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Comment: Re:buffy dammit (Score 1) 476

by Pfhorrest (#48918459) Attached to: Best 1990s Sci-fi show?

Mulder and Scully's debate wasn't so much about fantasy vs science as it was "this is paranormal" vs "this has a perfectly normal explanation". Aliens, for the big example of the show's myth-arc, are both paranormal in the context of the show, and also clearly scientific. Scully's position is not just "this could be explained in principle, we could do science to this and understand it", it's "this is probably just something perfectly within the bounds of known science". While Mulder's position was not "this is crazy and unexplainable and nobody will ever understand how or why it's happening!", it was "something unknown to mainstream science is happening, this is a new phenomena we haven't documented and studied yet".

That said, on the topic of Buffy, it certainly does contain some sci-fi elements, but also contains plenty of things that are treated as raw fantasy. But, since it is all about presentation and not content, it would be perfectly possible to recontextualize the contents of the buffyverse as scifi. The Initiative sure seemed to want to do that, though it seems the show largely depicts them in a misguided light. Fred when stranded in Pylea seemed to think that there was some way of sciencing herself home from a fantasy hell dimension. I actually liked that idea so much, and was so disappointed that Angel didn't take her character in that direction, that I wrote my own show concept set in the buffyverse multiverse that implicitly reframes all the magic as scifi. But as the shows themselves stand, they never quite went there, and most of the fantasy elements remain presented as pure fantasy, not sufficiently advanced technology.

Comment: Re:buffy dammit (Score 1) 476

by Pfhorrest (#48917427) Attached to: Best 1990s Sci-fi show?

While I will agree that there is something spectrum-like about the range of speculative fiction, both fantasy and sci-fi having a hard-to-soft range, and meeting where the hard extreme of fantasy meets the soft extreme of sci-fi, I think there is a very clear dividing line that marks that transition: sci-fi presents all the amazing phenomena that happen in it as supposedly being all scientifically understandable by ordinary mortal humans, in principle at least, if not in present fact (either in the story's present, the author's present, or the audience's present); while fantasy contains at least some phenomena that supposedly are inherently supernatural and not amenable to scientific understanding.

The hard extreme of fantasy that butts up against that line is fantasy wherein magic is all completely predictable and analyzable and can be treated with science-like methodology within the fictional world, but there is still no pretense that those kinds of phenomena are possible in the real world that we know, or that we will ever discover them to be possible. Conversely, the soft extreme of scifi that butts up against the same line is scifi wherein amazing and apparently magical phenomena -- even the same exact things as in fantasy -- appear and are not given any actual explanation even attempting to tie them to the known science of our world, but they are still hand-waved away as "sufficiently advanced technology" that we, in principle, could understand, if only our science got better.

Comment: Re:Simple solution (Score 3, Interesting) 423

by Mr. Slippery (#48895471) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Where Can You Get a Good 3-Button Mouse Today?

Are there any valuable functions mapped to a middle button anyway, that make it so important?

Yes. For people who use real computers, middle button = "paste selected text".

Who puts three fingers on the surface of a mouse?

People who use real computers but have not yet found the one true pointing device, the 4-button Logitech Marble Mouse Trackball.

Comment: Re:Popcorn time! (Score 0) 375

by Mr. Slippery (#48892573) Attached to: Behind the MOOC Harassment Charges That Stunned MIT

I've heard claims that one in four women will be raped at some point in their lives, and have yet to hear any sort of data-based rebuttal.

Really? You heard such an extraordinary claim, but apparently made zero effort to look into its validity?

Here you go. And here. And here.

Essentially, that inflated number is based on questionable surveys which often fail to distinguish between a regrettable drunken hookup and rape, and is not just about rape but about behavior ranging from grabbing a woman's butt on up through attempted rape and actual rape. (Yes, grabbing someone's butt is bad. It's assault. It's unacceptable. It is not, however, rape.)

Is rape much more common than most people think? Yes. The data is murky but I would be surprised if the lifetime victimization rate for women was less than 5%, 1 in 20. Is it 25%, "eeny-meeny-miney-RAPE!" common? No.

And a teacher sending a student sexy messages over the internet is certainly a breach of professional conduct...but it's not rape.

Comment: Re:It is hard not to associate this with 8chan (Score 1) 183

by Pfhorrest (#48888341) Attached to: Moot Retires From 4chan

Thats why the best communities are those where comments are rated not by whether people agree with them, but by whether they are of discursive merit regardless of content: well-reasoned, polite, respectful, etc. That is why slashdot here has moderations like 'insightful' and 'flamebait' but not 'agree' or 'disagree'. So we can still preserve a quality of discourse with a variety of opinions, instead of either an echochamber or an unruly mob.

Of course that is really dependent on the people, not the software. The software can at best encourage behavior, but if people want to they can still abuse 'informative' as 'I agree' or 'overrated' as 'disagree'. Like all communities, everything depends on the quality of the people.


Rare Astronomical Event Will See Triple Moon Shadows On Jupiter 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-pictures dept.
hypnosec writes Stargazers are in for a treat: they will be able to witness a rare astronomical event early tomorrow morning (January 24, 2015) where shadows of three of Jupiter's largest moons — Io, Europa, and Callisto — will fall upon Jupiter simultaneously. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will provide a live online broadcast on its Livestream channel. It will begin on January 24 at 0430 GMT (January 23 at 11:30 PM EST, 8:30 PM PST) and end at 0700 GMT (2:00 AM EST, 11:00 PM PST). They've also posted a short animated video of how the event will appear.

Comment: Re:Yeah! (Score 1) 512

by Pfhorrest (#48881083) Attached to: Senator Who Calls STEM Shortage a Hoax Appointed To Head Immigration

Just wanted to say hi to a fellow take-in-new-information-and-change-opinions person. There need to be more of us, or if there are more of us already, we need to be more vocal, so the world knows both that it's OK to be reasonable (lots of people are doing it!) and more especially that reason will can actually get you somewhere with people.

My personal history: I started out, when I was very young, assuming that someone was obviously in charge of the whole world and all that was needed to make things better was to get whoever was in charge to do it, or put someone new in charge who would do it; to make things more fair, thoughts like "if society is going to be designed such that you need a car to function in it, then cars should be given to everyone when they're old enough to need them, otherwise it's just not fair". I was basically (and called myself) a straight up communist.

In my teens my perspective shifted as I realized that there really isn't and actually can't be anybody in charge setting up "the system" as a whole, there are just a bunch if interacting individuals and any system that there might be emerges organically from their interactions, so the best we can do is just keep people from trampling over each other, protect individuals' rights, and leave them to their self-determination. I considered myself a libertarian then.

Then as I became an adult and had to actually get by in the real world on my own, I realized like you that even given ideal libertarian freedom, success and failure are frequently, I'd say even predominantly, highly uncorrelated with hard work and skill. There is random chance to factor in, like you point out, and I've been hit with more than my fair share of bad luck to prove that point to me, but there are also systematic factors allowed by traditional American right-libertarianism that perpetuate inequalities, giving a hand up to those who need it least, and holding down those in greatest need.

In the years since then I've looked for other alternatives, finding some sympathy for left-libertarianism a.k.a. libertarian socialism, which is a term I now apply to myself in lieu of any other, although I am still strongly propertarian in contrast to them. I am also very sympathetic to distributivism and it's motto that "the problem with capitalism is not that there are too many capitalists, but that there are too few", i.e. purely free markets would work great if there were a society where everyone owned e.g. their own homes and businesses, and not a class division between the non-working owners and the non-owning workers. I mostly focus on contracts of rent (including the special case of rent on money, interest), and possibly contracts in general (besides transfers of ownership), as the root of the problems with traditional American right-libertarianism, and have extensive original arguments on how they perpetuate that owner/worker class division that would otherwise naturally dissolve in a truly free market, and thus how broadly libertarian ideals could be realized while still achieving socialist (egalitarian) ends, if only that feature (rent and interest) was omitted.

But I've also had to learn to separate idealism from pragmatism. I don't have any party I can get behind when it comes to representing my ideals, because they require refactoring large social structures in ways that most Americans simple cannot conceive ("libertarian socialist" being a blatant contradiction in their minds, never mind things like "stateless governance"). But that's all long-term, and the only work that can really be done there is to spread the ideas. In the short term, practical considerations outweigh ideals, especially since one way or another the ideals simply are not going to be realized in my lifetime. So in the short term, I've backed away from my libertarianism and accepted some more mainstream state-socialist concepts as the best thing that we can do right now with the political climate what it is, though that "best" is still informed by libertarian ideals. Things like: given that taxation is bad and ideally should not happen at all, but that it is going to happen anyway, if it happens, it should be done in the least-harmful way; namely, by taking from those who can best bear that burden, the rich, and spending on those who most benefit from it, the poor. In other words, taxes are bad but necessary, therefore progressive taxation is the best option.

So for the most part I end up disappointedly voting for Democrats, or Greens when they're available, and wishing there were better options. I really really wish the Libertarian party would just destroy the Republicans already and the mainstream debate could be between Libertarians and Democrats, because then maybe we'd see some movement in the right direction. (Basically everything those two parties agree on, I agree with; while basically everything the Democrats and Republicans agree on, I disagree with).

Comment: Re:You see that too? (Score 1) 512

by Pfhorrest (#48880805) Attached to: Senator Who Calls STEM Shortage a Hoax Appointed To Head Immigration

I think you already answered your own question as to why Republicans would be behind a measure like this. They are generally anti-immigration. Normally I would find that a problem but in this case it seems to be right on the money.

(My general opinion on immigration is that anyone should be allowed into the country but then subject to exactly the same rights and responsibilities as citizens, so the immigrants don't get a free ride on the backs of citizen taxpayers, and employers don't get an exploitable underclass to undermine those very same citizens. It's fine to have open borders so long as everyone is treated equally; the problem is when the immigrants lack either the rights or the responsibilities of citizens, allowing them to exploit or to be exploited, in either way at a loss to the general citizenry).

Comment: reflects political environment, more like it (Score 1) 145

by SuperBanana (#48878997) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Could Move

It's more that the clock reflects the current global political climate.

Ie when Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers, are duking it out, the clock goes closer to midnight.

I strongly suspect that the announcement is due to strong rhetoric from russian leadership - I believe recently either Putin or one of his lackeys declared that they could "raze" the US. There's also been increasingly aggressive "patrols" by Russian bombers along the US and Europe, the recent sub incident in Sweden, and of course the invasion of Ukraine.

Comment: Re:It's about time. (Score 5, Interesting) 138

by Mr. Slippery (#48875195) Attached to: Simon Pegg On Board To Co-Write Next Star Trek Film

Star Trek now has freedom to have any future the writers can come up with

No, they're stuck with the universe Abrams left them. A universe which makes no sense, where starships are irrelevant because transporters can move people over interstellar distances (from Earth to the Klingon homeworld), and where a cure for death has been found in Khan's blood. Not to mention the absurd political situation, with a corrupt Starfleet operating accord to some bizarre system of personal prerogative of individual commanders rather than any rational chain of command.

Comment: Re:They already have (Score 1) 666

by Pfhorrest (#48871851) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

By "reasonable person" here I mean a person responsive to the evidence. Someone who would give some criteria for evidence that would change their mind, and merely thinks that those criteria are not yet met. As opposed to someone who simply cannot conceive of anything ever changing their mind.

For a personal example, I am an atheist, and I can easily conceive of something that would convince me that something people would probably call God existed. I would still quibble about whether that appellation is correct, and what the proper response to the existence of such a being would be, and there are some senses of the term that by their definition could not be put to the test either way and so those such concepts are inherently religious (and I'd argue practically meaningless), but if you just meant something like an extremely powerful, extremely knowledgeable, and extremely benevolent being (proving "all" in any of those cases is logically impossible), then yeah, I can easily imagine seeing evidence that would convince me of it. That evidence just isn't available.

On the other hand, I've met plenty of religious people who, when presented with something like the Problem of Evil (the existence of evil is evidence that any God that might exist either can't, won't, or doesn't know he needs to do anything about it, and in any of those cases shouldn't count as God anymore), have no counterargument but just brush it off and continue believing what they want, unresponsive to reason. (There are other people who try to offer reasoned rebuttals, and though I've found all such reasoning wanting, I have respect that they're at least trying to be reasonable, even if they're failing at it; usually, their failure is offering a rebuttal which then makes the question undeterminable and thus requires the abandonment of reason for believer or skeptic alike). The unreasonableness comes when their beliefs are not compelled one way or another by the evidence, but selected because they or their consequences are more desirable than the alternative.

In the case of climate change, I've not dug into the question much because the popular debate surrounding it seems polarized between people who are both attached to their answers because of the desirability of their consequences, rather than being compelled by the evidence. But I trust the scientific community as a whole at least to be compelled by the evidence, even if not their politically-charged fans. It looks to me, from a distance, like one side is firmly (I'll even say religiously) attached to the premise that if climate change is happening —as they agree it is — then certain forms of government intervention are warranted; the other side in turn thinks such government intervention is never warranted and concludes via modus tollens that climate change must not be happening. Not that I think they're being explicit, even to themselves, about that line of reasoning. But they seem to be choosing what facts to accept based on the desirability of their supposed consequences, and thus being unreasonable. (The implication of those consequences from the facts is itself another form of unreasonability, in that it's inferring an "ought" from an "is", but that's shared by both sides).

Comment: Re:More proof (Score 1) 666

by Pfhorrest (#48870843) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

If it is given that something is happening, there are always many different things that could be done in response to it.

In the case of global warming, there are the political responses you can't imagine other than; there are technological advances to be investigated that you mention nevertheless; there's always the option of individual people adapting individually to the problem as it begins to affect them (people on low-lying beaches relocating inland as sea levels rise, farmers relocating toward the poles as arable areas change, etc).

Whether the problem exists and what the proper response to it would be if it did should always be kept separate questions, otherwise you get nonsense like we're seeing where agreement on factual matters is determined by agreement on normative ones. But one never directly implies the other. This is basic philosophy at least as old as Hume.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn