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Statistics Losing Ground To CS, Losing Image Among Students

Xtifr Re:Odor of Corruption (102 comments)

Indeed, which is why, when I talk to kids about math in school, one of the things I like to point out is that while statistics are, in general, rather boring, it's really important to learn enough to have at least a chance of recognizing when they're being used to lie to you. This argument gets through to a suprising number of them.

6 hours ago
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The 2014 Hugo Awards

Xtifr Re:Gravity isn't SF (178 comments)

Heh, depending on how you define "fantasy elements", sure, but then the same thing can be said of mainstream fiction, detective novels, and the movie Gravity. :)

In the context of science fiction and fantasy, the term "fantasy elements" generally refers to pure magic and other impossible things; since OP claimed that Gravity lacked fantasy elements, that seemed like a more plausible interpretation of what he meant.

5 days ago
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The 2014 Hugo Awards

Xtifr Re:So, what controversy? (178 comments)

I've read some of what he's written on his blog, and I am more than satisfied that he's a racist, sexist, homophobic dipshit who completely deserves all the opprobrium he receives. What's worse, he's one of those crazy religious fanatics who twists the bible into excuses to hate people, like the Westborough folks. As a human, I find him utterly contemptible.

Nevertheless, if I'd been voting on the Hugos this year, I would have judged his work on its own merit. I still find Orson Scott Card an outstanding writer, despite my (milder) contempt for the man himself. Fortunately, I have many friends who were Hugo voters this year, who are also capable of separating their opinion of the artist from their opinion of the art, and they have uniformly told me that the work didn't deserve a nomination, let alone a win. Maybe it wasn't bad enough to end up below no-award--maybe that happened because of Day's vile on-line persona--but the fact that it didn't win seems to me to be fully justified.

about a week ago
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The 2014 Hugo Awards

Xtifr Re:Gravity isn't SF (178 comments)

Gravity isn't science fiction. We actually do send people into space, and that kind of disaster could sort of happen.

"Could happen"--but hasn't. That's what makes it science fiction. "Speculative science" is absolutely not a requirement of SF, and "predictions of the future" is basically what it was. It was at least as plausible a prediction as something like Heinlein's "...If This Goes On". And "fantasy elements", in a lot of people's opinions, loosely including mine, are never an element of actual science fiction.

Space exploration and research still falls basically in the domain of science these days, even though it's a lot more of an everyday activity than it once was. Once tickets to space become affordable to the average person, then maybe we can say that a movie like Gravity is no more SFnal than something like The Fast and the Furious. But until then, I think it qualifies, and a whole lot of people seem to agree with me.

about a week ago
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How long ago did you last assemble a computer?

Xtifr no longer seems worth it (391 comments)

I used to build my own, because that was the best way to get the specs I wanted at a good price. Especially since I run Linux. But I'm a software guy, and have always considered futzing with the hardware to be a necessary evil, rather than a goal on its own. Once I was able to get off-the-shelf machines that met my needs, I happily stopped building my own.

I voted 6-8 years ago, because the machine I bought about eight years ago needed some additions and improvements. It wasn't a full DIY, so I'm not sure it counts, but it was the last machine I had that was even partly DIY. Since then, it's seemed like machines that meet my specs are actually cheaper than buying their component parts, and that's before you factor in build time.

about three weeks ago
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What percentage of your media consumption is streamed?

Xtifr Re:Tricky (152 comments)

We're talking about streaming media

Who's "we"? Looking throught the comments, I see a lot of people expressing confusion about the point.

Oh, and I'd say that a web-page counts as streaming text. And a lot of people might consider Project Gutenberg's offerings (for example) as more-or-less streaming, if you read them online.

about a month ago
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What percentage of your media consumption is streamed?

Xtifr Re:Not sure... (152 comments)

Thanks. Hadn't thought of that, since it's way, way down on my list of priorities, but that makes a lot of sense. I can't actually moderate, since I've already commented, but please accept this virtual +1 interesting. :)

Still, the fact that there are relatively simple workarounds doesn't mean there aren't region restrictions.

about a month ago
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What percentage of your media consumption is streamed?

Xtifr Re:Not sure... (152 comments)

I watch a fair amount of YouTube stuff (and appreciate the complete lack of stupid regional restrictions).

It's not actually a complete lack. I haven't been able to watch the last couple of seasons of QI, because the BBC allows them on YouTube only with regional restrictions, and I'm not in the UK, and the BBC hasn't arranged for any other form of distribution of the show in the US. But in general, yeah, it's better than a lot of the alteratives.

(I could probably snag them off some torrent site somewhere, but I don't do that sort of thing in general.)

about a month ago
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What percentage of your media consumption is streamed?

Xtifr Re:Tricky (152 comments)

How about minutes of media? Text doesn't count, as it isn't media.

Text isn't media? You've got a really bizarre definition of media! Even accepting that the word now has a separate meaning aside from its meaning as the plural of medium, the phrases "mass media" or "mainstream media" have always included newspapers and books. Which are, generally, text.

about a month ago
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What percentage of your media consumption is streamed?

Xtifr Tricky (152 comments)

Most of my video, but almost none of my music. But I'm not sure how those two compare percentage-wise. And what about books? Do those count as media? I certainly don't stream even e-books. (Except, arguably, through O'Reilly's Safari program, which might count.) But then there's news media, which is almost entirely streamed. If you count visiting web-pages as streaming.

Honestly, I'm really not sure. Depending on how I measure, I might be able to come up with a number anywhere from 20 to 80.

about a month ago
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Chimpanzee Intelligence Largely Determined By Genetics

Xtifr The actual study has somewhat different conclusion (157 comments)

Some meta-analysis of the actual study, along with some examination of how the media has generally thoroughly misrepresented the study, is available at Language Log.

Thus Component 1 (23.6% of test variance) was significantly heritable — h2 = 0.538. The symbol h2 is used to denote "narrow-sense heritability", which is the ratio between the variance due to average effects of alleles, and the phenotypic variance as a whole:

$$h^2 = \frac{Var(A)}{Var(P)}$$

In other words, about half of the variance in a PCA component accounting for about a quarter of the variance in test results was accounted for by genetic variation.

Component 3 (10.8% of test variance) was also significantly heritable, with h2 = 0.335. Thus about a third of the variance in a PCA component accounting for about a tenth of the variance in test results was accounted for by genetic variation.

The genetic relationships of components 2 (11.7 of test-score variance) and 4 (8.2% of test-score variance) were not statistically significant.

A quarter plus a tenth of the test results were shown to be related at all (not in whole, but at all) to heritable traits. The grand total overall was just under 16% (a half of a quarter, plus a third of a tenth).

Now, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't describe 16% as "largely". I'd describe 16% as "partly", or "mildly", or "somewhat". But of course, reporters for Nat'l Geo and The Independent and the like aren't big on math.

It's still an interesting and intriguing study, of course, but so grossly misreported that it boggles the mind. We need a better grade of chimpanzee writing science articles for the general public! :D

about a month and a half ago
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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Xtifr Re:another language shoved down your throat (415 comments)

I always break up code into reasonable sized functions

That's nice if you're working alone, and never have to deal with other people's code, and don't have to fight management tooth-and-nail for any change larger than the bare minimum required to fix a specific problem.

about a month and a half ago
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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Xtifr Re:another language shoved down your throat (415 comments)

In your non-Python language of choice, how do you tell the difference between an error in indentation and an error in marking the beginning and ending of blocks?

Difference? There is no difference! I don't indent! I mark the beginning and end of blocks, and the code is automatically indented to match. I can, with some difficulty, defeat this mechanism, but I can't think of any reason why I'd want to.

about a month and a half ago
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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Xtifr Re: another language shoved down your throat (415 comments)

You're free to dislike the way Python handles blocks and white space.

Thank you. Not that I needed your permission, but I shall indeed continue to consider it an idiotic design.

But if it actually substantially affects your productivity, you're simply not a very good programmer, because it's not a big deal in practice.

Agreed. However the fact that it doesn't noticably harm my productivity doesn't mean it's a good feature.

In any case, we're discussing its potential use as a teaching language here, and people who are just starting to learn to program are, pretty much by definition, not good programers. So its impact on not-good-programmers is still very relevant.

about a month and a half ago
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The First Person Ever To Die In a Tesla Is a Guy Who Stole One

Xtifr Re:Well out running the police ... (443 comments)

Except there are people who survived crashes at much higher speeds.

There are people who have survived jumping out of "perfectly good" airplanes without a functioning parachute. Doesn't mean you should take up skydiving-without-a-parachute as a hobby. :)

There's a reason cases like you mention make the news: surviving a crash at those speeds is an impressive and newsworthy feat. (The reason this case made the news was not the fact that the driver died, but the fact that a Tesla was involved. Otherwise, it seems like a pretty unremarkable story.)

Richard Hammond of Top Gear UK fame survived a crash at 288 mph

And I bet he was buckled in. Remaining in the vehicle during a high-speed crash greatly increases your chances of survival. Exiting a vehicle at 100+ mph is generally contraindicated! (Tip for future reference.) ;)

about a month and a half ago
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Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Xtifr Re:another language shoved down your throat (415 comments)

Have you ever been fooled by incorrect indentation that didn't compile the way it looked?

Nope. My editor takes care of indentation for me, in every common language except Python, and when I have to deal with a batch of code written by someone else, I run it through indent(1) first. So, in fact, it's just the opposite: when the indentation doesn't match what I expect, I know there's an actual problem in the code!

With Python, on the other hand, I'm actually more likely to have an error in the indenting, because there's no easy way to see how many blocks I'm terminating when I outdent by an arbitrary amount. Which is a real PITA when you're refactoring.

Of course, things may be different if you're using crappy tools. But professionals shouldn't be using crappy tools.

Brackets, begin..end, and semicolons are crutches for compiler writers not programmers.

No, they're tools to make my job easier. Whatever the historical reason for them may be, they benefit the programmer! They make me more productive.

Now, I'll grant that Python is a remarkably good language despite its horrible flaw of relying on indentation. And many of its good features also make me more productive. But that doesn't mean that relying on the indentation isn't a horrible flaw.

about a month and a half ago
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Moon Swirls May Inspire Revolution In the Science of Deflector Shields

Xtifr Re:Next up: We need a centrifuge in orbit! (76 comments)

If the answer is humans need a full gee, then we might as well just resign ourselves to limiting our trips into the solar system to quick jaunts and robotic explorers.

Disagree. Large-scale habitats/SPS/O'Neill Colonies have always been the best option. No huge gravity wells to deal with, since rotation provides your G's, and, while they are extraordinarily expensive, they cost nothing compared to a full-scale terraforming effort, and can provide a shirt-sleeve environment in basically no time flat. The one remaining big knock on them was the issue of radiation shielding, and now, that may be solved.

about 3 months ago
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Who controls the HVAC at work?

Xtifr None of the options fit, exactly (216 comments)

I do know, but nobody's complaining. I only know because one time, when a guy changed desks, he complained that it was too cold at his new location, and the building maintenance guy came up and tweaked his vent, which fixed the problem, and since then, nobody else has complained.

Which doesn't really leave me with anything to chose on this poll, but oh well. Par for the course. :)

about 3 months ago

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