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Comment: Re:Catastrophism (Score 1) 71

by Daetrin (#46769869) Attached to: Saturn May Have Given Birth To a Baby Moon

Doesn't a gas giant "giving birth" to a moon count? Hot Venus? Radio signal from Jupiter?

No, it doesn't. Velikovsky theorized that Venus was ejected from Jupiter. We have no good theories for how or why a gas giant would spontaneously produce and then eject a smaller terrestrial planet, not to mention no physical evidence that i've seen that it has ever actually happened.

What is going on here is that some of the material in Saturn's rings has accreted together into a moonlet. It's already been theorized that that's how at least some of Saturn's other 100+ moonlets were formed. The only reason that this is at all a surprise is that A: there's still enough material left in the rings after forming all the other moonlets and B: that we're caught it in the middle of the process . And as for (B), i haven't seen any estimates of how long it's been going on, but i suspect that it's been taking place slowly over millions of years, and we're only seeing it now because we've finally gotten sensitive enough instruments in the right position to detect it.

If so then in one case we have a tiny moon, one of over 100, being formed by a known method over a period of millions of years. And in the other case we have the 2nd largest terrestrial planet, one of just 8 planets total, being formed by an entirely unknown method over the period of a couple thousand years.

The first case provides absolutely no support for the second case.

As for "Hot Venus", that doesn't really provide any evidence for Velikovsky unless you don't believe the greenhouse effect exists.

And i don't know what radio signals from Jupiter have to do with Velikovsky's theories of planetary formation, so i can't really address that.

Even if you doubt his line of reasoning, his predictions are very interesting. Perhaps you can interpret his narrative as, at the very least, a very productive muse.

Oh sure, they're _interesting_. But lots of people make interesting predictions from random theories that aren't based on any solid evidence. Some of those people we call science fiction and fantasy authors, and others we call crackpots, depending on whether they think their "interesting predictions" are actually the truth or just a form of entertainment.

Comment: Re:Catastrophism (Score 1) 71

by Daetrin (#46758059) Attached to: Saturn May Have Given Birth To a Baby Moon

There are certain topics for which simplistic narratives dominate over thorough investigation and rational discourse. These include:

(1) Anything about Velikovsky or mythology: Most people simply assume that mythology = myth. Very few people take the time to investigate any observed correspondences between the stories held by cultures -- and even when suggestions are made for scientific explanations.

You're only half right. These days no one has a problem with proposing that myths may be based on scientific realities. There have been intriguing proposals about the relation between the myth of Atlantis and the erruption of Thera, a similar or identical link to the parting of the Red Sea, and several interesting theories about what might have inspired the various deluge mythologies.

The problem with Velikovsky is that his proposed solutions were batshit crazy. If the Uniformitarians were insisting that 2 + 2 = 3, then Velikovsky was right that they were getting it wrong. But his proposed counter-solution was that 2 + 2 = 10000!

We have pretty good evidence that the solar system is in a fairly stable situation in regards to the major bodies. There's certainly no astronomical record of any significant changes for the past several hundred years. (And i suspect much longer if one takes Chinese astronomical observations into account.)

But we are supposed to believe that between about 10k years ago and approximately 1 AD, the solar system underwent a MASSIVE reconfiguration. One or more new planets were created and several planets, including Earth, significantly changed their orbits, involving several VERY close passes between those planets. Then after all those planets finished swapping places and crossing paths with each other they just settled down into a configuration that just coincidentally also could have been stable for the last several hundred million years, and then haven't budged an inch (metaphorically speaking) since then.

The other theories i mentioned in the first paragraph have good physical evidence to indicate that they are at least plausible. As far as i'm aware Velikovsky had no physical evidence supporting his claims. In fact the full version of his theory is something like "If, in total contradiction to all present appearances, the solar system of a few thousand years ago was an entirely chaotic system, AND we rewrite several portions of recorded history to make points in different timelines line up better, THEN we might be able to explain certain myths." I'm sorry, but Occam's Razor just does not work that way.

Comment: FreeTaxUSA (Score 1) 383

by Daetrin (#46757473) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?
Just to push another free online alternative, i've been using for several years. They'll file your federal taxes for free, but charge a fairly small fee to file your state as well. (I believe it was about $10 the last time i paid, but may have gone up since then.)

I used to pay that small fee, but then last year(?) CA started their free efile thing, so now i do my CA taxes for free via the CA website, and my Fed taxes for free via the FreeTaxUSA site. If more and more states start pushing the free efile thing then i expect FreeTaxUSA will have to rejigger their business model, but in the meantime it's a good thing for me.

Of course i have very simple taxes, so i can't say how either system would work for people who actually have credits and loopholes they want to use. Based on the comments i posted at the time it took me 12 minutes to do the state and 27 minutes to do the Fed. (Though it might have taken me a little longer if FreeTaxUSA hadn't saved some of my settings from last year.)

Comment: Re:Depends on the scale (Score 1) 142

by Daetrin (#46662825) Attached to: Skydiver's Helmet Cam Captures a Falling Meteor
And thus immediately after he explained how people are bad at comprehending the confluence of small probabilities with large numbers, you demonstrate the principle.

Yes, it might be only a 5% chance that _anyone_ finds that gold coin, not 5% chance per person. The issue is that it's not just one gold coin, there are a bunch of gold coins, each of which only has a 5% chance being found. The odds of someone finding a particular coin are small, but the odds of no one finding any of the coins is even smaller.

The odds of a particular skydiver having a close encounter with a particular meteor are astronomical. However many meteors surive atmospheric entry each day and many people go skydiving each day. The odds that every skydiver that day will be far away from every meteor that day is _much_ lower. Still not common, but much lower. And the odds that it doesn't happen to any skydiver on any day in the year is another couple magnitudes lower.

Then on top of that, what are the odds that a balloonist has a close encounter with a meteor? Or a hang glider?

Instead of a skydiver encountering a meteor, it could have been someone falling out of a plane without a parachute or having their parachute fail but surviving the fall anyways. (It's happened a couple times in history.) Or a meteorite hitting the ground somewhere famous in front of a bunch of tourists. Or an practically infinite number of other very unlikely things that don't involve either rocks or people falling out of the sky. If either of those stories had happened instead we'd still be saying "wow, what were the odds of that happening?"

If you can think of something that has exactly a trillion to one odds of happening to anyone in their lifetime, the odds of it happening to anyone on the planet aren't good. If you come up with a 1000 different things with those odds that are entirely unrelated to each other, then the odds that at least one of them will happen to someone on the planet are pretty high.

Comment: Re:John Keister (Score 1) 220

by Daetrin (#46543705) Attached to: How Did Bill Nye Become the Science Guy?
Still to this day, every time the Daily Show starts with "I'm Jon Stewart" i can't help but mentally fill in "here's my report." I really wish they'd put the show out on DVD. I'm glad that you can find some of the sketches on YouTube, but it's a rather limited selection.

And has anyone seen "The (206)" yet? Is it anywhere near as good? If so i need to figure out a way to watch that. (Preferably a legal way that will help convince them there's a demand and keep the show from being canceled.)

Comment: Re:This is cool but let's not delay commuter rail (Score 1) 64

by Daetrin (#46446267) Attached to: Ice Age Fossils Found During Los Angeles Subway Exploration
I live along Wilshire, the street on (or rather, under) which they're building this subway, the Purple Line extension. They just started a couple months ago. The first stage of the project is currently planned to last 9 years, which will cover 4 miles. A bit of trivia, it only took only ten years for the US to dig the 48 mile Panama canal through jungle and mountainous terrain. (To be fair, the French had already done about 15% of the excavation when the US acquired the project, but that ten year time span includes reviewing the plans and deciding to take a different approach.)

They're currently trying to get a permit to do 24 hour construction, i only know about this because there have been people going around the neighborhood trying to get everyone to sign a petition to block the permit. The people pushing the petition are trying to make it sound like there would be construction going on 24 hours a day every day for the full 9 years. I'm sure that's not actually the case, for if no other reason than if they were doing 24 hour construction every day it would almost certainly take less than 9 years. However LA hasn't made it very clear how much time, if any, they expect to cut off the deadline if they do get the permit.

TLDR: The project is already scheduled to take forever. I don't think it really matters if they stop for awhile to take a look at some fossils. In fact if they're at least halfway competent they could probably work on another section while the fossils are being excavated.

Comment: Really? (Score 1) 318

by Daetrin (#46340361) Attached to: Consumer Reports Says Tesla Model S Is Best Overall Vehicle
"When one thinks of Consumer Reports, refrigerator ratings and car seat reviews usually come to mind"

Actually i bought my subscription to Consumer Reports specifically because of the car reviews, and if i were to name the top two things that come to my mind when i think of them it would probably be cars and TVs.

...wait, they review car seats too?

Comment: Re:IDEs are good. UI builders are bad. (Score 3, Insightful) 627

by Daetrin (#46327493) Attached to: Does Relying On an IDE Make You a Bad Programmer?
I'm an okay programmer (I'd estimate that i'm maybe in the 25-50th percentile, far from a star but still able to provide some value) but my memory for names is horrible. I'll often remember there's a function that does X but not remember the name. With code completion i can narrow in on the right function pretty quickly. Without it i'd have to either go check old code to see what function it was i used in the past or do some searches online to rediscover it, either of which would take much longer.

Comment: Re:Just be honest - it's not for *US* (Score 1) 2219

by Daetrin (#46181759) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!
Actually i'm not really sure which is worse, the archived BBC front page or the current BBC front page. Checking some more pages from the archive, in my opinion the 2010 BBC beats out both the modern and 2001 BBCs. The 2005 BBC is rather weak though.

For contrast, the 2001 and 2005 CNN front pages looks decent, but by 2010 it was starting to decline. A lot of sites on the web seem to be heading in a direction that i don't particularly like. Maybe i'm just a stick in the mud or maybe there are a bunch of people who've specialized in web design and UI and feel the need to make things fancy than necessary in order to justify their own existence. (The guy who came up with GMail's new compose springs to mind.)

And one more bit, like many people i browse Slashdot more at work than i probably should. The more "fancy" and the less plain-texty it looks, the less comfortable i feel doing that. Also when at work i use NoScript and block as much scripting as possible (particularly after one site i used to visit started using scripts to refresh itself and link to other sites so often that it threw up some flags in IT and i got me a talking-to from my manager) so needing to enable JavaScript in order to read comments in Beta is _very_ annoying.

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein