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Journal: These are the things in my head at night 7

Journal by Daniel Dvorkin

Then-PFC, now-SGT Bergdahl may in fact have deserted his post. There are certainly credible accusations to that effect, and if so, then he should be tried and convicted for the crime. But it's a whole lot easier to investigate those charges with him here, and we don't let the Taliban mete out justice for us.

Comment: Re:Isn't this a lot like programming? (Score 1) 107

No, biological processes are inherently non-deterministic, and this becomes more apparent the smaller the scale. At the genetic level, it's all about probabilities. I suppose you could argue the same about computation since circuits are now getting small enough for quantum effects to show up, but I don't think most programmers are explicitly modeling random bit flips! On large scales, when you're talking about big programs with lots of different possible inputs, it's often more effective to model them statistically, I agree, but the underlying processes are still quite different.

Comment: Re:Next goals: (Score 3, Insightful) 107

Co-evolution only looks "co" on very large timescales; every new trick our immune systems have come up with has been in response to something a pathogen already came up with. Sure, there always can (and will) be new plagues, whether the victims are trees or people. I just think they're a whole lot more likely to come from the nigh-uncountable number of random "experiments" taking place in the wild than they are from anything done in a lab.

Comment: Re:In other words... (Score 1) 284

Corporations don't go to prison for violating censorship laws. The members of the group, employees, owners, and members go to jail. They are the ones who have their assets taken.

That last bit would be a lot more persuasive if it weren't for the concept of limited liability. The whole idea of corporations owning assets, signing contracts, etc. is that the owners of the corporation are to some degree insulated if the corporation "does" something such as breaking a contract that could lead to the loss of those assets--but it really ought to work both ways. As things stand right now, the privilege pretty much only seems to go one way.

Comment: Re:Next goals: (Score 4, Informative) 107

Honestly, I think that fear is overblown. Vertebrate pathogens have had hundreds of millions of years of optimization in the most ruthlessly selective "laboratory" ever known, and while there are obviously some pretty deadly ones out there they haven't managed to wipe us out yet. Nothing we do in a lab is likely to come close, in terms of coming up with something that can spread wildly on its own.

I used to work between a synthetic bio lab at one end of the hall and an infectious disease lab at the other. Ask which one scared me more.

Comment: Re:Isn't this a lot like programming? (Score 2) 107

In a lot of ways, it is similar, but there are some important differences. The biggest one, I think, is that programs are (or had better be!) deterministic: make a particular change and a particular thing will happen every time. Living systems, even relatively simple ones like yeast cells, are stochastic: make a particular change and the probability of a particular thing happening increases or decreases. What you're counting on when growing a culture of mutated cells is that enough of the cells will behave in the desired fashion to make the behavior of the colony predictable, but the underlying randomness remains.

Comment: Re:Whatabout we demand equal time of our views ins (Score 4, Informative) 667

by Daniel Dvorkin (#46552259) Attached to: Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

Being a scientific organization is one of the major listed justifications for tax exempt status - assuming the other criteria are met.

The part in bold there is kind of the point. Scientific organizations--actually educational organizations of all kinds--can indeed apply for non-profit status, but they have to prove they meet the standards. Churches are assumed to qualify a priori.

Comment: Re:"Creationists" (Score 1) 220

by Daniel Dvorkin (#46547553) Attached to: How Did Bill Nye Become the Science Guy?

The AC does have a point: "creationism" (and "intelligent design") are potentially ambiguous terms to people who aren't engaged in the evolution debate.

Then if they want to engage in that debate, they should learn how those terms are used. AC's sub-Objectivist ranting doesn't make me think he's interested in that level of intellectual effort, though.

fortune: cpu time/usefulness ratio too high -- core dumped.

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