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Comment: Re:what do you think? (Score 1) 347

by Nate4D (#28341685) Attached to: Scientists Wonder What Fingerprints Are For
I think I've failed to get you to understand what I was trying to say at all.

Either I'm pathetically bad at communicating (which seems very likely), or you're not trying to hear what I'm saying.

Of course, no reason to bifurcate - both could be very true.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to keep this up, nor a whole lot of motivation - it seems like you're being pretty rude on purpose, which does not make me feel inclined to spend time on this discussion.

Not, I suspect, that you care very much about this. Reminds me of why I gave up on /. for the last year, really... Maybe I'll do that again.

Have a great evening.

Comment: Re:what do you think? (Score 1) 347

by Nate4D (#28340111) Attached to: Scientists Wonder What Fingerprints Are For

I didn't read the rest of what you wrote because it's way too long, and I've got a major problem with your very first sentence.

What I wrote was less than eight hundred words. The Wikipedia says that average reading speed for basic comprehension is about 2-400 WPM. If you meet the Wiki's baseline average, it whould have taken you a horrifying four minutes to read my whole post.

Your ability to analyze and think does not impress me if you're that lazy and impatient.

In fact, science doesn't require "what you sense" to be reliable, otherwise the existence of magicians would have rendered science invalid.

My college physics professor was quite adamant that if, in a lab assignment, we got results that weren't expected, we had to carry through with the rest of the lab, and not quit working on it until we had at least some believable explanation for why we got the results we did.

This, I believe, is the core of, and the only valid understanding of, scientific methods. I think it's precisely the opposite of what you're claiming. It's not considered reliable because many observations yield an "average" or "normal" result; it's thought reliable because a scientist will support his theories with detailed outlines of experiments that will let you personally verify them, and will construct a theory that accounts for all the data he collected (or at the very least admit that there may be some flaws in his theories to date, if he can't account for all the information he's gathered). That individual verification of results, and personal/individual eyewitness testimony that they are as expected, is what matters in the scientific method, I believe, not that "lots of people get this result, and we can just ignore the handful who didn't".

Another way of saying this is to assert that the scientific method is not worth much without obsessive rigor, and I personally believe that to be true.

There's a beautiful passage Doug Adams wrote that I think summarizes what being a scientist should actually be like. It's in So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish. Wonko the Sane says:

"I'm not trying to prove anything, by the way. I'm a scientist and I know what constitutes proof. But the reason I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself that a scientist must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that. I'll show you something to demonstrate that later. So, the other reason I call myself Wonko the Sane is so that people will think I am a fool. That allows me to say what I see when I see it. You can't possibly be a scientist if you mind people thinking that you're a fool."

Gosh, that man was brilliant. Anyway.

The scientific process exists exactly because we understand that individual perceptions are fallible.

The scientific method exists, I think, because people are pragmatic and want rules and observations that help them deal with the complexity and incomprehensibility of the universe, even if there's no reason to believe those rules are true, apart from "they've been close enough so far". I think its existence has nothing to do with the unreliability of people's observations. Scientific methods can't do anything to improve the quality of your senses - all they can do is make it easy for you or someone you trust to test a theory someone else has reported, if both parties involved in the communication are highly rigorous.

The scientific method is overrated as a method of knowing, in general. Programmers all think that shotgun debugging is a bad idea - it's generally agreed that combining attempts to understand what software is doing at a high (or, one might say, "philosophical" level) with experimental development of a hypothesis is usually the best way to debug.

Software development has taught us the hard way that even in primitive software systems, the scientific method by itself is a pretty bad way to figure out what's going on inside.

And yet, in other contexts, contexts with infinitely more complexity and inscrutability, scientific methods are held up as this great unimpeachable Way of Knowing, infallible in the long run, and better than any other ways of knowing.

Me, I don't buy it. Yes, I use scientific approaches all the time, but I consider the results I (and others) derive by scientific approaches somewhat skeptically. Science doesn't establish things for certain - it says, "Certain people, under certain conditions, have seen certain results occur when certain actions are performed, and they think those results will tend to happen in those circumstances in the future - of course, make sure you try it yourself, or else decide you trust those people's testimonies."

Useful for scraping by in life? Absolutely.

The only good way to collect information or make decisions? Well... not so much, I don't think.

And in some ways, this IS a valid criticism ... but the problem is that we HAVE to make that assumption in order to be able to say anything about our universe.

Wait a minute.

You're asserting that this complaint is invalid because it's insoluble?

Somehow, I don't find that very persuasive. It's very pragmatic, the sort of thing I'd expect a hardcore proponent of the scientific method to say, as such people are usually very pragmatic - but such an admission needs to include some admission of doubt and uncertainty, not the assertion "well, we can't progress if we don't assume we're right".

It happens that I, too, think one should just plow on with life, despite the fact that we can't actually know anything for certain.

One of my points in the handful of words you didn't read is that it wouldn't hurt people to admit they can't know anything for certain. Certainly, you believe what you believe, and you should say so, and explain your reasons for doing so, but you should admit that you might be wrong. A little more humility and skepticism about the beliefs you hold would be a good thing, no matter who you are.

Comment: Re:what do you think? (Score 2, Interesting) 347

by Nate4D (#28332741) Attached to: Scientists Wonder What Fingerprints Are For
Science requires a belief which there is no way to prove, which is that what you sense is reliable.

In your view, does a belief have to be provable to be rational?

In a less philosophical vein, faith in scientific approaches requires a belief that the universe is predictable ("If we do X a bunch of times, and get result Y, it's reasonable to expect that we'll see result Y the next time we do X.").

That's actually a large (and unprovable) assumption, as many philosophers will happily tell you. Of course, by definition, an assumption is unprovable. Call it a postulate or an axiom, if you prefer, but it's still the same thing - something you take for granted, and acknowledge you cannot prove.

In the end, scientific methods are anything but logically rigorous. The whole system of science is predicated on a method of argument that is considered fallacious in formal logical arguments.

Are scientific approaches useful? Definitely. Forming hypotheses based on what you see, then testing them is an extremely pragmatic tool for getting through life, and also for developing technology and building mental models of how things seem to work.

Don't mistake it for a logical tool, though. I guess it's fine to call it rational, if your definition of rational doesn't require logical rigor. Mostly, though, I think the word "reasonable" is used to describe something that seems intuitively correct based on observation, not "rational". Maybe it's just my social circle that uses it that way, though.

All human beings have a strong tendency to explain new observations in a way that it fits into their current worldview. We call it confirmation bias, and in some contexts, it can be a problem.

While confirmation bias is not logically rigorous in the least, it can actually be a pragmatic tool for going through life. I've never met anyone whose life philosophy was completely bulletproof - if you rethought things from first principles every time you learned information that conflicted with how you currently thought the world worked, you would starve to death pretty quickly. Thus do creationists keep their beliefs despite geological dating, and thus do atheists keep their beliefs despite soft tissue in dinosaur bones. For any worldview, there are observations about the universe that have troubling implications, I think. It's my personal belief that the human mind is just too small and simple a thing to fully know and understand the universe, and that no human will ever be able to do it, so I don't worry about having a perfect philosophy. I try to figure out what seems to make the most sense based on what I've experienced to date, and go with that, even if it's not perfect.

As far as Christians not investigating evolution - most people, regardless of their beliefs, refuse to examine other people's beliefs. It's a very common human trait - while I know very few creationists who've read Dawkins, I also know very few atheists who've actually read the Bible, and even fewer who've actually read any serious defenders of Christianity (C.S. Lewis is a decent place to start). It's pretty obvious to me that people are fundamentally selfish, greedy, angry jerks, who don't want to actually understand anyone else's perspective (I see this tendency in myself on a daily basis, which is why I believe it).

As a theist who doesn't quite buy macroevolution, I've read chunks of Dawkins, and I don't find his arguments at all persuasive. Terry Eagleton wrote a scathing review of The God Delusion that summarizes the apparent gulf between Dawkins' arguments and what many theists believe pretty well. However, in case I've missed something, I'm planning to do a good careful read of some of Dawkins' books again this summer, to be certain I really do get what he's trying to say. I've had The God Delusion, The Blind Watchmaker, and The Ancestor's Tale recommended to me. Any other additions to that list?

Heck, even any other authors the atheists in the crowd would like to recommend?

All that to say, I guess:

When you boil it all down, human knowledge is pretty finite, and all logic, reason, and rationality depend on unprovable hypotheses. To claim you've got the whole universe comprehended, or even that you have an airtight argument for the correctness of your own worldview is, to my mind, inexcusably wrong-headed.

I know what I believe, and I firmly believe I cannot prove that it is correct. I can argue for it, and explain to others why I believe it, but to prove it (or, in fact, anything) beyond all doubt is utterly impossible.

Comment: Re:Glad to see.. (Score 1) 1188

by Nate4D (#27449359) Attached to: Angry Villagers Run Google Out of Town

Hate the government school because it's falling-apart and doesn't teach anything? Tough.

That one's easy to deal with.

Homeschool. It's what my parents did, and I'm quite grateful they did. Instead of spending twelve years of my life in an institutionalized Lord of the Flies, I got a good education. Just as important (or maybe more so), I developed incredibly close relationships with my family.

Private school would probably be better, too. Not as good as homeschooling, imo, but still probably an improvement over US public schools.

Obviously, if you yourself are a school student, it might be hard to get homeschooled, but it might still be possible. By the time I reached high school, I was pretty much self-educating, while my parents spent most of their effort on my younger siblings. If a kid is old enough to decide he wants to be homeschooled, he's probably old enough to teach himself, and most parents would probably be willing to help him with it when necessary.

You have *tons* of choice in whether or not you use the insanity which is the American public school or not. Don't pretend otherwise.

Granted, you'll still have to help pay for the system, but you don't have to be in it.

Comment: Re:Consistent Tempo != Click Track (Score 1) 329

by Nate4D (#27056725) Attached to: Detecting Click Tracks

Yep, someone else already pointed this out.

Once they did, I went 'oh yeah. DUH,' and realized that if I wanted to verify this, I could do something like what you've described.

I'd probably use a sequenced rhythm track that I could mute while playing, as that would more accurately reproduce what he's likely to do (playing with a live band is very different from playing with a recording), but it's not a huge difference.

I think the margin of error would be a lot smaller than a tenth of a second, actually - my intuitive perception of tempo is that I can hear misses much smaller than that, and I'm not even a drummer. That's why I was so shocked when it worked. Somehow, I failed to realize that he must be syncing off the delay, rather than just keeping the tempo internally. It's a dumb error to make, but the fact that I made it is why I was so astonished (and of course why I posted about it in the first place).

You'd think seventeen years of classical piano, four years of orchestral playing, and eight years playing in bands would teach me something about music.

Oh well.

I guess I'm just one more piece of evidence that even experts make stupid mistakes, and that it's incredibly dangerous to make declarations of certainty.

Comment: Re:Consistent Tempo != Click Track (Score 1) 329

by Nate4D (#27055239) Attached to: Detecting Click Tracks

That explanation hadn't occurred to me before, but I think you're probably right.

You're obviously right about the best musicians being great listeners - truly great listeners are incredibly rare. Heck, even competent ones are really uncommon. The number of people who can't hear the difference between a Fender Rhodes and an electric guitar attests to that.

For some reason, though, it hadn't occurred to me that he might be locking into the keyboard sound. Since the slapback is an electronically-generated consistent periodic effect, it would effectively be providing him a click track, as long as he paid attention to it - it's just a musical one, rather than a sound not generated by anyone in the band.

And of course, any songs I don't use that effect on, I don't have any mechanical benchmark to listen to, and thus, I probably wouldn't notice minor variations in tempo.

How I missed that up until now, I don't know, but thanks for the response. That does seem to explain it rather well, and demonstrates a significant error in the thinking that made me conclude he had a nigh-perfect tempo sense.

Of course, it's possible he actually does - but my story doesn't actually constitute good evidence of that.

Comment: Re:Consistent Tempo != Click Track (Score 1) 329

by Nate4D (#27052845) Attached to: Detecting Click Tracks

I'll see if I can dig anything up.

We really are just a weekly worship band, and as such, we really don't have any recordings - it's not something we focus on.

I do remember one occasion when we recruited a member of the youth group to set up some mikes and record us live, just in hopes that we might be able to get a better feel for what we sound like from the congregation's perspective, but he ran into some technical difficulties, and I'm not sure whether we actually got anything recorded or not. I'll see what I can find out.

Thanks for the offer, whether I manage to find anything or not - I appreciate it, and I'm curious too - I've wondered before how close it *really* is. Just because I don't notice any variations doesn't mean he's as consistent as I think he is.

Comment: Re:It's just like pitch (Score 1) 329

by Nate4D (#27052537) Attached to: Detecting Click Tracks

Your analogy to pitch seems quite apropos. As someone who developed very accurate relative pitch, and wishes that I had perfect pitch, I know that some people do just have it (though there is some evidence that it can be developed).

It simply hadn't occurred to me before I played with this guy that the same might be true of rhythm.

Comment: Consistent Tempo != Click Track (Score 5, Interesting) 329

by Nate4D (#27048905) Attached to: Detecting Click Tracks

I play keyboards for two different worship bands at my church, and I discovered a pretty amazing trait that our drummer/leader in the morning service has:

He doesn't change tempo unless he wants to.

At all.

To elaborate, as that sounds sketchy unless you know how I learned it:

I'm a pretty rhythmic keyboard player, and one of my favored techniques (especially if I need to fill in empty space from, say, a missing electric guitarist in addition to the other textural stuff I was doing) is to use multi-tap delay and really accurate timing to build rhythms and and evolving chords. It can be a really fun effect.

I don't use it much, though, because even with a tap-tempo delay, which I have in my rig, it's really awkward to stay synced up with the rest of the band. My delay is pretty accurate (built-in effect on the Nord Stage, which is rather high-end. I'm pretty confident it's got sub-millisecond accuracy), and I can stay tight with it, but even decent drummers can have a hard time with that (let's hear it for teachers that make you practice with metronomes, eh?), so I usually have to adjust the tempo a few times throughout a song, and that can make things get ugly fast. A less-than-decent drummer, which is all too common, can't stay consistent enough for me to even try it. Thus, I don't (or didn't, I should say) do this much at all, despite my fondness for it.

But, when I first tried it with Bob (the aforementioned drummer), I was shocked, because it just worked. I tapped in a tempo on his first measure or two, and it stayed tight the whole way through. I really hadn't expected that result - hadn't occurred to me humans could be that accurate.

Naturally, I started trying this in various places where it fit, and so far, I can't remember a single attempt where it didn't stay synced. Granted, I haven't tried it with really dragged out delay times (nothing above about two beats of delay at maybe 100 BPM), but even so...

This is the best of both worlds, because when you need him to be rock-solid, he is, but when the situation calls for it, he can (and does) manipulate tempo intentionally.

I've told him (and others) that playing with him is like having an expressive human metronome, and I mean it. It is amazingly blissful - I can wander out into strange netherworlds of syncopation and/or ethereal tempolessness (yay for pads!) and the foundation never wavers.

I'm sure that at times, he has small amounts of drift, but given that my delay stays tightly synced with him for whole songs at a single tempo, it can't get as large as even a single beat per minute very often.

We haven't tried it yet, but someday I'd like to try him out against some sequenced stuff - I'm pretty sure that if I could handle it (which I don't think I can, yet), he'd be unphased by it, even if it got pretty thick. Live band + sequenced riffs/textures/effects could result in some pretty cool stuff.

So, all that to say:

The guy who wrote TFA is actually just providing a measurement of how consistent the drummers for these bands are. Maybe they used a click track to achieve that consistency, but as a semi-pro living in central PA (not exactly renowned for its music scene), I've found one who doesn't need the click.

Comment: Re:Authenticity (Score 1) 437

by Nate4D (#26769801) Attached to: The Deceptive Perfection of Auto-Tune

I can't claim to listen to much of the music that auto-tune is used in.

I do listen obsessively to the best vocal group I've ever heard, The Wailin' Jennys ( They're better harmonizers than any other group I've ever heard (and I've heard CSN live, and scoured Pandora for others like them). Amazingly tight, staggering vocal blend, and their live performances are nigh-flawless.

I've listened to a lot of singers in my day, some good, some bad, and one thing I can tell you:

If a singer needs Auto-Tune to stay in tune in the studio, the odds that they've mastered the rest of the art is pretty friggin' small, and they'll never be able to draw serious music buffs live.

Musicians like the Jennys will never have much to fear from them. I understand the theory, but as a serious vocal aficionado, it just won't be a problem.

Is Auto-Tune evil? Probably not, but it's not really a competitive advantage, either.

Comment: Re:mindless drivel about the future of computers (Score 2, Interesting) 245

by Nate4D (#19001685) Attached to: The End of .Mac and Google Apps?
I actually think it'll go the opposite way.

My hunch is that as the general public becomes more technically savvy, and storage devices get smaller, you'll actually wind up carrying your entire computational environment everywhere with you, operating system, applications, data, and all, on a little flash-drive-like thing about the size of a credit card.

You can actually do this today, if you're mildly geeky - a 2 gig flash drive and a lightweight Linux distro leaves you plenty of room to do most of your daily activities, and you can use it on any fairly recent Intel machine. (though we'll need to do something about those boot times...)

So anyway, I'd expect to see a standard terminal appear, which is probably an x86 piece of hardware, that boots off your little data cartridge, and you go on your merry way.

This has the advantage of the net-based computing paradigm - your personal setup and applications, everywhere you go. It doesn't have the massive problems of net-based computing, like completely losing access to your data when a fiber-seeking backhoe takes out your net connection.

Yeah, it would be pretty easy to lose your data, by losing the card, but there'll always be online backup services, like Apple's .Mac, and creating a backup that's not online wouldn't be too hard either. Encryption probably becomes more important, since if you lose this little storage device, someone else could probably break into it easily.

The Dangers of Open Content 240

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
gihan_ripper writes "Recently released open movie Elephants Dream found itself in hot water with Catalonians after accidentally using an offensive word instead of 'Català' in the subtitle menu. The cause? Designer Matt Ebb had used Wikipedia to look up the Catalan word for Catalan on a day when the entry had been vandalized. He writes about this experience on the Elephant Dream blog. We may have scoffed at John Seigenthaler over his criticisms of Wikipedia, but it gives us pause for thought when we to heavily on Wikipedia."

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