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Sex Boosts Brain Growth

wjc_25 Counterexample (251 comments)

If having sex all the time made people smart, your mom would be brilliant.

As it is, she thinks the Linux kernel is something you pop in a microwave.

more than 4 years ago

Sometimes It's OK To Steal My Games

wjc_25 Re:Piracy squeezes the middle hardest (438 comments)

Indie titles aren't popular enough to attract piracy? Read the comments below the linked article--see how many people confess to pirating his games? Fewer people pirate indie games, but that's relative to the overall lower sales. The indies can be (not necessarily saying they are) hit just as hard by piracy.

more than 4 years ago

GCC Moving To Use C++ Instead of C

wjc_25 Re:Choices, choices (546 comments)

The first example (which is shorter if you have "using namespace std," of course) of cout seems pretty reasonable to me. I can look at that code and, with my fairly basic knowledge of iostream, immediately see what's going on. For the second it's far less clear.
People will always disagree on whether clarity or concision is preferable; I don't think this is a "one right answer" sort of problem.

more than 4 years ago

Students Show a Dramatic Drop In Empathy

wjc_25 Re:Rather a Poor Metric (659 comments)

Exactly! The implicit assumption of the survey is that everyone has a completely accurate view of themselves, and that it is possible to answer these questions objectively and accurately. It's not, of course. No one has the ability to judge themselves objectively, or to judge others objectively; bias is inherent in the observer.

If anything, these results show that students see themselves more negatively today. Is that a good or a bad thing? When it comes to these types of things, self-opinion doesn't indicate things accurately. The people with the worst tin ears never realize they're tone deaf; the humblest people never think of themselves as humble.

Full disclosure: I got around dead center in the survey. As for whether I'm actually empathetic or not? Depends who you ask.

more than 4 years ago

Food Bloggers Giving Restaurant Owners Heartburn

wjc_25 Re:Perfect temperature (311 comments)

RTFA. Setting up and using a tripod takes more than a minute. The problem isn't just clicking a button on a cell camera - the problem is setting up equipment to get the "perfect shot" of the food at the expense of actually enjoying it.

more than 4 years ago

"Lost" and the Emergence of Hypertext Storytelling

wjc_25 Re:Metaphor (170 comments)

This is a good point; the problem is that the hypertext metaphor is a poor one. Academics are fixated on hypertext lately. I remember one Medieval Lit lecture I attended last semester where the speaker compared hypertext to, of all things, the marginalia of Middle English manuscripts. There's this tendency to use hypertext as a stand-in for all the various innovations in information presentation that have occurred over the last couple decades; it's a worn metaphor, and a boring one.

That aside, there's nothing particularly innovative in Lost's storytelling. People's tastes in art are so conservative that people forget that most of these "new" ideas date back decades if not longer. You can look back to the 1960s and the work of Ballard to find novels told in a form far more experimental than any television series has absorbed.

more than 4 years ago

Facebook's "Evil Interfaces"

wjc_25 Re:evil interfaces (244 comments)

I haven't used it in ages, but my parents still use it, and my experience has been that it's a real hassle to troubleshoot. It's slow, not particularly reliable, and not particularly easy to navigate. Overall it feels like a deliberately crippled version of Outlook, which I suppose it is.

more than 4 years ago

Son Sues Mother Over Facebook Posts

wjc_25 The real story, for me... (428 comments) the wording of Arkansas's "harassment" offense law: "A person commits the offense if with purpose to harass, annoy or alarm another person without good cause, he engages in conduct or repeatedly commits acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person." (from the article)

It's unnerving to think that it's possible to take legal action against someone for such a vaguely defined offense. Think back to your childhood--or high school even, or college: how often did you "annoy or alarm another person without good cause"? Cripes sake, who hasn't? Suddenly this enormous, near-universal category of human interaction, namely anything that annoys or frightens one person "for no good reason," is legally actionable. Terrifying.

more than 4 years ago

Carbon-14 Dating Reveals 5% of Vintage Wines May Be Frauds

wjc_25 Alternate Headline (336 comments)

95% of carbon datings may be inaccurate, says new wine grower-sponsored study.

more than 4 years ago

Professors Banning Laptops In the Lecture Hall

wjc_25 Re:Witless stenographers? (664 comments)

I don't know about the other universities mentioned, but speaking as a student at the University of Virginia, I can tell you that in cases where there are disabilities the students talk to the teachers and have an exception made. One of my classmates has a sight impairment and has to use his laptop, and professors of course allow him to use his laptop.

It's not as if every class disallows laptops - all my CS professors so far have allowed laptops, for example. In math and lit classes, not so much. It's entirely up to the individual teacher; I can think of several classes I've taken where the teacher required attendance and allowed laptops, and for that reason everyone was up on Facebook for every lecture. I can think of other classes where laptops were allowed but the class was challenging and people only used them for note-taking.

more than 4 years ago

Triumph of the Cyborg Composer

wjc_25 Re:Too much time on their hands (502 comments)

Exactly! It's not surprising that a machine can absorb Mozart's prodigious output and spit out something similar--or that the result is emotionally compelling. Because it wasn't the computer that produced the emotionally compelling element: The element was borrowed from the past compositions. One could argue that humans do the same thing. And they do, all the time. Most musicians are unoriginal. Speaking as a long-time amateur musician, nothing that I've ever made has been truly original. But there are flashes of genius where something truly new is made or synthesized. We can see this logically; if human art was only imitative, there wouldn't be such a wide variety of it. Mozart is truly different from Bach; Beethoven from Mozart; Stravinsky, Debussy, and Bartok different from all of them. That a computer can imitate an imitative human being is nothing. Once the humans begin imitating the computers is when I'll be worried.

more than 4 years ago

Yale Switching To Gmail, Not Without Opposition

wjc_25 Re:Why not? (439 comments)

I'm assuming they meant ivy-leagues, but yeah, U.Va has this, and it's very convenient. It's also helpful having the whole student body (or nearly the whole student body; I know a few people who pick the MS option) on Gmail since it gives you access to Gchat with whoever you're working with on homeworks, projects, etc.

more than 4 years ago

Is Plagiarism In Literature Just Sampling?

wjc_25 Re:Meh (449 comments)

This is a good point. I'm surprised no one has brought up T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"--it was controversial when it came out decades back for the same reason. Eliot lifted lines not only from well-known authors like Dante and Shakespeare but also lines from more obscure authors and the like. He provided footnotes to the work that mentioned some of the borrowings, but the work was so dense that even those footnotes covered only a fraction of the quotes. I think it's important to find a middle ground. You can't expect an author to cite every brief quotation or allusion--that would be oppressively difficult for many types of works--but "remixing" or borrowing large sections wholesale should require permission or, at the very least, clear acknowledgment of the borrowing. When a musician remixes a song it is typically at the request of the artist or label that released the original composition; if we're following the standards of remixing, this author is still in the wrong.

more than 4 years ago

When Will AI Surpass Human Intelligence?

wjc_25 Re:So AI Experts think AI is going to take off? (979 comments)

I would argue that their bias is a little more subtle. Yes, they want grant money - who can blame them? - but on a deeper, perhaps unconscious level, they want to be important. Everyone does. And what makes an AI expert important? The idea that AI is going to take over the world, cause a huge impact, etc. So we have this idea that AI will be the equal of the human brain some time soon even though the neuroscientists (for all their talk, which has similar motivation) still don't understand quite how the brain works.

It's all well and good to say the brain is a finite object that can be emulated. But a fruit fly is also a finite object, and one that's a hell of a lot smaller than a brain, and we're far from emulating one of those.

more than 4 years ago

Gates Foundation Plans To Invest $10B Into Vaccines

wjc_25 Re:Birth Control (477 comments)

Active population reduction is generally politically unacceptable...

One of the more jarring sentences I've read recently. I hate to think anyone finds "active population reduction" unacceptable only politically.

more than 4 years ago

Twitter Developing Technology To Thwart Censorship

wjc_25 Re:How far should social responsibility reach? (144 comments)

You stopped reading my comment...halfway through the first sentence, after reading a bizarre meaning into it that obviously wasn't intended?

Your choice, I suppose.

more than 4 years ago

US Grants Home Schooling German Family Political Asylum

wjc_25 Re:No story here (1324 comments)

There's no such thing as a "neutral, healthy" upbringing. The mind is shaped into the mold of society. What you propose is a system that ascribes particular values and norms to religion (the idea that there is no "right" decision, making the choice essentially arbitrary, and that extended exposure to particular religions somehow stunts the mind). Defend your values, norms--fine. I can respect that. But please, by now--in the twenty-first century, with postmodernism nearly old hat--can we get over the myth of a neutral society?

more than 4 years ago

US Grants Home Schooling German Family Political Asylum

wjc_25 Re:Really? (1324 comments)

I'm not sure whether you're being facetious or are just incredibly uninformed, but the situation you're describing is only true of a fraction of homeschoolers and certainly has nothing to do with the chief advantages of homeschooling. The situations you describe are more typical of private schools, in fact.

Let me give you some of my background. I was homeschooled from kindergarten to high school (although the last three years of high school I took additional classes at a local community college). My family is deeply religious (and fairly conservative), but my curriculum incorporated teaching about all of the world's major religions, and in speaking to my public-schooled peers I have found that I know as much as if not more than they know about non-Christian religions. As an aside, several of my good friends in high school were bi- or homosexual; I read a number of books on evolution as pleasure reading in high school; and just a few months ago I attended a lecture by Dawkins. And what I've seen of other homeschoolers has indicated my situation is fairly typical.

As for advantages? Well, there is the flexibility. As I mentioned, I took around 50 hours of courses at the local community college, all while spending less time in schoolwork than any of my peers. (One person mentioned that even if you go to public school you're free after 3. Not true: Several of my friends taking multiple AP classes and going to magnet schools were up late nearly every weeknight doing homework. In contrast, I never once had to lose sleep to finish an assignment.) I was able to achieve quite a bit academically while focusing most of my time on my main interests--which, in high school, meant everything from playing guitar and keyboard in a band to reading extensively (Wealth of Nations and the first volume of Das Kapital in their entirety, for example) to teaching myself C++, Java, and several other languages.

Not everyone's going to want that, though, and that's fine. Let me tell you about my sister. When she was entering elementary school she was diagnosed with minor learning disorders (in addition to hearing loss, a speech impediment, and a few other issues); if she had gone through school as most students do, she would have been placed in a special ed program. My parents chose to home school her, and in eighth grade she entered a local public middle school. Long story short, she's now in the all-As honor roll at her high school, taking classes at a local arts magnet school, and having a blast in her school's marching band. I doubt things would have gone nearly as well for her if not for the flexibility and individual attention homeschooling affords.

more than 4 years ago

Does Personalized News Lead To Ignorance?

wjc_25 Why do people choose personalized news? (396 comments)

I don't think it's just a matter of liking the flexibility, customization, individuality, etc. We live in a world where we're barraged with news sources; there's far more than any one person could keep up with, even if they spent most of their time worrying about it. People are overwhelmed, so they throw up their hands and stick to their little corner. It's a distinctly modern phenomenon.

more than 4 years ago


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