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# Slashdot: News for Nerds

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### Ask Slashdot: How Reproducible Is Arithmetic In the Cloud?

Reminds me of one of Lloyd Trefethen's maxims about numerical mathematics (http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/trefethen/maxims.html ):

"If the answer is highly sensitive to perturbations, you have probably asked the wrong question."

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### US Government Shutdown Ends

Maybe a more accurate headline is "US Government Shutdown on temporary hiatus"? It's only a few months funding, and there's no guarantee we won't go through the entire thing again come January 15th...

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### Facebook Changes Privacy Policies, Scraps User Voting

But any competent marketing department would get the hint when 589,141 out of 668,872 people disliked a proposed change.
You need to poll far less than 30% to get a statistically significant result representing the wishes of those 1,000,000,000 idiots.

"Statistically Significant" doesn't really make sense here...that sort of computation assumes that the people being surveyed are a representative sample of all users.

In this case we've got a pretty strong selection bias going on where people who are most upset about the new policy are the most likely to vote.

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### What's your usual coffee-making method?

It's an ingenious little device that's sort of a cross between a French Press and a pour-over filter. You pour the coffee and hot water in a paper filter at the top and let it infuse for a few minutes. Once your coffee's sufficiently strong, you place it on top of your cup, which lifts the stopper and lets the coffee drip out the bottom. For more on this. See http://www.sweetmarias.com/clevercoffeedripperpictorial.php for more information.

about a year and a half ago
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For me its just the opposite. An advertisement is an attempt to get me to trust the advertiser's word on their product. If they want to convince me, the way to start is by being honest about what they're doing and not try and disguise it as something else.

about a year and a half ago
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### Why Amazon Is Google's Real Competition

Re:Amazon's search quality is so appalling (129 comments)

If the balance right now is Google's superior search vs. Amazon's superior convenience/prime shipping, I think that still gives the advantage to Amazon.

Amazon can improve their search mechanism over time, but it's much harder for Google to match Amazon's advantages.

about a year and a half ago
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### Why Amazon Is Google's Real Competition

Of the 35 five star reviews, about 30 were posted in a 1 week period by people who have no other reviews. Of course, each of those reviewers carefully voted up all the previous other 5 star reviews to promote them in the review rankings (so

about a year and a half ago
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### The Olympic Live Stream: Observations, Recommendations, Predictions

Re:Sport specific -- fencing (82 comments)

For an epeeist, that's really terrific coverage. I know what I'm looking for, and the announcer/color commentary are just a distraction. For a non-fencer, it must have been terrible.

As a non-fencer, I actually found the epee much easier to follow than the other events (mainly because there was no need to worry about right of way). The other events were enjoyable to watch, but I did a lot of taking the scoring on faith/outright ignoring the scoring and just watching the fencing.

about a year and a half ago
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### The Olympic Live Stream: Observations, Recommendations, Predictions

Re:No Commentary = FAIL (82 comments)

For me the lack of commentary (or in some cases the inclusion of feed commentators who weren't as biased as NBC's) was one of the best things about the streaming.

about a year and a half ago
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### Goldbach Conjecture: Closer To Solved?

There WERE computers involved, indirectly. (170 comments)

From the abstract of Tao's paper: Our argument relies on some previous numerical work, namely the verification of Richstein of the even Goldbach conjecture up to $4 \times 10^{14}$, and the verification of van de Lune and (independently) of Wedeniwski of the Riemann hypothesis up to height $3.29 \times 10^9$.

Richstein's work (available at http://www.ams.org/journals/mcom/2001-70-236/S0025-5718-00-01290-4/S0025-5718-00-01290-4.pdf ) definitely involves a computer, and I assume the Riemann hypothesis verification does as well.

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### Kyoto Prize Laureate Unsnarls Electronic Networks

The app's a little beside the point (36 comments)

After all, it deals with a graph whose nodes and connections are already known exactly.

The more interesting part comes when you move to a graph like the link structure or underlying router structure of the internet, which is both orders of magnitude larger and changing rapidly -- even if you could take a perfect snapshot of it, by the time you finished analyzing that snapshot the network would have changed quite a bit in the meantime.

What Lovasz has been doing recently with his work on "graph limits" is providing a framework for analyzing such graphs. You can imagine global properties of the network approaching some sort of fixed equilibrium and hope to analyze that equilibrium without actually knowing the details of how the network is changing. I don't actually know if the work has been used in practical applications yet, but the concept goes far beyond just redrawing planar graphs.

more than 2 years ago
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### California Library's Plan: Get Rid of Books

How much of a cut are they really facing? (197 comments)

In Newport Beach, the library receives roughly $318,000 in state funding (source http://articles.dailypilot.com/2011-01-14/news/tn-dpt-0115-library-20110114_1_library-budget-newport-library-library-funding ). I can't open the Newport Beach budget documents at the moment, but recently the city referred referred to$132,500 cut in library funding as a "2% reduction" in the library's budget (source http://www.newportbeachca.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=4738 ).

So by my count the library's facing less than a 5% cut in its budget if every last cent of state funding is cut. And yet they're talking about eliminating books. This smells more like passing the blame to the state and/or trying to get publicity/sympathy rather than an actual budget crisis due to reduction in state funds.

more than 2 years ago
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### Top French Chess Players Suspended For Cheating

Re:Not like other sports. (295 comments)

Steroids, no. Other drugs, maybe. Top level chess games can last for 5-6 hours on end, and I could see players taking some sort of aid to keep concentration going for that long a period.

more than 2 years ago
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### Immaculate Conception In a Boa Constrictor

In Catholic Theology, the Immaculate Conception doesn't refer to the Virgin Birth of Jesus, but to the conception of Mary without original sin.

I guess it's possible that these baby boa constrictors are especially sinless, but you probably won't be able to decide on that issue by reading Biology Letters.

more than 3 years ago
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### Anti-Product Placement For Negative Branding

This goes back a long way (130 comments)

Over a century ago Edison was making sure Alternating Current was used in the Electric Chair, in order to make it seem more dangerous and associate it in people's minds with electrocution.

more than 3 years ago
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### Army Asks Its Personnel to Wikify Field Manuals

Perhaps the Key Difference (143 comments)

between this and Wikipedia is that each edit will be linked to an ID which in turn is linked to a known service(wo)man.

Combine this with the way that the final manual will be the product of review teams rather than the wiki-style entries themselves, and this seems as much a very efficient public feedback/comment system (using wiki software and formatting) as a true wiki.

more than 4 years ago
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### Games Fail To Portray Gender and Ethnic Diversity

Given a choice between creating an representative cross-section of America and an representative cross-section of their customer base, game makers are likely going to go with the people who are paying them money.

more than 4 years ago
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### To What Age Do You Expect To Live?

Does it count if it's not you that's alive anymore (575 comments)

It seems like a very real possibility that my body will stay alive beyond the point when my brain is able to function properly (due to Alzheimer's, etc.).

What will happen if all this advancement in medical technology prolongs the body and not the mind within it?

more than 4 years ago

# Submissions

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kevinatilusa writes "A blog at the Chronicle for Higher Education is reporting on an apparent scam targeting students at Bucknell University. Students there were contacted by a collection agency claiming to represent the (apparently non-existent) "Cayman Academic Resources", and requested to give their credit card numbers and pay \$500 to settle claims of illegal downloading.

Unluckily for the scammers, students decided to check with University officials instead of just paying up."

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### Can virtual diseases model real-life epidemics?

kevinatilusa writes "The Associated Press reports on a study published by Nina Fefferman and Eric Lofgren in the Lancet. The article suggests that the 2005 Corrupted Blood epidemic in World of Warcraft could be useful as a model of the human factors (including the aptly named "stupid factor") often missed in theoretical models of the next big outbreak. Fefferman suggests that in the future online games might be useful to "provide a population where controlled outbreak simulations may be done seamlessly within the player experience"."

# Journals

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