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Comment: Re:Such a Waste (Score 4, Insightful) 146

by Artifakt (#47563707) Attached to: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

Some of the Hobbit film bits are supposedly from letters JRRT wrote Christopher about 20 years after LOTR came out, describing how he would like to rewrite the book to make it tie in better with LotR and the limited Silmarillion notes he had at the time. Tolkien was supposedly torn between finishing up the Silmarillion or going back and working on a 'better' hobbit first. I suspect there's some truth to this claim - LotR draws from a great many sources that are fundamental in studying early English literature, from Spencer's Faerie Queen to the "Jack the Giant Killer" stories, to the Song of Roland to Beowulf itself, and the Hobbit's literary roots are mostly in one story - the same one Wagner drew on for Das Rheingold. Some of the dwarf naming and such in the Hobbit seems to connect to Finnish mythological tales and maybe some other Scandinavian sources, but the references are mostly truncated there or limited to a few very short phrases to fit in a children's book.
          I can certainly see JRRT deciding to work in some other bits from classics he couldn't really use in LotR. LotR took so long because Tolkien wanted it to have a certain gravitas as fantasy and so aimed for being really encyclopedic in referring to the roots of Fantasy literature, and at least touching broadly on English literature of the mundane and modern kinds. Tolkien even read some Lovecraft (and liked it), probably before writing the scene of the Watcher at the gate to Moria, possibly afterwards to see how it compared, and read or re-read some of the more esoteric works of T. S. Elliot, R L Stevenson and such, maybe just to have a better idea of where he wanted to steer modern English lit. or maybe to see if he needed to actually address these modern works in what he aimed to make his Magnum Opus. What he did afterwards, planning a next stage after becoming such a success, was doubtless quite technically ambitious.
        I respect people saying they don't like this or that, but some of those people might want to do a little research before they label everything they don't like as not true to Tolkien. In particular, the scenes where the dwarves try to use all the gold to kill the dragon seems to have some real connection to Tolkien's plans for the story, and possibly the way there is more about human 'politics' in Laketown is too. Once people get some idea of what might have been the Hobbit, rewritten for an audience the same age as LotR's, they can rag on the Hobbit equivalents of Elven Shield Surfing twice as hard. (Please! I could have done without half the falls in the Goblin caverns and had the height of the other half quartered, and the extended commercial for the Elven Rafting Riveride at Universal Orlando). Still, not everything here needs to be line for line either.

Comment: Re:For domestic use only (Score 1) 173

by Artifakt (#47561839) Attached to: Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance

I'd argue that they also cross the line when the spend valuable tax dollars on very low level risks, and when certain foreign governments have volutarily cooperated with needful investigations and are now being treated as though that doesn't matter, as we can get the info whether they work with us or not, so screw international cooperation. American agencies that don't really see any difference between Australia and Afghanistan probably should concern you. Contributing to international accords and then ignoring them probably should concern you. Spending tax dollars that could go to rebuilding much needed infrastructure on building up the threats before we spend more to take them down definitely should concern you.
          Recently declassified documents have revealed that there were years in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when the whole funding for the National Endowment for the Arts was being spent on CIA disinformation campaigns. That''s never been officially investigated by Congress or in any way restricted, and could still be going on now, seventy years after it started.With that as their history, the only thing that concerns you is crossing the domestic line? Doesn't that even suggest they are spending way too much of your taxes on nothing?

Comment: Re:Smokers (Score 1) 153

by Artifakt (#47554919) Attached to: Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

Why are you even debating the point over smoking, when you (and I) have no idea what the other 'few groups' are? Maybe next on his list is all the Red-headed people because they all didn't even die when Batman knocked them all into that vat of chemicals. Until I hear who the other few groups are, I'm going to assume that mindless hatered and lack of understanding of basic medicine are not even among this niblick's top 10 biggest issues. Hell, the other "few groups" probably include Underweight Belgians, Manx Cat Fanciers and Left Handed Whittlers.

Comment: Re:There have been attempts before (Score 1) 40

by Artifakt (#47553009) Attached to: How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium

Any hypothesis that doesn''t allow being disproven isn't science. period. That's hardly silly to point out. I may have been too polite by phrasing it in basic English - maybe I should have jumped right on a bunch of working scientists with the bold claim they had departed fully from the basic scientific method, before actually taking the time to read the original paper in detail and recrunching all their numbers, if that would make you feel better. Better yet, why don't you take "Let's You and Him Fight" elsewhere? I'm raising the question of whether the researchers took something into account, not accusing them of not understanding falsifiability as a fundamental of science, and if you want to turn a legitimate question into an accusation that insults both them, and me by the implication I would make it without doing a lot more work than could be done in the few hour since this article was posted, why don't you make that extraordinary claim, and sign your real name to it. A letter to the journal that published the original paer is appropriate there, not discussion in a non-vetted online "news" source. So I didn't spell out that I thought there were implications for falsifiabilty like I was lecturing the thinking impaired, particularly when I would much rather hear just what the paper's creators think are possible tests rather than assume they just didn't think about it.

            This also isn't a question of either whether Jurrassic Park got something scientifically right or whether Michael Crichton was a good author. That was just an example many readers would recognize. I could have used examples they wouldn't have even seen before, but I picked one they might know.

            Tell me, when somebody says there's hugh potential trouble in the nation's underfunded infrastructure, and mentions, as just one example, how many truck drivers are putting in excess hours and falsifying logs, does that make the whole article, in your mind, about trucker's bad penmanship? The real questions (now pay attention this time) are firstly "Do humans have a blind spot in the way they percieve flocking, even though there's 'logical' arguments why they should not, and we aren't bothering to look for evidence of a blind spot because those arguments make it so easy to ignore?", and secondly "Is an experimental model of flocking only going to be scientific if the researchers first make sure they have accounted for that blind spot?" My argument is that both questions need to be answered yes. Since that's my opinion, I'd also argue that a good mathematical model that ignores this, vrs. a bad mathematical model that just knowingly fakes flocking well enough, becomes like a better Planetary Epicycle model vrs. a worse one or even a deliberately false one. It doesn't matter much if the planets don't move in epicycles at all.

          I'd also say it's vitally important to figure out why the human brain seems to have many such blind spots - for just one, watch all the people, on all sides of the debate on the Theory of Evolution, who keep slipping into talking about what "Nature's Goals and Intentions" are. That's either because English (and at least most other languages) has/have a lot of superstitious cruft built in and we need to work at improving that or we will never be able to communicate properly, or it's something more fundamental to the human brain, and if it is the latter, figuring it out is probably going to be the biggest scientific achievement of whatever century it happens.

Comment: There have been attempts before (Score 3, Interesting) 40

by Artifakt (#47548069) Attached to: How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium

One factor not mentioned in the summary, is that bad computer models for flocking can still generate what looks like realistic flocking behavior. The herd dinos in Jurrassic Park are an example of this - the animation formula assumed each dino was instantaniously aware of all the rest, without allowing time for their nervous systems to work, but the flocking motions still looked right to most people, including professionals. People should remember too, humans probably have some pretty good mechanisms built into their brains for analyzing flocking, so that our ancestors, going at least as far back as the ape-like ones, could successfully hunt birds in flocks, and we collectively and historically certainly have had a lot of practice at that. We, as a species, ought to have some skill at detecting what constitutes real flocking behavior, but if we do, it doesn't always make a bad formula look jarring or wrong. So when somebody claims they have a real formula for what's going on when birds and such flock, the next question is "Can this claim even be proven or disproven?"

Comment: Re:Stability (Score 3, Interesting) 86

by Artifakt (#47540515) Attached to: Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

That's not as challenging as you seem to think. For Nightfall, you could start with the assumption that there's at least one particularly massive star, not so big as a typical A or O that won't stay on the main sequence long enough for life to evolve, but bigger than our G 2 sun, say a G 4 or 5 or even something in the F series. The other five suns can be much lighter, all the way down to red dwarfs in some cases (and the story seems to describe at least one that is). Those small stars don't have nearly the light output of the bigger one - with the right options, The planet can orbit the main star at a distance quite a bit greater than Earth orbits our sun, and be close to the exact optimum of its "Goldylocks" zone or somewhere on the cool side. Then smaller stars could exist in various configurations, and their output is low enough that if they are at, say 5 x what that planet would call an AU, they would essentially just move the planet's climate a bit towards the inner edge of the "goldylocks" range. So long as they don't nudge it completely into the hot zone, why wouldn't life cope? (Note that we are talking about their light ouput raising the planet's temperature, not them gravitationally nudgeing the planet about - gravity and how stable the planet's orbit can be if the orbits of the suns themselves are changing, that's a seperate question) Fictional Kalgash would have to orbit the biggest sun of the group and it would have to count as being near the cooler edge of the life bearing zone before you figure in the other stars, but even before the lesser suns temporarily shift into a quasi-stable configuration that prevents night from occuring except once every several thousand years or whatever, there would be various configurations that would make night a very short lived or rare and irregular thing, and life would be used to that. There are other issues, such as how do plants dispose of waste products on Nightfall world, but those issues don't vary much if there's a short night every few months or only in a thousand years - plants would have to adapt for situations much less prolonged than the current one. If we call the Nightfall orbits "perfect", then even very imperfect multi-star systems would find life constantly facing this problem.I'm thinking that by your argument, it's all too easy to say things such as "Life in Binary systems? Impossible!," and even "Life when the day lasts more than 24 hours 17 minutes? Absurd!", and things like that. I'll refrain from quiting Jeff Goldblum at this point, but hope you will consider this.
        Then there's the question of how sensitive to light the natives eyes are. If nights have always been at least short and irregular for much longer than the perfect situation has existed, we should expect the natives to not have very good night vision, as there's less demand to evolve it, so talking about relative optical wavelength outputs and such is very hard to do meaningfully.I'm not sure how we could criticise the work as SF on that basis.

Comment: Re:I also measure distance (Score 3, Interesting) 190

Even though they measure the same thing, the Becquerel is a very, very small unit. If somebody was talking about the risk of a dam breaking, and used the cubic centimeter for measuring the volume of water behind that dam, perhaps with a note that a single cc of water can killl a person if they choke on it just right as a justification, wouldn't you still prefer a unit such as gallons, or cubic feet or cubic meters, Wouldn't that be better in helping asses the real consequences of a dam failure even though we are measuring the same thing? Or wouldn't it be better to give information on just how many acres downstream would be flooded and how many people live on that floodplain, even though that's all a very different kind of measurement? There are plenty of cases where either a similar measurement that uses units more in keeping with the situation or a measurement of something different may either or both be better.
          Using SI units is a good thing overall, but what if those units are many orders of magnitude outside of the thing they were designed to measure and there's a non-SI unit that isn't? Or, what's the point in preferring Km./liters over miles/gallon if we are talking about how much fuel it took to send Voyager 1 outside the heliopause? Neither one is very useful when we are not exactly sure just where the edge of the solar system is, or how to measure it, and Voyager will keep on coasting many light years farther in the end, if its trajectory even has an end in the lifetime of the universe.
            I see using becquerels in this case as similar to someone being opposed to a government project, so they give how much it costs in the currency of some nation currently undergoing hyperinflation, so the project costs a bajillion, bajillion, Saganillion Elbonian Smerdlaps, That's not the same thing as writing about the US economy for a European audience and converting to Euros, or writing about the European economy for Japan and converting to Yen. Even though we know a conversion rate for the uints, and it's fixed as of a given date,,using some units for currency could still be an attempt to make the numbers sound so large they prejudice the average reader more than they inform. You should look at what level of information the average person reading an article from that particular source will have in deciding whether a difference of units is simply a difference or if there's some intent to mislead - and since you asked it as in what way X is :bad?", hopefully we can agree attempts to mislead are bad.

Comment: Re:Bigger Colliders (Score 1) 218

by Artifakt (#47516069) Attached to: China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC

Inside a typical accellerator, the vacuum is typically about one-millionth of an atmosphere. At an alltitude of roughly 100 km., the air density is about 1/2,200,000 the density at the surface. That's obviously good enough,, but at that altitude drag still brings orbiting objects down to earth quite quickly. The quick rule of thumb is to have something up there long enough to be useful, minimum orbital altitude is about 300 Km. So yeah, vacuum is the least of your obstacles - you'll have more than you'll ever need.

Comment: Re:From TFA (Score 2) 113

by Artifakt (#47498473) Attached to: Domain Registry of America Suspended By ICANN

It's not needless to say, unfortunately:

(Start of facts) Right now, there's a dispute developing in New York state, over whether McDonalds should have their contracts with franchisees set up so if those franchisees are caught violating state labor laws McDonalds will terminate their franchise rights. Some of the violations at issue include what are definitely felonies (i.e. extortion, threats of death or physical injury). Others are sometimes just misdemeanors (theft of wages, if under a certain amount), but are still criminal. This is an example where a very large employer isn't treating certain areas of criminality as criminal at all. McDonalds has their contracts written to address those crimes they want to include, and these sections are not on the parent corp's lists.

  That much is fact (i'm expecting somebody to try to pick that section apart, before I even offer the my opinion section, so I'm trying to make that line very clear). As opinion, things such as that need to be in contracts because we let corporations form under limited liability rules, and if they are willing to keep doing business with known criminal franchisees who are also incorporated, those multiple corporate veils make it fantastically more difficult to fix. I don't think limited liability ought to extend to cases where somebody hired a hit man to kill a union organizer, and that's proved, but we can't look into whether anybody in particular knew, or passed money about or did other favors to make the hit happen. In the non-corporate world, if you're continuing to associate with a bunch of people you know are felons, and the courts have proved are felons, exchanging money with them and contracting with them is plenty of grounds for an investigation, but this looks like it comes with a clause saying 'unless that trail passes into another corporation'. To fix this, just one of the steps is we evidently do need to get corporations to say explicitly that all relevant criminal conduct will not be tolerated, or at least the New York state prosecutor's office is of that opinion.

The universe does not have laws -- it has habits, and habits can be broken.