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Comment: I've been calling for this for 20+ years... (Score 4, Funny) 138

by jeffb (2.718) (#47438293) Attached to: Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC

Actually, I've been calling for someone to graft the THC-production complex into kudzu. That way, either we get government help to wipe it out, or the government finally gives up; either way, kudzu becomes useful for something.

Of course, I don't have much deep knowledge about GM or plant biology, so coming up with this idea was about on a par with saying "somebody ought to build a flying car". Here's hoping that the task these folks are tackling turns out more tractable than that one.

Comment: Re:Hi speed chase, hum? (Score 5, Insightful) 414

Having had the experience of having my own performance car stolen temporarily, and damaging it to the extent of needing a new engine and reupholstering, at the time I felt capital punishment is not enough.

You may think this is a little severe, but people who are into cars feel they have had part of their soul ripped out of them if it is stolen and trashed, especially if it is their personal hobby and they are doing it at the limits of their budget.

I understand that many people attach a lot of their self-image to their vehicles, and devote disproportionate time, attention, and money to them. That doesn't mean that their priorities should be encoded into law.

Your hobby is not more important to society in general than human life. Yes, it may be more important to you than some other person's life. Laws exist partly to mediate between people's conflicting self-interest.

Comment: Re:How many questions can YOU beg in one definitio (Score 1) 281

What's a "program" ("anything")?

A deterministic sequence of instructions that could be converted to work on a universal Turing machine. I don;t htink this is really a valid criticism.

That's a reasonable definition, although I'm sure there are those who would quibble over non-deterministic operations and such. But "The new program—it could be an idea, a novel, a piece of music, anything—" seems to imply something very different. The paper talks a lot about writing stories, designing letterforms and so forth. Stories are not "programs" in the sense you (and perhaps I) think.

Comment: Sure, double liability solves the problem... (Score 1) 384

by jeffb (2.718) (#47419001) Attached to: Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis ensuring that no plants ever get built.

In theory, I suppose, double liability would motivate everyone involved in design, construction, and operation to make sure that there are no mistakes. In practice, every human -- and every human organization -- has the power to cause accidents that they can't possibly pay for. Doubling the liability for those accidents won't make a bit of difference.

I drive carefully. I've still had a couple of accidents, though. If one of those accidents had sent me into a van hauling $10M worth of Swarovski crystal sculptures, I'd have been sorry, really I would, but I wouldn't be paying off the damages. If the courts found me at fault and fined me $20M, I wouldn't be any sorrier, or in any better position to pay.

Comment: "gets compressed and cools down"? (Score 4, Interesting) 16

by jeffb (2.718) (#47418871) Attached to: Cosmic Mystery Solved By Super-sized Supernova Dust

I wish the author had elaborated a bit on this. I know that we're far away from the "ideal gas" regime here, and that things get independently wonky when you're dealing with supersonic flow, but "cooling down as it gets compressed" is so counter-intuitive that they should throw us at least a few lines of explanation.

Anybody here want to step up to the plate?

Comment: Re:Download vs indexing (Score 1) 85

by jeffb (2.718) (#47417385) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory

Any effort to emulate or restore declarative memory will obviously include emulating the association and activation networks that drive it. Believe it or not, the people doing this kind of research already realize that.

Nobody is talking about adding a USB port so you can plug a thumb drive into your hippocampus and instantly "know" everything contained on it. That would be great, but there's a lot of other work to do first, as you say.

I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.