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Comment Thanks, Obama? (Score 4, Insightful) 411

Saying "The Obama Administration [sic]" makes it sound like some sort of political meddling was behind this action. While the EPA is part of the executive bureaucracy, this does not stink of Obama political officials pushing an agenda, but just normal regulatory oversight and it therefore should be attributed to the agency.

Comment Re:Wait a minute... (Score 2) 324

Secure protects against a whole class of man-in-the-middle attacks which allow third parties to inject malicious code into non-sensitive communications.

More importantly, however, requiring security of everyone makes secure sites more secure. The big problem is that security notifications for users don't work. It is simply too difficult and error-prone to notify users of important security problems while also ignoring unimportant ones. False negatives put users at risk and false positives train users to ignore warnings. This problem would largely disappear if security were the overwhelming expectation and the folks who can address this are the people running the servers.

Comment What are your definitions? (Score 1, Insightful) 700

I have many problems with the Scientologists and how they have conducted themselves, but there are many religious organizations from the Catholic church to televangalists to numerous unaffiliated organizations which have done horrible things to their communities and congregations at various times. Scientologists aren't even the only ones who have or currently put a price tag on better spiritual outcomes (e.g. tithing).

Scientology's religious status should not be in question. Just because it is new and it is based on a set of beliefs which you think are goofy doesn't make their spiritual or philisophical claims any less legally legitimate.

If the leadership of Scientology are involved in things which we generally find morally reprehensible we should certainly question why this state of affairs has been allowed to continue and seek reforms to address it. If they are in violation of our definitions of being a religious non-profit organization, that should also be pursued. To simply ask that an unpopular religious movement be stripped of legal recognition due to the misconduct of some of its leadership, however, is a political discrimination which we should be wary of. Americans' right to organize based on their shared belief regardless of what other people think of that belief is a protection we have traditionally valued and to erode it by selectively favouring some beliefs over others without clear, fair reasons is a dangerous precedent to adopt.

Comment Re:Nauseated. (Score 3, Insightful) 164

English dictionaries are not prescriptive, but descriptive of the useage of words. All this is saying is that this is how people are using this word so if you hear someone use it you should consider this definition in trying to understand what has been said.

Also, while I agree on a technical level that words have no intrinsic meaning and are simply tools of communication, I don't think this conflicts with the idea that we should care about language in order to improve its utility and accessibility. It is completely legitimate to prefer that people use nauseated over nauseous as the expanded definition of the latter to include the former can hinder communication and cause confusion.

We certainly should care about our language and quoting dictionaries at people who do so is a high form of anti-thinking which just discourages people from caring.

Comment Re:The problem is the "social sciences". (Score 5, Insightful) 493

The ignorance in your statement is mind-boggling and shows a deep bias toward the physical sciences and the number of mod points that it has received just shows how well it panders to this particular audience. The success of physical sciences does not come from their "solid foundation", but from how much simpler their fields of study are. As one moves up the ladder of complexity or murkier sources of evidence, the less predictive they become, not because they are any 'less scientific', but because the science is more difficult. Ecology, behavioral biology, medicine, and archaeologically-based fields all live in the middle of this spectrum and it is evident from the lack of consensus and frequent regressions in those fields.

The biggest problem in the social sciences isn't their practices, it is that their findings are inherently political, so it is very common for them to be used by people with an agenda or even promoted in order to create those tools to do so. While ideologues certainly exist in all academic fields, the murkiness of social science makes it more difficult to discredit their ideas conclusively. Even so, there are large bodies of actionable evidence which must be contended with. Unfortunately, journalists and the lay public rarely have the familiarity with the field or the sophistication to interpret social science research.

Comment Re:I suppose this means there's still hope (Score 1) 138

The first movie in the reboot series was passable.

I hear this so much and I am convinced that people are deluding themselves. Both films are filled with action schlock and related tropes with anemic stories. I don't see how the cold fusion bomb is any better than red matter. Why does the first garbage film get a pass when the second one is an awful betrayal?

Comment Re:Nothing has been lost! (Score 1) 290

Currency in general is just common agreement to scale work for goods and services

This is a key misunderstanding which has helped to pump up these virtual 'currencies'. Modern currencies are not value because of 'scarcity'. People don't want it because it is rare. People want it because they are motivated to pay their debts, either the ones they have chosen to take on or those imposed upon them by a government (e.g. property taxes). As long as one trusts that people will be motivated to pay off their debts in the future and that the money supply will only grow as legitimate promises to pay that debt grows, then the currency has real value separate from some vague notion of scarcity or 'common agreement'.

Comment Re:Fracking doesn't PUT stress on faults (Score 1) 168

We want to transfer load to weaker faults as they break under less load creating more small earthquakes instead of a few large ones. Bad loading scenarios certainly can occur, but they seem to be less probable than scenarios where fracking is reducing system load and thus reducing risk to lives and structures.

Comment Re:Copenhagen interpretation != less complicated (Score 1) 197

even if it makes some things easier to understand it's not generally the most useful way to think about QM

Engineers use Newtonian gravity as the basis for their equations because they are more practical than using relativity. Even if this theory were to turn out to better describe the universe, actual work would get done using simpler, good-enough probabilistic equations instead of the deterministic ones, but that wouldn't change the fact that the new theory better explains the total body of observations we have.

and arguably in some sense can't be the way Nature does what it does.

Why would this be the case? Chaotic systems as a class are extremely difficult to calculate, but we have plenty of examples of them in nature.

Comment an issue of terminology (Score 1) 1051

"Philosophical" exemptions are, in effect, no different from religious exemptions, it simply words things to be more understanding of non-"religious" beliefs. To target philosophical exemptions is to hold supernatural philosophies higher than naturalistic philosophies, a road we should probably avoid.

Comment Reasons (Score 1) 516

Medium sized power outages are generally caused by a failure of local transmission lines. These lines are frequently exposed to a variety of hazards, particularly trees, wind, ice, wildlife, and humans. There are only really two ways to secure against this, burying cables and building redundancy, both of which are quite expensive. Transmission fees in the USA are usually heavily regulated and the prices they may charge would not cover such an expense. It is also unclear if a market would want to pay for this, and it is very difficult to discriminate in price and service among customers who would.

Finally, bureaucracy and in-fighting between local utility providers sometimes blocks redundancy when it might otherwise available. Historical feuds, hurt feelings over regulatory decisions regarding service area, and disagreements over cost sharing to handle inter-network connections can leave one person at the end of a service line with no way to get power from another provider just down the road.

Comment Re:Flawed, 'cos... (Score 1) 454

1. Peak demand. In car-culture areas there's a peak demand. *Someone* has to own the rush hour fleet. But no business is going to want to invest in a fleet that has 21 hours of downtime during non-peak loads.

This isn't the comparison which makes the most sense. The question is, "Can fleet ownership result in greater value for consumers significant enough to make a profit?". Most of the trips that residential vehicles make are commuter trips, but the vehicles making these trips are very often compromise vehicles, capable of doing a larger variety of tasks. If the surge is commuters, the commuter fleet can mostly be made of much smaller, task-oriented vehicles, reducing fleet costs. Many of these vehicles will be able to service multiple users sequentially, since the starting and ending times for work surge over a two-three hour period, increasing utility rates. A non-insignificant portion of this surge fleet will still be in use by people throughout the day. The reduced nuisance of parking could increase useage for things like lunch trips. The potential for there to be economies of scale is here and benefits from fleet ownership, so this cannot be simply dismissed.

The logic of where the savings exist can be thought of in terms of, "Are there savings that self-driving vehicles could accomplish with smaller modifications to the system?". If I had a way of making my self-driving vehicle available to people to pay me to use during the day, that would result in an overall increase in economic efficiency. If it was more convenient for people to rent specialty vehicles, utilization would increase and rental costs would decrease such that my every-day car could be optimized for commuting tasks and thus less expensive, more than offsetting the occasional rental costs of specialty rentals, increasing economic efficiency. These efficiencies are easier to realize with fleet ownership and thus there is room for cost savings for consumers and profits for a fleet owner.

2. Consumers want reliability and 100% availability. Consider Uber and Lyft that promise this, except during surge pricing periods. People hate this. It's economically correct in the case of Uber and Lyft, and an obvious idea, but surge pricing during rush hour isn't going to work. People will still own their own cars.

The problem with Uber, Lyft, car sharing, and taxies is that pockets of high useage have a lasting decrease in service availability in those areas. With self-driving vehicles, there is a very small cost to shifting resources to fill in empty pockets of the map. Yes, this becomes problematic the more rural one gets, but in urban and suburban environments, populations densities are high enough that with high levels of utilization, it could easily be economical to make it a very rare occurrence to not have a vehicle able to be at any address within a small number of minutes after being summoned.

3. Personalization and customization. Hey, I like my cars stock, but I still have my stuff in the center console, my presets on the stereo (yes, 760 am in the morning, I'm a dying breed), and my iPhone paired to Sync. A different car every day isn't going to cut it. And think about comfort, especially on a commute. If it's hit or miss as far as comfort, people are willing to pay for 100% access to a Fusion versus an Elantra (or choose an Elantra versus a smaller B-sized car).

Storing crap in one's car is probably the best argument for what will bother people about changing to this system, as having to lug crap out to the car while you are on the clock is a stress people will likely often buckle under; however, this seems like a problem which could be solved by some interesting lateral thinking. Radio presets are an easily solvable problem and luxury models are a method of price discrimination which would likely very quickly enter the marketplace, although it would be strains on my previous arguments. Much of the other elements of vehicle size and status are an extension of driving and how it feels to do so and they diminish greatly when one is a passenger. A self-driving sports car would lose a lot of its mystique. Another 'comfort' issue would be managing vehicle cleanliness between users, which might be a difficult problem as well. Of course, airlines have shown that people will tolerate an awful lot of discomfort in order to save a buck, so this is all a big open question.

4. Toy haulers. You're not going to call Uber or Lyft to tow your trailer to a state park or tow your boat to a launch. And this isn't 99%'er speaking, this is blue collar worker in my part of the country.

I really don't understand the objection here. In fact, I think owning trailer toys would be easier in a self-driving world as it can be expensive to own, operate, and maintain a huge vehicle for these purposes when you only use the towing feature a few times per year and many are not comfortable hauling a trailer at all. A self-driving towing vehicle available on your intermittent schedule and which would then be used by other people on the next weekend seems like an easy win.

All of this is going to depend on balancing a lot of variables and developing logistics algorithms and a hell of a lot of accounting, but this is not incredibly difficult stuff, just a bit tricky to get right. It is not immediately obvious that fleet ownership of residential vehicles is uneconomical and plenty of reasons for smart people to sit down and crunch numbers with the potential for them to make money and for consumers to save money under the new system.

The life of a repo man is always intense.