Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


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

Comment Let's swap anecdotes! (Score 1) 83

I've never actually been able to get Linux to run properly on arbitrary hardware that I happened to own.

I, on the other hand, have run into one thing that Linux didn't work with. I have a collection of accumulated 'stuff' and just last night Frankensteined a PC together. I don't even know the model number of most of the parts. It's an Nvidia 8600 (something) video card, and a Soundblaster Live, I know that much. Worked just fine, no issues. (Streams PC games from Steam pretty well to the TV upstairs, too.)

I purchased a mid-high prebuilt 'gaming rig' a couple years back, and everything 'just worked', except the "SoundBlaster® X-Fi XtremeAudio" card. That was the 'one thing'. There was a config fix but I just pulled the card and used the onboard MB audio. Whatever that is worked fine.

Just installed Linux for my cousin this weekend. Some HP laptop, I honestly didn't even check the model. Everything just worked, including the 'scroll region' on the trackpad, and the weird 'slide-touch' volume control above the keyboard.

Comment Exactly. (Score 5, Informative) 342

If you're working on the equipment, and it shouldn't move, you put a padlock, with a nametag, on the switch and physically lock the power out. You take the key with you into the workcell, and only you are allowed to remove that lock.

If the robot must be moving (typically, when you're teaching the robot the path it should follow), then every single person in the workcell must have an active deadman switch (anyone lets go, the robot emergency-stops). And you run the program at 10% speed so that you have time to trip the deadman or get out of the way. The workcell itself is fenced off, usually with either a tripwire or electric-eye switch that will e-stop the robot if triggered.

I used to work for a robot company, and we enforced these rules religiously. When I went to visit plants and work on the robots, they issued me my own padlock and tags for lockout/tagout. Someone had to have skipped some safety procedures in this case.

Indeed, in most places, a bug where the system crashes is the most severe possible bug. When dealing with robots, that's only the second most severe. The most severe were "unexpected motion" bugs, where the robot didn't follow the path in the correct way or otherwise didn't behave predictably. Those got everybody's attention.

Comment Divorce? (Score 1, Offtopic) 371

Every single one of your 'concerns' arises in cases of divorce, too. But there was no well-financed national campaign to maje divorce more difficult. Nobody tried to amend any Constitutions to ban no-fault divorce. No, it was the numerically small, historically persecuted minority that got that kind of attention. I think the true priorities are pretty clearly seen from the actions taken.

Comment No, you weren't. (Score 2) 479

Well, no, actually, you were not taught abiogenesis "as a fact". Not in a public school.

You were taught that abiogenesis exists as a hypothesis (note, not a theory, and that scientists are actively researching it.

If you want to convince me otherwise, I'm afraid you'll need to de-anonymize and specify the school and timeframe involved.

Comment Ah, evidence. (Score 5, Interesting) 479

It has nothing to do with evolution.

Ah, but it does indeed. It shows that variation does in fact respond to environment. It's only one piece of the puzzle, though. No one claims that the peppered moths, by themselves, prove evolution. There's a lot more to it than that.

Take that variation, for example, and you can link it to speciation - which we can observe today. Heard of 'ring species'? The Larus gulls are several subspecies where variants live in a ring around the Arctic. The Herring Gull in the U.K. can interbreed with the American Herring Gull, and the American can interbreed with the Vega Gull in Russia. And so on, until you come to the Lesser Black-Backed Gull in the Netherlands. It basically can’t breed with the Herring Gull. Hybrids are extremely rare and don't seem to be fertile, like mules.

So, is it a separate species? You could breed it with its relative to the East, and so on. But what if, say, the Vega Gull went extinct? Would you have separate species then?

Now, imagine such variations happening across time instead of (or as well as) space, and you’ve got an idea how species actually do form, instead of the ’saltationist’ strawman that many try to imply.

We have a theory how we think this works but we haven't gotten conclusive evidence.

The thing is, we have so gotten conclusive evidence. Here's one you can partially check on your own body. Lay your fingers on the side of your jaw. Now, trace along the edge up to the very top of the jawbone. Notice how close your fingers are to your ear canal. Inside the inner ear are three bones, the ossicles: malleus, incus, and stapes. They are carefully arranged to transfer sound energy from the eardrum to the cochlea as efficiently as possible. How could such an amazing mechanism arise?

It turns out that a classification of dinosaur called the therapsids had two jaw joints. The therapsids are known (by several independent lines of evidence) to be ancestral to modern mammals... and we have a basically complete fossil record of the gradual transition of one of those jaw joints into the modern bones of the inner ear. Fossils representing over a dozen separate stages have been found. Note that intermediate steps were all advantageous, though not as efficient or optimized. Some transitional forms did help amplify sound energy but didn't work while the animal was chewing. We still have problems with that under some circumstances (try to listen to someone while eating celery) but the separation is far more developed now.

(Note that some have even cited the ossicles as 'irreducibly complex'. The more central figures of the ID 'movement', like Behe and Shermer, haven't done so... but I suspect that's because they know enough of the detailed fossil record to dissuade them.)

Or, my absolute favorite - the twin nested hierarchies! Books used to be copied by scribes, and (despite a lot of care) sometimes typos would be introduced. Later scribes, making copies of copies, would introduce other typos. It's possible to look at the existing copies and put them into a 'family tree'. "These copies have this typo, but not that one; this other group has yet another typo, though three of them have a newer typo as well, not seen elsewhere..." This is not controversial at all when dealing with books, including the Bible.

Now, this process of copy-with-modification naturally produces 'family trees', nested groups. When we look at life, we find such nested groups. No lizards with fur or nipples, no mammals with feathers, etc. Living things (at least, multicellular ones, see below) fit into a grouped hierarchy. This has been solidly recognized for over a thousand years, and systematized for centuries. It was one of the clues that led Darwin to propose evolution. (Little-known fact: Linnaeus, who invented the "kingdom, phyla, genus, species, etc." classification scheme for living things, tried to do the same thing for minerals. But minerals don't form from copy-with-modification, and a 'nested hierarchy' just didn't work and never caught on.)

Today, more than a century later, we find another tree, one Darwin never suspected - that of DNA. This really is a 'text' being copied with rare typos. And, as expected, it also forms a family tree, a nested hierarchy. And, with very very few surprises, it's the same tree that was derived from looking at physical traits.

It didn't have to be that way. Even very critical genes for life - like that of cytochrome C - have a few neutral variations, minor mutations that don't affect its function. (Genetic sequences for cytochrome C differ by up to 60% across species.) Wheat engineered to use the mouse form of cytochrome C grows just fine. But we find a tree of mutations that fits evolution precisely, instead of some other tree. (Imagine if a tree derived from bookbinding technology - "this guy used this kind of glue, but this other bookbinder used a different glue..." - conflicted with a tree that was derived from typos in the text of the books. We'd know at least one tree and maybe both were wrong.)

The details of these trees are very specific and very, very numerous. There are billions of quadrillions of possible trees... and yet the two that we see (DNA and morphology) happen to very precisely match. This is either a staggering coincidence, or a Creator deliberately arranged it in a misleading manner, or... universal common ancestry is actually true.

(Single-celled organisms are much more 'promiscuous' in their reproduction and spread genes willy-nilly without respect for straightforward inheritance. With single-celled creatures, it looks more like a 'web' of life than a 'tree'. But even if the tree of life has tangled roots, it's still very definitely a tree when it comes to multicellular life.)

One final bonus point:

Also, this idea that inorganics singularly sprang into organic life one time a long time ago makes no sense.

Thankfully, there's two problems with this. One, nobody claims that's how abiogenesis happened, so it's just a strawman. Two, nobody anywhere claims it's established yet, and nobody teaches abiogenesis as a fact in school. So complaining about dogmatism on that score is ridiculous.

Comment "Several thousand years ago..." (Score 5, Funny) 479

"Several thousand years ago, a tribe of ignorant near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these stories wore embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled. Finally, this material was badly translated into several languages successively. The resultant text, creationists feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical subject [of origins]." - Tom Weller, Science Made Stupid

Comment No, the film is *bad* satire. (Score 5, Insightful) 331

In "Starship Troopers" the book, a trainee asks why they are learning to throw knives when they have nukes. The instructor stops the drill, and points out that you don't housetrain a puppy by decapitating it. The military is supposed to used controlled force to achieve policy objectives, not wanton destruction. He tells the recruit who to talk to if he still doesn't understand.

In the movie, the instructor throws a knife through the recruit's hand, and says, "Hard to push a button now, eh?"

I get that the movie is satire. I even get that there's a lot in the book that can be fairly satirized. The problem is, the movie is lazy, unfair, incompetent satire.

Comment Re: the only relevant line of your post... (Score 2) 139

Time travel is possible but not in the way you think about it. It exists going backwards but is tied to alternate realities, or tied to multiple universes.

Or not. Until we can find or set up a region with a closed timelike curve, we won't be able to test such things, and it all is, well, entirely theoretical. There are several possibilities.

Comment Perpendoxes, not paradoxes. (Score 4, Insightful) 254

If the movie follows the story, there actually aren't any paradoxes. Instead, there are stable time loops (once called 'perpendoxes' because they are 'orthogonal to paradoxes'). Such loops don't contradict themselves like a paradox does. Killing your grandfather so you don't ever have existed, so you couldn't have killed him - that's a paradox. Becoming your own grandfather is a stable time loop.

(Yes, I've thought about this too much.)

Comment One other 'philosophical' problem (Score 4, Insightful) 1051

Right now, religions - at least, some religions - get extra legal benefits that the non-religious don't. Government employees get extra time off for relgious holidays; the non-religious get nothing. Religion is family of metaphysical worldviews, and non-religious philosophies are another branch. Why do certain philosophies get extra privileges?

If a rule really is a good idea, then it should apply to everyone. If we can get by with some people not complying, then it doesn't need to be mandatory. Religion has nothing to do with it.

In terms of vaccines, we just need to arrange for consequences. Your kids not vaccinated, and can't demonstrate a medical reason why not? Fine. No public school for them, sorry. Quite probably other benefits are now off-limits, too.

Comment No, this is absolutely normal SOP these days. (Score 2) 299

For example:

If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

As of next Thursday, UNIX will be flushed in favor of TOPS-10. Please update your programs.