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Comment: Re:Time to... (Score 1) 446

by StikyPad (#48041063) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

I agree that "not allowing people to fly from those countries" is ridiculous, but only because it's insufficient as a quarantine measure. Exceptions can always be made for people and materials to enter a quarantine, since that doesn't affect containment, so the argument that medical personnel and drugs couldn't get there is specious. The key point is that they wouldn't be allowed to leave again until it was all clear, if such a thing was really necessary.

That said, it doesn't seem like that's a step that we as a planet need to take just yet. Basic controls appear to be working, at least on the global scale, with outbreaks isolated to populations with poor hygiene and a strong distrust of (mostly foreign, to them) medical workers.

Comment: No, he supposed. (Score 1) 488

by StikyPad (#48040895) Attached to: Are the World's Religions Ready For ET?

He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs

To realize is to become aware of a fact. The above clause is not a fact, it's a hypothesis. It's not a realization, it's an assertion. Catholicism forbids birth control, but a majority of Catholics are in favor of it. So even if religion has affected their views to birth control, which is speculative, then that influence has been unconvincing in most cases.

I'm a secularist agnostic, and this article just seems like an excuse to attack religion. To the best of my knowledge, all major religious texts are silent on extraterrestrial life, so there's no inherent conflict between religion and aliens.

To the extent that I am at all concerned about people's reaction to the discovery of aliens -- which is to say, hardly at all -- I am more concerned with how we would handle it on a global scale rather than how any subgroup would react. There will always be naysayers, and (it's worth noting) they may well be right! Should it happen, alien contact may well turn out to be a tragic event in the story of our species. Or it might be a monumental achievement. But aside from some ground rules, like not shooting first and asking questions later, I think it makes sense to wait until we know what we're dealing with before making any policy decisions, let alone worrying about the effects of any dissidents, or the motivation for their dissent.

Comment: Re:Completely Contained? (Score 1) 446

by hey! (#48031825) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

Ebola is (according to the summary) completely contained in Nigeria and Senegal. This 2014 outbreak is all over West Africa, and according to TFA (I know, I know) the patient had just returned from Liberia, a West African country where the current outbreak has (obviously) not been contained.

Someone bringing this virus back is not so surprising. The big deal will be when we have our first case of endemic transmission -- when someone *catches* the virus here.

Comment: Re:Thai Tasting (Score 3, Interesting) 103

by Rei (#48026993) Attached to: Robotic Taster Will Judge 'Real Thai Food'

While I personally see a device like this (sorry... ROBOT!) of rather limited use for testing prepared dishes, I can see great utility for it for testing ingredients. You could have a standardized, unambiguous way to rate the quality or at least properties of a given product, be it meat, fruit, vegetables, etc. I bet cultivar breeding programs in particular could really benefit from this - "Well, I was hoping that this new mango would be a huge innovation, but actually it's almost identical to a Keitt. Though to be fair its mouthfeel is somewhat like a Carrie, and it does have a small amount of a new novel aromatic compound..." Just a single mass produced sensor package that measures a wide range of different properties at once in a repeatable, universal manner. If such a thing could become widespread, I'd bet half of the "cultivars" out there would pretty much disappear, having been shown to be essentially identical to others.

Comment: Re:The whole article is just trolling (Score 1) 794

by Alsee (#48026195) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

You are suggesting that every single one of a multitude of completely independent temperature records are all wrong. You are trying to dismiss them on the irrational basis that they all point in the same direction by slightly different amounts.

Furthermore you are assuming that every single one of a multitude of completely independent temperature records are all wrong in the same direction, imposing your pre-determined bias upon them.

You are baselessly filtering out any satellite data that doesn't fit the story you want to hear.

You are baselessly filtering out ocean temperatures, which account for 90% of climate heating, because it doesn't fit the story you want to hear.

You are engaging in wild conspiracy-theoryism claiming (or implying) that some hundredthousand scientists are ALL too stupid to account for novice-level obvious measurement difficulties, or that they are ALL conspiring to deliberately lie.

And most of all you're denying THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.
CO2 lets sunlight in and blocks the escape of thermal radiation. There is no possible dispute there. End of argument. The science is utterly and unarguably settled. All that's left at that point is determining the size of the effect.

It's astounding that it somehow doesn't make it into your conscious awareness that you are baselessly ignoring anything and everything that doesn't fit the story you want to hear.

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Comment: Re:Statistical Literature (Score 1) 124

Oh, god. Mel Gibson's 1990 Hamlet was awful. It was the most asinine thing I've ever seen. Shakespeare for people who really *are* dummies. Reportedly it was director Franco Zeffirelli's attempt to make Shakespeare "less cerebral" and more accessible to the masses. What a choice to try that with! The whole point of Hamlet is that he's so damned smart the only person who can really stand in his way is him.

My point was that you've got to find an actor who can give a knowledgeable performance. Not some meat-head action star stunt cast miles out of his depth. I'd rather watch Arnold Schwarzenegger Hamlet.

I think the best film adaptation of Hamlet I've seen was Kenneth Branaugh's 1996 version, although it is long, long, long at 242 minutes (to Gibsons' 134 minutes). Olivier's 1948 Hamlet is generally highly regarded, but it's too sentimental for my taste. Haven't seen Derek Jacobi's 1980 BBC performance, but I've heard good things about it. I've seen snippets of the David Tennant Hamlet, and it looks promising, although it's hard to shake the impression that it's Dr. Who playing Hamlet.

Comment: Re:No he didn't (Score 5, Insightful) 215

by hey! (#48024477) Attached to: Man Walks Past Security Screening Staring At iPad, Causing Airport Evacuation

Exactly. Security screwed up, and then they HAD to deal with it. It's not mere security theater to have a security checkpoint. Those checkpoints are demonstrably important.

Not many of us remember, but until 1973 there was no baggage screening, no metal detectors, and no id requirements for getting on a commercial flight. The number of skyjackings had climbed rapidly since the mid-50s so that in 1972 there were 11 skyjackings of commercial flights around the world, seven in the US.

After security checkpoints were introduced in the US, there wasn't another skyjacking in the US for three years. Then an occasional one now and then, as people found loopholes. There was one passenger airliner hijacking of a flight FROM the US in all the 1980s and none in the 1990s.

My conclusion is that the security measures put in place by 1990 were highly effective. 9/11 fit the pattern of the early dribs-and-drabs hijackings, the difference is Al Qaeda made an effort to do multiple simultaneous exploitations of the vulnerability they'd found. There hasn't been a hijacking of a US flight since then, but given that the last passenger hijacking BEFORE 9/11 was in 1987, it's likely that this long dry spell is mostly if not entirely due to banning blades from carry on luggage. That's not to say that EVERY other change since then is security theater. I think reinforcing cockpit doors and changing pilot training was a reasonable response. But a lot of the enhanced pat-downs, magic scanners, no-fly list shennanigans and such are no doubt bogus.

Comment: Re:net metering != solar and 10% needs new physics (Score 1) 475

by hey! (#48024379) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Your analysis depends on two assumptions. First, that at the daily peak the amount of solar produced exceeds the total demand for electricity. That's actually quite likely to happen in the long term in certain locations -- sunny, densely developed residential neighborhoods for example -- but not in others -- in a neighborhood that has a steel mill. Maybe in the short term in a few places if the adoption of rooftop solar accelerates even more.

One of the ways to alleviate this would be to improve the distribution grid so that the excess supply could be sold further away. But lets say the day comes that the peak solar production exceeds the total electricity demand. That brings us to the second assumption.

The second assumption is that electricity is charged at a flat rate all day long. Clearly if lots of excess solar is being produced at noontime, you could easily reduce the cost you charge to electricity consumers (or pay back to electricity). We already do peak vs. off peak rates for industrial users.

This combination of grid improvements and reduced peak rates will encourage people and businesses to concentrate their power usage around noon. Maybe you'll charge our electric car at a higher rate, or maybe even charge large industrial or household batteries. The losses hardly matter, since we were throwing away the sunshine anyway. Increased noon usage will offset the tendency for electricity rates to fall during peak generation periods.

Am I saying the utilities won't lose a little money in a few isolated spots in the short term? No. What I'm saying is that we're hardly facing some kind of insurmountable singularity. Certainly not any time soon, nor in the long term if we can bring ourselves to prepare for it.

Comment: Re:Hodor (Score 2) 124

Martin will kill off an important character because he has no idea how to write a character arc out of a wet paper bag.

I actually don't think that's true. I think what you're reacting to comes with the epic scale of the novel (SoI&F really is just one, long, continuous work) -- both in word count and the enormous cast of characters. It's a kind of literary clutter. If you boiled Game of Thrones down to the story of Ned Stark's rise and downfall, that would be quite a satisfying (although grim) story arc. The fact that the story goes on and on after that dissipates the emotional impact of that one story line.

At over 1.7 million words currently, Song of Ice and Fire is more than six times as long as typical English translations of the Illiad and Odyssey combined. Think about that. In the time it took you to read just the first volume of Song of Ice and Fire, you could have read BOTH the Illiad and the Odyssey. And as a bonus you'd have read BOTH the Illiad and the Odyssey.

As works go further and further north of 200,000 words, they almost inevitably lose the tight, clockwork structure you expect in a 2 hour stage play or 70,000 word novel. Stories stop feeling like they have a beginning, middle, and end and start to feel more episodic. That happens to some stories well before they hit the 200,000 word mark (American Gods, 183 KWords).

At 473 KWords, Lord of the Rings is one of the rare exceptions. From Rivendell onward it's a marvel of complex yet tightly interwoven structure. But it's a hot steaming mess of false starts up until Ford of Bruinen. Tom Bombadil anyone? I think that it could probably be edited down to 400,000 words without losing much artistically. That's still almost miraculously long for a story that feels like one story.

I have a theory about episodic megastories like Song of Ice and Fire, which is that they aren't catharsis you get from a tightly plotted play or novel. They're about transporting a reader to a world he finds interesting to visit again and again. If so that bodes ill for the the Game of Thrones TV series now that Emilia Clarke has sworn off nude scenes.

Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television. - David Letterman

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