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Comment: Re:I'll be Bach (Score 1) 297

You do realize that Beethoven was one of the pioneers of the copyright-based music publishing? (Of course in his time it was sheet music and not recordings.)

"Pioneer"?? Huh?

You do realize that music copyright privileges existed ever since Petrucci started serious music publishing around the year 1500? (About 300 years before Beethoven published most of his works...)

Comment: Re:IQ is linked I income & wealth (Score 2) 385

by AthanasiusKircher (#49502959) Attached to: Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?
Did you even bother to read your own link?? The passage you quote was pointed out to be a problematic assumption once appropriate controls for possible confounding factors were taken into account. A couple sentences after your quote: "But when Zagorsky controlled for other factors - such as divorce, years spent in school, type of work and inheritance - he found no link between IQ and net worth. In fact, people with a slightly above-average IQ of 105 , had an average net worth higher than those who were just a bit smarter, with a score of 110."

Comment: Re:Learn how to use Wikipedia ... (Score 3, Insightful) 186

by AthanasiusKircher (#49490593) Attached to: How Many Hoaxes Are On Wikipedia? No One Knows

Oddly enough, people question the Wikipedia when it gives more information about the providence of the writing and content than virtually any other source, yet people insist upon making blanket statements about how unreliable it is. All that really says is that people want an authoritative source rather than a verifiable source. They want someone to tell them what is "true" rather than giving them the tools to assess what they are reading.

I get tired of reading apologetics for Wikipedia that present false dichotomies.

"Oh... but things used to be so much worse with other sources which were so bad and evil and... so be grateful for the crap that is Wikipedia today!!"


Look, just because other things may have been bad or worse in some ways doesn't mean we should accept the stupidity that is Wikipedia.

For example -- there are already vetting processes in place (somewhat) for getting articles approved on Wikipedia as having "good" status, etc. These review processes generally involve doing such things as checking to see sources actually correspond to what's in the article, etc.

Here's the obvious question -- why not actually create "stable" version of "good" articles, and have that be the default page for that article? Make it so such articles can no longer be edited directly -- instead, anonymous editors and random users can edit an "unstable" or "testing" or whatever version of a page that can be easily accessed through a tab (like the talk and history pages, etc. can be now). Periodically an established editor can clean up such proposed edits and migrate the good ones to the "stable" page.

Ideally, approved edits to the stable page should be approved by a consensus of editors for that particular page, some of whom may actually be experts in a subject. I know a LOT of academics who spent a little time here or there and tried to edit Wikipedia, because they actually would like to see it made better, but they get driven away by the politics and bureaucratic nonsense. What if we could actually get them involved? What if they could actually be verified and help to determine what makes it into the "stable" versions of articles that they actually know something about... you know, like old-style encyclopedias used to.

But there could always be checks and balances -- edits need to be approved by 2 or 3 editors with an appropriate level of "clearance" for that page, for example. There are many ways of working out the exact details, but something like this could raise the quality level of central articles significantly -- those stubs on the fringes can still operate as the "wild west" where anybody can edit the live page until someone creates a stable good version.

You don't need to give away authority completely to experts -- have mixtures of experts and other editorial staff able to approve edits. You don't need to lose the tracking information. In fact, you get even MORE tracking information, and you get a "sandbox" for stable pages for better versions to be worked out and incorporated into existing articles.

Or whatever. I don't claim to have all the answers. But I do know that there are serious and legitimate criticisms of Wikipedia's model, and some aspects are just going to get worse (and some have been for some time). Anonymous "wild west style" editing for just about anything was a great way to crowdsouce and build a resource... but it's time to hone this into something better, and that requires people with real skills: subject matter experts, experts in editing, etc.

We should never shut the contributions from crowdsourcing out -- but we can still improve the Wikipedia model while not falling back onto old crappy models either.

Comment: Re:Been through Denver (Score 4, Insightful) 294

I wish - and I know this would never 'fly' - that we would make their lives as uncomfortable as ours - or even more so. they are really offended when their women are even looked at by westerners. what I would love to see is that we go OUT OF OUR WAY to fondle and embarass all the muslim women - ALL OF THEM - that enter or leave any western country. yes, its payback and its meant to inflict a return feeling for all that have 'done' for us.

WHAAA???!? This is modded "insightful"?

the fact that we let them ruin our way of life - and they got away with it - means that they are boldened to keep doing this crap to us.

What the heck? Who is doing this to whom? We are doing it to ourselves. Who does the TSA work for? Our government.

We did this to ourselves, and for nothing. Is there any evidence whatsoever that the TSA has prevented ANY terrorist attacks since it was instituted? NO.

There are countries that have experienced REAL terrorism. Places where random buses get blown up periodically, or random bombs go off in the downtown area of a city -- from a coordinated effort of terrorists. (See, for example, situations in Israel/Palestine, or England when the IRA was particularly active.)

We have NOTHING like that. If there were any significant number of Muslim terrorists out there just dying to "ruin our way of life," they could easily do so -- bomb some malls, bomb public transport, heck -- shoot up an area right outside the security zone at an airport. Remember after 9/11 when people were actually freaked out about such things? I remember people afraid to go to malls -- afraid that someone would put some chemicals or poison into the water supply, etc., etc.

How much of that happened? Nothing really. We just forgot about it. We didn't really make "security" around any of these things any better. Hell, we can't even keep our weapons-grade uranium safe with any real security.

We're doing nothing for any number of major terrorist targets, and the terrorists are doing nothing to attack them. Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion is there aren't a significant number of real terrorists. (Well, except for the retirees that the FBI entraps by hanging out with them at Waffle House for months and convincing them they should attempt a terrorist act...)

So, given that it's clear we've done this whole TSA thing TO OURSELVES, why exactly is it that you want to lash out at Muslims everywhere, as if they were ALL represented by a handful of folks who plotted 9/11??

if we do a tit-for-tat (as childish as that might initially seem) then maybe the escalations and wars would come to a stand-still.

"Tit-for-tat" implies that there's some sort of actual targeting of people who did something. If a red-headed guy goes on a murder spree in a subway, and afterward the police start just randomly searching and beating the crap out of people on the subway to instill fear and dissuade anyone from attempting a similar act, your response is, "Let's go and starting beating the crap out of all redheads everywhere! That's tit-for-tat, and it will show them!"

(Don't get me wrong here -- I know the analogy is not exact, and there are militant Muslim extremist groups, whereas I don't know if there are militant redhead groups... but hopefully my point is clear. The ones doing the bad stuff at the TSA are our own fault, and saying we should use them to harass others because we allow them to harass us is one of the stupidest things I've seen modded up on Slashdot, and that's saying something....)

Comment: Re:Remember his name [Re:Alternate headline] (Score 1) 44

by AthanasiusKircher (#49467725) Attached to: Turing Manuscript Sells For $1 Million

reasonable excuses to not want to see the movie.

Rather than watching the new movie, you could also watch another film based on a play based on the book, which doesn't shy away from some extended soliloquies about math and creativity and stars David Jacobi in a truly amazing performance. Definitely worth it, and likely a much better portrayal of Turing.

Comment: Re:What a wonderful unit! (Score 1) 332

by AthanasiusKircher (#49458579) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

It's the same with most things. How often do you actually need to convert units in daily life? Unless you're an engineer or something similar, you probably don't*.

And that's precisely why there's no great advantage for MOST people in the U.S. to switch to metric. Many other countries made the switch back when aristocratic scientific elites could tell people "what was good for them" and force an admittedly simpler and more consistent system onto the masses, even if it really didn't make lives simpler except for scientists and engineers.

Nowadays, in the era of electronic calculation and asking Google to convert things for you, it's not even a significant advantage for scientists and engineers to use a 10-based system. The conversions you use often are easily remembered and punched into your calculator or if used very often, a convenient spreadsheet can be used. If you don't use conversions very often, you can just look them up when needed.

The only argument for any measurement system now is international consistency -- and while that's a strong argument for those who deal internationally, it doesn't tend to affect most ordinary Americans in their everyday need to measure and judge sizes of things, so it's a hard sell.

That said, you overstate your case:

With metric, I could do these conversions easily, but I'm stuck with a measurement system that gives me no widely-used unit between something a bit less than half an inch and something a bit longer than a yard.

Umm... Perhaps metric never evolved a common unit there (e.g. decimeters) because it's really unnecessary? Just like you don't need specific units between inches and thousandths of an inch (3 orders of magnitude), metric folks somehow manage to deal with 2 orders of magnitude quite easily without an intermediate unit. And, think about how Americans tend to use inches, feet, and yards, and you realize that they're not all really necessary. Either I care about a relatively exact measurement, in which case I say something like 92 inches, or I don't care about that sort of precision and say "about 8 feet" or "about 2.5 yards.". The latter expression is less common except in specific circumstances, since most people tend to ignore all intermediate units between feet and miles except if they need them and find them useful in everyday work (yards, furlongs, chains, etc.). Anyhow, it's similar in metric -- you have the unit of rough precision (cm), the unit of estimating medium-sized lengths (m), and the unit of significant distance (km). How often do you need a measurement that is vague enough that it can be expressed in feet but needs to be specified with enough precision that yards (along with a few simple fractions, like 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4 of a yard) won't do?

So you continue to laugh at our measurement system, and we'll continue to laugh at yours.

What possible reason do you have to laugh at the metric system, other than the rather arbitrary feeling that you specifically want a measurement unit equal to about 1/3 of a meter? The metric system DOES have superior consistency in nomenclature and conversion, but you haven't offered any real reason to disparage it....

Comment: Re:Dark Energy (Score 1) 199

I think you spent so much time looking for something to disagree with me about that you missed the point that we're darn close to exactly agreeing.

I find your interpretation of my post odd given that I *explicitly* noted that "I agree with you to some extent." I do agree with a lot of what you said, and I wasn't really looking to disagree.

That said, to me your term "stepping stones" implies a stepwise progression going in the right direction, as when one uses stepping stones to cross a creek or something -- that term usually indicates something that is used to progress toward a goal. My point is that these "placeholders" can also function as impediments toward progress, thus being the OPPOSITE of stepping stones.

Perhaps we agree, and that's great. But I was trying to add something on that was not explicitly stated in your previous comment and in fact seemed contradictory to the implications of your terms. And if I indeed "described exactly" what you think some of these terms mean (thanks for your agreement), then hopefully I've added something to the thread.

Comment: Re:Dark Energy (Score 1) 199

There is probably some reformulation of those that would make dark energy and dark matter disappear in the same way Cupernicus made all the epicycles disappear.

Random history of science note -- what you say about Copernicus is a myth and a complete misunderstanding of his theory, which basically required just as many epicycles as geocentric models at the time.

Copernicus -- and Galileo later on -- insisted on circular orbits, which still required plenty of epicycles and didn't actually simplify the math as much as the myths claim.

It was Kepler and his elliptical orbits (which Galileo rejected) that actually got rid of the need for epicycles permanently. Once one bought into Kepler's ellipses, it actually made heliocentrism more reasonable. Copernicus's model was just swapping one set of epicycles for another.

Comment: Re:Dark Energy (Score 2) 199

It's exactly what it is. To scientists, "dark energy" is a placeholder, a spot where they say "We don't know".

That description isn't really accurate, since dark matter and dark energy add important corrective factors to many models, and many scientists spend lots of time trying to model more things involving them... They thus are moch more formalized and manipulated than most " placeholders."

In cosmology, the placeholder is pretty important in allowing them to continue working, and not just shrugging their shoulders and stopping.

I agree to some extent....

So just like aether and Phlogiston,(the best word ever invented) the placeholders are stepping stones. When we discover whatever it is, it probably won't be called dark matter, and "dark matter" the name will be placed in the cosmology dustbin along with the other old theories

Yeah, this goes off the rails a bit. I'd hardly call things like aether and phlogiston "stepping stones" -- they may have been initially, but they became over theorized and explanatory elements in their own right, and they ultimately led to a lot of wasted theorizing and going down blind alleys looking for explanations for things that weren't perhaps even real problems.

The issue with "placeholders" is that they turn a set of unexplained observations into a THING -- they reify or hypostatize it. But because this newly created "thing" has a bunch of unknowns, it may not be a single "thing" at all -- it may be a bunch of things that have some relationship or only tenuous relationships, or they may be derived from various observational inconsistencies that are only seen as "problems" because there are flawed assumptions in the underlying theory.

But the very act of grouping these various problematic observations together and giving them a name may introduce a bias to the way we think about these observations. And ultimately, like phlogiston or something, they can serve as significant impediments to getting to a better theory. I'm not saying there's a better way to do science, but it's important to realize that the nature of theorizing involves steps like this -- creating core concepts or assumptions and running with them for a while. But regardless of how contingent we may think of "dark energy," the fact is that by identifying it as someTHING, it influences the way we think about potential models in ways that we may not be completely conscious of... But 200 years from now people may look back and think of us all as idiots for not seeing the bigger picture.

Comment: Re:Never consumer ready (Score 1) 229

by AthanasiusKircher (#49453437) Attached to: 220TB Tapes Show Tape Storage Still Has a Long Future

As far as I can recall, tape backup systems have never been a consumer product. At least, I don't recall tape systems ever being marketed that way.

Sure they were, but perhaps not in this millennium. The last tape drive I bought was in 1995 or 1996, and it was definitely advertised in a run-of-the-mill computer magazine or consumer product guide, which would also advertise games and such. Back when floppy disks were your only other reasonable option for backup, tape drives were a reasonable consumer option for home users with more than a few dozen worth of floppies of data to store.

But then zip disks became a thing for a while, and by the late 90s, CD burners became common enough and cheap enough that home users could take advantage of them.

Comment: Re:Too bad it did not happen on Osama Bin Laden (Score 1) 250

by AthanasiusKircher (#49433537) Attached to: Verdict Reached In Boston Bombing Trial

Life is the last thing a person has, the only thing that once gone can never be gotten back, and taking it away early is the ultimate punishment.

Not to be too morbid, but that assumes that all possible lives are "worth living" and that death is never a preferable choice to living.

Many, many people make choices to die, whether by suicide to relieve pain or because of terminal illness or even for a cause (whether they are a "patriot" with a medal pinned to their chest or a "terrorist" depends on the perspective of those judging). Or, as the stats show, many people commit suicide while in prison as a method of escaping further punishment.

The penalty of execution is not merely the removal of life, but the removal of a CHOICE to continue life (or to end it). In fact, prisons often remove the option either way -- either they take life in execution or they try their best to prevent suicide if prisoners attempt it. (In fact, in most cases prisoners who are suicidal are required by law to be treated as requiring medical care, and prisons who fail to attempt to prevent suicide may be legally responsible if inmates die.) Either way, the choice of life will likely be taken away here.

Comment: Re:Requirements (Score 1) 626

We need more requirements. I'd like to submit the following as a starting point:

I'm assuming you mean this post to be modded funny (i.e., ironic)? Otherwise, I think you're overlooking some major problems in how language actually works.

* Must be usable with respect to the correct chronological context. Consider how the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution have been hashed over, in the last 200+ years. We need to be able to reference the exact version of the language, as used, in any legal script. This will keep lawyers from interpreting version 1.0 laws using version 2.0 rules and definitions. Alternatively, the task is monumental: create a language that will stand as valid speech, *forever.*

Exactly how do you define this language other than referencing its own terms? And if you do so, don't you think the lawyers will start arguing over the meanings of the definitions, or the meanings of the definitions of the definitions, or the [insert infinite recursion here].

For a practical historical example of this process, see Jewish law and rabbinical interpretations of the Torah. There's the original text, and then there are commentaries that explain the text, and then there are commentaries that explain the commentaries. And the process is never-ending.

And the problem with the Constitution is NOT that we don't know what what the Founding Fathers meant. Sure, there are some places where there's ambiguity or where we could argue about how a particular 18-century principle would apply to a 21st-century context that couldn't exist in the 18th century. But, with a few exceptions, we actually have a pretty good idea of what the terms used in the Bill of Rights meant at the time. If you object to change, the problem isn't the language -- it's our legal system, which draws its authority not only from written law but from court precedent for interpretation. Some parts of the Constitution simply don't mean what they originally did -- not because we lack understanding of what they originally meant but because legal precedents have gradually shifted the meaning. And overturning those precedents would in some cases essentially require trashing a century or more of jurisprudence and all of the precedents built on top of it.

In sum -- interpretation is always an inexact science. And no matter how exact your laws are, new situations will crop up or social values will change, and interpretations will adapt, no matter how much the language authorities try to crack down on meaning shifts. It's a systemic and social problem, not a purely linguistic one.

* Must be amendable. Amendments to the language must not be permitted to collide with existing definitions. I would go as far as to say that synonyms and homonyms must be strictly prohibited; a side effect here is a relatively pun-free language.

Sounds incredibly boring to me. Anyone who reads fiction (let alone poetry) would find this language completely ridiculous and lacking any useful expression. Real people would likely abandon it immediately or at least come up with their own puns or synonyms or whatever.

* The definition of anything must be readily quantifiable, without ambiguity, right down to the planck constant if need be. Recommending the strict use of SI measurements for both space and time.

Okay, for a start -- please define a basic common word in your "readily quantifiable, without ambiguity" style.

For example, please define "chair." I'll even make it simpler and not insist that you define metaphorical uses -- just come up with a "readily quantifiable, without ambiguity" definition that precisely defines the kind of "chair" that people sit in.

I'll wait.

And then after you're done, I'll build something that doesn't fit your definition exactly, and I'll sit it in -- and then I'll sell it as a "chair" to people. Guess what? Your precise language is overridden by popular use... like any real-world language.

* An improved version of these requirements must be penned in version 1.0 of the language, to be followed immediately by version 2.0

Even the French Academy (with its immortels) couldn't stop "Le Big Mac" from joining the French popular language. You really think you could ever nail language down like this??

BASIC is the Computer Science equivalent of `Scientific Creationism'.