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Comment: Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (Score 1) 512

I'm not sure it could be harder than the initial conversion of phonemes to distinct words with their meanings. A typical living language has some 10^5 active words in its language, the translator was amazingly able to solve that problem, even for Tamarian. It was unable to take the next step though, and knowing the words, and knowing their meanings, deduce the shared knowledge behind the references. I'm not saying this is not a hard problem, but doing what the translator already did do is a hard problem, and this seems like a logical extension.

The problem with this episode is that the translator, like transporters and "holodecks" were some bit of technomagic to help pace and make a space based sci-fi show interesting. It's all fine, we're willing to suspend disbelief and ignore the magic as a solved problem. But then trying to have a show about translation and language with that same translator in the middle I think compels us to think along the wrong lines.

Comment: Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (Score 1) 512

In theory, after analyzing the language for long enough, an intelligent translator could produce the correct translation. "Shaka, when the walls fell", used enough in context, could eventually be replaced with "Failure".

The question is how much of some string of phonemes has to be repeated and deduced from context in order to translate even the literals properly. It seems as if the universal translator would have to be able to identify proper noun Shaka (do not translate), noun walls (interpret from context, translate), verb fell etc. from a similar set of operations as those required to get the higher level meaning.

Anyway like most TV sci-fi it was more intellectual than anything else on at the time and hadn't yet degenerated into a space-war saga. There are lots of debates about the viability of universal translation, this was a decent way of cluing in the layman I think. Dig too hard of course and it falls apart.

Comment: Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (Score 1) 512

Actually the reason I really liked this episode is that I had a very smart friend, with a pretty impressive active vocabulary, who cannot seem to speak without at least one or two levels of reference. Even to this day, talking to him is a study in popular culture. He will really say "Staples" and it will mean "that was easy".

Honestly after 20 years, I really don't think he's aware he's doing it.

Comment: Re:Easy stats to pull (Score 3, Insightful) 367

by Austerity Empowers (#46599341) Attached to: More Than 1 In 4 Car Crashes Involve Cellphone Use

If you gather the data, from say the National Highway Safety Administration (, you will see that in spite of there being more cars on the road, there are HALF as many deaths from car accidents in 2012 as there were in 1970 (when almost no one had a car phone). This is an amazing number, because the other half of the coin is there are nearly 10x as many people driving. The figures for injuries follow. Yes, there are dozens of reasons for this, including better car safety, slower speeds (i.e. traffic jams), seat belt use, etc. But that does not matter: our safety increases anyway!

Therefore, because it has the effect of invalidating the entire discussion, the inconvenient data was neglected. I have the same issue as "alcohol related accidents", they set blood-alcohol thresholds pretty arbitrarily and are constantly lowering them based on reactions, not based on scientific study.

Comment: Re:server cpus are more complicated (Score 1) 173

I would argue it the other way, that achieving high single thread performance is very complicated and requires both more design work as well as better understanding of the given process than is usually available for the initial launch where they're using projected and calculated si characteristics. A year later they have some experience with massive volume production, know to many decimal places what their yield will be, as well as have more time to do custom circuits that high freq CPUs will require.

Adding more cores and newer "technology" is an architectural challenge, but generally a known quantity in terms of implementation (most of the time).

Comment: Re:WTF is OneNote? (Score 1) 208

by Austerity Empowers (#46521561) Attached to: Microsoft Releases Free Edition of OneNote

No OneNote has been around a while and is one of the few good things MS has going. Bizarre that they make it free, since that usually comes with a death spiral of investment.

It's surprisingly easy to use, allows for free form note taking, and generally is a great way to organize random information you want to keep track of. It's one of a few things I miss after having ditched Windows at home and at work.

Comment: Re:The Missing Variable (Score 1) 285

CoL is quantitative. "I don't want to live in X" is qualitative, highly subject to individual ignorance. NYC is what I have experience with, having lived there off and on for 20 years. Most people I talk to there have absolutely no clue about anything south of Maryland or north of Connecticut. Jokes have been published to this effect. I'm honestly not sure they ARE aware how much they're paying, and have considered what they're getting in return.

If you're married and have a family, CoL is probably the single most important metric. It determines how much free cash you'll have for luxuries, how you'll be able to put your kids through college and generally your overall quality of life. Every few years we fly back to NYC to visit the inlaws, we see a play, the kids get to see the sights. We're as happy to leave as we were to arrive after about 2 weeks. It's a nice place to visit, but I don't want to live there anymore. And this is why we don't measure non quantitative things. I have friends who could not stand to live in a suburb, who don't have or want families and who will not be happy staying at home and entertaining themselves within.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk