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Comment: Re:Rare Earth? (Score 1) 131

by radtea (#46807323) Attached to: Venus' Crust Heals Too Fast For Plate Tectonics

You added your own addendum, but it's worth repeating: the idea that plate tectonics is important to life is not new.

The detailed model as to how and why plate tectonics got going on Earth and that also explains why it didn't get going on Venus is both new and interesting, which is pretty much the definition of "news for nerds, stuff that matters", eh?

Comment: Re:Obamacare exists because... (Score 1) 285

by radtea (#46807221) Attached to: $42,000 Prosthetic Hand Outperformed By $50 3D Printed Hand

Repeat after me: "Data is not the plural of anecdote."

Your post, while I'm sure is sincere and heartfelt, actually takes away from the data-driven policy debate that the US needs on health-care. Anecdotes like your wife's informal observations are anti-scientific, although they can be used to motivate science, which is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment and Bayesian inference.

Anecdotes feed into nice, neat, narrative accounts of human behaviours that rarely stand up to scientific scrutiny. We have long-since rejected them as the basis for the physical sciences.

Aristotle's physics was based on exactly the kind of informal observation and narrative reasoning you are deploying here. If you reject the utility of Aristotelian physics, you need to explain why you do not reject your own reasoning in this case. It's a serious question, and there is no doubt the discipline of science is really, really hard.

Most people can't practice the discipline of science: their anecdotal, narrative cloaking of reality is too powerful and comfortable, and stripping it away makes them feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. But for those few of us who can, in the end it's worth it, because it allows us to create solutions to problems that actually work, rather than pursuing policies that have failed before and will fail again.

The data with regard to health care shows that single-payer, even when rather badly run (as it is in Canada) is much more economically efficient and socially effective than anything remotely resembling the US system, either before or after Obamacare.

Comment: Re:Parents fault (Score 5, Insightful) 355

by radtea (#46771207) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

Most parents today are horrible.

So, just like all parents have always been everywhere, except in the halcyon myths of ahistorical memory, then.

Stories like this are hilarious. Do people really think that "moral panic over new tech" is going to sell to anyone who's been paying attention, well, ever?

Bad parents will always parent badly. New tech has nothing to do with it. Removing new tech from bad parents won't make them better. It will make them parent badly in different ways.

Comment: Re:Solved? (Score 4, Insightful) 51

by radtea (#46770487) Attached to: Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space

Does not sound like they solved it. Headline should be "Astronomers Ponder Puzzle..." perhaps?

No, it should be, "Astronomers Increase Plausibility of Exotic Formation for Iapetus Mountain Range".

"Proof" is not something science does. Nor does it do "disproof", despite Karl Popper's well-marketed myth of method.

Science is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment and Bayesian inference, and the only thing Bayesian inference can ever do is increase or decrease the plausibility of some proposition or propositions. Plausibilities range between epsilon and omega = 1 - epsilon (0 and 1 are epistemic errors, the term for which is "faith").

So in this case they have done more than "pondering the puzzle": they have contributed to knowledge (which is by its nature uncertain) by increasing the plausibility of the proposition that these mountains "fell from space".

Comment: Re:FINALLY! (Score 1) 94

The thing I really want to know is if he translated it while retaining the poetic form, which would be fabulous. Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter was the dominant form of Northern European poetry for almost a thousand years, as near as we can tell. It died out in England in the centuries after the Norman invasion (the last significant poem in English using it was published in the first decade of the 1500's--Willian Dunbars "The Tretis of the Twa Mariit Wemen and the Wedo")

My own belief is that the more rounded, smooth and flowing sound of Middle English was increasingly inappropriate to the staccato, strong, plosive rhythms of this form, but I've experimented with it and it's not impossible to write, even in modern English. It would be wonderful if Tolkien was able to retain that aspect of the ancient ur-language of English.

Comment: Re:Philosophical question: (Score 1) 131

by radtea (#46234213) Attached to: China's Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Officially Declared Lost

Philosophical answer: who cares?

You've really posed a political question, which is what "philosophical questions" become when anyone cares about them.

"What abstract category shall we put this concrete reality in" only matters to people who think abstractions exist independently of knowing subjects, which is say, idiots.

Nothing "is" a "failure" or a "success". Things actively assigned to the categories failure and success by knowing subjects. The act of assignment is useful. It reduces the extreme cognitive burden we face when thinking about more than five or ten things. But when we turn around and treat those categories as more than cognitive conveniences, and therefore treat it as a matter of import which one we assign a concrete reality to, we are almost always engaged in some kind of political act.

There are cases--mostly in scientific research--where such questions matter. In almost all other cases they are about power, not cognition.

Comment: Gold Standard? (Score 4, Interesting) 124

by radtea (#46232819) Attached to: Why P-values Cannot Tell You If a Hypothesis Is Correct

That means "outmoded and archaic", right?

I realize I have a p-value in my .sig line and have for a decade, but p-values were a mediocre way to communicate the plausibility of a claim even in 2003. They are still used simply because the scientific community--and even moreso the research communities in some areas of the social sciences--are incredibly conservative and unwilling to update their standards of practice long after the rest of the world has passed them by.

Everyone who cares about epistemology has known for decades that p-values are a lousy way to communicate (im)plausibility. This is part and parcel of the Bayesian revolution. It's good that Nature is finally noticing, but it's not as if papers haven't been published in ApJ and similar journals since the '90's with curves showing the plausibility of hypotheses as positive statements.

A p-value is the probability of the data occurring given the null hypothesis is true, and which in the strictest sense says nothing about the hypothesis under test, only the null. This is why the value cited in my .sig line is relevant: people who are innocent are not guilty. This rare case where there is an interesting binary opposition between competing hypothesis is the only one where p-values are modestly useful.

In the general case there are multiple competing hypotheses, and Bayesian analysis is well-suited to updating their plausiblities given some new evidence (I'm personally in favour of biased priors as well.) The results of such an analysis is the plausibility of each hypothesis given everything we know, which is the most anyone can ever reasonably hope for in our quest to know the world.

[Note on language: I distinguish between "plausibility"--which is the degree of belief we have in something--and "probability"--which I'm comfortable taking on a more-or-less frequentist basis. Many Bayesians use "probability" for both of these related by distinct concepts, which I believe is a source of a great deal of confusion, particularly around the question of subjectivity. Plausibilities are subjective, probabilities are objective.]

Comment: Re:In otherwards (Score 1) 664

by radtea (#46145491) Attached to: Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash

When I saw the words "Perfect Boss" I imagined something totally opposite to the rest of the description (which describes the boss from hell...)

Specifically, the perfect boss is concerned with output measures while this evil little widget is entirely concerned with input measures.

Maybe that person who is wandering around talking to people is the glue that holds the team together, ensuring that everyone is in the loop and communicating with each other. Maybe that person who is quiet at meetings is listening and thinking carefully and realizes they have nothing to add to discussions while blowhards talk loudly. Or maybe they simply shouldn't be there, but have been put on the required list for political reason, or...

Anyone who thinks they are safe making critical inferences from input measures is both ignorant and arrogant to the point of dangerousness.

Comment: Re:In otherwards (Score 1) 664

by radtea (#46145463) Attached to: Virtual Boss Keeps Workers On a Short Leash

What this means in practice is that if your oppressor isn't called "government", you're on your own.

Corporations, unions and political parties all exist as legal entities solely due to the direct legislative interference by the Nanny State into the operations of free markets, so any intellectually consistent libertarian would be *precisely* as vigorous in their opposition to oppression by these legally-privileged forms of collective organization as they are in their opposition to oppression by the state directly.

That no libertarian anywhere is actually opposed to oppression by legally-privileged corporations tells you they are either a) ignorant or b) dishonest. I was an ignorant libertarian for many years, so I know whereof I speak.

To be absolutely clear on this: corporations are legally privileged by very specific legislative intervention into markets. These legal privileges are generally encoded in something called the "Companies Act" or the like, and derive from the original Companies Act reforms that occurred in Britain in the mid-1800's that gave birth to the modern corporation to which we owe so much in terms of wealth.

Adam Smith opposed corporations because he opposed Nanny State interference in free markets, but he didn't appreciate the huge benefits the corporate form of organization could yield. Unfortunately, like fire and governments, corporations are powerful servants and dangerous masters, and we have reached a point where the corporate wild-fire is well and truly out of control, in part thanks to "libertarians" who either don't understand markets or choose to falsely claim that corporations are not legally privileged forms of collective organization.

Comment: Re:Pseudoparticles (Score 3, Interesting) 156

by radtea (#46114377) Attached to: Amherst Researchers Create Magnetic Monopoles

They're like magnetic monopoles in almost all ways...

Correct. The ways they don't behave like magnetic monopoles are scale-dependent. At sufficiently large distances they are indistinguishable from point-like monopoles (monopole equivalents of electrons.) At short distances they aren't anything like monopoles.

The theory they are based on, curiously, predicts that they are free in the medium they exist in, which was something of a surprise. That is, in an infinite BEC, they would be free to move anywhere, making them much more like "true" monopoles than expected.

Whether or not you call these "real" monopoles is a matter of taste. The reality is that at sufficiently large distances no experiment you could perform would be able to distinguish them from a monopole particle, making them extremely practical mechanisms for investigating the physics of monopoles.

One interesting thing is that Dirac showed the existence of a single monopole anywhere in the universe could explain why the electron charge was quantized, because for a given monopole strength there is only one value of electron charge that can interact with it consistently (any other value requires the electron wavefunction to have multiple values at same point in space-time, which would imply a breakdown of quantum mechanics.) I don't know if these pseudo-monopoles are sufficient to impose that condition.

Comment: Re:Wow (Score 5, Informative) 31

by radtea (#46103231) Attached to: Asteroids Scarred By Solar System's Violent Youth

From context, I believe they mean "asteroids closer to the sun having surface temperatures *at the time of their formation* that are warmer than those located further away."

The volatile fraction in asteroid surfaces goes down as they get closer to the sun, indicating they out-gassed at the time they were formed. The "early warmth correlates with current orbits" indicates relatively little orbital resorting over time.

The new data on smaller bodies suggest this is not the case in general, only for the largest bodies. This is quite important to theories of asteroid formation, which in recent decades have been dominated by the assumption that the asteroid formed "in place".

Comment: Re:Space or Lack of Gravity? (Score 1) 267

by radtea (#46103181) Attached to: The Human Body May Not Be Cut Out For Space

That is a good idea in theory, but artificial gravity by rotation has a rather big problem involved: We're not 1 inch tall.

The data suggest a 100 m wheel would be adequate to deal with much of this issue, but I'm going to argue that even that is unrealistically large. I'm a sailor, and anyone who has spent a few days at sea knows that the ground has a tendency to move a bit when you get back on land, and that the first day on the water is often a bit nauseating even for those of us who aren't much affected by sea-sickness.

So I have to ask: how many days were the centrifuge experiments carried out over? And what cross-section of the population did they test? I know people who can't go below on a relatively calm day without turning green and losing their lunch, and I know people who have cast-iron stomachs. There are enough of the latter about that it is unlikely we'll need to build truly huge structures for long-term space flight.

Furthermore, the differential forces in a wheel that is 10 m in radius with, 1 g at the outer edge would have 0.8 g at the head of a 2 m tall human. It is not uncommon on a boat to be subject to more than 0.2 g accelerations, and sailors adapt to this. We move differently, and our vestibular systems get used to the disruptions.

So I'm expecting in a decade or two to see an article that says, "Humans adapt far better to centrifugal gravity than land-lubber scientists expected!"

Comment: Re:The undersides of rocks... (Score 1) 140

Can you think of a terrestrial example of a rock whose underside has a significantly different chemical composition than its topside? I can't.

You've never actually looked at a rock, have you? Or you live someplace really geologically boring?

Where I live we have sandstones with embedded basalts, basalts with quartz inclusions, and so on. It is extremely common for rocks to have multiple compositions, and this rock appears to be a fairly pedestrian example of that.

Comment: Re:Stupidity... (Score 1) 175

by radtea (#46094983) Attached to: An OS You'll Love? AI Experts Weigh In On <em>Her</em>

Of course it's not really real, but for a real world analogy look at escorts. It's all bullshit and because of the money but people like to pretend they're dating and pretend she wants to have sex. Same with prostitues, customers don't want to hear it's a rent-a-hole service and the meter is running they want sweet, sweet lies. If people can "forget" such little details they'll have no problems "forgetting" that this AI girl is nothing but a bunch of circuits. Particularly if it comes with a "fully functional" android body.

The incredible thing about this whole thread and the story itself is that no one seems aware of just how easy it is for people to do this.

Here's news: "Some users developed an emotional attachment to ELIZA and some psychiatrists went so far as to suggest that such programs could replace psychotherapists altogether." That was forty years ago.

Of course humans are going to form emotional attachments to machines that mimic the most rudimentary forms of human behaviour. We've been doing so for decades, and your example of escorts is dead-on: this kind of emotional gaming isn't even remotely new, and it doesn't even require very good fakery to bring it into play.

Comment: Re:Water=life (Score 4, Interesting) 66

by radtea (#46039633) Attached to: Water Plume Detected At Dwarf Planet Ceres

Water plumes or not, I suspect...

I suspect that suspicion is a code-word for ignorance.

Water is an incredibly weird substance. It's a near-universal solvent and has constituent molecules that are fantastically reactive. Both properties make it uniquely well-suited to supporting the chemistry that imperfectly-reproducing molecular machines depend on.

It's not too much to say that once you add water to the sorts of chemicals we know are relatively common throughout the universe, it's difficult not to get life, if you're willing to wait long enough.

As for energy: the last time I looked Ceres was not at absolute zero, nor was it chemically inert nor free from radioactivity. While it almost certainly doesn't have a molten core, if it has a composition similar to Earth's crust it's generating about a nano-joule per kilogram from radioactive decay (mostly 40K) which sounds small until you realize the total mass is almost 10^21 kg, so it's getting on for 10 TW in radioactive energy alone. It has a warm interior, with a thermal gradient near the surface that might well power molecular machines.

Also, Ceres orbits at just under 3 AU, so the solar flux on its surface is about 10% of what we get on Earth, which would make the integrated solar flux comparable to what is seen on Earth at about 55 degrees latitude in winter, well below the (ant)arctic circle. This region includes permafrost-free zones in Northern Canada.

Enough energy for life? Maybe, maybe not. But certainly a far stronger argument for the presence of life than anyone's "suspicions" against it, which only include information about the person in question and tell us exactly nothing about the world at large.

Posting "I suspect X (therefore, at least implicitly, you should believe X)" is exactly like saying, "I had toast for breakfast, therefore you should believe X". You have posted a fact about yourself (your suspicions, your feelings, what you had for breakfast) as if were in some way germane to a conclusion about a part of the world that is not you.

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe

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