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Comment: Re:It's required (Score 5, Insightful) 164

by jc42 (#48613591) Attached to: Verizon "End-to-End" Encrypted Calling Includes Law Enforcement Backdoor

Your indignation should not be directed at Verizon - it should be directed at Washington, DC.

A fun part of this is that the government employees at ARPA back in the 1960s explained it all to us. They firmly rejected building any sort of encryption into the network itself, on the grounds that such software would always be controlled by the "middlemen" who supplied the physical connectivity, and they would always build what we now call backdoors into the encryption. They concluded that secure communication between two parties could only be done via encryption that they alone controlled. Any encryption at a lower level was a pure waste of computer time, and shouldn't even be attempted, because it will always be compromised.

This doesn't seem to have gotten through to many people today, though. We hear a lot about how "the Internet" should supply secure, encrypted connections. Sorry; that's never feasible, unless you own and control access to every piece of hardware along the data's route. And the ARPA guys didn't consider that, because that first 'A' stands for "Army", and they wanted a maximally-redundant, "mesh" type network that would be usable in battle conditions. They went with the approach that you use any kind of data equipment that's available, including the enemy's, and you build in sufficient error detection to ensure that the bits get through undamaged,. Then you use encryption that your team knows how to install on their machines and use. And you probably change the encryption software at irregular intervals.

Anyway, the real people to direct your anger at are the PR folks in both industry and government, who keep trying to convince you that they can supply encryption that's secure. Yeah, maybe they can do that, but they never have and they never will. And the odd chance that they've actually done so in some specific case doesn't change this. The next (silent, automatic;-) upgrade will introduce the backdoor.

Unless you have all the code, compile it yourself, and have people who can understand its inner workings, you don't have secure encryption; you have encryption that delivers your text to some unknown third parties. It's the US government's own security folks who explained this to us nearly half a century ago.

Comment: Re:undocumented immigrant (Score 1) 437

by jc42 (#48610663) Attached to: Federal Court Nixes Weeks of Warrantless Video Surveillance

Why does the fourth amendment apply? If he is not a citizen of the US, our laws shouldn't protect him.

So you think tourists shouldn't be protected by US law?

There are a lot of people and companies in the tourism industry who would strongly disagree with you. Not to mention the shipping industry, whose employees often make short visits to places where they aren't citizens, as part of their jobs.

If your suggestion were put into effect, it would be a disaster for a lot of valuable businesses. For that reason, it's not how the law works in the US or in any other country.

Comment: Re:Si. (Score 2) 641

by jc42 (#48569083) Attached to: How Relevant is C in 2014?

"ch" is not a digraph. It is a diphthong.

Well, I'd disagree. It certainly is a digraph, since all that means is that it's two letters that together represent a sound or sounds different from the usual sounds represented by each letter. Since 'c' rarely represents /t/ in English, and 'h' rarely represents what we usually write as 'sh', the sequence 'ch' represents a sound different from "tsh", and thus satisfies the definition of "digraph".

As for diphthong, I can see how one might stretch the term to cover it, but it's a real stretch. The term "diphthong" normally means a sequence of two sounds, typically a sequence that acts like a phoneme in the language. "ch" sorta does this, but the stretchiness comes from the fact that neither of those two sounds are usually represented by 'c' or 'h'. We accept "i" as a diphthong in words like "I" or "time", but it's partly because the phoneme /i/ is one of its two sounds; the initial /a/ is simply not written. Similarly, a "long O" in English typically means an /ou/ or /ow/ sequence, and again the main use of 'o' is included (but the second sound isn't written). The spelling "tsh" would qualify as a trigraph for the main "ch" sound in English, and with that spelling, it would represent a diphthong. But for "ch", it doesn't quite work. It's really an example of the other use of the letter 'h', meaning "a sound sorta like the previous letter's sound, but somewhat different. But this doesn't work, either, because what's the normal sound of 'c'? It's usual either /s/ or /k/, not /t/.

But my main objection is that, in a sense, we're both wrong. English spelling is insane and perverse, and no attempts to apply precise meanings to any written sequence can really be correct. If English had had spelling reforms like all the other European languages have had over the past couple of centuries, we could make meaningful statements about spelling. But this never happened, and any attempt to tie spelling to pronunciation in English is bound to merely make one look foolish. We're not only OT in this thread, but we're arguing about something that can never be analyzed sensibly in English.

My favorite suggestion re this situation (and I've forgotten who first suggested it) is that, since English has become much of the world's de facto international language, the roughly 95% who aren't native speakers should gang up on the English-speaking minority. An international conference for revising English spelling should be formed, or perhaps now it should be an organization built around a web site. That organization should work out a reasonable phonetic writing system for English. The supporting nations should declare that writing system to be their standard for English, with software to transliterate between it and the various "standard" English spellings used by native speakers in different countries. With time, they could overpower the insanity of current English spelling.

But it's clear that this ain't gonna happen any time soon.

(As a native speaker of English, I'd support such an effort. So if some victims of their English-as-a-second-language class want to organize it, I'd be willing to lend at least my moral support. But as a native speaker of English, I'm probably not qualified to organize it. ;-)

Comment: Re:Not even close (Score 2) 769

by jc42 (#48563983) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

The waterboarding done by the Japanese involved putting a hose down peoples throats, filling their stomachs to the bursting point and then hitting the victims stomach with sticks until it actually did burst.

Not even close to the same thing.

But still cruel, ineffective at actually getting reliable information and likely used on people that didn't have the information they sought and we (US citizens) should be fucking ashamed of our government and ourselves by proxy.

Yeah, some of us are. But it's not clear how a mere citizen can do anything effective about it without becoming one of the victims ourselves.

Comment: Re:Si. (Score 3, Funny) 641

by jc42 (#48558195) Attached to: How Relevant is C in 2014?

I have gone out of my way to never use that letter. Notise that at first it kan be a bit diffikult but you get used to it.

In English, pretty much the only "real" use of 'c' rather than 's' or 'k' is in the digraph "ch", which represents a phoneme that has no other standard spelling. However, you kan replase it with "tsh", which produses the same phoneme bekause phonetikally "ch" really is just 't' + 'sh'. So with this tshoise of letters, you kan further approatsh the kommendable goal of replasing an utterly unnesessary English letter with a more phonetikally-korrekt ekwivalent. At the same time, we kan make kwik work of replasing that idiotik 'q' with a sensible replasement.

(Kyue the Mark Twain kwotes on the topik. ;-)

Comment: Re:AI researcher here (Score 1) 455

by jc42 (#48446893) Attached to: Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

Agree, way too many people who should know better still conflate consciousness with intelligence. An ant's nest exhibits intelligent behaviour but it can't contemplate it's own existence, ...

So how exactly do we know this? I haven't read of any studies on the topic. Could you give us a link to a study showing what ant nests actually contemplate?

Comment: Re:that's because (Score 2) 376

by jc42 (#48445773) Attached to: Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

The portion of the American population that actually does useful stuff like network computers is a tiny, tiny fraction that is pretty much considered a bunch of "weirdos" by the rest of society (and you know it). New technologies are almost all developed in universities which are mostly made up of immigrants. America is being propped up by immigrants and geeks, the very people everyone else hates. Wake up and realize that the country you're living in hates you and does not deserve your presence.

Yeah, as an American teenager who was repeatedly voted "smartest" in his class, I realized all that decades ago. That's why I've mostly lived in close proximity to academia for most of my life since then, and have associated mostly with a crowd that has a high proportion of "furriners". It also has a lot to do with my migration into the Internet-development field, where my professional connections tend to be the same sort of furriners.

Generalizations about the citizens of a country are generally nonsense. I have lots of friends in other countries that I've never met, and I personally don't consider that at all odd. It's one of the things that this Internet thing was more-or-less designed to encourage. The practice of categorizing people by the accident of where they were born is ultimately doomed, though I expect it to live on long after it has become nonsense. Sorta like categorizing people by their sex or age or race or religion or ... ;-)

Comment: Re:Global warming is bunk anyway. (Score 2) 367

Its ironic that one of the potential benefits of geoengineering research is that it will force many climate change deniers to admit that its possible for human activity to have major deleterious effects on Earth's climate.

Probably not. Consider the thoroughly-documented example of the evolutionary process at work in the modern world. This doesn't affect the belief systems of the religious folks, who still insist that evolution is bogus, and has nothing to do with our modern world. One of the major cases is with the over-use of antibiotics, especially in agriculture. This is forcing the evolution of resistance in most of our disease organisms, destroying the value of many of our medicines. The evidence of all this has no effect at all on the religious believers. They also put pressure on the school systems (especially here in the US) to eliminate evolution from the textbooks, so the people responsible for this evolutionary pressure (mostly in agriculture, but also in medicine) don't understand the issues, and continue to make frivolous or incorrect use of the antibiotics.

Historians have documented many such cases in which our ancestors had knowledge that their actions were leading to disasters, but they continued anyway. These are typically cases where short-term actions were profitable to the people doing them, but bad for society in the long run. History says that we humans don't respond logically to such situations. We continue to act for short-term profit, and ignore the long-term results. Our "leaders" also tend to take actions that encourage this, by hiding the information or denying the validity of knowledge that can't be hidden.

There's no reason to expect that we can organize on a global scale to fix such problems. Our political systems tend to be controlled by the wealthier people, who are the ones ultimately profiting from the short-term results of the problems. About all we can do is prepare for the predictable long-term results, when possible.

Comment: Re:But but but th-the Chinese! (Score 1) 61

And the Russians! Aren't they the chief troublemakers? How can we push our pre-emptive cyberwarfare withouth a boogeyman foreigner?

Nah; today the term is "terrist". ;-) And them terrists can live nearly anywhere. There are lots of them in China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Brazil, and all those Muslim countries that are our current Enemies of Choice. And you can even find them in Canada.

In Russia, "cyberwarfare" (aka "hacking" to the MSM) is becoming a public, respectable industry. They're into it as a way to systematically make a lot of money, putting them in essentially the same class as most of management in the corporate world. But in other parts of the world, it's more often a case of causing trouble for your victim, rather than just making money off them.

Comment: Re:Have we discovered all there is to discover? (Score 3, Informative) 221

Not quite. They're suggesting that there's a good chance that there's an entirely different domain (or more) of life other than eukaryotes, bacteria, and archaea. That's a pretty radical proposition, ...

Um, not really. A bit of quick googling verified within a minute my memory that the "discovery" of the archaea only dates back to the 1970s. Before that, the few that were known were (mis)classified as bacteria. Then a few researchers looked into their details, and showed that they weren't bacteria at all. Biologists basically watched the discussions, and eventually recognized that those researchers were right, and since then we've had 3 "kingdoms" of Earthly life forms.

It's the idea that those 3 root classifications are all there is that's really radical. The default conjecture should really be that, if we discovered such a major root clade so recently, there are probably more waiting to be discovered. Assuming otherwise mostly just shows a lack of knowledge of the recent history of biological discovery.

In particular, someone else has already mentioned the fact that the various deep-drilling projects have found living things kilometers deep in the rocks, no matter where they've drilled. The folks working with this data have estimated that there's more biomass below the surface water+soil layer than there is above it. It's likely that the critters living their slow, warm lives down there are radically different from anything up here on the planet's thin skin. Learning about them is going to take time. (And we can hope that the rapid expansion of "fracking" won't cause a mass extinction due to the massive habitat destruction down there before we have a chance to study them. ;-)

Comment: Re:Not Planets (Score 1) 219

by jc42 (#48280401) Attached to: Most Planets In the Universe Are Homeless

Perhaps that discover will put a stake in that silly redefinition of the word.

And, anyway, this always seemed like the obvious truth. I'd have been shocked if there weren't massive numbers of primary-less planets out there. If you plot star masses versus size, the quantity goes up and up as the mass goes down, to the point they stop radiating. At that point we can't really see them anymore, but there's no reason to doubt that the curve keeps extending.

Some years back (probably in the 1980s), I read an article by an astronomer who had collected lots of info on what was known of the distribution of mass of various sizes. It included a graph of mean size-vs-density, from monatomic H through various common small molecules, on to dust clouds, planets, and stars of various sizes, for our galaxy and a few others that had enough data to be useful. The graph had a long gap between planets (then known only for our solar system) and stars. The writer commented that there was no data at all in this gap, but the two ends did appear to extend to meet each other. So the obvious conjecture was that the distribution continued through the gap, and if so, it would come close to accounting for the "missing mass" needed to explain galaxy rotation.

This was pure conjecture, of course, and since little is actually known about planet formation outside our solar system, it wouldn't be surprising if the actual distribution has dips at various size ranges. But assuming that the gap has the value zero is not very sensible. The obvious approach would be to say that we don't actually know, and Further Research Is Needed.

I wonder if I could find that article again ...

Comment: Re:Not Planets (Score 1) 219

by jc42 (#48280273) Attached to: Most Planets In the Universe Are Homeless

The IAU definition only applies to objects in this solar system. It says nothing about objects outside this solar system. It is very clear about that.

So obviously there are no "planets" at all outside our solar system. ;-)

Maybe astronomers should just make up a new term for the concept. Or maybe several terms. After all, how useful is a term that includes both Mercury and Jupiter? Especially if it excludes Pluto, Titan and Sedna.

Brain damage is all in your head. -- Karl Lehenbauer

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