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Spectacular Fireball Lights Up UK Sky

SandorZoo Re:human-made? I don't think so... (68 comments)

Earth observation satellite orbits are typically polar and only slightly retrograde, with an inclination of around 100 degrees. If it was one of those coming down, it would been north-south or south-north, not east-west like this was.

about 2 years ago
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Mastercard Denies Plans For BitCoin Credit Card

SandorZoo Re:other? (167 comments)

You're correct that the original story said these were debit cards, not credit cards.

I don't see how this necessarily requires Mastercard's approval. Presumably "a major international bank" (MIB) can already issue Mastercards, and guarantees them. Do Mastercard themselves approve every type of Mastercard that MIB issues?

MIB could come to a private arrangement with BitInstant, that goes like this: BitInstant maintains your balance. You use your BitInstant/Mastercard/MIB debit card. MIB credits the vendor and debits BitInstant. BitInstant debits your account, converts it to "real" money (that's what they do) and credits MIB.

If Mastercard is already happy with MIB issuing Mastercards, and MIB is happy with its arrangement with BitInstant, then what's to stop this going ahead? The danger to the end user is that BitInstant goes south and loses your money, but that's not Mastercard's or MIB's problem, except MIB would be liable (I expect) for the payments it had accepted (and guaranteed), but not yet been credited for by BitInstant. As far as Mastercard are concerned, it would be MIB that backs any and all the guarantees that you get with a Mastercard.

more than 2 years ago
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XRL Hexapod Robot Gets a Tail, Learns To Use It

SandorZoo Re:Flywheel (52 comments)

Reaction wheels (or flywheels) and control-moment gyros work differently, even though they can both be used to create torque,

Reaction wheels spin up (or spin down) the wheel to create torque - the axis of the wheel does not change. The tail in this robot is an unusual case of a reaction wheel - it's not actually a wheel, but is uses the same princple.

CMGs use the gyroscopic effect you get from changing the axis of a spinning wheel to create torque. The rotation speed of the wheel is (usually) constant. They use little power and can be very powerful. The ISS uses them to maintain attitude.

more than 2 years ago
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Should Journalists Embrace Jargon?

SandorZoo Re:Yes, absolutely (184 comments)

Anyhow, this being /. what everyone here is *really* interested in finding is the Oh God! particle.

It's close cousin, the Oh-my-God particle has already already been found

more than 2 years ago
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EU Parliament Adopts eCall Resolution

SandorZoo Re:it will about balance itself (212 comments)

Whats more they will now get more distracting calls from accidents that are resolved by participants or cops (no serious injuries - sensors cant tell about this) or even completely bogus from defective cars, so the ambulances will move around needlessly at some times (likely failing to help some extra people due to extra distance).

There's a fair amount of information you can get from sensors that can be used to predict the severity of injuries - the number occupants and in which seats, the crash severity and direction, which airbags deployed, the seat belt status, if the car rolled over, etc. A lot of this is already monitored anyway, so you don't even need new sensors.

One documentary I watched about reasearch into this subject (probably Horizon's Surviving a Car Crash) said they were getting surprisingly accurate predictions of the injuries.

more than 2 years ago
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House of Commons Could Force Social Networks To Identify Trolls

SandorZoo Re:The process (216 comments)

I think that this is an early draft text of the bill in question: http://inforrm.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/defamation-bill.pdf

I think that's the existing law, from 2011. The new proposal is linked to from the article: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0005/cbill_2012-20130005_en_2.htm#pb2-l1g5

It does indeed contain new language protecting websites that host user generated content.

more than 2 years ago
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House of Commons Could Force Social Networks To Identify Trolls

SandorZoo Re:No they are not forced.... (216 comments)

Why add new laws? Even on the Internet, it still doesn't matter -- records can still be obtained by the courts.

The fine article touches on that - this is an update to a law from last year, and adds provisions to protect operators of websites hosting user generated content. At the moment they are still the publisher, and could in principle be held liable. From the proposal:

(2) It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted the statement on the website.

(3) The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that:
(a) it was not possible for the claimant to identify the person who posted the statement,
(b) the claimant gave the operator a notice of complaint in relation to the statement, and
(c) the operator failed to respond to the notice of complaint in accordance with any provision contained in regulations.

more than 2 years ago
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House of Commons Could Force Social Networks To Identify Trolls

SandorZoo Re:No they are not forced.... (216 comments)

I've heard this factoid of "truth is not always a defence" about English libel law before before. I have no idea how true it is (IANAL), but the proposed bill says this:

It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that imputation conveyed by the statement complained of is substantially true.

The reports on the bill suggest this is already the case. It might

The courts have for many years recognised the common law defence of "justification" which protects publications that are substantially true.

See AC's comment downthread for links to PDFs of both.

more than 2 years ago
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Patent Troll Sues Google, AOL Over Search 'Snippets' and Ad Serving Tech

SandorZoo Re:Altavista predates the snippets patent (83 comments)

The snippets patent isn't legit, Altavista and Lycos BOTH PREDATE this patent and both had snippets.

Altavista only showed the first line or two of the matching web page. One of the reasons I switched from Altavista to Google was Google showed you the context around your search term, which I found more useful than Altavista's summary. Of course I lost out on Altavista's "near" operator.

more than 2 years ago
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Audio Surveillance, Intended to Detect Gunshots, Can Pick Up Much More

SandorZoo Re:No expectation of privacy (215 comments)

Wow. Just Wow. I'm in my 40s, grew up in the UK, and live in Germany where there are about 40 murders with guns every year. I don't think I've every heard a gun being fired outside of a firing range or similar, and I live within gunshot of the centre of a city of around 150K people.

I only ever remember seeing a gun once where you wouldn't expect it (i.e. not carried by police/army, and not on a range). That was in Rome about 15 years ago, and even then it might be that the guy wielding it was undercover. It looked like it to me.

more than 2 years ago
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Audio Surveillance, Intended to Detect Gunshots, Can Pick Up Much More

SandorZoo Re:No expectation of privacy (215 comments)

Regarding the gunshot detectors: Clearly they should only relay precise and accurate timestamps of possible gunshots, but no sound data, so that a central system can triangulate the noise source.

The TFA says that the recordings are reviewed by a person first, before being passed on to the police. I guess the software isn't quite as reliable at differentiating gunshots as they would like it to be. Of course, the actual recordings don't have to be handed over, but I guess they could be subpoenaed later.

I was somewhat surprised by this bit of the article:

Detroit's City Council last year rejected the police department's proposal for a three-year, $2.6 million contract, with one City Council member objecting that not enough officers were available to respond to the alerts.

I'm a European living a relatively crime-free city, but it boggles my mind that a city in a 1st world country might not have enough police officers to respond to every single gunshot. Just how crime ridden is Detroit, and how long before we see a real life ED209?

more than 2 years ago
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Germany Sets New Solar Power Record

SandorZoo Re:What nonsense units. (568 comments)

It was posted upthread a bit:

the original german data said that on Friday, 25th in the hour between 12 and 13 the average output of solar power was 22,145 Megawatt

more than 2 years ago
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TSA's mm-Wave Body Scanner Breaks Diabetic Teen's $10K Insulin Pump

SandorZoo Re:new slogan (811 comments)

though the article does actually confirm it's type I

Yes it does. From TFA: "Savannah, who is a type one diabetic and wears an insulin pump 24 hours a day"

more than 2 years ago
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Egg-laying, Not Environment, May Explain the Size and Downfall of Dinosaurs

SandorZoo Re:Circular reasoning? (123 comments)

In Niven and Pournelle's The Legacy of Heorot they claim there is a species of frog that survives by eating only its own tadpoles. The continually lay frogspawn, which grows in tadpoles that eat algae and the like, and the parent frogs eat (most of) the tadpoles. I have no idea if this is true or not (it's only a novel), but I always suspected it was. Anyone know the species?

more than 2 years ago
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Supreme Court To Weigh In On Warrantless GPS Tracking

SandorZoo Re:Sauce for the goose (191 comments)

If it's not an unreasonable search to attach a tracker to someones car, does that mean ordinary citizens can do it too?

It will probably still be illegal under anti-stalking laws. Those typically have exceptions saying they don't apply to the police.

more than 3 years ago
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The Future of Time: UTC and the Leap Second

SandorZoo Re:Aw, jeezus (235 comments)

What's it going to break? The only systems that will know or care are those that know what the GMT time is, because they will see UTC drifting further and further from GMT. Currently UTC and GMT are not supposed to differ by more than a second or so.

I deal with lots of system that pass time-stamped packets around, and care about their accuracy. Different systems deal with leap seconds in different ways - jump, adjust slowly (over 10 minutes), adjust quickly (under a minute). Accurate time stamps stop working for the 10 minutes or so after a leap second, so our usual solution is to just stop critical operations during leap seconds. They are a PITA. One solution proposed else-thread is to use TIA, but not many time distribution systems support this, as far as I know.

Also, leap seconds make it is impossible to calculate delta times accurate to the second into the future. How many seconds will there be between 1-Feb-2012 16:32:21 UTC and 22-Jun-2016 17:42:31 UTC? Nobody knows.

I'm fully in support of binning leap seconds, but my understanding is it has been proposed several times before (mostly by America) and shot down every time (mostly by Europe). I don't have much hope this time around.

more than 3 years ago

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