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Comment: Re:Well, what did you expect? (Score 1) 146

by muecksteiner (#48904097) Attached to: Secret Service Investigating Small Drone On White House Grounds

Well, "Muslims". Actually I think that some basment-dwelling white male nerd would be far more likely to attempt an overflight of the White House with a drone that has "Allahu akbar" on it, than any local Muslim. "For the lulz", as it were.

But that having ben said, Occupy, Tea Party and real/imaginary Muslims are the most likely candidates for such shenanigans. The local chapter of the Democratic party would probably not do that sort of thing, right?

Comment: Well, what did you expect? (Score 5, Insightful) 146

by muecksteiner (#48903781) Attached to: Secret Service Investigating Small Drone On White House Grounds

Given the quality of the drone toys you can buy in pretty much any electronics store these days, the only thing that surprises me is that this sort of thing has not happened much earlier. And I don't even mean actual attacks that cause harm: that no-one has flown a regular autonomous cam drone over the White House lawn yet during a press conference, with "Allahu akbar" written on it with a sharpie, in spidery teenage handwriting, is actually fairly surprising. And the message wouldn't even have to be Muslim: something like "Death to Goldman Sachs" would probably be more in the spirit of the Occupy crowd, who probably feel fairly betrayed by Obama. And who would be more likely to do something non-destructive (but noticeable) like this in the first place.

Comment: Re:They've had that long. (Score 1) 257

by muecksteiner (#48833563) Attached to: Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks"

It's actually a lot more subtle and complex than either of us has said so far.

For instance, the Arabic sounding names of some of the notables of the Islamic Golden Age were just "noms de plume": they actually were not Muslims, but found it easier to work under an Arab-sounding pseudonym. But this only applied to some of them - there were plenty of actual Muslim scholars in that era. The initial focal points of learning were Hellenistic, but I was oversimplifying things when I said that the science of the era was only Hellenistic, and did not carry over to the actual Muslim part of the population.

However, two things seem to be noticeable even so: first, the Arab-Muslim world did not succeed in developing systematic institutions of higher learning. Those universities that were founded dealt mostly with theology, and not so much with actual science. The brilliant scientists of the Golden Age were, by and large, not associated with them, and worked independently. And second, Islam itself changed at some point, and took the Golden Age with it: while in the beginning it was more tolerant of critical thinking, it somehow warped to turn its back on science:

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4...

The effect of the colonial rule of the Ottomans is a difficult point: technically, they saw themselves as the successors of the caliphs, and as the centre of the Muslim world. So they tried to continue this tradition, but how and why this did not have the desired effect is a long story in itself.

Comment: Re:They've had that long. (Score 1) 257

by muecksteiner (#48832881) Attached to: Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks"

Nitpick: "spread it with sword and fire" was literally from day 1 onwards - take a look at some history books that don't only gloss over the early days of Islam.

You are right that they did relax somewhat later on, once power in the newly conquered territories had been stabilised the hard way. Note that I said "somewhat", though: the inferior treatment of unbelievers did not only take the form of extra taxes: they were fundamentally second class citizens. Their testimony was not worth as much as that of a Muslim in court (if it was allowed at all), they were only allowed to own certain amounts of property (if that), could not intermarry with Muslims, and were more harshly punished for any transgressions - in particular, if the transgression had been inflicted on a Muslim.

This treatment was actually to a large part responsible for the "brain deflation" suffered by the Islamic empires the centuries after their establishment. After the very violent initial phase, religious minorities were treated sort of bearably - but not in a way that was really tenable in the long run. In the long run, lots of smart unbelievers converted, if only to save themselves the sort of hassle that their parents had to endure. And if there is one Achilles heel to actual Islamic culture (at least the old school version of it), it is that it is very poor at science and learning: once the old scientist caste of the Hellenistic culture they had taken over had converted, their technological and scientific edge evaporated over the space of only two generations or so.

Most of the fabled science of early Islamic empires was done by the people who had been doing science before the Muslim conquests: Hellenistic men of learning, i.e. unbelievers who were taken over from the old system. Quite a number of them converted, and had a quite reasonable working environment for their day and age. However, the supply of new scientists dried up after that: universities that actually teach people to think critically are not really wanted in a warrior religion that demands total obedience of its followers.

If you think that I am exaggerating, take a look at the atrocious performance of pretty much all higher education institutions in the Arab (!) Muslim world. I am emphasising "Arab Muslim" here, as the newfound Muslim conservativism you mention is most prevalent there. There are some Islamic states, like for instance Malaysia, that have functioning educational systems, and universities. But the cultural make-up of Malaysian society is fairly different from classical Muslim Arab culture.

Comment: Re:They've had that long. (Score 1) 257

by muecksteiner (#48827569) Attached to: Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks"

You start out young and idealistic, and you try to convert people peacefully.

Interesting idea. Except this is not quite what happened with Islam. You might want to read up on the historical development of that particular religion.

Hint: the whole "spread it with sword and fire" thing was not just a phrase from the sales brochure. They actually took that fairly seriously from day 1 onwards.

Comment: Re:More conservative fear-mongering (Score 1) 432

by muecksteiner (#48246027) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

The whole point that Taleb is trying to make is that you (resp. our species) might be wrong on this in some cases: he claims that if it can be reasonably argued that the consequences of a fuck-up in a given area would global and catastrophic enough, there is a case to be made for not taking chances in the first place. Even if said chances look just fine from the viewpoint of our current knowledge on the matter.

Comment: Re:Endemic would be really bad.. (Score 1) 280

by muecksteiner (#47981223) Attached to: CDC: Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million In 4 Months

Except that Ebola is not really contagious *until you show actual symptoms*. Unlike with many other diseases, patients are not contagious during the dormant phase of the infection: so your sports stadium scenario fortunately does not apply.

Ebola is an extremely nasty and deadly disease if and once you catch it, but preventing its spread is apparently not that hard if you obey very basic sanitation rules. If it were ever to mutate to become more contagious, we'd be in Hollywood movie territory. But as long as it stays the way it is, there is no need to panic.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 3, Interesting) 667

by muecksteiner (#47500275) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

To add to this, whoever pulled the trigger might have been under the misapprehension that the airspace above them was now closed to civilian traffic. The Donetsk region is hardly optimal for real-time access to all pertinent data, and from 00:00 on that day, there was actually a new (!) NOTAM in force that closed all airspace in the region beneath FL320 to civilian traffic. If the person reading the NOTAM is not the brightest bulb out there, or if the information had been passed around once to often and slightly modified and/or "streamlined" in the process (intentionally, or just unintentionally), this might have ended up as being read by those in the command vehicle as "completely closed". Misunderstandings like this have happened over and over again, sadly.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 1) 667

by muecksteiner (#47499573) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

If what you said is true that surface to air missile systems can be disabled from firing at a target by simply claiming to be civilian in their IFF response then they'd be less than useless as every military jet would be flying around pretending to be civilian.

Which might well be what actually happened. The goons at the aiming controls of the SA-11 might have seen a civilian transponder reply, thought "ha, you won't fool us!" (Ukrainian air force Antonovs also carry civilian transponders, to be able to move in civilian airspace), and then pressed the big red button regardless.

In conjunction with this it would be *very* interesting if there were some other, real targets in the vicinity when they fired. Say, if there really was an air force An-26 in the area, that - by coincidence or malice - happened to have set a civilian transponder code, to disguise itself.

Note that the Ukrainians might have done this to avoid being shot at - not assuming that the separatists would shoot anyway. Or something like that.

Comment: Not a retarded idea. No way. (Score 5, Insightful) 218

by muecksteiner (#46783867) Attached to: MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

Compare the relative frequency of major hurricanes/typhoons to that of major earthquakes. Add to that the various potential problems that any floating structure has (springing a leak and sinking comes to mind here).

Then, consider that in Japan, the nuclear plant closest to the quake epicentre actually survived unscathed. Because the people designing it did not stick with the minimum legal specs for the seawall height like the geniuses at Fukushima had, but did some research on their own. And simply made the seawall much higher.

Conventional plants are not that bad, if they are designed by competent people. If you put them on barges, though, as these dudes are proposing, you are just adding to the potential failure modes, while not avoiding any that are impossible to handle. Not a good thing.

Comment: No shit, Sherlock (Score 4, Insightful) 135

It sure took you some time to notice the bloody obvious, folks. The only odd thing about this is why you only mention biomedical research.

Because pretty much all other fields have exactly the same problem: fairly massive over-production of graduates - in particular, people with a PhD. In times of shrinking university enrolments, and shrinking populations (in the West, that is). No one will ever need that many faculty. And for most jobs outside uni, that time spent in PhD comics land is not a good preparation. At all.

Comment: Oh my (Score 5, Insightful) 353

Even by Slashdot standards, this is one of the dumbest headlines, ever.

Bugatti was no Nazi. He lived and worked in pre-war France, and was not a Nazi supporter at all. The reason the thing did not fly back then was because Bugatti, who had build the plane in France prior to it being invaded by Nazi Germany, successfully hid it from the invaders so they would not get their hands on it. Or rather, the technology used in it: in any case, the plane in the form it was built was never, ever, a "Nazi plane". Nor would it have been useful at all as a warplane: this thing, amazing as it is, is a pure racer, with zero capabilities for being armed. Nor would it probably have been much good in a dogfight, either: that crate was built to be fast, with everything else being a secondary consideration.

This headline is pure drivel, and really should be corrected ASAP.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.

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