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Comment: Re:who cares about plagiarism (Score 2) 53

by PvtVoid (#48575137) Attached to: Study of Massive Preprint Archive Hints At the Geography of Plagiarism

So you are saying that the only reason that people do anything is for recognition or money?

Are you?

No, I am saying that the people who have an interest in assigning credit for work are the people who provide funding and jobs, because they don't want to provide either funding or jobs to people who are not actually creating new ideas. These are also the people who pay for journal subscriptions, fund conferences and professional societies, and confer degrees.

As far as the people who do the research are concerned, very few of them would be able to continue doing research in the absence of funding. Do you think lab equipment, office space, and staff are free?

Comment: Re:who cares about plagiarism (Score 4, Insightful) 53

by PvtVoid (#48573593) Attached to: Study of Massive Preprint Archive Hints At the Geography of Plagiarism

Why does anyone need 'credit' for ideas?

Because it allows funding agencies, university tenure committees, etc. to determine which people are contributing useful new science to the world, and which people are dead wood sucking at the teat of an academic salary without creating anything useful to anybody.

Comment: Re:TFA Misunderstands the History (Score 4, Interesting) 103

by PvtVoid (#48542075) Attached to: Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

It's not that cryptography has failed to bring us security, it's that the people have failed to make use of the available cryptography in the first place.

It's worse than that. As an artist friend of mine told me recently: "Ten years ago I used to wonder how people would respond to the massive loss of privacy represented by social media. Now we know: the only thing people actually worry about is that nobody is watching."

Comment: TFA Misunderstands the History (Score 5, Interesting) 103

by PvtVoid (#48541923) Attached to: Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

TFA is correct that simply thinking that, because there is a zillion-bit crypto algorithm thrown into the communication stream, that everything is good and security is guaranteed. There are many, many attack channels that do not involve brute-forcing the crypto. Keyloggers, for example.

But this is silly:

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, a group of encryption mavens known as cypherpunks sought to protect individual privacy by making "strong" encryption available to everyone. To this end they successfully spread their tools far and wide such that there were those in the cypherpunk crowd who declared victory. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know how this story actually turned out. The NSA embarked on a clandestine, industry-spanning, program of mass subversion that weakened protocols and inserted covert backdoors into a myriad of products.

In actuality, the crypto implementations promoted by cypherpunks were exactly those that made it difficult or impossible for such a program of mass subversion to take place. Remember that the height of the cypherpunk movement was when the Clinton administration was pushing hard, really hard, for the NSA-sponsored Clipper Chip, which was, in a nutshell, crypto subverted by design and mandated by law. We now know that when the spooks found that was politically impossible, they went ahead and did it anyway, in secret. But the cypherpunk tools, most notably PGP (and later GPG, when PGP sold out and went corporate). Hell, even look at /dev/random: when it was revealed that the NSA had actually, and pretty amazingly, undermined hardware random number generators on widely available chips, /dev/random was still just fine, because it treats all sources of entropy as potentially untrustworthy, including the chip.

The first lesson we should learn from the history of the cypherpunks is that trusting your crypto to a closed product is always, always a bad idea. That was the lesson then, and it is still the lesson now.

The second lesson is that crypto, like any security, is all about the threat model. In that light, should we reject the widespread adoption of end-to-end crypto in commercial products? Of course not. If Apple and Google implement crypto by default, it will make efforts to dragnet information exponentially harder, even if the crypto is imperfect. This is why the spooks are beating the drum against it: it closes off that one particular threat model, which they have come to rely on. It doesn't close off other kinds of attack, but so what?

The third lesson is that crypto, by itself, is not a panacea. Nobody ever said it was. The cypherpunk message was not that we can write PGP, declare victory, and walk away. The message was that privacy changes the relationship between the citizen and the state in beneficial ways, and that, in a technological society, we need to embrace technological means of increasing our privacy, in ways that cannot be controlled by the state.

Comment: Re:Waste of money and resources (Score 1) 140

by PvtVoid (#48531963) Attached to: NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

Well actually there is, the earth will be destroyed by our sun. So going to mars will be the only way humanity will continue on.

The Earth will be destroyed by the sun five billion years from now, which is a span of deep time longer than it took single-celled organisms to evolve into us. What makes you think that the human race will be in existence for even a tiny fraction of that time? Even if we don't go extinct outright (which is the most probable outcome), our descendants will probably bear no resemblance to us whatsoever. If technological progress continues at anything near the current rate, they will be godlike beings in comparison to us. Why would they give a fuck about living on Mars?

Comment: Re:Spare me NASA's PR Hype (Score 1) 140

by PvtVoid (#48531841) Attached to: NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

Walter Cronkite's live description of the launch ofApollo 4: "...our building's shaking here. Our building's shaking! Oh it's terrific, the building's shaking! This big blast window is shaking! We're holding it with our hands! Look at that rocket go into the clouds at 3000 feet!...you can see it...you can see it...oh the roar is terrific!...".

Comment: Re:How detached from reality is astrophysics? (Score 2) 52

by PvtVoid (#48516179) Attached to: The Moment of Truth For BICEP2

You might say "this is how science works," but the people at BICEP2 and the faster-than-light neutrino people should have know better than to make such a big announcement so prematurely. The press aren't technically competent so scientists need to self-police about what makes it to the top of the CNN science segment.

On both counts you mention, I guess I disagree. The faster-than-light neutrino people were very clear that they expected it to eventually be resolved by something mundane, which it of course eventually was. The jury is still out on BICEP2, although it sure isn't looking good. If you believe the tweets, Planck puts an upper limit on tensors that would be strongly incompatible with the BICEP2 claim.

In any case, isn't it a good thing for the press to show scientists getting really excited about a potential new discovery, and then eventually finding out that it was a false alarm? This gives a much better picture of how science actually progresses than portraying it as an unbroken series of perfect truths. And if the scientists themselves are a little vain, a little hungry for fame, a little fractious with one another, that reflects the fact that science is done by actual people, and manages to arrive at the truth despite that. I wish more science reporting made the sausage making more evident to the general public. I think scientists tend to be a little too afraid that if scientists as a group are portrayed as anything less than heroic examples of a detached and objective stereotype, that somehow public perception of science will suffer, when in reality what that does is project a false image and create unrealistic expectations.

If entropy is increasing, where is it coming from?

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