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Which Is Better, Adblock Or Adblock Plus?

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An anonymous reader writes: Wladimir Palant is the creator of the Adblock Plus browser extension, but he often gets asked how it compares to a similar extension for Chrome called Adblock. In the past, he's told people the two extensions achieve largely the same end, but in slightly different ways. However, recent changes to the Adblock project have him worried. "AdBlock covertly moved from an open development model towards hiding changes from its users. Users were neither informed about that decision nor the reasons behind it." He goes through the changelog and highlights some updates that call into question the integrity of Adblock. For example, from an update on June 6th: "Calling home functionality has been extended. It now sends user's locale in addition to the unique user ID, AdBlock version, operating system and whether Google Search ads are being allowed. Also, AdBlock will tell getadblock.com (or any other website if asked nicely) whether AdBlock has just been installed or has been used for a while — again, in addition to the unique user ID." Of course, Palant has skin in this game, and Adblock Plus has dealt with fallout from their "acceptable ads policy," but at least it's still developed in the open.
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jepler
17 hours ago
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a pox on both their houses, it sounds like.
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Can you touch your nose?

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Yeah, but can you? Believe it or not, it’s a question philosophers have plagued themselves with for thousands of years, and it keeps reappearing in my feeds!

Best source I could find for this image: IFLS.



My first reaction was of course: It’s nonsense – a superficial play on the words “you” and “touch”. “You touch” whatever triggers the nerves in your skin. There, look, I’ve solved a thousand year’s old problem in a matter of 3 seconds.

Then it occurred to me that with this notion of “touch” my shoes never touch the ground. Maybe I’m not a genius after all. Let me get back to that cartoon then. Certainly deep thoughts went into it that I must unravel.

The average size of an atom is an Angstrom, 10-10 m. The typical interatomar distance in molecules is a nanometer, 10-9 meter, or let that be a few nanometers if you wish. At room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure, electrostatic repulsion prevents you from pushing atoms any closer together. So the 10-8 meter in the cartoon seem about correct.

But it’s not so simple...

To begin with it isn’t just electrostatic repulsion that prevents atoms from getting close, it is more importantly the Pauli exclusion principle which forces the electrons and quarks quark that make up the atom to arrange in shells rather than to sit on top of each other.

If you could turn off the Pauli exclusion principle, all electrons from the higher shells would drop into the ground state, releasing energy. The same would happen with the quarks in the nucleus which arrange in similar levels. Since nuclear energy scales are higher than atomic scales by several orders of magnitude, the nuclear collapse causes the bulk of the emitted energy. How much is it?

The typical nuclear level splitting is some 100 keV, that is a few 10-14 Joule. Most of the Earth is made up of silicon, iron and oxygen, ie atomic numbers of the order of 15 or so on the average. This gives about 10-12 Joule per atom, that is 1011 Joule per mol, or 1kTon TNT per kg.

This back-of-the envelope gives pretty much exactly the maximal yield of a nuclear weapon. The difference is though that turning off the Pauli exclusion principle would convert every kg of Earthly matter into a nuclear bomb. Since our home planet has a relatively small gravitational pull, I guess it would just blast apart. I saw everybody die, again, see that’s how it happens. But I digress; let me get back to the question of touch.

So it’s not just electrostatics but also the Pauli exclusion principle that prevents you from falling through the cracks. Not only do the electrons in your shoes don’t want to touch the ground, the electrons in your shoes don’t want to touch the other electrons in your shoes either. Electrons, or fermions generally, just don’t like each other.

The 10-8 meter actually seem quite optimistic because surfaces are not perfectly even, they have a roughness to them, which means that the average distance between two solids is typically much larger than the interatomic spacing that one has in crystals. Moreover, the human body is not a solid and the skin normally covered by a thin layer of fluids. So you never touch anything just because you’re separated by a layer of grease from the world.

To be fair, grease isn’t why the Greeks were scratching their heads head back then, but a guy called Zeno. Zeno’s most famous paradox divides a distance into halves indefinitely to then conclude then that because it consists of an infinite number of steps, the full distance can never be crossed. You cannot, thus, touch your nose, spoke Zeno, or ram an arrow into it respectively. The paradox resolved once it was established that infinite series can converge to finite values; the nose was in the business again, but Zeno would come back to haunt the thinkers of the day centuries later.

The issue reappeared with the advance of the mathematical field of topology in the 19th century. Back then, math, physics, and philosophy had not yet split apart, and the bright minds of the times, Descarte, Euler, Bolzano and the like, they wanted to know, using their new methods, what does it mean for any two objects to touch? And their objects were as abstract as it gets. Any object was supposed to occupy space and cover a topological set in that space. So far so good, but what kind of set?

In the space of the real numbers, sets can be open or closed or a combination thereof. Roughly speaking, if the boundary of the set is part of the set, the set is closed. If the boundary is missing the set is open. Zeno constructed an infinite series of steps that converges to a finite value and we meet these series again in topology. Iff the limiting value (of any such series) is part of the set, the set is closed. (It’s the same as the open and closed intervals you’ve been dealing with in school, just generalized to more dimensions.) The topologists then went on to reason that objects can either occupy open sets or closed sets, and at any point in space there can be only one object.

Sounds simple enough, but here’s the conundrum. If you have two open sets that do not overlap, they will always be separated by the boundary that isn’t part of either of them. And if you have two closed sets that touch, the boundary is part of both, meaning they also overlap. In neither case can the objects touch without overlapping. Now what? This puzzle was so important to them that Bolzano went on to suggest that objects may occupy sets that are partially open and partially closed. While technically possible, it’s hard to see why they would, in more than 1 spatial dimension, always arrange so as to make sure one’s object closed surface touches the other’s open patches.

More time went by and on the stage of science appeared the notion of fields that mediate interactions between things. Now objects could interact without touching, awesome. But if they don’t repel what happens when they get closer? Do or don’t they touch eventually? Or does interacting via a field means they touch already? Before anybody started worrying about this, science moved on and we learned that the field is quantized and the interaction really just mediated by the particles that make up the field. So how do we even phrase now the question whether two objects touch?

We can approach this by specifying that we mean with an “object” a bound state of many atoms. The short distance interaction of these objects will (at room temperature, normal atmospheric pressure, non-relativistically, etc) take place primarily by exchanging (virtual) photons. The photons do in no sensible way belong to any one of the objects, so it seems fair to say that the objects don’t touch. They don’t touch, in one sentence, because there is no four-fermion interaction in the standard model of particle physics.

Alas, tying touch to photon exchange in general doesn’t make much sense when we think about the way we normally use the word. It does for example not have any qualifier about the distance. A more sensible definition would make use of the probability of an interaction. Two objects touch (in some region) if their probability of interaction (in that region) is large, whether or not it was mediated by a messenger particle. This neatly solves the topologists’ topologists problem because in quantum mechanics two objects can indeed overlap. overlap in the same region of space.

What one means with “large probability” of interaction is somewhat arbitrary of course, but quantum mechanics being as awkward as it is there’s always the possibility that your finger tunnels through your brain when you try to hit pick your nose, so we need a quantifier because nothing is ever absolutely certain. And then, after all, you can touch your nose! You already knew that, right?

But if you think this settles it, let me add...

Yes, no, maybe, wtf.
There is a non-vanishing probability that when you touch (attempt to touch?) something you actually exchange electrons with it. This opens a new can of worms because now we have to ask what is “you”? Are “you” the collection of fermions that you are made up of and do “you” change if I remove one electron and replace it with an identical electron? Or should we in that case better say that you just touched something else? Or are “you” instead the information contained in a certain arrangement of elementary particles, irrespective of the particles themselves? But in this case, “you” can never touch anything just because you are not material to begin with. I will leave that to you to ponder.

And so, after having spent an hour staring at that cartoon in my facebook feed, I came to the conclusion that the question isn’t whether we can touch something, but what we mean with “some thing”. I think I had been looking for some thing else though…
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jepler
1 day ago
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"To be fair, grease isn’t why the Greeks were scratching their heads back then"
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Satanists want Hobby Lobby-style religious exemption from anti-choice counseling laws

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Remember how satanists are building a statue of a 19th century goat-man occult symbol to place outside the Oklahoma State Capitol because there is already a Ten Commandments monument on display? Well, those same satanists are now using the Supreme Court’s sweeping Hobby Lobby decision to challenge coercive mandatory counseling laws by requesting a religious exemption for satanists (and non-satanists).

“While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact,” Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucian Greaves said in a Monday statement. ”This was made clear when they allowed Hobby Lobby to claim certain contraceptives were abortifacients, when in fact they are not. Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state­ mandated ‘informational’ material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them.”

The claim here is not quite as apples-to-apples as the Ten Commandments/goat-man hybrid statue, but you can easily follow their thinking. The Hobby Lobby decision granted 90 percent of the corporations in the United States a kind of religious personhood under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So now the government can’t require Hobby Lobby or any corporation to include comprehensive contraceptive coverage in its employer health plan if that coverage violates the corporation’s religious beliefs.

Because medicine and scientific fact are the tenets of satanists’ faith, then medically inaccurate and coercive counseling laws present a substantial burden, according to Greaves. This is pretty much what Ruth Bader Ginsburg was talking about in her dissent when she said the justices had “ventured into a minefield.” It just so happens that these are satanists making a faith claim under the legal precedent, and not, you know, a company that produces soy milk and hates birth control. But it’s the same idea.


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According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, 35 states require people seeking abortion care to undergo counseling before they can have the procedure. In South Dakota, a state-mandated script forces doctors to tell patients that having an abortion will lead to an “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide,” based on a refuted but often-cited study linking abortion care to mental health problems. According to the same script, the procedure “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being.” (In addition to providing patients with inaccurate information, the mandatory counseling session is another way states can force people seeking care to make multiple trips to the clinic, adding a time and cost burden to the procedure that can make it harder to access. But since “don’t waste my time” is not yet a tenet of any religious faith, those burdens may not apply in the satanists’ claim.)

As Greaves notes, the Satanic Temple isn’t the first organization to challenge the mandatory counseling laws, but it is the first to do so as a matter of faith. Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights groups challenged much of the South Dakota “informed consent” script, and succeeded in getting certain portions of it — including false medical claims — invalidated. But other parts of the script that doctors must read, like the line about “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” and the suicide ideation stand because other courts — including the Supreme Court – have made it clear that states are allowed to restrict access to abortion based on really dubious claims.

The Satanic Temple has provided a pre-written letter that people can present to their doctors in an attempt to be exempted from mandatory counseling. So while doctors in South Dakota and elsewhere in the country read patients their state-mandated script, patients can now come back with a satan-mandated rebuttal:

I regard any information required by state statute to be communicated or offered to me as a precondition for an abortion (separate and apart from any other medical procedure) is based on politics and not science (“Political Information”). I regard Political Information as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by compelling my consideration of the current and future condition of my fetal or embryonic tissue separate and apart from my body. I do not regard Political Information to be scientifically true or accurate or even relevant to my medical decisions. The communication of Political Information to me imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my religious beliefs.

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jepler
1 day ago
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“While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact,” Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucian Greaves said in a Monday statement.
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The Adventures of Uhura and Leia

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espressoface
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jepler
1 day ago
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I can agree with that genre choice. Even if it's music.
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Atheism Supreme

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2014-07-28-Atheism-Supreme

I had something important to say but I forgot what it was.

It’ll come back to me.

becomepatron-300x132[1]

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jepler
1 day ago
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The math is *very* complex.
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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

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Bennett Haselton writes: I can't stand switching from a slideout-keyboard phone to a touchscreen phone, and my own informal online survey found a slight majority of people who prefer slideout keyboards even more than I do. Why will no carrier make them available, at any price, except occasionally as the crummiest low-end phones in the store? Bennett's been asking around, of store managers and users, and arrives at even more perplexing questions. Read on, below.

In my rant about the sucky LG Optimus phone that I got from T-Mobile, I admitted that I stuck with it anyway and let them keep my money, because I couldn't stand switching away from the slideout keyboard on the phone. Same reason that I kept the Stratosphere from Verizon for so long, despite the other features of that phone sucking too. But after failing to find even one true smartphone with a slideout keyboard after visiting the local AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile stores, I started to wonder if I was just an old fud who couldn't get with the times.

(The slideout keyboards are usually called "QWERTY keyboards" in the marketing, but I'm using "slideout keyboard" in order to distinguish them from phones like Blackberries that have a physical QWERTY keyboard and screen all on the outer surface of the phone, since that forces the keyboard and the screen to be much smaller.)

Slideout keyboards have always felt more natural to me in a couple of ways. You can let your finger or thumb center on the correct key, and then press the key in a separate action, resulting in far fewer typos then if you're required to land your fingertip on the correct spot on the screen. (Fewer typos also means you can turn off autocorrect and worry about fewer idiotic auto-corrections.) A slide-out keyboard also makes it easier to hold the phone in a relaxed grip -- with the keyboard out, you can rest the phone on your other fingers while using your thumb to keep it in place, rather than having to grip the phone around the edges with your fingers to keep the screen uncovered. The relaxed thumb-centered grip makes it much easier to tilt the phone at different angles and even hold above your head without dropping it (handy for the first texts you answer before getting out of bed), all while hardly having to tense your fingers at all.

I mentioned this to the Sprint sales guy and he shook his head and said, "Oh, no, everybody wants touchscreen phones now." When I mentioned later to the AT&T store manager that I felt I must be in a shrinking minority, he said that he preferred slide-out keyboards, most other people preferred slide-out keyboards, and the industry was just moving away from them regardless. Who was right? Skeptical as ever about people's claims that they've "heard lots of people saying so-and-so," I posted a survey on Amazon's Mechanical Turk ( which I have used in the past for all kinds of weird stuff), seeking out respondents who had used both a phone with a slideout keyboard and a phone with a virtual keyboard, and asking which one they preferred, and why.

Out of 49 respondents, 27 said they preferred slideout keyboards and 22 said they preferred virtual keyboards. And I know the Internet survey-takers weren't just clicking answers at random, because most of them gave details as to the reason for their preference (even though this was not enforced by the survey form). Obviously that's too small of a sample to be very precise about the percentage of users that prefer slide-out keyboards (apart from the fact that Mechanical Turk users are unrepresentative of the general population in several ways), but it does mean that the near-extinction of slideout-keyboard phones in retail stores is probably not in proportion to what people actually want.

You can download the raw survey data here; some of the highlights from people who said they preferred slideouts:

"I preferred using an actual keyboard because I can actually feel the keys. After my hands get used to the keyboard, I could type very fast. Using a virtual one is much harder because you don't actually feel the keys you are typing."

"I can put my fingers on the actual keys just like a typewriter and know they won't slip off and hit the wrong key. I was heartbroken when then got rid of almost all qwerty keyboards in the new phones. They are now almost impossible to find."

"The slide-out keyboard offers more accuracy and feedback than a virtual keyboard. I can easily tell if I'm pressing the wrong letter key on a physical keyboard than a virtual one. I also prefer my keyboard to be off of the screen so I can easily see what I'm typing."

"I think its easier to type on a slide out keyboard. With the virtual ones I'm always spending half the time correcting the mistakes."

"I preferred slide-out keyboards because you could actually feel the crevices that separate each letter on the keyboard, and this allowed you to type much more efficiently. There's just something more beautiful and human about physically touching something rather than using the heat in your fingers to make unreal letters type on a screen."

On the other side of the aisle, the most common reasons that people gave for preferring virtual keyboards were that slideouts were too flimsy or bulky:

"Virtual keyboards are sturdier than slide out keyboards."

"The decreased overall weight of the device due to the lack of physical keyboard is the biggest benefit to me. Plus the added benefit is that virtual keyboard technology has come a long way in the last few years and offers unique features such as swiping words whereas a physical keyboard still limits you to typing and switching between buttons and the screen in order to select or correct words."

"A virtual keyboard is faster and less cumbersome than a slide out keyboard."

"I liked the tactile feeling of the slide out keyboard. I found the keyboard slide to be more bulky however. I like the virtual keyboard because it allows me to use a larger amount of screen space on my phone when I am not typing. You can also do cool keyboard gestures with the virtual keyboard, such as sliding the finger to type. The virtual keyboard also has an auto correct feature built in which is handy. My old slide out keyboard phone was cool at the time but lacks the features modern virtual keyboard have. Also, real keyboards make clicky noises, which can prevent you from sending texts out under your desk during meetings, haha."

(That last guy's right -- I've been out of the workforce long enough that I forgot you can't get away with texting in a meeting on a slideout, unless other people in the room are covering your noise by "taking notes" typing on their laptops.)

So - not everyone wants slideout keyboards, but a lot of people really, really want them, and the stores refuse to stock them. What gives?

The AT&T store manager simply said that they were more expensive to make, and people return them more often because they break more easily. Well of course it makes sense that the extra component costs more, but it seemed counterintuitive that the slideout keyboards are usually only found on the cheapest phones in the store (which don't qualify as true smartphones). It's odd for an expensive extra component to be found only in the cheapest models of a product line, as if Ford had announced that their self-parking technology would only come bundled with the Fiesta.

More importantly, it seems strange that a more expensive or even a more fragile component, cannot be made available at any price when so many people want it. If it costs more, surely they could just charge more. I'd pay at least an extra $100-$200 for a phone with a slideout keyboard (which is more than the entire retail cost of a dumbphone with a slideout keyboard, so the price increase on a real phone should be less than that). If it makes the phone more fragile and more likely to be returned, surely that could just be reflected in a higher monthly "insurance" fee to cover the cost of exchanging damaged phones (which is only about $5 per month anyway). Is this another example of market failure, even in a competitive industry? It's easy for Facebook to force changes down our throats, since we have nowhere else to go, but how did Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all end up abandoning such a sizable portion of their customers, even while locked in a cutthroat battle with each other?

Maybe this can be the next big thing that T-Mobile does to differentiate themselves from everybody else (like when they broke ranks and decided to sell all phones at retail price with no long-term contracts) -- everybody knows their network is spottier, but it's usable, and if they're doing one thing right that you really care about, and everyone else is doing it wrong, that's reason enough to switch. Their pink-shirted CEO certainly likes making waves with his colorful metaphors about the other carriers screwing you over. If T-Mobile sold me a real phone with a slideout keyboard, I'm sure I'd stay with them for years, even though yesterday the rain (a fairly common phenomenon here in Bellevue, where T-Mobile U.S. is headquartered) caused the reception on the phone to go from 4G to 2G and then down to "G," which I didn't even know was a thing.

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jepler
1 day ago
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hopefully the slider phone will return, but barring that maybe I can have a pouch surgically added that can hold a 11" ultraportable.
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