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Comment Blades Aren't the Problem (Score 2) 180

I'm no opponent to wind power, but the blades aren't really the stumbling block with making wind turbines larger and better. We want to build our wind turbines larger as they will rotate slower and capture more energy. The problem is transferring that energy through the hub of the turbine. More energy and slower revolution means huge torque which has to be sped up to generate electricity. Wind turbine gear boxes are still the constraining factor for improvements. Do we have any idea how these designs plan on handling this problem?

If anybody wants to read about an actual attempt to address this, here is a thesis on a system which uses wind turbines to run gravitational pistons to directly generate compressed air.

Comment Re:Does it count as "evidence" (Score 3, Informative) 258

It is a hypothesis which is supported by evidence. The existence of Jupiter is also a hypothesis which is supported by evidence, although much stronger evidence than the evidence for this planet. Epistemology is frequently at odds with our every day feelings about knowledge.

Comment Re:He's Not Qualified (Score 1) 235

Aren't we all qualified to see where this is going?

In the same sense that we are all qualified to have opinions about the 2007-9 financial crisis or we were all qualified to have opinions about how to respond to the recent ebola outbreak. It's not that he shouldn't have opinions on the subject, it is that he is not worthy of special attention for these opinions.

Comment Re:TL;DR (Score 2) 189

The Soviets were never in the 'race to the moon'. The Apollo program had many goals:

  1. Catch up to the Soviet rocket program.
  2. Prepare for the possibility of wars and espionage in space.
  3. Improve domestic opinion regarding the balance of power in the cold war.
  4. Scientific discovery.

By the time the USA was finally putting people on the moon, their rocket program was highly competitive, the military/espionage value of humans in space was seen to be low, domestic opinion of the program was mixed (although people did see the achievement as a sign of the superiority of the USA over the Soviets), and the low-hanging scientific discoveries were completed in the first two landings. The Apollo program had achieved most of its goals and remaining goals were of dramatically decreasing value while the cost of the program remained extremely high. Humanity stopped putting people on the moon because governments couldn't justify the cost of continuing doing so.

The USA has no reason to go to the moon just because China wants to go. China has reason to go because they want to develop their rocket program in order to compete should they need more autonomy for a variety of reasons. They also need to show their domestic population that the Chinese government and people are a world power which can do crazy, inspiring things. The USA gains very little from getting into this game. Where the USA might have an interest is in something like asteroid mining, but the pressing concerns there are surveying and orbital capture of desired objects, which won't likely involve manned space flight.

Comment Re:Bullshit (Score 5, Insightful) 385

So far, medical science has done essentially nothing whatsoever to stop ageing from killing us. Instead, current medicine stops us dying prematurely of other causes.

This is in no small part due to a moving of the goal-posts. Medicine has done quite a bit to address many problems with aging. People are able to live much longer lives despite the aging of the cardio-vascular system. As medicine has improved in these areas, the bits that they are good at have their own names and are removed from the 'aging' bucket. Now, with those items removed, 'aging' is only left with things that medicine hasn't yet figured out.

I see no reason at all to think we're just going 'solve' ageing overnight, as the professor seems to think.

Admittedly, the claim being made here is rather optimistic, but it isn't entirely without merit. There is an open question about how difficult the aging problem really is. Aging *could* be surprisingly simple, with just a few genes needing to be tweaked to stop chemical timers that kill cells and inhibit healing. We have many examples of creatures which effectively don't age or even reverse aging during certain events, so we may just need to find analogues in humans, turn them on, and bam, we stop aging. It could be that the only reason we haven't done this previously is we didn't have the right tools for analyzing and altering genes until the last decade or so.

Of course, we probably don't have enough information to know how difficult a problem aging is going to be. Even if this claim is accurate, it is likely that anything it creates will just uncover new problems which will, in turn, need addressing. On the other hand, we thought that gastric ulcers were a hard problem and when a researcher suggested that treatment for most could be as simple as taking a course of antibiotics, he was laughed out of the room.

Comment Re:The odds are very low... (Score 2) 182

People are notoriously bad at rationally assessing risk and this is a clear example of one common pattern. People are much more worried about uncommon, but catastrophic risks than they are about common, moderately costly risks. This is exacerbated by risks which reinforce an existing world-view.

It should then come as no surprise that people who believe we should be investing more in space technologies would have a distorted view of the risk posed by asteroid impacts.

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.

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