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Comment Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (Score 4, Insightful) 539

Science does ignore things outside of the universe, but amazingly enough, everything that matters is, by definition, inside it.

In other words, suppose there is a soul. If we can still make a brain simulator that acts conscious, then it doesn't really matter, because it had no observable effect. If, because humans have souls and computers don't, we can't make a conscious brain simulator, then the soul has an observable effect, and can be reasoned about with science. Now, in the first case, you might say that the brain simulator acts conscious but isn't. It would be a lot like saying people with a different skin color act conscious but aren't, though - not morally defensible.

Religions are not dualist because their ability to reason without evidence has allowed them to see some great truth that science has missed. They're dualist because they were conceived before we came to the great realization that the behavior of living things emerges from the physical laws.

Comment Re:Seems ethically dodgy... (Score 2, Informative) 539

Why would you be unable to aenesthetize an artificial brain? It's just a chemical that has some (currently not well understood) effect on the physical processes in your brain. If the artificial brain works by simulating those processes, it should be relatively straightforward to simulate those effects, and you should get the same temporary loss of consciousness.

I would say that consciouness is inherently tied to the algorithms that produce it. Those algorithms happen to be executed by a massively parallel self-modifying chaotic biological organ, but, being algorithms, they could in principle be carried out by other hardware. (The strong Church-Turing thesis.) Granted, our crude attempts to design similar algorithms from first principles (Bayesian networks, predicate logic, expert systems, etc.) are so different from what happens in the brain that it's fair to say they are not the same thing. But that's not what these guys are doing - they're not reverse-engineering the software, they're emulating it at a low level.

I suspect the only real barriers are technical - how do you get sufficient information about the structure of the brain, and how it changes over time? How do you learn which aspects of that are important and which can be abstracted? And how do you get it running sufficiently quickly?

Comment Re:You can get hard passwords (Score 2, Interesting) 349

Randomly banging on the keyboard clearly produces less than ideal entropy. Case in point, your password contains "asedf", which I'm willing to bet was the result of you drumming the fingers of your left hand. Now, whether it matters for such a long password is another matter, but if you're paranoid enough to use a password like that, you may as well go the extra mile.

The Courts

In the UK, Possession of the Anarchist's Cookbook Is Terrorism 602

Anonymous Terrorist writes "Back in the midsts of time, when I was a lad and gopher was the height of information retrieval I read The Anarchist's Cookbook in one huge text file. Now it appears the UK government considers possession of the book an offense under the Terrorism Act 2000 and is prosecuting a 17 year old boy, in part, for having a copy of the book. 'The teenager faces two charges under the Terrorism Act 2000. The first charge relates to the possession of material for terrorist purposes in October last year. The second relates to the collection or possession of information useful in the preparation of an act of terrorism.'"
Biotech

Super-Light Plastic As Strong as Steel 226

Roland Piquepaille writes "A new composite plastic built layer by layer has been created by engineers at the University of Michigan. This plastic is as strong as steel. It has been built the same way as mother-of-pearl, and shows similar strength. Interestingly, this 300-layer plastic has been built with 'strong' nanosheets of clay and a 'fragile' polymer called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), commonly used in paints and glue, which acts as 'Velcro' to envelop the nanoparticles. This new plastic could soon be used to design light but strong armors for soldiers or police officers. The researchers also think this material could be used in biomedical sensors and unmanned aircraft."
The Almighty Buck

Space Money Invented For Space Tourists 296

An anonymous reader writes "The foreign exchange company Travelex has invented a unit of currency designed to be used in space commerce, the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID). The QUID is made of a space-qualified plastic, with round edges to prevent injuries in zero gravity. One QUID is equivalent to about 6.25 pounds, 12.50 dollars or 8.68 Euros. Of course, space currencies are already a staple of science fiction, with 'credits' being the most popular."
Security

Skype Worm Infects Windows PCs 127

walterbays writes with news of a worm spreading to Windows PCs through Skype's IM. The worm is variously called Ramex.a and Pykspa.d. A poster on a Skype forum explains how to remove it. "After hijacking contacts from an infected machine's Skype software, it sends messages to those people that include a live link. Recipients who blithely click on the URL — which poses as a JPG image but is actually a download to a file with the .scr extension — wind up infected."
Biotech

Drug Testing Entire Cities at Once 562

Ellis D. Tripp writes "Researchers have developed a technique for determining what illicit drugs people might be consuming in a given area, by testing a sample from the local sewage treatment plant. As little as a teaspoonful of untreated wastewater can reveal drug use patterns in a given community. Obviously, any drugs found can't be tied to any specific user, but how much longer until the drug warriors want to deploy automatic sampling units farther upstream of the sewage treatment plant?" From the article: "one fairly affluent community scored low for illicit drugs except for cocaine. Cocaine and ecstasy tended to peak on weekends and drop on weekdays, she said, while methamphetamine and prescription drugs were steady throughout the week."
Music

Music DRM in Critical Condition? 377

ianare writes "Universal Music Group, the largest music company on the planet, has announced that the company is going to sell DRM-free music. The test will see UMG offering a portion of its catalog — primarily its most popular content — sold without DRM between August 21 and January 31 of next year. The format will be MP3, and songs will sell for 99 each, with the bitrate to be determined by the stores in question. RealNetwork's Rhapsody service will offer 256kbps tracks, the company said in a separate statement. January 31 is likely more of a fire escape than an end date. If UMG doesn't like what they're seeing, they'll pull the plug. UMG says that it wants to watch how DRM-free music affects piracy rates."
PlayStation (Games)

Submission + - Playstation 3 price drop confirmed.->

chuckdpe1 writes: Following up on the report that the PLAYSTATION 3 would see a $100 price cut taking place the week after E3 2007, GameDaily has confirmed with "a merchandising manager at one of the world's biggest retailers" that the 60 GB version of the PS3 will indeed drop to $499, starting on July 12, one day after Sony's E3 press conference. GameDaily also reports that the new price is indeed indicative a retail-wide price drop, not a Circuit City specific sale, as a handful of speculators have posited.
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Businesses

Bill Gates Drops To Number 2 388

A number of readers made sure we know that Bill Gates is apparently no longer the world's richest person. His wealth, estimated currently at $59.2 billion, has been surpassed by that of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim. Slim, the son of a Lebanese immigrant, runs businesses in a number of industries from Mexico City. Stock in his wireless company, American Movil, recently surged in price by 27%, boosting his net worth to $67.8 billion. Last April Slim passed Warren Buffet, who had long held down the number 2 spot. In this audio Bill Gates says he won't care when he is no longer number 1.

Feed Major League Baseball Continues To Tilt At Windmills; Insisting It Owns Facts->

It really is fascinating to see how ridiculously clueless Major League Baseball is when it comes to promoting the sport. It has, consistently, focused on short term gain at the expense of fans. It's a strategy that works only if you think that your fan base isn't going anywhere. That may be true for older fans, but new fans have many different choices in sports to pay attention to -- and consistently making life difficult will mean a smaller and smaller audience. Last month, MLB trotted falsely claimed that using a Slingbox to watch content that you had legally paid for was illegal. It's not. This week, MLB is back in court to argue that it owns the facts associated with a game, including things like player names. They're appealing the case they lost last year, claiming that any online fantasy league needs to pay Major League Baseball for the privilege of promoting the sport.

Fantasy baseball has been a huge boost to Major League Baseball. It's helped increase interest in the game -- and especially increased interest in players outside of one's hometown team. That means more watching of games (more commercial money), more attending games (more ticket and food money) and more purchasing of clothing and apparel. It also keeps fans who would otherwise stop being interested from going away (especially if a favorite team is out of the running). It's been hugely successful. However, the top brass at MLB, rather than recognizing the promotional benefit of all this and how it's helped them tremendously, insist that all of these fantasy leagues need to pay up for using the names and stats of real players. They claim that it's the same thing as getting a famous person to endorse your product, though any moron in a hurry knows the difference between a fantasy league and a player endorsing the product. Luckily, it sounds like the Appeals Court judges are leaning towards affirming the decision, noting that: "MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players') names and what they look like. This is just part of being an American, isn't it?"
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PC Games (Games)

Submission + - Gamecock tipped as potential Severity publisher->

Robert Summa writes: "Gamecock tipped as potential Severity publisher Thursday's episode of Epileptic Gaming had some breaking news about the CPL's publishing plan for Severity and its new energy drink. Citing an article set to appear in the Dallas Business Journal tomorrow, June 15th, EG reports that the relatively new Gamecock Media Group is a potential publisher for Severity. Mike Wilson, CEO of Gamecock, recently joined the CPL's advisory board, which lends credence to the idea of his company publishing it. Previously, Sierra was favored to publish the game."
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Silicon Graphics

Submission + - Perfect silicon sphere to redefine the kilogram ->

MrCreosote writes: The Age reports optical specialists at CSIRO are helping create a new standard for the kilogram, based on a precise number of atoms in a perfect sphere of silicon. This will replace the International Prototype, a lump of metal alloy in a vault in Paris.
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What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie

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