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Comment: Re:The Real Lie - faking statistics (Score 1) 382

by radtea (#49144137) Attached to: Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics

Dyson is a physicist and mathematician, so his opinion on this matters exactly the same as yours - not a jot

So will you take my word as a computational physicist that climate models--which are nothing but computational physics done by climate scientists rather than computational physicists--are far too uncertain to be robust guides to public policy?

Because that is my professional opinion, and it happens that my profession is the one that matters when judging computational physics, whether it's done by climate scientists, Freeman Dyson, or anyone else.

I've read climate modelling papers. I've looked at climate modelling codes and there documentation (mostly AR4, which is somewhat out of date now.) I was appalled by what I saw: it's all a good attempt to work things out, there's nothing wrong with it as science at all, but I'd rather use Wall Street financial models to guide public spending policy than climate models to guide climate policy. They have a much greater chance of being accurate.

This is not to say that climate models aren't useful inputs to the policy debate, but their accuracy if fantastically over-estimated by policymakers. GCMs have gotten Arctic warming badly wrong (the Arctic has warmed much faster than anyone anticipated) and missed the current--likely temporary--flattening of "global average temperature" increase. This is no surprise you a) look at the models and b) have the professional competency of a computational physicist to judge them. They just don't do the things that accurate models integrated over long timescales have to do, like conserve mass and energy natively.

Models before around 2005 were especially bad with energy conservation, fixing it up by redistributing energy across cells after each time step. Climate scientists were apparently OK with that, because they didn't know enough computational physics. Anyone who has spent a career building models that eventually get checked against reality knows that that is a virtual guarantee that the result will be unphysical nonsense. This is not a political statement: it is simply a fact.

So by all means dis Dyson for not being a climate scientist. But since GCMs are computational physics, you must take my word as a computational physicist over climate scientists, or admit you really don't care who is saying what so long as they say what you agree with.

Comment: Re:Technology can NOT eliminate work. (Score 4, Insightful) 389

by radtea (#49074097) Attached to: What To Do After Robots Take Your Job

This could be a cause for celebration, it's what mankind has always wanted, but here we are with people like you, who can't let go of the 40 hours work week, and you're pushing people into poverty because of it.

There are different ways of stating the problem.

1) "Technology is eliminating jobs! How will we cope with the unemployment?"

2) "Technology is increasing productivity! How will we distribute the gains?"

3) "Technology is reducing total workforce requirements! How will we reduce the work week?"

Each of these assumes a different fixed aspect of the economy. The first assumes that industrial capitalism will chug on, basically unchanged, while unemployment rises to unprecedented levels. History suggests this is unlikely.

The second assumes that productivity gains will continue without the incentive of paid work.

The third assumes that paid work will remain the only way of distributing productivity gains.

The rise of industrial capitalism saw enormous social upheaval. It is likely that the rise of total automation will produce something similar. We have no idea what that will be (I certainly don't) but it's important that we recognize that while not everything will change, everything could, and not confine our imaginary futures too narrowly. We're going to be wrong regardless (because our imaginations are terrible tools for knowing reality) but in this case we're more likely to fail by being too narrow in our view than too broad.

Comment: Re:Its politics/emotions not intelligence level .. (Score 1) 580

by radtea (#49043869) Attached to: Low Vaccination Rates At Silicon Valley Daycare Facilities

Science denial is probably more strongly correlated with politics/emotions not intelligence level.

One common thread in science denial is post-modernism. The American Right is dominated by post-modernists at the moment, and the Left has been for decades.

By "post-modernists" I mean people who believe that objectivity is not just impossible but actually pernicious, that truth is a social construct, and that "different ways of knowing" are equally legitimate and culturally dependent.

This is in contrast to the scientific mindset that understands that while there is no view from nowhere there is also no view of nowhere, and works hard to see that place that exists independently of the knowing subject as clearly as possible. Pro-science people are Bayesians, so they know certainty is impossible (knowledge is uncertain; faith is certain, and also an epistemic error) and that Bayes' rule provides the only consistent way of updating our beliefs in the face of new evidence, so it doesn't matter what your ancestors or you pastor tells you, there is only one way of knowing.

I'd bet a lot of these "highly educated" anti-vaxxers are victims of post-modernism in this sense. It should be relatively easy to find out how well they know their Derrida, Laccan, Leotard and Foucoult compared to their more vaccination-friendly neighbours.

Comment: Why not fantasize about finding a winning ticket? (Score 1) 480

by radtea (#49034557) Attached to: The Mathematical Case For Buying a Powerball Ticket

The odds aren't appreciably closer to zero, the enjoyment is the same or greater, there is no chance of disappointment, and the cost is zero.

If you invest the $104 a year you'd otherwise spend on lottery tickets then with interest at the end of 40 years (from age 20 to age 60) you will have accumulated about $9K, assuming 3.5% interest.

Comment: Re:Science... Yah! (Score 2) 958

by radtea (#48966795) Attached to: Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness

Because what is the alternative? Alchemy? Voodoo? Religion?

There are two things to say about this:

1) Diet and fitness are hard problems because humans evolved as opportunistic hunter-gatherer-scavengers, so we are moderately well adapted to almost any imaginable lifestyle. When the optimum is broad and shallow (which it necessarily is, especially for diet, unless you are an evolution denialist) it is easy to wander around in the noise.

This is made worse by snake-oil salespeople who are dedicated to the idea that the optimum is narrow and deep, and they can sell you its precise location. They take any minor wobble that scientists identify--which based on evolution is almost certainly noise--and declare it the One True Location of Perfect Health.

2) The alternative is stories. Science fails to get traction with the public because it lacks narrative, which is an idea I explore in a lot more depth here:

Comment: Re:Popcorn time! (Score 1, Troll) 376

by radtea (#48888465) Attached to: Behind the MOOC Harassment Charges That Stunned MIT

My friend was at least smart and professional enough to refuse all such advances, not all are so.

Your own answer makes clear what anyone who isn't a sociopath knows: people in positions of power and respect--which includes professors and college instructors--have a professional obligation to refuse all such advances.

There are a whole bunch of reasons for this, but a big one is that even if you can't imagine it[*] people in such positions have a ridiculous amount of influence over some individuals, a degree that amounts to coercion.

[*] though why anyone would think what they can or cannot imagine is interesting or relevant to any question of what is real is unclear... however I've seen some commenters here announce their imaginary ideas as if they were somehow important to the question.

Comment: Re:its nothing new really. (Score 1) 823

by radtea (#48878453) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

To make up for it, and make you feel like our technology is more advanced, we put plastic guards and bezels on top of the engine. It makes the engine look larger for someone who doesnt know what an engine looks like outside of a car or truck, and that sells.

To people who do know what an engine looks like, it looks like your engine is made out of mostly plastic. I've never been able to get used to this.

With regard to sounds, once upon a time engine noise used to be a diagnostic, and it kind of bugs me to see it over-ridden by artifice. But in reality, modern vehicles have so much onboard intelligence and are so much better made than cars of decades past that the lost diagnostic capability in the engine noise is almost irrelevant.

Comment: Re:WTF (Score 3, Interesting) 121

As it (or at least the interesting bit) lasted "the span of a millisecond", those other radio-telescope operators must have acted pretty quick.

It is likely that other processes will be longer-lived. For example, if there are optical emissions associated with the event they likely involve hot matter, which will in most reasonable scenarios take much longer then milliseconds to cool down. Gamma rays from nuclear processes will likewise have lifetimes that can be into the seconds (from intermediate beta decays.)

There is a lot of mystery here. Collapsing neutron stars is on possibility, but getting the details right is going to be interesting. The billion light-year distance seems to come from dispersion measurements, which require that the initial pulse be much narrower than the observed pulse. Interstellar (and intergalactic) plasma slows down different radio wavelengths by slightly different amounts, so it will tend to spread out. By looking at the spread as a function of frequency it is possible to get an estimate of distance, but it depends on a lot of assumptions being correct.

There is still a chance, albeit small, that these are closer than currently believed.

Finally, it is worth noting that the first few detections of these things were all from the same radio telescope, and the scientific community did what we always do when something weird is seen only in one place: put on a side-bet that it was equipment malfunction, because the odds are always good on that.

Comment: Re:Prepare for more (Score 5, Interesting) 257

by radtea (#48824857) Attached to: Belgian Raid Kills 2, Said To Avert "Major Terrorist Attacks"

They'll keep doing it till they're kept so busy at home that they don't have time for this foreign adventurism.

By "kept so busy at home" you mean "engaging in productive trade", right?

Because it certainly wouldn't make any sense to suggest that bombing them, for example, is "keeping them busy" in any materially useful sense, since we have overwhelming empirical data that bombing and any other form of military assault has the primary result of engendering resistance.

Furthermore, "at home" is Belgium for the people involved in this action, and "at home" was France for the blasphemophobes who murdered the blasphemers of Charlie Hebdo.

You are right that this is an asymmetric war, but you don't seem aware that that requires tactics very different from bombing or other military action in many cases. Limited military assaults can serve definite purposes, as the case of ISIS shows, but the real war won't be won on the battlefield any more than the war against the Soviets was won on the battlefield.

In fact, there not being a battlefield in any conventional sense was a requirement for winning against the Soviets. Even setting aside the problem of nuclear weapons, if we had met the Soviets on the battlefield we can say with near certainty that the population would have rallied 'round the commisars, and the Soviet Empire would have never fallen.

As such, our tactical response to Islamists should be primarily--but not exclusively--non-military. It should be economic, political, satirical, even poetical:

It took hundreds of years for Christians to let go of blasphemophobia. It may take as long for Muslims to let go of theirs. We should be in this for the long haul, and while we should be willing to kill and die now and then, if anyone suggests those should be the primary activities involved, they are simply expressing a profound ignorance of humans, and history, and warfare (both its costs and its effectiveness, which bellicose emotionalists often get wrong.)

Comment: Re:Pope Francis - fuck your mother (Score 1) 894

by radtea (#48822307) Attached to: Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression

By way of example... Francis said jokingly, throwing a pretend punch his way.

So is it an example, or a joke?

If it's an example, what is it an example of?

If it's a joke, then it's in spectacularly poor taste.

"Ha ha some blasphemophobes have just murdered some blasphemers, let's talk about how funny it is to beat up people who insult your deeply held beliefs."

Blasphemophobia kills, and it's time we started calling it out and saying it is never appropriate to meet blasphemy with violence of any kind:

To say otherwise is to be one of those people who claim, "Michael Brown was a bad kid so really, we shouldn't be too hard on the cop who shot him down on the street, because hey, the cop thought that black kid was like an unstoppable demon. Wouldn't you shoot an unarmed man under those circumstances?"

Likewise, "Hey, you'd punch someone out who insulted your mother, wouldn't you? So can't you understand just a little bit how someone could be so angry you insulted their religious beliefs that they'd plan and execute the murder of twelve people who had never done any physical harm to anyone?"

Same lame excuses. Same lame apologetics.

Comment: Re:So they are doing what? (Score 1) 509

by radtea (#48785523) Attached to: Anonymous Declares War Over Charlie Hebdo Attack

So in order to protect the rights of others to freely express opinions they are going to silence people expressing the opinion that certain opinions should not be expressed.

Nope. In order to enforce consistency on assholes they are forcing the assholes to live with the logical consequences of their own world view.

That is: if you believe property is theft, people should be free to steal from you. If you believe free speech is subject to ideological approval, ideologues should be able to take it away from you.

You should treat people according to the views they espouse. This--like tit-for-tat in the prisoner's dilemma--is the only stable solution to the problem of morality.

There is, admittedly, an issue of what the appropriate level of abstraction is, but in general the rules of a) going one level of abstraction above the one at which people posit their moral theories and b) tending toward the level of abstraction that gives the victims of any moral theory the greatest influence will solve that problem. So it really isn't such a big issue after all.

Consequential libertarianism (which is what I call this theory) is the only stable moral theory. It ultimately leads to a relatively generous, live-and-let live, non-violent morality, if carried through consistently.

Comment: Re:Bar fucking barians ... (Score 1) 490

by radtea (#48778201) Attached to: In Paris, Terrorists Kill 2 More, Take At Least 7 Hostages

The difference between Christian terrorists and Muslim terrorists is that the majority of Christians worldwide do not support imposing a system of Christian law on their society. Some do, certainly (these guys: http://www.allaboutworldview.o...) but nothing like the fraction of Muslims in most Muslim-majority nations:

In the US, proponents of Biblical Law are powerful ( but have relatively little influence in the face of American secularism. But if Christian terrorists in the US started killing gays, say, I would damned well expect proponents of Biblical Law to stand up and make clear that even though they are in favour of lawfully killing gays (as per Deuteronomy) that they are opposed to unlawfully killing gays.

In the same way, since a very large number of Muslims support Sharia law, and since Sharia law in at least some of its variants imposes a death penalty for blasphemy, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask supporters of Sharia law (that is, a sizable fraction of ordinary Muslims) to stand up and say, "By the way, even though we support laws that would put blasphemers to death, we don't support people who do it freelance like this, in part because they killed people who weren't blasphemers but just bystanders. If we just had Sharia law we could kill the blasphemers cleanly and with much less collateral damage, and we would totally support that, but not this messy ad hoc stuff."

Comment: Re:Bar fucking barians ... (Score 1) 490

by radtea (#48777947) Attached to: In Paris, Terrorists Kill 2 More, Take At Least 7 Hostages

Violence and murder in response to insults and slights against Islam is widely and strongly supported by Muslims.

This is uncontroversially true ( but worded as "support of Sharia law", which technically means that while they support violence they don't support "murder" because murder is unlawful killing, and under some variants of Sharia law it would be lawful to kill people for blasphemy (there are 17 people on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy right now.)

However, what you are saying is irrelevant to the point that many Muslim organizations do condemn these sorts of freelance, unlawful, killings of blasphemers. That they do this is not all that much comfort, unfortunately, because support for Sharia law is only incrementally less horrible, anti-Enlightenment and anti-democratic than support for murder.

Force needed to accelerate 2.2lbs of cookies = 1 Fig-newton to 1 meter per second