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Comment: Knowing how it works != knowing how to build it (Score 4, Informative) 331

by gman003 (#49332203) Attached to: Feds Attempt To Censor Parts of a New Book About the Hydrogen Bomb

I know how suspension bridges work. I probably could build a small one, but any lengthy span would be well beyond me.

I know how internal combustion engines work. It would take a year of training on the tools before I'd be able to make one that even sorta worked, and then it would be at 1900s-level functionality.

I know how nuclear weapons work. Several types, in fact. But I cannot make them.
1) I could build a gun-type weapon, given the material (200lbs of 90% pure U-235, a 76mm artillery barrel, and some regular explosives), but I could not create the equipment to refine uranium.
2) I could probably build a reactor to generate plutonium, with massive effort and a significant risk of poisoning myself, but I could not build a working implosion bomb with it. It would take a year's training in explosives just to be able to build an existing design, and those designs are tightly secured.
3) With the materials, I might be able to upgrade an unboosted fission weapon into a boosted one. Maybe.
4) A fusion weapon is completely beyond me. You could stick me in Lawrence Livermore with all the parts in front of me, and without some Ikea-like instructions you aren't going to get anything.

We are protected from homemade gun-type weapons by the scarcity of uranium and the immense difficulty in refining it. Remember, this is something that was beyond the capabilities of most nations a scant 70 years ago. A dedicated nation-state or perhaps certain multinational corporations could pull it off, but not without detection.

We are protected against homemade implosion-type weapons by the complex engineering necessary, the esoteric nature of the specific engineering knowledge needed (nuclear physics and shaped explosives are not a common dual-major), and by the absolute need for testing before use. The former prevents fringe groups from succeeding; the latter prevents the non-suicidal from trying.

We are not protected by lack of general knowledge on nukes, because no such lack of knowledge exists. I learned half of this stuff from school textbooks, and the other half from Wikipedia. Anyone driven to find more can easily do so.

Comment: Unfairly biased against small projects (Score 1) 512

by gman003 (#49329899) Attached to: A Bechdel Test For Programmers?

The key point this misses is that the Bechdel test is about the work itself, not who wrote it. This test is thus susceptible to certain flaws. In particular, it will flag numerous single-developer projects as "sexist" due to simple chance.

This would fail at least 50% of all single-developer projects, even if there were no sexism anywhere. Other small projects would be unfairly penalized, and projects with tiered architectures and tiered development would be especially susceptible.

This is obviously contrary to the goal of the "test", and in fact bears only superficial similarity to the Bechdel test (the point of which, by the way, is not to determine which works are sexist or not (after all, Debbie Does Dallas passes), but to show how endemic weak female characters are by the sheer number that fail).

Comment: Re:Sigh (Score 1) 110

Compute might use it. The Titan was traditionally both the top-tier graphics card, as well as the entry-level compute card. They've slashed FP64 performance with this iteration, but FP32 performance is still sky-high, and they're pushing situations like that for using this as a compute card.

Comment: Re:Something completely different... (Score 2) 667

by gman003 (#49264645) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

The lack of a prescriptive body for English is a historical accident, the same way the United Kingdom doesn't have a constitution, just a shitload of case law, treaties and statutes. For quite some time, Norman French was the language of government - naturally, the government did not try to regulate the grammar of a language they never spoke. After that, it was a populist thing - trying to formalize English would cause backlash at your supposed elitism. There was a brief window where a prescriptive body could have been formed, but soon enough there were too many far-flung colonies (and then former colonies) to do so effectively. Now you can't get a single prescriptive body at all, because the British will never bow to an American body, the Americans will never bow to a British body, and there's enough foreign speakers that they could arguably form their own prescriptive body and make it stick to everyone but the biggest two.

It also fails to note how prescriptive bodies often fail when they try to dictate usage, instead of formalizing actual usage. The French Academy, for instance, insists that the proper word for email is "courrier electronique". Informally, most French just use "email" or "mel", and the Quebecois managed to standardize "courriel". It's a bit of a joke, really, how little authority the French Academy actually has to dictate French.

Prescriptivism is fundamentally unworkable for languages in general use. The best prescriptive bodies do not dictate language, but formalize existing practices, and standardize where inconsistent. They may title themselves prescriptive bodies, and may sometimes try to dictate usage themselves (and usually fail), but at heart they are not prescriptivist.

Comment: Re:Are Brown Dwarfs Stars? (Score 5, Informative) 98

by gman003 (#49247091) Attached to: Proxima Centauri Might Not Be the Closest Star To Earth

There's a continuum of sorts between gas giant planets and dwarf stars, with a few notable points where you could draw the distinction. They all come from the same general start - a cloud of interstellar gas collapses into a spherical object. Depending on how big it is, you can get different objects.

First you have gas giants, no fusion at all. This would be your Jupiter and Saturn type planets. Jupiter is actually about as big, volume-wise, as a gas giant can get. Add more mass, and it starts getting denser rather than bigger.
At 13 Jupiter masses, you have enough gravitational pressure to fuse deuterium. This is what most astronomers define as a brown dwarf star, but others, and apparently you, consider it to still be a planet. Previous terminology included "substar", which I would not be opposed to. Deuterium isn't particularly common, so these objects glow very dimly, as far as stars go.
At 65 Jupiter masses, you can start fusing lithium as well. This is one way to distinguish brown dwarfs from other stars - red dwarfs and yellow dwarfs, like our sun, consume their starting lithium very quickly, and so the presence of lithium spectra indicates a brown dwarf.
At around 80 Jupiter masses, it starts fusing hydrogen, becoming a red dwarf, like Proxima Centauri. Still very dim, but at this point it's undeniably a star.
At around 750 Jupiter masses, the star develops a more complex internal structure, and becomes a yellow dwarf, such as Sol.

So where do you draw the line? Anywhere you want, but most astronomers settled on the simplest one: if it's undergoing fusion, it's a star, if it isn't, it's a planet.

Comment: Re: Following instructions? (Score 4, Insightful) 190

by gman003 (#49246337) Attached to: Powdered Alcohol Approved By Feds, Banned By States

Ever since I heard the "dehydrated water" joke, I thought it would be a brilliant name for a water-purification powder, like the stuff you use while camping.

Instant water, just add water - but the water you add doesn't have to be clean, and the water you get is drinkable. Memorable brand if nothing else.

Comment: Re:Is it unconstitutional? (Score 3, Informative) 82

by gman003 (#49231265) Attached to: South African Government Issues Plans To Censor Internet

Their Bill of Rights is very broad, covered in Chapter 2 of their constitution. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer in any country, and this was my first time even reading their constitution, but it seems pretty obvious that it won't allow censorship of the internet.

Section 16: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes [...] freedom to receive or impart information or ideas"

Section 32: "Everyone has the right of access to any information held by the state; and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights"

Depending on implementation, if might also breach Section 14: "Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have [...] the privacy of their communications infringed" ... I kinda want this bill of rights in my own country. Gotta say, it looks pretty nice.

Comment: Re:Hmmm (Score 1) 392

by gman003 (#49229115) Attached to: Does USB Type C Herald the End of Apple's Proprietary Connectors?

Oh, I'm not even in the MacBook Pro's target market, let alone the Air's. My current laptop's power brick weighs more than the Air, and I'm just fine with that so long as it has enough compute power for me.

However, there are plenty of Air competitors now. Pretty much anything classified as an "Ultrabook". Most of them are fairly decent.

Comment: Re:Hmmm (Score 4, Insightful) 392

by gman003 (#49226641) Attached to: Does USB Type C Herald the End of Apple's Proprietary Connectors?

Here's Apple's real problem: the MacBook Air is a better laptop in almost every aspect.
* The MacBook Air is significantly cheaper
* The MacBook Air is significantly more powerful
* The MacBook Air has much better connectivity and usability
* The MacBook Air requires no external adapters besides power, the MacBook will likely be used with a video and/or network adapter as well

* The MacBook has a better display
* The MacBook is 15% lighter and 25% thinner, but they're practically indistinguishable compared to regular laptops, or even the MacBook Pro

Honestly, what they should have done is this:
Make a new MacBook Air using most of the MacBook's features (thinner, USB-C ports for charging/connectivity), make the better display an add-on option (to keep the MBA as the entry-level Mac option), and don't needlessly split your product line.

That's one of the few things Jobs did that I won't argue with - he streamlined the product lineup. When there were multiple computers that fit the same niche, he ditched all but one. The MacBook and MacBook Air now fit the same niche - almost exactly. There is zero reason for them to both exist.

I do like the idea of ditching legacy ports for thinness. I wouldn't need it myself, but I like the idea. But just one USB-C port, period? If it were me, I'd have four USB-C ports, a Mini-DisplayPort or Thunderbolt (or two, even), an audio port, and maybe a Micro-HDMI (since HDMI is way more common than DisplayPort, and you can convert Micro-HDMI to HDMI with a dirt-cheap passive cable). That's more than enough connectivity, but it still uses nothing that would impact your thickness. There's no need to limit it to just one USB port.

Comment: My own take (Score 4, Informative) 184

I have been developing a game based on the Cube 2 engine, specifically the Red Eclipse fork. The benefits, as I saw it, was that the engine was Zlib-licensed, and most of the game code was re-usable (both Red Eclipse and my game are first-person arena shooters). The downsides were the lack of experience - the code is unfamiliar and sparsely-documented (and in some places downright bad), not many people are familiar with the level editor, and the model import system is not the most artist-friendly.

Currently it's at a proof-of-concept state - it's playable, the core gameplay is there, but it's using Red Eclipse assets that are CC-licensed, not suitable for commercial release, and the few maps are blocky and spartan.

I am seriously considering a switch to Source 2, because I'm much, much more familiar with Hammer and SMDs than with the Cube 2 asset toolchain, and I'm sure some of my Source modding experience will carry over to Source 2. I'm waiting for more details, though, particularly regarding the toolchain. I'd have to redo pretty much everything, but it would likely make for a far better product. Particularly if it ends up being ported to consoles - Red Eclipse lacks gamepad support, and having seen the code, it's not an easy thing to add.

The perversity of nature is nowhere better demonstrated by the fact that, when exposed to the same atmosphere, bread becomes hard while crackers become soft.