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Comment: Re:Another bitcoin short-sell opportunity coming (Score 1) 261

by _xen (#45351247) Attached to: The Silk Road Is Back

The value of money isn't attached to anything either. It's a collective fiction.

Poppycock. The value of money* is attached to a government's ability to raise taxes.

[*money, that is, in the sense of legal tender, i.e. to only exchange technology the state accepts in satisfaction of tax liability]

Comment: Re:Have you looked at the evidence? (Score 5, Insightful) 479

by _xen (#44870091) Attached to: Another Climate-Change Retraction

Have you actually read the IPCC working-group 1 report, The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change. I don't mean, a summary of it ... Have you actually read the report?

I beg to differ. Even reading the Summary could be greatly beneficial for many of the victims of the disinformation campaign. The full WG1 report is a lot of reading. There's an overwhelming amount of science to get through and expecting non-specialists to tough it out is not entirely realistic. That, after all, is why the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) exists.

And the advantage is that on any area of science where you want to get your hands dirty, you can navigate from the SPM, into the the appropriate place of the Full Report proper and via the citations to the original publications in the scientific literature.

And on that point, don't waste your time right now reading the AR4 report. The AR5 report is due for release from the 27th of this month, starting with the SPM, from here.

And the SPM makes it so easy for non-specialists to get a handle on the science, it's simply unforgivable for anyone who presumes to venture an opinion on this issue not to have digested it.

Comment: Re:What is a 100Mbit connection good for? (Score 1) 327

by _xen (#44474537) Attached to: Rupert Murdoch Wants To Destroy Australia's National Broadband Network

What did you expect would happen? You expected the free-market to come in and provide books for a minor profit why?

Exactly! IF privatising the production of school books could lead to predictable negative outcomes, we ought express no surprise when those negative outcomes eventuate.

The difference is that now the cost of the books is being shifted to exactly the people that use them. The school children and their parents.

How do you factor in the free-rider effect of all those people who derive a benefit from living in an educated society without contributing. Left to its own devices, the market seems incapable of doing so.

... about how the "free-market" is evil because it wants to make a profit.

Clearly the market is driven by the profit motive of participants. And you would have to be blind to ignore the great social advantages to be gleaned from an exploitation of the profit motive via market mechanisms. Nor is it anything other than a platitude to observe that any intervention in market processes carries to risk, all too often realised, of slaying the goose who lays the proverbial golden eggs. However, it is an equal blindness to accept as a matter of faith, or of definition, that the outcomes of the free market will always produce the most "desirable" results --even on the basis of purely economic criteria, let alone on any criteria which may otherwise issue from human intelligence.

A free market cannot exist --or rather there is as yet no way available for it to exist --without the aid of the state (if only for the enforcement of proprietary rights and contractual obligations). Thus the basic question of market governance must be how much intervention is required. And this carries with it the corollary question: will that intervention be economically efficacious ( i.e. all to often "obvious" interventions negate the very outcome their authors wished to bring about).

Thus most governments make provision for the creation of corporations, because of the clear advantages the corporate form bestows on any economy where this intervention in the free market is tolerated. Indeed it would scarcely be possible even to conceive of the contemporary world without the contribution of the modern limited liability corporation (a creature of state, once again harnessing the profit motive of individuals for the greater good).

Arguably, the privatisation of school book production, in the naive belief that the private sector could more efficiently (read cheaply), do what the government printer was then engaged in, is a failure to anticipate how involving the market in educational policy would pan out. Ironically (in the sense of irony of fate), privatisation in the example turned out to be a poorly planed 'intervention.'

Comment: Re:Rupert Murdoch can die in a hole already. (Score 1) 327

by _xen (#44473921) Attached to: Rupert Murdoch Wants To Destroy Australia's National Broadband Network

Sounds like it is time for the government to step in and break it up in smaller parts then. That should encourage some competition.

Except that in Australia it is Murdoch who generally gets to decide who the government is. HINT: If your policy is "to break it up into smaller units" you almost invariably loose government.

Rudd might just scrape in before the Tele & friends has had enough time to throw sufficient mud. Though they are throwing it by the bucket-load right now, it still looks pretty tight at the moment. It would be a bad loss for Murdoch should he fail to get his man in power this time round, so News Ltd will be at it no holds barred. Expect a propaganda campaign not seen since ... oops, almost Godwineed myself!

Comment: Re:Hindu-Arabic numerals (Score 1) 156

by _xen (#44291673) Attached to: The Middle East Beats the West In Female Tech Founders

Such as?

Change: they reversed the direction of position, which reversal, for better or worse (worse imho) we adopted. The Brahmic number system starts with cattle-grid (except horizontal) numbering, ie . 1 is one line, 2 is two lines, 3 is 3 lines, 4 is two lines crossed. The Arabic system gave each of these numbers an individual symbol which convention (albeit with different symbols) we still use (as incidentally do modern Indian numeral systems).

Enhance: The decimal point.

Comment: Re:Oh yeah? (Score 1) 156

by _xen (#44281691) Attached to: The Middle East Beats the West In Female Tech Founders

These achievements where not made in a vacuum Algebra for example being a development on earlier Greek and possibly Chinese work.

Of course ... human knowledge always progresses by out standing on the shoulders of earlier generations. And as regards Algebra and number theory, my understanding that it is Indian, even more than Greek mathematicians, who influenced Arabic scholars.

[T]he whole history of the "Islamic golden age" is more properly titled the Arabic golden age ...

Which term I employed elsewhere.

... and an example of exactly how bad fanatics are for science and progress.

Well in any number of ways. Not only do we have Christian mobs skinning Hypatia, but it has been argued [citation needed] that one of the effects of the crusades was to shift the Islamic world from a relatively tolerant and free-thinking culture to one of defensive belligerence and fundamentalism. And in turn the adoption of this defensive posture re-inscribes the danger fanaticism poses to the growth of human knowledge.

Comment: Re:Hindu-Arabic numerals (Score 1) 156

by _xen (#44281293) Attached to: The Middle East Beats the West In Female Tech Founders

Well, we lifted it indirectly from the Arabs, as Arabic numbers came from the Western Muslims in Spain.

Yes, I should have written we lifted them from the Arabic rather than the Arabs. Though I thought that Fibonacci learnt the numeral system in Algiers (still Berbers not Arabs) rather than in Spain. Nor was Fibonacci necessarily the first to attempt to import them into Europe. But yes, still Western-Arabic.

The numbers used by actual Arabs look quite different.

I'm pretty sure the numerals used by Fibonacci looked a tad different from those we use today as well. At least the 1 and 9 in modern Arabic numerals look similar :), none of the Brahmi numerals bear any resemblance to ours.

Comment: Re:I'll take a shot. (Score 2) 156

by _xen (#44281237) Attached to: The Middle East Beats the West In Female Tech Founders

Not to argue that the Crusades did not contribute (they clearly did), but your list omits the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in 1258, which is generally reckoned to be the end of the Arabic Golden Age.

Also a few entries on your list --e.g. the Wendish, Northern and Albigensian Crusades --probably had little influence on the Middle East.

Comment: Hindu-Arabic numerals (Score 1) 156

by _xen (#44281067) Attached to: The Middle East Beats the West In Female Tech Founders

Except, of course, that the name is somewhat of a misnomer; since they actually come from India, and are known as "Hindu numbers" in the middle east.

Except of course we lifted it directly from the Arabs (who use a system developed from Hindu numerals) as evidenced by the fact that we still write our numbers backward. (Ie. from small to large in Arabic right to left direction.) Which is the opposite of how we [used] to speak our numbers, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen ... four'n'twenty

I've just been highlighting this fact in teaching why *nix, r, w, x run 4, 2, 1 instead of the other way round (the first 8 binary numbers thus forming a truth table).

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)

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