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Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

pikine Re:Big Bang is RELIGION (109 comments)

It's kind of useless arguing with me since I shouldn't be putting words in the mouth of Ethan Siegel, and arguing on whether it is appropriate to call dark matter tiny really has no bearing on what I'm telling you about God and the Universe. But just in case you find it a pleasure to discuss these fine points with me, the very notion of mass distributed over volume involves statistics, and as you know, you can make statistics tell any story.

Consider this figure that I just randomly found so I don't have to draw one myself. You can see that the two clouds of green dots span about the same space. But the cloud on the right is more concentrated than the cloud on the left. You can imagine a third figure where there are several clumps of dots and still has the same overall space and density. Do you count the space between the dots as occupancy? Do you impose some form of density threshold to eliminate spaces that are simply too sparse? Not to mention that an atom consisting of a dense nucleus and a cloud of electrons is really more than 99.999% of space.

I'm not saying your Wikipedia references are wrong; they want to paint a picture illustrating the pervasiveness of dark matter, but Ethan Siegel is also entitled to say the amount is tiny. Tininess is really in the eyes of the beholder.

about a month ago

Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

pikine Re:Big Bang is RELIGION (109 comments)

In case you're feeling a bit dense today, I believe the author meant tiny bit by volume, not mass, since the expansion of the Universe concerns volume.

You are very welcome.

about a month ago

Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

pikine Re:Big Bang is RELIGION (109 comments)

Sure, in an imaginary world where the graceful and faithful elephant works freakishly hard to make the ants live happy lives even though the ants are so tiny to imagine what this great elephant looks like or means to them. The ants who hate the elephant drown themselves in puddles of water, and we the outsider look at these drowning ants in this imaginary world and think "these ungratefully stupid ants deserve to be eliminated by natural selection." And the elephant looks at us and say "if we can save one more ant from drowning, then why don't we?"

about a month ago

Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

pikine Re:Big Bang is RELIGION (109 comments)

From TFA, "As it turns out, we live almost in the Goldilocks case, with just a tiny bit of dark energy thrown in the mix ... What’s remarkable is that the amount of fine-tuning that needed to occur so that the Universe’s expansion rate and matter-and-energy density matched so well so that we didn’t either recollapse immediately or fail to form."

Even if not religion in disguise, you can call it religion in searching at least. From Acts 17:27, "God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."

about a month ago

Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

pikine This AC fails the Turing test (502 comments)

This AC shows the strangest lack of reading comprehension ever. I made no statements about tangibility of audio quality difference between semi-pro and pro equipments. I also made no claims comparing on-board audio and semi-pro gear. Chat bots are known to be able to spew out sentences that make sense on their own, but their responses do not show any comprehension of the context. Is Slashdot infested by chat bots these days?

about 2 months ago

Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

pikine ... and acoustic treatment (502 comments)

And you probably get more noticeable gain in audio quality by acoustically treating your listening room. What good is a set of expensive speakers when the environment makes the sound crappy?

about 2 months ago

Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

pikine Go professional... (502 comments)

MOTU, RME Hammerfall, Pro Tools, Mackie. Or a cheap hobbyist like me uses Presonus, M-Audio, or Behringer. These sound interfaces feature TRS or XLR balanced 3-conductor connectors and cabling that are more resilient to RF noise. Sound Blaster cards offer only RCA 2-conductor which is a joke on the audiophiles.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Correlation Between Text Editor and Programming Language?

pikine Re:C/C++/Java/Ruby/Python and I use.... (359 comments)

Pfft, I am my own typist. I typed a C program on a mechanical typewriter the other day. The typewriter was missing some of the keys, but I managed to use the trigraphs.

about 3 months ago

OpenSSL Bug Allows Attackers To Read Memory In 64k Chunks

pikine ASLR anyone? hype? (303 comments)

With address space layout randomization, I can't imagine how you could probe memory for sensitive information without causing the process to randomly crash. Given how polished the website publicizing the vulnerability is, I think they're more interested in creating hype.

about 5 months ago

Why Is US Broadband So Slow?

pikine lack of local government oversight is the cause (513 comments)

The article's assessment is mostly correct. It even correctly mentioned that the previous net neutrality rules were unconstitutional. Except the article neglected the fact that new rules forcing local municipality to open up rights of way would also be unconstitutional because Federal agency has no power over local jurisdiction.

Forget about the federal or even the state government for a moment. The problem is that most people don't even know how to keep their local government in check. They increase local sales and property tax rates and/or tax assessment at will. They are behind in repairing public roads and other infrastructures, and even so they are mostly funded by Federal grants. The teachers are paid poorly, but the local officials are paid handsomely.

This is all caused by the lack of local government oversight. All governments are pests, be it federal, state, or local, but the local government is usually overlooked. We pay too much attention to federal and state. Better show up at your local town hall meeting next time, or they will slowly erode away your rights and property.

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Should Developers Fix Bugs They Cause On Their Own Time?

pikine Negotiation and power play (716 comments)

I think his boss is trying to renegotiate this poor guy's salary. In any case it's a power play, so there is no use to explain to the boss how software engineering differs from brick laying. Simply assert that: (1) he'll work in excess of 40 hours a week only on overtime salary as required by law, (2) market rate already takes into account software maintenance cost due to defect or changing requirement, and (3) his performance evaluation should have already taken into account the quality of his output.

Why is this a power play? If he's actually not meeting expectation, the boss is free to simply fire him and hire someone else. The boss would not have to employ such power play tactics.

Of course nothing is going to stop him from saying "ok boss ur right" and take a voluntary pay cut.

about 7 months ago

Death Hovers Politely For Americans' Swipe-and-Sign Credit Cards

pikine Economic viability is the reason (731 comments)

That's because the outdated infrastructure had been economically viable to use, so there had been no reason to update it, until now, that is.

Many ways of the US rely on an honor system. There used to be unattended shops where you take the goods and put money in a box. The box didn't use to require a lock. This might be possible in a small town where everyone trusted each other, but in a city where crime is rampant, this business model is simply not economically viable. Public transportation used to allow monthly or weekly pass holders to board from the rear doors without verifying their passes, but they don't allow that anymore because nowadays enough non-paying passengers take advantage of that such that the honor system is no longer economically viable.

The honor system is always able to absorb a small percentage of fraud cases and remain economically viable. It's only when the fraud rate rises past a certain threshold when the system breaks down.

When a merchant displays a credit card logo, you trust the merchant. When the merchant hands you a receipt and you sign it, the merchant trusts you to pay. Again, this is an honor system. The rest of the world also started off with a complete "out of date" manual-imprint or swipe-card honor system. They were forced to upgrade the infrastructure because they suffered enough fraud such that the old system was no longer economically viable. The new smart card system is designed to enforce contractual agreement so that you don't need to rely on the honor system anymore, making credit payments economically viable again.

The US simply held off this long because the honor system had worked until now. Economic viability is the reason. The bad news is that the US has morally declined to the level of the rest of the world. The good news is that the US upheld its morals longer, being the last to abandon the honor system.

about 7 months ago

GNU Hurd Gets Improvements: User-Space Driver Support and More

pikine IOMMU is for restricting device's memory access (163 comments)

I think you confused the purpose of IOMMU. It's for restricting the device's memory access. Without IOMMU, it just means that any firmware running on the device's coprocessor can access the main memory unrestricted, meaning that a hacked firmware can root the machine. IOMMU virtualizes device's access to main memory so that doesn't happen. On a machine without IOMMU, you can still run device drivers in user space as long as the kernel sets up the correct memory mapping for the device's PCI address space. That's called memory mapped I/O and has nothing to do with IOMMU.

about 7 months ago

23-Year-Old Chess Grandmaster Whips Bill Gates In 71 Seconds

pikine Why Bill Gates lost. (449 comments)

Bill Gates played too conservatively so that he couldn't mobilize his pieces before getting checkmated. It's a common mistake if you care too much about losing pieces (presumably because that might appear embarrassing). I think it's uncharacteristic of Bill actually. He was known to be a lot more aggressive when he was younger, but I have to admit he's a lot more admirable now that he's older and mellowed.

about 8 months ago

US Federal Judge Rules Suspicionless Border Searches of Laptops Constitutional

pikine remind them at the beginning of their terms (462 comments)

If after several years holding seat and having a lucrative political career, you tell your congressmen that you're going to replace them because they no longer represent you, they'll keep doing the same and ignore you.

If, just after a new congressman got elected, you tell him how the last one was voted off of his seat because he stopped representing his people, that'll stick to him for his whole term of service. Congratulate him and tell him you look forward to his servitude.

about 9 months ago

Obamacare and Middle-Wheel-Wheelbarrows

pikine Re:Article is +1 (199 comments)

Poul-Henning Kamp is probably best known for his phkmalloc used in FreeBSD, and Varnish http cache. He's one of the few who understood that virtual memory under stress essentially behaves like a block device, so he writes software to exploit that.

about 9 months ago

Physicist Peter Higgs: No University Would Employ Me Today

pikine Re:I can confirm that (308 comments)

Let's suppose you're the fund manager and you want to maximize impact of your dollars. But there are too many researchers applying for grant. What do you do? You divest rather than invest, and hope that one of the projects will churn out useful outcome.

If you want to focus your money for deeper impact, people will definitely accuse you of favoritism. It is hard to prove innocent because research is, intrinsically, a very specialized craft, and only very specialized people understand the qualifications. Sometimes experts don't agree on the qualifications either. Once you are accused and unable to prove yourself innocent, your career as a fund manager would be ruined due to academic misconduct allegations. If you distribute your funds fairly and squarely, people can still accuse you of favoritism, but at least you have plausible deniability.

From a researcher's point of view, research is really about begging money to do things you want to do. Or if you end up not doing what you want to do, simply begging money. Historically only the nobles have the time and money to do research. This is what I always tell my friends:

  • If you have no money and no time, make time.
  • Now you have time but still no money. Make money with your time.
  • Now you have money but no time. Make money smarter so you save time.
  • Now you have both time and money, do whatever you want.

about 9 months ago

Sebastian Thrun Pivots Udacity Toward Vocational Education

pikine Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (86 comments)

That may be why there is a propensity to build luxury four year resorts with fancy dorms and gyms at the universities. It may be the marketing that keeps students around.

It's complicated. The universities reap what they sow, attracting the wrong kind of students. And then after exhausting funds on fancy buildings, the universities are unable to provide education to the students who actually enrolled to study. I can't blame the students if you're fostering an environment not for learning but for distractions.

Back on to the subject of MOOC, I think it could be useful as a deterrent to curb the squandering of resources. But universities have in the past found ways to provide affordable education, so something else must have gone wrong other than the manner the courses are taught.

about 10 months ago

Sebastian Thrun Pivots Udacity Toward Vocational Education

pikine Re:I think that's a wasted opportunity (86 comments)

This is how the Oxford Dictionary defines wonder: "a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable." Pink Floyd can fulfill this definition of wonder.

But I think ultimately, I disagree with your idea how the notion of wonder relates to theoretical CS or physics. In a pure mathematical sense, a theoretical study is the exploration of what logical consequences can be shown to follow from a set of well defined axioms. Theoretical CS uses a given computational model as the axioms and seeks to derive logical consequences that concern the complexity and computability of algorithms or problems under that computational model. Theoretical physics is concerned with coming up with the well defined axioms that have logical consequences which explain real-world, observable phenomenon. Maybe to some people that is wonderful, but wonder is neither sufficient nor required if you want to be a theoretician. If you do find wonder in theory and formal methods, kudos to you. :-)

I'm not saying I don't find wonder in theoretical studies, but both Discovery Channel and National Geographic have the scale to fund many educational programs beyond what most universities can afford. And broadcast media have developed a narrative style and format that makes conveying knowledge effective and attractive, with the purpose to induce a feeling of wonder. Otherwise it depends on the individual to find wonder themselves. As another way to look at it, some professors are very good at inducing a feeling of wonder in their students, but I wouldn't count on it if your goal is to study a subject matter and become an expert. There are ways to relate to a professor and his/her work even if the professor turns out to be an extremely boring person. If you go to a university just to find wonder, that's a waste of time and money.

about 10 months ago



pikine pikine writes  |  more than 7 years ago

pikine (771084) writes "Reported by BBC News, Fujitsu developed a technology that encodes 12-bytes of information in a printed picture by skewing yellow hue, which is difficult to discern by human eye but fairly easy for camera phones to decode using software written in Java. From the article:

Pictures printed with the technique look perfectly normal but a camera can see the code printed into the image. The technique can currently store just 12 bytes of information — soon to rise to 24 — the equivalent amount of data in a barcode. That data could be a phone number, a message or a website link. Printed materials can then connect to the online world by storing information which tells the phone to connect the web.
What are the other interesting uses of steganography?"



Retired Signature

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Did I tell you it never helps your karma to go against the wise and just moderators? I used to have this signature, which I'm retiring now.

Overrated, Troll, and Flamebait mod points are not to be used towards posts you disagree with. That would be censorship.

I've got good karma, and I wonder why it hasn't gotten worse. Ever since I used this signature to protest those moderators who abuse the system, I noticed that it's harder to get modded up even when I write a post that deserves it. My post is apparently still visible because it receives a number of responses, and the users who responded to me got modded up. The signature offends prospective moderators, who would have modded up the post if the signature was not there. Furthermore, it actually encourages some moderators to use the "overrated" mod against my posts just for the added irony.

It looks like my education campaign, or moderation fairness campaign, achieves exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. Rather than helping more moderators become more aware of their responsibility, it actually encouraged and attracted more abuse. This signature is futile. I guess the removal of this signature means I'm receding to the moderator overlords.

Slashdot is a democratic forum where voices deserve to be heard? You've gotta be kidding. The same people who side with freedom of speech is doing the censorship themselves.


Copyright reform: electronic copying (draft)

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 6 years ago

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

The act of copying in the digital age becomes ill-defined. When copyrighted work exists in electronic form, any transfer of such work entails: (1) the transmitter creates a transient copy in the electronic medium for transmission, (2) the receiver creates a record of the transmission once the copy is received. A transfer of electronic copy would mean that at least 2 permanent copies and 1 temporary copy can exist during the transfer. The chain of transfer ends when the digital copyrighted work is converted back to analog form for perception. Current DRM scheme seeks to control the whole chain of transfer to ensure that no unauthorized copies are retained.

The proposed reform is to consider the whole chain of electronic transfer as "performance" of the copyright work rather than duplication. We differentiate "performing private use work in public" and "performing copyrighted work without a use license" as two separate types of infringement.

When the chain involves the Internet, the chain could be indefinitely long, so it is impossible to estimate the number of unauthorized performances of the whole chain. We only count "making available" to each entity as one performance. In addition, we penalize the entity who obtains copyrighted "private use" work over the Internet without a private use license.

This proposal is to be refined...


Copyright reform: statutory damage

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 6 years ago

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

When a copyright infringement case is brought to court, if the case holds, then the plaintiff may be awarded statutory damage, which serves as a punitive deterrent for infringement. The amount is not based on actual damage. Because of this, the RIAA aggressively engages in lawsuit with people who appear to distribute copyrighted work over peer-to-peer network even when the case may be without merit. Individual defendants lacking the legal resource are forced to settle, and to settle based on the amount of statutory damages which is disproportional to the actual damage caused by the individual.

The proposed reform is to reduce or eliminate statutory damage. The plaintiff is still able to claim actual damage, but it could be contested by the defendant in court.

With statutory damage, the plaintiff does not have to prove the actual damage, so statutory damage makes it more likely to either (1) bring every copyright infringement case to court, no matter how minimal the actual damage is, or (2) increase the amount of out-of-court settlement. By reducing statutory damage, it also reduces incentive for legal powerhouse like RIAA to go after individuals.

However, copyright owners are still protected against organized, large scale copyright infringement, in which case the actual damage is easier to prove.

The current statutory damage of $30,000 (upto $150,000 in the case of willful infringement) should be reduced to less than $3,000 (upto $15,000), i.e. reducing at least by a factor of ten. The rationale is that the statutory damage should be the threshold to distinguish cases that warrant further discovery of damages.


Copyright reform: out of print work

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 6 years ago

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

If a copyrighted work is out of print, its copyright has not expired, and it has not been licensed for distribution, then it ceases to be accessible to the public.

We proposed the following reform for a work that was in print and subsequently went out of print: a compulsory license is automatically granted to any entity who can demonstrate that (1) the work is no longer available for purchase by the distributors authorized by the publisher, and (2) the original publisher lacks incentive to reprint the work. This compulsory license is revoked as soon as the publisher starts reprinting the work.

Here the key phrase is "out of print," where the act of printing is defined based on the quantity of replication. An allowance of 100 copies is given to any work without it being considered "in print."

The rationale is that printing is considered a mechanical process that can only reach economy of scale in mass quantity and can continue indefinitely, subjecting only to available natural resources. On the other hand, replication that requires significant manual effort, such as a sculpture, should not be considered printing. Using economy of scale as the principle, we use the number of copies to threshold the amount of manual effort required for replication.

If a work was never in print, then it might be the case that the copyright owner never intended to distribute the work to the public, so we must respect that intention.


Why Music Piracy May Have No Cure

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Every once in a while, you see studies showing that P2P piracy hurts music sales, has no effect on music sales, or stimulates music sales, depending on who funded the research, and what interest they have to show in the result. But no matter what your point of view is, it looks like file-sharing piracy of music isn't going away.

One of the observations brought by Seth Godin in “All Marketers are Liars” is that people get their money's worth the moment they spend it. The woman who buys $20 collectible Christmas ornaments at Hallmark in July already gets her money's worth when she thinks about how nice it would look on her Christmas tree in December, how she could talk about it with her Christmas guests, how it can be passed down to her children, etc. Then she puts the ornaments in the attic for the rest of the year. Her money's worth comes not in the utility of Christmas ornaments, but in the gratification of these thoughts.

Furthermore, at Christmas, she tells her friends about the ornaments, and how they will be in store again next July (with new design). Then they could check it out together next July. This free advertisement for a product that is “remarkable” (can be remarked or talked about) completes the “fashion cycle.”

If you want to encourage people to buy music, you need to think about how the purchasing itself brings gratification. The first gratification comes at the moment you listen to music. How do you know there is a song you like that you want to buy? You already listened to it! The first gratification is had before the purchase.

The second gratification that could happen at the purchase is the thought how you can share it with your friends, and if they like the music, they may think you're a cooler person (I think we all agree that music taste defines a person). But the second gratification is “no purchase necessary”—file-sharing can achieve this too. This is fatal to music sales because, after the purchase, the sharing with friends will happen without sales. Your friends will listen to your songs and have the first gratification.

Since music (or any digital media in general) is an intangible good, the “fashion cycle” can and does happen while the distributor—record labels, or even if you're an artist—is completely cut off. This explains why, when Radiohead gave their songs away for free, it was still pirated more than purchased.

So people will continue to share their music illegally, and music piracy will go on, unless the record labels do something clever about it to get involved in the fashion cycle.


Bloggers found violating alcohol law in Taiwan

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 8 years ago A blogger on reports (in Chinese, or try AltaVista [coral cached] translation) that municiple government of Taipei and Taichung sent warning letters to blog owners who write about alcohol beverages in their blogs, and that these bloggers may be fined a minimum of NT$100,000 (approx. US$3,000) due to violation of Tobacco and Alcohol Regulation Law in Taiwan. According to the law, writing about alcohol drinks in your blog is considered an advertisement, which is subject to a visible warning message "overconsumption of alcohol is detrimental to health." The overly broad definition of advertisement seems to be the culprit. (Note: blogs are literally called "tribe corners" or simply "tribes" in Taiwan, which in Chinese is assonant to the English word "blog".)


Moderation Guideline (you should read this before you mod)

pikine pikine writes  |  more than 8 years ago

I propose a style of modding that I personally follow, but it's not like I can force this down your throat. This is more of a documentation how I mod. I also mean to write this because apparently some users with mod points have no clue how to use them. If you like to mod by instinct, I'm talking about you.

Moderation Guideline

Posts fall mostly under these categories: opinions, facts, flames, or jokes.

  • Opinions are usually modded as redundant, unless the author has shown some care in structuring his/her argument, in which case the post is modded insightful. However, this is to take into account that I read insightful posts -2.

    The reason I'm being so critical on opinions is that many people rush to get their opinions heard, and so many people are doing this. Unfortunately, those 2 cents don't add up to $1.

    I also mod a post overrated if I don't find a post insightful, yet it already has a high insightful score.

  • Mentioning of true facts are modded informative; mentioning of false facts are modded overrated even though there has been no rating on the post. Mentioning of personal anecdotes (facts that cannot be checked) are usually modded interesting. If the topic is Ask Slashdot, then personal anecdotes are modded informative.

    Facts are not statements to be agreed or disagreed on; facts are undisputable. Spreading of false facts deserves a negative rating. Also see troll below.

  • Flames are not as bad as people think, because the sheer number of Slashdot posts is so galactic that flame posts do not usually gather the momentum to become flame wars. However, some posters are interested in personal attacks directed towards either another poster or at a known person. However, see jokes below before jumping to the conclusion that a post is flame.

    If a poster invokes his/her personal opinion for flaming, the post is modded flame; if he/she uses false facts to back the attack, the post is modded troll. That said, the difference of flame and troll in Slashdot's moderation system is not obvious.

  • Jokes are oftentimes confused with flame. Some jokes are meant to be offensive, but not all offenses are jokes. One should not mod a post flame or troll on the ground that it may offend someone. Flame and troll are for posts that obviously offends an identifiable person in that post.

    If not sure whether a post is funny, leave it unmodded. I also read funny posts -1 because I don't like all the jokes that someone finds funny.

    I sometimes mod a post underrated if someone mistakenly modded it flame or troll.

Meta-moderation Guideline

In meta-mederation, I take the inverse of moderation guideline to look for mod label first and see if the post fits the criteria.

  • Informative. The mod is fair if the post provides generally checkable facts and the facts are true. I occasionally give a bit leeway in posts that are personal anecdotes.
  • Interesting. The mod is fair if the poster is telling a personal story.
  • Funny. The mod is unfair if I don't find the joke funny. I leave it un-metamodded if I think the joke may be funny to somebody.
  • Flame and troll. The mod is unfair if I cannot identify the party in which the poster means to offend. Furthermore, the mod is unfair if I find the post funny.
  • Underrated and overrated. These depend on circumstances.

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