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The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

butalearner Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (535 comments)

So why poll the general public about this question when most the general public really only knows what they were told to recite in school or what they saw on Nova?

It doesn't matter to some people: whether my ancestors evolved from the same creatures as apes did or a fluffy pink unicorn farted them into existence doesn't affect their day-to-day activities (with the possible exception of the occasional worship of said fluffy pink unicorn). Unfortunately, though, it does affect who people elect to represent them, and it does affect how they lead us. The results of this survey imply that, for the foreseeable future, we are going to keep getting into situations where elected officials try to do things like inject non-science into science classes when the science conflicts with their religious beliefs, and shape public policy in ways that conform to their particular religion. And the numbers show we still have a long way to go to fix that.


Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

butalearner Re:*Yawn* I'll Wait for the Mint Edition (177 comments)

The only reason I care about Ubuntu updates is that they are followed by Mint updates. I really don't see why anyone would still want to use Ubuntu when there is an equally good (if not better) Debian/Ubuntu-based distro, especially given Shuttleworth's complete and utter contempt for the open source community.

Probably because ideology isn't really important to most people, who just want stuff that works. They don't care if they're running X or Wayland/Weston or Mir. And Shuttleworth definitely does not have contempt for the open source community in general...just the developers who don't follow his lead. Which definitely isn't cool, of course, but those developers don't represent everybody.

After my old laptop with a highly-customized Arch Linux setup died, I went back to Ubuntu (which I've used since Warty Warthog!) because I didn't feel like spending the time to mess with stuff anymore. My personal laptop is currently sitting on 12.04 LTS. I might upgrade once 14.04.1 is released in August, depending on how reviews are. It looks like they didn't choose as many cutting-edge packages, so it may not be as big of a problem as the first releases of previous LTS editions were (remember the time they shipped an LTS release with a beta version of Firefox?).

I'm using Mint 16 Cinnamon at work, so I could be convinced to switch, but my wife and kids are used to Unity by now. I have a terminal shortcut pinned near the top of the sidebar, so I get around easily enough.

about a week ago

Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

butalearner Re:Please Stop (285 comments)

By carrying on with this project you're just continuing a fork that serves no purpose to the community.

Actually, AOO 4.0 was the first one to have a sidebar (their answer to the ribbon?), and LO copied it later. Also, there are Apache developers committing a nontrivial amount of code to LO (one article I read said 400 of 3000 bugfixes in LO 4.1 were submitted by people with apache.org email addresses).

about a week ago

Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

butalearner Re:What now? 1 billion! (285 comments)

Excel is actually pretty nice for quick, one-off, interactive data browsing and visualization. I see that pivot tables are present in OpenOffice and LibreOffice now, so I don't see any reason to use Excel over one of the free options, because they're all absolutely terrible at anything beyond the aforementioned use case. Anything more involved and anything you'll have to repeat on further data sets should absolutely not be done in a spreadsheet (I personally prefer Python with the MATLAB-like libraries).

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

butalearner Mental Floss (285 comments)

My library has a digital subscription to Mental Floss magazine, which I check out every time I remember it (I'm doing so now, thanks for reminding me). The best part about newspapers and magazines (analog or digital) is that, when I pick them up, I read stories I would not otherwise seek out. Mental Floss is especially cool because of the interesting trivia represented as infographics, and their featured interviews are almost always awesome even if not very well known (two recent ones: Bill Watterson and Neil deGrasse Tyson [before Cosmos, that is]).

about a week ago

Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

butalearner Re:Specialized Pieces (355 comments)

Those same pieces can be used to build what ever you can imagine.

No so easily nowadays. Lego comes with huge numbers of very specialized pieces which are taylor made for that particular model. You can get the basic bricks but most Lego today is aimed at building one model and then playing with it rather than getting a pile of bricks and letting your imagination run wild. There is one exception though: Mindstorms! This is simply brilliant and the new EV3 version even runs Linux! It's one of the few toys that are around today that I really wish I had been available when I was a kid.

I have a six year old, and this is mostly true. There are a large number of non-standard pieces, which makes digging for pieces much more frustrating. On the other hand, there are a lot more possibilities when it comes to building things with articulations. My son builds robots all the time (cannibalized from various robot sets), and I showed him how using a ball-and-socket joint at the shoulders and hips, and a hinge joint at the knees and elbows makes it more like us. And he doesn't know any better, so he uses those non-standard pieces for decorations anyway. Some of that is, as another poster said, partially because of all the tie-in sets out there, but we tend to stay away from those. The Creator series, which literally has full instructions for three different models using the same set of blocks, should be everybody's first stop (and they're cheaper than tie-in sets anyway).

As for the article, my son has played with the smallest size Legos since he was almost 4, and my daughter started even before she turned 3 (to keep up with her brother). Even though they do play on phones and tablets and gaming systems, they spend more time with Legos than anything else...and that's by choice. I'm not saying this in an attempt to brag here, I'm saying, parents, get your kid Legos, and build stuff with them. You know you'll enjoy it, too.

about a week ago

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

butalearner Re:Not a market back then (267 comments)

The reason tablets became popular is because people had begun to use their phones in similar ways, and the price wasn't too outrageous. Microsoft had tablets before they became popular, too, but they didn't kick off the tablet craze. Pioneering technology is one part tech, ten parts timing.

...and a whole lot of marketing, I should have added.

about a week ago

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago

butalearner Not a market back then (267 comments)

The reason tablets became popular is because people had begun to use their phones in similar ways, and the price wasn't too outrageous. Microsoft had tablets before they became popular, too, but they didn't kick off the tablet craze. Pioneering technology is one part tech, ten parts timing.

about a week ago

How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

butalearner Re:whine (226 comments)

You're supposed to have both "Developers who do Ops" and "Ops guys who develop" in one team to do "DevOps".

If you're working in a place that's done "We'll just get the developers to do Operations" then they're doing it wrong.

I just started a new position where they had just figured this out and split the team into two. A couple of our developers trend toward the surly, and they would get a bit short with our customers (who are internal customers, but customers nonetheless) when interrupted. Which totally makes sense, by the way, because it kills productivity, but it was causing issues on all sides. Now we have this separation and process where our customers no longer contact us directly but fill out a quick report that automatically contacts the newly-formed ops team. We don't have to bother the developers except in extreme cases, and the folks who specialize in troubleshooting handle almost every issue. And even though I joined the ops team, but I still squash bugs and add minor features so the dev team can focus on the big stuff. This literally just happened in the past few months, but the improvement in our metrics for the most recent release was pretty impressive.

about a week ago

Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing

butalearner Re:If you make this a proof of God... (610 comments)

Let's simplify.

Conway's game of life creatures became sentient. They discovered they are made of cells. They said "Look, THE INFINITESIMAL CELL is always created from NOTHING. If things happens FROM NOTHING, there is NO NEED FOR A CREATOR, so THERE IS NO CREATOR, and besides NOBODY ever witnessed something different THAN THE DETERMINISTIC APPLICATION OF RULES. How smart are we?"

So the guy at the PC said to himself "Thank you for nothing, guys" and went making himself coffee.

Note that the guy at the PC doesn't care what happens to the sentient creatures, doesn't interact with them in any way after he starts the universe, and doesn't take any portion of the sentient creature with him for all eternity.

You have it wrong, anyway. The vast majority of these creatures would say that they were Created. Some would simply accept this, having been taught so ever since birth, specifically with the knowledge that questioning their beliefs is one of the worst things they could do. Some others would look at the rules and realize that, had the rules been different, they would not have existed at all. They would see that as proof as a Creator and (through some further leap of logic) the rest of their beliefs, even though such a "proof" of the former does not in any way imply the latter. Still others would simply take Pascal's Wager and hope that their particular religion is the correct one.

about two weeks ago

How Cochlear Implants Are Being Blamed For Killing Deaf Culture

butalearner Re:Let it die (510 comments)

There is no upside with these problems.

To epilepsy, probably not. But blind and deaf people are known to have enhanced other senses to make up for it. Note that they don't just train themselves to pay more attention to senses they do have, but the brain actually "rewires" itself to use visual or auditory processing centers for processing other senses. Incidentally, this is why cochlear implants do not work as well as expected when the person has been deaf for a long time: the person receiving it is already using that part of the brain for other things. (source)

The underlying point still stands, though. The drawbacks of blindness or deafness far, far outweigh the benefits. Only a few potential counterexamples like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles might exist, though we'll never know how popular they might have been had they not been blind, and certainly not every blind person has musical talent on that level.

about two weeks ago

The Amoeba That Eats Human Intestines, Cell By Cell

butalearner Re:treatment (71 comments)

Ouroborosin would make them eat themselves, which is a whole other thing. The drug you're describing would probably be called cannibalis. I can just see the tagline: "Cannibalis: giving parasites a different kind of the munchies."

about two weeks ago

Mozilla CEO Firestorm Likely Violated California Law

butalearner Re:Bu the wasn't fired (1116 comments)

Could someone patiently explain to me what's going on? Why is it seen as flamebait? Why do people think it's saying Eich should be punished for his private opinions when I say the exact opposite?

I agree that you say the opposite, but there are subtleties in this issue that can easily be missed by someone (like me) who hasn't followed this story very closely. I believe the nuance that mods have missed in your post was that Brendan Eich didn't just donate to some generic Prop 8 campaign as most news stories say. There is no such thing as "the Prop 8 campaign." There were several groups of people running campaigns to support Prop 8, and some of them were...mean-spirited, to put it lightly. The particular group that Eich supported ran ads with the underlying message that gay parents are doing harm to their children, and that rejecting Prop 8 would be harmful to children in general. Once I understood that (see this story, for example), your arguments made a lot more sense.

about two weeks ago

NASA Halts Non-ISS Work With Russia Over Ukraine Crisis

butalearner Re:Politcs vs. Science (291 comments)

The USA has been very good at injecting puppets so that political control remains possible.

I don't know about that. I mean, we try our best, but I wouldn't say we're good at it.

about three weeks ago

UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

butalearner Re:Projections (987 comments)

let's take HADCRUT4 as being at least a reasonably honest attempt to evaluate a global surface temperature anomaly even though they do not attempt to correct for e.g. UHI and hence almost certainly have a monotonic warming bias

A November 2013 paper (so, after AR5) pointed out that HadCRUT4 has no data from the polar regions, which might mean the most drastic warming -- in the Arctic -- is not taken into account (source). Obviously this will spur some further research, but whether it's true or not, there is an option c) the global mean surface temperature change has been underestimated.

Which is neither here nor there -- if global warming is disappearing into the oceans, that's fabulous news as the oceans can absorb the heat for a century and still hardly change temperature, if not, well, time will tell.

That might be generically true (I'll take your word for it), but the way it's happening -- absorbing CO2 -- is causing ocean acidification. We know this for sure, and it's a bad thing for current ocean life. Between that, overfishing, and pollution from oil and nuclear accidents, we're messing up a rather important food source. True, it may adapt as you implied in a later post, but it will cause upheaval in the meantime. In addition, I know researchers have proposed links between warmer oceans and extreme weather events like the polar vortices causing the cold snaps this year, that is, warmer oceans weaken the jetstream. But I don't know how much traction that has among climate scientists.

If you bother to actually go out and grab AR5 to read what it actually says instead of what distortions of summaries of paraphrases might have said, you might stop by and read paragraphs and They are sublime. Basically they say "We have no defensible reason to think that the average of all of the climate models in CMIP5 has the slightest actual meaning, and we have excellent reasons not to just take the numerical average of their individual mean predictions with equal weight and to prune out the failing models, but we're going present the numerical average of all of the models, including the ones that are overtly failing, anyway".

I just looked at those sections, and to me it reads, "these (Multi-Model Ensembles and Perturbed-Parameter Ensembles) are the types of simulations we've taken into account [9.2.2], these are their weaknesses [], and this is how we combined them to evaluate them as a whole []." Perhaps you're referring to the direct quote "...collections such as the CMIP5 MME cannot be considered a random sample of independent models," which is repeating the weakness described in, which is that a lot of models in that set use components from other models in the set. To me that makes perfect sense because we do that in engineering all the time: reusing model components that (seem to) work well. I can see why that would seem fishy, though. It'd be nice to see someone dig into that and see what components are reused and how they might bias the results.

about three weeks ago

Introducing a Calendar System For the Information Age

butalearner Re:Um no (224 comments)

...a Quart shrunk to a litre, a gallon likewise shrinking to 4l. It still happening as many containers are 3.78 litres so almost a pint and a half shaved off the old gallon.

The quart and gallon you referred to at first are UK measures (I had to read that again to understand, but thankfully a couple posts above you had the conversion), and 3.78 L is a US gallon.

40 odd years later, we drive mostly in metric with most people being bilingual, weather is in metric. Groceries are in litres and pounds, hardware is mostly in standard. So go out and buy a litre of milk, a pound of hamburger then half a kilo of 1/2 in nails, some 8ft 2x4s and 3/8 plywood. Probably varies across the country.

Wow, I never thought I'd say this, but you've just convinced me that "switching" the US to metric (or, more realistically, a horrendous hybrid of the two) would be a disaster.

about a month ago

I prefer my peppers ...

butalearner Re:Depends on the dish (285 comments)

Actually after you get use to the spiciness, then you are able to get the other flavors as well. I call the heat of a dish is the 6th form of taste Sweet Sour Salty Bitter Umani Heat

To the people who are not use to it, it feels like their mouth is on fire, after you get use to it, and train your brain to say this is actually healthy food, it stops sending the panic and you no longer focus on the heat but all the other flavors in the food, the head just adds to the total taste.

Wikipedia's article on taste is interesting: it points out that the first five are traditional tastes because they're detected the same way, but there are other a number of other sensations that contribute to the "overall taste" of things. "Heat" should probably mean actual temperature, since that is an important part of our expectation when we eat (otherwise we wouldn't care if dinner gets cold). In the article they call it pungency or spiciness when foods give a false sense of heat. Oppositely, things like spearmint and menthol give a false sense of cold. By a similar process we can also tell when something tastes metallic. And of course we also have smell and texture, which are pretty major parts of the eating experience.

This is the reason why I really do feel bad for people brought up eating bland food. They really do miss out on the full experience...though I guess it might make it easier to avoid overeating if you never eat anything spicy, since spicy food releases endorphins. Even if I don't like how some food tastes when I first eat it, I find it helps if I pretend like I'm a food critic and almost clinically focus on identifying the combination of tastes going into it as well as the smell and texture. Of course that probably wouldn't help with the super hot stuff. One Buffalo Wild Wings' Blazin' wing (the sauce is 200,000 to 350,000 SHU) was way too much for me. My wife and I use cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) like crazy, but the spiciest stuff we usually make probably comes out in the jalapeno range (though recently we made jerk shrimp marinaded in this stuff, which according to the site is somewhere between 15,000 and 100,000 SHU, and those tiny shrimp didn't do much to dilute it!).

about a month ago

I prefer my peppers ...

butalearner Re:best pepper? (285 comments)

How long until somebody gets their hands on straight capsaicin, then drinks it on camera? That person would automatically win forever.

about a month ago

Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

butalearner Re:Wikipedia ruined the internet (517 comments)

The placebo effect is very real, it really works, and that's what this is, ie. placebo in the guise of "Energy Medicine" instead of a sugar pill.

Yes, it can cure, it can help people, but not people with real diseases/illnesses.

In no circumstances should it substitute proper science if there's something seriously wrong with you.

It depends on what you mean by real diseases or illnesses. Mental illnesses such as phobias, depression, or anxiety disorders, and partially mental symptoms like pain and nausea, can be treated pretty effectively with placebos and other holistic approaches like exercise and meditation. For example, we know cursing up a storm to be a pain-relieving exercise (as long as you use swear words sparingly the rest of the time). I would almost prefer people turn to some of these things first rather than drugs. But yeah, what makes me wary of the Change.org petition are the references to specific techniques, which probably require expensive certifications for practitioners so that patients have to pay an arm and a leg.

Sure enough, after I typed this, I looked up Wikipedia's page on "Thought Field Therapy" and found this:

[Roger Callahan, the inventor of Thought Field Therapy] also asserts that his most advanced level, Voice Technology (VT) can be performed over the phone using an undisclosed "technology". Training for the advanced VT is provided by Callahan. The fee listed on Callahan's website for this training is $100,000. Trainees must sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the trade secret behind VT.

about a month ago



OpenPandora sells for $1875

butalearner butalearner writes  |  more than 3 years ago

butalearner (1235200) writes "After two years of delays, the first Pandora handheld consoles are finally arriving in the hands of the thousands of patient supporters. Of course, it was only a matter of time before the Pandora made its first appearance on eBay. The auction opened at a modest $330 — the preorder price — but five days later, one of the first Pandoras in existence netted the seller a whopping $1875 after a bidding war. I'm sure we'll see a slew of copycats attempt to replicate the success of this auction."


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