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Black Holes Not Black After All, Theorize Physicists 214

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lemon-chiffon-hole dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes Black holes are singularities in spacetime formed by stars that have collapsed at the end of their lives. But while black holes are one of the best known ideas in cosmology, physicists have never been entirely comfortable with the idea that regions of the universe can become infinitely dense. Indeed, they only accept this because they can't think of any reason why it shouldn't happen. But in the last few months, just such a reason has emerged as a result of intense debate about one of cosmology's greatest problems — the information paradox. This is the fundamental tenet in quantum mechanics that all the information about a system is encoded in its wave function and this always evolves in a way that conserves information. The paradox arises when this system falls into a black hole causing the information to devolve into a single state. So information must be lost.

Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking proposed a solution. His idea is that gravitational collapse can never continue beyond the so-called event horizon of a black hole beyond which information is lost. Gravitational collapse would approach the boundary but never go beyond it. That solves the information paradox but raises another question instead: if not a black hole, then what? Now one physicist has worked out the answer. His conclusion is that the collapsed star should end up about twice the radius of a conventional black hole but would not be dense enough to trap light forever and therefore would not be black. Indeed, to all intents and purposes, it would look like a large neutron star.

Robot With Broken Leg Learns To Walk Again In Under 2 Minutes 69

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the unstoppable-robot-overlords dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes When animals lose a limb, they learn to hobble remarkably quickly. And yet when robots damage a leg, they become completely incapacitated. That now looks set to the change thanks to a group of robotics engineers who have worked out how to dramatically accelerate the process of learning to walk again when a limb has become damaged. They've tested it on a hexapod robot which finds an efficient new gait in under two minutes (with video), and often faster, when a leg becomes damaged. The problem for robots is that the parameter space of potential gaits is vast. For a robot with six legs and 18 motors, the task of finding an efficient new gait boils down to a search through 36-dimensional space. That's why it usually takes so long. The new approach gets around this by doing much of this calculation in advance, before the robot gets injured. The solutions are then ordered according to the amount of time each leg remains in contact with the ground. That reduces the dimension of the problem from 36 to 6 and so makes it much easier for the robot to search. When a leg becomes damaged, the robot selects new gaits from those that minimize contact with the ground for the damaged limb. It compares several and then chooses the fastest. Voila! The resulting gaits are often innovative, for example, with the robot moving by springing forward. The new approach even found a solution should all the legs become damaged. In that case, the robot flips onto its back and inches forward on its "shoulders."

Comment: Re:ESPN (Score 1) 401

by almitydave (#47461859) Attached to: Comcast Customer Service Rep Just Won't Take No For an Answer

Some feel there is a loss in quality vs OTA but depending on who you talk to it's not something people will notice.

Comcast subscriber here, and I can definitely tell in some programs. There are certain types of scenes that the compression algorithm doesn't handle well at low bitrates, notably when there's a lot of detail changing from frame to frame. I was watching "Planet Earth" and when it showed a large flock of birds taking flight, the TV looked like a checkerboard pattern of flickering grey squares. So it's usually ok, but often noticeable, and occasionally ugly. I may hook up our old rabbit ears for the OTA channels.

As for the customer service nightmare, I guess my experience has been anomalous, as I've never had a problem with them, even canceling TV service once or twice in the 6 years I've subscribed (TV+internet currently). I rarely have to call, though; service here in Chicago has been extremely reliable. It is very expensive, though.

Comment: Re:Not a duty of the Executive Branch (Score 1) 382

by almitydave (#47459605) Attached to: White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

The White House should respond by providing links to state and federal representatives if they want the law changed.

Why? Can an organization like Tesla not find people smart enough to look them up? Are we not smart enough to know where to look? Or so disengaged we don't know which ones to write?

Apparently. GGP's whole point is that this petition proves that this is true, and people are asking the president to "do something" rather than using the appropriate channel - their representatives in the legislature (whichever is appropriate to the issue). In theory, enough constituents contacting their representatives will stir them to act; it practice it usually takes an organization with funding to have enough influence; either way, there's a method for the average Joe to amplify his voice and get heard.

Comment: Re:Not a duty of the Executive Branch (Score 1) 382

by almitydave (#47459055) Attached to: White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

Exactly what I wanted to say. The White House should respond by providing links to state and federal representatives if they want the law changed.

Alternatively, people should pool their resources and form a lobbying group to have greater influence in changing the law. Kickstarter has proven the potential for crowdfunding; there should be a Kickstarter-type site for forming issue-specific political action committees, so people can more effectively lobby for the change that matters to them most. I think this is very much in line with the spirit of the republic, while offering an effective voice to groups of like-minded people.

Of course, there are already many groups lobbying on many issues, so maybe all that's needed is a comprehensive directory of PACs and lobbying orgs sorted by topic, so people can find one aligned with their ideologies. I just found a decent list here which focuses on tracking financial contributions, but has quite a lot of info.

Comment: Re:No "thought police"? What about "hate crimes"? (Score 1) 185

by almitydave (#47377951) Attached to: Judge Frees "Cannibal Cop" Who Shared His Fantasies Online

Assault someone with a bat and go to jail for 5 years. Say, "I hate black people!" while doing it and go to jail for 15 years.

So yeah, we DO put people in jail for thoughts.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Hate crime legislation DOES punish thoughts: we've decided that what you were thinking at the time of a crime somehow makes your crime worse than that of someone who wasn't thinking "hateful thoughts". If we hold to the principle that "the punishment must fit the crime," then hate crime laws seem to directly criminalize certain thoughts, which in the USA seems to come dangerously close to treading on the freedom of thought and expression protected by the first amendment, if not stomping all over it.


U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception 1330

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the should-have-gone-with-commie-care dept.
An anonymous reader writes In a legislative first, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that for-profit companies can, in essence, hold religious views. Given the Supreme Court's earlier decisions granting corporations the right to express political support through monetary donations, this ruling is not all that surprising. Its scope does not extend beyond family-owned companies where "there's no real difference between the business and its owners." It also only applies to the contraception mandate of the health care law. The justices indicated that contraceptive coverage can still be obtained through exceptions to the mandate that have already been introduced to accommodate religious nonprofits. Those exceptions, which authorize insurance companies to provide the coverage instead of the employers, are currently being challenged in lower courts. The "closely held" test is pretty meaningless, since the majority of U.S. corporations are closely held.

Comment: Re:Repeat after me... (Score 1) 534

More people need to get pissed at these "security" checks. I see it happening at more and more venues: football games, art museums, etc... At least the metal detectors in the courthouse came as a response to actual shootings. But come on, who is going to bother with a terrorist attack on the Duct Tape Museum of Greater Bumfuck? At some point the security measures cost more than what you're actually preventing.

To be fair, security checks at some football stadiums also came as a response to actual violence at said stadiums. See: Raiders fans.

Comment: Re:I-Novae Studios (Score 1) 100

by almitydave (#47325979) Attached to: Building the Infinite Digital Universe of <em>No Man's Sky</em>

My understanding is that they realized they needed to make money, so they shifted their dev efforts to completing a marketable game engine to get some income before completing their game idea. I really look forward to this game, and its more realistic scale. But I'm not holding my breath.

There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it over.