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"Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa

jurgen Re:Solves nothing (396 comments)

Uhm, no.

I live in a very similar place (Bahia in Brazil, which has a mostly African derived culture), and we have the same bananas here. I assure you that they are not the primary calorie source, although they may be a prominent part of the diet. In any case to get those GM bananas into the hands of the people who currently eat the non-GM bananas you're going to have to organize a huge logistical operation of producing millions of GM banana offshoots (remember that bananas have no seeds, they are all clones) and distributing them to millions of subsistence farmers. Possibly doable, but definitely more difficult than distributing papaya seeds (one papaya has hundreds of seeds and they store and sprout very easily!) And they can grow some papayas alongside their bananas... like I said they like the same soil conditions and they actually grow well together.

Also in the case of Uganda by far the easiest solution is make sure there is unprocessed red palm oil available on the local markets and that the people know that it's better for them than the processed oil... it is a superior source beta carotene as well as Vitamin E and some other essential nutrients, and Uganda is a major palm oil producer. Probably today almost all the palm oil produced commercially in Uganda gets processed and exported, which is the real irony in all of this... they probably destroy enough beta carotene in the processing of commercial palm oil to cure Vitamin A deficiency in the whole world!

(To explain the above... the oil plam produces two oils, red oil from the mesocarp and white oil from the kernel. The red oil, unprocessed, is very rich in beta carotene ((which gives the red color)) but has a strong flavor that makes it unsuitable for industrial food use. So they process it to remove the color, smell, and flavor, then the ship it around the world to use in junk food and other delights of civilization.)

about 3 months ago
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"Super Bananas" May Save Millions of Lives In Africa

jurgen Solves nothing (396 comments)

So the "super" in these bananas is extra Vitamin A (alpha and beta carotene). But in general this solves nothing because those people who are Vitamin A deficient probably can't afford the bananas and/or don't have the resources to grow them... if they did they could just as easily grow (for example) Papayas which grow in the same conditions as Bananas and have more than enough beta carotene without any GM tricks. The problem is that both Bananas and Papayas need very fertile soil (or lots of fertilizer) and plenty of water to grow.

The problem of Vitamin A dificiency may be real enough, but to really solve it you have to first look at the root of the problem. Why are people Vitamin A deficient? Were they always or is there something new happening? In Uganda for example I suspect that it's because people used to get their beta carotene from unprocessed red palm oil which they used to extract themselves and used for all their cooking, and now they are using processed cooking oils which are cheap enough that they just don't bother extracting their own oil anymore but which have all the beta carotene removed! So the problem was created by modern consumer society in the first place! The best solution here is just a bit of education, because the unprocessed red palm oil is probably still available and inexpensive and people have just gotten out the habit of using it. Just tell them to go back to frying their non-GM bananas in red palm oil instead of processed oil and they'll stop being Vitamin A deficient in no time.

In general, people who eat traditional diets are rarely deficient in such important nutrients as Vitamin A unless they simply don't have enough to eat overall. But people are losing their traditional diets due to the relentless onslought of consumerism... for those populations the cheapest and most effective solution to Vitamin A deficiency is education and making sure traditional sources of beta carotine continue to be available. For those who are deficient because of extreme poverty the super bananas (or the golden rice, another frankenfood ultra-solution) solve nothing unless you give them away, in which case you can give away non-GM sources of beta carotene just as easily.

about 3 months ago
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Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

jurgen To paraphrase Lincoln... (309 comments)

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you haven't /really/ passed the Turing test until you can fool all of the people all of the time.

No really... Eliza fooled some of the people back in 1966. There is nothing really new to see here, move right along.

about 3 months ago
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Can You Really Hear the Difference Between Lossless, Lossy Audio?

jurgen Banausen! (749 comments)

Lossy, lossless---recordings are for the rabble! Anyone who would settle for anything less than lying under the piano or sitting in the middle of the live orchestra does not deserve to hear the works of the great masters of the classics!

about a year and a half ago
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Do Kiosks and IVRs Threaten Human Interaction?

jurgen Better a robot than a human robot? (294 comments)

The problem with human interaction in much of the service industry today is that most of the corporate employees we have to interact with are so dis-empowered, they really are just robots... they act according to very limited scripts with neither real knowledge about the systems of which they are part nor any real decision making power. So they are just robots with the additional defect that they execute their programs imperfectly because they human and even have hurt feelings when you swear at them because of their incapacity to actually help you. This is frustrating for the customer and dehumanizing for the employee. So better real robots than fake (human) robots, right? Just so long as they understand "let me talk to a human"...

(And then there's the small problem of all the low-end jobs we're eliminating, etc, etc, but hey, progress is progress.)

about a year and a half ago
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SSH Password Gropers Are Now Trying High Ports

jurgen Re:Port knocking anyone? (349 comments)

Like I already said, it isn't very strong security, but it's as much real security as any password ever is. I already said it can be listened in on at the link layer... and a password (shared or not) can always be listened in on somewhere, if you encrypt all your network links I can still listen in on your keyboard, etc.

All security is relative and its usefulness must be evaluated against the types of threats that your trying to protect yourself from. If you're trying to protect yourself from un-targeted attacks (and that's not just unsophisticated script kiddies, but includes large-scale phishing by serious attackers) then the port-knocking concept can provide real security, because you can use it to implement a strong password (strong in the sense of being resistant to brute force attack) for network layer connections. It doesn't even matter if these passwords are shared or if your colleagues put them on sticky notes under their desk... the attackers in this particular threat-model don't have access to your link-layer or your desks.

about a year and a half ago
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SSH Password Gropers Are Now Trying High Ports

jurgen Port knocking anyone? (349 comments)

Like others have said, moving sshd to a high port was never meant to be additional security, just annoyance-reduction to reduce the sheer load in terms of bandwidth and log space. I did that for a while, but then (well over a decade ago) I saw an article about port knocking which is where you (i.e. the sshd) don't answer until the system receives a secret sequence of connection attempts at various ports... i.e. a secret "knock". The secret knock is a kind of password, and can be sent by executing a specialized client, or if you are somewhere where you don't have one available, by manually making telnet attempts, i.e. "telnet 16111; telnet 28123; telnet 22222".

The knock is basically a password for OSI network layer connections. This not only reduces the annoyance level of unsophisticated phishing attacks, but basically eliminates them altogether with a layer of real security. That security is not very strong... in a targeted attack, anyone who can monitor your link layer anywhere along a connection you make can see your secret knock... but it's an easy add-on and better than just playing tag with script-kiddies by moving ssh protocol to a high port.

about a year and a half ago
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Norwegian Study: Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared

jurgen Re:Petroleum bias (468 comments)

Your understanding of the scientific method is a bit naive. Lots of incorrect results pass peer review even in the most prestigious journals and sometimes are discovered as being incorrect only years later (or never)... because there is always some "fuzziness" in real-world experiments or data analysis. Were the experiments designed correctly? Was the data read correctly? Were there any errors in the analysis (mathematical or otherwise)? Is the logic leading to the conclusions correct? Peers who read the papers may or may not spot the errors... sometimes because the errors are subtle, and sometimes because even the smartest peers don't fully understand the research in the first place. (And with regard to the this Norwegian government research... well it hasn't even been peer-reviewed yet.)

There are a lot of steps in research and in each of the stops bias can creep in even if the researchers are honest and well-intentioned.

For more about this see, i.e.:
http://www.nature.com/news/beware-the-creeping-cracks-of-bias-1.10600
http://www.niam.scarp.se/download/18.71afa2f11269da2a40580007299/Huesseman%2B-%2BBiases.pdf
http://radiology.rsna.org/content/238/3/780.full
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter's_bias

...and lots more. In some areas of research (specifically bio-medical) there have been estimates (based on meta-analysis) that as much as half of all published results are wrong, and mostly along the lines of the researchers inherent biases.

about a year and a half ago
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Norwegian Study: Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared

jurgen Re:Petroleum bias (468 comments)

I *didn't* accuse them of fabricating anything. I just pointed out ("informationally" if you like) that they have an inherent bias. If they were perfect scientists that bias wouldn't affect their results, but nobody is perfect. Because of this bias, even if it be subconscious, they are more likely to draw certain conclusions from the same set of data than other scientists with less or different biases.

about a year and a half ago
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Norwegian Study: Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared

jurgen Re:Petroleum bias (468 comments)

I'm not saying their numbers are "fudged". But science isn't as objective as scientists would like us to believe, especially when it's about systems as complex as the earth's climate. Scientists's subconscious biases affect their results... there has actually been a bunch of research showing THAT in recent years. In this particular case I think the scientists in question saw what they wanted to see in the uncertainties inherent in the data.

about a year and a half ago
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Norwegian Study: Global Warming Less Severe Than Feared

jurgen Petroleum bias (468 comments)

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world... it has the second highest GDP per capita. Norwegians enjoy an incredibly high standard of living across the board... there is very little wealth-disparity and almost no poverty. Education is free and health-care is universal. It's a good life! And it's all largely thanks to oil, of which Norway has lots. Over 55% of Norway's GDP comes directly from petroleum. Imagine if you and all your fellow citizens had half of your assets invested in oil companies and depended on those investments for half of all your income and half of all your future retirement... in Norway that's the reality.

I wouldn't accuse the scientists of Norway's research council of fabricating data or anything, but they can't help but have a strong bias.

about a year and a half ago
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Study Finds Similar Structures In the Universe, Internet, and Brain

jurgen The actual paper... (171 comments)

Is here.

about 2 years ago
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Rapid Arctic Melt Called 'Planetary Emergency'

jurgen The Artic meltdown shows that things are worse... (757 comments)

Why is this Artic meltdown so important?

Three words: "postitive feedback loops."

All the "scary math" up until now has ignored this one very fundamental thing that could make things much, much worse than even the worst case estimates in the IPCC reports until now. The possibility of positive feedback loops accellerating climate change was explicitly excluded from the IPCC reports because they are poorly understood and introduce potentially wildly chaotic responses. They actually say litterally: we're ignoring this because we don't understand it.

The rapid Arctic meltdown has proven that at least some positive feedback loops are already operating, that for this part of the global system the curve is exponential, not linear.

Now the very real and very great danger is the Arctic meltdown will or already has triggered other, even more significant positive feedback loops. Such as releasing the vast stores of Methane in sub-sea hydrates and the permafrost. If that turns out to be the case, then fasten your seatbelts... we're on the fasttrack to global meltdown already.

Take a look at this site: http://www.ameg.me/

about 2 years ago
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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low Extent

jurgen Re:Short term record (398 comments)

Actually the true statement IS that "this has never happened before". Ok, maybe it did happen in the interglacial periods before the last ice age, but not in the last 1450 years for which we have ice cores and other proxy data... and by that point there is no reason to not assume it to be true for the rest of our current interglacial unless you have some good argument to the contrary. You don't NEED the rather super-precise satellite observations we have for the last 33 years to make this kind of statement.

If this weren't so tragic it would be really funny seeing you deniers all flailing madly about for a way out of this one.

about 2 years ago
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Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low Extent

jurgen What's really scary about this... (398 comments)

What is really scary about this is that only a few years ago scientists were saying that the Arctic "could be ice free in summer before the end of the century" and the deniers were calling them alarmists THEN. Then in the last couple of years some of the most alarmist of these alarmists have been saying that the Arctic could be ice free in summer in the next couple of decades.

Now I look at the slope of the line on that chart and I think the Arctic is going to be to be pretty close to ice free THIS summer.

The Arctic sea ice is showing us how much more rapidly things can change than even the "worst alarmists" dare to predict when positive feedback loops kick in and tipping points are passed. What will be the ripple effects of this? Where is the next tipping point?

about 2 years ago
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Republican Platform To Include Internet Freedom Plank

jurgen Without Network Neutrality it's all Bullshit (459 comments)

But the Rupublicans are against Network Neutrality (because they consider it excessive regulation) and without Network Neutrality as a base none of the other Internet Freedoms can actually exist because there is market action to push for more freedoms, only the infrastructure owning corporations natural desire for more control.

Network Neutrality is the first and key requirement for all other freedoms on the Internet. It is what makes the Internet the peer-to-peer system it was designed to be. Without some basic government regulation to ensure that the big peers (Telcos, etc.) don't simply bully the little peers (you and me) or completely take away our "peerness", all talk about Internet freedoms is totally empty.

Romney is on record as being against Nework Neutrality.

about 2 years ago
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Why We Should Remain Skeptical of the Ouya Android Console

jurgen Re:Kickstarter is such a stupid idea (184 comments)

Kickstarter is not meant to replace venture capitalism... it is an alternative to venture capital for types of projects which wouldn't be attractive to capitalist investors, such as art projects, or very small scale manufacturing, or as in this case, projects that venture capitalists might consider unrealistic but in which enthusiasts might have enough faith. Those who contribute don't do it for a "trinket"... we do it either because we simply want to see the project succeed, or because we want the product enough to pay for it in advance and take the chance that it'll never materialize.

Kickstarter is filling a needed niche... Iit's a large niche, and it seems to be working. And it it works for enough types of things, it'll start inspiring venture investors to go after some of the same markets, which will mean that it's "working" in yet another sense for society.

So I think Kickstart is a brilliant idea. We'll have to wait a bit longer to see if history will vindicate it, but early indications from recent successes are that it may be a real game changer.

more than 2 years ago
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Chinese Firms Claims It Can Build World's Tallest Tower in 90 Days

jurgen Re:Foundations? (389 comments)

They pre-fab even the foundation. Seriously. You can see it in this video this video of them (BSB) erecting a 30-story hotel in 15 days.

more than 2 years ago
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Survey Finds No Hint of Dark Matter Near Solar System

jurgen Missing Mass goes missing again (125 comments)

I just thought that would be a better headline. Dark matter is actually the hypothesized solution to the missing mass problem. And it was supposed to be "right here"...

more than 2 years ago
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I prefer to listen to recorded music ...

jurgen Missing option: 3-speaker "ambient" configuration (334 comments)

It's on the back of one of Eno's "Ambient" records, "Music for Airports" I think. Connect the 3rd speaker to the positive terminals of both stereo channels... that gives you all the sounds that are on either channel but not both, resulting in a more space-filling feel to the overall sound.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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LastPass Firefox extension... trustworthy?

jurgen jurgen writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Juergen (14843) writes "LastPass is a commercial but free-as-in-beer Firefox password manager extension. The feature-set is great, and by allowing one to use strong (long and random) passwords without having to remember them, it could help a lot with security. But can I trust non-open-source software enough to store the passwords for my bank accounts? Much as I'd like the convenience, I don't think so. What's your opinion about this in general and LastPass specifically?"

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