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The Joke Known As 3D TV

Metasquares Re:thrusting (594 comments)

We're in the "blue LED phase" of 3D right now, where everyone is using it just because it's new. Once the novelty wears off it will start to be used more sensibly. Although I'd argue that we still haven't reached that point with blue LEDs either :)

more than 4 years ago
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Just One Out of 16 Hybrids Pays Back In Gas Savings

Metasquares Re:A Car that runs on Coal (762 comments)

The centralization of power would be an auxiliary benefit of a plug-in hybrid, but keep in mind that today's hybrids are never actually plugged into the grid - so there's no shuffling of energy costs from your car to your home and no power plant that enters into the discussion yet. The power source that grants an electric vehicle efficiency over a gas engine is the road itself. As the car rolls downhill the electric motor acts as a generator and starts charging the battery "for free".

That's where the efficiency comes in: you can charge a battery using inductive current from the motor, but you can't use that energy to put more gasoline in the tank. In a gasoline vehicle it's just waste energy.

more than 4 years ago
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Hints of Life Found On Saturn's Moon Titan

Metasquares The primary impact is statistical (227 comments)

If life independently exists on Titan - in our virtual backyard - then life is probably far more common in the universe than we had previously thought.

more than 4 years ago
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The Economist Calls For "Open Source" Biology

Metasquares Re:And so it begins (80 comments)

Imagine the natural evolution of a virus that figures out a way to attack and destroy all eukaryote cells. Even if it's just a human specific disease. Especially with air travel these days, epidemics can spread very quickly and quarantining is difficult.

There's a very high probability that virus would cease to exist in short order. Evolution favors viruses that preserve their hosts at least until they've had ample opportunity to spread. Even artificially developed viruses, not subject to the pressures of natural selection at the time of their creation, must still replicate and spread to cause epidemics and will be influenced by selective pressure in the environment.

However, consider the range of natural viruses and the incredible diversity of symptoms that they can cause. What worries me is not that some nutjob will create a virus which merely kills people - that sort of thing is swift, obvious, susceptible to existing protocols for controlling infectious diseases, and probably self-limiting - but that some nutjob will create a virus that alters people in subtle ways, body or mind (Vernor Vinge explores the theme of a mind-control virus in one of his sci-fi novels, Rainbows End (sic)). When a virus infects your cells it can write whatever code its creator wants into them. However difficult doing any high-level coding with this may initially be, "libraries" will be developed and such things will eventually be as easy as programming a computer is today. In fact, this would be awesome if not for the threat it represents (and if not for the fact that people are going to do some really immature if not outright harmful things with that ability - think a real life version of the Spore creature library). It would increase biodiversity tremendously from the outset, though common "library" sequences would likely be more or less homogeneous.

In any case, I do not think a designer virus would spell the end of all humanity, although it could cause widespread devastation. For any single pathogen there is a segment of the population which is, for some reason or another, by cause of some mutation or another, simply not susceptible to it. It would be extremely challenging for a virus writer to take the level of diversity among all humanity into account. We evolve too. What's more, designer viruses would also enable us to begin building our own defenses against such things if the researchers can keep up with the bio kiddiez.

As for advanced AI presenting a threat, I'm not as concerned about that one: I don't think an advanced AI would want to kill us any more than we want to kill off the chimps. If anything it would want to study our behavior - if it's that advanced we're no threat to it, and if it's not we still have a chance of stopping it.

None of this is in disagreement with your argument that establishing distant colonies would be beneficial for the robustness of humanity and of life, BTW. That's still the best long term solution.

more than 4 years ago
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"Wet" Asteroids Could Supply Space Gas Stations

Metasquares Panspermia (163 comments)

Every molecule necessary for life as we know it found on an asteroid is a leap forward for panspermia as a theory. No longer need the materials come from a planet; this provides some evidence that they can be indigenous to the asteroid itself.

more than 4 years ago
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Brain-Scan Lie Detection Rejected By Brooklyn Court

Metasquares Sensitivity vs. Specificity (197 comments)

Accuracy isn't all that telling a figure. I'd have expected sensitivity and specificity: i.e. what proportion of lies are actually detected vs. (1-)the proportion of true statements which are falsely identified as lies. Actually, I was kind of hoping for an ROC curve in the paper. It is kind of the standard classification metric in this field.

False positives in a system like this can be pretty dangerous. "Innocent until proven guilty" means they should be trying to reduce the false positive rate even if it compromises the ability to identify actual lies. But to do that they need to separate out the different types of mistakes the system can make.

more than 4 years ago
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Robot With Knives Used In Robotics Injury Study

Metasquares No IRB? (132 comments)

at one point, even the arm of a human volunteer.

I don't know about Germany but in the USA such a study would never pass the IRB at most research universities and labs.

more than 4 years ago
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Ubisoft DRM Problems Remain Unsolved

Metasquares Re:The moral of this story. (430 comments)

Yeah, the moral isn't that it's a bad idea to buy a game before a holiday, but that it's a bad idea to buy a game with DRM.

more than 4 years ago
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Chicago Mayor Calls For "Brainiac High"

Metasquares Re:5th year? (419 comments)

Right, the lack of standardization seems more a problem than a lack of any performance metric at all. "Show and tell" style assignments (or fewer larger projects) in which people describe all of the fun geeky things they did seem like they would work reasonably well in that sort of model, but this would be hard enough to compare against other students in the same class, much less across schools or districts.

But it may even be possible to keep the standardized tests and just alter the nature of the day to day assigned work. Most of the really bright people we're talking about here would probably do well on them regardless. But then havoc gets raised if the numbers start to slip at all, even if the result is truly a more educated student body, people demand that the system become more proactive in addressing the "problem", and the system is back at square one...

more than 4 years ago
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A New "Medical Lab On a Chip" For Every Home?

Metasquares Useless as a home technology (56 comments)

To perform an assay, the doctor only has to place the relevant substances (reagents, etc) into the cartridge and the test then takes place automatically

By the time you're going to a doctor you may as well get the sample drawn in the doctor's office or a lab. Until you can perform "over the counter" tests with it, it's useless in the home.

more than 4 years ago
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Chicago Mayor Calls For "Brainiac High"

Metasquares Re:5th year? (419 comments)

Given the choice between learning college level work in a high school and learning it in a college, I would take the college any day. It makes more sense to use the funds to give these students state-sponsored scholarships to the colleges of their choice rather than tying them down to another year of high school.

more than 4 years ago
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Chicago Mayor Calls For "Brainiac High"

Metasquares Re:5th year? (419 comments)

1/3 of the time letting my students "run wild", applying what they had learned, and generally just screwing around and LEARNING stuff. No, not the stuff on the checklist.

If this was a year before college where students could just play, use what they had learned, create things, and explore the world, then it would be FANTASTIC! We'd be producing some really amazing scientists and engineers.

Bingo! Someone else who gets it. The message we're sending right now is "if you're smart we're going to make you work harder" when it should be closer to "Hey, look at how cool this is! Try it out! I can tell you more about it if you're interested..."

Seriously, lots of intelligent people have this amazing propensity to learn about stuff on their own and many have fun doing it. As educators we should be assisting them in this mission rather than trying to brutally suppress their interests in favor of some canned curriculum.

more than 4 years ago
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Magnetism Can Sway Man's Moral Compass

Metasquares Misleading (586 comments)

This article is misleading, suggesting that any old magnetic field can alter someone's morality.

In reality, transcranial magnetic stimulation temporarily disrupts part of the brain. It can blind you, cause you to lose feeling in parts of your body, or cause temporary aphasia (not the sort of thing you'd generally like to be subject to given that we don't understand exactly how functions are localized within the brain). All that this demonstrates is that it can alter one's ability to reason out a person's morality as well. This is not necessarily even a specific response - for all we know it could be disrupting the subjects' ability to empathize with the characters or understand the story altogether.

It is however somewhat interesting that the behavior elicited when the TMS was applied became more utilitarian than deontological - one philosophy is not necessarily better than the other. I'd question whether their morality was impaired at all. Perhaps it was the morality they had been conditioned to accept that was disrupted. The "memory" of their moral training, so to speak.

more than 4 years ago
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Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong?

Metasquares Re:WTF? Just ask the patient. (981 comments)

I sit about 1m away. It could just be the distance; at 1.5m things start to go fuzzy for me as well.

more than 4 years ago
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Could Colorblindness Cure Be Morally Wrong?

Metasquares Re:WTF? Just ask the patient. (981 comments)

Perhaps you also have an astigmatism which is making this difficult? My prescription is also -1.5 (spherical; i.e. no significant astigmatism) and I don't have problems seeing the screen without glasses at a comfortable distance. On the other hand, the words "can you take a look at this?" at work immediately prompt me to reach for the glasses. My vision isn't acute enough to see (10pt text on) others' screens over their shoulders.

more than 4 years ago
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Scientists Use Sex-Crazed Bugs As Pesticide

Metasquares Re:Cool ! (107 comments)

It's just part of the process. Designs die out; new ones rise up to fill the niche.

more than 4 years ago
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AMARSi Project Aims To Have Robots Learn Jobs From Co-workers

Metasquares Re:And you think that will work? (87 comments)

Empowerment by modern technology means that a very few smart people can meet and exceed the needs of the entire human population.

This will in turn drive down the cost of living. With less money necessary to meet the population's basic needs, those smart people will need to focus less on those needs and can work on moving humanity forward. That in turn will create new demand (lots of labor will be necessary if we get to the point of colonizing another planet, for instance).

The problematic sector of the population to me is the ineducable one. If there are no jobs left for them, they can't be educated to perform new ones, and they aren't capable of making those types of advances, work for them is going to be pretty sparse under all conditions. In that way it seems we'll always be assured of the existence of an underclass.

more than 4 years ago

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