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Comment: We're turning into wimps (Score 4, Informative) 230

by MetricT (#48629361) Attached to: "Team America" Gets Post-Hack Yanking At Alamo Drafthouse, Too

The United States has the planet's largest ocean between us and North Korea, the most powerful military the world has ever seen, and enough nuclear firepower to take the entire surface area of North Korea and give it escape velocity. And yet we wimp out on... showinging a 10-year old movie because it might make a tin-plate dictator mad? Seriously?

Comment: The modern day "Chewbacca Defense" (Score 5, Insightful) 308

by MetricT (#48373597) Attached to: AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled

"We're going to stop doing that thing that we've been promising for years that we were gonna get around to doing one of these days, but never actually got around to doing, because OBAMA"

It's sad, but adding "Obama" to any argument has become the modern day equivalent of the "Chewbacca Defense", and has been used to rationalize some profoundly stupid decisions. Even sadder, because it seems to work.

I'm a moderate (r)epublican, and it's *lonely* nowdays. The intelligent ones liked David Frum have been muffled or sidelined. Meanwhile, the Wingnut Brigade as personified by Ted Cruz is always on the lookout to shoot the public in the foot for the sake of rich people.

Comment: When pet theories die... (Score 5, Insightful) 137

by MetricT (#48345227) Attached to: CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

Many in the physics community were hoping for a "weird" Higgs boson, which might point the way towards new physics such as supersymmetry or technicolor.

Alas, the Higgs boson we actually discovered doesn't seem to require any new physics. It's covered by the Standard Model. It is, by physics standards, annoying dull. This has done a good job of killing off several people's pet theories (some models of supersymmetry and technicolor).

Rather than just admit that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras" (ie, the simplest explanation is usually the right one), they are busy adding epicycles to their pet theories to try to accommodate reality (which, admittedly, is how science works).

Being sensationalist and dumb, journalists hear things like "it *may be* that...", and trump up all sorts of stupid headlines like "ZOMG, scientists didn't discover Higgs after all." And we get Slashdot posts like this.

Comment: Real-world Moore's Law is toast... (Score 1) 96

by MetricT (#47650721) Attached to: Intel's 14-nm Broadwell CPU Primed For Slim Tablets

The transistor budget may still be scaling according to Moore's law, but that's failing to translate into real-world speed increases. The 5% increase in single-core IPC is weak sauce. And an annoying number of apps don't scale to multiple processors, or scale badly (Amdahl's law is unforgiving...)

You can add more cores, add more compute units to your GPU, or add DSP (Broadwell) or FPGA (Xeon), but that has an ever decreasing marginal impact on real-world speed.

We're probably stuck in a "5% IPC increase per tick/tock" world until they eventually shift off silicon onto Something Else (III-V semiconductors or something more exotic like graphene)

Comment: There's a Ferrari shortage too... (Score 3, Insightful) 401

by MetricT (#47396341) Attached to: No Shortage In Tech Workers, Advocacy Groups Say

I can't buy a Ferrari for $100, by the same logic, that means there *must* be a Ferrari shortage! Something must be done!!!

Hint: reward good people, and you won't have problems finding good people. The problem is these miserly capitalist/MBA types who feel tech types are getting all "uppity" for wanting a decent salary for their 4 year STEM degree and often 2-6 years of grad school to boot, because doing that takes away from their quarterly bonus.

Comment: We are *far* from true AI... (Score 1) 222

by MetricT (#47182943) Attached to: The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines

IBM's Watson might be able to beat any human competitor on Jeopardy, but stick it in the middle of the highway and it will get run over by the first semi that comes along because it isn't smart enough to get out of the way.

Killer machines will undoubtedly exist, but they will be human-controlled for a long, long time to come.

Comment: Re:If you're just beaming it down to earth anyways (Score 3, Interesting) 230

by MetricT (#46843073) Attached to: How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations

It's not a completely stupid idea, just a mostly stupid idea.

But it might make financial sense for powering McMurdo Base, for instance. The cost of hauling diesel down there is almost as ludicrous. Remote outposts and stuff.

Or if your government decided to send a small team of special forces into hostile territory, that would be a convenient way to provide them power. And you could use "cheap solar power for everyone" as good cover for launching something.

Comment: The universe is probably teeming with life, but... (Score 4, Interesting) 608

by MetricT (#46836799) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

We've seen fossils of simple (prokaryotic, bacterial) life that are at least 3.8 billion years old. Basically the instant it became possible for single-cell life to exist, it did. That suggests that simple life is *easy*.

It took evolution roughly a billion years to produce eukaryotic life, suggesting that step is hard. It also took 2 billion more years to produce a eukaryotic lifeform capable of space flight, suggesting that step is also hard.

The sun is predicted to make life on earth impossible in roughly ~1 billion years. An oops anywhere earlier in the process, and evolution wouldn't have had time to recover. We're lucky to exist.

So my suspicion is that the universe is relatively teeming with simple life anywhere it is possible (there are tentative signs that there *might* be life on Mars and possibly Titan too) but complex life is much rarer, rare enough that it's not surprised we haven't found any yet.

Also, wanting to communicate and explore is inherently a human desire, and whatever neo-human-cyber-whatever descendants emerge from the Singularity might not have the same desires. And I can predict their desires much more accurately than I could an aliens.

Comment: Re:And what about... (Score 2) 444

by MetricT (#46036399) Attached to: Who Makes the Best Hard Disk Drives?

I manage a couple petabytes of scientific data (LHC) on our own object filesystem, and at that scale, RAID really isn't an option any more simply because you will, with unacceptable frequency, manage to have two drive failures simply due to the number of drives.

All our new data is being stored with Reed-Solomon 6+3 redundancy. And I greatly look forward to the day when a drive can fail at 3 am and I don't have to get paged to repair it.

And Seagate well and truly sucks. Not only do they have an unacceptably high failure rate, but they have some pretty annoying non-complete failure modes, like firmware bugs causing the drive to hard-lock, and the only way to get them back is to power-cycle the entire server. And they don't support TLER, so drives blipping and getting a 3 am ticket is a regular occurance.

One other thing we learned is that Linux *really* needs a defragment utility. We started having complete permanent slot failures. Turns out we had 100's of drives with extreme fragmentation, and the amount of vibration the head would cause trying to read fragmented files 24x7 would destroy the slot. We have a "warmer" script that scrubs the drives for bitrot errors, and it also opportunistically defragments really fragmented files.

Comment: Cool science coming... (Score 5, Interesting) 136

by MetricT (#46029459) Attached to: CERN Antimatter Experiment Produces First Beam of Antihydrogen

http://arxiv.org/abs/1106.0847

One of the most interesting physics papers I've read in recent years. Does away with dark matter by presuming that antimatter has the opposite gravitational sign as matter (which pops out very naturally once you apply CPT to general relativity).

As the electromagnetic force is almost 10^40 times stronger than gravity, it would be virtually impossible to test with anti-protons or positrons. But with electrically neutral anti-hydrogen, it becomes potentially testable.

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