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Comment: Re:Just wondering... (Score 1) 296

by jeffb (2.718) (#47877423) Attached to: WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

Oh yes, and that whole thing your school teachers taught about electrons orbiting a cluster of protons and neutrons is a lie; it's just a convenient way of visualizing what's happening.

Nice condescending swipe. Now, would you care to explain why you said you need "a gap no greater than two protons thick" to block the escape of helium atoms, each consisting of a nucleus with its attendant populated orbitals, several orders of magnitude larger than the bare nucleus that you seemed to be describing?

For that matter, how exactly would you define "a gap no greater than two protons thick" in an object made from molecular matter -- that is, matter bound together by those clouds of electrons that you alluded to? You know, the things that "don't really take up physical space" (except that they really do) and "have no mass" (except 9.10938291 × 10e-31 kilograms), and don't really "orbit" (but certainly do interact to form what's "conveniently" conceptualized as a van der Waals surface)?

Comment: Re:in other words... (Score 4, Interesting) 211

by jeffb (2.718) (#47873073) Attached to: Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life

Nonsense.

The argument seems to be that, because we don't see "evidence of technological activity" when we look out at the universe, intelligence leading to technological culture must be rare or absent. If an entity or a culture doesn't cause huge, recognizable perturbations in its environment, it must not represent "intelligence".

Think of an electrical engineer from the 1880s studying the data cables that run through a modern city. He might cut into a cable, expecting to find a wire carrying electrical impulses. Instead, he sees a bundle of glass fibers, glowing brightly if he nicks or breaks them. No tools at his disposal would let him even detect the gigahertz-scale fluctuations in that light.

For that matter, consider a 1960s "exobiologist" trying to decode an intercepted 2014 video stream. If you told him it was image data, he might look for periodicities that would let him determine rows, columns, and pixels. In an MPEG-compressed stream, he wouldn't get far. Heaven help him if it's DRMed.

My point: the things we look for as evidence of technological civilization may just be evidence of insufficiently advanced technological civilization. The "filters" we fear -- nuclear annihilation, bioterror, grey goo -- may indeed claim a lot of civilizations, or they may be laughably uncommon. It seems to me most likely that, instead of trying and failing to build space-opera-scope interstellar empires, most civilizations simply grow into something that we aren't yet sophisticated enough to notice.

Comment: Re:Just wondering... (Score 1) 296

by jeffb (2.718) (#47868479) Attached to: WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

So it really all comes down to the seal: if they can get the seal to leave a gap no greater than two protons thick (He comes in stable isotopes of 1 or 2 neutrons), then no helium can escape. Good luck getting a seal that good though.

Well, you just need to squeeze your neutronium together really hard along the joints.

Seriously, "a gap no greater than two protons thick"? Have you completely forgotten about electrons? You know, those things that hold all Earthly matter together (and apart)?

Comment: Re:Demographic (Score 5, Funny) 523

by jeffb (2.718) (#47857023) Attached to: AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

You'll notice that whenever companies engage in discussions about this sort of thing, they seem to be talking about households of one person. I have no idea how 10MBPS would suffice in a house of, say, four people.

Why, they're all gathered around the radio in the evening, while Father smokes his pipe and Mother does her knitting.

Er, TV, not radio.

Comment: Re:The 'evironmentally-friendly' fuel propane (Score 3, Insightful) 82

by jeffb (2.718) (#47824217) Attached to: Researchers Harness E. Coli To Produce Propane

"The environmentally-friendly fuel propane" doesn't refer to the method of production. Propane is easier to burn cleanly than gasoline or kerosene, and it's not as significant a greenhouse gas as methane. It still produces CO2 when burned, of course, but it's carbon-neutral (assuming you aren't using a fossil feedstock, which would seem kind of pointless).

Gasoline produced through fermentation would be carbon-neutral as well, but it would still burn dirtier.

Comment: Re:Ummm.... (Score 4, Insightful) 169

I have a different theory. His comic appeal to people who merely believe themselves to be above average.

...but it can't appeal to people who really are above average, because it doesn't appeal to you! Right?

So, can you recommend any webcomics that appeal to people who bolster their own sense of superiority by accusing others of feeling superior, and then mocking them for it? Maybe something with "Projection" in the title...

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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