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Police Body Cam Privacy Exploitation

physicsphairy Since when do the police care about privacy? (301 comments)

Mugshots and information about arrests are made publicly available. Most news articles I read have the names of any supects and arrestees over 17 years of age. This is all before any kind of criminal convinction. Why the sudden concern about whether someone gets "embarrassed"?

about two weeks ago
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US Midterm Elections Discussion

physicsphairy Re:Six Years Ago (401 comments)

In a well designed system the House should match the vote. It does not.

What is this well-designed system? It's not an equipartitioned grid -- that would have the Republicans ecstatic and the Democratics up in arms.

In fact, the whole concept of local representatives is incompatible with the idea of representing the electorate in perfect proportions. Unless every neighborhood in the country is the same homogeneous mix of Republicans and Democrats, you're going to have to deal with the fact that some areas are going to have higher concentrations and dilute the impact specific votes in that area have on national outcomes. Trying to balance it out isn't a great idea either -- want to tell people in California they are going to get less net representation so they don't drown out Colorado?

However, the system has the advantage that it does a much better job of representing regional interests, which is basically why it was invented. In some marginal cases that may even mean putting the technical minority in charge. Of course, if your party is the technical majority you will feel up in arms about it and want to change the system. (But you won't because you can't until the system favors you, and then the incumbents will not see it as nearly such a crisis.)

If you want to talk about disproportionate, how about we tally up the number of voters who identify as independent vs. the number of elected candidates who do. Interesting how no party is worried about that little misfeature.

about three weeks ago
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Buying Goods To Make Nuclear Weapons On eBay, Alibaba, and Other Platforms

physicsphairy 1940s technology (260 comments)

The technology to actually manufacture nuclear weapons is starting to close in on a century old. What prohibits their manufacture is ultimately a combination of international pressure, expense, and engineering difficulty. If your country doesn't have a bullet train then it probably doesn't have nuclear weapons for much the same reason or else because it has specifically chosen not to manufacture them (the fact any money from western nations would quickly evaporate makes a strong incentive). If you're going to worry about people getting hold of galium and high speed cameras, you're just being ridiculous. Anyone who could even have a shot at building a nuclear weapon also has enough resources to easily obtain those sorts of items, no matter what international restrictions are applied.

about three weeks ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

physicsphairy Re:Not New (468 comments)

The mailer was 10 times better at turning nonvoters into voters than the typical piece of pre-election mail whose effectiveness has ever been measured./quote.
It would get me to the polls, too. Maybe not with the intended effect, however.

about three weeks ago
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Virginia Court: LEOs Can Force You To Provide Fingerprint To Unlock Your Phone

physicsphairy Re:This is not like giving a DNA sample (328 comments)

How is gaining access to the contents of your phone not "just surrendering information which is stored outside your brain"?

Your phone and its contents are evidence and once a warrant is issued (which I hope is still a requirement) it is fair game. What is not fair game, thanks to the American constitution, is to say "Either you can tell us that you committed the crime and we can send you to jail for the confession or you can tell us you didn't and we can send you to jail for perjury."

The password on your phone is not protected information because it requires your consent for the police to look at it. It's protected information because divulging it proves you own and have access to the contents and giving it up equates to admitting the same. You can't be compelled to make that admission.

But if the police prove by some other means that you do own and have access to the information, then you're no longer protected from being compelled to dislose the password. E.g., we have had articles here where a defendant admits it is their laptop computer and they know the password, and then are ordered to reveal it.

about three weeks ago
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Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans

physicsphairy Re:Disturbing (331 comments)

How is someone with only high school as experience expected to assess how well they will be doing in 401 Statistical Mechanics down the road, what job they will have, how difficult it will be to make their student loan payment on top of a carpayment, rent check, groceries, etc.? Up to this point in life most of them have lived at home, had no job, no responsibilities, and are used to having all the important decisions made for them. Their first real life decision shouldn't concern whether to sign up for a hundred thousand dollars in debt. They realize it's a lot of money but it's all part of some nebulous future to which their parents, teachers, and peers assure them a "good college" is the key to success. And their actual responsiblity to pay back the loan is deferred four or five years into that future.

What's missing here is the other party to the risk. If you were to take out a loan to buy a house or start a business, you would have to convince the bank that it was reasonable for you to pay it back. The goverment has removed that risk to the seller of the loan on the theory that now you can take out a cheaper loan, but with the downside that there is no second assessment on whether the loan is a good idea.

But in the grander scheme the bank is mostly just an accessory. They're earning a percentage, it's the colleges who are pocketing the lump sum, and the colleges are also doing so with the entire risk shifted onto the student, despite their continued intimate involvement in whether the student's investment will pay off.

IMHO, the university should be as responsible for the loan as the student. Call it a partnership.

about three weeks ago
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Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

physicsphairy Re:Makes no sense (608 comments)

You're comparing analysis of a decades long trend to single data points. The question which is being asked is "Why has the proportion of females in CS declined?" Yes there are many complicated factors which go into a woman's decision to pursue a career in CS -- more than we could ever hope to analyze -- but taking all those factors as a given, and then allowing a change, it's possible correlate any increase/decrease to that change. This study is purporting to have isolated economic factors as providing that correlation for a particular set of data. No, it does not explain the job market breakdown between women in CS/psychology/art history, etc., but it does explain why the ratio for CS now is different from the ratio for CS in 1985.

about a month ago
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The Problem With Positive Thinking

physicsphairy What is "positive thinking"? (158 comments)

I don't see why establishing unrealistic views of reality would ever be constructive. Imagining the week will excel in every way and finding out that it doesn't isn't what I consider "positive thinking" -- obviously the week is going to fall short and then the lesson learned is not going to be a habit of thinking positive, it is going to be the opposite, that thinking positive is futile and incorrect.

What I consider "positive thinking" is a realistic perspective which acknowledges the good and the bad but emphasizing the good aspects. Seeing losing your job as an opportunity to start a new chapter. Seeing the misfortune of others as an opportunity to help them. Being thankful for what you already have instead of craving everything you don't. It's a more accurate view in any case -- it's quite rare that losing a job or a relationship deprives the rest of your life of meaning or success, and solving problems actually does give the brain a sense of euphoria, so why should you be upset about encountering them?

The mental contrasting approach the article describes seems oriented along those lines, but to me it's not a matter of "contrast" so much as a matter of compatibility -- positive thinking doesn't contrast with realism, realism simply sets the context in which positive thinking should take place.

about a month ago
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NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

physicsphairy Re:my thoughts (372 comments)

The risk factor is non-zero regardless of what procedures are followed. Even if ebola is not generally transmissible by air it's not quite against the laws of nature for the virus to find itself in some liquid drop which just happens to follow the right air currents in the right time frame to get taken up in an orifice etc. Then there's the possiblity of tears and defects in protective equipment, etc. The fact he spent so much time near ebola patients may have turned a one in a million risk to a one in a thousand or one in a hundred and from there it was bad luck. Of course, he might have botched it, too, but realistically if someone is spending all of their time around carriers of the disease they should be considered at risk of contracting it whether they're being clever about it or not.

about a month ago
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BBC Takes a Stand For the Public's Right To Remember Redacted Links

physicsphairy "not a good judgement" (113 comments)

An EU spokesman later said the removal was "not a good judgement" by Google.

Clearly google should have a team of philosophers, ethicists, social activists, and legal theorists evaluate each of the 1000 requests per day to ensure that each link removed is a "good judgment."

about a month ago
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Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

physicsphairy Re:Hoax (986 comments)

Converting natural nickel to nickel 62 is a bit outside the magician's domain. If the scientists only examine the fuel at the begining and end maybe there is opportunity for some slight of hand (although not any I think a magician would be more likely to catch given there were 32 days to make the switch). If they are making consistent measurements, however, it could be very tricky to fake data which shows consistent rates of consumption for nickel-58 and nickel-60 given the starting abundance.

about a month ago
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FBI Says It Will Hire No One Who Lies About Illegal Downloading

physicsphairy Re:Polygraph (580 comments)

If you have a large applicant pool (which I believe is true for the FBI) false positives are not a concern. It's only false negatives which they would actually fret about.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Capture the Flag Training

physicsphairy Yes (102 comments)

For your convenience I have put some good resources in C:/ on the FBI mainframe.

about a month and a half ago
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Is an Octopus Too Smart For Us To Eat?

physicsphairy Re:People (481 comments)

We're also so considerate of ourselves as to intercede if other humans are in jeopardy. Even if it's an overpopulated area, we confer humans with individual importance, unlike with, e.g., endangered species where we only seem to care if they are fulfilling their ecological niche. If the ethical dilemma includes whether or not to eat octopi but not whether or not to intercede when octopi are, e.g., about to be eaten by a shark, then at the very least I see that as a philosophical inconsistency.

Perhaps that should be the qualifier for the species itself--does it express a love for its own identity as a species, one in which it abstractly reasons that there is a better world in which octopii are free from predation and other concerns? Embracing that image ourselves then becomes a direct application of empathy. Does the species simply instinctually react to avoid danger? Even if it can bring complex algorithms to bear on resolving the problem, that doesn't mean it has a philosophical desire for a world in which it would be free from harm. So, other than our interests, why would we feel compelled to create such a world for it?

about a month and a half ago
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Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

physicsphairy Total number of websites (611 comments)

I don't actually browse the entire internet and have no interest in guaranteeing equivalent revenue to everyone selling penis enlargements. My share of the burden is only a dozen or so websites visited regular. But since many of those are content aggregators let's go ahead and say I visit 100 x that many websites, and consider these casual visits as equal to supporting the website for an entire year.

This makes $230 / 1,036,878,123 websites (internetlivestats.com) * 1200 = 2.7*e-4 dollars to cover my website burden. And I feel I probably deserve some credit for subscribing to Netflix and Amazon prime. Obviously bandwidth is a better measure of the 'cost' I need to cover for these websites to remain hosted, but averaging over all websites does (in a difficult to quantify way) account for the fact that many of the websites out there even now are not profit-motivated.

I hope the authors of this study were also sure to deduct the cost users already pay due to web advertisements in the form of malware infections, including the compromise of bank accounts, identity, etc.

about 3 months ago
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Memo to Users: SpamCop Winding Down Webmail Service

physicsphairy Re:If they really want to help the situation... (44 comments)

You also cannot solve the problem by exposing, jailing, or murdering spammers (regardless of whether or not it makes you feel better) as it does not resolve the profit motive.

Increasing the expected cost reduces the expected profit.

Filtering only encourages spammers to craft ever-more-obfuscated spam to drive down the signal-to-noise ratio and improve the chances of their spam getting through.

Which takes resources, thus increasing costs, thus reducing the expected profit.

Spamcop and others, if they actually want to perform a valuable service, need to put their profits elsewhere. Namely, they need to start working on disrupting the flow of money to the spammers themselves.

While we're discussing profit as the be all and end all, I'm curious how Spamcop is supposed to monetize this? And does preventing people from seeing spam not "disrupt the flow of money"?

It's great to say there are other ways to go about fighting spam, but anything which makes the spammers' efforts a little bit more difficult or a little bit less effective contributes toward minimizing the industry.

about 3 months ago
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Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office

physicsphairy Deadlines. . . whoosh! (327 comments)

They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees

As a product of academia I am professionally trained to get things done on the cusp of deadlines. I'm not joking. Both on the student and instructor side there is simply a great deal of latitude. There's no time management enforced in any form except for "deadlines," so that's when you learn to get things done.

As lovely of a thought as it is that entering the workforce will automatically instill a newfound sense of responsiblity and dedication to all a graduates (and I'm sure it does for at least a few weeks or so), I for one am not surprised that working unsupervised at home at a government job with quarterly deadlines results in people observing the same habits they have for the past 6-10 years.

Admittedly, I wouldn't want to rush a result such that it is inadequately reviewed either, and I don't know if patent clerks have projects which would actually take an entire quarter to investigate, but the first thing I would do is have them sync all of their edits/notes/research in a way to make them reviewable. It's amazing how a little bit of transparency encourages people to make regular progress.

about 3 months ago
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Do Dark Matter and Dark Energy Cast Doubt On the Big Bang?

physicsphairy Re:Don't ask me (225 comments)

The physicists are the ones asking. We better take this one to the Big Guy Himself.

"So, uh, we were wondering if you could explain why our orbital and rotational predictions for galaxies are not matching our astronomical measurements?"

"They aren't? Are you sure? Let me check the source code. Oh, that's not good. Should have caught that a few billion years ago. This is going to be a real pain to patch. Unless. . . ."

"Unless, what?"

*lightning bolt strikes questioner*

about 3 months ago
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Why Morgan Stanley Is Betting That Tesla Will Kill Your Power Company

physicsphairy Scaling usage (502 comments)

It's quite believable that technology will develop toward helping people reduce their energy costs. What's not quite so believable is that it will be enough to reduce demand.

If energy was cheap enough, maybe you would use your excess electricity to get free water instead, extracting it and/or producing it from air and hydrocarbons, or otherwise recycle your waste. Maybe you will have some of the latest computer modules chugging away simulating your entire antatomy to anticipate future medical problems. If I had free electricity right now I would be using as much of it as possible to mine bitcoins. Who would have anticipated that 20 years ago?

I don't see the end to domestic energy demand until we see the end of people wanting wealth, because technology is increasingly a way of translating energy into things of value.

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Automatic Translation Without Dictionaries

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  about a year ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "Tomas Mikolov and others at Google have developed a simple means of translating between languages using a large corpus of sample texts. Rather than being defined by humans, words are characterized based on their relation to other words, e.g., in any language, a word like 'cat' will have a particular relationship to words like 'small', 'furry,' 'pet', etc. The set of relationships of words in a language can be described as a vector space, and words from one language can be translated into words in another language by identifying the mapping between their two vector spaces. The technique works even for very dissimilar languages, and is presently being used to refine and identify mistakes in existing translation dictionaries."
Link to Original Source
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Tech School Implements Jedi Council

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 6 years ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "The Student Association of New Mexico Tech has formed a new government, host to a Jedi Council. The change remains controversial, with an attempted overruling by the organization president, but a 4-1 upholding by the Supreme Court. According to the new constitution, the Jedi will fulfill a largely diplomatic role, participating in such activities as peer mediation and student outreach, while also stepping in as an additional check on the other branches of government. Students have a month to mull over their next move as the Senate will not reconvene until January. The constitution, while effective immediately, will also be up for ratification or censure by the general student body in late April when the Spring Elections take place. The vote will determine whether the Jedi Council remains as a permanent branch of the student government."
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physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

physicsphairy writes "Perhaps in commemoration of earth day, students at New Mexico Tech placed a seventy pound toilet and pirate flag on top of a 150' clock tower. It was too high to be reached by either the school cherry pickers or the local fire department, and the school had to call a company from out of district to come remove it. No one is quite sure how they got it up there... a rumour on campus is that one of the rock climbers bear-climbed it. Yours truly has some pictures from it being taken down."

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