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Programming

Things That Scare the Bejeezus Out of Programmers 641

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-just-a-matter-of-code dept.
itwbennett writes "Software developers are, by and large, a cool and analytical bunch, but there are a handful of things that strike terror in their hearts. Phil Johnson scoured developer forums looking for an answer to the question: What's your biggest fear as a programmer? The answers clustered into 5 broad groups ranging from being forced to learn or use a specific technology to working for and with incompetents. What's your biggest fear?"

Comment: Re:Genetically speaking... (Score 1) 814

by Visserau (#44020563) Attached to: Transgendered Folks Encountering Document/Database ID Hassles

If you had any actual interaction with transgender individuals, you would know that nobody wants an 'other' category. They just want to be treated as their choice of target gender. Yes, this may involve some awkward beurocratic conversations when you need to change a M to a F. It will take society a little time to adjust.

Putting them down as "other" is just another aspect of the bigotry you're busy soapboxing against.

Of course there are some super fringe cases where an additional category can be warrented, but these apply far less often than most people imagine. In that case, the category should be "Unspecified" rather than "other" or "unknown". This allows the possibility of a "normal" gendered person who simply wants privacy and the cases of truely blurred gender lines to mask each other, and avoids the need of actually giving an answer, which can be quite psychologically relevent.

Comment: Re:Weak! (Score 1) 286

by Visserau (#43881433) Attached to: 4K Computer Monitors Are Coming (But Still Pricey)

The same question has been bugging me.

I think that it's mostly the DPI. The TV has huge pixels (since you sit so far away from it) so you can never use it as a monitor. Obviously this varies greatly between units, but in general a e.g. 1080 TV will be physically much larger than the equivilent 1080 monitor. That means the manufacturing process is cheap and easy.

Comment: Re:So simple now! (Score 1) 43

Yeah I had a look through the Coursera web site and was actually able to sign up to the class, since the exam isn't actually finally due until tomorrow morning. So I guess I'll at least download the reference materials and see if they help any :)

The course I've mentioned is here: http://theoreticalminimum.com/courses/quantum-mechanics/2012/winter . I've heard good things about it and I suspect it is probably one of the more in depth classes, but it is not for the feint of heart. I'm probably doing myself a disservice by trying to jump into the middle of QM skipping over a few maths classes along the way :)

Courera seems much nicer, so I'll keep an eye out (and will look into edx). Unfortunately there isn't anything super relevent starting soon, but there is one on realtivity that has a week or two left. If anyone is interested, there is a large directory of courses here: http://www.openculture.com/

Comment: Re:So simple now! (Score 1) 43

Do these courses have some references/a question forum/anything helpful other than a recorded lecture? Are any of these still active?

I've done the first few lectures of a series from Stanford, and am having a bit of trouble. There is no supporting material, but the lecturer appears to be relying on tutorials/etc to fill in a lot of the detail. It doesn't help much that he often makes mistakes which aren't pointed out by the students until later. I have been filling in gaps with google (and a lot of pausing) but I feel like I could do a lot better if I had the ability to ask a few questions which can't be googled.

So far we've covered the topics the parent mentioned - hamiltonians and eigenvectors/values. I kind of just picked this course out of a hat as it seemed a somewhat reasonable place to start. Can anyone recommend a useful course or resource for this kind of stuff, or an alternative entry point?

Comment: Re:Need to Be Careful (Score 1) 426

by Visserau (#43812999) Attached to: A Cold Look at Cold Fusion Claims: Why E-Cat Looks Like a Hoax

At some point, some"where", some"how", SOMETHING had to come from nothing. Whether the first something from nothing was the universe itself, or a being (or anything else for that matter) is kind of moot - whatever it was must be subject to an explanation of how that something came from nothing. Therefore they are pretty much as likely as each other (very unlikely but evidently at least one happened).

My take on this (heavily summarised) is this. Start with a special definition of nothing, e.g. the void. Consider this to be something aproximately opposite to null. Null roughly means "no answer applicable" as opposed to "false". So here I'm defining THE void as "superset of everything, but has no distinguishable qualities since its all mixed together". (Please disregard to programming concept void here, which is very similar to null.)

From here you actually have some room to move - e.g. we now have a context in which fluctuations from the average can occur and create meaning, consciousness, universes, etc.

From personal experience and studying spirituality/religion, I believe the process goes something like the following:
*Start with void
*Basic awareness is one of many properties of the void (absolutely EVERYTHING is a property of the void)
*At some point awareness notices that it is aware and that there are other things to notice. Since this is before the existance of time and any quantum structure, there is unlimited potential for this to occur "eventually". Presumably this occurs as a result of random flucturations, but this begs a rather large philisphical question of how/if there can be random fluctuations in the void. There is no intelligence or consciousness at this stage.
*This represents the start of an information system - the relationship of something to something else
*The information system evolves for a while and ends up with a useful structure which contains a basic consciousness. At this point the system (mind) can now work on itself in a useful way, combining evolution and design
*The process continues and culminates in the universe we know with quantum structure etc arising out of the system/mind described above

So yes, I did just describe the evolution of "god" and claim that "god" and the universe are indistinguishable. The mind I described is the unity consciousness we all are aspects of, which is often talked about in new age circles. It is not strictly a mind as we know it, but I need to use a plain old word for it...

Of course I'm not claiming to be able to prove this in the stanard scientific definition. My main point is that the commonly accepted scientific models have just as shaky a basis as the so called nonsense explanations. (Plus I just like writing about this :) Not trying to detract from the value of scientific evidence either - just highlight that there are barriers beyond which science cannot go, at least not without altering the definition of science as it currently stands. (I actually believe that what I just said can be proven eventually, but any suggestion relating to different concepts/classes of evidence causes such a huge knee jerk reaction that it is very rare to recieve a fair hearing.)

As for the TFA: I don't know or much care whether or not this guy is for real (but I hope he is and there is certainly the potential for it.) I do know that there are many aspects of physics (where physics = naturally occuring laws) which do not currently recieve any attention from mainstream science.

Comment: Re:Not actually a bad idea. (Score 1) 368

by Visserau (#43767511) Attached to: Bloomberg To HS Grads: Be a Plumber

Your ignorance is showing. The fact you can't recognise that there are different types of intelligence and that there are both good and bad individuals in ALL professions, means you're someone I hope I never have to deal with. Your stance on asking for help confirms it.

Maybe those engineers were dumb. Or maybe a few "stupid" questions to confirm some things outside of their sphere of expertise can save a lot of time and effort down the road. I'm sure you'd be the first to start pointing fingers if some aspect of their plans didn't account for something.

Comment: Re:To put it in perspective (Score 2) 393

by Visserau (#43739575) Attached to: Why We Should Build a Supercomputer Replica of the Human Brain

You missed his point and I agree with him.

What would possibly lead you to conclude that number of lines of code would be proportional to the number of synapses?

You're insisting that every neuron must be individually coded, whether it takes 1 LOC or more. For this project to be feasible I expect they would write a large amount of fairly complex code to completely simulate the behaviour of a generic neuron and its ability to form connections - they are identical after all. Even if they need a few different subclasses and they can't come up with a perfect recursive algorithm to handle all the behaviour - it is still a big jump to assume that each one will be hand coded.

That is not to disregard the computing hurdles involved. I rather doubt this will be running anywhere close to real time.

Comment: Re:Moral objection (Score 1) 393

by Visserau (#43739475) Attached to: Why We Should Build a Supercomputer Replica of the Human Brain

I have to strongly disagree with the OP of this thread. We have established no such thing. We only know that we cannot explain all of the currently observed behaviour. It would have naieve to say that we had established the existance of anything resembling the soul (or lack thereof) or that we fully understand the fundamentals of intelligence and consciousness.

Not religion per se but belief in a spooky non-physical "soul" that somehow interacts with matter of only a certain type and structure.

Since you raise the issue of plausibility, I must ask you just how plausible you find this odd situation where material organisms had to evolve for millenia into a structure that could interact with this mysterious non-physical phenomenon? How is it that brain-damage also damages consciousness?

So because you don't understand something it is spooky and impossible? It wasn't so long ago that a good deal of our current model of physics was entirely unknown, and there is still a good long way to go. There is plenty of recent research indicating that the brain is influenced by quantum effects. It is plausable for this to be the interface to currently undiscovered types of physics. (PLAUSIBLE, I'm not claiming this is proveb, although I believe it is true. IMO the levels the brain is interacting with are not physical but are goverened by deterministic laws which would be considered an extension of physics.)

Brain damage imparing function is trivially explained: the essential interface mechanism is damaged. The physical level of function is impared.

If the "mysterious non-physical phenominum" is what came first (e.g. preceeding any kind of physical existance) then it would be entirely obvious and sensible as to why this interface exists. We typically assume that matter came before mind because we look around and see plenty of matter that is not sentient - but that is an assumption that we have no proof of. (No proof either way - at least of a scientific nature. Note I'm not arguing for god here, but I am arguing for consciousness being an emergant property of fixed laws which exist at a higher level than physical existance.)

Comment: Re:As a developer... (Score 1) 393

by Visserau (#43739361) Attached to: Why We Should Build a Supercomputer Replica of the Human Brain

So because it's hard we should never attempt to make any progress?

I imagine a key part of the early research will be find recursive algorithms which can be setup and run without trying to manually design everything and have to code every behaviour of every level. Something akin to programming the basic laws of physics and then letting the simulation run.

Comment: Re:As a developer... (Score 1) 393

by Visserau (#43739331) Attached to: Why We Should Build a Supercomputer Replica of the Human Brain

Just use the reflection API to check the metadata. Yes it is still you (or a direct successor of you), if your attributes go into the makeup of the respawnee. (Even if it isn't 100% you, it is distinctly based off you and thus different to just randomly generating another human.)

Depends on the method of teleportation.

Comment: Re:Jupiter Tape? (Score 2) 621

by Visserau (#43641127) Attached to: Former FBI Agent: All Digital Communications Stored By US Gov't

Only a small fraction of a percent of the LHC data is actually ever stored. The rest is discarded because there is FAR too much to deal with (specially, too much data being generated in too short a time to be handled by any caching or delay mechanism). IIRC the figures were aproximately 90,000 particle interactions stored out of a possible 360 trillion that had occured up until the point talked about in the article.

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