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Comment: Re:Useless (Score 4, Insightful) 182

by physicsphairy (#46745223) Attached to: First Glow-In-the-Dark Road Debuts In Netherlands

Maybe it's not the best for inner city roads, but on long highway stretches it would be awfully nice to be able to see the road far ahead. Especially on road with hills and curves, headlights do a fairly bad job of lighting up that reflective paint (other than what's immediately ahead) because often your car is not oriented so as to illuminate it.

Comment: Punctuated upheaval (Score 1) 291

In my opinion this is a bit like sitting in your backyard with a telescope opining that there are no new planets left to discover in the solar system while people are out paving the way to actually visit them.

The work being done right now is monumental. Science is progressing faster than it ever has been. But great and fundamental insights are obviously going to be clustered around paradigm shifts. Newton gave us classical mechanics in the 17th century. It took another two hundred years before quantum mechanics displaced it. And then there was lots of room for different scientists to establish the ground rules and get their names in textbooks. But keep in mind that the discovery of quantum mechanics was not the result of people constantly hunting for a way to overthrow Newton. Scientists explored all Newton had to offer, eventually found places where he came up short, and trying to extend Newton is what eventually lead to the knowledge which justified quantum mechanics.

Nobel prizes are awarded for major effects on a field. When there's been a lot of branching off you try to look back to one of the initial branches and credit that with spawning the others. That's obviously going to favor older work as time goes on (keep in mind how nascent our recent understanding is). But that's a bit like crediting Adam and Eve. It's a pretty simplististic way of establishing a hierarchy of importance.

Comment: Re:And... (Score 1) 676

They aren't, really. The policy agenda of local representatives is much more flexible and much more tailored to the needs of those who voted for them. Do you honestly even care what your mayor's opinion on the Ukraine crisis is? Why would you want to be in the position of having to decide whether to vote to support your views on school vouchers or to vote to support your views on the war in Iraq? They are so disparately unrelated, even in the foundational knowledged needed to make good decisions in the respective areas, that it is just silly that you would have to choose between I-Support-Educating-Our-Underpriveleged-Youth-And-Want-To-Bomb-Brown-People or Keep-the-Troops-Home-and-Pay-Teachers-Minimum-Wage. Local reps pick up some of the party flavor, but they mostly inherit from their constituents. There are often local democrats who are more conservative than most republicans or local republicans who are more liberal than most democrats.

The further you remove the people who control your immediate laws/well-being, the harder it is to hold them accountable, and the more abstract their role becomes.

Comment: Academia is a different environment (Score 4, Interesting) 153

IMHO the issue is that academia is not really a hierarchy like in industry. At a big school the freshman labs will be plenty paranoid about safety because of legal liabilities, but once you're talking about professors' private research projects, it's more like a hobbyist working in their basement, and in that situation we're all inclined to become comfortable and take shortcuts. Part of it, also, is the assumption that anyone with a degree comes packaged with knowledge of proper lab technique. What you will find is that, especially when you are talking students and Ph.D.s from different countries, they were trained differently. We have a lot of Russians who seem particularly cavalier. (honestly, if Chernobyl had't already happened, I might be expecting it).

Comment: Re:Serial number (Score 2) 465

by physicsphairy (#46416557) Attached to: Apple Refuses To Unlock Bequeathed iPad

Clearly, Apple cannot afford to take the risk. Why, if they give in just this one time, they set the stage for this family to become kingpins of crime. All they would need is a steady flow of cadavers, forged legal documents, lawyers, and stolen iPads, any of which these sort of experience criminals could find fenced for a-dime-a-dozen.

Comment: "Unfair"? (Score 5, Insightful) 362

by physicsphairy (#46380375) Attached to: Google Funds San Francisco Bus Rides For Poor

'It's a last-minute PR move on their part, and they're trying to use youth unfairly to create a better brand image in the city,' said Erin McElroy of the SF Anti-Eviction Mapping Project."

This truly bothers me. This guy is like the members of MADD who are upset with ride programs because it means people won't get caught for DUI. Or those who are gleeful when civlians die in a way that proves their point.

When it comes to something like donating money to help poor kids, I don't care who is doing it or why. I care that the kids are being helped. It's obvious who views them as political pawns when one person feels it's "unfair" that they are receiving financial assistance because it doesn't play into his picture of the world. I'll bet Mr. Erin McElroy donates exactly $0 to help these kids out.

Comment: Re:Oh my god, what a stupid idea. (Score 1) 144

Sure, although it points a broader point about his willingness to engage in prolonged negotiations (for whatever reason) and willingness to drop the deal. It's kind of like trying to negotiate with North Korea -- the stated reasons they do anything are equally ridiculous, but you have to go along with it if you're actually looking to finalize those negotiations.

Comment: Re:Names are for communication (Score 2) 97

by physicsphairy (#46313623) Attached to: Naming All Lifeforms On Earth With Hash Functions

Names are indeed for communication, but 'name' here is mostly bad terminology, or at least The Fine Article leads me to believe these are meant more as serial numbers to supplement the existing system of nomenclature than anything else.

Which is actually somewhat useful. Any research project starts by looking at what other research has already been done. It's no good if your search terms don't bring up the relevant papers. I suppose this might be somewhat like the nomenclature system for chemistry, in which the IUPAC standard for naming molecules has replaced common names. Frequently used chemicals still are referred to by common names, but mostly even if a molecule you encounter has a common name you're not likely to know it off the top of your head. It's pretty hand to be able to figure out the standard name by its structure, so you can then search for it or look up its properties in the CRC.

Comment: Re:Not very plausible (Score 1) 745

by physicsphairy (#46263471) Attached to: Mathematician: Is Our Universe a Simulation?

Well, there remains the question of whether these limitations of our universe are limitations of the simulating universe. For example, if I am doing a molecular simulation I typically do it without considering quantum mechanics, which means any beings inside of the simulation (if it were big enough) would be unable to avail themselves of quantum computers.

Another trick I might use is to apply artificial driving forces to reach the desired configuration, e.g., in a Monte Carlo simulation I might artificially accelerate an approach to equilibrium by allowing non-physical moves under the condition that only moves which minimize the energy of the system are accepted.

What if "time" is an artificial driving factor towards the desired simulation end state? In the higher universe, any simulation completes instantaneously, but perhaps they have a simulation energy cost or something that makes them want to run the simulation efficiently anyway.

Comment: Upholds previous precedent (Score 2) 261

by physicsphairy (#46208689) Attached to: German Court Forbids Resale of Valve Games

This follows a previous ruling:

The matter was litigated all the way to Germany’s highest civil court, the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof; "BGH"), which dismissed the suit in 2010, finding that while the doctrine of exhaustion limited the rights holders’ powers with regards to an individual DVD, it did not require them to design their business in a way that facilitated the sale of used games and therefore did not make the Steam terms of service unenforceable.

-- Osborne Clarke

This second suit was prompted by a court case which found that the first sale doctrine ("doctrine of exhaustion") did apply to digital goods. However, it's not surprising this case was dismissed because it is not a question of what rights the consumer has over software they have purchased, it is a matter of what duties the software provider must guarantee to continue providing.

IMHO it is perfectly reasonable that if it is a matter of online support (cost of server maintenance, etc.) that the one-time fee charged to one person does not in turn mean that person can give their support contract to someone else. The one time fee is presumably calculated based on typical use for a single account holder.

But the single-player package should remain fully transferrable.

And as for companies making games require internet connnections they really don't need to abuse the ambiguity here, let's just say I'm not going to cry when they complain about piracy.

Comment: Actual Website Comparison (Score 0) 157

by physicsphairy (#46197573) Attached to: Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors

This is Alex Sink's actual website. This, as near as I can tell, is the "fake" website referenced. They do have similar color schemes, but apart from the domain name, all of the text and media on the website is calling for Alex Sink's defeat. It says: "DONATE: Help us stop Alex Sink from bankrupting us in Congress." If you click "DONATE" it takes you to a form which prominently says "Make a Contribution Today to Help Defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." At the bottom of every page there is a footer which reads "Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee."

If you're really intent on clicking through without reading anything, I suppose you might be confused. But at that point I'm not sure what can even be done to tip you off.

Comment: Re:Fruit of the poison tree (Score 3, Interesting) 266

I completely agree that if, e.g., doing an illegal wiretap and then reconstructing the evidence through a more legitimate train is subservision of the system and should be prosecuted.

But confidential informants, undercover work, legal wiretaps, etc. are all things which should be protected, and for which parallel evidence is a means of doing. In many cases, it is the civilians who are being shielded, not the police.

Comment: Re:education (Score 1) 306

by physicsphairy (#46102707) Attached to: US Forces Coursera To Ban Students From Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria

It's a great sentiment, but money is just the intermediary to the real political capital, which is speech. In our capitalist society, the latter can be bought to a degree -- radio, newspaper, and television adds, movies, books, endorsements, flyers, lobbyists, think tanks, push pollers, etc. -- which is how money becomes a problem. But these things still all exist if you say "candidates can only use government provided funds." So what do you do if, say, the cable networks all lean one particular way? Do they just get to de facto choose who gets to president? What if one person sees it as worthwhile to purchase all of them?

For that matter, what do you do about the funding of third party political commentary in general? It's just as easy to buy an ad or promote a movie or event saying "Candidate X is a great guy" as it is to hand him the money so they can do it themselves. IMHO it's less accountable because you don't see the purchaser on the published list of donors, and if the message is dirty or incorrect a third party probably doesn't care while a candidate saying such things can lose significant backing and reputation.

Maybe you say, "No one in America is allowed to publicly say or do anything construed as supporting a candidate without giving equal time to the other candidate." Okay, what about financing which supports issues said candidate is backing, never mentioning him but clearly propping up his campaign platform? Are we going to ban all advocacy of any kind?

The nature of speech is to be too broad and adaptable to be regulated without inadvertently regulating it in its desired forms, and the point of the 1st amendment is that the benefits of its free exercise are too valuable to set aside. I tend to agree with that, personally -- I think we gain more from unrestricted speech than we lose from malevolent entities trying to use it to their advantage.

Thankfully, while it's easy to speculate better ones, the present system is actually not all that bad. Yes, it confers *some* advantage to be able to spend 60 million when your opponent spends only 30 million. But the return diminishes rapidly. It's a huge difference being able to convey your message to a voter vs. not being able to. But compared to that it's only a little bit better to convey the same message twice, etc. In general, it's possible for candidates to get their say in even in demographics where the other candidate enjoys home turf advantage. And as much as we like to bemoan the "uninformed voter," the overall effect is to inform voters. The system is definitely inequitable, but not horribly so compared to other systems, and I think with little susceptibility to extensive influence by individual players.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.