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Comment: Re:Please ready Hobby Lobby before commenting (Score 1) 1080

They don't (and shouldn't) have the "right" to have Hobby Lobby buy them contraception.

Their employer doesn't "buy them contraception", it just buys them health insurance. And at that point, they can start minding their own business about their employee's personal lives. Why should details about your health care still be under the influence of your employer's religion? Your employer has no business deciding if you shouldn't get insurance coverage for a circumcision.

Comment: Re:it could have been an accident (Score 1) 737

by radtea (#49347797) Attached to: Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident

there is an infinitesimally small chance that it was engaged by accident.

And since air disasters necessarily depend on extremely low-probability events, this is not an argument for the proposition "therefore this was most likely not the cause".

We know that whatever happened it had an outrageously low probability. This makes speculation in advance of data useless, because there are an almost unlimited number of highly improbable things that could have happened, and anyone who thinks they can imagine their way to the correct one is innumerate:

Comment: So what are they? (Score 1) 126

by radtea (#49325469) Attached to: Boeing Patents <em>Star Wars</em> Style Force Field Technology

From the tortured summary the only thing that's clear is that this technology is nothing like anything in Star Wars or Star Trek, but some illiterate in PR has decided that whatever they actually do is so boring, obscure or useless that the only way to drum up any attention for them is to describe them in terms of something completely unrelated.

Does anyone have any idea what they actually do and how they do it?

Comment: Not Even Wrong (Score 5, Informative) 109

by radtea (#49304337) Attached to: The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun

This is not even wrong. Payne had the idea first, Russell thought it was wrong, Russell later changed his mind and gave Payne credit: His work cites hers.

This is how science is supposed to work, although there is always a factor of fame involved in credit-giving, and women have in general not been as forceful in claiming or defending credit as men.

Furthermore, how many people claiming to be "outraged" by this were even aware of who had been given credit for figuring out the composition of the sun in the first place? Who amongst us is "shocked, shocked" that Russell--whom they had been giving credit to all these years, citing in papers, talking up at cocktail parties--didn't actually make the discovery that is commonly and incorrectly attributed to him?

Comment: Re:fathers (Score 1) 299

by radtea (#49304275) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome

What's being debated is whether it's right to make experiments who's consequences a person who can't consent to them has to carry.

And this differs from having children the old fashioned way how?

That is the crux: every child born is a genetic experiment today. We hope that it doesn't end up with too many defects. We hope that it's born with eyes (I know someone who wasn't). We hope that it's born without any non-lethal developmental defects (I know a couple of people who have them, caught and fixed by surgery before they became fatal.) We hope they won't develop Type I diabetes (like several of my friends have)... and so on.

Every one of these things is a crap-shoot, and everyone who has kids today is performing an uncontrolled genetic experiment every time.

To claim that this process is necessarily going to be made worse by adding some human intelligence to the mix is problematic. The claim that there is no conceivable therapeutic benefit to engineering certain classes of genetic defect out of the germline is disingenuous, unless you think everyone everywhere for the rest of time is going to have good gene therapy available to them while growing up, which is insane.

To claim "we can't predict what the effects might be so we shouldn't do the research" is bizarre: if we don't do the research, admittedly mostly on animal models, how will we ever know what the effects are? Once we've done the research, we will have a high confidence in the effects, just as we do with any other therapeutic intervention. We all know that iatrogenic disease is a major cause of death and suffering, so wringing our hands about germline modification as if it was unique in that respect is at the very least strange and at worst deeply hypocritical.

All power gets used, and it's understandable that people should be concerned about how the power to edit the human germline will be used. The possibilities for abuse are considerable. If we are ever able to create Brave-New-World style designer slaves, happy in their subjugation, we probably will, for some value of "we".

But the debate should be about how to use this power wisely, not whether we should develop it at all. Someone will, and it's better that that happen out in the open than in some secret lab in $EVIL_NATION or funded by $EVIL_BILLIONAIRE.

Comment: Re:Novelty Effect (Score 3, Interesting) 59

by radtea (#49277371) Attached to: New Site Mocks Bad Artwork On Ebook Covers

Cover design is hard, and most people do judge books by the cover. These books have content that is likely reflected by their covers pretty well, so in that sense I'd say most of them are pretty good.

The one a few pages in about the guy who's annoyed is really quite good: blunt, angry, simple. Since that's what the book looks to be like, how can the cover be bad?

For my book ( one of my first readers was an artist, so I hired her to do the cover art. It captures a lot of things about the book, and it's beautiful on its own, so it's a win.

But I'm sure a purist would find a million things wrong with it, from the ambiguities of the image to my choice of font (not papyrus or comic sans, but any font can be mocked if you work at it hard enough) to the choice of colours (too blue, not enough contrast) to the overall look (too cluttered, too busy)... and so on.

Still, my hope was to keep it reasonably low on the mockability scale, and while it's fun to mock stuff, but I have a depressing feeling that many of these mocked books are selling a lot better than a lot of less-mockable stuff. So maybe I should replace my cover with unicorns and rainbows and leather-clad half-dressed bikers to see if that boosts sales...

Comment: Re:common with 19th century novels (Score 4, Insightful) 104

by radtea (#49237003) Attached to: Some of the Greatest Science Fiction Novels Are Fix-Ups

Others have pointed out that these were serials, not fixups, although some Victorian authors may have published fixups: the concept is ancient.

Two examples:

1) the Iliad is probably a fixup. The first bunch of books are heavily focused on Diomedes, who then more-or-less disappears completely from the story. There is some contention that the parts of books V and VI dealing with him were once a separate story.

2) going even further back, Gilgamesh is probably a fixup. There's a good deal of evidence that it was assembled from pre-existing stories of Gilgamesh and Enkidu (and also Utnapishtim, the Chaldean "Noah" who was lifted by the early Hebrews along with so much else).

3) and the Bible itself, which seems to have been written rather late in Jewish history, almost certainly assembled from pre-existing stand-alone tales, which explains the contradictions in the two stories of creation and so on.

Comment: Re:Python/C++ Combo (Score 2) 757

by radtea (#49228707) Attached to: Was Linus Torvalds Right About C++ Being So Wrong?

But for me it is not one language but a pairing that has caught my heart.

I'm in the same boat, with the same languages. Python for convenience, C++ for speed. I also use C for really low level embedded (PIC) stuff, but that's it.

This combination gives me the optimal mix of portability and power for the problem domains I'm interested in, and at this point I don't see any reason to leave C++ for anything else. The big trick is to adopt and strictly adhere to a set of reasonable coding standards that keeps you from doing all the stupid things the language lets you do.

C++ demands a higher level of discipline and maturity from developers than most languages because Linus is right: it is incredibly easy to abuse. A bad programmer will write bad code in any language, but C++ makes it really easy for bad programmers to express themselves, and that's a bad thing. That doesn't mean the language is bad, but it does mean it should only be used where its advantages (portability, efficiency, expressive power) are sufficiently great to overcome its weaknesses (excessive complexity, mediocre type safety, excessive complexity.)

Comment: How 1984 got it wrong (Score 4, Funny) 282

"Check this out, comrade, it's like I have my own exercise instructor!", announced Winston to his comrade Syme, as he turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. "You can dim it, so It saves electricity when you're asleep!"

The instructress had called them to attention again. "And now let's see which of us can touch our toes!' she said enthusiastically. 'Right over from the hips, please, comrades. ONE-two! ONE-two!..."

"Oh I hate this one, he whispered to Syme. "It sends shooting pains all the way from my heels to my buttocks and often ends by bringing on another coughing fit."

"But have you installed the Newspeak translator app?", asked Syme. "It's so cool, you just speak English to it and it translates what you say into proper Newspeak!"

"Oh, that sounds awesome!" said Winston. "Can I download it from the Ministry of Plenty's app store?"

"Ha ha, no!" replied Syme. "It comes preinstalled as part of the operating system! You couldn't uninstall it even if you wanted to."

"Wow!" exclaimed Winston. You mean I have it already, then? So I don't need to waste time looking for it."

"You work at the Ministry of Truth, Winston!" laughed Syme. "I would expect you to know these things already." He paused for a moment, then asked, "Did you see the prisoners hanged yesterday?"

"I was working," said Winston indifferently. "I shall download it and watch it later, I suppose."

"A very inadequate substitute," said Syme. His mocking eyes roved over Winston's face. "I know you," the eyes seemed to say, "I see through you. I know very well why you didn't watch the live stream of those prisoners hanged."

"Smith!" screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. "6079 Smith W.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! THAT'S better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me."

A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston's body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the instructress raised her arms above her head and--one could not say gracefully, but with remarkable neatness and efficiency--bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers under her toes.

"THERE, comrades! THAT'S how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I'm thirty-nine and I've had four children. Now look." She bent over again. "You see MY knees aren't bent. You can all do it if you want to,' she added as she straightened herself up. "Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don't all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what THEY have to put up with. Now try again. That's better, comrade, that's MUCH better," she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.

"I'm impressed, Winston," said Syme. "If you'd told me you could touch your toes before you got this thing, I would have said that's such bullocks." He then silently nodded at the screen. "You think she really has four kids? She looks kind of hot for 39."

"I heard that!" screamed the instructress. "I'm flagging your numbers and adding you both to the Ministry of Love's follow list!"

Comment: Re:Models compared to reality (Score 1) 279

by radtea (#49219391) Attached to: California's Hot, Dry Winters Tied To Climate Change

Those are great links. Thanks for posting them. But they appear to show the models almost exactly as bad as the the grandparent: both indicate reality is at the very bottom of the model prediction distribution. It's unfortunate that the grandparent is from such a sketchy source, as it demonstrates greater respect for the principles of visual display of information. It shows one thing, it shows it well, and axis that people care about (the vertical) is given reasonable scaling instead of being compressed away by cramming in multiple additional graphs.

Furthermore, consider the lameness of the first claim in the AR5 chapter you like: "Predictions for averages of temperature, over large regions of the planet and for the global mean, exhibit positive skill when verified against observations for forecast periods up to ten years"

This sounds good, until you realize that the best thing that can be said of the models' predictive capacity is that it is better than chance. That is what "positive skill means", and that is all it means.

As someone who has worked in predictive modelling, this is something that people only say when their model has no practical predictive utility. It is easy to get models that show results that are by any measure many standard deviations away from chance, but that are still completely useless for the kind of predictions required by policy makers. To take a trivial concrete example: a model that tells you to "drive east" when your destination is in fact in the eastern half-plane will give results that are far better than chance (which would be driving in any random direction) but it will only rarely get you anywhere close to where you want to go.

The report goes on to list a variety of positive results with varying confidence, but none of them add up to "predictively useful for policy makers" and that's for global and large-scale regional climate. Local climates--which are what we really care about--are far harder to predict.

This is not to say that models are bad science or "global warming is a hoax" or any such nonsense. There is fairly strong evidence that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are a significant contributor to climate change by adding 0.3% to Earth's heat budget at the surface, and that anthropogenic aerosols are likely removing about 0.1% of the effective insolation at the surface, for a net 0.2% gain. These conclusions come from observations on the ocean heat budget, the temporal distribution of warming (which is greater at night than in the day, for example, ruling out solar variation) and the geographic distribution of the warming. It's possible to say all of this--and so have fairly high confidence that humans are having a significant impact on Earth's climate--but still not have much of a clue how the highly non-linear climate system is going to respond in the near or long term.

In some ways, because our economic systems are relatively fine-tuned to the historical climate, which we can predict will undergo fairly significant variation even if we don't know precisely where or what, the details of the future climate matter less than the high confidence it is going to change. We should be investing in robust systems, or we will be facing a significant, ongoing global recession as climate conditions trash economic assumptions.

But claims like the one in TFA are necessarily strongly dependent on model details, and while it's an interesting study, it was done by climatologists, not computational physicists, and that shows in the excessive confidence they place in the detailed model results.

Comment: Re:i'th Post (Score 4, Insightful) 366

Yes, when people make political issues of science issues, that science often becomes political. I know- shocking isn't it.

Incorrect, not shocking. Evolution doesn't become any more or less true if it becomes a political issue in churches. The laws of physics don't change if you're a wealthy industry that can afford to fight back politically against physicists. Your posts in this entire thread (fuck, on this entire site, for years) have been perfused with the idea that scientific phenomena can change if you politically attack them. You can maybe change what scientists examine and the course of scientific discovery, but that's not the same thing. And if you're going to suggest that's what happening here, because we haven't looked hard enough at the sun or something, you're wrong. Industry in this case has spent a lot of money funding scientific research into non-anthropomorphic causes of climate change, and have only managed to produce bullshit.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 1) 734

by radtea (#49194977) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

I'm a Canadian who has worked in the US as a non-resident alien, so had to file an American return some years. My Canadian accountant had a tame American accountant she sent clients like me to for stuff like that: US tax law is just too complex for foreigners to bother with.

But taxes aren't the only issue. The OP says, correctly, "My son would have to register for the draft".

This is not a small thing. I know someone who grew up in the US in the '60's--a Canadian born to Canadian parents in Canada whose family had moved to the US--who was refused permission to leave the country at the age of 18 because he was draft-eligible. He got out eventually, but it was a big legal hassle.

The draft is on hiatus just now, but there is no certainty it always will be.

"Now this is a totally brain damaged algorithm. Gag me with a smurfette." -- P. Buhr, Computer Science 354