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Army To Launch Spy Blimp Over Maryland

doom Could use these in Oakland (176 comments)

With the protests going on every other day here in Oakland, CA and the authorities apparent need to keep an eye on them with three helicopters in the air, hovering in place, I've been thinking a lot lately about how much fuel they'd save if they got a clue about lighter-than air vehicles.

about two weeks ago
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In IT, Beware of Fad Versus Functional

doom Fads? (153 comments)

Fads in IT? Unheard of.

about two weeks ago
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Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility

doom Re:This is the same community (581 comments)

The idea that the risks of nuclear power are anywhere near the scale of the problem with global warming is completely deranged-- the fact that someone who can string coherent sentences together is willing to embrace blithering idiocy on that scale is a sad comment on the state of our intellectual discourse.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones

doom Segmented SRBS (96 comments)

The bit I like:

Q: "Why did they use segmented SRBs?"
A: Because Morton-Thiokol is in Utah, without a sea-port, and the pieces had to fit on trains or trucks.

Q: So why didn't they go with a company that did have ocean access, like Aerojet in Sacramento? A: James Feltcher was from Utah.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones

doom Re:He's not just speculating (96 comments)

The way this argument goes is that the shuttle would've been able to take lighter payloads to a higher orbit, but the USAF design contraints screwed that up. So we got a shuttle-to-LEO when all the action (the satellites it was supposed to service) were up in GEO.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones

doom Re:Importance (96 comments)

Now now, no point in arguing with a slashbot response. "Oh who cares about this, I thought of this in high school."

about a month ago
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Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility

doom Re:Go back in time 5 years (581 comments)

Actually, I think it's a problem that the anti-systemd forces keep going on about "the unix way" and what-not... haven't they been paying attention to the way things really work? (Hint: if esr says it, it's probably not quite right. [1])

Perl kicked Bourne butt by merging nearly everything you want into one process-- that's something you'd think a sysadmin would've noticed.

It is however a point that betting your system security on a new, gigantic project is kind of dubious, and I have a lot of sympathy with people objecting to gratuitious changes that obsolete decades worth of learning on how to manage a unix box.

[1] The actual "Unix Way" is "do one thing sort-of-okay and trick it out with options, configuration files and customization languages until you can't tell if it's going to fry eggs or go to the bathroom".

about a month ago
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Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility

doom Re:Go back in time 5 years (581 comments)

No, it'll all be rolled into libgnome. One library to rule them all.

about a month ago
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Debian Votes Against Mandating Non-systemd Compatibility

doom Re:This is the same community (581 comments)

There's no way I'm going to compromise with those no-nuclear people. They say they care about climate change, but are willing to risk the planet as long as they don't have to admit they were wrong.

about a month ago
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NASA Pondering $1.5 Million Stratospheric Airship Competition

doom But what about bombing? (47 comments)

if you can't use it to drop bombs, what good is it?

about 1 month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Can You Say Something Nice About Systemd?

doom Re:It freakin' works fine (928 comments)

Clearly if the OP really wanted to talk about systemd, he should've asked people to talk about pulseaudio.

about 2 months ago
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We Are All Confident Idiots

doom Well... (306 comments)

This certainly explains web designer syndrome, doesn't it?

about 2 months ago
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Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

doom Re:A mathematician commenting on biology (432 comments)

Yup. Famous blowhard makes noise about something else for for awhile. Time to worry, but maybe not about GMOs.

about 2 months ago
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Systemd Adding Its Own Console To Linux Systems

doom Re:Why do people care so much? (774 comments)

"Sys-V is an utter shambles"
Yeah, I wouldn't say I'm up on the SystemD controversy, but I would've thought that was the whole point. The old-style of system startup fires off so many processes, I've often thought you might be able to speed up a laptop boot quite a bit if you just wrote one perl script that did all of that stuff. It could even use the existing rc.d mess as an input format, read it all in once, and stash the info in a sane, single-file format...

about 3 months ago
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Systemd Adding Its Own Console To Linux Systems

doom Re:Or we learn from others mistakes (774 comments)

That happens to me all the time, too. I haven't yet sat down to track it down. If I cut and paste some text from slashdot into a firefox textarea (also on slashdot), it gets converted to Latin-1 somewhere along the way. I sincerely hope this is not a slashdot bug in this day and age. I would guess it has to do with my linux configuration... I run icewm on a stale version of ubuntu at the moment, maybe something more gnomeish would deal.

about 3 months ago
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Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

doom Re:Aren't there mirrors? (275 comments)

Weren't mirrors placed on the face of the moon by the Apollo astronauts that reflect light pointed from the earth? Doesn't this prove astronauts were up there? I'm curious how the deniers account for the mirrors.

Without being up on the state-of-the-art in this field, I would guess that there are many variant scenarios. Maybe Apollo 8 was real (lunar orbit without landing), but they were nervous about getting Apollo 11 to work on time, so they did another Apollo 8 with some faked telemetry, but they actually did do some real landings later, with Apollo 12 and so on. Or maybe they never did a human landing, but they dumped some crud on the surface so that people playing with telescopes would see something that looked like traces of landings.

The question I would ask is why is it on this particular subject that some people have chosen to treat with aggressive, extreme skepticism. What makes a lunar landing seem so absurd to them that they'd rather believe anything else happened? Needless to say, there's a certain satisfiaction with feeling like you're one of the elite that knows The Truth, but still, there's plenty of those around...

Here's a Truth for you: there really are no lunar landing denialists, that's actually all just a foreign conspiracy intended to undermine belief in the American government and American technology.

about 3 months ago
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Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

doom Re:Is it healthy or unhealthy for society to have (275 comments)

It's bad I suppose when conspiracy theorists are flat out wrong, but would a repressive government try to silence them or do repressive governments only bother suppressing people who are telling the Truth?

At last, someone with an interesting question concerning "The Theory of Conspiracy".

I think the answer is that only a very stupid repressive government would bother suppressing conspiranoids, a slicker operation would like having conspiranoids around because no one takes them seriously and they can easily be used to discredit belief in the actual conspiracies that the powers-that-be are engaged in.

about 3 months ago
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Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

doom Re:Obviously. (291 comments)

Actually they do and can but no one wants to listen. People just want a quick fix. It's called a well balanced diet and exercise.. Reply to This Parent Share

On the contrary, the fix is exercise and a well-balanced diet.

about 4 months ago
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Tor Browser Security Under Scrutiny

doom Re:The report doesn't say "use Chrome" (80 comments)

I know this is kind of wild and crazy, but could it be that Firefox is developing this weird reputation of egocentric designers intent on pissing-off long term users because there's actually some truth in it?

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Charles Stross cancels trilogy: the NSA is already doing it

doom doom writes  |  1 year,17 days

doom (14564) writes "Charles Stross has announced that there won't be a third book in the 'Halting State' trilogy because reality (in a manner of speaking) has caught up to him too fast. The last straw was apparently the news that the NSA planted spies in networked games like WoW. Stross comments: "At this point, I'm clutching my head. 'Halting State' wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter-- what else are the NSA up to?).""
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snowden's email service (lavabit) shut-down

doom doom writes  |  about a year ago

doom (14564) writes "A headline story at Democracy Now: Snowdenâ(TM)s Email Provider Mysteriously Shuts Down
They say:
"An encrypted email service believed to have been used by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden shut down abruptly on Thursday amid a legal fight that appeared to involve U.S. government attempts to win access to customer information. The owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, wrote a message online saying, 'I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.' Levison said he was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision. Levison went on to write: 'This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.' Later on Thursday, another secure email provider called Silent Circle also announced it was shutting down.""
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Burned by Breaking with Legacy?

doom doom writes  |  more than 4 years ago

doom writes "What's your favorite example of being burned by open source developers blowing off backwards compatibility? There seems to be an emerging trend of programmers dismissing legacy (and their user's expectations along with it). Needless to say, if all of the dozens (if not hundreds or thousands) of open source projects you rely on did this all at once, upgrading would become an exercise in pain not worth any number of feature additions, bugfixes or security patches... I theorize that the problem is ego, both too weak and too strong: "Hardly anyone uses this, who's going to care if we mess with it?" combined with "We're the guys doing the *work*, we know best!""
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Gott Copernicus?

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago

doom writes "Here we go... a wonky technique for making predictions based on almost no data via the Copernican Principle and the pressing need to colonize Mars (not the moon? not the Asteroid belt?), touching base on the Fermi Paradox along the way. Is this really the New York Times? A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization , in which John Tierney discusses the ideas of Dr. J. Richard Gott, an astrophysicist at Princeton."
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Problems with the "Paperless Voting" bill

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago

doom writes "Are you excited to hear that Congress is going to vote on a bill to ban paperless voting? Well I was, and Move On clearly is, but if there are election reform advocates that tell a different story: Bev Harris: Is a flawed bill better than no bill?: "the Holt Bill provides for a paper trail (toilet paper roll-style records affixed to DRE voting machines) in 2008, requires more durable ballots in 2010, and requires a complex set of audits. It also cements and further empowers a concentration of power over elections under the White House, gives explicit federal sanction to trade secrets in vote counting, mandates an expensive 'text conversion' device that does not yet exist which is not fully funded, and removes 'safe harbor' for states in a way that opens them up to unlimited, expensive, and destabilizing litigation. " Steve Freeman: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory "Today, the Holt bill faces a 'fast track' vote in Congress. Essentially this means an up or down vote on a terrible bill, rather than an opportunity to speak in the nation's most important forum about what may well be the greatest threat to democracy in the history of the republic.""
Link to Original Source
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doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago

doom writes "...or nearly anything else you can talk to with DBI. DBI-Link (now up to version 2.0) uses the fact that you can run perl code inside of Postgresql to import external data sources using perl's DBI/DBD system. So Postgresql can use tables from a Mysql database (a reversal of the recent April Fools scenario), which might actually be a practical upgrade path if you were thinking about switching. Or you could have a local Postgresql instance linked with a remote one (perhaps a performance hack, if you're not using replication). Or you can use an LDAP resource like Active Directory as though it were a real database. What I'd really like to see now is a DBD::Emacs. I'm not sure why, but I would."
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doom doom writes  |  more than 8 years ago

doom writes "Matt Taibbi's cover story for the new issue of Rolling Stone is The Worst Congress Ever: "the current Congress will not only beat but shatter the record for laziness set by the notorious 'Do-Nothing' Congress of 1948, which met for a combined 252 days between the House and the Senate. This Congress — the Do-Even-Less Congress — met for 218 days, just over half a year, between the House and the Senate combined." The author has been interviewed on "Democracy Now": How Our National Legislature Has Become a 'Stable of Thieves and Perverts'"
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doom doom writes  |  more than 8 years ago

doom writes "I think they call them "exit polls" because people bolt for the exits when you mention them, but I'm still fascinated by the subject myself, and this book is one of the reasons why. In Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? , the central focus is, of course, on the infamous exit-poll discrepancies of the 2004 US Presidential election; but the authors also put it into context: they discuss the 2000 election, the irregularities in Ohio in 2004, the electronic voting machines issues, and the media's strange reluctance to report on any of these problems. Further, in the chapter "How did America really vote?", they compare the indications of the raw exit-poll data to other available polling data. Throughout, Freeman and Bleifuss do an excellent job of presenting arguments based on statistical analysis in a clear, concise way.

The heart of the book in my opinion, is Chapter 5, "The inauguration eve exit-poll report": The Edison and Mitofsky firms that conducted the NEP exit polls later released a report trying to explain how they could have gotten it so far wrong. Freeman and Bleifuss, of course, take issue with the presumption that the discrepancies must be "errors", and argue in a different direction. This section makes an exciting read (in a nerdy sort of way) it's an impressive piece of statistical judo: Freeman and Bleifuss take on Edison/Mitofsky with their own data, and totally shred their conclusions. The authors show:
  • That the exit-poll discrepancies had a statistically significant correlation with the use of electronic voting machines, with races in battleground states, and in almost all cases favored the Republicans.
  • The "Reluctant Bush Respondant" theory looks extremely unlikely: response rates actually look slightly better in Bush strongholds than in Kerry strongholds; and while media skepticism remains strong among conservatives, it has been on the rise among Democrats, and yet the data shows no shift in relative avoidance of pollsters.
They also deal with the various other excuses that were floated shortly after the election:
  • The discrepancies can't be shrugged off with an "exit polls are not reliable" — theory shows that they should be better than any other survey data, and history shows that they always have been pretty reliable.
  • There was no upswing of support for Bush throughout election day — that impression was entirely an artifact of the media "correcting" the exit-poll figures to match the official results.
One of the book's authors, Steven Freeman, was one of the first to examine the exit-poll discrepancies, and as a professor at University of Pennsylvania with a background in survey design, he was well equipped to begin delving into the peculiarities he had noticed. Overall, this is an excellent book for people interested in evaluating the data; with lots of graphs that make it easy to do informal estimates of the strength of their conclusions (just eye-balling the scatter, the correlations they point to look real, albeit a little loose, as you might expect). There's also an appendix with a very clear exposition of the the concept of statistical significance, and how it applies to this polling data. There are of course, limits to what one can conclude just from the exit-poll discrepancies: "We reiterate that this does not prove the official vote count was fraudulent. What it does say is that the discrepancy between the official count and the exit polls can't be just a statistical fluke, but commands some kind of systematic explanation: Either the exit poll was deeply flawed or else the vote count was corrupted. "

This is a remarkably restrained book: unlike many authors addressing this controversial subject, Freeman and Bleifuss have resisted the temptation to rant or speculate or even to editorialize very much. Freeman claims that he is not a political person (and adds "I despise the Democrats"); possibly this has helped him to maintain his neutrality and focus on the facts of the case.

Personally, I found this book to be something of a revelation: in the confusion immediately after the 2004 election, I had the impression that the people who wanted to believe that it was legitimate at least had some wiggle room. There was some disagreement about the meaning of the exit polls: there was that study at Berkeley that found significant problems, but then the MIT study chimed in saying there wasn't, so who do you believe? The thing is, the MIT guys later admitted that they got it wrong: they used the "corrected" data, not the originally reported exit poll results. The media never covered that development, and I missed it myself...

On the subject of electronic voting machines, They include a chapter discussing electronic voting in general which covers ground that is by now familiar with most readers here: the strange case of Wally O'Dell and Diebold; and also the lesser known problems with ES&S. Have you heard this one? "In 1992, Hagel, then an investment banker and president of the holding company McCarthy & Co., became chairman of American Information Systems, which was to become ES&S in 1999. [...] In the 1996 elections, Hagel launched his political career with two stunning upsets. He won a primary victory in Nebraska [...] despite the fact that he was not well known. Then, in the general election, Hagel was elected to the Senate in what Business Week described as 'an unexpected 1996 landslide victory over Ben Nelson, Nebraska's popular Democratic governor.'"

Also, my experience is that a lot of people need to hear this point: "The voting machine company Datamark, which became American Information Systems and is now known as ES&S, was founded in 1980 by two brothers, Bob and Todd Urosevich. Today, Todd is a vice president at ES&S and Bob is CEO of Diebold Election Systems."

It's impossible to see how you can come away from this situation without seeing that we badly need reform of the electoral system: even if you don't believe the 2004 election was "stolen", how do you know the next one isn't going to be? A paper trail that can actually be recounted would be a nice start, eh? But only a start. As the author's point out: "We devoted a chapter to the ills of electronic voting, but a critical lesson of the 2004 election is that not only DREs, but all kinds of voting machine systems are suspect. Edison/Mitofsky data showed that while hand counted ballots accurately reflected exit-poll survey results, counts from all the major categories of voting machines did not."

In one short passage, the authors list a few "grounds for hope", but following up on these points is not encouraging: The Diebold-injunction law suit in California brought by VoterAction has since been denied and one attempt at a paper trail amendment, HR 550 has stalled out; but then if you look around you can still find other grounds for hope: HR 6200, the Paper Ballot Act of 2006.

Oh, but if you're looking for an answer to the question posed by the book's title, the authors conclude: "So how did America really vote? Every independent measure points to a Kerry victory of about 5 percentage points in the popular vote nationwide, a swing of 8 to 10 million votes from the official count."

So, of the many and various potentially depressing books out there about the state of the United States, I recommend this one highly: it addresses a critical set of issues that everything else depends on (when you hear from yet another Monday-morning-quarterback about what the Democrats need to do to win, remind yourself that maybe they haven't actually been losing).

A prediction for the upcoming election, in the light of this book: The Republicans may let the House go, but they will drop a heavy finger on the scale to retain the control of the Senate. Keep an eye on the three close states: Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia (see Andrew Tanenbaum's site). Note that Tennessee and Virginia are both high risk states without paper-trails, so you can expect "surprise" upsets in favor of the Republicans there. Missouri is in better shape as far as election integrity goes, but even if there's an actual upset there in favor of the Democrats, control will still (just barely) remain with the Republicans."

Journals

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mp3s encoded as DNA

doom doom writes  |  about 2 years ago

John Timmer writes about an interesting stunt: MP3 files written as DNA with storage density of 2.2 petabytes per gram, "In general, though, the DNA was very robust. The authors simply dried it out before shipping it to a lab in Germany (with a layover in the UK), where it was decoded. Careful storage in a cold, dry location could keep it viable for much, much longer. The authors estimate their storage density was about 2.2 Petabytes per gram, and that it included enough DNA to recover the data about ten additional times."
This was pulled off by researchers affiliated with the "European Bioinformatics Group" (UK) and Agilient (Santa Clara, CA). Has anyone ever tried listening to "junk DNA"?

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Open Management: Quentin Hardy on github

doom doom writes  |  about 2 years ago

Quentin Hardy, over at his blog at the New York Times, talks up the might github.org from the angle of experimental management systems with a flattened hierarchy: Dreams of âOpenâ(TM) Everything. An interesting subject, though I fear the fact that this is a blog post suggests he couldn't sell an editor on doing this as a real article.

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A pro-nuclear piece at the Guardian UK

doom doom writes  |  more than 2 years ago

The Guardian UK -- a newspaper well-respected among the liberal/left crowd -- ran a pro-nuclear power opinion piece on their front page. It's not even the strongest case that could be made -- it hardly matters whether we're at "peak-oil", nuclear waste just isn't that big of a problem, etc -- but sometimes making a weaker case can be more persuasive, even when you're talking to the folks who like to think they're members of the reality based community. Here's some more reality, while we're at it.

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"How Google Dominates Us"

doom doom writes  |  more than 3 years ago I've been wondering why I couldn't find a copy of "The New York Review of Books" at my favorite newsstand. It couldn't be they sold out because of an article by James Gleick titled How Google Dominates Us, could it? (Coincidentally, the google bus stops right near here...) Anyway, follow the link to see Gleick meditate on the meaning of evil.

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Freeman Dyson on Richard Feynman

doom doom writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Freeman Dyson reviews two new books about Richard Feynman, one a serious attempt at capturing Feynman's scientific thought, the other his biography in comic book form. Note: there is no paywall on The New York Review of Books.

Freeman Dyson has been writing stuff for the NYRB fo many years now, but it's all but invisible to slashdot. He was born before microporcessors were invented, he can't possibly have anything interesting to say.

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Meat sans Organism

doom doom writes  |  about 5 years ago

A news story from the London Times reports on a project to develop and commercialize vat-grown meat: Scientists grow pork meat in a laboratory. One of the thing's that's most interesting to me is how quickly people are thinking through the ethical implications. Would a vegetarian have ethical objections to this project, or welcome it? If you grew human meat like this, would cannibalism become chic?

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Inventing a Better Patent System

doom doom writes  |  more than 5 years ago

A New York Times opinion piece by Robert C. Pozen: Inventing a Better Patent System This article contains a number of simple reforms for the US patent system that you would think would be no-brainers... and it doesn't even mention doing away with software patents. He's also an author on a book on how to reform the financial system. It's titled Too Big To Save, which makes it sound like he might be on the right track.

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gamma-ray pulsar discovered

doom doom writes  |  more than 6 years ago Quoth the press release: "About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. Discovered by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the object, called a pulsar, is the first one known that only 'blinks' in gamma rays."

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Freeman Dyson on the Galapagos

doom doom writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Freeman Dyson is one of the few survivors of the age of giants in physics (he was one of the people who developed the mathematical underpinnings for Feynman's work), and he remains a fascinating, wide-ranging thinker, the author of works like Infinite in All Directions. Of late he seems interested in being an environmental heretic, but in a much more moderate, intelligent way than the usual "conservative" style. Most recently he's published a long, thoughtful article on the Galpagos islands, with emphasis on the difficulties of balancing the needs of locals against environmental preservation.

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Freeman Dyson on Global Warming

doom doom writes  |  more than 6 years ago

The physicist Freeman Dyson -- who made Feynman diagrams mathematically comprehensible to mere mortal physicists -- discusses some recent books about Global Warming. He accepts that anthropogenic global warming is a reality, though he departs from conventional wisdom about the urgency of fixing the problem immediately.

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Problems with slashdots new discussion system

doom doom writes  |  more than 6 years ago I have problems with slashdot's new discussion system ("D2", no longer in beta, I gather), and I'd like to report them, but instead I'm writing about them here for now because of my first problem:

  1. It's not clear how one is supposed to report bugs. Contact info is buried, and not well labeled. (I could just send email to taco, but he seems like an idiot... should I just email chromatic?). Ah, if you drill down through "Help & Preferences", there's a line how to report a bug. And as for mis-features?
  2. There's some attempt at implementing "smooth scrolling" that's herky-jerky and irritating. Even if it worked right, it would still annoy me: when I punch "page down" or "down arrow" I want it to snap, not to stall. (Turns out this is a mis-feature of Firefox -- I needed to uncheck "Edit Preferences/Advanced/Smoothscroll".
  3. Nested comments are indicated with a heavy side-bar -- this is unnecessary visual noise. Quotations inside of comments are also indicated with heavy side-bars and they've become very hard to see now.
  4. Some comments default to a closed state, and I need to click on them to open them -- I hate this kind of thing myself, it forces me to read with my hand on the mouse. (Maybe this is fixable with pref changes? I'm trying it out).

Thus far, there's only one thing I've noticed about the new system that I like: I can get the entire current state of the discussion in one huge page: I've always disliked the way the old system split things up into several pages (it made it hard to use text searches to skim for mentions of particular sub-topics).

In any case, as the slashdot brain-drain continues apace, it's going to be harder to find things in the discussion that are worth reading. It's more like a place you duck in if you feel like arguing with 13 year-olds and government propagandists. The various "features" being added to slashdot don't seem to address any of the real problems with the system.

(Actually: there's one "new" feature that sort-of works: I was skeptical of the utility of a friends network -- it just seemed like imitating all those other sites -- but actually it's kind of useful to be able to identify a cluster of nominally intelligent folks and automatically, instantly, mod them up. Kind of like the stuff I've been doing with nn and/or gnus on usenet for many a year...)

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A new continent of garbage forming in the North Pacific?

doom doom writes  |  about 7 years ago This San Francisco Chronicle story: Continent-size toxic stew of plastic trash fouling swath of Pacific Ocean, discusses "the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that's twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists. The enormous stew of trash - which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers - floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man's land between San Francisco and Hawaii."

But according to the wikipedia article on North Pacific Gyre, some details of this are in error: "Some sources[2] have incorrectly reported that there is a 'floating continent' of debris that is roughly twice the size of Texas, however no scientific investigation, including Moore's, has verified this." The Chronicle was using the terms "marine biologists" and "oceanographers" very loosely: this is not a finding that's been confirmed by any degree-holding scientists.

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Jaron Lanier's challenge: how to pay writers?

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago Jaron Lanier suggests in a New York Times op-ed that the web cannot survive on volunteerism and advertising alone, and it's time to figure out how writers can get paid: Pay Me for My Content; "Affordable turns out to be much harder than free when it comes to information technology, but we are smart enough to figure it out." So, is the time right to think about micropayments again?

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Critic of Software Patents Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago You don't need slashdot to hear about this story: Three Share Nobel in Economics for Work on Social Mechanisms (New York Times, login required), but you might have missed this detail: "One recent subject of Professor Maskin's wide-ranging research has been on the value of software patents. He determined that software was a market where innovations tended to be sequential, in that they were built closely on the work of predecessors, and innovators could take many different paths to the same goal. In such markets, he said, patents might serve as a wall that inhibited innovation rather than stimulating progress." Here's one of Maskin's papers on the subject: Sequential Innovation, Patents, limitation (pdf).

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Gott Copernicus? Prediction without data.

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization , in which John Tierney discusses the ideas of Dr. J. Richard Gott, an astrophysicist at Princeton. What we have here: a wonky technique for making predictions based on almost no data via the Copernican Principle; which demonstrates the pressing need to colonize Mars (not the moon? not the asteroid belt?); plus a dash of the Fermi Paradox along the way. Is this really the New York Times?

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A Flawed US Election Reform Bill

doom doom writes  |  more than 7 years ago H.R.811 sounds great: It's stated purpose is "to require a voter-verified permanent paper ballot". Unfortunately, it sounds like the details have some devils, as per usual. From the Bev Harris article: Is a flawed bill better than no bill?: "the Holt Bill provides for a paper trail (toilet paper roll-style records affixed to DRE voting machines) in 2008, requires more durable ballots in 2010, and requires a complex set of audits. It also cements and further empowers a concentration of power over elections under the White House, gives explicit federal sanction to trade secrets in vote counting, mandates an expensive 'text conversion' device that does not yet exist which is not fully funded, and removes 'safe harbor' for states in a way that opens them up to unlimited, expensive, and destabilizing litigation. "

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