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Comment Re:Attack Of The Killer Soy Beans? (Score 1) 197

I am a little skeptical that this will pan out in practice.

She is just increasing the levels of naturally existing proteins, and there is nothing to stop that happening in the normal course of evolution (it's not the same as developing a protein with a totally new function, which isn't as easy to evolve). If this were beneficial for soybean plants in nature, they would already have evolved these higher levels of transport proteins. So there must be a downside. For example, it might starve the roots of nitrogen and slow their growth, hurting the soybeans in drier soil or when other nutrients are limiting factors.

Comment Re:Voice recognition? (Score 2) 55

The article talks about speech recognition, not voice recognition. EditorDavid has the two concepts mixed up: speech recognition is all about trying to recognized what you are saying, whereas voice recognition is all about recognizing specific voice, like e.g. for reasons of identifying who is speaking.

[actual expert here]

Not exactly: "speech recognition" means taking in speech and putting out some kind of text; "speaker recognition" is a general term for identifying speakers or verifying speaker identity. "Voice recognition" is a term that is not used in the field (but is sometimes used in the media) which generally means the same thing as "speech recognition".

Comment Re:Law of unintended consequences, also frosty (Score 4, Informative) 470

Actually, Zika is pretty serious. For one thing, scientists now believe that even in those pregnant women who were infected who had *apprently* normal babies, those babies may have neurological defects that may not show up immediately. Some of these babies have abnormal brains inside normal-size skulls, and in others the effects may be more subtle but still present.

And also a recent study on adult mice showed that Zika appears to kill their brain stem cells https://goo.gl/zhz7VB.

It's not known whether this might have long-term neurological consequences in humans, and what they might be, because the strain of Zika that causes these neurological problems has not been around that long.

The previously circulating strains do not seem to have caused these problems like microcephaly.

Comment Re:WAIT (Score 4, Interesting) 97

There is another disturbing aspect to this:

If it is established that in order to avoid liability, providers must disconnect their customers after a certain number of allegations of infringement (because let's face it, it's rarely going to be practical to determine the factual or legal basis of these alleged infringements), then a new business model is opened up for copyright trolls. If they can obtain lists of email addresses of consumers, then they could send letters to those consumers directly, threatening to send a notice of infringement to their ISP unless a certain amount of money is paid. It would often be in consumers' interest to pay up, to avoid the hassle of disconnection from the internet.

Or they could send the letter to the ISP directly, and come up with some mechanism to pressure consumers into giving them money to avoid future notices or to somehow get the original notice rescinded. People won't know whether the activity really came from their IP address or not (e.g. their router might have been hacked), and it won't matter since it will hardly ever be worthwhile to bring it to court.

The threat of taking people to court isn't usually credible, but if a disconnection policy is in place, the threat of disconnection will be very credible. So the trolling business becomes much more lucrative due to higher rates of response. And what are the rules, if any, on sending multiple separate notices for infringements that occurred on the same date? Suppose someone's computer is hacked or they start using a file-sharing application, and they download multiple files on the same day. Could a legal firm send multiple separate notices to the same individual, triggering the disconnection policies of their ISP right away unless the individual were to pay up? It seems very possible.

Comment Re:Islam is the problem, not encryption (Score 1) 446

Would you suggest that the way to counter an ideology that believes in "convert or die" is to tell all of them that they need to either stop believing or die?

Well, it worked for their ancestors :-)

And, for that matter, why stop at Islam? It seems like religion has been holding back real global progress, why not a push to take religion in general out of society?

I think it would actually be more practical to try to educate people out of religion more generally, instead of Islam specifically. The problem is, IMO, that the intellectual underpinnings of Islam come from Judaism and Christianity, so it's hard to discredit one without the other, at the intellectual level. And if we were to try to eradicate just Islam, it would feed into their whole belief system of religions as competing ummah's (communities), and Christians and Jews as the enemy.

Comment Re:The Cloud Is Wonderful (Score 3, Informative) 465

I had the same problem as this guy at some point-- my homepage hosted on google pages was disabled because of some unspecified terms of service violation. I couldn't even fix the issue because they wouldn't tell me what the violation was about. And no luck contacting a real person.

After that I moved my homepage to a machine I control (danielpovey.com)

Comment Re:About time (Score 2) 135

[I understand compression algorithms and watch Silicon Valley].

After reading their blurb, it looks like the middle-out thing was a bit of a joke Their use of the term 'middle-out' is not unreasonable but refers to something much more specific, and less fundamental, than what seemed to be depicted in the TV show. Their 'middle' is the just the place where two squares of the image meet.

Comment Deeper problem (Score 3, Insightful) 609

I think people in this thread are missing the deepest problem with Tyson's idea.

The problem is that science, if done well, can tell us what the observable consequences of our actions might be, but it will never tell us what outcomes we should value. For instance, do we value equality or progress? Do we value the happiness of animals as much as that of humans? Do we value freedom or security? The answers to none of these questions are self-evident (and saying that they are self-evident does not make it so).

These are all the province of moral philosophy, and that field gives no easy answers.


Comment Re:This was preventable Chancellor Merkel (Score 1) 693

Not really. The UK still had to allow freedom of movement to other EU passport holders. Schengen was more about visas for visitors from outside the EU.

There was a large net migration from the rest of the EU to the UK, likely thanks to the UK's relatively open economy and the status of English as the international lingua franca. The UK was not prepared to accept this influx very gracefully (e.g. it failed to adequately reform the planning permission process for new housing).

I actually left the UK about 15 years ago, partly due to a feeling that the UK was "full up", with housing costs consuming a way disproportionate share of living expenses. Since then it's got way worse. Immigration was definitely a real issue. It could have been dealt with better. If they had allowed a greater supply of new housing the strains probably would have been a lot less.

Comment Re:Stop providing services (Score 1) 207

You say:

look at how many actual deaths that have been prevented by the abusive monitoring that is currently in place

How exactly do you expect that number to be provided? When the security services disrupt plots, or arrest individuals who were interested in carrying out plots, they don't have the capability to simulate an alternate universe in which they did not take those actions. Our government is powerful, but not that powerful. Consider also that surveillance has an effect even if no actual plots are disrupted, as long as the targets are aware of it; because it forces them to change their behavior and switch to smaller-scale, less ambitious plans that would be harder to disrupt.

Comment Re:If shove came to push... (Score 5, Interesting) 412

I'll probably get modded down for saying this, but I know people who have worked with the NSA, and these people have always been very impressed with how seriously NSA employees take the legislative limits on what they can do.

NSA people work in big office buildings, in a corporate-like environment; they're tightly controlled. It's not like the CIA used to be where you were in a field office somewhere and your superiors weren't always 100% sure what you were doing.

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