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Comment: Take the long view (Score 5, Insightful) 463

by JanneM (#47926185) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

Charlie Stross recently posted a very good take on this: This is a permanent change. Whatever happens during the first few years is basically irrelevant, compared to the long-term results. Did Norway separating from Sweden cause short-term economic upheaval? Does that matter at all a century later?

This is a long-term change, not a short.term one. Any voter should consider the probable situation twenty or fourty years from now, not whatever happens in a year or two.

Comment: Re:FYI (Score 1) 599

by tbannist (#47922683) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

But 3 consecutive years of expansion would be....

Good news?

It's not happening, though. This year is really, really close to last year so it's more like a 2 year rebound from a new record low. If we're really lucky, 2012's minimum extent record will stand for a decade or longer. That would be good news for us, but I don't expect it to.

Comment: Re:Similar to "Runaround" in I, Robot... (Score 2) 160

by radtea (#47920583) Attached to: Developing the First Law of Robotics

Yup, and the solution available to any rational being is the same: since by hypothesis the two choices are indistinguishable, flip a coin to create a new situation in which one of them has a trivial weight on its side.

Starving to death (or letting everyone die) is obviously inferior to this to any rational being (which the donkey and the robot are both presumed to be) and adding randomness is a perfectly general solution to the problem.

Buridan's donkey is not in fact an example of a rational being, but rather a passive, uncreative being, who must for some unspecified reason decide without acting on the situation, as if it was living in some bizarrely unrealistic world like Plato's Cave, where it could only know the world via shadows on the wall which it cannot act on in any way.

Why anyone thinks thought-experiments about such limited beings, which are completely unlike humans in their inability to act on the world to change their situation, is beyond me.

Comment: Re:Car Dealers should ask why they're being bypass (Score 1) 148

by TechyImmigrant (#47915529) Attached to: Court: Car Dealers Can't Stop Tesla From Selling In Massachusetts

My algorithm for buying a new car is:
1) Spend about a year deciding what I want and/or need.
2) Simultaneously, start saving the cash.

It's not like you can't tell when a car is nearing the end of time, relative to whatever your own level of love for car maintenance is.

When the time comes, you know what you want and you've got the cash, which makes the bargaining rather trivial.

Comment: Re:It's getting hotter still! (Score 3, Insightful) 599

by radtea (#47911031) Attached to: Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

It stands to reason...

...that the Earth is flat.

"It stands to reason", "it just makes sense", "it's common sense"... these are not just not arguments, they are anti-arguments: anyone using them is saying loudly and clearly "I have nothing to contribute to this discussion but here's some noise to dilute the signal."

Any time you find yourself offering an opinion based only on your imagination, please don't. Get some data, learn some modelling, do some statistics before you speak.

Philosophers attempted to understand the world for thousands of years based on what "just makes sense" and failed completely and utterly. After three hundred years of scientists showing us a better way--and showing that what "stands to reason" has absolutely nothing at all to do with the way the world actually is--there is really very little excuse for continuing to promulgate this erroneous and basically useless way of knowing.

Comment: Re:1024-fold (Score 1) 210

by TechyImmigrant (#47902655) Attached to: SanDisk Releases 512GB SD Card

Base-10 units are not in any way more correct than base-2 units. They are merely more consistent with the way scientific units are generally used (but less practical, since base-2 units correspond to how data is actually addressed and alligned).

I do not oppose people using base-10 units. I do, however, oppose people redefining well-defened units. The idiotic extra i (KiB, MiB, etc.) should have been inserted in the new (base-10) units, not in the existing units. This creates unnessary ambiguity.

I was referring to the internationally standardized system of units. Not the intrinsic merits of any particular base.

Comment: Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (Score 1) 887

by radtea (#47899413) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Science is agnostic. It makes no statements about God, gods or Non-gods. Science doesn't need to place value on anything.

All true, in some strict sense. But...

Science lacks something that gives religion a ridiculous amount of power: narrative. (shameless plug) I wrote a book exploring this subject:

The gist of my argument is--in the terms of TFA--is that "Spockism" lacks narrative hooks, while "Kirkism" is full of them. "Science fiction" is an attempt to give science narrative power, and sometimes it really works, but it needs to be continually renewed because unlike religion science moves and changes and grows, so each generation needs its new Asimov or Heinlein or Clarke.

Comment: Re:MOOC is designed like a physical classroom (Score 1) 182

by JanneM (#47896993) Attached to: The MOOC Revolution That Wasn't

"Also some of the science and tech courses are very demanding but the teachers don't simplify it leading to many whooshing sounds for the student throughout the courses. Such courses could benefit from a simplified overview of the course material."

How many employers would like to hire people that can't understand the actual content and need "simplified overview" to get a grade? If you really don't grasp it to the point where you can actually apply the math for new, novel problems, then you don't actually know it, do you?

MOOCs have a serious credibility problem already. The very last thing they need is to dumb things down. If it becomes common knowledge that, say, an engineering MOOC graduate can't even handle a system of differential equations in an intelligent manner, or don't understand the implication of Green's function, then the credits will become truly worthless.

Comment: Re:Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. (Score 1) 131

by TechyImmigrant (#47893465) Attached to: Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

So call it a 'programming' course. Computer science marginally overlaps with programming, but a programming course is not computer science.

While we're at it, we could stop calling Computer Science a science and admit it's applied mathematics with silicon thrown in.

Comment: Re:real problem is patent and copyright length (Score 4, Insightful) 110

by radtea (#47893023) Attached to: Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

The weakening of patent protections mean some small guys will be killed.

Particularly small patent holders that present ideas to big companies, hoping to be bought out, but instead get the shaft.

Nope. A patent is a license to sue. Small players rarely have the resources to do so. A very small number take the risk, fewer still manage it successfully. Pointing to one or two cases where small players were successful is not an argument. You have to look at all patents held by small players, find out how many get violated and what fraction of those use the courts or plausible threat of legal action to defend themselves.

I don't have the numbers, but from an insiders perspective (I am a small patent holder and have worked for a number of small players with patents) I can tell you that the average small player is very unlikely take court action, and that the average large player is unlikely to be much bothered by a threat of patent litigation from a small player, because they know they can simply exhaust the small player's resources.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.