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Comment: The NASA paper bears no resemblance to the summary (Score 5, Informative) 148

by petaflop (#44302235) Attached to: Hurricane Sandy a 1-in-700-Year Event Says NASA Study

The NASA paper does not say that Sandy was not influenced by climate change. What they actually calculate is that Sandy-like hurricanes occur once in 700 years under pre-industrial conditions. Here is one of many relevant quotes:

The fact that our calculations show Sandy’s track to be so rare under long-term average climate conditions lends support to a climate-change influence. On the other hand, the most recent climate model simulations project reductions in blocking frequency in a warmer climate [Dunn-Sigouin and Son, 2012]. Global high-resolution models suggest that tropical cyclone frequency will decrease globally, while mean intensity will increase. There is growing consensus that the most intense events will increase in frequency, but there is high uncertainty, especially in individual basins [Knutson et al., 2010]. On the other hand, further sea level rise is almost certain, with a meter or more expected in the next century [Nicholls and Cazenave, 2010]. This will exacerbate TC-induced flooding even if the storms themselves do not change.

Someone should have RTFA.

Comment: Missing the point... (Score 1) 414

by petaflop (#33518762) Attached to: Scientists Cut Greenland Ice Loss Estimate By Half

OK, so people are trying to argue that this paper supports one view or another in a trivial manner. I don't think it's that simple.

I can't even being to interpret what this means without a lot more reading. I'm not even sure I know all the questions that need to be asked. But here's a couple which occur to me immediately...

1. This is a new method of measuring ice loss, and from what I can tell is rather hard to interpret given the interacting phenomena. There are long established methods which are far simpler - most obviously measuring the speed of ice flow. Does this new paper bring ice loss estimates into line with estimates from traditional methods, or does it contradict the estimates from traditional methods?

2. Even ignoring that question, ice loss contributes to sea level rise, which is also being observed. If less sea level rise can be attributed to ice loss, does that therefore mean that more must be attributed to thermal expansion, thus increasing estimates the rate at which the earth is absorbing and storing energy? (I think the answer to this one is that the ice-loss contribution is minimal and so the change is also minimal, but it needs checking.)

Comment: Further details... (Score 5, Informative) 248

by petaflop (#33509314) Attached to: European Parliament All But Rejects ACTA

The 369 signatories (377 now) are all MEPs (members of the European Parliament). 369 is significant because it is a majority of the eligible votes.

The linked page is just one of the relevant pages - you have to follow the links on the left to get at the rest. Here's a couple of interesting pages:
http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/Written_Declaration_12/2010_signatories_list
http://www.laquadrature.net/en/ACTA

Comment: Re:Batteries (Score 5, Informative) 253

by petaflop (#32797600) Attached to: New Material Can Store Vast Amounts of Energy
I suspect it is completely useless to batteries, unfortunately. To 'charge' the material you need a diamond anvil cell capable of generating a million atmospheres.

It's not clear to me if they've even got a way of releasing the energy (is the compressed form stable?). If they have, then you're going to have to generate electricity from the mechanical expansion of a solid. The most obvious way we achieve that currently is a coiled spring, which probably won't work in this case.

As the article says, this is basic science.

Comment: Re:External view (Score 1) 1238

by petaflop (#32238216) Attached to: Texas Schools Board Rewriting US History

"The science PROVES it - along with several other things" No, damnit, science does not prove anything. Furthermore, science cannot prove OR disprove a damn thing that happens in the bible. Scientific theories are basically educated guesses that are tested through experimentation and thus can only be disproved by an experiment in which the hypothesis does not hold. It doesn't matter how many experiments are consistent with the hypothesis, it is never PROVEN because there's the possibility that an experiment will disprove it in the future.

Uh, you realise that there have been philosophers of science since Popper, don't you? Kuhn and Feyerbrand for example. O'Hear has a good overview from Bacon to the current day.

Religion and science are two entirely separate things. ..... The two are diametrically opposed.

I think that one of the world's top evolutionary biologists, Steven Jay Gould, might disagree with you there.

"So, I need to put my brain in the trash bin to have a religion?" Yes, because believing in any religion requires believing in things with no evidence to support their existence, which is stupid.

Ah, think what Bacon, Kepler, Linnaeus, Faraday, Babbage, Maxwell, Kelvin, or Plank might have achieved had they not put their brains in the trash!

Comment: Other strategies... (Score 5, Interesting) 801

by petaflop (#31671710) Attached to: How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive
In the UK we have lots of 'speed warning' signs. When you approach them, if you are exceeding the speed limit, they light up and tell you (and anyone behind you) how fast you are going. And that's all. No penalties. They seem to make a significant difference in residuntial areas. I think they are often paid for by the local community rather than the state.

In Portugal I saw a cute system - if you pass a sensor driving faster than the speed limit, then a traffic signal 200yards/metres down the road turns red for 10 seconds, making you (and again anyone behind you) stop.

The psychology behind these systems is interesting - both rely on shaming you in front of other drivers. The Portugese system goes further and makes other drivers angry with you for speeding.

Comment: Re:Great, still doesn't fix the Houston problem. (Score 2, Interesting) 494

by petaflop (#30817426) Attached to: The Year of the E-Bicycle
York is good too. York actually has a higher proportion of resident cycle commuters than Cambridge, but Cambridge wins out during term time due to the student population. The fact that both are old citied and the narrow streets would gridlock immediately if everyone tried to drive, is also a factor. Once when cycling across York I beat an ambulance with it's sirens going (and I obey traffic lights, unlike some).

Comment: Re:wow (Score 1) 141

by petaflop (#30475566) Attached to: Did Chandrayaan Find Organic Matter On the Moon?
No, I don't. But I've read about it.

I understand that peer-review used to be the response of the scientific community to a piece of work over a period of years, sometimes decades.

However, since the rise of the scientific journal as the major means of scientific publication and the implementation of "peer review" as part of the publication process, it has come to mean (among most members of the public and also many members of the scientific community) the review of a paper by 2 or 3 scientists who may be qualified to comment on some portion of the work, but certainly don't have time to do their own experiments, re-analyze the data, do further work to test the results of the paper in new ways, or do new original work depending on the paper.

I think this is a major problem for the public perception of science, because it gives the public an unrealistic impression of how scientific results are validated. The fact that many scientists have also adopted this mistaken usage may also be harmful because it perpetuates the misleading usage.

Comment: The problem is misunderstoood... (Score 2, Insightful) 131

by petaflop (#30367022) Attached to: Data-Sifting For Timely Intelligence Still an Elusive Goal
...at least as presented in the article, which frequently assumes that the text of a communication carries its meaning. The article keeps hinting at the problems, but comes back to the position that you just to make more links with more text. That's simply not true, and shows a rather understanding of the nature of language.

The meaning of a piece if a communication involves not just the text, but the specific context (who is the source, who is the recipient), the social context, and the cultural context.

For an example of the first - a 8 year old who says "I'm going to shoot her" (especially if the context is a game of cops and robbers) should be understood differently to an adult to says the same thing. And the meaning also varies depending on whether the adult is a photographer or not, and whether 'her' refers to a model or an ex-wife. None of these things may be made explicit anywhere in a any intercepted communication.

As another example, a description of a gory murder by a wild animal carries a very different meaning if the text starts with the words "Once upon a time".

You can't separate text, meaning and culture and consciousness. Which is why the problem of interpreting natural language is so hard; harder than even the article author seems to acknowledge.

Comment: Re:Most important thing to do in London (Score 1) 1095

by petaflop (#30211970) Attached to: Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips?

None of them are really pay-as-you-go if you read the fine-print - they are more accurately called rolling monthly contracts. (ie. any credit you buy will expire within the month, you just aren't tied in to a 12/18 month contract.)

Not true. I've had 5 PAYG phones now, and I've never had a contract like you describe. I only use my phone for emergencies, so I top it up with £10 about once a year, and the credit never expires. My last phone (which died last month) was with O2, my new one is Tesco mobile. If you bought a rolling monthly contract labelled as a PAYG, then it was being mis-sold.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

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