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Comment: Re:Reminds me of The Wonderful Burt Wonderstone (Score 4, Insightful) 89

by jd (#47413427) Attached to: The Billionaire Mathematician

Humans nearly died out entirely from hunger and thirst, it was visionaries that led them out of a dying region of Africa into Asia, by a route that appeared to defy reason to any non-visionary of the time.

Pre-humans nearly had their brains the size of a grapefruit and wired backwards. It was visionaries who developed fire, 2.5 million years ago, providing the much-needed nutrition that allowed us to avoid the same fate as every other lineage of hominid.

Visionaries allowed the Norse to split quartz in a way that permitted them to track the sun even in cloudy skies and well into twilight, giving them greater access to the seas, trade and food than any other society of that time.

Visionaries developed cities to handle the logistics of the brewing and baking industries, again counter to any "obvious" logic that farming and hunting were how you got food.

Visionaries are the reason you can post stuff on the Internet, and why persecuted minorities around the world can have a voice and education.

So don't tell a visionary that he is defying your common sense. His work may have implications for society that you cannot imagine simply because he has the imagination and you don't. That does not mean that it will have such an implication or that he does have that extra imagination. It simply means that visionaries have a track record of saving people from starvation.

What about normal people? Those are usually the ones who manufacture conditions suitable for mass starvation. They're the ones who create nothing but buy the rights to sue to oblivion those who do. They're the ones who have allowed security holes to develop in critical infrastructure, like nuclear power stations, and then place said infrastructure on the public Internet where anybody can play with it. They're the ones who deny Global Warming and have endangered all life on this planet.

At this point in history, we'd be better off if the normal people were rounded up, put on some nowhere continent, and left to rot at their own hands. This would also solve much of the operpopulation crisis, as they're also the ones that breed morons like rabbits. If they choose to become civilized, they're free to do so. That would be helpful, in fact. But as long as they remain normal (read: proto-human), their fate is their lookout but they've no business making it everyone else's fate too.

Comment: Popularity != Quality (Score 1) 192

by jd (#47390533) Attached to: IEEE Spectrum Ranks the Top Programming Languages

There should have been modifiers for typical bugs per kloc and security holes per kloc.

Also, there are many more layers to the industry. Scientific computing? Avionics? Publishing?

The subdivisions between languages are also a bit... strange. Java/Oak isn't truly uniform, whatever anyone claims. C and C++ have standards that aren't always backwards-compatible - if you ignore such changes, why bother listing C# or D as distinct? Lump the lot, together with B and BCPL under a single header.

My guess is that accurate representation of languages isn't possible (when does a dialect become a distinct language?) but that if it was, none of the so-called "big three" languages would be in the top 10. Computer languages are as bad as natural languages when it comes to classifiers.

Last, but by no means least, people rarely directly code any more. They code within engines, usually using some weird fringe language nobody has ever heard of that turns out to be Lua or Visual Basic with the keywords words renamed for the theme. Real programmers (as opposed to integer or complex programmers) tend to be in the minority, have become rarer after Qualcomm outlawed them, and are mostly in mourning for Freshmeat. But as a lot are Goths anyway, it's hard to tell.

Comment: Re:This is what a right is (Score 2) 128

by jd (#47296425) Attached to: Prisoners Freed After Cops Struggle With New Records Software

You are correct that nothing abridges that right. (I take the highly deviant and unpopular line that rights are inalienable, that that is why we don't just call them permissions.)

To say that it is an unmitigated good is, though, perhaps not a conclusion you can safely draw. It carries the implication that all contributing causes were also good, which is self-evidently false. The right is good. The requirement that things be properly documented is good. The staffing levels are bad (police officers should be providing the raw information, not reconstructing it to fit a specific system - have data entry specialists handle data entry). The system sounds very very bad - and unstable (who wants HAL running a criminal justice system?).

Releasing the individuals was correct, but correct for the bad reason that every level of the system failed.

That they couldn't manage in three days what police in Britain were once expected to do within 24 hours (now expanded to 48, as computer technology has been added, which seems kinda weird) shows that the wrong people are doing work that is wrong. If a manual system could do the job in one day, a computer-based one should be faster. Yes, there's more complex analysis to be done, but mass spectrometers can be thrown into the back of a van and give you results in minutes. DNA analysis for a tiny handful of markers (typically 12 for criminology, versus the 150 often needed for genealogy) can be done in an hour, tops. In-the-field DNA sequencers designed to look for specific information can also be thrown into said van.

Actually searching and finding things is the slowest part, but you shouldn't be looking for evidence to convict someone, you should be looking for evidence in order to determine who it is who should be convicted. In that case, search and lab time should only ever precede an arrest, which means everything that matters will already be known and in the computer.

In that case, the only new information is that surrounding the arrest and any supplemental information provided by the suspect. Confirming that supplemental data should not be relevant to the case, if the case warranted bringing the person in at that point. Even if it is, you're looking at three or four hours in parallel with the data entry. Raw data is raw data, that can be delivered live from a mobile lab or detective, so it's merely the time to get there, find the supplemental evidence and run the analysis.

With a modern setup, the time between initial arrest and completing the filing should never exceed 6 hours. Three days is stupid.

If six hours isn't enough time to do everything, do more (much, much more) beforehand and parallelize the shit out of everything after. If you don't have the money, find it. If necessary, reduce coverage until you can afford it, then demand taxes pay to cover everyone else correctly. If a couple of extra people get robbed or murdered, you've reduced false convictions by far more than that, so there's a net reduction in deprivation and death. You trade a negligible bit of extra crime in the streets for a massive reduction in crime by cops and/or in prisons. You get a miniscule dash of extra cynicism in the populace, but carve vast chunks of cynicism and contempt within the constabulary.

Seems an acceptable price to pay in order to have acceptable cops and acceptable standards.

Comment: Re:Any good shows with lots of episodes (Score 1) 139

by jd (#47296321) Attached to: I prefer to settle down at night with a good..

Start with the first ever Doctor Who. Make sure you take a break between episodes to get the cliffhanger effect. There's audios of all missing episodes. Include all of the Big Finish stories for the Eighth Doctor and the Pertwee Radio Episodes, plus the first three Stranger and Miss Brown for the missing season, plus the Auton trilogy, plus the PROBE series.

If you are still alive after all that, I suggest you follow that up with both Ivor the Engine series, Sapphire and Steel (TV and Big Finish), The Tomorrow People (ITV and Big Finish, plus maybe the latest reinvention of it, but not the Nickelodeon one) and The Avengers (British 1960s spy-fi).

Comment: The last option is a hoax (Score 1) 139

by jd (#47296307) Attached to: I prefer to settle down at night with a good..

To have a good Internet, you need early-spec IPv6 or TUBA, pipe-balanced network neutrality, and fully secured DNS and routing. And the complete elimination of Windows.

Books no longer exist, due to the prevalence of Kindle-style devices, so option 1 only applies to us geriatrics.

Good movies... there are two or three of those, I suppose.

Video game - Elite: Dangerous and Kerbal Space Program are brilliant but redirecting the display to something you can settle down with isn't easy.

Comment: The known effect is ok (Score 1) 195

by jd (#47296255) Attached to: Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

The unknown effect involves the mysterious overlords.

Seriously, they need to spy on employees to figure out that attention spans are finite, fatigue limits effectiveness and water cooler chat revitalizes the mind? Perhaps espionage will also help directors discover that sick leave reduces illness. It may be bloody obvious to even those of us who are borderline human, but apparently it will take hidden cameras and infrared imaging for senior management to figure it out.

Comment: Re:Canada's could have been interceptor (Score 1) 133

by jd (#47295003) Attached to: The Revolutionary American Weapons of War That Never Happened

If you look at the fate of HOTOL, which bears a striking resemblance of the fate of the Avro Arrow, and the total lack of recent development on the Australian hypersonic engine, you get the definite impression that someone isn't keen on competition in the supersonic/hypersonic military arena.

(Yeah, I know HOTOL wasn't designed to be military, but if the engine design had been finished then those engines would have been used in military aircraft, and HOTOL would certainly have been used to put up spy satellites independently of the ESA or NASA.)

Comment: Dishonourable Mentions (Score 4, Interesting) 133

by jd (#47294967) Attached to: The Revolutionary American Weapons of War That Never Happened

The US attempted to build a version of the British "Grand Slam" bomb. Fixing some of the aerodynamic issues and making assorted other "improvements", they ended up with a 44,000 lb. conventional unguided bomb. The Tallboy/Grand Slam series of bombs worked on a very simple principle - you send a gigantic shockwave through the ground as a result of an impact very close to mach 1, and a second shockwave through the ground as a result of a shaped charge.

This type of bomb destroys pretty much anything at the boundary between two different materials. So if you dropped one of these bombs on a reinforced concrete bunker, you'd pulverize the inside of the bunker without having to actually punch a hole right the way through. They were superb at taking out dams, far better than the bouncing bomb (Barnes Wallis designed both), because you didn't have to hit the dam at all. The interface between dam and valley was a weakpoint that, if shredded, would achieve exactly the same effect the bouncing bomb did - far more reliably and without the vulnerability.

The British version worked brilliantly. If, by "brilliantly", you mean removing all the armour, defences and bomb bay doors from a Lancaster bomber. Ok, to be fair, it did exactly what was intended. It destroyed ships, dams and factories in a way that no bomb before could.

So, what did the US version do?

What it should have done is make a mess of bunkers with 22' of reinforced concrete or less, and severely disrupt heavier bunkers than that.

What it actually did was nothing. The B-52 carrying the prototype managed to get to the end of the runway before running out of fuel.

What it did next was also nothing. The US abandoned all further work on it, as tactical nuclear weapons would have had more punch at a lighter weight.

Would it have changed warfare? It might have reduced the number of survivors from Tora Bora by a small amount, but the US had gas/incindiary bombs and air pressure bombs that could reach into the deepest caves there. An earthquake bomb might have reduced the time needed, but that's it. It might also have changed the Iraq invasion. A bomb that could pulverize deep bunkers would have made it much harder for neocons to claim WMDs were being stored in such bunkers. If you can target them directly, conventionally and reliably, your obvious next question is to ask where these bunkers are. Since US intelligence knew of no such bunkers, it would have had no positions to give.

Would it change the dynamics with Iran? The Iranians have placed their nuclear technology in bunkers with walls too thick for most conventional bombs and smaller tactical nukes. The concrete also uses a recipe that was, when last demonstrated in a technology exhibition in the US, around a hundred times stronger than the reinforced concrete used by the US military. However, strength doesn't matter here. The whole idea of sending a shockwave is that a hard, consistent medium delivers the shockwave that much better to the other side. And modern explosives are rather better than torpex. Having said that, there is still no US bomber capable of carrying such a weapon and there's no guarantee such a bomb would do anything worthwhile.

The next US project was also a variant of a Barnes Wallis design. They built a variant of the bouncing bomb. Originally, the bomb was never intended to attack things like dams, it was intended to lift ships out of the water. Military ships, especially, are not self-supporting structures. Lifted, even briefly and by a small amount, would be sufficient to break the back of a ship. Even if that didn't work, placing a bomb directly under a ship would likely crack the hull anyway. It would then sink almost immediately. Sinking at that speed would also pretty much guarantee no survivors. Barnes Wallis was incredibly sensitive to human cost, but his military inventions (only a small fraction of all the work he actually did) were designed to perform a specific task extremely well.

In this case, he was off by a bit. The bouncing bomb was used against a few ships but their frailty and the defenders' capabilities meant they never did anything at sea. On land, we all know the story there. An expensive story, to be sure, but proof of the design nonetheless.

The US decided the theory was sound enough that they wanted a version to play with. They used much better construction techniques, higher revs on the barrel and a bigger explosive. They fitted up an aircraft with a prototype and tested it out. The bomb ricocheted off the water and struck the bomber, blowing it out of the sky. No further prototypes were developed.

Would it have changed the course of warfare? A bouncing bomb that worked at sea would have rendered virtually all navies obsolete. Argentinian aircraft certainly got close enough to British ships to be able to use it, for example. They regularly dropped bombs on the Royal Navy vessels there, but the bombs had timer fuses and the hulls were thin. As a result, a few of those bombs passed through the ships and exploded at a safe depth. A bouncing bomb would have changed the story completely. They'd have been able to sink far more ships, with far fewer survivors. Possibly including the Ark Royal. Without carriers, the British would not have been able to retake the islands (a big reason why Argentinian noise right now, when Britain has no carriers at all, is troubling).

There really hasn't been any other significant battle involving a navy under serious air assault, so there has been no other conflict (so far) in which the vulnerability of ships to a working version of such a weapon would have mattered.

Ships have proven themselves far more vulnerable to navigational errors (the British and US have both lost ships to captains pitting their destroyers against charted reefs) and to commando attacks (the British sent a commando team with limpet mines against the Germans, the French sent a commando team with some sort of sticky bomb against the Rainbow Warrior, and some bunch of fanatics did EXACTLY THE SAME THING against the USS Cole). Since commandos are cheap and expendable, whereas bouncing bombs are expensive and expendable, it's no great surprise that every military and paramilitary group on the planet has adopted this approach. I don't think it's acceptable outside of a declared war, but the total action taken against France (none) shows that I'm in a minority of 1.

Comment: Re:Everything is an algorithm (Score 1) 263

by jd (#47287115) Attached to: The Supreme Court Doesn't Understand Software

Doesn't matter if everything is an algorithm. You aren't patenting an algorithm when you patent a real invention. If I patented a machine that did X and then built a hundred machines off that patent, not a single one of those machines would share the same algorithm as the machine in the patent, nor would any two share the same algorithm. There would be common elements but that is it.

If someone else designed a machine that did X, in a fundamentally different way, that would have yet another algorithm, where there would be even fewer elements in common with anything I'd done.

If I design an algorithm to do X, all implementations will be precisely that algorithm and no other.

If someone else designed an algorithm to do X, no matter how hard they tried to make it fundamentally different, it would be provably identical to mine. It can be nothing else.

Do you now see why your argument simply doesn't hold up?

This is the theory that Jack built. This is the flaw that lay in the theory that Jack built. This is the palpable verbal haze that hid the flaw that lay in...