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Comment: Re:Theory only works for perfect tidal locking (Score 1) 79

by david_thornley (#47434825) Attached to: Study: Why the Moon's Far Side Looks So Different

You said "this theory makes sense if the moon is perfectly tidally locked", and proceeded to hypothesize a small creep that would nullify the theory. In other words, I'm just going with what appears to be the accepted status, and you're claiming something else. This isn't a problem in itself, but you are providing no evidence. You can find evidence that it was tidally locked from other replies to your post. The burden of proof is indeed on those who claim it was tide-locked, and indeed they have provided some very strong evidence.

Comment: Re:pedantic response (Score 1) 132

I can find bitcoin exchanges, and I can find people who will give me stuff for bitcoins. And, as I said, I can't pay my mortgage or taxes in Euros or bitcoins. I live in the USA, and my mortgage is held by a US company. I'd actually find bitcoins more useful around here than Euros, as there's more things I can buy with them.

Historically, money has been issued by all sorts of entities, governments probably being a small portion by number. I think you're using a nonstandard definition.

Comment: Re:Or (Score 1) 377

by david_thornley (#47434681) Attached to: Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

Chernobyl can't happen again. It couldn't happen with any Western reactor, either.

Fukushima certainly could happen again, and I suspect all the currently popular fail-safe reactor designs have some ingenious failure mode that leaks radioactivity. What makes you think Fukushima was really that bad? It exposed few people to dangerous levels of radiation, and didn't really render that much land uninhabitable. It got a whole lot more press than the tsunami, though.

We have to compare it to what happens to other power sources, and they can destroy land too. In about two hundred years, the cesium contamination from Fukushima will be something like 97% gone. I think today's open-pit mines are likely to be around longer than that. I'm not claiming Fukushima was benign, but it's the worst thing that happened in decades with reactors that had 1950s-style safety features, and all other forms of power have been killing people and sometimes devastating areas through those decades.

Comment: Re:Bad programming (Score 1) 111

I was pretty aware of the art of the day. I don't know exactly what Kemeny and Kurtz were thinking when they first made BASIC, but after that it was used a lot for working code. (If they didn't intend it for working code, why the array operators?) Most software for the earliest home computers, such as the Apple II, Commodore Pet, and TRS-80, was written in BASIC. The main alternative was assembly language, and I assure you BASIC was a heck of a lot easier to write and debug than Z80 assembly (I never did write 6502 assembly code).

Try pulling that on somebody who didn't get one of the first TRS-80s or didn't play with it extensively. That person might actually believe you.

Comment: Re:Faith in God (Score 1) 296

by david_thornley (#47434553) Attached to: Site of 1976 "Atomic Man" Accident To Be Cleaned

I think you're still missing what I'm trying to say.

Let's consider people who think the laws of physics are really more like guidelines. Tell them that this guy was walking on water. Their reaction: "Okay, I guess surface tension was funny that day." The guy walking on water out there is only a miracle if you know darn well that it's impossible. Jesus rising after three days of death is only impressive if you know that people just don't do that.

Now, people can't normally walk on water, but there was a nice little scene in Bruce Almighty where Bruce and God were walking and talking. Doors don't open just because somebody orders them, but nowadays that'd be easy to set up. You can't just make magical gestures and have things happen unless there's a Kinect or something involved.

Therefore, if you believe that God is omnipotent, or at least has supernatural powers, then God can make the water support people. You know that's impossible, except that God has the cheat codes to the laws of physics. A miracle is a sign that God is above the laws of physics. It doesn't mean the laws of physics are wrong.

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 164

by david_thornley (#47434247) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

Since we're talking about peer-reviewed journals here, all papers have been peer-reviewed. The papers I've seen have usually had some discussion on what's come before, so you can tell if it reproduces or relies on previous work. (For seeing if it's been reproduced later, use a citation index.) They also list the credentials of the authors. I don't know what your problem is there.

However, these papers aren't progress reports, and aren't meant to be. They are findings of sufficient significance that it's worth keeping them around for later reference. This means that, if you don't get a significant result, you don't get published. If you get a lot of barely significant results, you get a big publication list.

This is a fine method to advance science, but it is also used to judge scientists, and that's where the problem lies. You think scientists should submit progress reports, which I think everybody agrees with, but even useful progress reports don't help the scientist's career unless they result in a finding worthy of a peer-reviewed publication. The difference between these things is where I think you're wrong.

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 164

by david_thornley (#47434157) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

You're advocating one specific quantitative performance metric: the length of the publication list. If I can get into a realm I'm more familiar with, people have been trying for years to come up with quantitative metrics to tell how good programmers are. It doesn't work. First, any such metric I'm familiar with fails to reward the right things. Second, any such metric gets gamed.

What you want a scientist to do is come up with good, innovative, science. The publication list penalizes innovation, since innovations don't always pan out, and rewards scientists who only undertake things they're pretty sure will work. A scientist simply may not be able to afford to investigate something that will take time and might not produce a positive result.

In this case, we saw the system get gamed by outright cheating. There are ways to game it that don't involve actual cheating. I haven't seen anybody suffer from the "least publishable unit" approach, and I remember one paper that left me awestruck at the precision in which the authors pulled out one result from a research program and got a peer-reviewed journal to publish the paper. It was an interesting result, but it was being precisely 1.000 LPU.

In my brief journey through academia, it seemed that the pub list was used a whole lot. There are variations, such as the citation list and journal impact factors, but these are closely related to the list length. This isn't healthy.

We're talking about a whole lot of highly intelligent and creative people here. Why aren't there other measures? Why are you expecting a non-scientist to come up with one?

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 164

by david_thornley (#47433929) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

But as is made clear here, simply publishing and getting it through peer review is clearly not good enough.

I thought they weren't good enough anyway, that a paper in a peer-reviewed journal didn't prove anything by itself. There's been plenty that turned out to be wrong.

After the publication, people are likely to want to build on that work (if it's interesting), and they'll wind up replicating parts of it. If it isn't solid, for whatever reasons, it'll get found then. If it holds up, there will soon be other corroborating papers.

It seems to me that things are working well here. Some people use underhanded techniques to get published, their papers are retracted when they're found out. The net result seems to be pretty much what you want.

Comment: Re:Yet another proof creation doesn't work! (Score 1) 143

by david_thornley (#47433007) Attached to: Hints of Life's Start Found In a Giant Virus

While I generally agree with your pattern, I disagree with (e).

A religion begins with the guy with the revelation, as you say. These revelations can partly, but not completely, passed on to other people. Therefore, we have the real holy person, and a circle of other people directly affected. At this point, there's no real point in hierarchy, aside from the prophet/follower one. Then the guy with the revelation dies, and leaves a legacy based on what he or she said, as well as followers who carry part of the mystical vision. The religion either dies out fast or it forms into something structured, and then a hierarchy. So far, we agree.

I claim, however, that the elite don't actually have that revelation, since it can't be passed that far. They have the records of the original guy and followers, and some of them have their own revelations that are similar to the original guy's one. Not all of these are going to make it into the elite, who will generally be selected politically. There are no mystical exercises to a revelation that significant. The foundation of knowledge, which can be passed along, is not the revelation. (In fact, it's likely to have picked up all sorts of extraneous stuff over time, as the revelation guy didn't talk just about the revelation.) Therefore, it's immaterial whether the masses have the ability to understand a revelation, since there's nobody there to give them one.

If the religion actually has political power, it pretty well ensures that lots of the elite do not really believe the religion, but use it as a way to gain power. It also encourages religious schisms for political reasons. Nationalism wasn't really important as an ideology until fairly recently, so a group that wanted independence would often coalesce around a sufficiently different branch of the religion, which would be labeled a heresy by the people whose power was threatened.

In Christianity, people still go to the source material in translation. Most of what we've got on Jesus comes from the four Gospels in the New Testament, which were written well after his death (there's other fragments out there about him old enough to be similar source material, but not much). Lots of people read them who I'd classify as "ardently stuck in the petty intellectual framework that their parents give them". About the only way to get closer is to learn the appropriate version of Greek, and I don't think that is going to be that much of an improvement over a good translation.

Weekends were made for programming. - Karl Lehenbauer