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Comment: Re:"Fully Half Doubt the Big Bang"? (Score 5, Interesting) 535

by hey! (#46820019) Attached to: The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

All ideas may have been created equal, but they do not remain so after they've been tested.

Scientific theories are the ideas that you don't have to prove again every time you use them, because they have already been tested very thoroughly. This means a paleontologist is allowed to assume that dinosaur bones are the fossilized remains of extinct animals that lived millions of years ago. He doesn't *have* to waste his time dealing with the opinions of Young Earthers who think the world was created 7000 years ago and that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs. He can just assume as factual that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old and dismiss the Adam-and-Even-on-a-dinosaur idea without further ado -- until the Young Earthers come up with proof.

And it's not the least unfair, any more than its unfair that a football team that gets the ball on their own ten yard line has more work to do to score a goal than one that gets the ball ten yards from goal. It may seem discriminatory to people who haven't been following the game up to this point, but that's because they aren't aware of the work it took to get the ball where it is.

Comment: Re:Something wrong at the foundation - (Score 1) 450

by hey! (#46810183) Attached to: Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

This is the flip-side to regulated utilities. When your profit is determined by the government, you always turn to the government to increase or maintain your profits, which in turn means you become quite expert at that game.

Which is not a problem, if the legislators, governor and regulators are working for the public. The public needs a grid and base generation capability, and the utility is guaranteed a safe and reasonable profit if it provides these things.

Comment: Re:Animal cruelty? (Score 2) 204

by hey! (#46810081) Attached to: NYC's 19th-Century Horse Carriages Spawn Weird, Truck-Size Electric Car

Bostonian here.

My work has taken me to cities all over the country, and I have to say that I've found New Yorkers to be the most considerate and helpful big city denizens in the US. The picture of the typical New Yorker as an obnoxious ogre is a phony movie and television trope.

People mistake adaptations to the pace and concentration of urban life as unfriendliness. Yes, people don't smile and nod at everyone they meet as they stroll the length of 5th Avenue, because after three or four blocks they'd need a chiropractor. But approach one of those people on 5th Avenue for directions, and most of the time he'll be pleasant and eager to be helpful.

Of course, you take your chances approaching strangers in any big city, but I also think that a lot of the treatment you receive is determined by the attitude you bring with you. I've heard wildly different reports on the infamous rudeness of Parisians, but the reports are usually a reflection of the kind of person making the report. Courteous people tend to be met with courtesy wherever they go, and obnoxious people get a rude reception.

Comment: Re:A chilling EMP scenario (Score 1) 270

by hey! (#46807871) Attached to: Expert Warns: Civilian World Not Ready For Massive EMP-Caused Blackout

I've seen a lot of manuscripts that follow this basic template in my writing group. You have an enemy (often Muslims speaking dog-of-an-infidel Arab-ese) who launches a ludicrously successful EMP superweapon, and in the collapse that follows a charismatic leader with a military background emerges to lead the building of a new, and looks-likely-to-be-better society.

I've seen enough of these to justify doing some research on the physics of nuclear EMP, and have yet to see a Ms that is even remotely scientifically accurate. These stories come out of a sense of dissatisfaction with where 200 years of democracy have brought us. These authors long for rule by extraordinary men (always men), unencumbered by the dead weight of by-definition-mediocre 300 million ordinary people. Remove technology, remove most of that 300 million people and set the remainder to the task of survival, and there is no longer any constraint on the greatness of the extraordinary few.

Of course there's nothing wrong with an authoritarian fantasy, any more than there is anything wrong with a story about the restoration of the "rightful" king. You can enjoy such a story without *really* believing you'd be better off under a charismatic military leader or king. The key to enjoying such a story is "suspension of disbelief".

Comment: Re:So - who's in love with the government again? (Score 1) 397

by hey! (#46796433) Attached to: Beer Price Crisis On the Horizon

I don't know if this is nuts. I'd have to see the full arguments on both sides, and so far what we have to go on is a one-sided summary.

If the *only* effect of the proposed regulation would be to increase beer prices, then sure, I agree with you 100%: government is being stupid. But if there's a good reason for the regulation, then I'd disagree with you.

Reading the article, it seems like the idea that this regulation will cause beer prices to spike dramatically seems a bit alarmist. The regulations would require brewers who send waste to farmers as animal feed to keep records. It seems hard to believe that this would significantly raise the price of beer or whiskey given that alcohol production is already highly regulated. On the other hand, it seems like there is no specific concern related to breweries. They were just caught up in a law that was meant to address animal feed.

If you want an example of a regulation free utopia, look no further than China, where adulteration of the food chain is a common problem. If the choice were a regulatory regime that slightly complicates brewers lives, and a regime that allows melamine and cyanuric acid into human food, I'd live with higher beer prices.

Fortunately, we don't have to live with either extreme. We can regulate food adulteration and write exceptions into the regulations for situations that pose little risk. Since presumably the ingredients used in brewing are regulated to be safe for human consumption, the byproducts of brewing are likely to pose no risk in the human food chain.

Comment: Re:LaserJet II and LaserJet 3 (Score 1) 694

by hey! (#46791117) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

The most wear sensitive part of a laser printer is the copy drum. If I recall correctly the old LaserJets had the drum integrated with the toner cartidge, so you replace to most quickly wearing part of the printer four or five thousand pages. It's no wonder they lasted so long. The mechanical parts that move the paper through the printer are pretty robust, so I wouldn't be surprised if the printers go until the capacitors in the electronics dry up, or the internal power connectors go bad.

Comment: Re:A bit of background for slashdotters (Score 4, Informative) 348

by hey! (#46790777) Attached to: VA Supreme Court: Michael Mann Needn't Turn Over All His Email

This isn't a case "insisted upon by a conservative group". This is Mann suing a journalist for libel, and the journalist requesting info from the university under FOIA to prove his case.

That would be interesting, if it were true. Here's what TFA says:

The ruling is the latest turn in the FOIA request filed in 2011 by Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William) and the American Tradition Institute to obtain research and e-mails of former U-Va. professor Michael Mann.

"Del." I assume is short for "delegate". According to their website, the American Tradition Institute's tag line is "Free Market Environmentalism through *Litigation*" I assuming this means they aren't pals with Greenpeace, or even The Sierra Club, any more than the National Socialists in Germany were pals with the socialist Republicans in 1930s Spain.

Comment: Re:Why do these people always have something to hi (Score 4, Insightful) 348

by hey! (#46790657) Attached to: VA Supreme Court: Michael Mann Needn't Turn Over All His Email

Depends on what you consider "hiding the research". A fishing expedition through a scientist's personal correspondence is an invitation to judge his work on *political* grounds.

In science your personal beliefs, relationships, and biography are irrelevant. There are evangelical Christian climate scientists who believe climate won't change because that would contradict God's will as expressed in the Bible. These scientists may be regarded as religious crackpots by their peers, but that hasn't prevented them from publishing in the same peer-reviewed journals as everyone else. Since their papers invariably are climate-change skeptic, clearly they are publishing work which supports their religious beliefs. But their motivations don't matter. What matters is in their scientific publications.

In 1988, Gary Hart's presidential bid and political career were ruined when he was photographed cavorting on a yacht named "Monkey Business" with a woman that wasn't his wife. Now I didn't care how many bimbos he was boinking, but a lot of people *did*, which made it a political issue (albeit a stupid one in my opinion). Do we really want to use the coercive power of the state to dig through the private lives of controversial scientists?

It's a pretense that that would serve any scientific purpose. Maybe Mann is intent on overthrowing capitalism and creating a socialist utopia. That would be relevant if he were running for dogcatcher, but it's irrelevant to what's in his scientific papers. Scientists publish papers all the time with ulterior motives, not the least of which is that they're being paid to do research that makes corporate sponsors happy. As long as what's in the paper passes muster, it's still science.

Comment: Re:authenticity (Score 1) 56

by hey! (#46789973) Attached to: Lying Eyes: Cyborg Glasses Simulate Eye Expressions

What about acting? Or fiction? These are artificial experiences that evoke real emotional responses. Once the right buttons in your brain are pushed, most of your brain can't tell the difference between what is real and what is synthetic.

Granted, authenticity in human interactions is important, but it's overrated. Fake engagement often is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Situations where people put considerable effort into *seeming* pleasant usually *are* more pleasant than they would be if everyone felt free to paste their indifference to you right on their faces.

So this is a very interesting technology. What's disturbing about it isn't that people might be fooled into thinking the user is truly interested; it's that the user himself no longer puts any effort into creating that illusion. What if that effort is in itself something important? What if fake engagement is often the prelude to real engagement? Maybe you have to start with polite interest and work your way up to the real thing; I suspect the dumber parts of your brain can't tell the difference. If that's true, taking the user's brain out of the interaction means that interaction will automatically be trapped on a superficial level. This already happens in bureaucratic situations where employees are reduce to rules-following automatons. Take the brain out of the equation and indifference follows.

I suspect that the researchers are well aware of these issues; I believe that I discern a certain deadpan, ironic puckishness on their part. People who truly view engagement with other people as an unwelcome burden don't work on technologies that mediate between people.

Comment: Re:Switching from Mercedes to Tesla after $12K bil (Score 1) 359

by hey! (#46786709) Attached to: Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

First you bought an SUV which only an idiot would buy

My late father-in-law designed inertial guidance systems. He worked on the Apollo program and the Trident missile. And he bought a Mercedes SUV, so it's clear it isn't an SUV that only an idiot would buy. He needed a vehicle that could pull a small boat trailer but had reached an age where he wanted a vehicle that was a little easier on the tuckus than a pickup truck. As such it wasn't a bad choice for him, especially as he had the dough to pay the eye-popping maintenance costs.

I prefer small cars myself, but I've driven a few SUVs and the Mercedes wasn't a bad choice for someone who wanted a truck that drives more or less like a car and doesn't care about the cost.

Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 1) 1613

by hey! (#46772927) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

It's not a "re-examination". It's a butchering.

You say that like it's necessarily a bad thing.

We've got to stop acting as if the Founding Fathers were like Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the Constitution chiseled on a couple of stone tablets. They were brilliant, enlightened men for their day, but the Constitution is not a document of divine inerrancy.

The US Constitution is the COBOL of constitutions. Yes, it was a tremendous intellectual innovation for its time. Yes, it is still being used successfully today. But nobody *today* would write a constitution that way, *even if their intent was exactly the same* as the founders.

For one thing it's full of confusingly pointless ("To promote the Progress of Science") and hoplessly vague ("securing for *limited times*") phraseology that leaves courts wondering exactly what the framers meant, or whether they were just pointlessly editorializing ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State").

It's also helplessly out of date. The Constitution was drafted before the existence of mass media and advertising; before photography even. It was the appearance of photography in newspapers that woke people up to the idea that they might have privacy rights that were being threatened. A Constitution written in 1900 would almost certainly have clauses explicitly recognizing a right to individual privacy and empowering the government to protect that right. A Constitution written in 2000 would almost certainly have clauses restricting the government from violating individual privacy.

And then there is slavery, an outright *evil* which is enshrined in the founder's version of the Constitution. That alone should disqualify any claim they may have had to superhuman morality.

So if we take it as given that the US Constitution is not divinely ordained, it's not necessarily a bad thing that the current generation should choose to butcher what the founders established. Would you re-institute slavery? Allow *states* to deprive citizens of liberty and property without due process? Eliminate direct election of senators?

So it's perfectly reasonable to butcher anything in the Constitution when you're proposing an *amendment* to the Constitution. That's the whole point. We should think for ourselves. In doing so, we're actually carrying on the work the framers themselves were doing. Every generation should learn from its predecessors, but think for itself.

Comment: Re:Hypocrisy abounds (Score 1) 816

by hey! (#46765817) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

What's so hilarious is that to most of the commenters here, the Koch Brothers exemplify the absolute evil in the system whilst (and simultaneously) George Soros is merely 'doing the right thing' and 'helping people speak truth to power'.

So in other words, what somebody says is less important than who says it.

Comment: Re:Tyrant: The computer game (Score 1) 816

by hey! (#46765803) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

While sorta fun, those games are not simulations. All you revealed was the program(mer)'s built-in biases and assumptions, rather than any insight about what happens in reality.

That's true of social science research as well. The difference is that social science research has to pass peer review, and stand up to contrary reearch in the literature.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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