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Comment: Re:Can't they just... (Score 1) 151

by afeeney (#47466963) Attached to: Mt. Fuji Volcano In 'Critical State' After Quakes
As I understand it, by the time you reach the steam, you've gone deeper than most drilling equipment can go and gotten hot enough to melt most drills. Worse, you can't safely predict the results of releasing that much pressure, especially since there's no reliable way of imaging what you're drilling into at that depth and heat level.

Comment: Re:"Thus ends "Climategate." Hopefully." (Score 1) 497

by afeeney (#47415243) Attached to: Climate Change Skeptic Group Must Pay Damages To UVA, Michael Mann

You know things like "ostracize those who speak to outsiders", "venerate central personality who makes all decisions", or "target and harass ex-members".

In the political sphere, at least, I'd say that does happen. Political compromise gets a lot of scorn poured on it, there are certain political figures/organizations who get venerated and call most of the shots, and while there's very little side-switching in national and state politics, so not quite the equivalence to becoming an ex-member, those who do stray from doctrine get targeted, most definitely.

Comment: Re:"Thus ends "Climategate." Hopefully." (Score 4, Interesting) 497

by afeeney (#47414799) Attached to: Climate Change Skeptic Group Must Pay Damages To UVA, Michael Mann

The oil companies/heartland institute don't have to create spin anymore, because they've had the most important success possible: making denialism an important part of the identity of a lot of people.

In some ways, it's very cult-like in the way that it forms identity. Denialism gives you victim/threatened status (those evildoers are attacking our beliefs, we need to be warriors), enough victories to think of oneself as a winner but maintain the communal aspects of thinking oneself under threat, charismatic leaders, the companionship of shared beliefs, a sense of superiority to those who disbelieve, and, in the most cult-like aspect, the assurance of being above mere facts, of living in a world where your personal beliefs trump mere objective facts.

Comment: Re:Brand Value? (Score 1) 84

by afeeney (#47065407) Attached to: Google Overtakes Apple As the World's Most Valuable Brand
Google has made so many investments in experimental and developing technology (robotics and energy to name just two examples) that its portfolio of companies and patents is tremendously valuable. It has the money to be almost anything that it wants to be and can afford to take more product development risks. Even if Google Glass turns out to be an absolute failure, the odds are strong that it can redeploy most of the research and lessons learned from developing it for something that will be successful.

Comment: Re:great (Score 2) 128

by afeeney (#43917323) Attached to: GM Crop Producer Monsanto Using Data Analytics To Expand Its Footprint
True for some plants but not others. Most plants with seeds (fruits, grains) need to be delicious and nutritious so their seeds get excreted some distance from the original plant so that they don't compete for light and nutrients. Only leafy plants (the tops of root vegetables like potatoes, spinach, etc.) tend to be bitter or poisonous.

Comment: Destroying priceless sites for petty reasons (Score 3, Interesting) 276

by afeeney (#43719467) Attached to: Mayan Pyramid In Belize Leveled By Construction Crew
This kind of destruction for the pettiest of reasons isn't anything new. In Malta, a group took a bulldozer to the stone temples at Mnajdra, a glorious megalithic site, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Mnajdra is breathtakingly lovely and enigmatic and fascinating. Fortunately, it's largely been restored and is again open to the public. Why? People had constructed illegal bird-hunting hides on the adjacent land and objected to their hides being destroyed. People will be vicious destructive assholes for any number of reasons, including just because they can. Profit, sheer revelry in destruction (Persepolis), symbolism of dominance or victory (Summer Palace in Beijing), religious fanaticism (Buddha statues), a fanatical dislike of cities (Mongols and most of the cities in their way), to discourage attacks (Carthage), any number of reasons.

Comment: Re:Polygraqph + drugs for death row inmates (Score 1) 308

by afeeney (#43159327) Attached to: Using Truth Serum To Confirm Insanity

It's quite true that many people on death row are innocent; we've seen enough cases where later DNA evidence exonerated them. In many of these cases, the inmates even pleaded guilty, either because they believed that a guilty plea might help their case, they were coerced, or were mentally incapable of understanding the situation.

However, a polygraph is about as scientifically valid as a palm reading. They measure stress levels, which can be affected by existing mental illness, PTSD, fear, emotional stress, or other factors completely unrelated to guilt or innocence. In addition, it's possible that psychopaths or people who believe the murder to be absolutely justifiable may not feel stress when asked about it.

That's one of the strongest reasons to be against the death penalty; for most cases, we have no absolute way of knowing the truth. Even in a case where the police, prosecution, defense, judge, and jury are all intelligent, conscientious, and well-meaning, there can be errors or new findings can come to light (such as everything that the invention of DNA testing allows). We're learning more and more, for example, about how fallible eyewitness testimony is, but we still often go by the rule, "Seeing is believing." It's possible that as we learn more and more about cognition, we might end up formally instructing juries to minimize rather than maximize the value of eyewitness testimony.

Comment: Re:Underestimating (Score 3, Interesting) 350

by afeeney (#42915083) Attached to: Alcoholism Vaccine Makes Alcohol Intolerable To Drinkers

I have either that mutation or some other factor that makes drinking even a tiny amount of alcohol a horrible experience. I can handle about a teaspoonful of wine or a quarter cup of beer, but any more than that and I feel nauseated and dizzy with a terrible headache and grogginess. It developed about the time I hit 30 and the same thing happened with my mother at around age 35, so I assume that it's a genetic factor that either gets triggered with age or some environmental factor.

I was always a light drinker and never felt emotionally or physiologically dependent upon it, so my experience is NOTHING like an alcoholic's or somebody whose entirely social life is dependent upon drinking, but I gave up drinking immediately once it developed. Didn't matter that I'd just started being able to appreciate the good stuff and really enjoy it, I dropped it completely.

Can't say how it would work for an alcoholic, but I'd imagine it'd be very effective on somebody who is concerned about becoming one.

Comment: Re:iterative innovation (Score 1) 417

by afeeney (#42761423) Attached to: Are There Any Real Inventors Left?

I'd say many of these these are largely market breakthroughs, the application of an existing technology to a new market. If anything, with the exception of the Internet, these demonstrate the article's point.

1. Smart phone. Internet delivered via cell phone, both pre-existing.

2. Internet. Definitely a breakthrough.

3. OLED. Application of organic semiconductors to lighting. (On the other hand, the discovery and development of semiconductors is a genuine breakthrough.)

4. GPS. Application of mapping software to cell tower location detection tools. (Location detection tools are breakthroughs, though.)

5. Social media. Offspring of the Internet.

6. Autonomous car. Application of automation, GPS, sensors, etc. to cars.

7. Speech recognition. Computerized version of break audio into components, looking them up in a translation table, and report results.

8. Automatic language translation. Computerized version of looking something up in a translation table and reporting results.

Comment: Re:here we go (Score 5, Informative) 514

by afeeney (#42693309) Attached to: Lego Accused of Racism With Star Wars Set

In Turkey, this has always been more or less flexible, as it is in many branches of Islam.

It comes from two theological roots: The first that portraying the face of a prophet (including Jesus, Moses, etc.) is full of opportunities for blasphemy, the second that creating realistic images of living things usurps Allah's role as creator. In many ways, these reflect the Judaic prohibition in the Ten Commandments against creating carved images. This is one reason why Islamic architecture is full of those amazing geometric designs.

In Turkish art and architecture, this has been fairly relaxed, especially in Istanbul. Typically, images of a prophet simply cover his (I'm fairly sure that they're all male) face with a veil or show him from behind. Mosques in Istanbul are full of images of flowers and sultans often commissioned portraits of themselves, books with figurative art in illuminated manuscripts, and so on. Topkapi Palace is full of this kind of art.

I've been in Hagia Sophia several times and can't see the resemblance myself, beyond the fact that it's a domed building with a squared front.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky