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Comment: Re:...on intelligence and technological advancemen (Score 1) 270

Really you have two options here. Either that Martian life would be entirely different to us in which case it is unlikely going to be even able to survive on Earth let alone devour anything or it is somehow similar to life on Earth in which case would it really be any worse that the collection of highly infectious, nasty bugs we already have in labs around the planet?

Certain science fiction loves to go on about alien superbugs because they make good stories but I expect that in this regard reality will be a lot more boring, and safer, than fiction.

Comment: The Hague? (Score 1) 163

Interesting. I was confused by this since I was taught as a kid that The Hague was the capital of the Netherlands and, if Wikipedia is to be believed, that is still where the government sits even though it seems that Dutch law defines Amsterdam as the capital (which was something I'd never heard of until today). So apparently at least in the UK we used to be taught based on the definition of capital, i.e. where the ruling government presides, and not whatever local laws would like to call a capital.

Comment: ...on intelligence and technological advancement (Score 5, Insightful) 270

Actually I would think it depends more on how intelligent and how advanced it is. Microbial life on Mars will hardly instill much fear but a lot of curiosity. An advanced space craft appearing in orbit and contacting us will generate far more fear...but still a lot of curiosity about their technology. So I'd say that curiosity is the one constant regardless of what type of life we find. Whether we fear it will depend on the details.

Comment: Re:Travel is hard, Radio is not (Score 1) 236

by Roger W Moore (#48921897) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

then it is more probable our data point falls around the middle

My point is though that without knowing the width of that distribution you have no idea how wide the 'middle' is: if your average time to evolve intelligence is 30+/-20 billion years we are still well within 2 sigma from the mean. This could make intelligent life sufficiently rare so that we could easily be the first in our galaxy given the age of the universe. With billions of galaxies there could still be more advanced intelligent life in a galaxy far, far away but we would never know about them.

Comment: Travel is hard, Radio is not (Score 1) 236

by Roger W Moore (#48919943) Attached to: Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

An alternate "simplest" explanation (though less likely) is that we are first.

Just curious but why do you say that? We have no clue how likely intelligent life is to evolve. All we know is that it has happened once, and it took 3.5 billion years from the formation of the first like on Earth. Suppose that this was very much faster than average and the the mean time for intelligent life to evolve (once life itself has started) is 30 billion years? Such a long time would hugely reduce the number of intelligent species since you need a very stable environment for a long period of time and even then you have to get lucky.

Trying to quantify what you don't know is a mug's order to be able to do it you really need to know what you don't know. If anything I would argue that there is, perhaps, some weak evidence for intelligent life being rare: travel might be hard but radio is easy. We have not heard ET's broadcasts which would suggest perhaps that there is no intelligent life nearby (or they use some technology beyond EM waves).

Comment: Global warming = doomsday? (Score 2) 216

by Roger W Moore (#48898239) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Moved Two Minutes Forward, To 23:57

you have to wonder why anyone would put any stock in it.

Especially given that they now track global warming. Nuclear war is a doomsday scenario but global warming is most certainly not. It may cause economic hardship and the displacement of populations as sea levels rise plus the need to alter crops etc. but it is not going to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Since the clock is supposedly set by scientists if they can be so wrong about something scientific then I have little faith they can predict the likelihood of nuclear war either given that this depends on politics.

Comment: Homegrown Initiative (Score 2) 77

Fortunately the US is likely to tell Cameron to fuck off, since it would be unconstitutional to ban encryption...

Just like it is unconstitutional to torture prisoners etc. etc.? I expect that you are right in that they will deny his request but the reason will be because it is the request of a foreign power. I also expect that many US politicians will think that it sounds like an excellent idea and after a suitable period so that they can claim it is their own idea there will be an American lead initiative to do the same thing. Why would they listen to some idiotic right wing UK politician when they have plenty of their own to choose from?

Comment: Re:Literally (Score 2, Interesting) 174

by Roger W Moore (#48809123) Attached to: Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

"Incorrect" in languages is only incorrect until we change the rules.

True but there needs to be some definition of what counts as 'we' when it comes to changing the rules. A few ignorant kids posting comments on Twitter and Facebook showing they have no clue what 'literally' means should not be enough to get the meaning changed in a dictionary. Indeed I would guess the way that most people saw the 'new' meaning was through reposts with a comment to the effect of "look what this idiot wrote".

Comment: Re:Start with Venus... (Score 1) 319

by Roger W Moore (#48806541) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

The first nuclear bomb test heated a volume of atmosphere to higher temperatures, and reached higher pressures, than any similar volume of atmosphere in the entirety of Earth's history, by natural or artificial means.

What about a meteorite impact? The shockwave from a sufficiently large one (and there is plenty of evidence of these) would presumably be very similar to that of a nuclear device. While the energy density at the core of the explosion might be less than a nuclear bomb presumably it is the shockwave heating which you need to generate the chain reaction since this will create high temperature and pressures rather than just temperature? I'm not a plasma physicist though...

Comment: EU != UK (Score 1) 329

Why should they? When the banking secret was killed by the EU, the banks did not threaten to go elsewhere.

There is a large difference (of almost 400 million people) between the EU and the UK. Large businesses cannot afford to pull out of the EU, much like they cannot afford to pull out of the US. However I imagine they would be far less adverse to moving their HQ from London to Frankfurt, Dublin or some other non-UK, EU location.

Comment: Knowledge not Fashion (Score 1) 388

by Roger W Moore (#48806099) Attached to: UK Computing Teachers Concerned That Pupils Know More Than Them

The other thing I wondered about is the different expectations. If your instructor still thinks myspace is where the cool kids hangout....

Well having grown up in the UK and been to computer lessons in school (in the 1980s) I'd say that my expectations were that the teachers knew the subject material. When it came to maths, physics, chemistry etc. the teachers I had really knew their stuff and I learnt a heck of a lot from them but with computing it was far more variable.

I almost got into real trouble in one class using BBC Micros. We were told to write a program to add two numbers together which was incredibly trivial so, having the same computer at home, I thought I'd do the assignment in a more challenging way and teach myself assembly to add the numbers using the 'Advanced User Guide' which they had at school but I'd not got at home. I ran into some problems (you had to loop the assembly code through the parser twice to compile it) and when I asked for help and she saw the code she threw a fit. I was threatened with detention for not doing the assignment etc. etc. despite my protestations and explanation.

Fortunately the senior computing teacher walked in before anything got set in stone and she got him to come over to show him how badly I'd been behaving. His response was 'leave him to me' at which point he sat down and proceeded to show me what I was missing and then set me the challenge to figure out how to add two numbers which gave an answer greater than 255 (since it was an 8-bit machine) and how to store negative numbers using 2's complement. I learnt more computing in the 10 minutes he spent with me during one of his free periods than I learnt in the entire rest of the term with the idiot we had who was supposed to be teaching us.

So this is hardly a new problem. Teachers have a duty to make sure that the know what they are teaching and, worse, if their reaction to someone who may know more than they do is anger and hostility then they really have no business at all being a teacher at all. Who cares what they think about "fashion" - that's only relevant to education when it comes to engagement and sometimes being hopelessly out of date can be more engaging than being up to date.

Comment: With an Idiot in charge (Score 5, Interesting) 329

This is why it will fail. Not because it would destroy everyone's privacy but because it will destroy the privacy of large, international companies. They will threaten to move out of the UK, the tories will panic and the bill will disappear until the idiot in charge forgets again and attempts to resurrect it for a third time in a couple of years from now (assuming he survives the general election).

Comment: Government or Authorities? (Score 4, Funny) 329

Let's hope he means "the authorities" and not "the government" since the government consists of MPs and if they have to be able to read it they will probably need to outlaw words with more than 3 syllables and writing something in a language other than English will count as use of advanced encryption.

Moneyliness is next to Godliness. -- Andries van Dam