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NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

jeffb (2.718) Re:Sulfuric acid? (195 comments)

What do you suppose they use for shipping sulfuric acid?

2 days ago
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A Domain Registrar Is Starting a Fiber ISP To Compete With Comcast

jeffb (2.718) Hmm... Charlottesville wouldn't be a bad place... (65 comments)

...except for all those Wahoos.

Seriously, it's a cool town, in a beautiful setting. We've been happy as clams with our Ting (also from Tucows) mobile service, and we've wanted for a long time to move back to the Virginia hills. Hmm...

2 days ago
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Jaguar and Land Rover Just Created Transparent Pillars For Cars

jeffb (2.718) How do they compute the perspective? (190 comments)

When I'm driving, I'm usually make small movements with my head. A static, non-head-tracking display may well be more distracting, and probably more dangerous, than the original blind spot.

3 days ago
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

jeffb (2.718) Re:Stay away from you? Why? (1039 comments)

You don't understand what vaccination does. It reduces your chance of contracting a disease, but not (necessarily) to zero. Please Google "herd immunity".

about a week ago
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

jeffb (2.718) Re:Freedom of choice (1039 comments)

While I echo the necessity of vaccines in the modern world as a necessary and effective tool for limiting infections and thereby human suffering, I am not a fan of abandoning basic freedoms just so we can all feel more secure. The law is very clear, the government shall not pass any law that infringes on the free exercise of religion. Thus, if vaccines are created that infringe on my freedom of religious expression, they have to pass a bar that is set pretty high before they can be enforced or have any hope of surviving a basic court challenge.

Tell it to the Mormons of the late 1800s, or some of their current sects.

Tell it to the Rastafarians.

about a week ago
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Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?

jeffb (2.718) Re:Religious is better than philosophical? (1039 comments)

So if you don't want it because you have an invisible friend, then that's ok. If you don't want it because you have a supposedly reasoned and cogent objection, that's not ok?

Of course. My invisible friend said so.

about a week ago
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LG To Show Off New 55-Inch 8K Display at CES

jeffb (2.718) Hyperacuity. It's real. (179 comments)

Visual hyperacuity is one factor that often gets ignored in "how much resolution do you need" calculations. You'll see those "bumps" in nearly-flat diagonal lines much more readily than the simple calculations would suggest. Anti-aliasing everything tends to take care of that problem, but it's still pretty unusual to anti-alias everything. For example, does your system allow fractional-pixel cursor movements?

about a week ago
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High Temperature Superconductivity Record Smashed By Sulfur Hydride

jeffb (2.718) Re:Missing theory (80 comments)

If observations contradict the theory, then we were ALWAYS in the situation where we did not understand anything. We just didn't realize that we were in that situation -- we "understood" incorrectly.

The next step to enlightenment is realizing that we always understand incorrectly. We aspire to understand well enough -- well enough to make useful predictions, well enough to provide a foundation for further understanding.

about a week ago
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High Temperature Superconductivity Record Smashed By Sulfur Hydride

jeffb (2.718) sulfur hydride vs. hydrogen sulfide... (80 comments)

I was trying to figure out why they're referring to "sulfur hydride" instead of "hydrogen sulfide". After I got off our broken public wifi and got the paper to load, I see that sulfur turns metallic above 95 GPa, and apparently hydrogen sulfide at high pressures starts to become metallic as well. In that regime, it probably makes more sense to think of it as a metal hydride, if not an intermetallic compound.

about two weeks ago
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High Temperature Superconductivity Record Smashed By Sulfur Hydride

jeffb (2.718) Re:Here is a link for 110C superconductivity (80 comments)

Ah, yes, superconductors.org, otherwise known as "The Superconducting Enquirer" or "Weekly World Superconductors".

The site has a lot of information about superconductors; some of it is probably quite good. But it's been claiming above-room-temperature superconductivity for a couple of years now. The generally-accepted record for high-temperature superconductivity is around, what, 133 Kelvin? Superconductors.org has been publishing reports of higher temperatures since 2006 or 2007, if not before. While the rest of the world waits for confirmed and reproducible reports, superconductors.org seems to report every errant needle-twitch from every lab that ever tried to measure conductivity.

I have no doubt that new materials and theories will continue to yield higher transition temperatures. I have no doubt that, whenever that happens, superconductors.org will report it. It's just that you'll have to wade through an awful lot of bogus reports there first.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With Electronics-Induced Inattentiveness?

jeffb (2.718) Re:Its all downhill from here kid... (312 comments)

There's some secular (long-term) loss of capacity, to be sure, but I think it's dwarfed by the effects of attention depletion.

My memories of older relatives include some who would zone out in front of the TV, but many others who would spend their days reading books, doing crosswords or jigsaw puzzles, or doing crafts (woodworking, knitting/sewing, etc.). You can't always do much about dementia, but growing old generally does not mean the end of attentiveness.

And remember, if you do it right, you get better at knowing where to direct your attention as you get older. Wisdom can more than make up for small losses in intelligence or focus.

about two weeks ago
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New Effort To Grant Legal Rights To Chimpanzees Fails

jeffb (2.718) Re:"You are not ready." (341 comments)

That's... a pretty amazing piece of projection, there.

In case you're not fluent in English, "we" implies the inclusion of the speaker. I deliberately chose that word, rather than "you", to explicitly include myself in the group not yet mature enough. I may be wrong about the maturity of the general population, but I sure don't see much evidence to the contrary.

about two weeks ago
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New Effort To Grant Legal Rights To Chimpanzees Fails

jeffb (2.718) Re:"You are not ready." (341 comments)

People are resistant to the idea because some of the animals we eat show signs of consciousness and suffering.

So do pets, fetuses, terrorists, and infidels. Before long, so will robots.

We seem to have few qualms about compartmentalizing our empathy based on categories like these. We do, of course, have big problems agreeing on the appropriate compartmentalization.

about two weeks ago
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New Effort To Grant Legal Rights To Chimpanzees Fails

jeffb (2.718) "You are not ready." (341 comments)

We're a long, long way from the kind of philosophical maturity that would let us rationalize our laws with respect to sentience, consciousness, suffering, and freedom. In fact, it's apparently pretty early for us even to have a mature conversation about it.

I hope to see substantial progress in my lifetime, but I'm not really expecting it.

about two weeks ago
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Workers On Autism Spectrum Finding Careers In Software Testing

jeffb (2.718) A different take on why they're well-suited: (109 comments)

Folks on the autism spectrum may well be better at testing than folks who aren't.

But they may also find the repetitive or tedious parts of testing less painful than folks who aren't.

I know software testing is a big field, encompassing a wide range of activities, and that every job has its monotonous and unrewarding parts. But, from what I've seen -- working with SW development, working with testers, working with kids (and maybe some adults) on the spectrum -- the things that "most of us" find monotonous and tedious are frequently rewarding and reassuring for them.

To the extent that this is true, it's a terrific win/win/win scenario. Companies get people particularly well-suited for the job. People well-suited for the job get work that they enjoy. People not well-suited for the job don't have to stick with drudgery because "nobody likes to do it but somebody has to".

about two weeks ago
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Scientists Develop "Paint" To Help Cool the Planet

jeffb (2.718) In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics! (145 comments)

Passively cooling an object below ambient temperature seems... counterintuitive. I think I understand what's going on here, but I'd like to see some more thorough discussion. Particularly, I'd like to know how you can find any passband in which an object at ambient temperature radiates more heat than it takes in from direct solar exposure, except the bands blocked by the atmosphere.

about three weeks ago
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Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

jeffb (2.718) It was Perkin-Elmer's mistake. (203 comments)

That was NASA's mistake. The mirror was made to spec, but NASA didn't work out how it would deform in orbit/a microgravity environment.

That's an interesting claim, but entirely fictional, as far as I can tell. I followed the story closely at the time, and in the end, every report I saw put the blame on a defective Perkin-Elmer null corrector assembly (reserving some blame for NASA's inadequate oversight of their development and testing processes).

Why are you trying to rewrite history?

about three weeks ago
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People Trained To Experience an Overlap In Senses Also Receive IQ Boost

jeffb (2.718) Re:learning piano - visual, aural, kinesthetic (68 comments)

...but I can't help suspecting the forced rewiring of my brain hasn't helped my general learning capacity.

I expected you to say that it HAS helped your general learning capacity, but you're implying that it hasn't. Could you please clarify or reinforce your point?

about a month ago
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US Intelligence Unit Launches $50k Speech Recognition Competition

jeffb (2.718) Re:Listening through noise or interference (62 comments)

Well if you convolve a signal with a 1Hz sinc wave the signal is "replicated and redundantly presented" but provably most of the information in the original signal is now lost. Interference correlated with the original sound is a convolution. It destroys information, it has to. It makes the problem harder, that's why our brains can't handle it, although our brains have context-based processing which allows us to recover a lot more than a system without that.

Perhaps. As you can surely tell, this is well outside my expertise.

Also, our brains are not hard-wired.

Forgive my imprecise wording. Brain wiring is malleable, but there's a lot of built-in structure, especially around perception and language processing.

about a month ago
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US Intelligence Unit Launches $50k Speech Recognition Competition

jeffb (2.718) Re:Listening through noise or interference (62 comments)

I'm not familiar with the IBM demo you mention, but the key there is the controlled vocabulary. It was probably also trained on the speaker's voice. Those are huge constraints.

I'm remembering that it was controlled-vocabulary, but speaker-independent. I think it was trained on spoken digits -- a very small vocabulary. It's been a long time, and I may be misremembering even the most basic details. Still, it was impressive to hear it picking out numbers where all I could hear was noise.

about a month ago

Submissions

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CES: Laser headlights edge closer to real-world highways

jeffb (2.718) jeffb (2.718) writes  |  about a year ago

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) writes "Audi will display laser-headlight technology on a concept car at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, joining BMW, whose plug-in hybrid should reach production in 2014. A November article on optics.org describes the technology in more detail. This approach does not scan or project a "laser beam" from the car; instead, it uses blue lasers as highly efficient light emitters, and focuses their light onto a yellow phosphor, producing an extremely intense and compact white light source and then forming that light into a conventional headlamp beam. The beam isn't coherent or point-sourced, so it won't produce the "speckling" interference effects of direct laser illumination, and it won't pose specular-reflection hazards. It's just a very bright and very well-controlled beam of normal white light.

HOWEVER, if multi-watt blue laser emitters go into mass production for the automotive market, it's likely to drive down their prices in other applications — for example, grey-market multi-watt "laser pointers". If you're looking for a tool to burn holes in the tires of drivers who offend you, this technology may indirectly help to fulfill your wish."
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Son of Therac-25: CT overdoses from "reset error"

jeffb (2.718) jeffb (2.718) writes  |  more than 5 years ago

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) writes "As the LA Times reports, 206 patients receiving CT scans at Cedar Sinai hospital received up to eight times the X-ray exposure intended. (The FDA alert gives details about the doses involved.) A misunderstanding over an "embedded default setting" appears to have led to the error. Human-computer interaction classes from the late 1980's onward have pounded home the lesson of the Therac-25, whose usability issues led to multiple deaths. Will we ever learn enough to make these errors truly uncommittable?"
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