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# Slashdot: News for Nerds

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### Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

Two problems here.

(1) The article has nothing to do with Fukushima or TEPCO. It's about someone who sent anonymous death threats.

(2) Sherman and Mangano, the authors of the paper you linked to an article about, are kooks. Just google on their names together, and you'll find plenty of info discrediting their claims, e.g.: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/12/20/researchers-trumpet-another-flawed-fukushima-death-study/

(3) The Open Journal of Pediatrics appears to be one of the many open-access journals these days that have no standards for publication. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-academia.html for more about these journals. I support the concept of open-access journals, but many of them are junk journals.

(4) Sherman and Mangano's junk science didn't get blocked by evil governments or evil corporations. They put it on the internet and nobody interfered with them.

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### Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

a freedom that's also a problem (242 comments)

In the 18th century, privacy was a pretty straightforward thing. That's why, in the 18th-century US, it was straightforward to write the 4th amendment. As a result, the government can't open my snail mail without a warrant, and can't come into my house and search it without a warrant.

The technological reality is very different in the 21st century. I support individuals' rights to use strong crypto and to control their own computer hardware and software. But it's undeniable that these rights carry collateral damage.

In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh was basically shut down for several months by a series of 145 bomb threats that were sent by email, anonymized via Mixmaster. This is not a good outcome.

If someone is using Tor to post death threats anonymously, that's not a good outcome.

Despite these bad outcomes, I still support the individual freedoms that let them happen. But that doesn't mean that it's not a real problem. It's very much like gun violence in the US. I support the 2nd amendement, but I recognize that that comes at a cost.

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### Bruce Schneier On the Marathon Bomber Manhunt

The worst outcome of this isn't necessarily that Boston got locked down, although that's definitely worth discussing.

The worst outcome is that lockdowns are becoming more and more common, far out of proportion to the actual risk. Once it becomes normal to lock down an entire city in response to a very real and significant threat, it then becomes much easier to feel normal about it when we lock down an entire college campus because a mentally ill homeless person made some faculty or staff uncomfortable. It becomes normal to do what some community colleges in my area are doing, which is to have an active shooter drill once a year in which adult college students are locked in a dark room for 30 minutes and told they can't leave. (This passive response is, BTW, not at all in line with what experts recommend in such a situation.)

Destroying 30 minutes of instruction for a whole campus and violating students' civil rights is way out of proportion to the risk of getting killed by an active shooter, which for a college student is on the order of 1 in 300,000 per year. A college student's risk of being a victim of rape, robbery, or assault is about 1 in 100 per year, but we're uncomfortable dealing with that -- in fact, there is a wave of lawsuits right now by women who say their rights were violated when their colleges refused to take action about their being raped.

To use an analogy suggested by Scheneier, active shooters and the marathon bombing are like shark attacks, and other violent crimes are like dog bites. The number of people killed by dogs every year is much, much greater than the number killed by sharks. But we find shark attacks much more psychologically compelling.

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### Extended TeX: Past, Present, and Future

TFA seems to focus mainly on esoteric typesetting tweaks being worked on in the LaTeX 3 engine. That's cool for people who care a lot about rivers of whitespace in their documents, but there are other things going on in the tex world that I would consider to be more the main event.

Tex predates unicode, postscript and PDF, and modern font formats. There are now versions of tex such as xetex and luatex that accept utf-8 input, generate PDF output directly, and can use whatever fonts you have on your system rather than special-purpose fonts packaged for use with tex. Luatex allows lua to be used as an extension language, which is a great idea considering how much tex sucks as a general-purpose programming language.

The other thing to realize about tex is that today it's the de facto standard input format that people use for creating mathml (since mathml itself is much too cumbersome for humans to write directly). There are technologies like mathjax that support this and that allow mathml to be displayed even in IE, which has never had standards-compliant mathml support.

1 year,12 days
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### How Would an Astronaut Falling Into a Black Hole Die?

Re:We must find out for sure! (412 comments)

No matter the size of a black hole, gravitational acceleration at the event horizon is c per Planck time.

Total nonsense, modded up to 5 on slashdot. Oh, well.

The gravitational acceleration at the event horizon can take on any value. It depends on the size of the black hole. This is determined by general relativity, which is a classical theory. Because it's a classical theory, it has nothing to say about the Planck time.

1 year,14 days
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

So, just don't call it radiation. Call RF emission or RF power. Just as accurate, just as technical sounding, but less scary to the illiterate.

This is what happened with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). It would have been logical to call the medical imaging technique nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI. Instead we leave off the N and call it MRI.

1 year,20 days
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

If the burden of proof is on the people who claim there's harm, and you prohibit funding of any further attempts to find such harm, that subverts the scientific process.

By this logic, the NIH should be funding endless studies of all kinds of quackery, such as putting magnets in your shoes to cure arthritis. There isn't unlimited tax money available to do unlimited numbers of studies on topics where no convincing positive evidence exists and there are strong, fundamental reasons to believe that the previous negative results were to be expected.

For a long time people suspected that electricity and magnetism were somehow related, but were unable to figure out how. How would things have turned out if those who believed they weren't related pointed to all the early failures and cited them as reason to cut off all funding for attempts to find a relationship between the two?

This is an apples-and-oranges comparison. In 1820, electricity and magnetism were not well understood at the fundamental level. In 2013, the interaction of nonionizing radiation with matter is well understood at the fundamental level, and has been for 150 years.

But those who claim there is a danger must be allowed to continue trying to prove their viewpoint. Otherwise you've turned science into one big circle jerk of confirmation bias.

I don't advocate prohibiting them from doing studies. I just advocate not continuing to give them tax money to do it, and not continuing to publish their inconclusive results, based on poor methods, in peer-reviewed journals. We don't fund people to continue testing the hypothesis that malaria is caused by bad air, or that maggots arise from decaying flesh by spontaneous generation. That doesn't make the germ theory of disease "one big circle jerk of confirmation bias."

Generally, the government agencies funding those types of studies do a pretty good job of it. They don't just keep funding the same study over and over. In order for the applicant to get funding, s/he has to propose something new and novel - either something which hasn't been studied before, or some way to conduct the study which hasn't been tried before and could give different insight.

What you're describing is the way it's supposed to work. Cell phones and cancer are an example where it doesn't actually work that way.

1 year,20 days
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

Cell phone radiation is non-ionizing. There is no known, plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. That puts the burden of proof on the people who claim there's harm. No such effect has been documented in animals. No such effect seems to exist in epidemiological studies in humans.

It's depressing that science education is so poor that ordinary citizens don't seem able to evaluate these facts appropriately.

It's depressing that journalists do such a lousy job that they keep on reporting on a manufactured controversy as if all evidence were of equal value.

It's depressing that funding agencies such as NIH continue to give money to this type of junk science, and that scientific journals continue to publish it.

1 year,20 days
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### Class Action Settlement in Ameritrade Data Breach

bcrowell writes "Starting in 2005, people like me who used the Ameritrade online stock brokerage received pump-and-dump spam sent to the email addresses we'd supplied to Ameritrade. It was discussed here on Slashdot. Although many of us had used throwaway email addresses from obscure domains, Ameritrade insisted for several years that there was no security breach, and the spammers had found the addresses using "'brute forcing' or dictionary techniques."

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bcrowell writes "A New York times editorial has a plug for Flat World Knowledge, a startup that will offer college textbooks inexpensively (~$30) in print, and free as PDFs. They plan to make their profits from add-ons like podcast study guides and mobile phone flashcards. Books will be CC-BY-NC licensed. Mashups and customizations are encouraged, but the NC license is incompatible with strong copyleft licenses such as the GFDL used by Wikipedia. Other companies trying to find a workable business model for free textbooks include Ink Textbooks (revenue from online homework) and Freeload Press (revenue from ads inside the books). So far, none of these companies seems to have succeeded in building up much of a catalog of books, and it seems more common for authors of free textbooks to take a DIY approach, putting PDFs on their own web pages, and sometimes arranging POD with vanity-press publishers like lulu.com. Lots and lots of web sites exist to help people find free textbooks, and CalPIRG has an active campaign pushing for affordable textbooks." Link to Original Source top ### A Review of the$200 Wal-Mart Linux PC

bcrowell writes "Wal-Mart's new \$200 Linux PC has generated a lot of buzz among geeks. Although they're sold out of stores, I bought one for my daughter via mail order, and have written up a review of the system. The hardware seems fine for anyone but a hardcore gamer, but the preinstalled gOS flavor of Ubuntu has a lot of rough edges."
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### High-Tech Spying in Divorces

top bcrowell writes "Nature is reporting on e-mails leaked from the Association of American Publishers, which considers itself "under siege" because of NIH and congressional efforts to get all NIH-funded scientific papers posted for free on PubMed Central. The AAP has hired a PR firm, which is advising them to spread the message that "Public access equals government censorship," and that traditional for-profit print publishing is the same thing as peer peer review."
top bcrowell writes "Sun has launched a new web site called Curriki, which is going to use a XWiki to create textbooks and other educational materials. The site is up, but according to the FAQ, some important functions won't be available until January. The license is CC-BY, which differentiates it from wikipedia and wikibooks, but also makes it incompatible with them. It looks like they plan to have much tighter controls and standards than wikipedia and wikibooks. The Terms of Service say you can't contribute if your're under 18."

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