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Comment: Re:WWJD? (Score 5, Informative) 926

Jesus, the guy who would always do what you would do.

Despite an oppressive Roman occupation, Jesus never had much to say about the Romans. He outmaneuvered questions designed to embroil him in the local politics. He refused efforts to crown him as king. He refused to defend himself when he stood accused before them.

If I may be so bold as to guess, I would say no, Jesus would not vocally oppose this bill. Nor would he endorse it. Jesus did not see government as a means to achieve his objectives. He taught in the synagogues. He clashed with religious leaders. He went to the oppressed and ministered to them directly. He would not be interested in your politics (or mine). But he would be strongly interested in affecting the compassion, selflessness, humility, and general godliness of the people involved.

Comment: Re:Welcome to the USA (Score 3, Insightful) 179

by physicsphairy (#49362273) Attached to: Commercial Flamethrower Successfully Crowdfunded

While you're linking to youtube, you might checkout the homemade flamethrowers. I can't claim to have made one but plenty of my friends have (including my school physics club). The mechanics of a flame thrower is just a squirt gun + a match. I can buy propane "flame throwers" as is at the local hardware store (used for burning weeds).

Why are people making all these flame throwers? Because something that shoots jets of flame is freaking cool. As far as I could discern on a quick google search, none of them have been used to commit murder.

What I personally find horrific is the idea that anyone would be so afraid of their fellow citizens that their first assumption on hearing they have access to a projectile shooter/flame maker/etc. is "OH GOODNESS HOW ARE THEY GOING TO USE THAT MURDER ME?" I realize unhinged people are out there, and will do bad things, but there are also bears in the woods which could find their way to my house and easily maul me to death. But the statistics are low enough that I don't worry about. I suppose my luck could run out some day, but trusting my fellow citizens not to murder me has worked so far, and I wouldn't care to live any other way. I like the idea of a society and a government that assumes I have good intentions until proven otherwise and I consider it worth some risk to have it even if I am not personally a person who is interested in owning a weapon.

Comment: Other technical options (Score 1) 378

by physicsphairy (#49355461) Attached to: Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

What about a limitation on the locking mechanism that causes the door to unlock during significant course corrections and descents at low altitude? (If you really want to cover contingencies there could also be a date-based override code for keeping the cabin locked which the pilots would have to radio for.) That leaves the pilots free to secure themselves in case of an internal upset during a normal flight, but the passengers would be able to mob the cabin in most of these scenarios. You could also add, e.g., buttons in the back of the plane which have to be pressed to unlock the cabin. Not terribly difficult to do if all the passengers see the point of getting in, but might make the logistics of a hijacking significantly more complicated (and impossible for a lone actor).

Comment: Re:Let them sell cake (Score 1) 878

Is me offering to give you something that I have in exchange for something that you have really an "artificial construct of society"? Certainly, we've come up with things like corporations which fit that description, but the mere act of making a living by running a shop is the most basic form of some person using their own resource and ingenuity to put food on their table (through consensual exchanges). I would be okay with saying, e.g., a corporation is a 'public entity' which must therefore, if it exists, serve the entirety of the public. But I find it difficult to believe a self-owned proprietorship should not be seen as an extension of the individual.

Comment: The solution to corrupt politics is to regulate us (Score 1) 1089

by physicsphairy (#49296425) Attached to: Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US

Note how this legislation continues to be directed at you and me. The solution to corrupt policians involves threatening *us* with fines and prison for not doing our proper bits. It's not as if our elected leaders can help it, they're practically victims! Just going on with the system they've been given by a degenerate populace. No point in cracking down on the way they behave. But eventually in spite of us they will obtain their utopian society, I suppose -- just have to keep restricting us until we get into our thick heads to behave the perfect way they have envisioned for us, and then everything will be swell.

To properly understand what Obama means by the undue influence of money, you have to unpack the political dialect a bit. Obama was ushered into his latest term on a >$1 billion campaign, and has turned his back on statements about lobbyists and public financing, so it's not that he abjures the influence of money in politics. But it is bad when money is wielded to effect by the other party. (The other party is in fact the only one capable of corruption, one's own party might have some rogue individuals who make regrettable decisions, but their political principles are, if anything, redemptive.) This statement comes on the tail of the 2014 election, in which Obama's party was routed, due largely to poor turnout. In general democrats fair better from greater voter turnout. So this would be a nice fix to that, and probably would decrease the influence of money in politics, at least in the sense that it would not longer be needed to mobilizing voters and could instead be spent in focus on telling them which way to vote.

Of course, any electoral change is going to benefit one party or the other, and they will decide their allegiance to it accordingly. But I think it's sound to say any idea that comes out of party leadership is not going to be about "reform" it is going to be about consolidating their own power. Changing election mechanics is not going to be the means of rebuffing them and kicking them out of power. It is going to be the thing to do once we've built up the spine to kick them out ourselves.

Comment: Re:Last straw? (Score 1) 533

Before we try to defeat them, maybe we should think about what will replace them. The reason we have ISIS is because we defeated Saddam Hussein without thinking much about what would come next. The rationale at the time was that whatever replaced him couldn't possibly be worse. Well, that was wrong.

Depends on your perspective. From a national security standpoint, if you really thought Saddam Hussein was going to be unleashing terrible modern weaponry, I would say job well-done. ISIS can probably keep that region from developing nuclear weapons any time in the next thousand years.

But from a humanitarian standpoint, what is worse than the prevalent rape, torture, murder, forced conversion, and the kind of oppression that outlaws any opposing thought? The oppressive leaders in the region such as Saddam Hussein have deserved credit for holding back the tide of lawless extremism, but what evil is it that ISIS could be credited with standing in the way of? Being as evil as possible is pretty much their objective. Saddam tried to conceal his atrocities. They literally publish theirs in their newsletters.

Comment: Color Illusion (Score 2) 420

by physicsphairy (#49153437) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

The XKCD plot just makes me see gold and white at different levels of brightness. But I did find this color illusion featuring yellow and blue. The dogs are actually the same color, which you see if you look at them individually through a small aperture
http://i.imgur.com/sh5NwCK.jpg

Make it pretty obvious that at some point your brain switches from wanting to see blue to wanting to see yellow based on the color context. It would appear some of us are slightly different in where transitions like that occur.

Comment: Re:I've got this (Score 1) 400

by physicsphairy (#49015773) Attached to: An Argument For Not Taking Down Horrific Videos

What does media exposure in America really do for them, though? Their base of power is over in the middle east. The only way they can possibly relish in our horrified reactions is if they open up access to American news media and the internet. That's the opposite of what they seem to want to do, however -- they are shutting down the internet and other outside sorces of information.

The way, I see it, these videos must be really for the benefit of their internal politics. They can't exactly brag that they've taken down an American aircraft carrier, but they can at least brag that they have done something horrific to an American hostage which paints them as having some kind of power.

An open media exchange would play to our advantage, not theirs. A world in which all the terrorists are posting their misdeeds on youtube and jeering us is a world where they are one or two clicks away from seeing how much more enjoyable our society is and hearing our counterpoints.

Comment: Re:Uh, don't post... (Score 1) 135

How do you to prevent your friends from posting the same information? Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind shouting from the rooftops that I am going to a party. I wouldn't even care if cops heard me. But if the cops are going to survey my friends' casual posts -- "Going to a party at Brent's!" -- and guarantee flashing lights out front once their algorithms pinpoint where it is, that a bit different. It's less like having a cop reading information you have put up on a flyer and more like the cops having wiretaps on all of your associates. Which would be fine, with a good reason and a court order. But I don't like the idea that by sharing our days in a normal way online we are all effectively spying on each other on law enforcement's behalf.

Comment: Re:Or you could try more Diplomacy? (Score 1) 517

by physicsphairy (#48996837) Attached to: The US Navy Wants More Railguns and Lasers, Less Gunpowder

I don't think you understand, they want to stop storing explosives on ships. The ships will be carrying the explosives whether they are to be used or not. Will better diplomacy change how chemistry works? Unless you think a few stunning diplomats could render maintaining a defensive force unnecessary. In which case, you may want to check up on whether there are any other big military and/or economic powers with extra-territorial ambitions right now.

Comment: Re:We Really Don't (Score 2) 153

by physicsphairy (#48903387) Attached to: How Do We Know the Timeline of the Universe?

Do we really need to establish a cult of science in which the gods are displeased if we don't use enough syllables in our word for "guess"? The words can be used interchangably. A "scientific hypothesis" does often catch more suggestion of testable, derived predictions, but it's also frequently used in a more general sense, just as "guess" can be used in a more noble sense.

I am all about respecting the scientists who invest a lot of work, but the fact they've done a lot of work doesn't make them more likely to be correct in a discussion of novel facts. There's no way to assign a probability to it and say "There is a 25% chance this explanation is correct because of this much work we put into it." In any case, the work is in testing and verifying the hypothesis, which is the science part, not in coming up with it (although work put into testing does of course put the researcher in a position to make further hypotheses).

Please don't paint these as the same thing, it's just doing the anti-science folk a service, and the rest of us a disservice.

Anti-science folk should be ignored. We don't need to scheme and manipulate to make sure our presentation of science leaves them on the poorest footing to rebut us, because, unless they are using science, their rebuttal is irrelevant. IMHO science teaches us to be humble about we have to say. Acknowledging the fact there may be flaws and we can and should be proved wrong is the whole difference between science and wild speculation. I don't think we should be provoked into saying otherwise just to try to entice the crackpots to our side.

Comment: Re:the problem with Twitter (Score 1) 114

by physicsphairy (#48897809) Attached to: Twitter Moves To Curb Instagram Links

One of the beauties about 140 characters is you have to think about what you want to say and how you say it. Editing for brevity often makes it punchier and better phrased. Many are the occasion when I have written a joke or insight for facebook, modified it for twitter, and then posted the twitter version in both cases because the twitter version was just better.

300 characters is not almost as quick to read it is quite clearly twice as long to read. For me, that would mean that instead of having time to follow 100 people on twitter I would only be able to follow 50. (Another of the other main features of twitter is allowing followers to interact with popular figures with their fans which I imagine also benefits greatly from a terser format.)

Personally, I think twitter has the potential to be one of the social media that survives in the long term. Yes it has obvious limitations but I get much more bang for my buck reading those condensed updates than I do using any other media platform. Sometimes when life gets busy I will quit other sites but twitter remains perfectly manageable and useful. It's great for news, politics, humor, and interacting with relatively large numbers of people. If you have an essay you need to share, you can link to it.

Some examples of how much you can pack into “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” -- Albert Camus

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." -- Søren Kierkegaard

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." -- William Shakespeare

Comment: Re:Yes. (Score 1) 227

by physicsphairy (#48809097) Attached to: Lawrence Krauss On Scientists As Celebrities: Good For Science?

In fact what we really do need is more scientists expressing their political opinions and backing them up with hard facts and of course working to dismantle the lies put out by professional politicians.

A very nice thought, but logic never survives a descent into "my side vs. your side." As soon as scientists enter into the political sphere their points are no longer judged as factual conclusions but as their adopted positions, as one may rightly question whether it was their political conclusion or their scientific conclusion which they arrived at first.

If we don't want science to devolve into "our scientists say this!" and "oh, yeah, our scientists say this!" we need to keep scientists as far away from politics as possible. And, doing so makes it that much easier for politicans to go against their base, "Sorry, guys, I feel you, but the experts say it's like this, so I guess that's what we're going with."

(Try re-imagining that scenario as, "Sorry, guys, but the Democrat/Republican scientist says it's like this" to a Republican/Democrat audience.)

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