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Comment: Where the pessimism comes from. (Score 3, Insightful) 91

by hey! (#47914675) Attached to: Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

The pessimism and dystopia in sci-fi doesn't come from a lack of research resources on engineering and science. It mainly comes from literary fashion.

If the fashion with editors is bleak, pessimistic, dystopian stories, then that's what readers will see on the bookshelves and in the magazines, and authors who want to see their work in print will color their stories accordingly. If you want to see more stories with a can-do, optimistic spirit, then you need to start a magazine or publisher with a policy of favoring such manuscripts. If there's an audience for such stories it's bound to be feasible. There a thousand serious sci-fi writers for every published one; most of them dreadful it is true, but there are sure to be a handful who write the good old stuff, and write it reasonably well.

A secondary problem is that misery provides many things that a writer needs in a story. Tolstoy once famously wrote, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I actually Tolstoy had it backwards; there are many kinds of happy families. Dysfunctions on the other hand tends to fall into a small number of depressingly recognizable patterns. The problem with functional families from an author's standpoint is that they don't automatically provide something that he needs for his stories: conflict. Similarly a dystopian society is a rich source of conflicts, obstacles and color, as the author of Snow Crash must surely realize. Miserable people in a miserable setting are simply easier to write about.

I recently went on a reading jag of sci-fi from the 30s and 40s, and when I happened to watch a screwball comedy movie ("His Girl Friday") from the same era, I had an epiphany: the worlds of the sci-fi story and the 1940s comedy were more like each other than they were like our present world. The role of women and men; the prevalence of religious belief, the kinds of jobs people did, what they did in their spare time, the future of 1940 looked an awful lot like 1940.

When we write about the future, we don't write about a *plausible* future. We write about a future world which is like the present or some familiar historical epoch (e.g. Roman Empire), with conscious additions and deletions. I think a third reason may be our pessimism about our present and cynicism about the past. Which brings us right back to literary fashion.

Comment: Re:This is just fucked (Score 2) 140

by HiThere (#47914427) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

If you don't see, it's because you aren't looking.

OTOH, I will agree that not anything like all of the protestors of the 1960s & 70s were basically idealistic. Many just didn't want to die in a war they could see no justification for. How terrible.

Perhaps the worst thing to come out of the Vietnam War was the abolition of the draft. Now nobody with power has to even notice that unjust wars are being perpetrated, and certainly they don't feel a direct affect on their children. Perhaps if they did things would be different. OTOH, the government has gotten very good at ignoring opinions that it doesn't want to hear, so it might not have made any difference.

Comment: Re:Absolutely false (Score 1) 140

by HiThere (#47914367) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

This doesn't mean the convention has nothing to do with it, but it's not surprising that the Geneva convention would choose to adopt the rules that everyone was already following a lot of the time.

Also note that your history indicated that "sawback" bayonets were mainly used by the German armies. Adopting a prohibition against them may have been a political move to allow retroactive condemnation of the "uncivilized" enemy army.

Causation in the real world is usually a complicated thing. Especially when politics and treaties are involved.

Comment: Re:Lets not forget (Score 1) 438

by HiThere (#47914297) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

I do not believe that "cap and trade" is a viable solution. There doesn't seem to be a single implementation around the globe that isn't a nest of loopholes.

Carbon tax could be implemented in quite a straightforwards way internally to a single country. Imports and exports would need a more complex adjustment, however, to balance things so that penalties were not unfairly assessed or bypassed.

OTOH, I'm actually more in favor of a more general "environmental degradation tax", though I can't imagine any generally acceptable way of figuring it.

Comment: Re:It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 438

by HiThere (#47914243) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

Sorry, but while it adds fresh water *ICE* to the ocean, it gets added almost entirely as ice without undergoing a melt phase until it gets far north of Antarctica. So you aren't getting a lot of fresh water added to the Antarctic ocean. You're getting ice (which is, indeed, fresh water) added to the ocean. It gets a considerable distance from Antactica before it typically melts. (Except, of course, a little bit, which lubricates the flow of the glaciers.)

OTOH, if the sea ice were trapped around Antarctica, I suppose it would melt. Fresh water has a higher freezing point than salt water. But I don't believe that's what typically happens.

Comment: Re:It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 438

by HiThere (#47914217) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

AGW?? I read that as "Anti-Global Warming", but it doesn't match the rest of your message. Perhaps you should spell out your abbreviations a bit more. I suppose it could also be "Anthropogenic Global Warming", but I see that phrase much less often.

When the same TLA could mean two totally opposite things, it might be a good idea to avoid it...or at least to define it in context.

Comment: Re:It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 438

by HiThere (#47914181) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

unhhh.... you do know that the Arctic Ocean is essentially clear of ice during the late summer these days don't you? And that passenger ships are starting to ask for the right to route their trips through that area? (It's still not safe enough for a standard ship, because one iceberg can ruin your whole day...but it's getting there.)

Comment: Re:It's getting hotter still! (Score 1) 438

by HiThere (#47914167) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

Sorry, the *sea ice* volume is probably much higher. You can't as easily measure that from a satellite, but it's what is to be expected. What's happening is the glaciers that were on the Antarctica land mass are moving out into the ocean and floating. This increases the area of sea ice coverage and decreases the amount of ice on land. But sea ice melts as it moves around, so it keeps disappearing as it moves towards the equator.

P.S.: Another way of saying the same story is "Antarctica has been spawning icebergs faster than the bergs have been melting".

Comment: Re:Not much different than the fire starting laser (Score 1) 140

The laws of war generally oppose weapons intentionally intended to maim rather than kill. Mostly dates to popular revulsion around the WW1 era over weapons designed to inflict nonlethal but gruesome casualties to hobble the other side by flooding their hospitals and supply chains. As a result, countries agreed to a ban on various chemical weapons, expanding bullets, weapons designed to blind people, etc.

Comment: Re:One of those strange rules of war. (Score 1) 140

by LWATCDR (#47911829) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

"We might stop worshiping veterans and start questioning if all the wars we're in are necessary "
1. It is respecting veterans. They do not decide which wars are just and which are not the voters and elected officials do.

Maybe but isn't a great thing that we have a peace loving president in the Whitehouse.....

Comment: One of those strange rules of war. (Score 3, Interesting) 140

by LWATCDR (#47911645) Attached to: How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

I can shoot you in the head and kill you but I can not just intentionally blind you?

Actually it seems like a simple enough technical problem. When you go to fire the first burst is a range finder burst and then you set the power for the range. Of course this would all be done by the weapon and not the user.

"Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside desperate to get out." -- Montaigne

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