Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Note: You can take 10% off all Slashdot Deals with coupon code "slashdot10off." ×

Comment Re:How do I upgrade? (Score 4, Informative) 85

Wrong. Ubuntu continues to roll out updates for everything, including the kernel, for every version it supports. You will continue to receive new kernels for Ubuntu 14.04 right up until it reaches End Of Life, just as you will with Fedora. (For Fedora, it's versions 21 and 22 that are currently supported.) Please learn what you're talking about before replying, instead of just guessing.

Comment Re:While we're on the topic... (Score 1) 38

1. Is just a nomenclature problem. The key issue was whether Pluto belongs in the same category as Mercury through Neptune.

First off, the problem category was called "nomenclature". Secondly, you act like mercury has bloody anything at all in common with Jupiter and Saturn. It's far, far more like Pluto. It's not an "edge case" issue, it's a fundamental misgrouping issue.

2. If a planet changes its orbit, one of two things will happen:

It clears its new neighborhood
It gets cleared out by a new neighbor or falls into a resonance with it

As was mentioned, this is not correct. Mars-sized planets don't clear their own neighborhoods. Mars did not clear its neighborhood - Jupiter did. Your "two things" are simply not accurate. It's a false supposition that's the entire foundation of this definition.

More to the point, extrasolar planets show how ridiculous this definition is even more. There are extrasolar planets larger than Earth which orbit their star closer to each other at times than the Earth is to the moon. They don't "clear" each other at all. It's just a ridiculous, completely false premise.

3. and 4. In geological terms yes, but I think the IAU was correct in preferring to define planets through orbital characteristics over geological ones.

Why? Why should we define what something is based on where it is rather than what it is? The answer is basically given in the question itself. When you say, "X is a planet", you're making a statement about what it is. That's the meaning of the word is. If you want single words to talk about orbits, we already have terms for that - that's what "asteroid", "KBO", etc are.

And really, you completely avoided these points. Pluto and Earth are far more like each other than either are like Jupiter. So grouping Earth with Jupiter and not Pluto is a complete absurdity. Hydrostatic equilibrium is a meaningful distinction - it has all sorts of consequences for the body. The nobody-can-agree-upon "neighborhood" definition has little to no bearing on what you're going to find there.

5. The neighborhood of a planet cannot be simply changed without significant consequences. If through some freak incident a formerly solitary planet ends up suddenly having a neighbor of significantly higher mass, that planet will not remain a planet for very long. Its "mutability" is then not even restricted to definition games, it will quite be literally destroyed or thrown away into deep space.

These are anything but the only two options. They can change orbits, migrate inward, migrate outward, get locked into new resonances, etc. A planet can be moved into for example a more out-of-plane orbit by an intruder and still receive the same insolation, and thus be exactly the same on the surface, but no longer be a planet. It's an absurdity.

6. An Earth-copy that hasn't cleared its neighborhood yet won't be an Earth-copy due to frequent crust destroying meteorite impacts

That's not true. For one example among many, the Earth copy and the other bodies in its neighborhood could both be in orbital resonance with a larger body.

. Such a child solar system will probably not be described well by our current terminology but these systems are also very rare because that phase of life only lasts for a very short time.

Yet another unsupported statement.

7. There will clearly eventually be edge cases, but Pluto isn't. There is an object with 10000 times its mass within its perihel and apohel. Its orbital period is not independantly "chosen" but defined by Neptune

And if Earth were located where Pluto is now, its orbital period would also not either be indepdently "chosen" but defined by Neptune.

Should I even bother mentioning that one of the leading theories to explain Sedna's orbit is that there is a roughly Earth-sized body out there? WISE isn't capable of spotting such small objects.

8. - 10. Those are all things that we are just now starting to discover.

No, they're not. We've known about exoplanets and binaries long before the IAU definition.

They might eventually change up the definition of the word planet again

They refuse to revisit the issue.

such as when we do find the first binary pair of planets with similar mass in the same orbit.

We already have one, Pluto-Charon. They refuse to acknowledge it. And binaries don't just affect planets - there are even binary asteroids.

11+ are mostly political points where you can have an opinion either way.

Dismissing points as "political" is a nice way to not have to actually address their substance.

But scientifically the question is: Are Pluto, Ceres, Eris and the 100+ other yet to be discovered KBOs really similar enough to the big eight to be in the same category.

Given that they're far more similar to Earth than Earth is to Jupiter? YES. Unambigulously yes. If you want to take them out of the category, you also need to say that either the terrestrial planets aren't planets, or the gas giants and ice giants aren't planets. And the ice giants really shouldn't be grouped with the gas giants anyway. Or we can just stop all of this nonsense and accept the practical definition that hydrostatic equilibrium is a really meaningful bound, and then subdivide "planet" into planet categories from there - dwarf, terrestrial, gas giant, ice giant, and all of the strange new types we're discovering in other star systems.

Comment Re:Wow (Score 1) 36

The real problem for me is, you can't personalize the characters at all. No choice in the names, genders, appearance or stats. You're stuck with whatever the game designer gives you with no way to make it your own. I don't know about anybody else, but customizing the characters, both at the beginning and as you find or buy new equipment is part of what makes these games interesting, as does picking which skills to add or enhance as time goes on.

Comment While we're on the topic... (Score 5, Informative) 38

... here's 19 reasons why the IAU's Pluto decision was ridiculous. But first, the definition

The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in the Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A planet [1] is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects [3] orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

[2] An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.

[3] These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

1. Nomenclature: An "adjective-noun" should always be considered a subset of "noun". A "dwarf planet" should be no less seen as a type of planet than a "dwarf star" is seen as a type of star.

2. Erroneous foundation: Current research suggests that individual planets do not necessarily cleared their own neighborhoods, and their neighborhoods may not always have where they are. Jupiter, and Saturn to a lesser extent, have cleared most neighborhoods.

3. Comparative inconsistency: Earth is far more like Ceres and Pluto than it is like Jupiter, yet these very dissimilar groups - gas giants and terrestrial planets - are lumped together as "planets" while dwarfs are excluded.

4. Poor choice of dividing line: While defining objects inherently requires drawing lines between groups, the chosen line has been poorly selected. Achieving a rough hydrostatic equilibrium is a very meaningful dividing line - it means differentiation, mineralization processes, alteration of primordial materials, and so forth. It's also often associated with internal heat and, increasingly as we're realizing, a common association with subsurface fluids. In short, a body in a category of "not having achieved hydrostatic equilibrium" describes a body which one would study to learn about the origins of our solar system, while a body in a category of "having achieved hydrostatic equilibrium" describes a body one would study, for example, to learn more about tectonics, geochemistry, (potentially) biology, etc. By contrast, a dividing line of "clearing its neighborhood" - which doesn't even meet standard #2 - says little about the body itself.

5. Mutability: What an object is declared at can be altered without any of the properties of the object changing simply by its "neighborhood" changing in any of countless ways.

6. Situational inconsistency: An exact copy of Earth (what the vast majority of people would consider the prototype for what a planet should be), identical down to all of the life on its surface, would not be considered a planet if orbiting in the habitable zone of a significantly larger star (harder to clear zone), or a young star (insufficient time to clear), a star without a Jupiter equivalent (no assistance in clearing), or so forth.

7. Ambiguous definition: There is still no consensus on what defines having "cleared the neighborhood" - in particular, what the "neighborhood" is.

8. Lack of terminology: Exoplanets - indeed, including any potential Earthlike planets - are arbitrarily declared to not be planets. This deprives those studying exoplanets of an IAU-acceptable term to refer to them by.

9. Inability to describe exoplanets even if not ruled out: There is no way that even if exoplanets hadn't been arbitrarily ruled out that one could ascertain whether a body has met a "cleared the neighborhood" via observations from Earth.

10. Failure to address binary objects. Self-explanatory.

11. Unscientific motivation: The primary reason cited by everyone interviewed thusfar for choosing an exclusive standard over an inclusive standard is along the lines of, "It would be too hard for schoolchildren to memorize the names of all of them". This is such a blatently unscientific standard that it doesn't even bear going into, and leads to absurd consequences when applied to other fields, such as the AMA declaring that there's only 8 bones in the human body and all others are "dwarf bones" that aren't real bones, or the USGS declaring that there's only 8 rivers in the world and all others are "dwarf rivers" that aren't real rivers, all for the purpose of making things easier for students to memorize.

12. Resistance to accept the diversity of reality: In every scientific field, the universe continually presents those making discoveries with a wide range of diversity. This is almost universally accepted in an inclusive manner, subdividing groups into subgroups, and subdividing those further. We will continue to find new types of planetary bodies in a wide range of diversity - large terrestrial planets, dwarf-scale planets, gas giants, ice giants, hot jupiters, super-earths, water worlds, supercomets, extremely large bodies orbiting as moons, planets without parent stars, and so forth. Rather than trying to hide diversity, science is supposed to embrace it.

13. Discouragement of exploration among the public: The term "planet" has a deep and meaningful place in the public mind, as a body worthy of exploration, perhaps even eventually colonization. "Small solar system body" does not. Public support for scientific exploration to these diverse and fascinating worlds should not be discouraged by poorly chosen names. Quite to the contrary, it would be worthwhile if fascinating worlds the diameter of Mercury like Ganymede and Titan were given the same level of attention with a label such as "planetary moons" (note again: an "adjective-noun" is a subcategory of "noun").

14. Distrust of the scientific population among the public: Images of discontent scientists sniping at each other and divisive voting on controversial "truths" have a profoundly negative consequence on the public's view of the scientific community. Anyone who spends any time looking at any of the internet commentary on the dwarf planet decision will find them full of comments along the lines of "Scientists can't even agree about whether Pluto is a planet, why should we trust them about global warming?" I wish this were hyperbole, but I've seen it far too often to ignore it.

15. Poor voting statistical representation: While 4% of the IAU would make up a statistically significant sample if chosen at random, the people involved were not "chosen at random". The people present were "those who could take a trip to Prague and didn't have to leave before the closing ceremony", which leads to numerous potential biases. As Owen Gingerich noted, "There were 2,700 astronomers in Prague during that 10-day period. But only 10% of them voted this afternoon. Those who disagreed and were determined to block the other resolution showed up in larger numbers than those who felt 'oh well, this is just one of those things the IAU is working on'." In this day in age where electronic balloting is simple to implement, that the IAU would be willing to make charged decisions on a 60% vote of a non-random 4% of the membership is highly inappropriate.

16. Wrong people making the decision: Only a small percentage of the IAU are planetary scientists, who are the actual people who should be the ones making decisions about what makes up a planet. Letting people who study stars decide what counts as a planet is akin to letting dermatologists decide how to treat a heart condition - hey, a doctor's a doctor, right? Just like when meteorologists or chemists make claims that global warming isn't real - a scientist is a scientist, right?

17. Making the decision before gathering the data: For most of the history of humankind's knowledge of Ceres and Pluto, we have not had any missions underway to explore them. They were just poorly resolved points of light. But at the time of the IAU vote, at long last, we had launched New Horizons to Pluto and were preparing Dawn for launch to Ceres. Yet it was at this narrow interval, between actually launching craft to gather data about the bodies, but not having them arrive, that the IAU decided to make their declaration. Making scientific declarations about objects that you know little about when vast amounts of data are coming in the pipeline - data that could influence members making the decision - is profoundly unscientific.

18. Not following through on its own declarations: The IAU decision declared that it would continue to name new dwarf planets as new data comes in. Yet there's not been a new declaration since 2006. We have far better data than we had to make declarations of dwarf planets in 2006, and there's a long list of them awaiting declaration - where's the IAU? For example, Quaoar's diameter is known is known to a mere ±5 km and is significantly larger than Ceres. Even the lower bound of 2007 OR10 is larger than Quaoar. Why aren't they and countless others on the list? It increasingly looks like the IAU just wanted to make its declaration purely for demotion purposes rather than for its stated purpose of categorization.

19. Disagreement with the IAU is so intense that those who disagree are simply ignoring it - a process that began in the literature almost immediately (example: http://arxiv.org/abs/0712.2198), let alone in conversations with the public (example: any press conference with the New Horizons team). This not only renders the definition meaningless but serves to undercut the IAU's authority in other issues (such as naming).

Comment Re:Still no word on if its discoverer gets to name (Score 4, Informative) 38

Such a program already exists. And guess what - shock of all shocks, the IAU is throwing a hissy fit about it. They're basically at war with NH's director Alan Stern and are planning to refuse a large portion of the NH team's feature names for Pluto.

Comment Re:Damned Revisionists (Score 2) 38

I think I'm going to take a cue from the IAU's attitude and go ahead and make my own definition for the IAU:

"The International Astronomical Union is defined as a member body of navel-gazing self-important wankers who use grant money to travel to exotic locales to get drunk and make shit up in the name of science."

Comment Re:Ice, again? (Score 4, Insightful) 38

"Ice chunk" is so dismissive. First off, it's not going to be 100% ice. Its surface will probably be mostly ices, of which water will most probably be the most common one, but maybe not. The body should also contain some rock. And while it's small compared to Pluto, it's still not "small"; its cross section is nearly the size of Rhode Island.

Pluto proved to be way more interesting than most people were expecting. While most people are setting the bar pretty low for this one ("Ice chunk", for example), while I certainly don't expect it to have the level of interestingness of Pluto, I think a lot of people will be surprised.

Comment The way this should end (Score 4, Insightful) 661


In the long run, he's not going to be satisfied until he's created his own OS, kernel and all because he calls anything he didn't write a "broken concept," whatever that is, and does his best to shove his version down everybody's throat. And, since his version is far more complex, far more pervasive and much, much harder to use or maintain, the community suffers. I do wish he would get off the pot and start developing the One True (Pottering) kernel so that the rest of the world can go back to ignoring him.

Comment Re:It's not about the crime (Score 4, Insightful) 251

To be more technical:

The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard requires that the "facts of the case" be proven beyond a reasonable doubt - every one of them individually, with a list of facts to prove being given in the jury instructions and depending on the crime and jurisdiction For example, in a murder case, basic facts can be "The victim is dead" and "The defendant deliberately killed them". Beyond that, the prosecution "bears the burden" of demonstrating these facts as undeniably true. For more about what the legal burden is, there's details here.

The same does not hold true to what are called "affirmative defenses" or "defense theories". For example, if you charge me with assault and say I hit you with a chair, and I say that I was trying to stop you because you were trying to rape me, you don't face a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard and 100% of the burden to prove that you weren't trying to rape me. Depending on the circumstances, there's either a "shared burden" or I would bear the burden of proof on my own. If the defense is to be analyzed on its own, as it's not a "basic fact", but rather a "defense theory", it would not on its own face a "reasonable doubt" standard (generally a "preponderance of the evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence" - although the claim may shift the jury's views toward whether there's reasonable doubt toward the basic facts in other ways.

There are many different types of defense theories, too numerous to go into here. And in most crimes, claims of consent are treated as defense theories - they don't on their own need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (they contribute to doubt relating to the basic facts but are not themselves a specific fact for jury evaluation), and there's either a shared or shifted defense burden. If you say "Hey, I wasn't robbing her, she gave me the money because she wanted to help me out", the burden doesn't fall 100% on me to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt that I didn't - it's your theory, you have to bear part of the burden of proof for it. The case as a whole still needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, of course.

It would be nice - and in fact, would only be basic fairness - if rape cases faced the same standard. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions, it does not work that way. Consent is not treated as a defense theory. Humans are not treated as in a perpetual state of consent for giving away money, for being taken strange places by strangers, or any of the other sorts of cases where "consent" defenses are common.... except that they generally are treated as being in a perpetual state of consent for sex. No matter how weird, twisted, sick the sexual practice, with whatever person they may be, even with a person not matching your sexuality, you're presumed by default to be in consent for it. And the burden falls 100% on the accuser in this one type of case to prove that consent was not given.

And this is wrong.

To be or not to be, that is the bottom line.