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Comment: slant (Score 1) 2

by Spazmania (#48898083) Attached to: Wikipedia Bans Feminist Editors

That article isn't slanted at all. Not at all. It goes on to complain that traitor Bradley Manning's wikipedia page wasn't promptly moved to reflect her (sic) new name. Because obviously Wikipedia should reference folks by their current names not the ones under which they gained sufficient notoriety to be referenced on Wikipedia in the first place.

Clearly the article presents a fair and balanced view of the arbcom's horrible terrible no good very bad decision.

Comment: Re:Science by democracy doesn't work? (Score 1) 462

by Spazmania (#48891895) Attached to: Science By Democracy Doesn't Work

if something new comes up it should be impossible to have a policy for twenty years

I 'spose if the Sun is going to explode next year we should probably act faster but in general that's right: we shouldn't enact policy whose cost has a dozen zeros behind it until the science has been generating reliable predictions for decades.

Comment: another booking at the Hobbit Hotel (Score 1) 800

by epine (#48887479) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

If you don't notice a flashing green light barely in your peripheral vision I would start to wonder if you ought to be driving at all.

At my height, the steering wheel blocks out half the dashboard. And, no, I can't fix this problem with a phone book (even if such a thing was still available).

My problem is that I'm forced to recline to a halfway recumbent position to keep from mashing my head into the ceiling.

In many vehicles I end up reclined so far back that I can barely reach the steering wheel. And, no, this is not because I have short arms. It's because the rear passenger window has now entered my peripheral vision. If this strikes you as strange, then I suspect it's been a long while since you spent any quality time with sin/cosine. (I have a wine bottle a mere 2" too tall for one of my cupboard shelves. If I tilt it to 45 degrees it fits just fine.)

So then I have to crank the seat forward until my knees are striking the front dashboard. Strangely, I don't find this uncomfortable for my legs, unless I wish to move them.

My peripheral vision is now roughly oriented toward the driver's seat-belt pulley, and my eye level is horizontal to the tint line on the windscreen. By the time I get the steering adjusted to a comfortable position, it's almost a certainty that half the dashboard is occluded by the top half of the steering wheel.

I can't see stop lights, either, if I'm first to the light and I've pulled up to the stop line, unless I use the old ear-to-shoulder trick—or I spot some other aspect of the intersection control synchronized to the light I'm waiting on.

What look like large vehicles from the outside are usually just as bad. Sure, the cabin height is increased, but usually they take most of it away with a higher seat height (to better accommodate all those fancy seat motors whose very existence makes the seating position you most desire impossible to achieve).

You should book a week sometime in the Hobbit Hotel. It will do wonders for your imagination concerning the circumstances that others face. Probably you should do this before participating in the design of any mechanical thing to be used by anyone other than a jet fighter pilot (whose physiques are carefully restricted to the design environment).

Comment: Re:Censorship? (Score 1) 418

by epine (#48885977) Attached to: Blogger Who Revealed GOP Leader's KKK Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut

Actions sometimes send messages, but they are not speech.

Non-verbal actions are not speech (excepting deaf people and Italians and anyone with secure tenure in hard rock D-block and postural nuance of a clever hostage being photographed by his or her kidnapper), but often they are speech acts (in cases too far multitudinous to list here).

Comment: Re: Science by democracy doesn't work? (Score 1) 462

by Spazmania (#48881569) Attached to: Science By Democracy Doesn't Work

If there was a simulation that not only tested warming, but also provided accurate modelling about what exactly might be causing it, and most importantly, the outcomes of various policy decisions that could be taken to alleviate the issue, you might then be able to more closely compare an engineering task force with national and international politics.

Hear hear!

Comment: Re:Science by democracy doesn't work? (Score 1) 462

by Spazmania (#48881535) Attached to: Science By Democracy Doesn't Work

How does one determine when science has "fully resolved" a question ?

When the theory accounts for the evidence from all repeatable experiments and sufficient time has passed (typically a couple of decades) during which new experiments aggressively attempting to disprove the theory fail to turn up evidence which either contradicts the theory or requires the theory to be modified.

It's impossible to not have a policy while we wait.

We had no public policy on CO2 emissions for most of recorded history. The world has not ended.

Proposed policy on global warming is expensive. Too expensive to get a second chance if we get it wrong the first time. The smart money says: wait until the computer models become reliable enough to simulate exactly what will and won't work. God help us if we regulate CO2 and it turns out that global warming was real but carbon soot was the main problem.

Comment: Re:*Yawn* (Score 1) 144

by mattpalmer1086 (#48874739) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Could Move

So if a minute comes off, it's just fear mongering. And if one or two goes on? We pat ourselves on the back and ignore it? Seems like we get to ignore it in both cases!

Good point about climate change though. I also noticed they had moved beyond just the nuclear threat. I suppose it is called the Domesday clock, not the "Nuclear Threat Clock", but I kind of agree it should stick with what it was established for.

(btw: I think climate change is a real threat, but there are lots of existential threats other than nuclear weapons and climate change.)

Comment: Re: The doomsday clock should be renamed. (Score 1) 144

by mattpalmer1086 (#48873893) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Could Move

No idea who the researchers are, and I don't have an agenda. I linked to Wikipedia!

I have read about some of these studies before, on the web, and in fairly lay publications like New Scientist. I have no idea if they are wrong, true, or just some vast liberal conspiracy by left-leaning scientists to irritate their conservative colleagues!

I was only prompted to reply because the original poster saw it as political "fear" propoganda from "the left", and I saw it quite differently. Which made me think of these studies... make of them what you will!

Comment: Re:The doomsday clock should be renamed. (Score 0) 144

by mattpalmer1086 (#48873751) Attached to: Doomsday Clock Could Move

It's interesting reading your response to this. I saw it as "clever people try to assess big problems facing us, and communicate it in a way most people can easily understand". You saw it as fear mongering by the left.

Interestingly, there have been several studies that link political ideologies with fear-response. For example, see:


Conservative people tend to have a higher disgust response, be more aggressive, and more resistant to change or things that appear threatening. Liberals tend to be not as frightened by apparent danger and more accepting of possibly disruptive change.

Of course, this may be completely wrong, but it does tally with my (entirely unscientific) experience.

Comment: Re:Seems... facile (Score 3, Interesting) 230

by mattpalmer1086 (#48873551) Attached to: The Paradoxes That Threaten To Tear Modern Cosmology Apart

IANAP, but my admittedly also very shallow understanding, is that when we're talking about the energy of the "vaccuum", we mean "energy associated with space itself".

A vaccuum is typically defined by the absence of matter in a volume of space (but not necessarily light or other energy). But let's exclude those too - there is no matter or electromagnetic radiation at all.

Even with those exclusions, at a fundamental level space appears to be a seething maelstrom of quantum particles popping in and out of existence. There seems to be some energy associated with "empty" space.

  Some people posit that the vaccuum (i.e. space as we know it) may be "unstable" - that the particular energy it possesses could be lower than it is - and that we're just caught on a local bump in the energy landscape. If the vaccuum ever "fell off" that bump to a lower level, it would apparently spread at the speed of light across the entire universe from wherever it started, destroying everything that currently exists, and leaving behind... I don't know what. More vaccuum, but with a much lower energy associated with it, and with lots of new matter and energy created by the release of the vaccuum energy. Probably.

Anway, happy for a real physicist to correct me on some or all of the above - that's just my very lay understanding of what is meant by vaccuum energy.

Comment: Re: Time for Wine (Score 1) 156

by pz (#48869781) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July

Really? Fired? Funny, 'cause I'm the boss. If we had an application running under Windows 95, _and it worked_, there would be absolutely zero reason to do anything with that machine when there are other, more important, ways to spend our time. Granted, that hypothetical machine would not be on the net, 'cause we aren't stupid.

The real machines we have running XP, run our experiments (and they have never been on the net for other reasons); until such time as the boxes die, they will continue to run our software, and continue to run it under XP. And then, they will be replaced with the identical backup hardware we have, giving us enough time to get a grant funded to have someone port the code to a more modern system. Until then, we have science to do. Computers, in my lab, are like any other tool that is to be used to collect data and advance knowledge -- pens, screwdrivers, oscilloscopes, whiteboards -- and are not an end unto themselves.

Comment: Re:Time for Wine (Score 2) 156

by pz (#48864327) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July

Didn't work for us. We have an application that has been developed over about 10 years in VB6. No one has the budget -- either in finance or time -- to port. We looked at Wine as a plug-and-play replacement for XP and the application did not work correctly, 100%. The application is mission-critical, making anything less than 100% compatibility a non-starter. So we're stuck with XP until the next big grant comes in and we can afford to pay someone to port it to a more modern system.

Don't get me wrong, Wine is an impressive amount of work, and my hat is off to the brave folks who have put so much time and effort into it. It just isn't good enough for our needs, unfortunately.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)