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Comment: Re:The Conservative Option (Score 2) 487

by TrekkieGod (#48098051) Attached to: Texas Ebola Patient Dies

An Ebola outbreak in the US is undesirable by pretty much everybody here, except maybe for people with stock in the companies producing cures and vaccines.

An Ebola outbreak in the US is also pretty much impossible. Listen to the experts, people: it's not a highly infectious disease. Lack of first world hygiene standards is the reason it's spreading all over certain parts of Africa. The virus isn't even airborne, you have to come in direct contact with the person who is sick or with their bodily fluids.

If Sgt. Monning caught Ebola, is because we've committed the absolutely stupid act of allowing people to go in to a patient's apartment, where he likely was sweating all over furniture and other items, without any protective gear. It's incredibly unfortunate, and whatever the outcome, hopefully we do the right thing in the future. Once a patient is identified, people only come in contact with them or their stuff while wearing protective gear. And we send in people to disinfect the areas of risk, like the victims apartment. Problem solved, Ebola virus contained. There's no need to do absolutely anything else that we're not already doing (which includes asking people coming to the US from areas of high risk whether they've been in contact with anyone who has had the disease).

Comment: Re:Ignobel Material .... (Score 1) 83

by TrekkieGod (#48066375) Attached to: It's Not Just How Smart You Are: Curiosity Is Key To Learning

... Really? This wasn't suspected, hadn't been demonstrated a million times over? Wow, curiousity an important factor in learning?! Who knew? OH, EVERYONE!

Sadly, there are some real researchers who still aren't funded.

I'm seeing a lot of posts like yours, and you're all missing the point. Of course interest and curiosity in a subject helps learning within that field. The interesting part about this study is that when you're brain is in that state, you're better at learning about unrelated subjects that you have no interest in. The point isn't that people remembered the trivia questions they were interested in better, it's that they remembered the unrelated faces better.

I experience this myself in a weird way. I have no better than average memory for day to day things. I don't necessarily remember what I had to eat for lunch two days ago. However, I was always a big movie buff and for some reason I remember details associated with watching every movie I've ever seen in the theater that have nothing to do with the movie itself. I remember which theater I went to, what day of the week it was, what time of day it was, who was there with me, where we sat relative to each other, where we went to eat before or after...I remember this stuff going as far back as when I was 6 years old. For a little window around the movies, I have an increased ability to recall details that simply doesn't exist at any other time.

Comment: TI-89 is allowed (Score 1) 359

by TrekkieGod (#47827061) Attached to: How the Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly On Classrooms

ncidentally, the other thing I don't understand about this is why anybody picks a TI-84 when they could have a TI-86. TI-89s are prohibited for standardized tests (because they have a Computer Algebra System), but TI-86s aren't and are better than TI-84s in every other way as far as I can tell...

I'm with you on there on the popularity of the TI-84 (and TI-82s back when I was a student), but the TI-89 absolutely is allowed in standardized tests. I used it back in the 90s when I was in high school on everything that a calculator was allowed for, including AP exams, and it doesn't seem like the policy has changed. Here are the list of allowed calculators for the SAT and Calculus AP exam.

If you think about it, the CAS really shouldn't be an issue. I mean, it's just as quick to set up a quick matrix in the TI-84 and invert / multiply to solve system of equations. Everyone I knew who didn't have a ti-89 was doing that. The multiple choice sections of those tests are designed to figure out if you know how to set up the problem. The non multiple-choice section of the calculus AP exam requires you to show work.

Comment: Re:What's a reboot? (Score 1) 252

by TrekkieGod (#47643519) Attached to: <em>Babylon 5</em> May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

What I liked about the B5 series was mostly the fact that it had Maciavellian politics and space battles where the fighters didn't fly like aircraft even though they were located in deep space.

Star Trek movies have always been about space battles and ridiculous action, even though people like to blame JJ Abrams for that one. That said, there are quite a few Star Trek episodes that do a good job of dealing with a social issue and/or politics in an interesting way.

I went off the Star Wars series after the "Battle of the Teddy Bears" in Return of the Jedi although I rather like the animated "Clone Wars" series.

For really good Star Wars, you have to go to the books. The same expanded universe that Disney announced is no longer cannon so they can "free up" their screenwriters or some other bullshit. Well, as far as I'm concerned, if I have to choose between the movies or the books to consider cannon in that universe, I'll pick the books every time.

The Star Trek shows I watched the most of was Deep Space 9 and Voyager which I rather enjoyed and which is probably even more heretical than saying B5 is better than ST.

I've emphasized Voyager there for you, because that IS heretical. I hereby authorize burning you alive at the town square.

I mean, c'mon. You just finished praising B5 for making an honest attempt of respecting physics and you finished by praising the show that brought to you polaric ions, nucleonic beams, metrion isotopes, psionic properties, and fluidic fucking space? Every problem in that show is solved with last minute bullshit technobabble. When TNG used technobabble, they had a science advisor on the show to fill in the words, so they'd have some connection, no matter how small and fleeting, to some real science. Voyager just made up works that sounded sciency and they used it as the Deus Ex Machina EVERY...SINGLE...EPISODE..

Comment: Re:Warp Drive (Score 1) 564

An adaptive program (in the sense the previous poster was attempting to describe) would be one that is able to figure out on its own how to do things that its programmers had not anticipated in advance.

It's all a matter of levels. I can make a good argument that humans don't strictly fit the definition you've provided. After all, we're born with ready-made circuitry to do everything that we do. Learn a human language? Put two babies together and don't teach them a language, they'll come up with one for themselves given enough time. We're built to develop it, it's not something we figured out how to do but weren't built to do. Use of tools? It's only possible because our brain is hardwired to treat external objects as extensions of our body. For example, you can "feel" the tip of a pencil as you're writing. When you're driving a car, you "feel" the entire boundaries of the car as the space *you're* taking up. Even when playing video games, you are quickly able to think in terms of what you want the object you're controlling to do, you don't think about the buttons you're pressing. That ability of our brain to integrate tools as extension of ourselves instead of an object completely separate from us is hardwired in, it's not something we can learn.

Now, of course, I'm not going to argue we're *not* intelligent, and that we're incapable of learning. I'm also not going to argue machines are as intelligent as we are. That said, a lot of what they do is most certainly intelligence, and it's most certainly learning. After all, we're programmed to learn languages, but not with English. We're programmed to use tools, but have to be taught to write or type. However, in the same way, we've made some pretty good progress in AI. My android phone "learns" what my face looks like and how to differentiate between other people's faces. Yes, it's pre-programmed with a facial-recognition algorithm, but so are you. If that circuitry is defective, you end up with face blindness.

Comment: Re:Not the Big Bang (Score 1) 127

by TrekkieGod (#47337955) Attached to: Big Bang Breakthrough Team Back-Pedals On Major Result

How does spacetime know how fast something is going through it? If there is nothing else other than spacetime and a single photon, what regulates the photon's speed? What is the speed relative to?

The easiest way to answer that is by saying you're thinking about it incorrectly. Our every day experiences leads us to believe that distances are absolute. That time periods are absolute. And if we're talking about the relative speeds in human experience, that's a very, very good approximation.

Turns out reality is weirder. It's not that spacetime "knows" how fast something is traveling through it. It's that space and time don't behave like our senses lead us to believe. So, from our perspective, if energy to use to accelerate a ship wasn't a problem, and we're here on Earth observing it head someplace 10 light-years away, the very earliest that ship will get to its destination will be just over 10 years, as no matter how much energy is used to accelerate it, it's going to just asymptotically approach c, but never reach it.

However, the thing is, it's not really a speed-limit, of how you would think of it. From the perspective of the people on the ship, if energy isn't a problem, you can get to your destination as quickly as you want. Under 10 years? Sure. You can get there in under a second (we'll assume we've figured out how to ensure everyone won't die from accelerating from 0 to close to c, then back to 0 again all within a second). You can get there in a millisecond. If you put more energy into acceleration, you can always get there faster. However, you still never go faster than light. It just so happens that, as you accelerate, you disagree with the people on Earth about how far your destination is. It used to be 10 light-years away, but now, after that huge acceleration, it's only 100 meters away, and you can cover that small distance really quickly at near the speed of light. To you, an infinitesimally small amount of time has passed. To the people on Earth, over 10 years.

TL;DR; It's not that that spacetime is preventing you from going faster, it's that spacetime is a 4-D Minkowsky space, and we're approximating it as a 3D Euclidean space + time in everyday life. That's a great approximation, until you start going really fast. Then it's just not good anymore.

Comment: Re:painted into a corner... (Score 1) 403

by TrekkieGod (#47061315) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can <em>Star Wars Episode VII</em> Be Saved?

I couldn't take Kirk being promoted from boot ensign to commander of the Enterprise after no time on board.

I agree with you completely. In my mind, it made Kirk less badass. In the original timeline he goes through some shit on his way to captain. As an ensign on the USS Republic, he had to make a choice between friendship and duty, and ended logging a bad mistake made by a friend that cost that friend the chance to ever be promoted to captain; As a lieutenant on the Farragut he encountered the cloud creature, which ended up killing his captain, something he blamed himself for many years afterwards; he spent some time as an instructor at Starfleet Academy, with a reputation for being an incredibly tough teacher; he was awarded several medals and distinctions and had an exemplary record as was read in the episode Court Martial...

By the time Kirk became captain, he had a proven record and the career and life experience to go with it. He was young, but he wasn't green. Then JJ Abrams just went and took all that away from him.

But even that I could forgive if it had been an otherwise good movie. There are actually some real life precedents for stuff like that. Nathanael Greene was promoted from private to Major General straight out. It was the Revolutionary War, and it was an army that was just formed in response to the Siege of Boston, not exactly a well established military, so a bit easier to understand.

Comment: Re:No! (Score 1) 255

by TrekkieGod (#47052665) Attached to: The Sci-Fi Myth of Robotic Competence

That's all well and good but what if something jumps out in front of you and you don't have time to stop.

You do realize that Google's car is already, right now better at handling random things popping up in front of it than human drivers, right? Go google info of specific tests, on actual streets, where people previously hidden by obstacles suddenly walk in front of the car, out of nowhere.

Does that mean it's always going to stop in time? No. It means it's going to stop in time more often than a human driver.

Does that mean the car will never make 'bad' choices, and enter into an avoidable accident? No. But it will be involved in less avoidable accidents than a human driver.

Does that mean it will be able to make choices such as, "child or dog" as to what to hit? At this stage, probably not, and it'll drive to avoid both, maybe hit the dog, maybe hit the child, maybe hit both. How often do you run into questions like that when you're driving in your daily commute? I'm going to say that ethically the number of lives that will be saved in the far more numerous, more traditional accidents that a driverless car can completely avoid better than humans are worth that child's life.

Comment: Re:painted into a corner... (Score 5, Insightful) 403

by TrekkieGod (#47052543) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can <em>Star Wars Episode VII</em> Be Saved?

TOS is a product of the culture of the 50s and 60s and was in some important ways hobbled by being so. It was always way too cerebral and libidinous to be a lot of fun...I'm in a theatre for two hours, you need to entertain me, outsmart me and give me something to think about for a long time after.

Which is it? Do you cerebral and intelligent so that you can have something to think about for a while, or do you want mindless fun?

There's nothing wrong with mindless fun movies. Sometimes I want to shut my brain off and be entertained by James Bond. But there is a place for cerebral movies. Now, to be honest, none of the Star Trek movies fit that bill, unfortunately. Even the original movies went the action route, they didn't really follow the footsteps of the cerebral star trek episodes. What JJ Abrams did was to turn the action into CGI-fest, which is ok, and turned the mindless action into something that will actively prevent you from suspending disbelief, which is not ok.

Seriously, if I could have turned my brain off and enjoyed the action, it'd be fine. But he kept jolting me awake with things like "a supernova that threatened to destroy the galaxy". Does he realize how big galaxies are? That stars go supernova and hypernova regularly? Because your average Star Trek viewer does. Or how about the second movie where they stop a volcano eruption with a "cold" fusion device. Where "cold" means it makes the volcano cold and freezes the lava. Which for some reason stops the eruption, because it's about temperature, not pressure, right?

I can't shut down my brain if the movie keeps saying stupid shit that forces me to analyze what they're saying. If they just had gone the other way and explained less, it'd be an improvement. But then, it would also be nice if they didn't fill it with plot holes. That also forces me to analyze the movie.

Look, you want to make a Star Trek movie that is pure action, to bring in the non-nerds to the theater? I'd rather have the cerebral Star Trek movie, but I'm actually ok with it, because that's the strategy that every other Star Trek movie took. We just have the ability for better special effects now. But the JJ Abrams movies were horrible. If they didn't have the Star Trek label to them, they would still be fucking horrible movies. I'm not raging against the reboot, I don't care that he rebooted the franchise. I care that he made two really bad movies. If they had handed over the franchise to Uwe Boll, they might have turned out better. Well, at least it couldn't be worse.

What about Star Wars? Could he make good Star Wars? Probably not, because he has no incentive to. The absolute crap he puts out is generally commercially successful, so that's what's he going to do again. What bothers me is that the best Star Wars stories are not the movies, but they're in the expanded universe. So here they have the opportunity to make Episodes 7,8,9 by making a movie version of the Thrawn trilogy (and yeah, recast the actors as younger people, give the old actors cameos if you want). Instead they go the opposite way and completely break with expanded universe. That doesn't bode well for what JJ wants to do with them.

Comment: Re:ended pretty much by the end of the 80s (Score 4, Insightful) 319

by TrekkieGod (#47052347) Attached to: FBI Need Potheads To Fight Cybercrime

A combination of forces has pretty much made the liquid lunch history(at least in technical fields). Neoprohibitionists (MADD, which is no longer about driving, but about drinking, per se), employer paranoia about "impaired employees", etc.

Not really. I have a beer at lunch once in a while. I do so in plain view of my boss. The way some of you guys describe jobs, I really wonder why you don't leave. You're in a technical field, jobs really aren't that hard to find. Take a pay cut, go work for a startup, get more freedom. Still a ton of work and insane hours, but you're not going to get your boss writing you up for an official warning from HR because you had a beer during lunch.

Now, though, you get text messages during your (working) lunch asking for a response "soonest", and somehow I think that if you texted back "sorry, getting a couple pints with the guys, get back to you tomorrow", the next text would be "we'll ship your stuff to you at the last address you had on file with HR".

Holy shit, tomorrow?? Yeah, I wouldn't blame them for firing you in that case, I would too. The guy you're responding to said a couple of drinks, not get plastered and blow the afternoon off. Somehow I think if you instead texted back, "sorry, I'm currently at lunch. I'll get to it as soon as I'm back in the office," it wouldn't be that big of a deal. It's still a workday, dude.

Comment: Re:My PC cannot be conscious the way I am (Score 2) 426

Even if machines eventually acquire a form of consciousness, how would *we* know? Who would believe a machine's claim to be conscious?

Well, you can't really prove you're conscious. I don't even mean proving it to me, I mean you can't prove it to yourself.

What if every decision you make is made before you realize it? What if what you think of as consciousness, what you think of as your decision making process, is merely a byproduct of packaging that decision up for dissemination to other parts of your brain that need to know about it, but weren't involved in the making of the decision. Maybe you didn't even make the decision for the reasons you think you've made it. You think you decided to get the high deductible insurance over the low deduction insurance because you have enough money saved up to pay the deductible if you have to, so paying a smaller monthly premium makes sense. In reality, your brain structure is wired up to prefer lower payments, and you would have made that decision whether you had the money available to pay for the deductible or not. In fact, you did make the decision immediately, but as your brain was packaging up that information, it consolidated it with other related facts you knew, like how much money you have saved up. That information happens to mesh with the decision that was made completely independently from "you", as you think of yourself, from your "consciousness." So it justifies the decision, and that wiring on your brain thinks it's now MAKING that decision as a result of it. If, in fact, you didn't have enough money to cover the deductible, you would have made the same decision, because the decision was already made, and simply have filed that information on the cons column of what you *think* is your decision-making process, but is really just a filing operation.

There's really no way for you tell the difference between your being conscious vs. a purely deterministic computation that has the side-effect of treating a high-level summary of a complex process as the actual driving component of all the process. I personally believe that's actually what happens, because otherwise it requires us to invent this weird concept of consciousness which nobody has a good strong definition for.

Comment: Re:Memory is more like dynamic RAM. (Score 1) 426

Not retrieving memories is what causes them to decay. Ever hear of refresh?

There's no reason it can't be both.

Picture this scenario. Last week you saw a green Tesla leaving your neighborhood as you were coming back from work. It's a sufficiently rare care that you noticed it, but it's not an interesting enough event that you gave it a second though. Today a friend of yours calls you up and says he bought a new car, a Tesla. He says, in fact, that he was so excited about it he immediately drove to your place to show it to you, but you weren't home. You haven't retrieved that memory in that whole week, but you immediately recall it now and say, "man, I remember that! I just missed you. Green, right?" That's when he says, "nope, it's blue."

This confuses you, so you start thinking about that memory. Could it have been blue? What are the odds it was another Tesla, when you know your friend dropped by with his at about that same time? Now you're going to be trying to picture that memory with the car colored blue, maybe you'll start with something that could be bluish green. You're constantly retrieving that information and trying to make it mesh with the new info you've received. This weekend, you actually see your friend's car. Now you try to put that blue together with your memory.

Eventually, you're going to actually remember a blue Tesla leaving your neighborhood. The act of thinking about it often and trying to make that memory agree with the other information you've acquired is going to change the actual memory. It doesn't matter why you saw a green car. Maybe it was a different Tesla. Maybe the sun was shining and the glare made you see a different color. Regardless your original memory was green...but it decayed to blue once you added that information and kept retrieving it over and over again.

This is why there's a problem with false memories in eyewitnesses. Once you tell them that a memory is important, and you start questioning them about it, they're going to retrieve that memory. Then they're going to have natural gaps in either the memory, or the information, because they didn't get a good enough view. But they're going to be under pressure to remember EVERYTHING. So they think about it. They subconsciously supplement what they remember and fill in the gaps with details from other memories, with deductions about what must have been happening at that time, with their biases, with whatever the person questioning them is trying to lead them to the end, their memory will have degraded into a mixture of what they actually witnessed and what they created in their mind. But they won't be able to tell the difference. They'll argue with you, they'll say, "I KNOW what I saw!" in the face of conflicting testimony, in the face of video evidence. Because, as far as they know, they remember it.

Refreshing memories in order to keep them alive is all well and good, but if every time you refresh them, they're a little bit corrupted, a little bit changed, then they're going to decay.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350