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Comment Re:Camel's nose under the tent (Score 3, Insightful) 447

By your argument, since scientific findings are always subject to revision in light of future data, they can never be used for decisionmaking. Well screw that, I don't want to live in a world where a double-blind placebo trial carries no more weight than a magic 8-ball.

I do agree with you on two things: first, that she should be given a proper well-blinded test for electromagnetic sensitivity, which I guarantee you she'll fail because *nobody* passes them except by chance ( ). And second, we agree that this lady "needs help as she is clearly suffering". How about we have someone use actual medicine to figure out what's actually wrong with her, rather than giving her a bit of money and letting her suffer for the rest of her life because she wrongly thinks the wi-fi is to blame?

Comment Re:Old Scam, people fall for it still. (Score 1) 181

I agree that what you're talking about is a problem, and it sounds like your friend's father got really screwed, but having done a bunch of the Google Foobar puzzles, I can assure you that they have nothing to do with actual problems Google needs to solve for its business.

I don't want to give them away -- though I'm sure you can find them on the Web if you hunted -- but by way of example, the first one I did involved finding the smallest numbers which were palindromes (read the same backwards and forwards) subject to certain additional criteria. They're all straight up math/logic brainteasers with no practical use to anyone.

Comment Re:Privacy (Score 1) 181

I'll admit I was kind of creeped out when I got invited to Foobar, but what sold me was the fun, spirited, and intellectually challenging puzzles it offered. That may be a compromise of my ethical principles, but I don't care.

If you knock on my door at 10 p.m., I'm going to be annoyed. But if you knock on my door at 10 p.m. to hand me the keys to a new Ferrari, I'll probably forgive the intrusion.

Comment Re:Time investment (Score 1) 181

Just fyi: everyone is watching and evaluating you all the time. Your neighbors notice you stumbling in at 2 am and wonder how your date went. Your mailman sees your copy of IEEE Spectrum and daydreams of asking you to chat with his nerdy nephew. Your garbage man hears the clink of bottles in your trash and guesses you're an alcoholic.

Like it or not, you *are* a rat in a glass cage. It's utterly impossible to live in modern society without leaking bits of your identity to the people around you. The question is, what do they do with the scraps they pick up on? And in this case, inviting you to participate in a fun, challenging game that might lead to an awesome career seems like a pretty good outcome.

Comment Re:Camel's nose under the tent (Score 2) 447

What? No, I'm not saying we should discard pseudoscientific theories without inquiry. I'm saying that after we test them out and find them to be bullshit, as has been done hundreds of times for electromagnetic sensitivity, we should use these findings aggressively to make decisions rather than allowing rumor and intuition as equally valid forms of evidence.

Comment Camel's nose under the tent (Score 5, Insightful) 447

See, this is why you can't give pseudoscience an inch. Every little success validates it in the eyes of its own practitioners, and legitimizes it in the eyes of the public, until society tumbles down the rabbit hole of paranoia and irrational fear of the harmless on one hand, and blind trust in actually harmful practices on the other hand.

Comment Re:Great experience (Score 1) 181

Do you keep yourself logged in with a google account when you search?

Yes, for everyday use. I've decided that protecting your privacy while working with a search engine is like maintaining anonymity with your pharmacist. The system makes it practically impossible, and there are some real advantages to the personalized help you can get by granting it your trust. Which isn't to say your trust should be blind: you should pick your pharmacist and your search engine carefully, and keep an eye out for weird behavior, but in the end, they're inevitably going to learn something about you.

Or another way to put it: those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither, but giving up a little privacy to get an essential service is a trade worth considering.

Comment Great experience (Score 4, Interesting) 181

I got invited into Google Foobar last winter, pretty much an identical experience to what's written in the article. I love my job as a college physics professor, so I didn't go for the "recruitme" command when it appeared, but it was a really fun brain-stretcher. I got through eight of 'em before work caught up with me and I ran out of free time to work on a really hard one.

I won't spoil the puzzles, but they require working skills in discrete math, logic, data structures, algorithms, and cryptography, and the easiest ones are about at the limit of what I'd be comfortable asking an undergraduate to solve. They're all a lot of fun, in a nerd sniping kind of way. And I really liked that none of them relied on arcane knowledge of fiddly trivia, all it takes is high school math/CS and tons of brainpower.

Rumor has it the selection process happens through your Google search history over a long period of time, so you're not going to be able to just spam Python jargon at the search engine and get in tomorrow. But if you do get an invite, drop what you're doing and accept it!

I was really disappointed that when the semester ended and I had time to go back to Google Foobar, I was locked out. Sure, I failed a puzzle, so the rules say it's game over, but I'd really love to take a crack at more of them just for fun. Maybe someday I'll get another invite.

Comment Re:Make capitalism serve environmentalism (Score 2) 149

scamming isn't totally eliminated as the emissions still need to be measured by some sort of regulation.

Not a problem. We know how much CO2 is going to come out of a ton of oil or coal, and we know how much a molecule of CFC blocks infrared compared to CO2. Basic physics and chemistry, all you need to do is monitor and tax the inputs into your economy, and there's so much of it it's impossible to hide.

However, there is also the problem of leakage. Unless the tax is global, it won't work to solve the problem, just like an ETS won't work. Emissions intensive industries such as aluminium production just move to countries that don't have the tax (and probably less environmental controls too).

That's why I said you need to combine this with a tariff on goods imported from countries that don't have a comparable carbon tax. That jacks up the price until it matches the cost of production in Carbontaxland, so there's no benefit to offshoring.

The only solution is technological change.

Frankly, we have the technology already. The only reason renewable energy struggles to compete with fossil fuels is that fossil fuel users don't have to pay the cost of the environmental damage it causes. It's cheaper because it's robbing us all. A fossil fuel tax is all about making this external cost an internal one that consumers pay, rather than their grandchildren.

Comment Make capitalism serve environmentalism (Score 4, Insightful) 149

This article singles out Russia and Ukraine, but a larger issue is CFC-23, a nasty greenhouse gas. It's a chemical byproduct which Chinese and Indian companies are deliberately producing in order to destroy, because the cause the credits for destroying the byproduct are worth five times the value of stuff they're nominally trying to make.

The article mentions this, but doesn't mention that CFC-23 fraud supplies HALF of all the carbon emissions credits sold on the European market.

The cheating problem is a big part of why I favor a straight up carbon tax rather than trying to get fancy with incentives and credits. Place a flat tax per ton CO2e on companies which generate or import fossil fuels or CFCs. They will pass this cost on to customers, making goods that require lots of fossil fuels cost more, so the market will determine which emissions reductions strategies are most cost-effective. You can return the tax money to the people via lower income or payroll taxes, use it to reduce the deficit, or use it to pay for green infrastructure, I don't care. One more element is needed to make this work: you need import tariffs on manufactured goods coming in from countries that don't have a comparable carbon tax. Otherwise countries that "offshore" their emissions will have an advantage.

In addition to being simpler and harder to cheat, this system is preferable from a "big gubmint is evil" perspective. Conservatives don't want a massive government bureaucracy inspecting every element of the supply chain, making sure the incentives are properly spent and the credits fairly earned, and neither do I. I just want to use their worst enemy, taxes, to make their best friend, capitalism, work to help the planet. Put a green thumb on Adam Smith's invisible hand.

I'm a free-market environmentalist. I say we need to stop hoping that greed will go away, or worse pretending it doesn't exist, and start using it as a tool.

Anything cut to length will be too short.