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Comment: Re:it could have been an accident (Score 1) 733

by radtea (#49347797) Attached to: Germanwings Plane Crash Was No Accident

there is an infinitesimally small chance that it was engaged by accident.

And since air disasters necessarily depend on extremely low-probability events, this is not an argument for the proposition "therefore this was most likely not the cause".

We know that whatever happened it had an outrageously low probability. This makes speculation in advance of data useless, because there are an almost unlimited number of highly improbable things that could have happened, and anyone who thinks they can imagine their way to the correct one is innumerate: http://www.tjradcliffe.com/?p=...

Comment: So what are they? (Score 1) 126

by radtea (#49325469) Attached to: Boeing Patents <em>Star Wars</em> Style Force Field Technology

From the tortured summary the only thing that's clear is that this technology is nothing like anything in Star Wars or Star Trek, but some illiterate in PR has decided that whatever they actually do is so boring, obscure or useless that the only way to drum up any attention for them is to describe them in terms of something completely unrelated.

Does anyone have any idea what they actually do and how they do it?

Comment: Not Even Wrong (Score 5, Informative) 109

by radtea (#49304337) Attached to: The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun

This is not even wrong. Payne had the idea first, Russell thought it was wrong, Russell later changed his mind and gave Payne credit: http://blogs.britannica.com/20... His work cites hers.

This is how science is supposed to work, although there is always a factor of fame involved in credit-giving, and women have in general not been as forceful in claiming or defending credit as men.

Furthermore, how many people claiming to be "outraged" by this were even aware of who had been given credit for figuring out the composition of the sun in the first place? Who amongst us is "shocked, shocked" that Russell--whom they had been giving credit to all these years, citing in papers, talking up at cocktail parties--didn't actually make the discovery that is commonly and incorrectly attributed to him?

Comment: Re:fathers (Score 1) 299

by radtea (#49304275) Attached to: Scientists: It's Time To Resolve the Ethics of Editing Human Genome

What's being debated is whether it's right to make experiments who's consequences a person who can't consent to them has to carry.

And this differs from having children the old fashioned way how?

That is the crux: every child born is a genetic experiment today. We hope that it doesn't end up with too many defects. We hope that it's born with eyes (I know someone who wasn't). We hope that it's born without any non-lethal developmental defects (I know a couple of people who have them, caught and fixed by surgery before they became fatal.) We hope they won't develop Type I diabetes (like several of my friends have)... and so on.

Every one of these things is a crap-shoot, and everyone who has kids today is performing an uncontrolled genetic experiment every time.

To claim that this process is necessarily going to be made worse by adding some human intelligence to the mix is problematic. The claim that there is no conceivable therapeutic benefit to engineering certain classes of genetic defect out of the germline is disingenuous, unless you think everyone everywhere for the rest of time is going to have good gene therapy available to them while growing up, which is insane.

To claim "we can't predict what the effects might be so we shouldn't do the research" is bizarre: if we don't do the research, admittedly mostly on animal models, how will we ever know what the effects are? Once we've done the research, we will have a high confidence in the effects, just as we do with any other therapeutic intervention. We all know that iatrogenic disease is a major cause of death and suffering, so wringing our hands about germline modification as if it was unique in that respect is at the very least strange and at worst deeply hypocritical.

All power gets used, and it's understandable that people should be concerned about how the power to edit the human germline will be used. The possibilities for abuse are considerable. If we are ever able to create Brave-New-World style designer slaves, happy in their subjugation, we probably will, for some value of "we".

But the debate should be about how to use this power wisely, not whether we should develop it at all. Someone will, and it's better that that happen out in the open than in some secret lab in $EVIL_NATION or funded by $EVIL_BILLIONAIRE.

Comment: Re:Novelty Effect (Score 3, Interesting) 59

by radtea (#49277371) Attached to: New Site Mocks Bad Artwork On Ebook Covers

Cover design is hard, and most people do judge books by the cover. These books have content that is likely reflected by their covers pretty well, so in that sense I'd say most of them are pretty good.

The one a few pages in about the guy who's annoyed is really quite good: blunt, angry, simple. Since that's what the book looks to be like, how can the cover be bad?

For my book (http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Theorem-TJ-Radcliffe-ebook/dp/B00KBH5O8K/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1400044028&sr=1-1&keywords=darwin%27s+theorem) one of my first readers was an artist, so I hired her to do the cover art. It captures a lot of things about the book, and it's beautiful on its own, so it's a win.

But I'm sure a purist would find a million things wrong with it, from the ambiguities of the image to my choice of font (not papyrus or comic sans, but any font can be mocked if you work at it hard enough) to the choice of colours (too blue, not enough contrast) to the overall look (too cluttered, too busy)... and so on.

Still, my hope was to keep it reasonably low on the mockability scale, and while it's fun to mock stuff, but I have a depressing feeling that many of these mocked books are selling a lot better than a lot of less-mockable stuff. So maybe I should replace my cover with unicorns and rainbows and leather-clad half-dressed bikers to see if that boosts sales...

Comment: Re:common with 19th century novels (Score 4, Insightful) 104

by radtea (#49237003) Attached to: Some of the Greatest Science Fiction Novels Are Fix-Ups

Others have pointed out that these were serials, not fixups, although some Victorian authors may have published fixups: the concept is ancient.

Two examples:

1) the Iliad is probably a fixup. The first bunch of books are heavily focused on Diomedes, who then more-or-less disappears completely from the story. There is some contention that the parts of books V and VI dealing with him were once a separate story.

2) going even further back, Gilgamesh is probably a fixup. There's a good deal of evidence that it was assembled from pre-existing stories of Gilgamesh and Enkidu (and also Utnapishtim, the Chaldean "Noah" who was lifted by the early Hebrews along with so much else).

3) and the Bible itself, which seems to have been written rather late in Jewish history, almost certainly assembled from pre-existing stand-alone tales, which explains the contradictions in the two stories of creation and so on.

Comment: Re:That's Easy, Jomo! (Score 1, Informative) 255

by Bruce Perens (#49230369) Attached to: On Firing Open Source Community Members

Hi AC,

This is sort of self-contradictory, so I don't really need to respond to it directly. I just want to point one thing out. I can't afford to work for any company as less than a C-level employee. It would be a salary cut from my current business.

Not to mention that I'd not like it.

Comment: Re:That's Easy, Jomo! (Score 2, Insightful) 255

by Bruce Perens (#49230275) Attached to: On Firing Open Source Community Members

I can't say I'm happy about what's happened to Debian. Having Ubuntu as a commercial derivative really has been the kiss of death for it, not that there were not other problems. It strikes me that the kernel team has done better for its lack of a constitution and elections, and Linus' ability to tell someone to screw off. I even got to tell him to screw off when he was dumping on 'Tridge over Bitkeeper. Somehow, that stuff works.

IMO, don't create a happy inclusive project team full of respect for each other. Hand-pick the geniuses and let them fight. You get better code in the end.

This actually has something to do with why so many people hate Systemd. It turns out that Systemd is professional-quality work done by competent salaried engineers. Our problem with it is that we're used to beautiful code made by geniuses. Going all of the way back to DMR.

Comment: Re:That's Easy, Jomo! (Score 1) 255

by Bruce Perens (#49230079) Attached to: On Firing Open Source Community Members

It really does look like Jomo did post this article, and it refers to another article of his.

What isn't to like about Ubuntu is that it's a commercial project with a significant unpaid staff. Once in a while I make a point of telling the unpaid staff that there really are better ways that they could be helping Free Software.

Comment: Re:That's Easy, Jomo! (Score 4, Interesting) 255

by Bruce Perens (#49229989) Attached to: On Firing Open Source Community Members

It's just that I object folks who would be good community contributors being lured into being unpaid employees instead.

Say how do feel about idiots working for corporations contractually enmeshed with the US military-industrial-surveillance complex. Why no spittle-laced hate for them?

The GNU Radio project was funded in part by a United States intelligence agency. They paid good money and the result is under GPL. What's not to like?

Comment: Re:Python/C++ Combo (Score 2) 757

by radtea (#49228707) Attached to: Was Linus Torvalds Right About C++ Being So Wrong?

But for me it is not one language but a pairing that has caught my heart.

I'm in the same boat, with the same languages. Python for convenience, C++ for speed. I also use C for really low level embedded (PIC) stuff, but that's it.

This combination gives me the optimal mix of portability and power for the problem domains I'm interested in, and at this point I don't see any reason to leave C++ for anything else. The big trick is to adopt and strictly adhere to a set of reasonable coding standards that keeps you from doing all the stupid things the language lets you do.

C++ demands a higher level of discipline and maturity from developers than most languages because Linus is right: it is incredibly easy to abuse. A bad programmer will write bad code in any language, but C++ makes it really easy for bad programmers to express themselves, and that's a bad thing. That doesn't mean the language is bad, but it does mean it should only be used where its advantages (portability, efficiency, expressive power) are sufficiently great to overcome its weaknesses (excessive complexity, mediocre type safety, excessive complexity.)

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