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Comment: Scott Aaronson's take (Score 3, Funny) 199

by JoshuaZ (#46662619) Attached to: P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe
Scott Aaaronson is a highly respected quantum computing expert at MIT. His initial reaction at comment# 89 at is that "The abstract of that thing looked so nonsensical that I didn’t make it through to the actual paper. If anyone has and wants to explain it here, that’s fine." Given that I wouldn't take this too seriously.

Comment: Submarines? (Score 4, Insightful) 150

by JoshuaZ (#46659807) Attached to: Will Living On Mars Drive Us Crazy?
Aside from the number of people being smaller, this does't seem that different from a tour of duty on a nuclear submarine. Three months is normal for that. Having little time to shower is a minor stress which could easily apply to almost any military duty, and submarines are again in that category. Moreover, submarine showers are disgusting. At least with a Mars mission you won't have the constant movement and shaking. And they don't get the regular email contact because they are underwater. discusses some of the many unpleasant things about subs. It seems like the people who are worried about the "human factors" are massively overestimating what conditions human minds can actually cope with, and it seems they also aren't doing a good job looking at counterexamples to their worries. This shouldn't be that surprising though: Robert Zubrin in his excellent book "Case for Mars" argued that a large part of the medical and psychological research to see if humans could handle a trip to Mars was more excuses for grant funding than serious concerns.

Comment: Re:Hmmmm ... (Score 1) 75

by JoshuaZ (#46588057) Attached to: Physicists Produce Antineutrino Map of the World
Fukushima won't show up more than any other nuclear reactor, if anything since there's no longer an active reactor, it will produce fewer neutrinos. A nuclear meltdown does not in general involve the production of more radiation than a running reactor, the primary problem is that all the radioactive waste can get exposed.

Comment: The primary point not in abstratct but not summary (Score 5, Informative) 17

by JoshuaZ (#46429111) Attached to: HTTPS More Vulnerable To Traffic Analysis Attacks Than Suspected
The most interesting bit is not in the summary. Given individual websites they could identify which specific webpage one was visiting thus leaking with high probability all sorts of medical, financial and legal information. Examples used include from medicine the websites of the Mayo Clinic and Planned Parenthood, from finance Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and from entertainment Youtube and Netflix. This sort of thing could be used for all sorts of surveillance or blackmail. Even just knowing what Youtube videos one is watching could be used for such ends.

Comment: The key here is "Conference Proceedings" (Score 4, Informative) 62

by JoshuaZ (#46330325) Attached to: Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers
In many fields conference proceedings have little to no oversight. These papers don't get noticed at all or cited and for most purposes don't exist. The only real issue I can see here is that a large fraction of these are apparently coming from China and this is consistent with prior reports of serious problems with academic quality coming from China. It is possible that people are using these essentially fake papers to boost their publication counts which may give them some advantages as long as no one looks closely, but any institution that is a serious institution will look at everything one has published. I actually found this point more interesting:

Labbé emphasizes that the nonsense computer science papers all appeared in subscription offerings. In his view, there is little evidence that open-access publishers — which charge fees to publish manuscripts — necessarily have less stringent peer review than subscription publishers.

Considering how many complaints there are about low-quality open-access journals, this suggests that that isn't nearly as much of an issue as some people are claiming.

Comment: Re:Gravity wells and other distance issues (Score 1) 330

by JoshuaZ (#46320055) Attached to: Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon
That's a good point, so from a strict get-there-once attitude this won't be so bad. However, I don't think that slamming into the moon is going to be a good strategy here unless they used some sort of extremely robust system which would create its own problems.

Comment: Re:Gravity wells and other distance issues (Score 2) 330

by JoshuaZ (#46319605) Attached to: Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon
Ok. I just looked at their plan in more detail (that is read all of TFA). They are planning on getting the solar panels and most other infrastructure from Earth. That means massive costs in terms of riding up the gravity well. This makes their plan look extremely implausible.

Comment: Gravity wells and other distance issues (Score 5, Informative) 330

by JoshuaZ (#46319593) Attached to: Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon

A major issue is that the moon is fairly far up Earth's gravity well. It is easy to get things to low-Earth orbit and already tough to get things to even geo-stationary. The main saving of putting anything on the moon will come if you can do a large part of your construction on-site since otherwise moving that much material up is going to be tough. If you are doing automated construction on site you also are going to need to be able to make mainly a lot of solar cells. Solar cells are primarily silicon and there's already been prior research on refining the moon's regolith for silicon to manufacture electronic components and that looks possibly doable but one does need to get over some technical chemistry issues. See e.g.

The other issue is distance for power transmission: most designs for microwave power involve power transmission from at most a little over geo-stat at about 35,000 km. The distance to the moon is about 10 times that, so if you don't have a really tight beam, there are going to be issues. Also, since the moon change's position you are going to need a large number of sites on Earth that can receive the beam, and if you can't switch off smoothly between them always (which would itself require massive planet-wide infrastructure), you would still need power sources on Earth (possibly just massive storage facilities?) to deal with those times.

Overall, a really cool idea with a lot of technical hurdles. I hope they can make it work but I'm not optimistic.

Comment: Re:Roy Spencer has other motivation. (Score 1) 560

by JoshuaZ (#46304585) Attached to: How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

Nope, not really. The issue isn't his religion, it is that his religion by his own description motivates his conclusions and results. Not too long ago I was talking to an undergrad who said that he wanted to become a climate scientist because he wanted to get people to stop using fossil fuels. I told him that he should instead become an engineer.

The problem in a nutshell is that humans are deeply imperfect. So when we have external motivations, and those motivations are strong enough, they distort what we do. That can occur in a variety of ways such as the file drawer effect but also more subtle issues. In this particular context, there are literally hundreds of predictions from the 1980s about what the climate would be like today. That means that there are very difficult decisions to make about which predictions one should compare to the current data, and how to measure how accurate they are. Spencer's own motivations make the decisions he makes there to be extremely problematic. And yes, science is universally reproducible, but we're not talking about whether to accept a specific paper in a journal (if we were climatologists who were doing so, I agree that Spencer's motivations should then not enter into that), we're talking about non-climatologists who have neither the full time nor full expertise to make a judgment about all the details of his claims. In that context, the fact that he has strong external motivation is highly relevant when scientists lacking that external bias by and large disagree with his conclusions.

Comment: Re:Roy Spencer has other motivation. (Score 1) 560

by JoshuaZ (#46297365) Attached to: How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?
I have no idea where you even began to get "straight" or "white" on that list. And in this particular context, I'd be perfectly ok with agnostics or atheists or Christians or members of other religions. However, when his beliefs about climate change are specifically motivated by his religion there's a problem. Heuristically speaking, his beliefs are more suspect. There are a lot of Christians who don't think that God is controlling the climate and they do perfectly good climate research.

Comment: Re:Then we should discount other studies too? (Score 0) 560

by JoshuaZ (#46295617) Attached to: How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?
Not really. There's no intrinsic reason an atheist should think that climate change is happening. For that matter, there are Christians who are scientists who don't think that their religion forces an answer to these questions one way or another. The point isn't an atheism v. Christianity issue, but about Spencer's specific religious belief. And yes, funding issues are a problem, and they are worth paying attention to, but there's very little funding that only goes to specific goals, but rather simply to stud climate issues in general. When funding is more motivationally directed that's a definite problem, but that's only a small fraction of total funding.

Comment: Roy Spencer has other motivation. (Score 5, Informative) 560

by JoshuaZ (#46295435) Attached to: How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?
Spencer has contributed specific work in peer reviewed journals that is part of the scientific discussion, but his overall opinion on climate change is motivated more by his own religion than anything else. He's both sympathetic to intelligent design and signed a statement which said among other things ""Earth and its ecosystems – created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting." Essentially he believes that climate change isn't happening because his religion won't let him. Note how that statement wasn't even just about climate, but about ecosystems as a whole. Christy doesn't seem to have that same sort of underlying motivation and might make more sense to pay attention to, but in this context, the vast majority of experts disagree with both of them, and when dealing with complicated scientific issues, using expert consensus is a useful heuristic, that's before we get to the serious issue that not only is the expert consensus clear, it is a consensus about some very bad results, not just a consensus about an issue which doesn't have substantial impact.

Comment: Re:Huh? (Score 1) 193

by JoshuaZ (#46244717) Attached to: ICANN's Cozy Relationship With the US Must End, Says EU
Most of your points are completely valid. I agree that the censorship is going on here right now. The problem is that any movement outside the US will almost certainly make the situation worse rather than better because of the large variety of interests with different censorship goals and no serious ideological commitment to free speech.

Comment: Re:Prior data may suggest what is going on (Score 1) 625

by JoshuaZ (#46233023) Attached to: Majority of Young American Adults Think Astrology Is a Science
It is honest when you are you know, attempting to explain a rise in apparent belief in that specific system. The topic of conversation is the rise in astrology. Yes, other beliefs are associated with other political or religious identities. That's hardly relevant here.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234