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Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 599

Our energy needs are ever increasing as our population grows.

It depends on what "we" means - the energy use per capita in the developed world has been surprisingly level in the recent past (even if it is the highest in the world). The population continues to increase, and developing countries get more developed, sure, but once you reach a certain amount of development, it seems the per-person energy requirements start flattening. Of course, the population can't continue to grow without bound, but that's true for lots of reasons. And again, fortunately, developed countries tend to be approaching equilibrium (negative, even, in some parts of Europe).

And it's simply mathematically false that there isn't enough real estate for solar (wind is another matter - but it's power all comes from the sun, anyway). Lets do some order-of-magnitude calculations. The US has been at ~350 GJ/yr per capita for the last few decades. 350 GJ/yr corresponds to ~11 kWs of continuous power usage. The solar constant at the surface of the earth is ~1 kW per square meter. The Earth has a total cross-section of ~10 trillion square meters. So if we give everyone (world population ~ 10 billion) their own US-level standard of living entirely from (perfectly efficient) solar power, it only takes a thousandth of the earth's cross section (or about 1/4000 of it's surface area, if we build the patch on the equator). If we assume current solar efficiencies of ~10%, maybe that means we need 1/100th of the Earth's cross section.

That leaves 99% of the Earth's population free to live on. There's plenty of room for solar to be a permanent solution.

Comment Re:Having worked for a corporation that bet big on (Score 3, Insightful) 164

For all Al Gore's, the UN, and pro-globalists' hand-wringing over AGW (and I'm not here to get into THAT debate), the reality is that most people and therefore most businesses aren't particularly concerned about climate change

Lets be a bit more honest here: you don't have to be a "pro-globalist" to be worried about Climate Change. The science is the same regardless of the politics (even if political pre-conceptions make people want to ignore it). And I think it's not reasonable to say that if most people were concerned the businesses would be as well. They all have a vested interest in the status quo and hence will nearly always be behind the direction the people (or scientific results) are going. It's only in the ideal free market fantasy that this isn't true.

Climate change isn't something that will be fixed on a macro scale.

This is a pretty close-minded attitude, and this sort of thinking is most likely the main thing that may indeed prevent it from being fixed this way (or at all). Just because some greentech doesn't work, that doesn't mean none of it will. Hydroelectric power requires massive funds that are almost always public sector, and it's enormously successful (and profitable in many cases if you consider the net benefits). It's just conveniently ignored by those who decry "wasted" greentech money.

While the laws of physics are deterministic (at least at this scale), the laws of human behavior are not. Plenty of macro-scale activities have profound effects on our micro-scale behavior.

Many people are struggling to merely survive in this world - in fact, the vast majority of the global population is in that bind - and concern over how many hydrocarbons they're pumping into the environment is of zero to less-than-zero concern.

This is a very good point. But if Climate Change is real, the vast majority of the future global population's lives depend on us solving it. So we should be expending enormous resources to convince them that they should be concerned (or better yet, help lift them out of desperation).

Comment Re:Quota system = degradation of standard (Score 2, Insightful) 697

The point is that claiming a quota system "always" leads to degradation of standards is a blanket statement that ignores the fact that some quota systems are designed to cancel out inefficiencies that already exist. The original Taco Cowboy point is based on an over-simplified view of reality (that the "default" lacks any sort of biases).

  But I think it's incredibly obvious that there's a bias against women in any male-dominated field, just as there's a bias against men in female-dominated fields. No one can reasonably claim that society doesn't apply a lot of gender roles in every aspect of a person's life, so any task dominated by one gender will by nature be harder to get at for the other, because the context the minority group has as less applicable.

Comment Re:No need to help your competitors (Score 1) 325

Google and Facebook certainly get extra developer buy-on for open sourcing some things. Or perhaps more accurately, for adding to existing open source initiatives.

Also: github! I think they probably get an advantage from open sourcing some of their stuff (although it's not all open)... After all, they're the premier open source hosting site.

Comment Re:Question About Voyager(s)... (Score 4, Interesting) 166

I don't think it's encrypted, but I think the methods of encoding the transmissions are incredibly arcane and the formats for the data are nothing even approaching standard (standards for such things didn't exist back then). Probably more important is that the only radio receivers in the entire world that are capable of detecting its signal are run by NASA...

Comment Re:We're not there yet... (Score 5, Insightful) 535

The guy who is primarily responsible for the spread of claims of weather extremes [] has been caught in his lies.

There isn't just "one guy" who says this. There have been hundreds of papers showing links between weather extremes and global warming. To be fair, weather extremes aren't always bad either... if the "extreme" is that a major rainstorm passes over Texas right now, that's better. The problem is that (as was stated above), we've built most of our society around assuming the climate that existed before global warming. If this changes drastically, a lot of people are going to die before we settle back into whatever the new normal is climate-wise. It's not that global warming is bad per se, just that it's bad if it occurs too quickly for humanity and the ecosystem to respond.
  Oh, and then there's the fact that increased CO2 is turning the oceans acidic. That gets much less news, but is potentially much more destructive from a world-wide perspective. And there's no possible way you can say that isn't associated with CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And all you have to be able to do to know that's anthropogenic is how to count.

Comment Re:Having Read Both Papers (Score 5, Interesting) 226

(I *am* a physicist) Actually, the original paper *did* measure time with GPS - more to the point, they use GPS to establish a common frame between the two locations. Look at Figure 5 of the OPERA paper (

Having said that, as other replies have noted, this kind of correction is well-understood, so while it isn't explicitly laid out as far as I can tell, it's unlikely the OPERA group screwed this up. What may well be true, though, is that there may be systemic offsets either in the GPS timing system, the implementation at Gran Sasso (they actually have a big waveguide that they run from the Earth's surface all the way to the GPS reveivers they have by their detector deep underground), or any of the myriad corrections that were needed to determine the time-of-flight baseline (although as far as I can tell they worked very hard to get this measurement right...).

It's also rather suggestive that the author of this paper has no particle physics (or even physics) credentials. So he/she probably doesn't know the OPERA collaboration's processes very well (admittedly, these details should be in the paper, but the tradition of the community is to not do that sort of detail in announcement papers like this...)

Comment Astronomical time scales (Score 4, Insightful) 212

From the article:

The team analysed the isotopes of the elements lead and neodymium to place the age of a sample of a FAN at 4.36 billion years. This figure is significantly younger than earlier estimates of the Moon’s age that range to nearly as old as the age of the solar system itself at 4.567 billion years.

So when they say 200 million years younger, that means 4.3 byr instead of 4.5 byr. I'm sure this is interesting to those in the field, but I don't think that counts as "much younger".

Comment Re:Follow the data! (Score 1) 954

That's not true at all. Nearly every field in the physical and natural sciences now depends heavily on modeling. Now, it is true that some of those models are easier to calibrate with data than others... And climate science is indeed one of the hardest ones to test because there are so many feedbacks that you can't really test some of the parameters independent of the others. But that doesn't make it "wrong" or "biased", just hard.

Comment Re:Physicist Speaking Here (Score 1) 253

This is exactly the attitude I encounter very often when I talk to other physicists and astrophysicists (I'm the latter). But I think this actually is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy. While it's true that many of the codes we write will never be re-examined by anyone, a few of them will. But many scientists write totally inscrutable code, so no one bothers trying to re-use code in that way, because it's easier to just start over from scratch. Thus, no wonder everyone thinks no one is going to look at their code - if they wrote more readable code, perhaps someone would!

That being said, I certainly have had to take code from someone and build upon it or make it work properly for a slightly different instrument or something like that, and I can definitely say that I'm biased, because those experiences are invariably the most frustrating work I find myself doing! Part of it is that a lot of scientists seem to say "if I add comments everywhere, that's all that's needed to make it easy/readable," but they then don't follow indentation rules, or consider their code structure before they implement, or consider possible extensions of their code when they are writing it. So it wouldn't take that much more work, but some scientists just don't realize that in fact it probably is worth the effort for the sake of future work.

Comment Re:Black & White (Score 1) 253

No, this is a very strong distinction in *some* fields. For example, in observational astrophysics, most scientists spend much of their actual working time writing code... but they clearly think of themselves as "scientists" and not at all as programmers, with the mindset the article notes. Occasionally people get hired to be "software support" that are clearly supposed to be engineers/programmers, and they think in very different ways.

The end result is that despite programming as much as, if not more than, the "programmers", many of these scientists don't follow any of the rules about software readability and reuse that programmers have learned the hard way over decades. You can immediately look at code and tell who was trained to program by/as a scientist and who actually learned as a programmer: the algorithms often work just as well, but the former are impossible to understand and build on, while the latter are much more readable.

Comment Re:summary is completely incorrect (Score 1) 307

"Large" here simply means large compared to the Planck scale. They're still typically small compared to, say, the universe's size. One of the main motivations for the models (often called ADD in the literature, after the authors of the first paper) is that string theories compatible with the ADD model typically are observable at roughly LHC energy scales. So this result does indeed disfavor the ADD varieties of string theorey, but they were thought up initially precisely because LHC-like colliders could test them. So the original post is correct in that lots of varieties of string theory are ruled out by this result, but there's a lot more left over.

"All the people are so happy now, their heads are caving in. I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin" -- They Might Be Giants