In "Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?"

I have to admit I'm pretty skeptical about this endeavor myself. Reminds me of when AI started with a top-down approach, then ran into such realizations as the fact that as humans we didn't even really understand how our own vision system works, let alone many, many other facets of brain/mind function. Now they're trying a bottom up approach, but I suspect that without some radical insights they'll just end up with a perfect simulation that doesn't actual 'do' anything. It will just sit there and simulate cells. It won't simulate an actual mind, or even the components that could possibly make up a mind. From my understanding, at this point in neuroscience, most of the brain is a series of 'black boxes' where we have an idea of what goes in, and we know what comes out, but we don't know what goes on inside each box. This project seems like an attempt to perfect a simulation of the cardboard the boxes are made from, which doesn't truly get you any closer to understanding what's happening inside the boxes, or how you might simulate that. Plus, I'm all for Moore's Law, but I'm not at all sure some of the hardware hurdles will be overcome on the ten year time line he talks about. Hope it all gets somewhere, but this reminds me of the kind of grand project that starts sputtering in a few years, then the scientists who slaved in the trenches on it bail out and go off to be much more successful on much less ambitious versions of essentially the same work, applying what they learned in the first attempt.

In "Could You Pass 8th Grade Science?"

I think question 13 is buggy (hopefully not the case for the whole test). I swear it was marked wrong the first time I took the test, much to my annoyance, but when Underpants complained I went back to double check which one he was complaining about. It still didn't like my answer. Then Weezel sounded so confident in his response to #13, I had to go back and have a third look, since I was sure the test writer was an idiot at that point, and this time it liked my answer just fine.

In "How Baboons Think"

Interesting article. Confirms other information I've have encountered on higher order animal minds. Grey parrots, which are considered highly intelligent, are apparently believed to have evolved their intelligence in order to read the signals and social interactions of the large parrot flock they live with. And a documentary on monkey intelligence I watched not too long ago focused much on a troop of smaller monkeys in the wild. The docu- showed that there was an impressive amount going on in their little walnut brains, much of it related to emotions and social interaction. However, then the researchers deliberately showed the flip side of the coin, revealing how one of the brightest members of the monkey troop couldn't figure out why her baby was crying, when it was clearly being bitten by several large ants. Very interesting stuff. (Love the orangutan photo!)

In "Bzuh??"

I would be curious to know more about the potential economic consequences of such a focus by multi-nationals. Will it help grow the economic activity in these regions, or is it more likely to simply syphon out funds that would otherwise be spent locally and remain in the community. Reminds me of an article I read not too long ago about an African country and cashews. The cashews used to be harvested and processed in country. The industry was inefficient and nowhere near it's potential, but many local people got paid some money from cashews. Then the local trade laws were changed. The cashew harvest is now controlled by international companies, reaching many new markets. All the nuts are shipped directly out of the country for processing. Few local people see any money from cashews.

In "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"

Yeah, I was a bit embarassed by that gaff.

It sounds like you don't think a principal/cop/whatever should ever be punished in anyway for abusing their authority, since you end up punishing them "personally" No, they should be disciplined by their employer, or the employer should be sued. If the Principle's actions were in violation of school board policy, then discipline or fire the Principle. If the board fails to do so, or the Principle was enforcing school board policies, sue the school board. If the Principle's actions where so egregious as to be criminal, then file criminal charges. This does not seem an appropriate case for a personal suit in the civil courts. It seems like the sort of case that gives law suits a bad rep. That can't really claim the school organized the Olympics. The school let the kids go on a field trip to the Olympics, in the same way that the school lets kids go on a field trip to the museum I don't know what 'school sanctioned' events are like in your neck of the woods, but the words have completely different meaning in my experience. 'School organized' meant that the students are on a specifically planned outing while under supervision of school officials the entire time. The typical class trip. 'School sanctioned' meant that the school merely gave the students permission to leave school on their own in order to attend a specific event. It could be permission to stay home and watch the moon landing, or go to a local parade. It certainly did not mean that school officials would be supervising students, even if some limited number of school officials might be in attendance. Or might not. Thus in loco parentis did not apply. Some working parents specifically complained about this to my school board, demanding that the school provide the option for students to remain in a supervised classroom setting, because some parents did not want their kids out and about unsupervised during the day. (These were the same poor kids who were expected to be home a very specific number of minutes after school let out. Woe to them if the bus was late.)

That's a false dichotomy, but even if it were true, the latter is definitely better than having no protections on speech The argument was that if 'Bong hits' were allowed, the court was unlikely to provide much guidance as to what speech could be limited, leading to a confusing state of ambiguity that interfered with the goals of education in schools. And he's not being sued for doing his job. He's being sued for overstepping his job, abusing his authority. My question was not whether the Principle could/should be sued for abusing their authority, but whether it should be possible to sue them personally, as opposed to suing them as a school official acting in their employed position. To my mind the responsibility lies with the school board as employer of a Principle in question. Either they failed to give the Principle proper guidance as to school board policies, or the Principle was enforcing policies the Principle did not choose, or the school board hired and failed to police an incompetent Principle. Suing them personally can easily lead to personal financial ruin even in cases of exemplary Principle conduct, thus encouraging hesitance to act. And keep in mind that the actions the Principle is being sued for are tied directly to their job, not their person. The cop giving you a ticket has no personal authority to do sue. It lies solely with the official capacity that their body happens to occupy. Link please Sorry, can't remember. It was a few years ago in an article showing what a disaster No Child Left Behind was becoming, by incentivizing behaviour by schools that was often incompatible with effective learning. In short, lackluster school officials found it much easier to focus their limited energies on gaming the NCLB testing system, rather than actually teaching students. I had a T-shirt in high school that said: And I applaud your Principle for her handling of that situation, especially in respect to not limiting speech that was not interfering with the school environment, even though some might find it offensive. However, say the school was experiencing a problem with widespread misogyny amongst the student body. In such a case I would want the Principle to have the authority to limit the wearing of such a statement on school property or at school organized events. Man that's like the critical piece of information that wasn't in the article and now I'm still mad about it My feelings exactly. I was worried about exactly that circumstance and scanned a number of articles looking for clarification, only reluctantly concluding that the event must have occurred in a school environment, since no one made a mention of it. Idiots. However, the fact that it was a school sanctioned event is not good enough to limit a student's right to speech. School organized event is one thing. That's a class trip, meaning you're still in class. Teacher and Principle authority applies. School sanctioned event is almost meaningless. That encompasses anything the Principle/Teacher gave permission to leave school to attend. Key phrase being 'leaving school', to attend an event outside of school authority, thus the need to sanction the event. Once there, you're on your own. All normal freedoms apply, as do all normal risks. The school isn't responsible, nor can they govern your behaviour.

Going to ruin the mood with serious discussion... I generally come down pretty firmly on the side of a very liberal interpretation of free speech, but I heard a discussion of this case the other night and there were some very salient points to the other side of the argument. First of all, while I have generally been appalled by the intolerant actions of various high school principles making the news the last few years, I do feel that they should have the ability to impose parental type limits on student behaviour, including disruptive and offensive speech, while on school facilities. The lawyers argued pretty persuasively that you can't dis-allow the Principle's ability to limit 'Bong hits for Jesus' without dis-allowing their ability to limit any speech. The other question to be decided in the case, which isn't making many news articles, is whether the Principle can be personally sued for doing their job, even if you don't happen to agree with their actions. Do you really want your school Principle to become that gunshy? Second-guessing and shying away from any decision that might get them financially ruined by a psychotic student or belligerent parent? Sounds a lot like an account I read not too long ago from a new teacher working at an inner city school where they weren't even allowed to break up fights because a couple of students had successfully sued the school board for mega-bucks. The teachers were just supposed to stand by and watch youngsters get violently assaulted, as happened frequently. You can imagine how poorly education was happening in that school.


certainly expected better from students Don't blame the students. It was the national office that did the slimy deed. In fact, I respect the many remaining Delta Zeta student members who immediately quit in disgust. The most telling note for myself was in the correction at the bottom of the NY Times story. The only black member of the sorority has apparently received no contact from the national office at all. They didn't respect her enough to even send her a rejection letter.

In "Curious George and his cable / internet bundle."

When I was last posted in Ontario, I had some experience with the various solutions out there, some of which might be useful. Bell Sympatico's ADSL internet service tends to be more reliable than Rogers cable internet, due to instabilities in Rogers cable-based network, even if Rogers tends to be faster overall. I'll take reliability over a few more bits, since ADSL is generally fairly fast. How Cogeco compares I don't know. I do notice that Cogeco's spec page lists a download cap, and one that isn't really that high by current standards. Sympatico currently doesn't have a cap (they lifted it a couple years ago). My read is that while Bell wouldn't hesitate to impose a cap if they felt the need (they're not capless because they're fair or nice), their network is fairly robust compared to current demands and they have chosen to use their capless state as their major competitive advantage in marketing. This could become an even greater factor in the near future as video downloading takes off on a broad basis, putting a greater strain on the 'net and further bandwidth pressure on strained cable resources. For a phone line, I have to admit I like the security of having a Bell POTS, even if routing long distance through your 'net connection makes a lot of sense. As for TV, get the cheapest thing out there. Some friends of mine have cycled through ExpressVU, and two types of digital cable and I couldn't tell the difference whenever I was over surfing channels. My parents had basic cable and it seems just fine and dandy, even if there is occasionally a bit of static. If you really enjoy TV then you might occasionally miss not having one of the specialty channels like SciFi or Home&Garden when there's nothing on the standards channels, but is it worth the extra $10-$20 a month to you?

In "Scallops are harvested by ‘dredging’"

On a related note, I just heard an interview with the lead researcher on an international project examining deep sea trawling. Already known was the fact that deep sea life grows at very slow rates, due to scarce food resources, so that deep sea trawling was completely unsustainable environmentally. The deep sea life cannot reproduce quickly enough to replace even a fraction of what is caught or killed through trawling. What the report revealed was that deep sea trawling was also unsustainable economically, and is in fact a money losing activity only sustained by government fuel subsidies. The deep sea trawling fleets are currently not that much different from pirates, destroying their surroundings while bleeding money from global society. See here.

In "Curious Bread Making George"

From what I understand, most commercial mass produced bread is not yeast-risen, for the simple reason that it is too expensive and difficult on an industrial scale. Storing (tens of) thousands of loaves in the proper environment for hours while they rise would seem a huge hassle. Instead, the dough is apparently fed into giant high-powered blenders that whip air into it, accomplishing the same general effect as yeast-rising, but without the flavor or structural benefits. Thus the monotone flavor and strange, spongey, collapsible texture of commercially mass-produced bread. There is yeast in the ingredients, but it's there only for minor effect and mild flavor benefits.

Well, I used to sell these things, along with other kitchen appliances and goodies, and I like to cook, bake especially, so I'll rample out a few more cents on the subject... Bread makers are very much like treadmills or unicycles. Nothing wrong with the general design idea, but a lot of well intentioned people buy them, only to find the equipment gathering dust within a quick couple weeks. Why? Bread machines require time and effort. Sure, they're great labor savers, but you still have to put the effort into running the machine. As a result, I'd guess they're generally used by a very specific demographic - people who are definitely into food, baking, and enjoy good bread, but not so much that they want to invest the time in making bread themselves, possibly because of time contraints. If you fit that profile, there's a good chance you'll get into the habit of using the bread machine regularly. If the above profile doesn't sound like you, it's probably a waste of money. Bread machines do make good bread. Much better than commercial, mass produced bread, which isn't even yeast-risen. If you like WonderBread, no problem, but it's crap bread. I like McD's on occasion, but I don't try and pretend it's good food. That said, if you have access to an artisan bakery, their bread will be much better than the bread machine's. Possibly more expensive though, too. And the bread machine is great for allowing you to sample a wide variety of bread recipes, finding the ones you truly love. like blenders and waffle makers, these make great wedding present/dust catchers After selling kitchen appliances, I'd say that almost all fall into the category of 'dust-catchers'. There are very dedicated minorities (possibly as many as 49% in some cases) who simply cannot live without their wafflemaker/blender/juicer/etc, but most appliances, even coffee-makers, are simply extraneous to most people. That's probably why most appliances are crap. The majority of people can live with the aggravation of owning the crappy model, using it only once or twice a year to confirm their opinion that they don't need it. The dedicated minority who actually enjoys good waffles/juice/bread/etc searches through until they find the rare decent product.

In "Torture's Long Shadow -- A Soviet Dissident's Advice to the US"

Just out of curiosity, when did Cheney say that CID was A-okay? Was this a recent comment in defense of the current debate, or did he state this a while ago? And is it a case of him supposedly authorizing this sort of treatment? Or did he actually make the above statement to the press?

In "Rebuild Iraq With The Best and Brightest Loyal Neoconservatives!"

the Lewinski episode never made any sense to me Irrespective of any viewpoint on Clinton's actions, keep in mind that the Lewinski scandal was largely driven by an extremely well-funded and fanatical right wing movement. The entire thing was one giant attack ad.

In "You drilled into WHAT?"

I wonder what the guys on the drilling platform thought 'How far away am I going to have to move?'

In "Rebuild Iraq With The Best and Brightest Loyal Neoconservatives!"

As another commentator on this story pointed out, the most tragic way in which these accounts reflect on the Bush administration is the fact that hearing of such incompetency does not engender any sort of surprise any more. The rank extent of the incompetence is somewhat shocking, but the fact that it happened just seems perfectly par for the course at this point, given the track record so far. would ANYONE that could reasonably be considered best and brightest...want to be anywhere near Baghdad Actually, if you read the article it appears that there were plenty of people, many many of them trained specifically for dealing with nations in crisis, who were interested in going. Why? Because that was exactly what they were trained for. Those people were turned down because they were not partisan. Or not partisan enough. Give thanks for living in such times. When talking to your grandkids you can say you got to see when the 'greatest nation' on earth was run by an oligarchy, a kleptocracy, a mob.

In "We have developed a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy."

We all know this is almost certainly either a hoax or the result of overzealous hope, but wouldn't the effects be fascinating if it turned out to be true? We would potentially get to watch astounding scientific developments as new insights into physics were develeoped. Powerful, world straddling energy corporations would gird themselves for war as they attempted to control or deny this technology from widespread use. The landscape of the Third World could change within a few years as cheap abundant energy became widely available. It would be a very interesting time to be alive.

In "Thank you choosing HP."

How far of a psychological distance is it between feeling pleasure at shooting your printer full of holes and shooting an obstinate Iraqi civilian full of holes I'd agree that there is very little distance. Which is why violence is always dangerous to indulge in any form, and why conventional armies are so poor at counter-insurgency.

but I see the use of an M60 as a grim necessity, to be done only when there's no other choice I can completely appreciate and agree with that view but once the army has been deployed into a live-arms environment, we enter the realm of personnel and morale management. Even it that deployment decision was made by people for whom 'grim necessity' described only their personal political situation, and appear to care not a whit for the soldiers they sent over there, let alone their morale.

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