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FAA Recommends Allowing The Use Of Electronic Devices During Take Off and Landing

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Yesterday, the members of the FAA advisory committee held a closed-door meeting to discuss the use of electronic devices during flights. It was agreed upon that passengers should now be able to use their smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and other electronic devices during take off and landing as long as they are in airplane mode.

Airplane mode for Apple products can be turned on in Settings.

Airplane mode for Apple products can be turned on in Settings.

Airplane mode means that the device’s signal transmitting functions like calling, texting, and using data are disabled. While in this mode you can still play games, listen to music and take pictures on your device but you will not be able to shop, surf the web, send emails or play games that access the internet.

Although the 28-person committee of the FAA came to this conclusion, FAA officials will have to make the final decision to implement lifting these restrictions. The recommendation will be sent on Monday to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has final say on whether to ease current restrictions, according to the Associated Press.

Under the expected new ruling, you will be able to use e-readers and tablets during take off and landing.

Under the expected new ruling, you will be able to use e-readers and tablets during take off and landing.

This means that changes will most likely not be seen until early 2014 and it could be dragged on much longer than that, but once the ruling is approved travelers will be able to use most devices below 10,000 feet. Downloading data, surfing the Web and talking on the phone would remain banned however, so you would not be able to play Words With Friends on your tablet – sorry, Alec Baldwin!

You will still not be able to play games like Words With Friends on takeoff and landing.

You will still not be able to play games like Words With Friends during take off.

Take offs and landings have always been believed to be the most critical stages of a flight, however newer aircraft are better equipped to deal with electronic interference and critics think that the rules are behind the times.

This has been a long discussed issue where many officials like Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. have been fighting for customers and believe there is no reason why passengers should not be able to use their devices when in Flight Mode.

“These devices are not dangerous. Your Kindle isn’t dangerous. Your iPad that is on airplane mode is perfectly safe,” said Sen. McCaskill, reported the AP.

Making calls, such as on the new iPhone 5c, is under the regulation of the Federal Communications Commission, not the FAA.

Making calls, such as on the new iPhone 5c, is under the regulation of the Federal Communications Commission, not the FAA.

The rule change regarding electronic devices has lead to inevitable talk about cell phones, but the FAA does not have the authority to lift restrictions on in-flight calls. That is under the regulation of the Federal Communications Commission, which has opposed allowing passengers to make phone calls because of the potential interference with cellular networks as phones in the sky skip from cell tower to cell tower faster than networks can keep up.

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loveactuary
1394 days ago
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iPhone: 42.344976,-71.111051
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IBM And The Limits of Transferable Tech Expertise

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Here's a fine piece from Matthew Herper over at Forbes on an IBM/Roche collaboration in gene sequencing. IBM had an interesting technology platform in the area, which they modestly called the "DNA transistor". For a while, it was going to the the Next Big Thing in the field (and the material at that last link was apparently written during that period). But sequencing is a very competitive area, with a lot of action in it these days, and, well. . .things haven't worked out.

Today Roche announced that they're pulling out of the collaboration, and Herper has some thoughts about what that tells us. His thoughts on the sequencing business are well worth a look, but I was particularly struck by this one:

Biotech is not tech. You’d think that when a company like IBM moves into a new field in biology, its fast technical expertise and innovativeness would give it an advantage. Sometimes, maybe, it does: with its supercomputer Watson, IBM actually does seem to be developing a technology that could change the way medicine is practiced, someday. But more often than not the opposite is true. Tech companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Google actually have dismal records of moving into medicine. Biology is simply not like semiconductors or software engineering, even when it involves semiconductors or software engineering.

And I'm not sure how much of the Watson business is hype, either, when it comes to biomedicine (a nonzero amount, at any rate). But Herper's point is an important one, and it's one that's been discussed many time on this site as well. This post is a good catch-all for them - it links back to the locus classicus of such thinking, the famous "Can A Biologist Fix a Radio?" article, as well as to more recent forays like Andy Grove (ex-Intel) and his call for drug discovery to be more like chip design. (Here's another post on these points).

One of the big mistakes that people make is in thinking that "technology" is a single category of transferrable expertise. That's closely tied to another big (and common) mistake, that of thinking that the progress in computing power and electronics in general is the way that all technological progress works. (That, to me, sums up my problems with Ray Kurzweil). The evolution of microprocessing has indeed been amazing. Every field that can be improved by having more and faster computational power has been touched by it, and will continue to be. But if computation is not your rate-limiting step, then there's a limit to how much work Moore's Law can do for you.

And computational power is not the rate-limiting step in drug discovery or in biomedical research in general. We do not have polynomial-time algorithms to predictive toxicology, or to models of human drug efficacy. We hardly have any algorithms at all. Anyone who feels like remedying this lack (and making a few billion dollars doing so) is welcome to step right up.

Note: it's been pointed out in the comments that cost-per-base of DNA sequencing has been dropping at an even faster than Moore's Law rate. So there is technological innovation going on in the biomedical field, outside of sheer computational power, but I'd still say that understanding is the real rate limiter. . .

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loveactuary
1553 days ago
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via @dereklowe on the rate-limiting step (not computation) of drug discovery
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Substitutes for the Second Amendment

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One of the purposes of the 2nd Amendment was to protect the people from government tyranny. The most important aspect of this was probably not to arm the public per se but rather to minimize the necessity and use of a standing army. Unfortunately, Americans have long gone from fearing standing armies to loving them. So isn’t it time for an additional or substitute amendment? Given the immense changes since the founding what amendments would best protect the people from tyranny today? Here are some possibilities:

  • The right of the people not to bear arms shall not be infringed (i.e. no conscription. Requiring someone to bear arms, thus taking all of their freedom, is a far worse example of tyranny than preventing them from bearing arms.)
  • If 1/3rd or more of the Supreme Court rule that a law is unconstitutional it shall be unconstitutional. (Greater protection of minority rights).
  • Congress shall pass no law abridging the right of the people to encrypt their documents and effects. (Modern supplement to the fourth amendment.)

Other ideas?

The 2nd Amendment does have an important (unique?) advantage in protecting against tyranny namely that the right is self-enforcing, it creates the conditions, an armed public, which make the right difficult to abrogate. To some extent, free speech works in a similar way but “you’ll have to take my gun from my cold, dead hands” is a bigger threat than “you’ll have to take my free speech over my objections.” Are there are other self-enforcing amendments?

Hat tip for discussion to Bryan Caplan.

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loveactuary
1553 days ago
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alternatives to the 2nd amendment from @atabarrok including the right NOT to bear arms
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Zuckerberg Is Right About Immigration

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Common misconceptions make a smart solution look dangerous -- but really, it's in everyone's best interest.
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loveactuary
1553 days ago
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must-read
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Your approach to mistakes defines your success

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One of the first things I wondered about the Farmer when I met himis why he was even reading my blog.

He told me, “I’m an entrepreneur.”

I was hooked. I had no idea what he was talking about. But I could see that I was going to learn a lot from him, and nothing gets me going like a steep learning curve.

That was five TK years ago. Today, I read all the farming magazines that come to the house, I sit in on meetings with the seed salesman and the accountant who specializes in farms. The Farmer has a rule that I can listen but I have to wait until the end for questions, because people in the farm community are too nice to tell me when I’m asking too many. “But you are,” he tells me. “Just trust me that you are.”

The more knowledge I have about farming the more I scream about how he treats the animals. Family farms are generally horrendous for animals. Not because the farmers have no ethics but becauseethics are contextual, and like every other profession, farmers just do what other farmers do. For example, corn is like crack to pigs. It’s not healthy for them but you can move pigs around by feeding them corn like you feed kids candy.

So I am not nearly as offended with the idea that pigs are fed candy as I am with the idea that pigs are confined. They have the IQ of a three-year-0ld kid. They should not be confined to a tiny space. And definitely farrowing crates are out-of-control inhumane.

I could go on and on but I also understand the economics of farming. If you don’t know 99% of pork in the US comes from a farrowing crate operation then you have no idea that you should be paying ten times the amount for the pork you eat. And maybe you wouldn’t. So the economics of farming is a mess, and someone needs to take some big risks.

This is where Matthew comes in. I’m going to call him Matthew now. Because he’s amazing and this is a post about how amazing he is and I don’t want him to be a character on my blog anymore.

Matthew is a one-man pork revolution with a Jewish wife who won’t let pork in the house. He is working on figuring out how to make it economical to produce pigs without farrowing crates. No crates means the mom might crush pigs, or the pigs might freeze. It means that Matthew has to reinvent raising pigs.

Matthew has been raising pigs since he was a young boy. And he went to graduate school for pig genetics. Even so, raising pigs more humanely is a huge risk for him. He can go online and read about how other people do itbut each farm has different weather, different crops, different layouts. It’s impossible to simply copy another farmer’s solution. Also Matthew already gets the highest price in Wisconsin for his pork, but it’s not nearly enough to cover the drama of trying to raise pigs outside of farrowing crates.

He puts the mom pig on a pasture, like a free-range cow, and the mom builds a nest and has her pigs and takes care of them. Some days last summer he couldn’t find one of the moms. But the moms are completely capable of managing their piglets and raising them without farmer confinement.

This is a picture of a mom’s nest in the summer pasture. Everyone is warm and happy.

In the summer, that system works well, but Matthew needs to be able to continue supplying restaurants year-round. So he needs to have baby pigs in the spring and fall as well, which is when the pasture is too cold or too wet, so he has to have an alternative system.

He put the pigs into a fenced-off area where they could be in little huts. It worked well. The mom pigs stayed inside a quarter acre surrounded by an electric wire, and the baby pigs ran all over the place, but they always go back to their mom. Have you seen a picture of a farm where chickens run all over the place? We have chickens and piglets. People can’t believe it when they visit. A piglet approaches, like a puppy, to play.

Farmers see chaos and mayhem. I see revolutionary inventiveness. I kept telling Matthew that if people knew how much happier his pigs were than a regular pig, they would pay a premium. I tell him this is the future of pigs.

Things were going great until this spring. It was very very wet and very very cold.

The moms were supposed to make nests in the huts. But there was not really a place for the moms to stay dry. This is a picture of the nest inside the hut: cold and muddy.

There are a million variables in farming. If the ground thaws and then freezes the moisture is more in the dirt than if it doesn’t freeze. Or something like that. Matthew knows everything about the weather. (Here is something he told me that I swear has been true every time: “Rain before 7, done by 11. Rain after 8, rain til late.”) 9, rains a long time.”)

So this spring, the pig experiment didn’t work. The piglets were born on the cold, wet ground, and in one week, sixteen piglets died.

Matthew lined them up and took a picture.

Like a Monday morning quarterback, he could see all the mistakes he made. He ended up buying bedding for the pigs that cost enough to make the pigs unprofitable for the whole season. He’s been caring for 100 pig litters a year for forty years. He never expected to make such a big mistake. He questioned everything: his IQ, his morals, his financial competence, he work ethic.

When things go bad for any business, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. But to have animals dying makes it all seem even worse. He told me he wanted to sell his farm.

I understand that feeling. It’s the feeling of wanting to give up when things go bad in your business. There are lots of ways to get past that moment. Each entrepreneur finds one that works work for them.

1. Focus on the big idea.
My favorite is to focus on the big picture rather than the problem at hand.

I told him he’s a revolutionary. He must keep going. I told him he might have to kill hundreds of pigs and lose thousands of dollars, but someone needs to do that in order to lead the pork industry to a more humane way of economically raising pigs. Someone has to be a leader, and leaders lead by failing and trying again. I told him the happiest people have the hardest jobs.

My speeches do not inspire him. Revolutionaries seldom do that sort of thing in order to get attention as a leader. They do it because it is right, and they want to do what’s right. Revolutionaries are driven by something more important than ego.

So he told me to stop talking to him about it.

2. Take action.
Matthew personality type is ISTP. So he needs to focus on taking action as a way to get past a bad mistake.

He revised his system so that the next week of freezing rain didn’t kill any pigs. They were all dry and cozy.

And he is thinking about the next season of pigs, and the next set of problems. Like, I planted 20,000 bulbs last fall and the free-range piglets have dug up about 2000.

Matthew’s question is how to treat pigs more humanely and still have a profitable business. Every time he solves one problem, he gets another one. People talk a lot about what makes a successful entrepreneur, and the answer is that they don’t quit. Each time a huge problem arises, an entrepreneur has a choice to work on solving it, or stop trying.

3. Surround yourself with people making mistakes and surviving.
The reason entrepreneurs hang out with each other is because it’s inspiring to watch people work on problem after problem.

And of course, that is true for life, as well.

Our lives are defined by the problems we take on. Every day I look out our window and I feel so lucky to have the piglets running around. They are a wonder to watch, and they create more and more problems, and Matthew is a wonder to watch solving them.

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loveactuary
1553 days ago
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Matthew is a one-man pork revolution with a Jewish wife who won’t let pork in the house. via @penelopetrunk
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Sequestration Air Traffic Control Cuts Go Into Effect – Tips On Avoiding Huge Air Travel Delays

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Well, today’s the day that Congress’s sequestration cuts finally go into effect for the FAA and air traffic controllers have to start taking one furlough day per 10 work days.

There aren't any air traffic control-related delays at the moment.

There aren’t any air traffic control-related delays at the moment.

The FAA and major news outlets are all predicting huge delays – up to 6,700 flights per day – but is all this going to effect the summer travel season or is it just fear mongering?

A quick look at the Flight Delay Information page on the FAA’s website shows that just two major airports are reporting delays – LaGuardia and JFK, and neither is related to the cuts (at LaGuardia it’s because of wind and rain), although last night there were apparently delays of up to 3 hours at LAX due to staffing issues, the FAA claimed, though they seem to have been resolved at this point.

According to this New York Times article from last week, officials are predicting regular delays of just under an hour at O’Hare, while Newark, JFK and LAX are all expected to average under 20 minutes, and most airports are expected to experience much shorter delays directly due to staffing issues.

Although there doesn’t seem to be a widespread impact just yet, chances are we’ll start seeing some traffic snarls in the coming days and weeks, but there are things that you can do to be prepared and cope so you’re not stuck sitting in airports for hours on end.

Use airline apps to get updates on your flights.

Use airline apps to get updates on your flights.

1. Use an App: First, if you are traveling, be sure to check your airline’s flight status page. The FAA has a handy web page that links to the major domestic airlines’ homepages, but also download airline apps and ones like TripIt to your PDA so you can get up-to-the-minute flight status updates and airport information on the go.

2. Check Flight Status: One way to find out the delays for your airport is by checking FlightStats, which has a map with updates. Right now there is good weather across most of US and few flight delays, but that could change as the situation develops.

3. Use ExpertFlyer: You can also use Expertflyer.com to search for flight availability on alternate routes if your flight is delayed, especially if you have a connection you may miss, including routing through alternative airports. If there are massive delays, airline should let you change your flights the same day if you ask, so be proactive and stay on top of the situation.

Use ExpertFlyer's flight availability search to find alternate routings.

Use ExpertFlyer’s flight availability search to find alternate routings.

At this point, no one really knows how this will impact air travel long-term. There is a certain level of fear-mongering going on in the media and political circles to put public pressure on Congress to resolve the sequestration cuts and increase FAA staffing back to normal levels.

In general, our air traffic control system is outdated and requires a lot of manual input, so while whether or not these furloughs become a huge issue remains to be seen, but it is a definite possibility.

The other major concern is safety, especially since controllers manually manage all incoming and outgoing flights. I hope this doesn’t lead to any incidents or “near misses” when airplanes need to go around again, which happens frequently in already-crowded airspace such as that around New York City. With fewer eyes watching the skies, there’s more of a chance for something like this to occur.

I don’t want to be an alarmist and only time will tell whether these cuts will truly create a systemwide crisis, but if you are planning to travel in the coming days, pay attention to the situation, check your flights and airlines, and be proactive about changing your itinerary if you need to so you don’t lose hours of your time waiting for your flights.

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loveactuary
1553 days ago
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the sequester hits the FAA and airlines ... prepare for delays
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