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Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 2) 441

by rgbatduke (#49798433) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

We wouldn't know. We do know that perceptual errors, emotional disturbances, and the rest are possible.

You are simply saying that we cannot disprove God, that absence of evidence is not conclusive evidence of absence. Sure. But so what? We can go down an enormously -- actually uncountably infinite -- list of propositions for which we have no evidence. If we are sane, we do not grab arbitrary entries from this list and promote them to plausible beliefs, no matter how pretty a story they make.

Your argument is, of course, ancient and has a name. You are arguing for a God of the Gaps. As human knowledge has expanded, thing after thing that was attributed to God in ancient scripture has been shown to have natural causes. Furthermore, "natural causes" have been shown to have a rigorous, inviolable consistency so much so that when we look hard for cases where our existing laws fail, or where there are still pernicious inconsistencies that suggest that they are not quite right and will require future revision.

Since all of the "easy" gaps have been plugged, you are stuck following this chain:

Laws of Nature (microscopic nuclear + E&M and QFT) -> nuclei and nucleons
Laws of Nature (E&M/QED) -> atoms and molecules (Chemistry!)
Chemistry -> Inorganic and Organic chemistry
Organic chemistry + classical E&M and mechanics -> biochemistry and biophysics
Biochemistry and biophysics -> evolutionary biochemistry, neurophysiology etc (Biology)
Biology -> neuropsychology, anthropology, medicine, (Psychology!)
Psychology & information theory & mathematics -> Intelligence and cognition, Artificial intelligence, etc.

At this point, you take the fact that the science is incomplete to extend the quite correct observation that we don't understand all aspects of human consciousness (yet!) in full detail as a "gap" in which you can insert God. Consciousness is only possible with God, God can communicate with humans by directly manipulating microscopic physics, chemistry, biology, psychology laws in ways that directly violate the second law of thermodynamics, and so on. Forget whether or not there is any good reason to think that this is true. Forget the fact that we have an entire, consistent, empirically validated chain of physical law and reasoning stretching from the microscopic to the macroscopic. If you hear voices in your head, it could be God instead of (for example) your right brain talking to your left brain or some other perfectly natural thing. Hence in your mind, there is a reason to believe, and furthermore to invent a whole new "logic" to explain the fact that your conclusions can be held independent of the mere common sense that leads to the development of consistent science.

Obviously -- seriously -- you are mistaken. What you are doing is called the "Mind Projection Fallacy". To quote wikipedia:

Once one has grasped the idea, one sees the Mind Projection Fallacy everywhere; what we have been taught as deep wisdom, is stripped of its pretensions and seen to be instead a foolish non sequitur. The error occurs in two complementary forms, which we might indicate thus: (A) (My own imagination) (Real property of Nature), [or] (B) (My own ignorance) (Nature is indeterminate)

Welcome to B, with an admixture of A. Our ignorance is not an excuse for assuming that Nature is indeterminate and there is room for e.g. violations of the first or second laws of thermodynamics at the whim of a Deity, and your imagination of God filling the gaps in our knowledge is neither evidence nor (worse!) certainty that that which you imagine is a real thing.


Comment: Re:A lot of inertia (Score 1) 555

by Areyoukiddingme (#49793271) Attached to: How Tesla Batteries Will Force Home Wiring To Go Low Voltage

Did you actually RTFA? The author specifically talked about 12V DC power being the "low voltage" standard that we need to convert to in the home because it's the native battery voltage.

But it's not. It's not the native voltage of any battery chemistry. Lead-acid cells are native 2.0VDC. Lithium cells are native 3.0VDC. Carbon-zinc is native 1.5VDC. Nickel-cadmium is native 1.2VDC. Nickel-hydride is native 1.2VDC. Zinc-air is native 1.5VDC.

All double digit voltages are an artifact of series connection of cells, and the author missed one crucial fact when invoking the Powerwall product: native cell voltage of lithium ion is 3.0VDC, but the Powerwall puts out 400VDC. It is a high voltage product.

Comment: Re:What about safety? (Score 1) 555

by Areyoukiddingme (#49793205) Attached to: How Tesla Batteries Will Force Home Wiring To Go Low Voltage

When my 3yr old sticks a forked prong in my DC electrical outlet, what is the safety factor compared to the current AC plugs?

That depends entirely on the voltage the DC outlet provides. If it's a USB outlet, it provides 5VDC and your 3 year old feels nothing at all. If it's a USB 3.1 Power Distribution outlet, it provides 5VDC unless you plug in a qualified cable which can negotiate its way up to 48VDC, and again your fork-wielding 3 year old feels nothing.

If it's the native 400VDC coming off of the Tesla pack, your child dies. High voltage DC tends to make the muscles clench, freezing the victim in place, rather than blowing the victim across the room as high voltage AC does. High voltage anything is dangerous, but low voltage DC requires big fat conductors to power large appliances, and we've lived with high voltage for so long that we're accustomed to the permanent danger. If you have high voltage DC outlets, you want child-resistant designs, exactly as you do for your existing AC outlets.

Comment: Re:20-40% overblown (Score 1) 555

by Areyoukiddingme (#49792997) Attached to: How Tesla Batteries Will Force Home Wiring To Go Low Voltage

That takes care of the first 20%... but what about the cheap AC->DC transformers that sit between your house wiring and your devices? I'd love to be able to switch each outlet I have between 110VAC/15a, 12VDC/3-5a and 9VDC/500Ma-2a, and do away with wall warts altogether.

You already can come close, since these are products. As more and more devices switch to USB power ports, you'll want more and more wall outlets with USB ports and fewer and fewer with AC ports (of the various and sundry flavors in use worldwide).

It's a little depressing to realize that the one thing that will make AC power in the home hang on long after it should be dead and buried is the humble vacuum cleaner.

Comment: Sure, only pick the prizes for the race carefully. (Score 1) 267

For example, China and the US could have a bet -- loser's premier/president has to sing the national anthem of the other on international television. Or they could bet a really nice dinner in Paris. Or maybe they could bet, I dunno, world domination and possession of all lunar resources in perpetuity. I know which one The Brain would pick...

Comment: The Usenet Physics FAQ did it better (Score 4, Informative) 218

by AdamHaun (#49791651) Attached to: Ways To Travel Faster Than Light Without Violating Relativity

For a more thorough and slightly more technical approach to the same subject, check out the Usenet Physics FAQ's article "Is Faster-Than-Light Travel or Communication Possible?". Here's the conclusion:

To begin with, it is rather difficult to define exactly what is really meant by FTL travel and FTL communication. Many things such as shadows can go FTL, but not in a useful way that can carry information.

There are several serious possibilities for real FTL which have been proposed in the scientific literature, but these always come with technical difficulties.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle tends to stop the use of apparent FTL quantum effects for sending information or matter.

In general relativity there are potential means of FTL travel, but they may be impossible to make work. It is thought highly unlikely that engineers will be building space ships with FTL drives in the foreseeable future, if ever, but it is curious that theoretical physics as we presently understand it seems to leave the door open to the possibility.

FTL travel of the sort science fiction writers would like is almost certainly impossible. For physicists the interesting question is "why is it impossible and what can we learn from that?"

+ - US Justice Department Urges Supreme Court Not To Take Up Google vs. Oracle

Submitted by Areyoukiddingme
Areyoukiddingme writes: The Solicitor General of the Justice Department has filed a response to the US Supreme Court's solicitation of advice regarding the Google vs. Oracle ruling and subsequent overturning by the Federal Circuit. The response recommends that the Federal Circuit ruling stand, allowing Oracle to retain copyright to the Java API.

+ - The Tricky Road Ahead for Andriod Gets Even Trickier 1

Submitted by writes: Farhad Manjoo writes in the NYT that with over one billion devices sold in 2014 Android is the most popular operating system in the world by far, but that doesn't mean it's a financial success for Google. Apple vacuumed up nearly 90 percent of the profits in the smartphone business which prompts a troubling question for Android and for Google: How will the search company — or anyone else, for that matter — ever make much money from Android. First the good news: The fact that Google does not charge for Android, and that few phone manufacturers are extracting much of a profit from Android devices, means that much of the globe now enjoys decent smartphones and online services for low prices. But while Google makes most of its revenue from advertising, Android has so far been an ad dud compared with Apple’s iOS, whose users tend to have more money and spend a lot more time on their phones (and are, thus, more valuable to advertisers). Because Google pays billions to Apple to make its search engine the default search provider for iOS devices, the company collects much more from ads placed on Apple devices than from ads on Android devices.

The final threat for Google’s Android may be the most pernicious: What if a significant number of the people who adopted Android as their first smartphone move on to something else as they become power users? In Apple’s last two earnings calls, Tim Cook reported that the "majority" of those who switched to iPhone had owned a smartphone running Android. Apple has not specified the rate of switching, but a survey found that 16 percent of people who bought the latest iPhones previously owned Android devices; in China, that rate was 29 percent. For Google, this may not be terrible news in the short run. If Google already makes more from ads on iOS than Android, growth in iOS might actually be good for Google’s bottom line. Still, in the long run, the rise of Android switching sets up a terrible path for Google — losing the high-end of the smartphone market to the iPhone, while the low end is under greater threat from noncooperative Android players like Cyanogen which has a chance to snag as many as 1 billion handsets. Android has always been a tricky strategy concludes Manjoo; now, after finding huge success, it seems only to be getting even trickier.

Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 1) 441

by rgbatduke (#49787675) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

His noodleness won't need to forgive me of anything. I'm perfectly aware of the correlation between piracy and global warming, and what more evidence does one need? And who can deny the reality of fettucini, especially when made with loving hands?

Unless, of course, one is inclined to think of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs as being the incarnation of deity. Or Xenu. Or Krishna. Or Odin. Or Vishnu. Or Allah. Or Jesus. Or Zeus. Or Quetzacoatl. Or Yahweh. Or...

His divine noodleosity makes as much sense as any of the named possibilities, and serves well to emphasize that with the exception of mavericks like Benjamin Franklin who supposedly believed a little bit in "everything" and are N-n for some value of n, everybody is an N-1 atheist except for real atheists who are N.

Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 3, Insightful) 441

by rgbatduke (#49781367) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

Most atheists/agnostics at this point will insist upon their own definitions. It becomes a semantic argument, and if you insist upon your own definitions, you have effectively erected a straw man. Perhaps this is not the best approach.

I think you have it exactly backwards. The meaning of omniscient and omnipotent are perfectly clear and are contained in any dictionary. As you say above, every religion, including the many sects and branches of "Christianity", faced with the obvious fact that their god(s) is/are not possessing of either quality in its true formal meaning, adopt some weaker definition, so that God isn't all-knowing (the literal meaning of omniscient) or all-powerful (the literal meaning of omnipotent) or all-good (omnibenevolent) or ubiquitous (omnipresent) or "perfect" or any other infinite quality that would get them in the kind of obvious trouble any sort of infinite attribute is likely to lead to. At the same time, they have to assert that this really really big, mostly knowing, somewhat powerful, occasionally incredibly cruel being was knowing enough and powerful enough to be the proximate cause of the entire visible Universe as well as any still unseen invisible parts, which he (masculine gender usually assigned) created out of nothing, because otherwise most of us wouldn't consider even a really big, really smart, mostly good space alien to be a god, we'd consider them to be somebody like us, living in time's stream with every moment mostly a surprise because our finite information capacity is "infinitely" smaller than the information content of the Universe.

So yes, I've learned the hard way that there is little point in discussing Christianity in a reasoned way with a Christian. The fact that they are still a Christian is de facto proof that they have already arrived at a state of cognitive dissonance wherein all the myriad contradictions in (e.g.) the Bible itself or between bald assertions in the Bible (old and/or new testaments and/or apocrypha) and mere reality are smoothly elided and rationalized by doing what you're doing, bending the clear definitions of the simple terms used to describe God with a capital G.

One has to do this, because otherwise the problem of theodicy is a crushing burden for any religion claiming any significant fraction of the "omni"-properties conjoined with the assertion that god is good. One has to literally turn off one's common sense to believe that a being exists that on the one hand created the entire Universe out of nothing in some sort of state of knowledge of its future course (in most of the Bible, it is pretty clear that this state is supposed to be perfect knowledge beginning to end, alpha and omega and predestination and all that) but who created the Universe filled with evil as experienced by humans (undeniable) but was at the same time all-good and who runs things so that one can never detect Its existence because the visible Universe appears to follow rigorous rules that are never violated and that are utterly indifferent to human suffering.

That's actually the more interesting aspect of Chrisitianity in particular. Since Jesus is advanced as being God and Human and all-compassionate and perfectly good, and since the New Testament is full of direct quotes of Jesus asserting that he can do literally anything (and so can all of us) just by "having faith" and wishing it into being, Christians have to engage in the most incredible mental distortions to explain the mind of God/Jesus in such a way that there is room for the existence of human suffering on Earth and Hell for unbelievers and all of the other madness while the principle parties remain hidden.

So next time somebody dies slowly of cancer, next time a baby is born in innocence with the terrible affliction of Down's syndrome, the next time a small child dies of starvation or from malaria or from being bitten by a snake, the next time you are directly confronted with the cognitive dissonance between your belief and reality, instead of doing what you usually do, instead of participating in the ritual designed to help you elide the contradictions and consider the horror part of the "mystery" of God, why not confront them?

Down's syndrome is perfectly understandable as a trisomy of a chromosome that happens for no "reason" other than the accidents of imperfect processes that are completely indifferent to the outcome and proceed according to equally indifferent natural law. It is impossible to understand in the context of any being powerful enough to prevent the accident, compassionate enough to wish for such cruel accidents to never occur to a sentient being, benevolent enough to repair any such accident after it happens if you somehow want to assert that they "couldn't" do it before (but were still God). The fact that Down's syndrome and the full host of afflictions that can easily be explained by the principles of physics in an indifferent universe where statistical mechanics describes the progression of entropy isn't a mystery, it is an utter lack of evidence for anything mysterious. It is humans who make up all of the mystery because of their egocentric desire to be the center of something's attention rather than a rather unlikely and transient pile of thinking stardust with a strictly limited shelf life.


Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 2) 441

by rgbatduke (#49779921) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

No, I got the bit about fiction. I just finished reading recent science fiction that utilizes very similar plot lines in several distinct stories, that's all. Even in the movie "Merlin", Mab's existence was contingent on belief. I think American Gods by Neil Gaiman is pretty much precisely that as well. To quote from its Wikipedia page:

The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them (a form of thoughtform).

So as I said, yes, you are quite right, it is (or can be, a premise for a good science fiction/fantasy novel. And has been, several times. And quite a number of bad ones as well. It's a very interesting philosophical/ontological problem -- does belief precede or follow existence?

Personally, as a physicist, I have to say that correct/best belief (as opposed to fantasy) follows existence, and ultimately is empirically founded on it. Religion is the other kind, the one where there is plenty of belief but no solid evidence for the existence of the objects of the belief.

To paraphrase Austin Power, I may believe in a gold plated potty but that doesn't mean that one exists, not even in an infinite Universe where it is possible that one exists.

Or, to toss in a reference to Russell, it is possible that there is a silver teapot floating around in an orbit around Saturn. I might, if I were un-sane enough, believe in such a teapot, and write out an entire mythology based on the teapot and how it got there and what its existence means for the Universe in general. But even if I convinced every human alive on Earth that I must be right, that as an authority on all matters concerning the Sacred Silver Teapot my word on this cannot be doubted, not even the deep and profound belief of every person in the world has the slightest chance of either creating the teapot from nothing but the belief itself or increasing the probability that the teapot exists from a number so close to zero that their kids go to the same school, noise from parties in zero's yard keep the probability up at night, they argue about who is going to trim the hedge and who is providing the beer...


Comment: Re:root knows all (Score 1) 441

by rgbatduke (#49779871) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

So you mean, God's omniscience is, well, sort of like not being omniscient at all. I mean I can look at the Universe and get all of the information I "need". Well, at least I can get all of the information I need if I'm omniscient enough to know what information I need before I look at it, or if I have moderate needs.

Next you'll be telling me It didn't really create the Universe, it just sort of nudged already existing stuff around, sort of like using a debugger to rewrite existing code. And that It doesn't really control the Universe, it just hacks it a bit so it does some of the stuff that it wants.

Then I'll be telling you:

a) sort of like, not being God at all, isn't it?

b) and besides, there is no evidence that any of these assertions are true, or consistent.

In the end, if God has nonzero information entropy, then It is not God. If it has zero entropy, it has no Choice (and is not God, not in any way that matters). The Universe has zero entropy already.

Assertions of God are almost invariably made without any appreciation for the mathematical challenges of complexity and information content on infinite domains. A shame, really.


Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde