Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Polls on the front page of Slashdot? Is the world coming to an end?! Nope; read more about it. ×

Comment: One SF take on the issue: Niven's Known Space (Score 2) 684

by idontgno (#49798521) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Happens If We Perfect Age Reversing?

Earth has perfected organ transplant technology, so someone with access to transplants can live for centuries. The transplants are provided by disassembling criminals, because almost every crime is capital, and execution is by disassembly for transplant stock. Because every citizen considers himself or herself law-abiding, they believe they benefit from more transplant material... and would never become transplant material themselves. They think, "I'll never murder, or embezzle, or repeatedly violate traffic laws, so make 'em all capital crimes. Get rid of the undesirables, and a longer life for me."

Earth has a unified government and a world paramilitary police force: the ARM.

The ARM has three major duties: "mother hunts" (enforcing mandatory parenthood licensing, designed so that each normal adult is allowed to be the parent of two children only -- replacement rate reproduction only), suppressing dangerous technologies (in the hands of anyone but the ARM), and combating organlegging -- black market transplant providers who source their material by kidnapping and murder.

So, the presumption that you can't deny reproductive rights is just silly. You have reproductive rights, but if you're hunted down and killed for attempting to exercise them outside the constraints of a violently enforced law, what good are they?

Oddly, 22nd Century Earth of Niven's milieu isn't generally portrayed internally as a dystopia, because humanity has been conditioned into obedience and pacifism anyway. Most Earth citizens consider the status quo wonderful.

Comment: Re:Agree and disagree here (Score 1) 272

This is in fact how the soviet union was able to compete for so long, but eventually it could not keep increasing the amount of resources that it mobilized.

I almost mentioned Russia in my comment - there was a time in the 1930s, when the US and Europe were stuck in the Depression, many Westerners thought that communism might end up totally eclipsing their (at the time) failed economies. And the USSR did grow from a nation of mostly peasants into an industrial superpower incredibly quickly. China has done much better so far, in large part because it mostly integrated with the global economy which was quick to take advantage of the cheap labor. But it is also making some of the same mistakes, as demonstrated by the "ghost cities", or the high-speed rail crash.

It is capitalism that more effectively makes better and better uses of the resources that are available, and its driven by greed.

I wouldn't say "greed", although that term certainly does apply in many cases; I would call it self interest, which isn't the same thing. The fact that our behavior (and economic activity) is greatly affected by incentives doesn't mean that we're greedy or foolish, it means we're human. It's amazing how many people on both the left and the right ignore this when it doesn't align nicely with their preferred policy goals.

Comment: Re:Agree and disagree here (Score 1) 272

These things, combined with a population advantage, guarantee China's success long-term absent any other forces.

Only up to a point. Part of the reason why China has been enjoying enormous rates of economic growth is that it had so far to go. Once their economy and standard of living starts to get much closer to that of the existing advanced industrial economies, and they lose their advantage of cheap labor, all they're left with is the population advantage. And they'll be busy strip-mining the third world in the meantime, which means they'll probably overreach sooner or later and piss everyone off as badly as the US has. (And the US at least has NATO allies, and reasonably friendly relations with neighboring countries.)

Comment: Re:Waste of Time & Money (Score 1) 272

I don't think the GP was limiting the scope to science missions - instead, we should also be developing robotic missions to prepare for eventual humans. And more than just robots; even stuff as relatively trivial as 3D printers will make the difference between sustainable human presence versus short-term missions that won't last. There are many other components: better radiation shielding, genetically optimized plants, improved solar cells, and so on.

Remember, ISS is only a few hundred feet up and it's still insanely expensive to service. If we want affordable permanent settlement on the moon or Mars, we need to limit the number of supply trips.

Comment: Re:instead of space race (Score 1) 272

A big part of the reason why this won't happen is that space-related technology tends to be inherently dual-use, i.e. much of it has military purposes. In fact, that's probably the single biggest reason why there was a space race at all in the 1950s/1960s. Since China is already known to be developing military capabilities specifically to counter the US navy/naval air, and has ongoing territorial disputes with at least five neighboring countries that I can think of offhand (several of which are close US allies), it would be ill-advised of the US to make it easier for them.

Comment: Re:It's kinda cute (Score 3, Insightful) 445

by the gnat (#49779343) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

nobody outside the US even remotely takes that "controversy" serious

Hell, most scientists inside the US don't take the "controversy" seriously, or even notice it most of the time. The only reason most of us care is because those fuckwits keep trying to legislate their mythology into the public schools, otherwise they'd be worth no more thought than, say, flat-earthers or faith healers. And in large parts of the country, e.g. liberal urban areas like the one I live in, it's not even an issue in schools either. (God knows our public schools have enough other problems...)

Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 4, Insightful) 445

by the gnat (#49779319) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

identified Christians as potential extremists

Identified specific Christians as potential extremists. And they do exist - why is this in any way a surprise? Every faith-based ideology (Marxism obviously falls into this category) eventually attracts violent nutjobs. Even Buddhism has violent extremists, some of whom are currently hard at work ethnically cleansing a Muslim minority in Myanmar. There are also left-wing environmentalist extremists, along with Maoists and anarchists, all of whom the DHS and FBI also track.

Among other things, I find it curious that DHS was searching so hard for "non-Islamist" extremists - almost like Islamist extremists had DHS tacit approval.

The fact that most worldwide religious extremists are currently Muslim does not mean we should give a free pass to domestic extremists just because they happen to follow your preferred religion. (And what makes you so certain that the DHS wasn't investigating domestic Islamists too?) Since Christians are an overwhelming majority in the US, it is certainly logical to look for extremists in that population, especially since they may have an easier time blending in, and there are existing organized extremist groups, some of which have a long history of violence. (I should note that Timothy McVeigh was an "honorably discharged military veteran".)

Comment: Re:Real Science Is No Longer In the Academic Lab (Score 1) 417

by the gnat (#49776179) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

It will never again occur in academic labs, because academics has been undermined by the multiple generations of decreasingly literate students.

The students you describe don't end up in academic labs, at least not for any job more important than cleaning glassware. Everyone doing real work already has a BS degree at a minimum, and most of them either hold PhDs or are in graduate programs. (Also, a huge fraction of them are immigrants, at least in the US.) Some of them are pretty sloppy nonetheless, but there's absolutely not a surplus of semi-literate scientists in academic research (as opposed to small technical colleges).

Comment: Re:sophistry (Score 1) 417

by the gnat (#49776097) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

I'm just saying that the science rot we're seeing is not coming out of the corporate labs.

Corporate labs have a very different incentive system, and at least in most areas of the biomedical sciences, they publish far less in peer-reviewed journals. What they do publish will usually be better vetted, but this comes at the expense of taking much longer - because, of course, their scientists aren't dependent on (rapid) publication for career advancement. (The issue of applied vs. directed research is a separate problem - very few companies can afford to do truly undirected basic research.) There are certainly things that could be changed about academia to mitigate the problem; the current system of grad students and postdocs doing most of the work in academia is a disaster. (I say this as someone who has spent more than a decade in this system.)

Where you err is assuming that you can simply weed out the bad actors through some kind of personality test. Contrary to your supposition, very few people go into academic research for any impure motivation, and it isn't simply a problem with the people in power. Much of the fraud and incompetence is produced by junior researchers who aren't rich or famous or powerful, and are motivated solely by the need to advance to the next stage in their careers. And there are plenty of examples of people who are motivated in part by "money or power or attention", but also manage to do excellent science at the same time. (Craig Venter is one obvious example, but there are plenty of pure academics who are equally ego-driven.) But in general, everyone following this career path is fundamentally interested in and excited by science, otherwise they would have become doctors or bankers.

Comment: Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 4, Informative) 417

by the gnat (#49775933) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

Mann will sue your ass off, an innovation he has personally added to the scientific method.

Mann didn't sue anyone for hurting his feelings, or claiming he was wrong - he sued them for claiming, very explicitly, that he had committed fraud, and for calling him "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science".

The best laid plans of mice and men are held up in the legal department.