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  • Jan 30th, 2021 @ 6:08am

    Prior art?

    A patent on this? The submission better have a lot of detail on exactly how it is to be done, otherwise wouldn't the Black Mirror episode suffice as an example of prior art to invalidate the patent? I seem to recall the tablets on Star Trek: the Next Generation being successfully invoked as prior art against a design element patent (rectangular with rounded corners) for tablet devices in the real world.

  • Jan 16th, 2021 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Depends on how you're defining 'conservative'

    You write "not all 'thoughts' or 'beliefs' are equal or deserve equal treatment or consideration."

    Yes, but who decides which thoughts are merely 'thoughts' and which beliefs (or 'beliefs') are not deserving of equal treatment or consideration? What used to be called the "liberal" view was that each human being got to decide that, not strictly on their own, but in conversation with others (even those long dead, whose writings survive) and society as a whole. In America, many conservatives, interested in conserving the American Founding, subscribe to this view, as did, until recently most self-described liberals and progressives.

    Now, we are told by a new high-priesthood, that what for the vast sweep of human history would have been an unexceptional view -- that biological sex is an important reality, and that segregating latrines, prisons and athletic competitions on its basis is a benefit to women -- is "bigotry" and not worthy of consideration because the latest cause celebre, that people who are unhappy with their biological sex, and either wish to be the opposite sex, or are under the delusion that they are, are "excluded" from facilities on the basis of the age-old separation not by "gender" but by sex. (If you don't understand why this is not bigotry, biologically female humans, what we used to call "women" without any ambiguity of meaning, who run competitively or who have been imprisoned after commission of a crime can explain to you why the biological segregation makes sense on the basis of their lived experience.) Tech companies try to prevent books based on this view from selling.

    Now the same high-priesthood tells us that qualms about the propriety of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election are beyond the pale and must be censored, but qualms about the propriety of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election (cf. Hilary Clinton's recent remark "we still don't know what happened in 2016") are acceptable. Tech companies shut down fora in which the former qualms are aired frequently, and allow the latter to circulate freely.

    I could go on with other matters, but you see the point. It suffices to regard all thoughts and beliefs (no scorn quotes, please) opposed to the consensus of the bien pensants of Silicon Valley on the basis of historically believed positions to be "conservative" for @Killer Marmot's point to stand.

  • Dec 15th, 2020 @ 5:28am

    Do cops really want to be like the military?

    I think if the police want military-style hardware, they really should be more like the military:

    They should not be unionized.

    They should undergo similarly rigorous training.

    Their rules of engagement should be as restrictive as those we give soldiers fighting in counter-insurgencies, with similar consequences for violating them.

    Police officers found to have wrongly killed or assaulted a civilian should be subject to as harsh of discipline as soldiers found to have wrongly killed a civilian in similar circumstances.

    Being discharged from a police force for cause should be as dark a blot on one's employment record as a dishonorable discharge from the military.

  • Nov 26th, 2020 @ 1:44pm

    Re: SciHub IS a problem

    Two examples from mathematics show there is no need for commercial publishers collecting monopoly rents to organize peer review: Theory and Applications of Categories is the preeminent journal in category theory. It is free to publish in, free to download content from, and peer-reviewed by the same sort of volunteer editors and labor used by commercial publishers. Also operating on the same model is Algebraic and Geometric Topology, the original editorial board of which had been the editorial board of one of the preeminent topology journals, Topology until they resigned en masse over the predatory practices of it new owners, Elsevier.

    Every academic discipline and subdiscipline could have journals of this sort simply by the university employing a notable figure in the field agreeing to provide server space.

  • Nov 26th, 2020 @ 1:35pm

    Academicians can fix this problem

    There is a lot more money in the natural sciences than in mathematics, and even more in biomedical science, but there is no reason that money should be going to commercial publishers who no longer actually provide added value as they did decades ago when getting research on the page required the use of movable type (or more recently a linotype machine) and printing presses, and mass distribution of research results required mass mailings.

    The example of the entire editorial board of Topology resigning, thereby robbing the Elsevier journal of its prestige, and forming a free online journal, peer-reviewed under the direction of the same editors, Algebraic and Geometric Topology, could be replicated throughout academe. The editors of Nature could do the same: all that's needed is one of their institutions to agree to provide server space.

  • Nov 5th, 2020 @ 5:18am

    Threats to ecosystems

    Of course Sci-Hub and the like are threats to the scholarly communications ecosystem -- that ecosystem currently includes a robust species of parasite, known by the common name "commercial academic publishers", which could go extinct. The parasites evolved from a species known by the same common name which before the advent of LaTeX and the internet had a symbiotic relation with academicians, organizing peer review, beautifully typesetting accepted works and distributing it to other academicians. As the latter two functions in the symbiosis became useless to the hosts with the new environmental conditions, the symbiotes became parasitic, with an increasingly voracious appetite for monopoly rents.

  • Aug 30th, 2020 @ 3:50pm

    2 devices

    In my department (a mathematics department at a large state university in the Great Plains) we have solved the problem by expecting students to have two devices -- one to log into a Zoom session with its camera trained on the work surface, the other on which to view the test. It's worked quite well for our high-stakes qualifying exams (the only cheating we've had lately was from an overseas student who was given permission to have an institution in his home country provide a proctor) and for undergrad finals last spring.

    Of course, extending this procedure to K-12 schools in which many of the students are from economically disadvantages homes and are lucky to have access to one device with internet access is a problem.

  • Aug 22nd, 2020 @ 8:05am

    Not a crime, but...

    "...Not everything ugly that drips out of your ungrateful offsprings' mouth is a crime, no matter how much it may feel like it is at the time."

    On the other hand, it might be a tort, and a summary judgement to have something libelous removed from the internet could be a remedy (albeit an expensive one since the juvenile likely has no assets from which to recover court costs and lawyers' fees).

  • Jul 30th, 2020 @ 8:45am

    Masks... (as DnY)

    F: Why do you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?

    W: Oh, no. It's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

  • Jun 9th, 2020 @ 10:10am

    If the police really want to be like the military...

    While the militarization of police has indeed been a very bad thing, I think it should be pointed out that there are some aspects of the U.S. military's procedures, culture and relationship with the public, which if copied by police would improve policing in America:

    There would be fewer unjustified police shootings if our police had rules-of-engagement as restrictive as those we give our soldiers in counter-insurgency theaters. The moreso if consequences for killing a non-combatant (read innocent civilian in the police context) by breaching those rules-of-engagement was a severe for police as it is in the military.

    Police would be more wary of misconduct if being discharged from a police force for cause was regarded as a blot comparable to dishonorable discharge and followed you in your employment history the way a dishonorable discharge from the military does.

    Generally, having a prisoner die while in one's custody is a prima facia basis for court-martial proceedings in the military because killing POWs is a war crime. Something analogous for the police would be a good thing.

    Our military has an intolerance of racism that does not seem to be paralleled in all police departments. (Yes, it was a long process and is not yet perfect, but the top brass got with it as soon as Truman ordered them to integrate the services and it's worked fairly well).
    Police departments should learn how this was accomplished an imitate it.

    All of our military has civilians at the top of its chain of command which besides setting policy is able to overrule even operational decisions. Police departments should be the same.

    There are, of course, lots of other reforms that should be undertaken (abolishing or severely restricting qualified immunity, requiring a criminal conviction as an underlying basis for civil forfeiture, requirements for the use of body cameras during all interactions with the public (leaving aside undercover operations) possibly with the invalidation of arrests not captured on camera, training in how to deal with mentally ill suspects,. . .) that don't involve emulating the military. It just is striking how the cops have imitated the worst aspects of the military and none of the best.

  • Jun 4th, 2020 @ 9:39am

    Qualified Immunity and lack of duty to protect

    ...two things that would be easy to fix by statute. The first simply requires Congress to modify 42 U.S.C ยง 1983 in such a way that the negligent violation of Constitutional rights by police officers and other agents of the government is plainly included in what is forbidden, thereby vitiating the basis for the Supreme Court's construction of "qualified immunity".

    The second can (and should) be fixed by statutes at the state level (or even ordinances at the local level) creating an affirmative duty to protect the lives and property of innocent civilians on the part of police.

    Surely we can get a one-time alliance of convenience between progressives who would want such changes in the interests of racial minorities and the libertarian-leaning and Constitutional Conservative factions of the right to get the second sort of measure through at least one state legislature. Getting the first though Congress and signed into law is more dubious, but someone in Congress from one or both sides of my proposed alliance of convenience should surely be trying!

  • Apr 8th, 2020 @ 7:16am

    Re: For some people...

    Personally, I favor the contrapositive formulation of Clarke's Third Law:

    Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

    We're getting close with 5G, but not quite there yet.

  • Apr 8th, 2020 @ 7:10am


    We have to wonder is Harrelson channeling his character in Wag the Dog?

  • Mar 14th, 2020 @ 8:14am

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant

    Another case that commends for consideration a proposal I have made repeatedly: that each of the several states pass laws making the validity of police actions depend on the police having a working body camera with voice recording operating at the time of the action -- if the officer's camera is "broken" or not turned on, the ticket is void, the arrest invalid and the accused must be released, and neither sovereign nor qualified immunity applies in cases of use of force or rights violations. I'd allow exceptions for undercover police, but would require a court order for the undercover operation.

  • Feb 29th, 2020 @ 8:26am

    Internet sites allowing all content, or just 8chan?

    I think the point of 8chan was not that internet sites, qua internet sites, ought to allow all content, but that there ought to be one which does.

  • Jan 14th, 2020 @ 2:52pm


    "Self-plagiarism" is an absolutely absurd notion if one regards what is being stolen by a plagiarist as ideas or wording. What is really being stolen by the plagiarist is credit for originating the idea or wording. (cf. Copying is not theft. My using an idea or turn of phrase does not deprive anyone else of its use.)

    Even with a correct understanding of plagiarism "self-plagiarism" is a ridiculous notion except in the context of the academic "publish or perish" environment, where it represents "double-dipping" trying to get credit for the same work twice when coming up for promotion or tenure or (an vanishingly rare event anymore) a merit raise.

  • Dec 21st, 2019 @ 5:19am

    Some Federal laws recognize that anonymizing data isn't enough

    The notion that anonymizing any sort of detailed data about people is sufficient to protect privacy is risible.

    The Federal laws governing Federally collected longitudinal data bases for educational research, all of which are anonymized, require that the data be kept on non-networked computers, accessible only by persons who have taken oaths not to attempt to find the identity of any person whose data is included, and to only release the results of statistical analyses with clearance from a Federal office of data security with authority over the data.

  • Nov 1st, 2019 @ 6:41pm

    Rules of engagement

    The greatest scandal here is that our police operate with less restrictive rules of engagement than do our soldiers engaged in counter-insurgency operations against enemies who often pose as civilians, and with less severe consequences to their careers for unwarranted killings of civilians.

    The cops want military-style equipment, but not military discipline and military-style rules of engagement. They should be given military discipline and military-style rules of engagement, but not military style-equipment.

  • Oct 5th, 2019 @ 5:43am


    @Igualmente69 You ask: Why is no one pointing out the obvious, which is that claiming that you have jurisdiction over the entire world is essentially an act of war?

    Because we've all gotten so used to it when the United States does it. Remember Julian Assange? Australian citizen acting outside the U.S., but the U.S. wants to arrest him and try him for "violating" American law, which he has never arguably been subject. Or Manuel Noriega, head of state of the supposedly sovereign nation of Panama, arrested and brought to the U.S. for "violating" U.S. drug laws again, for actions taken outside the U.S.

  • Aug 28th, 2019 @ 6:15am

    Hypocrisy, or experiment to prove a point?

    Cc-ing Kampf's provost can only be seen as hypocritical if one thinks Stephens believes, contrary to all evidence, that an American university administrator would discipline a faculty member for insulting a public figure on the political right. Maybe it was an experiment to confirm what the evidence suggests.

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