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Comment: Re:Stupid assumptions (Score 1) 147

by epine (#49115597) Attached to: Looking Up Symptoms Online? These Companies Are Tracking You

Do not do anything on the internet you would not do in your front lawn.

Unimpeachable advice, if you've satisfied with having 100% of your brain devoted to the problem of what idiots with power might possibly think.

There's a name for what happens when people draw false conclusions from information they've obtained by skulking around that was never intended for their ears in the first place: it's called situation comedy.

Your advice is a prescription for madness on a global scale.

Comment: paradoxically (Score 1) 121

by epine (#49096595) Attached to: The Science of a Bottomless Pit

But then the gravity (paradoxically) gets weaker, and the density of air filling the shaft gets larger, meaning that you slow down tremendously.

I'm pretty sure that 80% of the time that the word "paradoxically" shows up, what it really means is "don't worry your pretty freckles thinking too hard".

Maybe we need to invent the companion word "patradoxically" to mean "this is actually completely obvious, but since you have freckles, we'll pretend that it isn't".

I suppose some law of gravity as conceived by a clever ten-year-old could be extraordinarily high at an epsilon displacement from the centroid of a just-a-titch oblate, spherical mass, but then you'd have to postulate a tiny black hole at the turtle point, protected by a hard chocolate coating of quantum-gravity exclusion effect (or a really, really strong, short-distance-repulsive nuclear gasbag force).

Comment: Re:Continues does a great job, but... (Score 1) 165

by epine (#49061209) Attached to: Star Trek Continues Meets Kickstarter Goal, Aims For Stretch Goals

Problem with the beautiful future of Trek is that there's no real evidence that we're becoming better people. And exploiting space would permit us to continue an extractive existence.

That's exactly what the first algae said when it washed up on a stony beach. And so it was, until some algal cell with a shiny dome particularly free from cilia ascended to the very top of a stony outcropping.

Comment: Re:Climate models (Score 1) 264

by epine (#49056327) Attached to: NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts

1. If its warm its global warming, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
2. If its cold its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
3. If it rains its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
4. If it doesn't rain its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
5. If its humid its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
6. If its dry its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.
7. If we get a breeze its climate change, lets have a press release and call for the end of the world.

By my scoring, I get this:

1. 0 for 3
2. 0 for 3
3. 0 for 2
4. 1 for 3
5. 0 for 3
6. 0 for 3
7. 0 for 2

Comment: Re:The alternative (Score 1) 411

by epine (#49036177) Attached to: Your Java Code Is Mostly Fluff, New Research Finds

There must be some great examples of 'too-clever APL' out there unless the mag tapes and IBM 2311s they were saved on have all Gone South by now.

Learning APL as my first high level programming language (at age 18) was one of the best things I ever did.

The vast majority of "cleverness" in APL one-liners involved exploiting deep mathematical identities which were completely obvious once mentally unpacked. If you used the language enough, you started to recognize certain chunks of symbols as idioms, and you could pretty quickly guess which mathematical mother sauce had been tarted up with carrots and pine nuts. You practically felt your IQ growing as you gained fluency.

The human mind is amazingly sophisticated as some very difficult tasks (ask anyone who has ever studied human vision) but at the same time we stumble over double negatives (to say nothing of triple negatives) which involves nothing more than determining the parity of a small integer.

Anyone who has ever assembled a BBQ knows just how badly the human brain handles the dihedral group D_4. If every piece in the kit was marked with its symmetry code, there would be far fewer BBQ assembly nightmares (like not initially noticing a small asymmetric drill hole in a strut that is otherwise completely reversible).

And why is it possible to tell someone to head north, turn right, go a bit, turn left, go another bit, turn left again, pass the church, then turn right and look for your destination and not have the person immediately know the direction of the final street? It's vastly easier than many other mental functions that we do do effortlessly.

APL makes one small step of logical necessity which involves one giant leap of man's brain: that we really can be taught not to be ignoramuses about the orientation of a multidimensional array after it is transposed in three different ways as it works it's way through an expression operating along different subsets of axes.

The bad kind of cleverness is relying on something that's kind of arbitrary about your data structure or its arrangement. "Well, in that case, it just falls through to the zero that terminates the following data object after walking a few extra bytes." (Don't suppose that assembly language coders working with just a few hundred bytes of RAM or ROM didn't regularly do exactly this kind of thing.)

You never get that kind of thing in APL, because that language is stripped down to mathematical essentials and almost completely devoid of weird-arbitrary-thingness.

If your application domain was full of weird arbitrary thingness, APL was a pretty poor match as a choice of programming language. You wanted to use APL to solve problems where some kind of deep order was in there screaming to rise to the surface.

You might think something was kind of too cleverish on first pass, but 90% of the time your final verdict escalated from clever to deep.

Everything I programmed in APL assumed that the vast majority of working data lived in system memory, like some kind of calculator on steroids. It was far from a great systems language.

It's because of my early experience with APL that I began permanently immune to certain kinds of fuzzy thinking. The only way to program a computer to pass the Turing test where it's as bad as the human mind at simple parity or tracking compass directions or mapping BBQ parts onto D_4 is to use neural networks that mimic the construction of the human brain.

Do you really think that Robocop cares if he's holding a book upside down? There might be situations where a book balances better with the fat side on the right, regardless of text orientation. When he gets to the mid point, he rotates the book 180 degrees and starts flipping the pages in the opposite direction.

Is he being too clever, or is he just being sensible, without the encumbrance of a ridiculous human perceptual asymmetry?

Human cognitive limitations are rather Byzantine. Our programming languages get so bound up with catering to our cognitive limitations that we succumb to writing algorithms that are less than pure or fully general, and we hardly notice.

Commander Data would not agree that APL was peculiarly amenable to excess cleverness. In truth, he would argue the complete opposite—unless he had his weird human cognitive limitations chip installed and fully activated.

This entire article too silly to bother comprehending so far as I can see, but one fundamental aspect of source text they clearly aren't thinking about (which can be determined without even comprehending the text) is that program texts form an evolution space, highly suggestive of similar programs that might be constructed within a short edit distance. Part of the function of program text is to correctly specify what it doesn't yet do, but could reasonably be made to do. (Bad code bases fail in this essential function, as you can never tell if what appears to be a reasonable change will work as expected until you actually try it.)

APL was a tiny language best described as the anti-PHP.

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.
                                                        — Aldous Huxley

Comment: found money thought experiment (Score 1) 480

by epine (#49035827) Attached to: The Mathematical Case For Buying a Powerball Ticket

As a consumable, one lottery ticket lets you dream of winning the lottery - hope is a powerful thing, you can talk compound interest and balanced portfolio all you want but only the lottery gives you the chance of instantly getting $175 million.

You're leaving out meteor strikes with a solid gold core. No need to calculate exact odds. This is a found-money thought experiment. They're just as much fun to think through as a lottery ticket, without involving the kinds of ark-B people who enrich themselves selling losing propositions to poor people.

Or, if you don't have your own back yard, you can always use a cheap Chinese wok to pan for gold in the bath tub, on the principle of transfluoridation. The real reason people buy lottery tickets is to avoid the domestic strife of everyone trying to monopole-ize the bathtub at the same time. Plus the fact that hot water costs real money.

Or, if you don't even have your own bath tub, you can believe that you're a trillionaire on planet Tresfunadore and you're taken there every night on the ethersubwarp, only for some very good reason that's presently slipped your mind, you can't remember all the joys and wonders while you're awake in your earthling body in your mysterious but very important mission here on planet earth.

Comment: Re:Start of th End (Score 1) 196

by epine (#49034141) Attached to: Firefox To Mandate Extension Signing

then they jumped ship to deal with Yahoo instead for some ungodly reason

Considering that Firefox had the power to compel Google to throw giant sums of money at them indefinitely and for all time as per the DOJ's premonic Google anti-trust settlement, it is truly inexplicable that they would turn to a pittance from Yahoo instead.

Comment: Re:I assume the Wikimedia developers... (Score 1) 94

by epine (#49026509) Attached to: The Bizarre and Complex Story of a Failed Wikipedia Software Extension

No, the real joke is that someone actually thought "one of the greatest collaborative efforts in history" would somehow NOT to be riddled with politics at every level.

It's no joke that people think this is the real joke. No person with half a brain thought that Wikipedia was immune to politics, just as no person with half a brain thought that democracy would prove immune to politics.

What thinking people thought is that Wikipedia politics would be different from ordinary politics, and perhaps orthogonal in certain interesting dimensions. Adding orthogonality to a hidebound system is generally a net win. Democracy hasn't made the world a worse place just because it failed. Most likely it did bring us closer to taking the next step.

In my opinion, Wikipedia politics were substantially orthogonal to regular politics until too much of the admin dialog began to occur in unrecorded side channels, which neuters the transparency of a permanent and transparent record of who advocated what and why and with what justification.

Apparently (on the basis of much carping, though I myself have never had to deal with it) many of the admins have aggregated themselves into circle-jerk sock puppets behind the scenes. Exactly the same problem potentially exists at any poker table with more than two players. There are obvious ways to collude and there are subtle ways to collude. This problem is in no way peculiar to Wikipedia.

Strong Nash equilibrium

The strong Nash concept is criticized as too "strong" in that the environment allows for unlimited private communication. In fact, strong Nash equilibrium has to be Pareto-efficient. As a result of these requirements, Strong Nash rarely exists in games interesting enough to deserve study.

Here's an attempt to delineate a middle ground (which strikes me as not-so-middle):

Coalition-proof Nash equilibrium

Any contribution you can make to this body of knowledge will be hugely appreciated.

Comment: Re: WTF (Score 1) 297

by epine (#49007197) Attached to: Canadian Climate Scientist Wins Defamation Suit Against National Post

I haven't seen the original articles.

I think I did read the original articles, but I'm not certain and now it's going to take some work to dig them up again so I can re-evaluate my original conclusions in light of this law suit. How very clever of Mr Weaver to aggressively remove the undo key from my mental keyboard.

Comment: Re:Wrong Koch (Score 5, Funny) 222

by epine (#48995391) Attached to: GPG Programmer Werner Koch Is Running Out of Money

Dude, you're posting on Slasbergers with people who read The Fountainhead as teenagers and it totally blew their minds, and been assburgers types they can't grow out of the mindset.

Funny, in my experience it's the people who aren't blessed with Asperger's syndrome who are particularly prone to pontificate on the basis of choir-pleasing ass-pluck.

Perhaps we should really rename it obsessive factual reality disorder.

Furthermore, a great many people who read The Fountainhead at a young age and found it mind blowing went into politics. How I wish more of these people had enough Asperchlorians in their bloodstream to balance their own chequebooks.

Comment: Desierto de Atacama (Score 1) 958

by epine (#48971289) Attached to: Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness

Within the chosen margin of error of measurement, it works, bitches.

Starvation causes death and human fat metabolism has a dominant linear term? Huh, fuck me gently, who knew?

Just for the record, one could construct an equally impressive linear regression concerning weight loss and water intake. Within the chosen margin of error of measurement, the Desierto de Atacama diet works, bitches.

While we're at it, why don't we point out that humanity has possessed a viable means of birth control for six million years now (+/- one)?

Or it could it be that these aren't the droids we're looking for?

Comment: Re:Early fragmentation (Score 1) 492

by epine (#48918565) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Turbo Pascal became insanely popular on single-tasking systems because it was much easier to use.

Many aspiring programmers were ruined by precisely this ease of use, getting into the habit of massaging compiler complaints out of their code base with their fingers instead of their brains.

In C, if your compiler complains about an unsafe comparison between signed and unsigned, one can eliminate that complaint pretty quickly by tossing in a cast operator. Eliminating a braino ... not so fast.

GUI-facing code often benefited from the rapid turn-around cycle of a "turbo" IDE, whereas algorithmic code typically didn't.

"All my life I wanted to be someone; I guess I should have been more specific." -- Jane Wagner