Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Note: You can take 10% off all Slashdot Deals with coupon code "slashdot10off." ×

Comment Re:couldn't hurt (Score 1) 238

We moved on from hieroglyphs since writing by hand was so tedious anyone bothering could be assumed to be serious in unclear cases. Since writing and sending messages has moved on to an everyday form of personal communication, it also requires a concise way to express tone and emotion a non-professional writer can manage.

Excuse me if the following sounds a bit exasperated, but you do realize that people actually communicated informal messages to each other written form BEFORE texting, right?

You went off the rails there. The earliest writing was only used professionally - there just wasn't any vocabulary (at least none surviving) for anything but accounting. Using writing for sending messages from place to place was an evolution, and not an instant one. The earliest messages seem to be accounting/business related as well, from tax information to contracts to customer complaints. Since you had to send a human messenger anyway, who was perfectly capable of memorizing long and detailed messages, sending a written message with him was a somewhat specialized need.

It was only with the growth of the idea of using writing to send a message through time, and/or in multiple copies throughout the land, did written language become expressive enough to be useful for "informal messages" in a way that the person carrying the message wasn't. Laws, histories, treaties, and so one required more vocabulary than common trade objects, numbers, and "promise to pay".

Even if we include common and nearly universal body language gestures like nodding, shaking the head,

There's a girl in my office new enough to the US that she still shakes her head from side to side as an affirmative gesture, which is common for at least a billion people. Everything's arbitrary.

By the way, the one emotion/tone that has frustrated writers for centuries is irony/sarcasm. Many have proposed a simple symbol for this, usually a backwards question mark. But for some reason no such mark has become standard. That's perhaps the only "emoji" I have ever felt the need for in writing.

I find it interesting that this is also indicated by tone of voice, well within the normal sort of thing modern language captures. We use punctuation and accents in many ways in many languages to capture tone of voice. Isn't it odd we don't already have something for sarcasm?

Comment Re:Mission accomplished (Score 1) 359

To generate enough power for the whole planet to live at US energy consumption levels (i.e., for everyone to have a good standard of living), you'll need to cover a significant percentage of the land area with solar panels. This is not completely impractical, though you'd need a panel with nothing rare in its construction and a very long lifespan, but it hardly seems ideal. It's also not going to work for industrial power (most of which doesn't even involve electricity today), because you need dense, reliable generation of thermal energy.

Fossil fuel use simply won't go away, at least for industrial needs, until we have small-industrial-scale nuclear plants of one kind or another, and fission doesn't seem promising for that. Orbital solar could work, but it seems farther out than fusion.

Comment Re:Hang on a minute... (Score 1) 654

Maybe mixing su with systemd is like mixing PCP and acid

Mixing Linux and systemd is like a remote control on a chainsaw: the idea may sound neat for 2 seconds, but then you realize nothing good can come of this.

"It's going to get out of control. It's going to get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

Comment Re:Okay, if they think that will work (Score 2) 82

Yep, what made the movie work was that it was actually good Sci-Fi, as action movie Sci-Fi goes (which has little enough to do with written SF). Good character development, a bit of actual suspense, you cared about the characters, etc. Even without the parody stuff, it was better than the Star Wars prequels or half the Star Trek movies.

It was genre-savvy satire, more than simple parody, and it was good. Not sure how you could turn it into a series though, unless they're going to make the Galaxy Quest series that was the backstory to the movie, which could be fun for one season.

Comment Re:Wait, physics doesn't work either? (Score 1) 206

Everything in physics works in both time directions (you have to swap some signs +/- when you reverse time, but it all works). Causality as "a chain of related events over time" is a real thing, even if what you place in the chain may be somewhat arbitrary, but the direction, which is cause and which is effect, isn't so well defined. At the QM scale it's arbitrary. In human experience, a film played in one direction looks different than in the other because, ultimately, of the energy input from the Sun breaking the symmetry.

Comment Re:Wait, physics doesn't work either? (Score 1) 206

our "underlying state" seems equivalent to a "hidden variables" theory.

No, it's just the sloppiness of English trying to represent math, or perhaps my lack of facility with one of those in trying to craft a metaphor.

To extend my above metaphor: there's no hidden "observable" state. The underlying state is not "this one spin-up, that one spin-down" (which is forbidden), because there are not electron identities anyhow, but instead "exactly one of them is spin-up". As you measure one of them, there are now three entangled things: the two electrons and your detector, and there's a set of allowed observables given all that, when you add the second detector, now there are 4 entangled items. It's not non-local, it's just a constraining of the set of allowed states for the complete system.

Comment Re:Wait, physics doesn't work either? (Score 4, Interesting) 206

The real question is - exactly wtf is entanglement anyway? I can find lots to read about what it looks like and how it behaves... but what's the underlying mechanism? Is there even the most speculative explanation of it?

Here's the best answer I can give you - I think it's true, and not so over-simplified as to be wrong.

The universe has some underlying state. We don't have direct access to that state - not only is it not directly observable, it's not directly related in any intuitive way to the state we can observe. There's this arbirtary-seeming transform between underlying state and what we observe (it only seems odd or arbitrary because all our intuitions are based on human-scale observables, and are not at all directly informed by this underlying state). This underlying state seems to be well-defined and deterministic, forwards and backwards in time. The observable universe is not.

Entanglement is a feature of how observations relate to underlying state - a feature of the transform. In very simple experiments we can measure specific properties of, say, an electron. We can't measure all of them, for a given electron, because the transform just doesn't work that way, but we can measure some. However, that's deceptive, because you can't really track that property of that electron over time, in non-trivial cases. If e.g. two electrons interact, become entangled, your observations are now a function of both electrons' underlying state, and that's a different transform from 2 non-entangled electrons.

There are two key concepts here. The first is that the whole notion of "particle" is a handy but false oversimplification. It can lead you to all sorts of false intuitions about how particles behave. Fundamentally, individual e.g. electrons don't have unique identities. The underlying state is a single electron field, which other fields can interact with, in a way that can sometimes be simplified as "particle interactions", for a simpler mental model, but you can't go too deep with that model. An example: "two electrons collide in an accelerator, and two electrons leave, which is which?" That question is "not even wrong", it's just nonsense. Thinking of electrons as billiard balls colliding is simply not a helpful model, as it just misses the point of the interaction.

"Entanglement" happens just when the "particle" mental model fails: you can no longer pick two disjoint areas in the electron field and consider them as independent "electrons", but instead you have to reason about two areas which may be quite disconnected in space and time. E.g., you might know for sure that one electron is spin-up, and one spin-down, but have 0 information about which is which. None of that matters to the underlying state: there's just one electron field, and the only truly correct way to reason about it it to reason about the whole field all the time, and so this is only half of "WTF is entanglement".

The second concept gets too much into the math to explain well, but in a hand-wavy way it's this: "what is measurement?". There are older interpretations about measurement causing wavestate collapse and so on, but they're wrong because of that word "cause". Measurement is simply the observer becoming entangled with the observed. Measuring one entangled electron doesn't "cause" the other electron to do or become anything. The underlying state is unchanged, which is why there's no faster-than-light effect. In some cases, this is an overly pedantic distinction, but it matters when the difference between QM and intuition matters. In a two-slit experiment where you see an interference pattern at your detector, if you add a measuring device to one slit suddenly you don't see that interference pattern. Informally we might say the second observer "caused" this change, but formally that's wrong, it's just that a system with 2 slits and 2 detectors behaves differently from a system with 2 slits and one detector, and it doesn't matter which detector the electron passes first, because (see above) an "electron" as a discrete particle is fiction anyway, and both detectors are entangled with the electron field already, or they couldn't measure an electron anyhow.

Comment Re:Ban all NUKES NOW - accident waiting to happen (Score 1) 164

Truly, as the sun never stops shining and the wind never stops blowing.

It will eventually. I suspect there will still be fossil fuels available when that day comes, as we'll have moved fully to solar and fusion (but I repeat myself) before we run out.

Comment Re:So if I'm CEO at a tech company, block google? (Score 1) 181

Google already knows who you work for. Google already knows what you're working on. Heck, if you have an Android with default settings, they have all your whiteboard pictures. This likely isn't a "candidate identification" tool, but rather a way to get people more interested in saying "yes" to the recruiter - oh, those were fun puzzles, maybe I do want to work for Google.

Comment Re:I like it. It's Subversive. (Score 1) 86

Google search is a natural monopoly as all other search engines that don't use google search return shit results

I've never seen a problem with DuckDuckGo results (even though they're mostly Bing), and with "!wa" you get a better calculator than Google's. Google tailors your search results to your search history, so you don't see anything that might make you question your beliefs. Maybe that's why people think it's better?

Comment Re: Judging by the story so far... (Score 1) 367

That doesn't quite work, because some people's morality requires that they impose their morality upon others, and by saying they shouldn't you are imposing a morality upon them. If we instead agree on just one (meta-) moral principle, that it's wrong to attempt to impose your morality, then we can get to a consistent place.

If we rephrase that as "recognize that others are themselves moral entities, with the right to each choose his own path to happiness", we have the current Dalai Lama's definition of "compassion", which he's spent most his long life extolling as the principle moral virtue. I agree with that completely. He also has a solid argument that compassion is the optimal choice even if you're purely motivated by self-interest, which I also agree with (basically: mental comfort is far more important than physical comfort, and if you can find joy in the happiness of others, you can become much happier than otherwise).

Comment Re:bring it on (Score 2) 61

For now... then there will be automata that brings you new automata.

While that may happen, it's "Singularity complete". If it every does, we'll all have utopia, or we'll all be dead, but either way employment won't be a problem.

Better development tools and automation has only increased the number of working devs over the years: the lower the cost of automating any given thing, the more new things that can now be automated. Given there are probably 100x as many devs working now worldwide as when I started as an assembly-language programmer, I'm comfortable with this trend.

<< WAIT >>