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Comment: Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (Score 1) 805

by SoftwareArtist (#46773011) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

No, that is not at all what the study found. Let me quote directly from the abstract:

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Let me state that again: the only interest groups with substantial influence are those representing business interests. All other interest groups have "little or no independent influence". Organizing a grassroots movement is not an effective strategy.

Comment: Re:It was a "joke" back then (Score 1) 275

And the whole point of this cover is to be a joke - showing a "future" computer that is clearly completely impractical, because you would need a magnifying glass to read the tiny text on it, and because it would be completely impossible to actually type on a keyboard that small. The artist was having fun by pretending computers would just get smaller without changing in any other way, when this clearly couldn't happen in real life.

Comment: Re: Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (Score 1) 607

It doesn't exist in anything. That's the point: mathematics is independent of any context. When we say a piece of mathematics "exists", what we really mean is that certain consequences follow from certain definitions. It doesn't matter whether anyone has yet derived those consequences, or whether anyone has written down those definitions, or even whether there exists a person who could write them down or a surface on which to write them. It still remains true that certain consequences follow from certain definitions. And "the universe", according to the MUH, is the consequence that follows from some (currently unknown) definition.

Here's the Wikipedia page on it: I tried to include that in my first post, but it looks like Slashdot beta has changed how you specify links. :(

Comment: Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (Score 1) 607

The best, and really only, answer I know for that question is the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. It says the universe is a purely mathematical structure that exists in an abstract, logical sense because by definition, it must exist. That's a hard concept to wrap your brain around, but it's the only approach I know of with even a hint of being able to answer your question. It gives you existence without needing God, quantum fluctuations, or anything else to bootstrap it. And so far, it's the only game in town.

Comment: Re:Fuck Obamacare (Score 1) 722

by SoftwareArtist (#46718861) Attached to: Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

Encouraging people to buy health insurance certainly counts as promoting the "General Welfare of the United States". That's about the vaguest, least limiting wording I could have imagined. Allowing the government to collect taxes to promote the "General Welfare" is pretty much a blank check allowing it to do so for any purpose whatsoever.

You may not like that. You may think Article 1 should have been much more explicit and restrictive in its wording. That's fine. You're allowed to disagree with the Constitution, and you're allowed to campaign to get it changed. But for the present, it says what it says, and you don't have the right to pretend it says something different from what it plainly does say. (Morally speaking. Legally, I suppose you have the right to pretend whatever you want, but that doesn't make it true.)

Comment: Re:Fuck Obamacare (Score 4, Insightful) 722

by SoftwareArtist (#46717023) Attached to: Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

Suppose that instead of calling it a fine for not buying insurance, they had simply described it differently. Suppose they decided to tax everyone by a fixed amount, and then offered a tax rebate to anyone who bought insurance. Would you still feel that was unconstitutional? The government has the right to levy taxes - no question about that. And they have the right to spend money however they want, including giving it out as tax rebates to encourage particular behaviors. Yet the two situations are completely identical as far as money is concerned. The only difference is how they describe it. What makes the first unconstitutional and the second not?

Anyway, your claim about the Supreme Court is simply wrong. They've ruled that choosing to spend money in particular ways in particular circumstances is protected free speech, but they've never made any blanket claim that money=speech. For example, they still allow lots of restrictions on donations to political campaigns. You can't donate more than a fixed amount to any one candidate, and while you're allowed to buy political advertisements on your own, you can't coordinate with the campaigns you intend to support. And much more relevantly: so far as I know, they have never ruled in any context that you have a right to refuse to pay taxes or fines levied by the government.

Comment: Re:Computable? Simulatable? (Score 1) 199

by SoftwareArtist (#46671675) Attached to: P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe

That's exactly right. I just finished reading the paper. He's basically saying that we don't know what the Schrodinger equation predicts for macroscopic systems, because it's completely impossible to do the calculation and find out. Actually, whether P=NP doesn't really matter as far as that goes. Whether or not it will some day be possible to do the calculation, thus far we haven't done it, so we don't know what the result is. We shouldn't go around making claims about half-dead/half-alive cats when we have no idea whether QM predicts that or not.

There's a bit more to the paper than that. It has two main parts. The first is a proof that solving the Schrodinger equation is NP-hard. He then considers the case of a simple test system (for which we can solve the Schrodinger equation) coupled to a complex environment (for which we can't). He makes some heuristic arguments based on a set of reasonable sounding approximations, and shows that they lead to the standard probabilistic behavior and wavefunction collapse for the test system.

I don't think any of this is really new. It's just a different way of looking at decoherence. Still, it makes interesting reading.

Comment: Re:Everything *credible* is on the table (Score 1) 667

by SoftwareArtist (#46552589) Attached to: Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

It's not even a question of "credible". Everything is on the table to be suggested, discussed, and dismissed because it's completely inconsistent with the evidence. Creationists (and lots of other people who don't really understand science) keep missing that last point. They seem to think that "science" means you can believe anything you want. They don't get that if it was inconsistent with the evidence yesterday, and inconsistent with the evidence the day before that, and the day before that, and no new evidence has come up to change that, then you don't get to keep bringing it up. You have to follow the evidence, and if something is clearly inconsistent with the evidence, you may not believe in it.

Comment: Re:Different chemistry of life? (Score 1) 73

by SoftwareArtist (#46525597) Attached to: Waves Spotted On Titan

I don't think temperature is a problem. You just adjust your energy barriers to be appropriate to the temperature. So proteins would be much less stable than earth ones, but then they'd be much colder, so their stability would come out the same. Just like extremophiles have much more stable proteins than other organisms, so they don't fall apart at high temperature.

A bigger problem is DNA and RNA. Those would instantly precipitate out in methane. So you'd need a different molecule to serve that function, something that's nonpolar.

Agreed about life being easy to spot, at least if you're free to do whatever experiments you want. Look under a microscope, and it'll be obvious that something is there.

Comment: Different chemistry of life? (Score 4, Interesting) 73

by SoftwareArtist (#46520937) Attached to: Waves Spotted On Titan

I wonder what sort of chemistry any organisms living in those lakes would have. The whole concept of hydrophobicity would be reversed. Polar groups would be "methanephilic" and nonpolar ones would be "methanephobic". They could still have cell walls made from lipids, but they'd be flipped around with the polar part on the inside.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near