wind speed. The whole idea behind the blower door is you apply a pressure differential way in excess of the wind pressure on the day of the test to control for that. Two, and this is just an intuition, the single-compartment model must be wrong. The walls of your house act as a sink for moisture, one that is ambient temperature dependent and also has significant lags in exchanging moisture with the inside air. Three, family members add humidity by bathing, cooking, and simply breathing, but I tried to control for this by taking measurements when I was alone and limiting time of showers, etc.

I simply gave up on this method. The effect that air exchange will either increase the humidity level of the house or increase the water in your dehumidifier bucket is "science", yes, but it is a kind of incontrovertible hard science of mass balance. On the other hand, the effect I tried to measure appeared to be swamped by these effects for which I was unable to control. Furthermore, countering confirmation bias took a great effort of will -- you get these "runs" that "don't make sense" and then you get a run consistent with the model, and you go "aha, this makes sense, this is the infiltration level of this house." It is kind of like someone asks you "what kind of gas mileage you getting from your new car" and you report a favorable high reading from memory instead an average from your receipts and odometer reading showing a much lower number.

Yes, there is the contingent that dares, "Take my SUV away when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel." But there is also a contingent that knows how much the global temperature has increased in the last century and why, and when challenged starts getting all huffy and starts using four-letter words.

about a month ago

Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph

Latent Heat Zulu time (419 comments)

Hey, we are not talking Bonaparte, we are talking Marat and Danton, and we know what happened to those dudes . . .

Seriously, that is my point. Feet, yards, pints, pounds (yeah, pound mass or pound weight, and what value and units are you using for G?) are human scale units. Meters (metres?), litres, grams, what are those? Those are made-up by some wild dudes in France in the late 18th century, and if you really wanted to scold USians about not "going metric", whatever happened to that fancy decimal calendar?

24 hr clock, tell me about it. If you really wanted to go G.I., you would schedule all your appointments in "Zulu time", which is pretty much local time for England and parts of Europe but completely artificial for the Continental U.S..

about a month ago

Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph

Latent Heat French Revolutionary Calendar (419 comments)

Only weenies and USians still use non-metric months, weeks, days, and hours.

Those cultures that "have it together" divide the year into 10 "months", the month into 10-day "decades", and measure time with 10-hour days.

Metric makes perfect sense, and it is a mystery as to the holdouts against metric time.

about a month ago

The Downside to Low Gas Prices

Latent Heat 'tude of those on Ultra Right (554 comments)

There are those on the far right who hold similar opinions.

So eating is a basic necessity of life, and we need to provide a social safety net that people don not starve, but meals above a bare subsistence level are a luxury good?

I have heard Conservatives argue that instead of Welfare and Foodstamps, we should just have these government stores where everyone can purchase as much whole-wheat flour, lard, and powdered milk as they want, and if a person wanted more than these subsistence food items, they should just get off the couch and work a few hours?

Actually, this plan has been tried out. I heard that "fry bread" became a Native American specialty owing to a Federal food program. Many Native Americans bear the genetic legacy of their ancestors being hunters adapted to feast-or-famine, where the modern diet leads to Type 2 Diabetes and other problems, but the Federal program was well-meaning, and I am getting off topic.

Oh, and then there is cheese, Reagan's cheese. Reagan got to cut back on the safety net and make up for it with free cheese -- solved the ag surplus and urban hunger problems in one step. I actually got to eat some -- Mom told me "you're eating it" when Grandma queued up at the Senior Center for the cheese and she put packets of it in Christmas baskets for the college-bound grandkids. Mmmm, mmm, mmm, that was good eatin'!

Oh, did I tell you that illegal drugs are one of the great social burdens that society has the duty to discourage any way it can? Yeah, yeah, most of the harm from drugs comes from the War on Drugs -- highest incarceration rate among our trading partners, dirty needles/impure drugs, racial impact, police corruption -- but if these drugs were not illegal, everyone would stay at home stoned out of their minds and no work would get done, like China under the British thumb? Besides, a drug habit is really a "luxury good" that you can get by without if you are poor, and if you are wealthy, you can afford the cost of rehab when addiction gets the better of you?

So here is what a Midwestern governor wants to do next -- drug-test food-aid recipients.

So here I am, working for my food, being very careful to eat healthy and stay within a budget, and I am in line behind a rag-proletarian buying all manners of expensive junk food who pulls out an EBT card? And you know a lot of that "stuff" gets traded for drugs? Why should a government food program support beyond the bare necessities of wheat flour, lard, and dry milk -- anything more is a luxury. Twinkies and sodas are certainly a luxury offering personal harm and social harm when he have to pay for your dialysis, whether consumed directly for a sugar-high or traded for a more industrial-strength high?

The argument against what the Governor wants to do (apart from the chance of being blown up in a court challenge on Equal Protection and Unreasonable Search and Seizure grounds) is human dignity. You have people who need government aid to buy food who probably have a drab life to begin with, and you (well, maybe not you, but the Right Wing) want to deny them the pleasure of eating Froot Loops. Deny them the personal choice between spending their EBT funds on Froot Loops or substituting Mom's Best Wheat Squares (a "generic" no added-sugar no-salt whole grain alternative)?

What the Right Wing wants to do with the poor, others want to impose on the Middle Class? So a personal auto is deemed monumentally destructive, but have you checked out the Federal stats on transit districts and that owing to off-peak service, deadhead return trips during rush hour, a Diesel bus breaks even with a two-person carpool in CO2 emissions? You want all of those excise taxes and our Governor wants to trade food for a sample of your bodily fluids? What price human dignity? What price human liberty?

about a month ago

CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

Latent Heat Mind tricks (137 comments)

(waves hand)

These are not the Higgs' you're looking for . . .

(Associate Editor turns towards reviewers) Let their paper through . . .

about a month and a half ago

The Most Highly Cited Scientific Papers of All Time

Latent Heat The MS Word Grammar Checker (81 comments)

I had a reviewer remark that a paper had "good grammar."

Thank you, Melinda French Gates . . .

about 1 month ago

The Airplane of the Future May Not Have Windows

Latent Heat Barf bag holding pattern (286 comments)

You can "blame Reagan" for the diminishing of barf bag usage on planes.

The classic "holding pattern" where planes are "stacked up" at different altitudes but at the same radio beacon (VOR) intersection works like this. You fly straight for one minute, execute a 180 deg right turn for one minute, fly straight for another minute, and then execute another 1 minute right turn to complete the circuit. This is often done inside the clouds -- if there were good weather, you would not be in a holding pattern. Repeat until the passenger barf.

You see, after Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers and broke the strike with replacement workers, the FAA replaced most holding patterns with ground holds, where you are just sitting at the departure gate getting anxious about your 30-minute connection in Detroit.

At least sitting on the ground isn't wasting fuel, using up the fuel needed to fly the plane, and is generally safer than this "circling" (actually, "ovaling").

about 2 months ago

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

Latent Heat Re: Mickie Dees, 2014 (342 comments)

Yes, I am supposed to beat up some (rude) children . . .

about 2 months ago

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

Latent Heat Mickie Dees, 2014 (342 comments)

I had the impression that McDonalds serves customers at an order-of-magnitude greater rate than just about any other fast-food chain, accounting for Warren Buffett getting rich off their corporate stock?

There is no "line" at McDonalds, there is simply a mob of customers, some of them waiting for their order, some of them staring at the menu-on-the-wall not knowing what to order, and some eager to purchase something and eat. Somehow that mob is self-organizing and the servers are able to "Can I help you?" the next person without a line and without starting a riot.

The one time that didn't work is when I was on a long drive returning from visiting my parents in "long-term care", and as I came up to the counter to open my mouth with my order, a group of people from what looked like a middle-school sports team after a game simply surged passed me, as much as pushing me aside. Didn't say anything but from my scowl, one of them remarked, "I bet that 'dude' is upset" only in somewhat more vulgar terms. I think I said something that I had a 'long day', was very tired and hungry beyond belief, but it didn't look like I was getting anything to eat anytime soon, I turned and left.

Before someone lectures me about my sense of entitlement, that was probably an epic fail of this "store" from their training at Hamburger U. I don't stop there but instead patronize another McDonalds a little further up the road with which I have good experience.

about a month ago

The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Latent Heat Not the hydrogen -- it is everything else (350 comments)

Cold fusion -- yeah, it has a "Zeppelin" analogy . . .

It's not the hydrogen, it is everything else that is wrong about it.

The US Navy had these Zeppelin clones, and they crashed every one save the Los Angeles from flying into bad weather, which for a rigid airship, appears to be anything other than a perfect sunny day.

about 2 months ago

First Man To Walk In Space Reveals How Mission Nearly Ended In Disaster

Latent Heat Mr. Gagarin relieved himself on the tire (122 comments)

They both had to relieve themselves, but Colonel Gagarin did this against the tire of the van carrying him to the rocket. Since then, crews regarded this "pit stop before boarding" as good luck.

Commander Shepard, I guess, was bolted into the rocket for so long he had to "do it in the suit."

about 2 months ago

First Man To Walk In Space Reveals How Mission Nearly Ended In Disaster

Latent Heat Lost in Space (122 comments)

I read that read that in the unmanned tests of the Vostok spacecraft, they played tapes in the cabin to test the comm system, and there is speculation from that of pre-Gagarin human spaceflights.

To squelch the rumors, the story told is that the Soviets then played tapes of vocal choruses. No one would believe that they orbited the entire Soviet Army Men's Choral Group . . .

about 2 months ago

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola

Latent Heat Try getting a medical excuse to cancel a trip (478 comments)

It used to be that not only has it been hard to cancel or reschedule a trip without eating the cost, it is hard to get a medical excuse. Heck, at a doctor visit for another matter, I was given a handful of prescription anti-histamine so I could go on a trip with a serious cold. Doctors "tough it out" and go all kinds of places with colds (or worse -- there are all kinds of upper respiratory stuff with all profiles of sore throats, phlegm, and fevers).

Or at least that used to be the system until SARS/H1N1. Has this changed? Will an airline cheerfully let you reschedule if you tell them you have a fever and a bad sore throat, or do they demand "a doctor's note"?

about 2 months ago

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola

Latent Heat I start worrying when I hear "Full stop." (478 comments)

There are rational arguments to advance in regard to "don't worry", and we geeks here can "handle the truth."

When someone is trying to tell me they don't want to discuss this any further and this is the end of the conversation, that is when I really start to worry.

about 2 months ago

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola

Latent Heat Why go from one depressed area to another? (478 comments)

What incentive is there to purchase and expensive plane ticket to go from one place without health care to another across an ocean? If people want to migrate, they will come to the US. The Central America scenerio might, just might come into play if the US places travel restrictions on West Africa.

about 2 months ago



Who checks food nutrition labels?

Latent Heat Latent Heat writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Latent Heat writes "Who checks those FDA-mandated food nutrition labels? I am being treated by my doctor for elevated blood pressure, so the sodium content of the food I buy and eat is important to me.

I have been purchasing a house-label brand of cheese from a Wisconsin-based grocery store chain for about 30 years now. When I first starting consuming this product labeled as "Reduced Sodium", I really liked the "dairy fresh taste" of the low salt content. Low or no salt in processed dairy may not be to everyone's liking, but some of us like the taste of butter and cheese that way in addition to the health benefit. Lately, the Reduced Sodium cheese doesn't taste the same, it tastes of having a lot of salt in it. I checked the FDA-mandated nutrition label, which shows the product to have 60 mg of sodium per one ounce (28 gram) serving. That serving size is for a generous snack and that amount of sodium is quite low for a processed food product.

Does anyone check on this kind of thing? I looked on the FDA Web site, where there was a lot written about questionable health claims. I can't find anything on the Web to support consumer complaints such as, "Hey, bro, your label says 60 mg sodium per one ounce serving, it tastes like there is a lot more than 60 mg in there, when is the last time you submitted a sample for testing?"

Anyone have a related experience? Anyone know how to bring such a situation to regulatory scrutiny? Is there any oversight on those nutrition labels or is it all voluntary compliance and if it tastes too salt rich, fat rich, sugar rich, stop buying it?"


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