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Comment: Men are more creative (Score 1) 573

by paradigm82 (#47785509) Attached to: Why Women Have No Time For Wikipedia
While a lot of people would like to think the reverse is true, I'm 100% convinced based on 32 years of experience that men are plain more creative, in practically any area. That doesn't mean that all men are creative, or that all women are not. Some women are definitely more creative than some men. But by and large my observation is true. Men are much more likely than women to be geeks about things and spend hours on improving small details or leaning everything about a subject. Women are only likely to do that if there's a distinct benefit to themselves or their children. Women generally do things to obtain some benefit (put something on their CV, brag to their boss etc.) and rarely for the thing itself which is what I consider the 'geeky' aspect of the way men gets interested in things. Since creativity tends to be fostered by spending a lot of time on a subject, men are far more likely to actually produce something and be creative.
So in short, women don't want to contribute to Wikipedia because the personal gains to them are small. Men do it for the fun of it, for the creative process.

Comment: Missing info (Score 1) 177

by paradigm82 (#47621157) Attached to: Algorithm Predicts US Supreme Court Decisions 70% of Time
It would be useful to know how many of the court's decisions are affirm vs reverse. If 70% are affirm, it's not impressive to be able to correctly predict 70% of decisions since you can just always guess on "affirm". Of course, if it is equally distributed (50% affirm, 50% reverse), getting 70% correct shows the algorithm has some prediction power (assuming it is trained on a different dataset than is used for evaluating it). But it is impossible to determine if this is the case, based on the information in the article.

Comment: Re:He just described how MPEG works (sort of) (Score 1) 90

by paradigm82 (#47542483) Attached to: How Stanford Engineers Created a Fictitious Compression For HBO
I don't think any of what you wrote goes against what I wrote. I have the exact same distinction that some components of MPEG movie compression (and my post applies to MPEG-2 also btw) are lossy, that is compensated for by other steps, but other steps yet again makes it lossy.

Comment: He just described how MPEG works (sort of) (Score 1) 90

by paradigm82 (#47540097) Attached to: How Stanford Engineers Created a Fictitious Compression For HBO

He came up with the idea of using lossy compression techniques to compress the original file, then calculating the difference between the approximate reconstruction and the original file and compressing that data; by combining the two pieces, you have a lossless compressor.
This type of approach can work, Misra said, but, in most cases, would not be more efficient than a standard lossless compression algorithm, because coding the error usually isn’t any easier than coding the data.

Well, this is almost how MPEG movie compresion works - and it really does work! MPEG works by partly describing the next picture from the previous using motion vectors. These vectors described how the next picture will look based on movements of small-ish macroblocks on the original picture. Now, if that was the only element of the algorithm movies would look kind of strange (like paper-doll characters being moved about)! So the secret to make it work is to send extra information allowing the client to calculate the final picture. This is done by subracted the predicted picture from the actual next frame. This difference-picture will (if the difference between the two frames was indeed mostly due to movement) be mostly black but it will contain some information due to noise, things that have become visible due to the movement, rotation etc. So MPEG also contains an algorithm that can very efficiently encode this "difference picture". Basically an algorithm that is very efficient for encoding an almost black picture.

So there you have it - MPEG works by applying a very crude, lossy compression (only describing the picture difference in terms of motion vectors) and in addition transmitting the information required to correct the errors and allow reconstruction of the actual frame.

The only part where the comparison breaks down is that MPEG is not lossless. Even when transmitting the difference picture, further compression and reduction takes place (depending on bandwidth) so that the actual frame can not be reconstructed 100%. Still MPEG is evidence that the basic principle of using a crude lossy compressor combined with sending a compensation, works.

Comment: Potentially carcinogenic (Score 1) 190

Paracetamol/acetaminophen is potentially carcinogenic. It has been shown to inhibit DNA repair (see e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7715617 or Google yourself) and has been associated with an increase in various cancers, for instance blood cancers which are often associated with factors that cause DNA damage (see e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21555699).
It has also been associated with other cancers. In contrast to this, the alternative painkiller aspirin has been associated with a decreased risk of many different types of cancer, notably colon cancer but also blood cancers as well as many other cancers (too lazy to find all the references). In animals, it can protect animals exposed to other carcinogens from cancer.
Ibuprofen seems to be mixed, in some studies it is associated with increased cancer in other with decreased risk.
By the way, note that aspirin is not a magic bullet against cancer; it is also a blood thinner. People who take it chronically are prone to getting bruises from the slightest hits. This also means it increases the risk of potentially fatal bleeds, as well as certain types of strokes (intercranial haemorrage). On the other hand it decreases the risk of blood clots. The net effect is difficult to assess.

Comment: What about his microwave? (Score 2) 278

by paradigm82 (#43189553) Attached to: Where Have All the Gadgets Gone?
Where has the microwave gone? I'm not aware of any technological developments since 2005 that has "converged" the microwave into any other device. Also, none of the devices he displays in the 2013 seems able to displace a microwave (unless there's some new app I'm not aware of). Hence, we must conclude that this article merely represents the lifestyle choices made by this particular person, with no relevance to the rest of the population.

Comment: The Danish perspective (Score 1) 370

by paradigm82 (#42493983) Attached to: Forbes 2013 Career List Flamed By University Professors
I can add a Danish perspective. In the last 10-15 years, the number of people accepted for the PhD program has ramped up by a factor of 2-3x from an already high level. On some studies up to one third of graduates are accepted into the PhD program. The PhD program is free to the candidate and in fact pays a decent but not in anyway high salary. But to someone who used to live on 1/3rd of that it's a good salary.

The problem is that it used to be that PhD students were the best students of that year, at least in the natural sciences. I remmeber that when I studied only 1 PhD student was accepted every other year, and he/she would always be one who was very clearly (after a 2 min. conversation) smarter than the rest of the students. Of course that person would also have top grades -- and that was when top grades were more scarce that is the case today.

Today it's not like that. Everything from the top students and down to the "joe average" (i.e. someone with half a brain) in the graduate studies usually gets offered a PhD. In fact, many programs have more PhD's than they can fulfill from the pool of candidate students. There's no prestige about getting a PhD anymore. And since the financial crisis came, it's in some way the opposite, in that the PhD is an obvious path to take for someone who couldn't get a better paying job in the private sector.

This state of affairs is extremely expensive to society. It's expensive to provide an extra 3-year education and salary to people who are just average intelligence. Also, the science that comes out of this is mostly bogus. I.e. not really innovative, just buying a lot of fancy equipment and applying what others already found out. Then publishing it with a twist. There has already been some articles out on how little the science produced in academia is contributing to the economy, and there has also been a few news stories about how the "too many PhD's" has lowered the quality. But it still seems most politicians are in the uncritical "more education" mode... so I suspect it will be a few years until anything substantial happens in this area.

Comment: Seen this before... (Score 1) 544

by paradigm82 (#42043405) Attached to: What "Earth-Shaking" Discovery Has Curiosity Made on Mars?
Am I the only one who remembers last time NASA did this? Back in 2010 they made a lot of marketing fluff about a discovery of a new life form etc. etc. http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/11/30/1846255/curious-nasa-pre-announcement Many assumed it would have to be about NASA finding indications of life in some other planets (even if it was only indirect evidence of some chemical sort it would be huge). Well, it turned out the news was that they had found a microbe (on earth) that had apparently had some uptake of arsenic when deprived of phosphorous. This was interpreted as the organism using arsenic instead of phosphorous in its DNA (though this had not at all been verified) and that this had huge implications for the search of life in space. If that wasn't disappointment enough, the discovery later came under fire and later research found no evidence of any arsenic uptake, so it was all just a bunch of crap to begin with. In other words, just because NASA makes huge announcements and calls enormous press conferences days in advance, don't hold your breath. It could be nothing more than... well, nothing.

Comment: Re:Heh (Score 1) 241

by paradigm82 (#39943793) Attached to: A Boost For Quantum Reality
I have to agree with the OP. There's something really strange about sentience. I don't see how just adding more complexity would create this "internal awareness". Intuitively it seems that such awareness is of an entirely different quality than what could be created by any amount of computational complexity. What is it that breathes life and sentience into these computations (more on that later)?

Of course my intuition could be wrong. Maybe it's just that sentience appears to have a different quality but that is just because it is so infinitely complex that our intuition has no grasp of such complexity. And that if it did, we would be able to see how sentience can be developed just from the standard properties of physical matter. I can't exclude that this is the case, I don't see how anyone could.

By the way, I'm curious about you saying that such computers would have to be made from something else than silicon and would have to be ultra-parallel, plastic etc.
I don't see why, if you have already accepted sentience from following from mechanical processes. As long as the materials obey usual physics, the properties of this material could be simulated easily on a computer. You could simulate ultra flexible/plastic neurons on any computer. Likewise, a single-thread can simulate any number of parallel threads with a linear slow-down. So to me it seems that if you go along the mechanistic route, you have to accept that sentience could occur even on the simplest of CPU's (or any kind of Turing machine in fact) just given the right program. Of course the program might execute at a slow speed, but it should be totally equivalent. And this is why I find the premise of "sentience is just complex computation" unappealing.

Another problem is that I find the whole concept of computation somewhat subjective. While computation is well-defined at the "input/output" level, the actual computation process is not. It's usually just abstracted away. And sentience must be a property of the computation process itself and not a property of the actual I/O (after all, I still feel sentient when no one is looking).

If I look at a Turing-machine made of organ-pipes, it's essentially just my interpretation that these organ pipes are operating as a Turing machine executing on some piece of information. You have to look at the system at just the right level and type of abstraction to see it's a Turing machines. To someone not "in" on it, it would just seem like a weird spectacle. The individual physical components are operating exactly as they would if they were not part of a Turing machine. That a computation is taking place is clearly not a physical matter. It just happens that humans have labeled this type of interaction between organ pipes "computation". So couldn't there be some subjective view of the organ pipes implementing a different type of machine running a different program that did not involve sentience? Likewise, couldn't I interpret leafs flying across the street of some sort of calculation? Given the huge number of physical processes going on in a glass of water, and the almost infinitely ways of intepretating what those processes are doing, it seems likely you could find some way of interpreting one process as a sentient process. That's why I think computation is in some way subjective.

So if computation is so subjective, what is it that breathes sentience into the computations making up our brain and thoughts?

By the way I have been debating this with people for 10-15 years. Some people understand immediately what I mean. Others seem to never see the problem. Is that because the latter are more clever and can better see how sentience follows from physics? Or is it because they are not sentient themselves? ;) In my view, this question and the question of "why anything exists" are the only two real mysteries remaining for science. Everything else seems to be just tiny details that could eventually be worked out.

Comment: The "anti-indiviudal abilities agenda" (Score 3, Insightful) 73

by paradigm82 (#39524063) Attached to: Why Hubble Broke and How It Was Fixed
I think the article was in some ways flawed. It gave a good description of how the error occurred. Then it moved on to a huge tirade against the focus on "individual abilities" which it blames for the whole error. Firstly, even taking the description of how the error occurred at face value, it is not at all clear that the error had anything to do with a focus on "individual abilities". On the contrary, it seems this was just an instance of really poor management that - due to cost overruns - pushed their employees to work harder, to the point that they lost their focus on quality and maybe even started cutting corners in the fabrication process. This has absolutely nothing to do with a focus on "individual abilities". However, let me address the "anti-individual abilities agenda" anyway.

The anti-individual abilities agenda is routinely promoted by managers, project managers and other people engaged in the management layers (management consultants, business schools etc.). The motive is pretty clear: Many bosses don't like admitting that the success of their project comes down to individual abilities of a few core members on the project. After all, what is the value of management then, they ask? It's like the tail wagging the dog.

However, this is just denying reality. I can firmly say that on any project of major size I worked on, the was a few 5-10% of people on the project running the show. This in itself is not very surprising, what is surprising is the fact that these 5-10% were not centered at the top of the pyramid. Rather, it was evenly spread out over all 'layers' from 'highest to lowest'. These people (by virtue of their skills and dedication to the project, something that is often lacking with the project management itself!) automatically assume a role of authorities whether management likes it or not. It's simply the only way to get things done. Let's face it, on any project there's going to be a lot of 9-5'ers that don't really care. They are never the ones driving the car, nor should they. It's the 5-10% who has both the ability to and the interest in getting the job done that counts. Those that dream about the project at night and who feel their personal honour is at stake in making it succeed. Also, as Fred Brooks noted in 'a mythical man month', some (sub)projects are like surgery. You need one highly skilled person to be in charge and carry out the job, and the rest of the team members are really just accessories of that person. Their contribution can be important of course, but at the end of the day, all choices, responsibility resides with the 'surgeon' etc.

I think the lesson to be learned from these observations is that management needs to accept that this is the structure that projects will generally fall into, no matter what they do. The job of management is to get the best result out of it. On projects with poor management that creates obstacles for progress and makes lots of bad choices (this often happens on politically infested projects as well as on projects where management doesn't have a clue about the technical aspects), often the project finds a way to completely bypass management. Decisions by management may be outright ignored, or important decisions are never brought up to this level but are just made behind the scenes. This is a very dangerous situation since important decisions may not be properly reviewed and may not even be known by all stake-holders. While most decisions taken may have been correct, it takes just one bad decision to jeopardize the project, and problems related to this kind of "skunkworks decisions" tend to surface very late where they may cause huge problems, sometimes disasters.

The job of management is to embrace the individual abilities, and to listen carefully (but of course not uncritically) to arguments brought forward, no matter if it is from a project manager or a "lowly" techie. They need to make a decent effort to try to understand what they are talking about, even if the explanations are not always clear and even if it can sometimes be highly technical.

Comment: Re:Ignore it (Score 1) 412

Depends on how what you mean by easily doable.
It's true that if you draw cards many times from a deck then it is not unlikely you will at some point draw two black aces in a raw. However, if you (and only you) carried out this experiment just once in your lifetime it would indeed be quite unlikely -- but of course, not impossible.
So then we're back to what probabilities really means to us humans. The odds of a hit of this asteroid may only be 1 in 625. Intuitively, that's a low risk but probably somewhat higher than what our "comfort zone" dictates. But does it really make sense to use probabilities? After all, it either hits or it doesn't. If it does, we have no way to recoup the loss since we will all be gone (I'm now assuming a worst case scenario). So it's not the same as gambling or making bets on the financial markets, since there you do have the possibility of recouping losses on future bets.
It's the same dilemma faced for people with serious illness where they may be given a prognosis, say 50%. What can they use it for? To them, all that matter is that they are going to be in the right 50%.

Comment: Re:Kudos (Score 2) 292

by paradigm82 (#39259211) Attached to: AMD Confirms CPU Bug Found By DragonFly BSD's Matt Dillon
I agree but remember that must engineers are working on company time. For most companies it wouldn't be rational to have an engineer working months to isolate/reproduce this CPU bug. After all, this work will particularly benefit this company over all the other companies and at any rate it would be much cheaper to just do the workaround (which might be necessary anyway). However, a good engineer probably couldn't resist looking into this in his free time (and maybe in company time with nobody looking!) at least to prove that he was right. Those engineers are usable so much more valuable than the average engineer, that even if they sometime spent their time on things that are not rational for the company to spend their time on, it is still worth it to have them on the payroll :)

Comment: Re:It is in fact virtually impossible (Score 1) 312

by paradigm82 (#37520134) Attached to: A Few Million Virtual Monkeys Randomly Recreate Shakespeare
Forgot to say, that I can not exclude the possibility that there might be some interesting things in the execution (interesting algorithms for looking up the 9-char bits etc.)? I haven't read the details so I'm not able to judge. In my critical post above I was discussing the approach in terms of the classic idea about the ability of a monkey to generate the work of Shakespeare.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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