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Comment Re:Many a young engineer.... (Score 2) 82

... every schematic drawn by every semiconductor engineer got the arrow backwards.

As I heard it, The arrow is "backward" because Benjamin Franklin, when doing his work unifying "vitreous" and "resinous" electricity as surplus and deficit of a single charge carrier (and identifying the "electrical pressure" later named "voltage"), took a guess at which corresponded to a surplus of a movable charge carrier. He had a 50% chance to assign "positive" to the TYPICAL moving charge carrier in the situations being experimented with (charge transfer by friction between different substances, currents in metallic conductors, and high voltage discharges in air and water-in-air aerosols) and happened to guess "wrong".

Thus we say electrons have a negative charge, "classical current" corresponds to the sum of the flow of moving positive charge minus the flow of negative charge (i.e. the negative of the electron current, which is all there is in normal-matter metallic conductors), the arrowhead on diodes (and junction transistors) points in the direction of classical current across a junction, and so on.

But though it's the charge carrier in metallic conduction and (hard) vacuum tubes, the electron ISN'T the only charge carrier. Even in the above list of phenomena, positive ion flow is a substantial part of electrical discharge currents in air - static sparks and lightning. Positive moving charge carriers are substantial contributors to current as you get to other plasma phenomena and technologies - gas-filled "vacuum" tubes (such as thyratons), gas an LIQUID filled "vacuum" tubes (ignatrons), gas discharge lighting, arc lighting, arc welding, prototype nuclear fusion reactors, ...

Move on to electrochemistry and ALL the charge carriers are ions - atoms or molecular groups with an unequal electron and proton count, and thus a net charge - which may be either positive or negative (and you're usually working wit a mix of both).

And then there's semiconductors, where you have both electrons and "holes" participating in metallic conduction. Yes, you can argue that hole propagation is actually electron movement. But holes act like a coherent physical entity in SO many ways that it's easier to treat them as charge carriers in their own right, with their own properties, than to drill down to the electron hops that underlie them. For starters, they're the only entity in "hole current" that maintains a long-term association with the movement of a bit of charge - any given electron is only involved in a single hop, while the hole exists from its creation (by an electron being ejected from a place in the semiconductor that an electron should be, by doping or excitation, leaving a hole) to their destruction (by a free electron falling into them and releasing the energy of electron-hole-pair separation). They move around - like a charge carrier with a very short (like usually just to the next atom of the solid material) mean free path.

For me the big tell is that they participate in the Hall Effect just as if they were a positive charge carrier being deflected by a magnetic field. The hall voltage tells you the difference between the fraction of the current carried by electrons excited into a conduction band and that carried by holes - whether you think of them as actual moving positive charge carriers or a coordinated hopping phenomenon among electrons that are still in a lower energy state. Further, much of interesting semiconductor behavior is mediated by whether electrons or holes are the "majority carrier" in a given region - exactly what the hall effect tells you about it.

So, as with many engineering phenomena, the sign for charge and current is arbitrary, and there are both real and virtual current carriers with positive charge. Saying "they got it wrong" when classical current is the reverse of electron current is just metallic/thermionic conduction chauvinism. B

Comment Re:Vacuum tubes handle EMP's better (Score 1) 82

"No point progressing since the bombs are gonna fall any day now. Then where will your fancy silicon highways and databases be?"

Given that the Internet Protocol and much of the rest of the networking technology that still underpins the Internet were developed as part of a cold-war program to create a communication system that could survive a nuclear attack that destroyed most of it, and still reorganize itself to pass messages quickly, efficiently, and automatically among any nodes that still had SOME path between them, your post seems to come from some alternate universe to the one I inhabit.

Comment The real reason (Score 1) 561

I will likely be downvoted, even though what I write is absolutely true.

Revolution was predicted at least 6 years ago, a result of public land policy changes made 50 years ago and yet nobody talks about it. In fact, if anybody brings it up, they are immediately dismissed as radical, or simply silly.

Starving people are dramatically more likely to revolt than well fed people. Somehow, mentioning this ridiculously obvious fact is universally dismissed.

Comment The IRS keeps its hooks in US citizens who leave. (Score 2) 359

I'd also move my operation to Ireland if I could.

What's stopping you?

The US tax code. The US keeps its hooks in its citizens and companies, for decades, if they try to leave, even if they move out and renounce their citizenship.

The US does this to a far greater extent than other countries who generally don't tax their citizens if they're out of the country for more than half a year. (This is where "The Jet Set" came from: Citizens of various non-US countries who had found a way to earn a living that let them split their time among three or more countries every year and avoid enough income tax to live high-on-the-hog, even on an income that otherwise might be middle-class.)

Only really big companies, with armies of lawyers, can find loopholes that let them effectively move out of the US to a lower-taxing alternative. You'll note that TFA is a lament about how one managed to escape, and how the US might "close THIS loophole" to prevent others from using it.

Comment Re:Simple Fix for H1B Visa Problem (Score 1) 55

Simply require that H-1B visa holders must be paid at least the 90th percentile (or 95th if you like) wage for their field.

Plus any amount that the employer would have to pay into a government entitlement program for a US employee that he doesn't need to pay into said program for a foreigner on H1B (or other work visa systems).

It's even fair. If the program is, say, a retirement program that the visiting worker can't benefit from, shouldn't he have the money to buy a replacement for it elsewhere?

Comment Dow makes LOTS of stuff. (Score 1) 491

... by everyone's favorite munitions manufacturer: Dow Chemical.

Dow makes a LOT of chemical stuff. Some of it's useful to the military.

If their Dow Corning partnership-subsidiary hadn't been hammered into bankruptct by a bunch of (later shown to be bogus) suits claiming medial harm from their silicon breast implants, we might have had hybrid cars a couple decades earlier, out of Detroit rather than Japan, using lenticular, glass fiber, super flywheels, rather than batteries, for energy storage.

Comment Re: Islam's relationship to modern science (Score 1) 327

I find a lot of people who are agnostic or atheist have actually made science their religion. Most aren't even practicing scientists, and instead of looking to the scientific method to teach them new ideas, they have "faith" in theories despite science not yet having proven or disproven them. They use science as their religion not to further science, but to attack religion. Your comments are pretty close to putting you in this bucket.

Excuse number #912 -- "atheism is a religion too". Or better yet #912.A -- "science is a religion". Please. If you know anything at all about science, its purpose, and how it works, you know that it is not a religion. It is a way of figuring out what it is best to believe about the real world in a systematic and improvable way. Note well the two essential components -- "about the real world", and "in a systematic and improvable way". It addresses the real world, not a fantasy world, and the standard for truth is thus this objective world itself, not what people have said about it or believe about it or wrote about it in an ancient book long before we had anything vaguely approaching a science. But the second part is just as important. If I make a claim about some systematic organization supposed to hold in th real world, it is possible to accumulate evidence that supports the claim, refutes the claim, or is neutral towards the claim. Over time, more evidence and better methods of looking generally result in claims that we believe very, very strongly to be either true or very close to true, claims that we believe not to be true, and claims that cannot be decided by the evidence at hand. In all cases the standard of truth is correspondence of the assertion with reality itself, not with argumentation about reality, although the reasoning process is Bayesian and hence one isn't building up evidence-supported beliefs in isolation.

"Science" is not a religion, it is the set of interlocking assertions that have the strongest, mutually supporting evidentiary support. It is literally what it is best to believe about the real world according to an actual standard. It does not assert perfect truth, it asserts probable truth, provisional probable truth at that. If you want to actually learn something about the reasoning process involved, I would recommend E. T. Jaynes' "Probability Theory, the Logic of Science". You might also want to peruse Richard Cox's monograph "The Algebra of Probable Inference". The difference between a religious text and these two works is so profound, so obvious, so glaring, that perhaps you will reconsider your rash statement that science is a religion. These books establish, via a minimal set of axioms, a direct connection between evidence and networks of probable beliefs -- they provided mathematical support and a proof of sorts that it is better to believe things given evidence than to believe any random notion that is asserted by anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason that is not supported by evidence, that contradicts beliefs that are supported by strong evidence, or that is contradicted by the evidence itself directly.

I would offer examples -- but is there really any point? There are a near infinity of possible religions. There are quite a few actual religions, religions that contradict one another on numerous points, and the number swells to a really large number if one allows (as one should) all of the religions ever believed by any vagrant tribe throughout history, and all of the named variations on religions loosely shared between tribes.

For starters, probability theory would dictate that even if one knew that precisely one of these variants was precisely true, it is rather improbable that your particular beliefs out of this set of possibilities is correct. It isn't even probable that your beliefs come from a major family that could be correct. The odds are against any given religion being correct before you examine evidence. Without evidence (and a general agreement as to what might constitute evidence) the best one can do is make all of these possibilities equally likely, that is to say, nearly infinitely unlikely.

Then one can systematically examine the scriptures and claims of each and every religion. All of the major religions tend to claim in their scriptures that they are perfectly true, inerrant, and the Word of God made manifest to be disbelieved in a single tittle at peril of whatever memetically evolved punishment suited its human creators at the time. If you've studied Godel's theorem, you should realize that this is a clear signature that this particular claim is false. If you want to identify a liar, look for the man who claims "I never lie". Nevertheless, it doesn't take five minutes of reading scriptures associated with the world religions making claims about God and the world to find numerous statements that are open absurdities, claims that are directly contradicted by everything we have painstakingly learned to believe on the basis of sound reasoning and experimental evidence. In other words, even if you allow the condition of contradicted by beliefs supported by strong evidence to apply to religions themselves, the contradictions between the religions reduce the believability in the entire set.

Is this in fact not only the case, but obviously so? Of course it is. Any believer in a major scripture-based world religion (excluding diffuse deism disconnected from any dogma or scripture as a world religion) believes in their religion and its scriptural claims as "evidence", but has no difficulty whatsoever in rejecting the claims of all of the other religions as absurd. If you are a Christian, you are not a Muslim. You aren't a Muslim because you think that Muhammed was (fill in the blank) mistaken, lying, misled when he claimed, as he does throughout the Quran, to be taking dictation from God/Allah. If you thought this was true, you would be a Muslim instead of a Christian. As for why we would doubt it even though it is written down, there are lots of things that are written down that aren't true. Documents making claims for absurd miracles, bad science, and openly questionable ethical assertions are things that we automatically reject as probably untrue -- unless we have been raised to think that they are true beyond any question or exposure to critical thinking.

You asked what is absurd about the Book of Mormon. Do you want a list? Claims of imported old world plants and animals utterly absent from the new world? Steel swords in the new world? Compasses used for navigation before compasses were invented? The wrong geography for the old world? The constant assertions that white folk are good and pure and dark folk are not? The idea that Joseph Smith dug up gold plates covered with strange writings in the fields of upstate New York, and managed to decipher them with divine help? The terrible quality of the writing? There is an entire musical (to which I have tickets) poking fun at the Book of Mormon, which is nothing compared to the South Park episode which openly, and quite rightly, mocks it. Or you can go here: http://www.skepticsannotatedbi... and click on the lists of "problems" all neatly excised and commented on. Good luck with the hermeneutics (the entire discipline devoted to trying to pretend that problems in scriptural writings aren't).

In the end, of course, it ultimately comes down to evidence. An atheist doesn't necessarily believe that there is no God. They simply see no reliable and reasonable evidence that God exists. Lacking this, there is no good reason to reject the null hypothesis that there is no God, any more than we need to reject the null hypothesis that pink unicorns are not real animals prevalent in my back yard. I'm happy to believe in pink unicorns. Just show me one. Well, really you need to show me more than one, plus enough supporting evidence that I can be convinced that I'm not looking at a dyed horse that has undergone a painful surgical procedure.

What exactly, constitutes reliable, inarguable evidence in favor of the existence of God? What constitutes even weak evidence in favor of the existence of God? Our feelings? Question begging "logical" proofs? Scriptural writings that are mistaken on almost every single point that they can be checked on, that make absurd claims every few pages, things that if they were claimed today we would dismiss without wasting a minute on them?

So, my friend, while I am, as it happens, a professional scientist -- a theoretical physicist, in fact -- who majored in physics and philosophy as an undergraduate and whose favorite philosophy professor was a student of Bertrand Russell, and who writes about boring stuff like ontology and semantics and semiotics just for the fun of it, I deny any claim that science is a religion. The scientific worldview is the collection of mutually (reasonably) consistent, evidence supported beliefs about the real world. One can give a good reason for believing every single thing one believes in this worldview. If you doubt any of its assertions, there is an open and above board methodology for resolving the conflict, one that will, in general, convince any reasonable person in possession of the same evidence and supporting network of beliefs.

How, exactly, can that be compared to the primary reason -- seriously -- that anybody on Earth believes in their religion: Their parents believed in it and raised them to believe in them and (often) punished them if they questioned it and rewarded them if they accepted it, if only in subtle ways? If you don't believe that the acceleration of gravity is roughly 10 meters/second^2, we have an easy way to resolve the question if you are at all reasonable. If I happen to think that the Holy Trinity makes less sense than heretical Arianism, how exactly are you going to resolve the question? That's the difference between the two. Scientific truth is derived from observations of the real world and can be validated over and over again by anyone that doubts it. Nobody can answer the Trinity vs Unity question on the basis of evidence, because there is no real world evidence worthy of the name for either one.


Comment Yeah, you'd think that ... (Score 1) 108

It's my understanding that when you're committing a crime, the last thing you want to do is break even worse laws that will get you a worse sentence if caught.

Yeah, you'd think that. And some of them actually do think of that.

But many criminals don't think very well, or very far ahead. Not thinking about being caught is common. Not expecting to be seriously inconvenienced if they ARE caught is common also.

Think about it: How is "Send me a bitcoin or your insulin pump will deliver a fatal dose!" different from armed robbery for a fat wallet? "Give me a bunch of money or I shoot you!" And a bunch of them DO shoot - (VERY) often even if they GOT the money.

The threat of law-enforcement escalation for murder doesn't seem to have stopped up-front-and-personal armed robbery. Why should it stop distant-and-anonymous ransomware?

Comment Re:I Bet This Article Will Do As Much Damage... (Score 1) 108

If the author hasn't been played in any way, then the damage is still done: the scammers just got a great idea they'll no doubt literally capitalize on.

If you think that anybody who's written or executed ransomware hasn't already thought about ransoming medical devices, you have an astonishingly low opinion of others. Just how smart do you think you are?

Anybody who's spent the time necessary to write ransomware and attempt to profit from it has had more than enough time to consider the all reasonable possibilities, even if it took somebody as *brilliant* as you 5 minutes to come up with this idea. This isn't some global super-conspiracy; this is as brilliant as banging chips off a rock with another rock.

Comment Gravitational locking already? (Score 1) 95

Seriously? The moon is gravitationally locked now, sure, but the Earth (and moon) still being liquid/hot when it slowed to a lock? I don't think so. For this to be plausible the moon would have had to coalesce, in an orbit, with nearly zero spin angular momentum, which seems absurdly unlikely. Otherwise, like a bird on a rotisserie, it would have been "roasted" pretty much equally on both sides. So maybe, but I doubt it.

Comment Educational toys (Score 1) 373

I think most kids of recent generations are being cheated.

I got to play with Lincoln logs, all right, but I also got to play with several different Gilbert chemistry sets, including their largest, and including an "inherited" Gilbert U238 atomic energy kit which my dad bought for my older sister in late 1950. I still have (what remains of) it. Nothing like that is available now, and has not been for some time.

I built the digi-comp mechanical computer (and later built my first one out of TTL, definitely due to the influence of that digi-comp. I can still remember a great deal about the 74181 ALU. :) We built quite a number of Heathkits. I still have some of them. My Heathkit transistor tester is still something I use -- it is quick, easy, and usually tells me what I need to know in one step; it often saves me from having to go through a full curve-tracing undertaking. He got all three of us microscopes, a decent (for the day) telescope, taught us how to build cameras, scoop ponds for paramecia and the like, and took us on multiple rock-hunting and nature trips. We went spelunking, picked mushrooms, learned how to identify some geological formations and quite a few plants. The games my sibs and I played with each other and with our parents were poker, go, chess, mahjong, and scrabble. When other kids were screwing around all summer, he enrolled me in an NRI electronics course so I was occupied with something fun that had a little more focus to it. I'd row out to the middle of the river (the Delaware), drop the anchor, and lay back and read for hours out there, taking the occasional jump in the water to cool off. He would quiz me in the evenings. We got music lessons, martial arts lessons, and dance lessons. We listened to, and discussed in depth, every musical genre they could think to present to us. Including comedy. I still worship at the altar of Tom Lehrer to this very day, one of the funniest and definitely one of the smartest comedians to ever play to an audience. Talented otherwise, too.

Most kids now seem to grow up sitting in front of the television, not exactly focused on educational programs, either. Later they graduate to game consoles and smartphones. They think comedy is encompassed by asshole "shock jocks" and the like. They don't even know how to make conversation with each other - in a restaurant, what I typically see is a table full of kids, all with their heads buried in their smartphones, rarely even speaking to one another. I guess they're happy, but I look at them and I see failure in progress.

IMHO, the best thing about recent years in this sense is the easy and inexpensive availability of computers of significant power. Including smartphones, though most don't seem to actually realize what they are holding in their hands. In my community, at least, there aren't very many parents seeing to it that the actual standalone small computers are in the hands of their kids. Deb and I bought full Raspberry Pi setups for all the grandkids for them to experiment with (and it's been loads of fun teaching them how to write assembly language and Python), but according to them, none of their friends are familiar with the pi at all.

But hey, football sure is popular around here... :/

The trouble with money is it costs too much!