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Comment: Re:Simple Explanation (Score 2) 237

by JoshuaZ (#48920367) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox
The problem isn't simple visits. The problem is twofold: no signs of communication and no signs of substantial change to the surrounding environment. We don't see any Dyson spheres or ringworlds or stellar lifting or any attempts at that all of which would be noticeable. If there are civilizations out there they are ignoring massive amounts of resources. Note also that in the scale of a few billion years travel and colonization isn't that big a deal: galaxies are only around 100,000 light years across so even going at 1% of the speed of light and hopping between stars should lead to galactic colonization within a a few hundred million years at the most.

Comment: This is cool but scary because of Great Filter. (Score 2) 67

by JoshuaZ (#48918901) Attached to: Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'
While this is really neat, it is yet more of the accumulating evidence that there are no substantial barriers to intelligent life arising or even arising in the early universe. This suggests that something is wiping out civilizations, possibly something the civilizations themselves all do. This problem is known as the Great Filter (Strictly speaking the Filter is whatever makes massive, interstellar, civilizations apparently rare, but it looks like most of the Filter really is at or beyond our rough tech level.) The Great Filter could be nuclear war, or epidemics, or biological warfare, or bad nanotech, or possibly something we haven't even thought of that comes completely out of left field. But the evidence for it is growing. This is scary.

Comment: Link to the study (Score 5, Interesting) 351

by JoshuaZ (#48897853) Attached to: Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA
The original study can be found at : Another fun bit in the study:

Another fun excerpt: "Secondly, participants were asked “Did you read any books about food and agriculture in the past year?” Participants were asked to select “Yes”, “No”, or “I don’t know”. Just over 16% of participants stated that they had read a book related to food and agriculture in the past year. About 81% answered “No”, and 3% answered “I don’t know”. Those who answered “Yes” were asked: “What is the title of the most recent book you read about food and agriculture?” The vast majority of responses were of the form “I don’t remember” or “cannot recall”. Fast Food Nation, Food Inc., and Omnivore’s Dilemma were each mentioned about three times. The Farmer’s Almanac and Skinny Bitch were mentioned twice. One respondent mentioned the bible."

This appears to follow the general pattern that people will lie to interviewers to seem more smart, educated, or intellectual than they are. They don't mention in the study a correlation between those who said yes to reading a book and then couldn't "remember" it when pressed and those who wanted to ban food containing DNA, but I'd be willing put money on their being a correlation.

Comment: Re:Yes. (Score 4, Insightful) 673

by JoshuaZ (#48883595) Attached to: Should Disney Require Its Employees To Be Vaccinated?
A drug test isn't an assumption of guilt in a court of law. The entire guilty until proven innocent is for criminal and civil trials, not for employment. Mandatory drug tests are pragmatically stupid for many reasons in many industries (they are much less likely to catch the hard drugs like cocaine which go out of the system fast than marijuana which lingers, they cost a lot of money), but in the case of Disney where the employees are working on and maintaining rides with many passengers and where people could easily be killed if something goes wrong, drug tests aren't as unreasonable. In general, the real silliness of drug tests is when they are used by things like fast food restaurants or worse when they are used as a condition of welfare (where the evidence is that they cost far far more than they save the state).

Comment: Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (Score 1) 227

by JoshuaZ (#48871177) Attached to: An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI
Because why just use soil when there's also all that other easily available material also? Note that even if the AI does use soil, using up all the world's soil would still be pretty unpleasant for humans. The central problem is that the AI has no reason to stop at any amount of resources so why not use everything available?

Comment: Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (Score 2) 227

by JoshuaZ (#48826549) Attached to: An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI
We are actively trying to make fully sentient AI. Moreover, we have good reason to think it can be done: there's an example of a sentient thing already: humans. And the real issue isn't that it wants to kill us, but that it can use the matter we're made up of to do something else with. It doesn't hate you: you just happen to be useful atoms.

Comment: Re:Really? On Slashdot? (Score 3, Informative) 1350

by JoshuaZ (#48754483) Attached to: Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ
Issues involving free speech and threats to free speech is both a nerd issue and "news that matters." It also is a tech issue because improvements in communication have allowed people to get worked up all over the globe over things that are happening farther away that they wouldn't know about at all otherwise.

Comment: Re:Considering how few boys graduate at ALL (Score 1, Informative) 355

If you genuinely think this then you haven't been paying attention. The primary point of feminism has been historically to put men and women on equal footing and give them equal opportunities. The fields in question, computer science, are actually a case in point: the percentage of females in computer related fields actually used to be higher. It actually dropped with the rise of the personal computer which was advertised as a thing for young boys. See and it still hasn't gotten to the point it was in the 1980s. And when skilled people, of any gender, aren't going to the fields where their skills can be most useful, we all suffer.

Yes, there are some radical feminists who have some very bad ideas or end goals, but that's going to occur in any political movement. Paying attention to outliers is not helpful. If someone had said in 1970 that the movement for racial equality's primary objective was to sabotage white people that would be the exact same sort of thing, and it would have the exact same things wrong with it.

Comment: The idea is interesting but I'm not convinced. (Score 1) 219

The idea here is interesting but I'm not convinced for three reasons: first, the fact that massive staffs are used to plan out their days isn't necessary great evidence that it really is difficult: that could be administrative bloat. Second, for much of a trip to Mars days will end up looking very much like each other until one is actually on planet. They won't be doing much in the way of experiments on the way to Mars. Third of all, a 20-30 minute delay will not really create that many problems with getting plans from Earth unless one is in some sort of emergency situation.

Comment: Re:Dark Matter? (Score 1) 142

by JoshuaZ (#48681041) Attached to: New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle
Possible, but there's no reason to particularly locate that hypothesis. In this conext, the specific particle which may be a tachyon is the electron neutrino. We already know that standard estimates of neutrino mass make it extremely unlikely that the standard three types of neutrinos are anywhere near enough mass to be more than about 5% of dark matter, and that's likely a vast overestimate. As to there being some other particles that are dark matter that happen to be tachyons- possible, but why even identify the hypothesis as relevant? The primary evidence for dark matter is gravitational: whether particles are tachyons or tardyons we expect their interaction with gravity to behave about the same.

Comment: Difficult to reconcile with SN 1987A (Score 4, Insightful) 142

by JoshuaZ (#48679995) Attached to: New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle
The primary difficulty here is going to be the same data that was really tought to reconcile with in the OPERA experiment, namely the data from SN 1987A.

In that supernova (the first observed in 1987 hence the name), the supernova was close enough that we were actually able to detect the neutrinos from it. The neutrinos arrived about three hours before the light from the supernova. But that's not evidence for faster than light neutrinos, since one actually expects this to happen. In the standard way of viewing things, the neutrinos move very very close to the speed of light, but during a core-collapse supernova like SN 1987A, the neutrinos are produced in the core at the beginning of the process. They then flee the star without interacting with the matter, whereas the light produced in the core is slowed down by all the matter in the way, so the neutrinos get a few hours head start.

The problem for FTL neutrinos is that if the neutrions were even a tiny bit faster than the speed of light they should have arrived much much earlier. This is strong evidence against FTL neutrinos. In the paper in question, he mentions SN 1987A in the context of testing his hypothesis in an alternate way using a supernova and the exact distribution of the neutrinos from one but doesn't discuss anywhere I can see the more basic issue of the neutrinos arriving at close to the same time as the light.

10 to the minus 6th power mouthwashes = 1 Microscope