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Comment Re: We the taxayer get screwed. (Score 1) 356

Even if SpaceX was to completely fizzle it would have saved money. The fear of SpaceX has forced Ariane and ULA to undertake programs to bring down their launch costs. Similarly, Tesla Motors has changed the image of the electric car from a toy nobody would actually want to drive to something almost everyone would want to have if they could afford it. This image change, more than anything else, guarantees that an electric car is in your future. Finally, solar city is changing the way people and utilities think about renewable power. Most of us live in cities which have too high a density to be powered by local renewable sources. If we are ever to make more than token use of renewable power, electric power utilities will have to make their money by storing and transmitting energy, not by generating it. At some level this was always obvious. But we've managed to ignore it and put off any action. Solar city and Tesla's battery gigaplant have forced this into our consciousness now. Again, even if Musk fails miserably he will be responsible for pushing us ahead years or maybe even a decade. There hasn't been a prod to progress and the imagination like Musk's projects since the space race. As a taxpayer I say: MONEY WELL SPENT!

Comment Re:Singapore's economic miracle = tax haven? (Score 1) 312

But no one calls these states "economic miracles". I'll also add that the GDP of a country includes the output of foreign firms in the country. Thus, this tax dodge results in Google's advertising being counted as part of Singapore's GDP. This is a particular problem in the case of Ireland, where a huge increase in GDP was at least partly the result of its tax haven status.

Comment Re:Mod parent up. (Score 1) 552

"It can be done ANYWHERE in the world. If company X wants to hire the top 20 programmers in India then they can do that." I think this is mostly correct. So the question becomes do you want to compete with a Indian programmer in India or an Indian programmer (on his way to becoming an american programmer) in the United States. In the US he will be more expensive and when he starts his own company he will be hiring american programmers. In India he will be helping create foreign companies that compete with american base companies. In either case he is NOT going away!

Comment Resolution vs. field of view (Score 1) 136

I don't know what the current state of the art is, but once upon a time it was only possible to correct a for atmospheric variations over a very narrow field of view. You will notice that the first light images are of binary stars and not of whole nebulae or galaxies. I don't think this is an accident.

Comment Adobe's DRM makes Kobo a dangerous trap (Score 2) 207

I bought a Kobo eReader because I wanted to support my local bookstore and didn't want to support Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I think that their eReader is clearly third best (behind Kindle and Nook) but I'm willing to ignore that because they do have an Android app. However, Kobo uses the Adobe DRM which seems to guarantee that your library will become obsolete (maybe unreadable) in a few years. Adobe allows you to register as many as six machines (computers or eReaders) on your account and you can read your eBooks on any of these machines. If you buy a new eReader or tablet every year it will only take a few years to reach this limit. At that time you won't be able to transfer your library to a new machine. Adobe's literature implies you can deregister a machine but as nearly as I can tell doesn't actually tell you how to do it. I tried the obvious google search and found an answer (but not from Adobe). It doesn't work on my system (Windows 7/64 bit and Galaxy Note 10.1). The method also won't work if the machine you want to deregister is lost or dead. Finally, there doesn't seem to be a way to see the list of machines Adobe thinks you've registered. Thus, there is no way to tell if their list is the same as yours. (I did find a post by someone who thought he had accidentally registered the same machine several times.) Finally, what happens when Adobe decides to stop supporting its DRM or Kobo goes bankrupt? (An even bigger problem for the Nook.) I spend too much money on books to allow my library to become obsolete in a few years. I really want Kobo to succeed, but it has to be nearly as good as Amazon. I don't think it's close.

Comment consciousness as a sensory phenomena (Score 1) 85

We have various sensory inputs from all over our body that give us a very incomplete view of our bodies current state. I think it best to think of consciousness as our sense of what's going on in our brains -- not the boss of what's going on -- but an incomplete sense of what's going on. From this point of view, if the conscious mind is distracted it doesn't prevent other parts from still working.

Comment 50% split between male/female children (Score 1) 1142

I believe I understand the standard argument that says that one should put an equal effort in reproducing male and female offspring. But the standard argument only seems to apply to the population as a whole. That is, there is no reason why half of all breeding couples shouldn't produce males and the other half females. Thus, if the standard argument was all that was going on, I would NOT expect to see the detailed balance we have where the probability that their next child would be male/female was very close to 50% for all couples. I would NOT expect very nearly 1/8 of all three child couples to have only girls. As far as I know (which isn't very far) this IS true for all higher animals. Why?

PLEASE NOTE: In elementary math classes, it is frequently hard to convince a student that his proof is incorrect when the theorem is true. I think this is the situation here. I think the standard argument incomplete, but its incompleteness is ignored because it gives the right answer. This is meant to be a brief technical question. A reference is a valid answer.

Comment Re:First...why? (Score 1) 423

I would go further. Computers and video games are very powerful conditioning devices. As such I think they are like alcohol, drugs, motorcycles or skis -- too dangerous for children. Most of you weren't alive during the hay day of behavioral psychology, but if you were, you will remember something called a Skinner box. Skinner did experiments on conditioned behavior using pigeons. When a pigeon pecked on a lever in response to some stimulus it would receive a reward. Once conditioned, his pigeons became very good at pecking the lever and ignoring the rest of their surroundings. He could even reduce the reward (grains of rice) to the point where the pigeon would spend more energy pecking the lever than it was getting from the rice rewards for doing so. A pigeon could starve to death pecking the lever. I believe you should think of computers and video games as Skinner boxes for humans. I am a retired programmer. I greatly enjoyed my career. Nevertheless, I like many other programmers have real personality deficiencies. I think this is at least part of the reason.

Comment These methods had problems in biology. (Score 2) 195

Disclaimer: I have only a casual understanding of the science I am presenting. Someone with a real understanding may want to comment. The authors are using the statistical methods used to analyze DNA in phylogeny to study the "tree of life". In biology, these statistical methods are founded on a very plausible scientific model which offered a variety of consistency checks. Nevertheless, the uncritical use of these methods lead to a lot of mistakes. My understanding is that the limitations of these methods are now more or less understood in phylogeny. However, the application of the same methods to a much more complex problem of language evolution cannot be straight forward. Two obvious things make the situation in biology simpler. First, once two species separate, their gene pools no longer interact. Thus, if two animals share the same gene, it is reasonably safe to say that they also share a common ancestor. Second, there are redundant codes in DNA. That is, there are cases where changing a DNA base pair doesn't change the protein that is being encoded. Variations in these redundant codes are thought to be more or less benign, i.e. they do not significantly influence the survival of the individuals involved. Furthermore, it is plausible that these variations accumulate at a more or less constant rate throughout the genome. Thus, there are lot's of opportunities for consistency checks. My understanding is that these checks frequently turned up problems.

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