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Comment: Re:Russell's Teapot, anybody? (Score 1) 855

by itsdapead (#47904741) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

You did not understand what i meant.

You were claiming that atheism is a religion (and that agnosticism is the logical scientific position) because the non-existence of god "outside our universe" was untestable. That's precisely the fallacy that the "Russell's teapot" argument addresses.

Contrary to the popular aphorism, Absence of evidence is evidence of absence. It may not be proof of absence, but unless its outweighed by evidence of presence, then it's a pretty strong hint as to what the "null hypothesis" should be.

If something is inside the universe we can interact with it. If we cant interact with something, then it is outside our space-time.

Now there's an untestable assertion! If there was something "inside the universe" that we could not interact with, how could you know that it was there? The only way out of that is to take "that which we can interact with" as the definition of "Universe" - so "branes" and any other hypothetical phenomenon that might have interacted with us by influencing the outcome of the big bang are all part of the Universe. If god was sitting somewhere rolling an infinite number of 12-dice to pick the values of the fundamental constants then he's part of the universe. Choose a different word for "Universe" if it makes you feel better.

By that definition, If something "outside the universe" can't interact with us at all - if we can't even deduce its existence indirectly or use it to make some other testable prediction using current or future science - then its existence isn't just non-testable, it doesn't exist (that's really just re-stating the definition of "universe").

Comment: Re:Can we stop lying? (Score 1) 319

by itsdapead (#47903619) Attached to: Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

If you think you need super human skill to text and drive then you need to give up your license.

Sorry - I thought your original post might have been tongue-in-cheek and that if I called you out on that directly I'd get a ton of "Whoosh!" posts. Evidently not. Oh dear.

I just hope that when your luck runs out its just an embarrassing autocorrect incident caused by texting without looking at the screen, rather than a fatal accident caused by driving without looking at the road (unless you have the aforementioned third eye).

Comment: Re:Be careful what you wish for... (Score 1) 319

by itsdapead (#47902777) Attached to: Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

What if a system like red light cameras were devised?

Why the high tech? Just erect a simple sign:

Win an iWatch!
Text your license plate number to 800-911-FUZZ now!
[smallprint]Texts charged at $300 + legal fees and immediate suspension of driving license. iWatch prize subject to availability. Entrants may be shot.[/smallprint]

...because that sort of thing seems to work well with obsessive texters. Heck, as well as making the roads safer it might train users not to respond to phishing texts, too!

Comment: Re:Can we stop lying? (Score 1) 319

by itsdapead (#47902677) Attached to: Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

Yes people have died as a result of someone using a cell phone well driving, but in reality they died because the person behind the wheel was given a license when in fact they shouldn't of been.

So its simple! Add some new question to the drivers licence application form:

1. Do you think you are capable of safely using a cell phone while driving?
(A) Yes. (go to Question 2)
(B) No. (Automatic disqualification: doesn't meet Murdoch5's definition of a good driver)

2. Do you have 3 arms and a third, independently moving, eye?
(A) Yes (Automatic disqualification - licenses only available to Homo Sapiens)
(B) No (Automatic disqualification - has delusions of superhuman skills)

...that would cut down the number of idiots in cars.

Comment: Russell's Teapot, anybody? (Score 1) 855

by itsdapead (#47901667) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

the hypothesis that there is no god/higher force outside the universe is as untestable as the hypothesis that ther is any kind of god outside the universe.

Here is the fundamental difference: The obvious response to the statement "The universe was created by God/The Big Bang" is "OK, so who created God/what caused the Big Bang?" Religion forbids asking that question and insists that you accept the existence of one particular interpretation of God as an article of faith. Science*/atheism recognises it as an unanswered question, and accepts the possibility that it could be answered in the future.

To cut a long story short, go and read up on Russell's Teapot.

For me, atheism is not believing in any of the various gods on offer by the world's religions, which, falsifiable or not, are so blatantly anthropomorphic that the "null hypothesis" is obviously that they are products of the human imagination. The possibility of some non-anthropomorphic "higher force" lurking before the big bang is so ill-defined that its existence isn't even non-falsifiable (how can you prove that you can't disprove something that isn't defined?) and doesn't justify calling yourself "agnostic" - its just a variation on "God moves in mysterious ways".

(NB: Disclaimer: sufficiently bad science is indistinguishable from religion.)

Comment: Re:It's not 99 cents (Score 1) 134

by itsdapead (#47862985) Attached to: Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents

Until AT&T offers a plan where it is cheaper to either bring your own phone, or buy the phone outright at time of contract, the cost of the phone is $0.99

No. $0.99 + $x/month for 24 months is never equal to $0.99 (assuming x > 0). Even if the monthly fee is the same as the fee for a service-only contract (in which case the USA phone market is even more screwed up than I thought) - if you can't walk in to the shop, hand over 99 cents and take a phone away with no further obligation then the phone doesn't "cost" $0.99.

Here in the UK, when I did the maths a couple of years ago, "bring your own phone" wasn't necessarily cheaper, but if you looked into contingencies (what if I don't want to upgrade after 18 months, what if I want to cancel the contract, what if I want to change phones sooner) it was more attractive and more flexible. OTOH this is the UK and I can get a SIM-only plan with 300 minutes talk and unmetered data for £13/month on a 30-day notice contract (*and* I still get unmetered data & use the voice allowance to call home when I visit the USA).

NB: Amazon have just started plugging this phone in the UK for £0 "on selected contracts" - but it is exclusive to O2 so forget it.

Comment: Re:The whole industry needs to rethink pricing. (Score 1) 811

Ticket prices should be based on a combo of flying weight and space.

How much real difference do you think that would make?

First, there is a large, fixed component to the fuel cost - a fully equipped and staffed 747 with no passengers will still use a shedload of fuel. Then there are all the other fixed costs of operating an aeroplane and running the business.

Then, if you've ever bought air tickets you should have noticed that the price for the same seat on the same plane can vary by an order of magnitude depending on how or when you book it. The retail price of tickets is dominated by "supply and demand" factors. On international flights, for instance, the price of a return ticket skyrockets if you're not staying over a Saturday night. The fat guy in front of you may already have paid twice the price you paid just because he's flying back a day earlier or booked a day later.

You're just too naive - probably thinking that the airline will provide enough "big & tall" seats to meet demand, so it can make honest money from people paying a reasonable surcharge for them. Fat chance, when by deliberately not providing enough B&T seats (once their gold-card wielding frequent fliers* have had their share) they can create an artificial scarcity and charge people 3x over the odds for them.

(* the only ones who fly regularly enough for the airlines to give a fig about repeat business).

Comment: Re:How would we know? (Score 1) 811

There are plenty of airlines in general with a mid-range option. For example British Airways has "World Traveller Plus" on its transatlantic routes.... The price varies but last time I flew it was about 25% more expensive than plain economy.

...and Virgin Atlantic have a similar 'Premium Economy' option (I think BA basically copied it) - I've used both and they're in a different class to 'economy plus' on US carriers, but if you got either of them for 25% over plain economy you were lucky... or maybe booked really early. In my experience 50% - 100% mark up is more typical and if you're not early enough they quickly shoot up to stupid money.

The problem with the whole "choice" theory is that it assumes that you also have complete flexibility in where and when you want to travel, and how much you can pay. I've had to include extra stops and/or fly a day earlier to get premium economy at a rate my employers will tolerate (i.e. < 2x the economy price) - this depends 100 mile trip from home to London Heathrow - even if you can get where you want to go from a closer airport it usually means Hobson's choice of airlines. If you have no choice over when you travel. when you book or where you fly from/to you often have little or no choice of airlines.

Comment: Re:Thirty minutes is ridiculous. Swap out the pack (Score 1) 190

by itsdapead (#47727905) Attached to: How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?

Thirty minutes is ridiculous. That is not "rapid" ANYTHING.

To be fair, the electric model is that most of the time you'll top up overnight (OK, that raises its own issues), and the only time you'll need a charging station is if you're on a road trip, in which case a 30 minute refreshment and potty break every couple of hundred miles isn't such a bad thing.

If, however, there is widespread uptake of electric cars, then it will start to become apparent that, even with demand reduced by home charging, you need one hell of a lot of 6-bay superchargers to match the throughput of a 6-bay gas station (especially since people who e.g. head off for a meal are going to leave their cars plugged in for more than 30 mins). You'd need entire parking lots kitted out with chargers - which, in turn, is going to start needing extra infrastructure to get the power to the site (...perhaps they could run a generator off those nice big tanks at the gas station? :-) ). The trick for the e-car industry is going to be to avoid the crunch point when people start to roll up at the supercharger and find all the bays in use (and no owners in sight) and don't have enough juice to get to the next one.

I know Tesla has a battery pack replacement service, but it really needs to be affordable and streamlined and not require expensive robotics.

I saw the video of Tesla's battery changer, and it certainly seems preferable to a 30 minute recharge. With the weight of battery packs, and the need to build them in to the chassis to save space, I think robotics is probably the only way. Also, its probably too soon in the development of battery technology to introduce a 'standard' pack - maybe a split system whereby part of the battery capacity is in a replaceable, standardised, pack, and the rest is built into the chassis...

NOBODY wants to wait thirty minutes for "rapid recharge." The money spent on this infrastructure should, instead, be spent on optimizing the use of hydrogen fuel cells. They are the ultimate battery and they don't wear out.

Except you can't refill your hydrogen fuel cell at home - so you're going to be straight in to the chicken-and-egg problem of needing the full refueling infrastructure in place before people buy the cars. Unless maybe you have a plug-in/fuel cell hybrid?

Lets face it - the ideal use-case for an electric car is as a and still need another one for long trips. I quite like the look of the BMW i3 (it would probably suit my purposes, as the UK range-extender version hasn't been gimped to suit CA law) but, again, you could buy 3 small city cars, or a fully tricked-out Mini with gold-plated hubcaps and unicorn-fur upholstery for the price of the basic model.

Meanwhile, I've done my bit for the promotion of electric vehicles and bought one of these.

Comment: Re:Better to starve I guess? (Score 3, Interesting) 152

by itsdapead (#47719295) Attached to: China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

It produces Bt, which is toxic to certain orders of insects, not to humans.

The problem isn't killing off a few humans. Plenty more where they came from. Disrupting ecosystems due to unintended consequences could be far more destructive.

E.g. Transfer natural insecticide "X" from plant Q to plant P, insect A (that had never encountered plant Q) eats P and accumulates X; insect B eats insect A and dies from X, is no longer around to eat insect C, which swarms and displaces insect D, which had an essential role in pollenating crop S...

Of course, X could get transferred from plant Q to P naturally or by old-fangled horticulture - but this will happen gradually, even horticulture will probably take decades, giving ecosystems time to adapt, but GM can make the transfer and roll out the GMO around the world within a few years. Plus, with GM, X might come from a plant from another continent, a seaweed, a jellyfish...

Now, if we could only be sure that the firms making GMO crops were painstakingly exploring all possible ecological side effects, and would scrap a new product at the first hint of any possible problem on a "better safe than sorry" basis, then the benefits of GMO might outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, these are probably the same people who thought that putting diseased sheeps' brains into cattle feed was a good idea, who are resisting attempts to ban neonicatinoids until its absolutely 100% proven beyond all doubt that they're killing bees, and think a 1m strip of ploughed land around a GMO trial field will prevent cross-pollenation.

Plus, as others have pointed out, the problems of food supply are caused by poor infrastructure, overpopulation, growing high-value crops for 1st-world markets instead of food and over-reliance on single crops. These are not generally helped by increasing yields in the already-overproducing rich nations who can afford to buy GMOs.

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"