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Comment: Need more thumbs (Score 1) 77

by brianerst (#47485235) Attached to: Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand

That's interesting (if a little clumsy). I wonder if a different arrangement of digits would work better.

I'm thinking of placing an opposable thumb opposite the existing thumb (a mirror image of the existing thumb) and one on the base of the wrist pointing up which would curl up when the fingers curl down. Without modeling it, it would be hard to tell if the extra digits would get in the way too much, but they would greatly increase the ability to do certain types of grips.

(And why does Firefox seem to think opposable isn't a word?)

Comment: Re:The Gripping Hand? (Score 1) 77

by brianerst (#47485163) Attached to: Wearable Robot Adds Two Fingers To Your Hand

The GP was imprecise. The Gripping Hand of the Moties in the Niven/Pournelle CoDominium universe is a third arm/hand - it is used for strength and better grip. Two hands for detail/fine work, one for heavy lifting/gripping.

It's also used in the sense of a "third way" between two sides of an argument - "on the one hand, on the other hand and on the gripping hand". The gripping hand argument is supposed to be the strongest one and a way around the weakness of the core conflict.

Comment: Re:Probable cause (Score 1) 223

by brianerst (#47420359) Attached to: Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On

To be fair, at least one of the targets (Nihad Awad of CAIR) appears to have been targeted only during the period that his organization was labelled an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial. When the label was removed (by court order), the surveillance stopped. (This assumes that the data released by Greenwald is complete and the lack of surveillance after January 2008 is real.)

Awad has some questionable associations in his background but that alone shouldn't be cause to put him or anyone under surveillance.

Comment: Re: What's the big deal? (Score 1) 561

by brianerst (#47323831) Attached to:, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

Absolutely - I don't think they measure much else other than pattern matching and a specific subset of abstract reasoning. I think they're reasonably effective at measuring those skills and those skills are reasonably correlated to fitness to certain types of tasks. But that's true of any decently designed test - a test of leaping ability is useful to some degree for athletics but it'd be ridiculous to think it was the only or even the most important criteria.

Comment: Re: What's the big deal? (Score 1) 561

by brianerst (#47322355) Attached to:, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

There's some thought that assortative mating of 'geeks' is one cause of the rise in autism rates. High IQs tend to correlate with a better than average ability for pattern matching and focus. Combine two people with those abilities and maybe you get kids who are laser focused on patterns all the time.

It's an interesting theory (I'm the father of an autistic son so I do a lot of reading on the subject) but there's not much more than circumstantial evidence behind it. But probably as much as evidence as "the kid will be an asshole" theory...

Comment: Re:And not an EQ above 50 among them (Score 3, Interesting) 561

by brianerst (#47322151) Attached to:, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

If I had to guess, I'd say nearly all the Mensans I've ever bumped into have been liberal Democrats. The idea that "the sheeple" need to be lead by smart people who will make the best decisions for them is sort of endemic to that side of the aisle. Not that Republicans are anything to write home about, but the idea of "rule by smart people" is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the GOP...

The Democrats tend to draw the wonkiest of the wonks and the elite professional class into their orbit. Identify a problem (or "problem") in society and bring together a small group of experts who will make the best decision for each of the 330 million people living in the US is the operating assumption for them. The Mensans I've run into fit into that mindset pretty well.

It's only when you accept your own limitations and appreciate the different gifts that everybody has that you realize that no group of people, no matter how intelligent and well meaning, can possibly understand, let alone fulfill, the competing needs and desires of our diverse human family. Lay down some broadly accepted rules and provide a focused and best-in-class set of services, but otherwise, get out of the way.

Comment: And not an EQ above 50 among them (Score 1) 561

by brianerst (#47322019) Attached to:, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

When I was eight, I thought that Mensa must be the coolest thing in the world - a Club for Geniuses! When I got a bit older, I ended up going to a few meetings (I had had a school administered IQ test done when I was skipping a grade and that was good enough for the local chapter). Between the painfully shy, the weirdos and the snobs, even my 12 year old self figured out this wasn't the club for me.

I had hopes that maybe it was just the local chapter that was nuts but every time I hear anything about Mensa, it generally confirms my original impression...

Comment: Better filters (Score 1) 69

I'd think one good use for such biological machines would be as super-filters - organs that could scrub the blood of excess cholesterol and other lipids as well as various toxins we haven't evolved to efficiently process.

I, for one, welcome our new bioprinted organs that keep my arteries clean as a whistle...

Comment: Re:Your backyard (Score 2) 401

The Hoover Dam cost $824 million in 2013 dollars to build and averages 4,200,000 mWhs of electricity per year.

The Ivanpah Solar Plant cost $2,200 million and may generate 493,110 mWhs of electricity per year.

So, this plant cost nearly three times as much in constant dollars while generating one tenth as much energy. To get to Hoover Dam scales, we need to build another 29 Ivanpahs at a cost of $63.8 billion dollars. Which gives us one more Hoover Dam worth of energy, which is 1/1000th of total US energy use (Hoover Dam is about 4.2 billion kWhs while the US used about 4,095 billion kWhs last year.)

So, for the low, low price of $68.8 trillion , we can supply the electricity for the US via Ivanpah style power. That just might hamstring our economy...

Comment: Re:Is no one else concerned? (Score 1) 161

by brianerst (#46129025) Attached to: World's First Magma-Based Geothermal Energy System

There's a certain ahistoric view of energy development that drives me nuts (not necessarily your comment, but it triggers my rant...)

We have switched energy resources over the years not just because it was cheaper but because it was cleaner and more sustainable. We went from burning trees (deforesting entire countries and enveloping the land in smoke and soot), using animal power (leaving billions of metric tons of shit strewn throughout our cities, towns and villages) and using animal fat (nearly wiping out all cetaceans in under a century) to burning coal (land destruction was minimized vs trees), then petroleum (getting rid of the shit and the soot), then natural gas (lowering our CO2 emissions).

At every point since technology became an important part of human existence, we've ramped up the existing technology to pull as many people as possible out of abject poverty (mainly as a side-effect of economic development, but nonetheless). Then, when we realize that that technology is unsustainable (prices shoot up), we develop the next technology and ramp that one up - using the new-found wealth to clean up the old messes and finding new side-effects that are generally more benign than the last but that become bad due to the increased scale. Rinse, lather, repeat...

This is a nerd site - we'll figure out the next step eventually and use our expanded wealth and energy to clean up the bad effects of the previous technology. Our focus should be on accelerating that process - using price pressures (like carbon taxes) to encourage research and deployment of cleaner technologies. We also need to be ready to remediate the damage we've done so we can use some of our next tranche of new wealth to restore ecologies and species as best we can.

Comment: Re:Pollution from China (Score 1) 259

by brianerst (#46051255) Attached to: Up To a Quarter of California Smog Comes From China

If Mises counts as a libertarian, he'd say that the problem is that the government has specifically foreclosed a solution to the problem - class action lawsuits on pollution. When written in 1983, the Libertarian Manifesto claimed that class action lawsuits over pollution were impossible to file. I think that's changed since - EPA rules and whatnot - but that's probably the libertarian basis for negotiated pollution rates.

Optimization hinders evolution.