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Comment: Re:Learn something new every day... (Score 2) 85

by Artifakt (#47770881) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

A theory is something that has strong supporting evidence, and if you agree with Popper and Kuhn and various" Historians or Philosophers of Science", something that skilled people have tried to come up with alternatives, tested them, and the theory has survived where they didn't. Ideas that have been proposed, and maybe have a little supporting evidence, but are considered not tested enough, and not studied rigorously to see if they can be falsified, or if some other idea better fits Occam's razor, are called hypothesi (or often just interesting ideas until they get at least a little support). Yes, just who qualifies as skilled, which idea is actually simpler by the razor, how much testing is enough, and 'how much better at predicting what than the competing ideas are' are all somewhat subjective, and individual scientists are not exceptionally flawless at making those judgement calls. But that's true of just about everything. Science works because the method tends to correct for those subjective aspects, not make them more powerful as in so many other areas of human activity.

By this era, the theory that the sun was powered by Fusion of Hydrogen into Helium had a lot of evidence supporting it, such as the abundance of various elements in it and other stars, as determined spectrally. Try a web search for Hans Bethe if you want to know about the first evidence that helped raise this hypothesis to the status of theory, in 1930, although he didn't get the Nobel for his work until 1967. It's interesting to me that people are debating just what counts as a theory, and for this particular case, there's an exact date when a particular paper was published, and widespread agreement that this date and event is when the hypothesis got enough support to start calling it a theory. This is additional evidence that adds more support, and by the Philosophers of Science, ought to mean anyone who thinks they have a better idea will have to gather even more evidence and work even harder if they want their alternative to be taken seriously.

Comment: Re:Beyond what humans can do (Score 1) 414

by swillden (#47770815) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

Global warming exists. Anyone who denies that is also a moron. But it's certainly not manmade.

I don't get the focus on whether or not the warming is anthropogenic. Should we ignore all problems that we didn't make?

Supposing that the warming isn't primarily anthropogenic, there's still plenty of reason to believe that the greenhouse gases we're adding are making it worse, and in fact we can even make some reasonable estimates of how much worse they're making it.

At the end of the day, you'd really better hope that you're wrong about our ability to modify the climate. Because the current climate of Earth is not typical. In fact, there isn't really a "typical" climate for the planet. Ice core histories show us that it swings between much hotter than it is, and much, much colder (by "colder", think "equatorial oceans frozen 30 feet deep for millenia"). Both extremes will be unpleasant for us, and I say "will", not "would", because it's gonna happen. When? We have no idea. We know that climate changes can happen very rapidly (couple of decades), even without an obvious precipitating event (big meteor, supervolcano eruption, etc.), and that they come at apparently-random intervals.

So if we want this planet to be nice for us long-term, we'd better learn to engineer our climate. Or get even better at adapting our local environment. Or both.

Comment: Re:Damage or Change? (Score 1) 414

by swillden (#47770731) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

Climate has always changed, the concept of "Damage" is only relevant to those affected by it.

You mean, the same way as asteroids of various sizes have impacted into the Earth throughout the history of the planet, and "Damage" is only relevant to those affected by it?

Yes, I agree.

Yep. In the long run, the climate will change no matter what we do... unless we learn to actively manage it. Similarly, we will get hit by a catastrophically-destructive meteor, unless we develop the technology need to identify and deflect dangerous asteroids. It's worth noting that while without our intervention the climate may stay as it is for thousands of years, it may also change in decades. The ice core records tell us that the planet is capable of warming or cooling as much as 7C in as little as 20-30 years, even without any obvious catastrophic event, and even faster given a supervolcano eruption, or a big meteor. It WILL happen.

IMO, while it certainly makes sense to take reasonable steps to limit greenhouse gas production, we really need to focus on investing heavily in climate research, with an eventual goal of learning not only to understand but to manage our planet's climate. Actually, we should also invest a little in more strategies to cope with unpleasant climate. I say "more" strategies, because we already have a lot of them. The regions of Earth in which humans can survive comfortably without technological assistance are really small. The "natural" human carrying capacity of most of the places people live is basically zero, but we're very good at modifying our environment to adapt it to our needs. When the planet warms substantially, no doubt we'll have to apply more of those skills, so we should be thinking about which ones and how to improve our capabilities.

Comment: Re:And this is how we get to the more concrete har (Score 1) 449

by swillden (#47770487) Attached to: Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

I really appreciate the scientific method and I agree it's a major milestone but it's not our most important discovery, that would be rule of law. Without rule of law there can be no civilization and without civilization there wouldn't be much science going on.

I'd argue that the rule of law is a result of applying the scientific method to social structure and governance.

The scientific method really consists of making conjectures and analyzing them critically. Some of the criticism comes from experimentation and analysis, but most conjectures never reach that point because simple thought can identify reasons they should be discarded. This process is closely related to (but vastly more powerful than) the mutation and selection process of evolution. At bottom, both are about creating and testing ideas, and selecting the ones that are objectively better (for the relevant definition of "better"). The scientific method does the selection through a tradition of criticism, natural evolution does it via replication (favoring the gene that replicates itself better).

How does this apply to the rule of law? Three ways. First of all, applying the same principle of progress to social structure, trying new methods and keeping those which work well while discarding those which don't, will lead to rule of law because it clearly is a superior social structure "technology". Second, without the rule of law, you really can't apply the scientific method to social structures, because there is no defined structure beyond the whim of the ruler(s). You have to fix the rules firmly so you can see what the outcomes are, and you can observe how to vary them. So any attempt to apply scientific reasoning to governance demands rule of law.

Third, and most important, the tradition of criticism inherent in and necessary to scientific progress inevitably leads people to criticize their government and to demand, among other things, the ability to understand the rules by which they're governed. I don't believe it's possible for any society with a significant number of scientific thinkers with any sort of influence to remain governed by fiat.

I think history bolsters my argument, too, simply based on the sequence of events. The Enlightenment was all about scientific reasoning and learning how to apply it to nearly all areas of human endeavor, not just science, and the Enlightenment came before the spread of the rule of law, not after.

Oh, actually I think there's a fourth reason scientific thinking creates the rule of law. It's even deeper, and is probably the truly fundamental reason, though it's a harder argument to make. That is that moral values are scientifically determined (even if we don't realize it), and the rule of law is morally right. It would take me a few pages to detail how and why I think that moral rightness is a real, determinable thing, derivable from the laws of nature, and not merely an artifact of culture, so I won't bother. Note that I'm not arguing that correct morality is easy to derive. It's not, any more than it was easy to derive General Relativity by conjecturing about observations of reality. But it can be derived, and in the same method: by conjecturing moral positions and then criticizing them, both logically and experimentally, discarding positions that lead to undesirable outcomes.

Comment: Re:The death of leniency (Score 1) 502

by swillden (#47769257) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

That's a problem. But it's a smaller problem than the one we live with now, which is that there are so many obscure laws that if anyone in a position of authority has it in for you they can find something to nail you for. The rule of law matters.

And just-world-hypothesis believing assholes just go on without thinking they must've deserved it.

What an idiot. You kan't reed.

Comment: Re:Federal vs. local decision (Re:I like...) (Score 4, Insightful) 502

by swillden (#47768263) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

The federal government has acted as a check on the tyranny of state governments

Utter red herring.

The tyrannies to which you refer were fought by amending the federal constitution and enacting appropriate federal laws to curb the abuses. That's a Good Thing, both the process and the outcome. But it has nothing to do with mi's point. The things the federal government manipulates through funding are things that it has no authority to control, and for which there is no national political will sufficient to give the government that control. Hence this back door method.

If cop cameras are sufficiently important that the federal government should mandate them, then Congress should pass a law mandating them. If the courts knock the law down as unconstitutional (as they would), then we should amend the constitution to give the federal government the authority required. This sneaky backdoor manipulation of state policy via federal funding, though... it's a tool that has no essential limits and no constitutional controls. It's a bad idea, and we should stop it.

Comment: Re:Two dimensional? (Score 2) 45

by gstoddart (#47767945) Attached to: Scientists Craft Seamless 2D Semiconductor Junctions

Humor has nothing to do with the incorrect definition of the number of dimensions of an object.

Which is why I mentioned your pedantry.

Let me draw you a diagram _________________

That is a two dimensional non-solid object since is has a height, one pixel, and a width, more than one pixel.

In fact, since it's drawn with electrons, it's got depth too. Actually, since it's drawn as pixels on your screen, which by now are probably discrete LED components, it's much more than that.

It's a signal which causes a series of diodes to emit a color which your eyes perceive as a straight black line -- in reality, it's none of those things either.

Look, you can be as pedantic, reductionist, and anal retentive about this as you like .. it's not contributing anything to this.

For purpose of explaining this and discussing it, they defined a plane in terms of this sheet of atoms with this particular layout.

That's it. There's no mathematical chicanery going on, and everybody knows it's not, strictly speaking, either a plane or a 2D structure. But it's got some characteristics of a plane, and, for purposes of discussion, is being treated as a 2D structure.

Because, if they had to say this 3-atom thick sheet of interlocking atoms which demonstrates some characteristics of planarity, and allow us to connect them together while maintaining the same type of planarity it would get awfully tedious.

In reality, it's probably not much different than LEGO.

Seriously, get over it. It's almost impossible to discuss this kind of thing without it turning into a tongue twister unless you come up with some form of metaphor.

The rest of this ... it's purely bullshit and pedantry by anal retentive people who need to demonstrate they remember something from math class.

Yes, excellent, from a mathematical perspective it's not 2D. But, for purposes of discussion of these material properties, they're calling it a plane.

Comment: Re:Two dimensional? (Score 3, Funny) 45

by gstoddart (#47767553) Attached to: Scientists Craft Seamless 2D Semiconductor Junctions

You would think that scientists would be more accurate with their articulation of complex concepts.

Well, apparently they've defined a plane to be 3 atoms thick, and have grossly understimated the collective anal retentiveness of the people reading the article.

Dude, seriously, it's a dumbed down metaphor written for a press release.

From the parts of the paper which are available without subscription:

The junctions, grown by lateral heteroepitaxy using physical vapour transport7, are visible in an optical microscope and show enhanced photoluminescence. Atomically resolved transmission electron microscopy reveals that their structure is an undistorted honeycomb lattice in which substitution of one transition metal by another occurs across the interface.

I'm quite sure they're not idiots who really think this is a freakin' 2D plane.

TFA isn't the actual scientific paper, it's the press release intended for the public.

Now, unclench a little, you're gonna hurt yourself. :-P

Comment: Re:Two dimensional? (Score 1) 45

by gstoddart (#47767469) Attached to: Scientists Craft Seamless 2D Semiconductor Junctions

While your pedantry skills are excellent, and your mathematical skills are pretty good ... I think you need to have your humor unit recalibrated, you seem to be a little out of phase.

I am perfectly aware of the fact that it isn't really a line on a plane in a strict mathematical sense ... heck, I even referenced the thickness of the ink and the fact that the paper has a surface.

Let me draw you a diagram _________________ ;-)

Now, what is the depth (stated in microns / femptofortnight) of the above line?

Comment: Re:Flip the switch (Score 1) 223

by gstoddart (#47767333) Attached to: Fermilab Begins Testing Holographic Universe Theory

After about 15 minutes of this I couldn't take it anymore and I looked at the girl and said "Go ahead and punch this guy in the nose, and then ask him whether he still wonders whether you're a figment of your imagination."

LOL ... how do you know it actually happened, and you didn't just imagine it?

Which is precisely the problem with these kinds of postulates, they're completely unknowable, and pretty much stand on their own absurdity.

Because, I could have just imagined typing this, for instance. In which case I'm imagining me imagining you imagining what you did on the bus with the guy I'm imagining you imagining, when I should be trying to imagine the college girl.

And then it just becomes stupid, or, at least, I imagine it does. :-P

Metaphysics has to stop somewhere, otherwise it becomes drivel, which as far as I recall, most metaphysics is.

Comment: Re:Is that so? (Score 1) 223

by gstoddart (#47767221) Attached to: Fermilab Begins Testing Holographic Universe Theory

IF this is a simulated world, there is no reason to assume the rules in the simulation are the same as the ones of the world in which the simulation is running.

You know (and I mean no disrespect here), some of these topics become completely indistinguishable from college nights with way too many bong hits.

Sometimes these things become quite meta.

But what if the simulation is running inside of a simulation? You'd be all like "woah" and shit. And if that was inside of a simulation ... I think it would become Horton Hears a Who.

Yo, Dawg, I hear you like simulations ...

Gee, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.