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Comment: Travel is hard, Radio is not (Score 1) 94

by Roger W Moore (#48919943) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

An alternate "simplest" explanation (though less likely) is that we are first.

Just curious but why do you say that? We have no clue how likely intelligent life is to evolve. All we know is that it has happened once, and it took 3.5 billion years from the formation of the first like on Earth. Suppose that this was very much faster than average and the the mean time for intelligent life to evolve (once life itself has started) is 30 billion years? Such a long time would hugely reduce the number of intelligent species since you need a very stable environment for a long period of time and even then you have to get lucky.

Trying to quantify what you don't know is a mug's game...in order to be able to do it you really need to know what you don't know. If anything I would argue that there is, perhaps, some weak evidence for intelligent life being rare: travel might be hard but radio is easy. We have not heard ET's broadcasts which would suggest perhaps that there is no intelligent life nearby (or they use some technology beyond EM waves).

Comment: Global warming = doomsday? (Score 2) 215

by Roger W Moore (#48898239) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Moved Two Minutes Forward, To 23:57

you have to wonder why anyone would put any stock in it.

Especially given that they now track global warming. Nuclear war is a doomsday scenario but global warming is most certainly not. It may cause economic hardship and the displacement of populations as sea levels rise plus the need to alter crops etc. but it is not going to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Since the clock is supposedly set by scientists if they can be so wrong about something scientific then I have little faith they can predict the likelihood of nuclear war either given that this depends on politics.

Comment: Homegrown Initiative (Score 2) 77

Fortunately the US is likely to tell Cameron to fuck off, since it would be unconstitutional to ban encryption...

Just like it is unconstitutional to torture prisoners etc. etc.? I expect that you are right in that they will deny his request but the reason will be because it is the request of a foreign power. I also expect that many US politicians will think that it sounds like an excellent idea and after a suitable period so that they can claim it is their own idea there will be an American lead initiative to do the same thing. Why would they listen to some idiotic right wing UK politician when they have plenty of their own to choose from?

Comment: Re:Literally (Score 2, Interesting) 174

by Roger W Moore (#48809123) Attached to: Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

"Incorrect" in languages is only incorrect until we change the rules.

True but there needs to be some definition of what counts as 'we' when it comes to changing the rules. A few ignorant kids posting comments on Twitter and Facebook showing they have no clue what 'literally' means should not be enough to get the meaning changed in a dictionary. Indeed I would guess the way that most people saw the 'new' meaning was through reposts with a comment to the effect of "look what this idiot wrote".

Comment: Re:Start with Venus... (Score 1) 319

by Roger W Moore (#48806541) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

The first nuclear bomb test heated a volume of atmosphere to higher temperatures, and reached higher pressures, than any similar volume of atmosphere in the entirety of Earth's history, by natural or artificial means.

What about a meteorite impact? The shockwave from a sufficiently large one (and there is plenty of evidence of these) would presumably be very similar to that of a nuclear device. While the energy density at the core of the explosion might be less than a nuclear bomb presumably it is the shockwave heating which you need to generate the chain reaction since this will create high temperature and pressures rather than just temperature? I'm not a plasma physicist though...

Comment: EU != UK (Score 1) 329

Why should they? When the banking secret was killed by the EU, the banks did not threaten to go elsewhere.

There is a large difference (of almost 400 million people) between the EU and the UK. Large businesses cannot afford to pull out of the EU, much like they cannot afford to pull out of the US. However I imagine they would be far less adverse to moving their HQ from London to Frankfurt, Dublin or some other non-UK, EU location.

Comment: Knowledge not Fashion (Score 1) 388

by Roger W Moore (#48806099) Attached to: UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them

The other thing I wondered about is the different expectations. If your instructor still thinks myspace is where the cool kids hangout....

Well having grown up in the UK and been to computer lessons in school (in the 1980s) I'd say that my expectations were that the teachers knew the subject material. When it came to maths, physics, chemistry etc. the teachers I had really knew their stuff and I learnt a heck of a lot from them but with computing it was far more variable.

I almost got into real trouble in one class using BBC Micros. We were told to write a program to add two numbers together which was incredibly trivial so, having the same computer at home, I thought I'd do the assignment in a more challenging way and teach myself assembly to add the numbers using the 'Advanced User Guide' which they had at school but I'd not got at home. I ran into some problems (you had to loop the assembly code through the parser twice to compile it) and when I asked for help and she saw the code she threw a fit. I was threatened with detention for not doing the assignment etc. etc. despite my protestations and explanation.

Fortunately the senior computing teacher walked in before anything got set in stone and she got him to come over to show him how badly I'd been behaving. His response was 'leave him to me' at which point he sat down and proceeded to show me what I was missing and then set me the challenge to figure out how to add two numbers which gave an answer greater than 255 (since it was an 8-bit machine) and how to store negative numbers using 2's complement. I learnt more computing in the 10 minutes he spent with me during one of his free periods than I learnt in the entire rest of the term with the idiot we had who was supposed to be teaching us.

So this is hardly a new problem. Teachers have a duty to make sure that the know what they are teaching and, worse, if their reaction to someone who may know more than they do is anger and hostility then they really have no business at all being a teacher at all. Who cares what they think about "fashion" - that's only relevant to education when it comes to engagement and sometimes being hopelessly out of date can be more engaging than being up to date.

Comment: With an Idiot in charge (Score 5, Interesting) 329

This is why it will fail. Not because it would destroy everyone's privacy but because it will destroy the privacy of large, international companies. They will threaten to move out of the UK, the tories will panic and the bill will disappear until the idiot in charge forgets again and attempts to resurrect it for a third time in a couple of years from now (assuming he survives the general election).

Comment: Government or Authorities? (Score 4, Funny) 329

Let's hope he means "the authorities" and not "the government" since the government consists of MPs and if they have to be able to read it they will probably need to outlaw words with more than 3 syllables and writing something in a language other than English will count as use of advanced encryption.

Comment: Einstein (Score 1) 249

Not really - in this analogy grit would be the engine, intelligence would be knowing where to drive it. As Einstein put it “Science is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”. You need the 'grit' to get you through the perspiration and your 'intelligence' to provide the inspiration. So it is just like a North American road trip: you spend 99% of your time driving down a long, boring motorway getting to the city but once you get there you need some intelligence to navigate the one way system to get somewhere interesting.

Comment: Deliberate vs. Side effect (Score 1) 319

by Roger W Moore (#48769881) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

How much effort does that require?

Well technically none at all - absolutely no effort was put into changing the climate whatsoever it was just a byproduct of doing something else. While I would tend to agree that I think that the environment is particularly stable and will be very hard to affect I would expect that if we deliberately set out to change it we will probably find it an order of magnitude or two easier to do than changing it inadvertently.

Comment: Re:Start with Venus... (Score 4, Informative) 319

by Roger W Moore (#48769839) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

I wasn't around then, but one of the complaints about the atom bomb was that it could "set the atmoshpere on fire" causing a chain reaction that consumed all the oxygen and killed the entire planet's biosphere

Yes, and you'll note from the fact that we still have oxygen to breathe that this did not happen. Similarly the LHC did not create a Black Hole that set off a chain reaction to swallow the Earth. Planets are bombarded by lots of high energy radiation all the time and have been for billions of years. Setting off a chain reaction is going to be incredibly hard because any reaction we can produce will already have happened many, many times over in nature. Indeed after all the CO2 we have pumped into our atmosphere over the past century or more we have only managed to create a tiny deviation in the temperature so far.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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