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Comment It's Not Always "Lying" (Score 5, Insightful) 339

Great example of our technology out-pacing our wisdom. What many people label "lying" is actually misremembering. Our biological memory-retrieval systems are extremely bad. Every time you remember something, your brain is rewriting the memory, meaning the more you remember an event the more your brain distorts it.

This happens over and over again in our courts, people honestly remember things completely wrong and we call them liars. The film "Rosemary's Baby" is based on a true story of ritualistic child abuse, except the "real" story was entirely implanted in the minds of everyone involved by psychologists. Even the accused were convinced they were guilty. It's absurdly easy for a psychologist to implant false memories of our childhoods in experiments.

The wording in this post unnerves me. The older I get and the more digital the world becomes, the more I learn that I misremember 60% of what has happened in my life. If technology is used to prosecute anyone who makes a statement that contradicts hard factual data, then many innocent people will be prosecuted. We need our scientific wisdom to catch up to our cognitive biases.

Comment Re:Seems to Be a Pattern of Behavior (Score 5, Insightful) 384

The adware bundling is also happening with Filezilla now too. I recently downloaded the FTP program to my computer at work and it set off a bunch of virus alerts with our system engineers. It was very embarrassing, but the engineers said they fell for it too.

The worst part is that there is no opt-out option in the installation process. By downloading the version of the package with the adware, you are agreeing to install the viruses. I eventually found a clean install of Filezilla on Sourceforge, but it's not obvious.

Google needs to flag Sourceforge as a malware site for these shenanigans.

Submission + - Carnegie Mellon Reeling After Uber Poaches Top Robotics Researchers->

ideonexus writes: In February, Carnegie Mellon and Uber announced a partnership to develop driverless-car technology. After raising $5 billion from investors, Uber used the money to poach 40 of the university's researchers and scientists, offering them bonuses of hundreds of thousands of dollars and doubling their salaries. This has left the world's top robotics research institution in a crisis.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Men's Rights Activists Call for Boycott of "Mad Max: Fury Road"

ideonexus writes: Aaron Clarey, author of the blog Return of Kings and prominent figure in the Men's Rights Movement, is calling for a boycott of George Miller's new edition to the Mad Max franchise "Mad Max: Fury Road," calling the film a "Trojan Horse feminists and Hollywood leftists will use to (vainly) insist on the trope women are equal to men in all things..." and citing the fact that "Vagina Monologues" author Eve Ensler was brought in to coach the actresses on playing sex slaves who escape a warlord's possession. Critics have been applauding the film, which currently scores 98% on RottenTomatoes.

Submission + - China to Rate Citizens in 'Social Credit System' Using Online Behavioral Data->

ideonexus writes: A recently published translation of a document circulated through various levels of the Chinese government outlines a plan to establish a "Social Credit System" that will assign a rating to each citizen based on their criminal record, credit record, and--most interestingly--morality based at least in part on online behavioral data harvested from sites like "Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent." Observed behaviors, such as whether a citizen spends their money on diapers or video games, will be used to determine which citizens best exemplify the "socialist core values."
Link to Original Source

Comment Re:Not at all surprising (Score 5, Insightful) 187

Neil DeGrasse Tyson likes to remind us that "culture is what you don't notice." You might see PRC Propaganda in this description of Cixin's work, but if you think about what movies like "American Sniper" and "Top Gun" and the Superbowl must look like to non-Americans, then "propaganda" becomes a relative term. I have long been under the impression that Chinese culture is heavily censored and controlled, so I am perpetually amazed at the things I find portrayed in Chinese media, like the reoccurring themes of government corruption and the importance of a strong press.

I just finished reading The Three Body Problem, and I did not see anything propaganda-like at all in the book. Cixin presents some pretty complex moral issues for the reader to wrestle with and an extremely damning portrayal of the Cultural Revolution as being anti-science, anti-intellectual, and horribly destructive to the environment. The book opens with a physics Professor on trial for the crime of teaching modern physics, which is considered Western propaganda. Later we see the Cultural Revolution slash-and-burning entire forests and turning them into deserts and one of the characters gets hold of and is influenced by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which is banned by the government for pushing capitalist ideology (how ironic from my American perspective). It is only decades later, when China experiences a renaissance of free public education and science that things are portrayed as getting better.

--------Spoilers--------

In fact, part of the aliens' plan to keep humanity weak is to undermine science and promote magical thinking in our culture. Despite the seemingly pro-environmentalism message early in the book, the aliens consider using environmentalism to halt our scientific progress. The reader is left to thinking about how we balance scientific progress against extreme environmental crimes like those committed during the Cultural Revolution.

The bad guys in the book are a cult of of human beings who want an alien race to provide a central totalitarian government to the entire world. That doesn't exactly endorse central planning. The book portrays overt nationalism as detrimental and unsophisticated, as when a proposed nationalistic message to extraterrestrials is scrapped for a universal statement about humanity.

I'm sure there are ways to interpret Cixin's writings as PRC Propaganda, but--like most complex texts--there are ways to support many criticisms of the text, even contradictory hypotheses.

Comment Re:It's not censorship (Score 1, Interesting) 87

I vehemently disagree. I highly recommend taking the 16 minutes and 39 seconds to actually watch the most compelling part of the documentary before trying to wave it away as "gloomy documentaries." For you to say such a thing shows that, contrary to your statement, you are denying the presence of pollution--or at least the social responsibility we all have to improve our health, life spans, and quality of life by regulating pollution.

I live in Washington DC and spend a great deal of time worrying about my health and the health of my children because our air quality here can get so bad that we have Red Ozone Days where we are told to keep our children inside, especially if they have any respiratory conditions, which they are more likely to have thanks to the poor air quality. I think it a blessing that NASA and the EPA monitor our air quality and that the local papers light a fire of panic under everyone's feet about the need to improve it because childhood leukemia and other cancers aren't something we should just shrug at.

Awareness of pollution is why we have Catalytic converters in our cars to dramatically reduce the toxic nature of the exhaust coming out of them. It's why we banned Lead Gasoline and ended the crime wave having that chemical in our brains unleashed on our culture. It's why air quality has improved over the last 10 years as new technologies, improved MPG, and other environmental regulations, but we still have much more to do.

It's also a moral issue for us, because our Made-In-China marketplace is why they have so much pollution. We want cheap goods and they turn a blind eye to the pollution to keep the products cheap. But that pollution is making it's way back to us over the Pacific Ocean. I want to keep buying cheap stuff from China, but I am also willing to pay a little more if it allows the Chinese people to improve their health.

The Chinese government should let people understand the science and choose for themselves.

Comment Re:So let's give a number scail so we can't self t (Score 4, Informative) 134

Peer-reviews on everything I write below are greatly appreciated. I want to make sure I understand this equation.

io9 has a pretty down-to-earth explanation of the equation:

FIT Treadmill Score = %MPHR + 12(METS) - 4(age) + 43(if female)

You can get your MPHR for your age here. I found a chart of METS here for various exercises.

So, if I'm understanding this correctly. If I reach a 160 heart rate out of 179.0 MPHR predicted for my 41 years of age while running 12 minute miles worth 8.5 METS. My score would be:

83.7 + 12(8.5) - 4(41) = 21.7

The same heart rate for my age running 8 minute miles:

83.7 + 12(8.5) - 4(41) = 69.7

If I am understanding this correctly, it really looks like you could easily improve your score with a few lifestyle choices (push yourself harder when you work out, eat healthier). This equation could be a great metric for people concerned about their health

Comment Re:I like the ghost town. (Score 4, Insightful) 146

I think someone in the Science Online community put it best, "Facebook is my private life; Google+ and Twitter are my public life." Facebook is where I go when I want to see my friends' family photos and get a list of small-talk conversation topics for when I hang out with them in real life. I have no interest in following celebrities, politics, or other topics on Facebook because the conversations there are too inane.

Google+ is where I go when I want to have political debates, read science news, or be exposed to fascinating ideas. The conversation on G+ is heavily nerdy because the community is heavily nerdy. I go there for the same reason I read /., the conversation is deeper and more sophisticated. I don't learn anything arguing with my crazy conservative uncle on Facebook, but I do learn something when I argue politics with David Friedman on G+.I hear Twitter is good for this kind of subject/interest-specific engagement with others, but I simply can't figure out how to have a conversation there.

That said, I think it makes sense to break out Google Photos. That is an application I have come to really appreciate. It backs up all my phone's photos and videos, automatically creates scrapbooks and artwork out of them, and has created a timeline of my life. I highly recommend it for anyone using Android.

Comment Re:Better definition of planet (Score 2, Interesting) 196

Up until last Thursday night, I completely agreed with you. I thought that if an object had enough mass to pull itself into a sphere, it should be a planet. I thought the IAU's definition of planet was an offense to reason--well, I still think it is. Requiring an object to have "cleared its orbit" is a silly concept that would mean gas giants larger than Jupiter would be "Dwarf Planets" if they were found in a proto-planetary disc. The name, "Dwarf Planet," is completely stupid and offensive. How is a "Dwarf Planet" not a planet if it has "Planet" in the #$%^ing name???

Then, just this last Thursday night, I attended a lecture by the very engaging, highly-studied Neil deGrasse Tyson. The guy who declassified Pluto as a planet in the Hayden Planetarium exhibits long before the IAU did so officially. He explained to us that Pluto was mostly a dirty ball of ice... like a comet. In fact, if it were in orbit around the Earth, it would have a tail.

That took me aback. If Pluto is just a particularly large Kuiper Belt object--if Pluto is just a large comet that isn't close enough to the Sun to melt, then I must admit that it doesn't make sense to call it a planet.

This is a bit of an iconoclasm for me, so I'm still figuring out my position on the matter, but I'm leaning toward accepting that Pluto is not a planet, but that the IAU is a bunch of numbskulls who need to fix their illogical, nonsensical definition of "Planet" and take the word "Planet" out of their labels for things that aren't planets. This is the kind of political bullcrap that turns kids off to science.

Of course, all this could change when New Horizons reaches Pluto this July.

Comment Re:Just y'know... reconnect them spinal nerves (Score 5, Interesting) 210

The problem, even with a spinal cord cut intentionally and carefully, is that the surgeon has no way to know what connections in the head go to what connections in the body. Our nervous system-brain interface isn't a blueprinted thing at birth, our brains are actually born with no knowledge of the nerves running through our bodies. Our brains and bodies learn to interface with one another via "neural pruning." The brain is born with a bazillion* neurons, far more than it needs, but this is to account for all the possible nerve connections. Then, as the body grows, the nerves send signals to the brain, and those neurons that don't receive signals die off, leaving the neurons that are properly wired into the body. In other words, our brains grow by natural selection.

So how is a surgeon supposed to wire up a body to a brain that hasn't grown into that body? How is a brain pruned in childhood to interface with a body of certain dimensions and nerve-wirings supposed to interface with a body of completely different dimensions? It's not just a problem of lining up the nerves in the donor body with the right connections in the patient's head (a seemingly impossible task in and of itself), its the fact that the nerves in one person's body are going to be a very different set of wires than those in the the head. Many of the major nerves will match, but the signals from those nerves will be very different.

I wish this researcher the best of luck, and I imagine we will benefit tremendously from the new information we get from this research, but I suspect the final result will simply discover what the next challenge is to performing a successful head transplant.

*Technical term. :)

Comment Re:What exactly is Transhumanism ? (Score 4, Informative) 76

Transhumanism is currently a hodgepodge of religious nonsense, visionary science fiction, and practical self-improvement. I confess I am a bit swept up in the romantic ideal of it. I love the idea of human improveability in the form of intellectual and technological advancement, extended lifespans, higher quality of life, and even post-scarcity economies.

The religious nonsense part of it is best embodied in Ray Kurzweil's singularity (also known as the nerd rapture), the idea that humanity will soon upload our minds to computers and live forever. I can't imagine us not having this technology before the end of the century--especially with efforts like the UK's Human Brain Project and America's BRAIN Initiative AND a proof of concept with researchers mapping a worm's brain into a legobot and having it "come alive". HOWEVER: I also don't pin any personal hopes for immortality on this research because we are making copies of our minds, so even if my mind joins the singularity, I will still die--probably bitterly jealous of my immortal self having all that virtual sex in technoheaven.

For me, the science fiction of transhumanism is all about vision and inspiration, and not about dreams of salvation and immortality like Kurzweil promotes. The science fiction part of it is most accessible through Star Trek, but in reality our transhumanist future will probably be more like the wild visions of Charles Stross' Accelerando, or my personal favorite the Quantum Thief Trilogy by Hannu Rajaniemi. These books drop you into settings filled with Matrioshka brains (Dyson Spheres made of computronium), and force the reader to confront all the uncomfortable otherness that comes with virtual life.

Another great science fiction resource is the Creative Commons Eclipse Phase RPG, which takes place in a future where humanity has colonized solar system and extended out into the Oort Cloud. Each planet and environment requiring different engineering and culture adaptations to survive. You can download all the books in PDF format. These books are a fantastic jumping-point for the imagining what a post-human future might look like.

This all said, I am not a fan of Sirius' encyclopedia. I was looking for practical, real-world things I can do right now to enhance my life through science and technology. Instead, I got very thin treatments of many subjects, overstatements of medical advances, important subjects left out (like the 19th Century Russian Cosmism movement (precursor to transhumanism)), and a general lack of leads to new areas to research. I get way more information from Wikipedia-surfing than I got from this book. I do appreciate his efforts though. If he gets more people into the idea of transhumanism, then more people will collaborate on it, we'll have more hacks for better living, and more people thinking about the future and human progress.

Comment Re:More ambiguous cruft: hardly. (Score 5, Informative) 514

Exactly this.

What's funny is that when Climate Change Skeptics, the Koch Brothers, funded their own study and planted an outspoken critic of climate change science as the director of the research, that skeptic ended up becoming a believer and published an Op-Ed in the NYT explaining how wrong he had been to not accept the science.

But somehow people still find a way to rationalize it all away as just the invention of a bunch of wealthy limousine-riding scientists keeping down those poor, defenseless oil companies.

Comment Biofuels have Always Been Political (Score 5, Insightful) 224

The reason politicians on both sides of the political aisle push biofuels from corn is because they are pandering to voters in Iowa. A favorite political joke in recent elections is that if Wisconsin held the first primary, we would have major initiatives to make fuel from cheese.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard

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