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Comment: Re:We've been doing it for a long time (Score 1, Troll) 312

We've been doing unintentional geoengineering for hundreds of years now, why would some intentional geoengineering be so bad?

Because it might allow us to continue with global trade, industrial capitalism and rising prosperity.

Show me any practical, proven technology whose wide-spread deployment would significantly reduce GHG emissions and I will show you a green activist group vehemently opposed to it.

Wind: http://www.energyenvironmental...

Solar: http://www.kcet.org/news/redef...

Hydro: http://www.theglobeandmail.com...

And of course Nuclear: http://www.nationaljournal.com...

Some people will claim that green activists aren't opposed to all these (and other) technologies per se but rather to these specific projects... and yet there is in fact opposition to every single specific project of sufficient scale or scope to make a difference, so that is clearly false. It is simply not plausible that every single project regardless of technology just happens to be so bad for the Earth it is worthy of vigorous opposition, unless you're against industrial capitalism, global trade and rising prosperity regardless, in which case you should just be honest and say so, and stop with all the irrelevant distractions about the climate.

Green activists are like anti-contraception activists: they believe their target activity (industrial capitalism/sex) is bad in and of itself, and cannot ever be made good, but they disingenuously and dishonestly claim that they are opposed to it because of its potential negative consequences... and then do everything they can to prevent anyone from ameliorating those consequences.

GA: "Global warming is bad! We must shut down industrial capitalism!"

Technologist: "Hey, I can fix things so industrial capitalism wouldn't cause global warming."

GA: "We must not do that!:

Tech: "Why not?"

GA: "Because industrial capitalism is bad!"

Tech: "How come?"

GA: "Because it causes global warming!"

Tech: "But I just showed you how we can avoid that."

GA: "We can't! You're lying! It's a trap! Industrial capitalism can't be made good because it's bad!"

Tech: "Fuck you. I'm going to go ahead anyway."

GA: goes away muttering, waving copy of Malthus...

Comment: Re:Quantum Mechanics and Determinism (Score 2) 317

My original post was simply pointing out that the human brain is NOT and can never be a Turing machine

This is true but it has exactly nothing to do with quantum mechanics or randomness. To see this, understand that we can't tell if QM is "truly" (metaphysically) random or just mocking it up really cleverly. Or rather, we can tell, but using inferences so indirect that they make no difference to the operation of the human brain, which is an extremely strongly coupled environment that is completely unlike the areas where "true" quantum randomness exhibits itself. No process in the brain depends in any way on metaphysical randomness: we could write a Monte Carlo simulation of the brain using entirely pseudo-random number generators and it would be accurate.

Brains and robots and computers have a number of properties that Turing Machines do not, however. In particular, I/O and realtime interrupts. Turing's model is strictly limited to what is on the tape. There is no way to hook up a sensor to a Turing machine and still have any of Turing's proofs still apply. The moment you allow even one bit to come in from the outside world, you no longer have a Turing machine.

So what Turing machines cannot do is not all that interesting to the design of robots. Turing's most important proof is that of universal computation: that any machine that can do at least what a Turing machine can do can compute anything that any Turing machine can compute. But this tells us nothing about what a machine that contains a Turing machine but is not itself a Turing machine can do. Robots (and humans) exhibit emergent properties from their interaction with the world, and that interaction is simply not part of Turing's model.

Comment: Stop words? (Score 1) 55

by radtea (#48410343) Attached to: Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World's Most Notable Authors

Glancing at the partial list of topics presented suggests this work won't be too hard to improve on:

Topic | Characteristic words
4 | categori of birth death stub date name persondata place metadata
20 | univers of the faculti colleg at and edu professor alumni
31 | painter paint of art artist the and in work museum
35 | he in his was and the to of categori at
77 | he the his in to was of and on at
97 | chines china hong kong zh taiwan zhang shanghai wang beij
100 | the book writer novel fiction of and stori isbn novelist
149 | of the and in historian univers languag histori studi translat
160 | she her in the and was to of as with
168 | the to that in and of ref was had by
Table 1: Examples of topics derived from text of Wikipedia articles

Comment: Re:Given how most spend their time in college... (Score 1) 226

by radtea (#48406557) Attached to: Coding Bootcamps Presented As "College Alternative"

I don't think I could honestly trust in the abilities of any programmer who hasn't had a serious discrete math class

On the other hand, I've known programmers who are great at graph theory but can't debug their way out of a paper bag.

And I've worked with a great programmer who had an excellent pure math background (ABD from PhD a program with heavy discrete math component) and someone comparably good with a high school diploma who was entirely self-taught. I wouldn't necessarily set them to solve the same class of problems, but their core skill-sets overlapped quite a lot, as did their attitude toward correctness, good design, etc.

Programming is still an area where a good autodidact can excel, and many academic courses are less than impressive. It's a subject we are still learning how to teach, and so far I've not seen anything to make me believe any particular academic background is either necessary or sufficient to inculcate the desired skills.

Comment: Re:This isn't about technological developments, (Score 2, Interesting) 200

by radtea (#48400207) Attached to: A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body

If we make a perfectly simulated animal brain and it works just like the real thing does that mean we've made an animal?

Does it taste good? If not, you haven't made a real animal.

There is nothing deep or even particularly interesting about these questions, and just how stupid their breathless idiocy is can be seen by asking, "Does the newly created entity lack almost every interesting property of the entity some philosophy-addled idiot thinks we should 'wonder' if it is absolutely identical to in every respect?" The answer is always, trivially, "No."

So only an extremely stupid person or a shill trying to market something (fake wisdom?) would ask such an idiotic question.

There are more reasonable questions that people who are neither idiots nor philosophers (but I repeat myself) are reasonably well-equipped to answer. Like this: lacking anything remotely resembling neurochemistry, is it appropriate for us to impute to this model any of the effects of neurochemistry that may or may not be lumped into the neuron behaviour? Since we're pretty sure neurochemistry is independent of network architecture, it would be incredibly stupid to identify the entirety of the robot's responses with the neuronal architecture, rather than the neurochemical environment they behave in?

For example, if you starve a worm its behaviour changes because its neurochemistry changes. Hormone levels, cortisol levels (or their worm equivalents) change, and that changes behaviour, in some cases quite dramatically. So what happens to the robot when you starve it? And if you can't starve it, why do you think it is in any way identical to a worm, rather than just an interesting simulation of part of it?

And of course, simply because we can imagine a more complete model of a worm doesn't mean we can build one that is sufficiently similar to a worm in all respects to make any of these questions interesting. It would have to eat and excrete and so on. It would have to have environmental sensitivities. And imagining those things aren't important is stupid: what we imagine is not relevant to what is real. There is no basis for saying a mechanical worm is a "real" worm (what would an "unreal" worm be?) It is a "real" mechanical worm. You still can't eat it, so it isn't a worm. Saying certain properties "don't count" is pure magical thinking, unworthy of scientists.

Comment: Re:Couldn't they have used an RTG? China syndrome (Score 1) 132

by radtea (#48380519) Attached to: Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images

proper Stirling engines or steam turbines are not popular in space for some reason.

Stirling engines are used in space, but only when there is a compelling reason to do so. The basic argument against them is two words: moving parts.

Mechanical wear is a huge problem, and thermal management is not a small one. Depending on the spacecraft a sustainable thermal regime may have to be maintained across very different environmental conditions (full sunlight, deep shadow) and very different operational phases. Just getting lubrication to work properly under such circumstances, over a decade in the case of Rosetta/Philae, is non-trivial.

Simpler is better in space, so batteries and solar panels are always going to win over RTGs, and RTGs with thermoelectric conversion are always going to win over RTGs with Stirling engines unless there is a compelling need for the greater output power density each step up in complexity gets you.

Steam turbines are just a non-starter. Water is a dreadful substance to deal with. Highly reactive, prone to freezing, capable of going wrong in ways we can barely imagine, but would certainly discover if anyone was foolish enough to put a steam turbine on a spacecraft. It might be made to work one day, and there are probably some really clever things we are missing, but the cost of each mission is so high that extreme conservatism rules the day, and rightly so.

Comment: Re:Nice try but ... (Score 1) 70

by radtea (#48374425) Attached to: Crowd-Sourced Experiment To Map All Human Skills

I'm not convinced that *all* human skills can be categorized in a tree structure. Shouldn't this be some sort of graph?

More likely multiple graphs, since "skills" are abstract categories, and abstract categories are made things that ever knowing subject creates for themselves, with only approximate overlap between them. So what I mean by "interpreted language" and what you mean by "interpreted language" are going to overlap substantially, but we will draw the edges of our attention differently. Some borderline cases you will call "interpreted" and I won't, and vice versa.

For example: are just-in-time compiled languages interpreted or not? There are perfectly legitimate ways of drawing the edges of our attention that include them and others--equally legitimate--that exclude them.

The problem with all such attempts as this is they naively and wrongly assume that the world, which is necessarily some particular way, must also be divided into uniquely determined, rather than usefully constrained, abstract categories by knowing subjects. This is simply not the case, and we have endless examples demonstrating it.

Classical and Newtonian mechanics, although mathematically equivalent, use different and incompatible abstract schemes (one says the principle of least action causes motion, the other Newton's laws.) And so on. 99% of the time we are dealing with interior cases where such distinctions don't matter, but then we hit some weird edge case (quantum mechanics in the case of classical vs Newtonian physics) where one of them suddenly looks completely different from the other, and naive people say, "OK then, the world is really this way" (where "this way" means, "is organized uniquely according to this abstract scheme"). But it isn't: abstractions are ways we describe the world to ourselves as knowing subjects. They are objective in the sense that they arise out of the causal relationships that knowing subjects have with the rest of reality, but to be an object requires a subject (and to be a subject requires an object: there is no view of no-where.) Different subjects will divide up the same objective reality in slightly different ways.

Comment: Re:bananas (Score 2) 113

by radtea (#48362677) Attached to: Fukushima Radiation Nears California Coast, Judged Harmless

So 2 tonnes of water has the same amount of radiation as 1 banana.

Yup, but innumerate idiots are only going to hear "radiation" and "Fukushima" and claim that the entire west coast is going to be dead. This is an actual claim an actual person made to me just a few weeks ago.

The same person claimed to be deeply concerned about climate change.

Only via complete and utter innumeracy is it possible to be deeply concerned about climate change (not an unreasonable position) and opposed to nuclear power, since nuclear power is the only proven-to-work, proven safe (in precisely the same sense that airliners, which crash sometimes, are "proven safe") alternative to base-load coal.

Comment: Re:Oh here we go again... (Score 4, Insightful) 212

by radtea (#48355851) Attached to: New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable

The latter still requires the unique programming skills.

But they are different skills, and more powerful tools necessarily imply that what used to be highly skilled jobs are now not so skilled.

Automation isn't making programers dumber, it's allowing dumber people to be programmers, or dumber programmers to do harder things. It's been this way forever. 99% of programers working today couldn't have toggled firmware into a 6502 and made it run. Fortunately, they don't have to.

I'm old enough to have known programmers who still were kind of suspicious of these new-fangled "compilers", and I've actually programmed on punch cards, and collected data on a machine that booted from paper tape (there were no working tape punches left, so the lifetime of the machine was dependent on taking really good care of the few remaining tapes...)

All of that has gone away, and the skills programmers needed in those days have gone with it. That's a good thing, although it kind of sucks for people who put in thousands of hours honing skills that are now irrelevant.

Comment: Re:Great! More hipster hate. (Score 5, Insightful) 176

by radtea (#48355581) Attached to: The Math Behind the Hipster Effect

Cool-hunting has been around forever and is done by all kinds of people, not just hipsters. Were hipsters in at the start with glam rock? Disco? New Country?

Yet all those things were "cool" (for a certain value of "cool") once upon a time.

So hipsters are at best a subset of cool-hunters, and not a very interesting set, because they differ from other cool-hunters in their stupidity, insularity and arrogance. Many cool-hunters want to find the cool and share it with others. Hipsters want to find the cool and keep it to themselves, to the point of denying that anything that has become popular is cool any more.

Furthermore, you don't understand futures trading, even a little bit. Futures trading is about hedging, not discovery. They literally have nothing to do with each other. Futures markets are not predictive, they simply represent the mean of trader's expectations. They are an essentially homogenizing force. So if you think hipsters are like futures traders you are saying they are trying to make everyone the same bland and boring type.

Another clue that hipsters have nothing interesting to say is their proclivity for using unconventional typography--such as eschewing capitalization--to draw attention away from the vacuity and falsehood of so much of what they say.

Hipsterism is the practice of misdirection. Hipsters are lame people who have learned that attention is the scarcest human resource, so they can hide behind a few attention-grabbing quirks. It saves them from having to do anything actually interesting, useful or productive.

It's kind of sad, really, but the hate they get is well-deserved, because they are socially useless people who are deliberating soaking up our precious, limited attention on completely pointless self-aggrandizement.

Comment: Re:Aren't those just called FLAPS? (Score 3, Interesting) 55

by radtea (#48353825) Attached to: NASA Tests Aircraft With Shape Shifting Wings

(Note that adjusting a wing by flexing it - slightly, over its full surface - has been around for a VERY long time. The Wright Brothers used it for yaw control, though they augmented (not replaced) it with a vertical rudder, starting with the glider that immediately preceded the "first powered flight" craft.)

All of which makes the article's breathless touting of this "innovation" pretty funny.

Two of the most basic moves in engineering are:

1) Take two functions that used to be separate and integrate them into a single component. This increases efficiency.

2) Take two functions that are performed by a single component and split them apart. This increases robustness.

Which move is a good idea at any time depends heavily on technology. Wing-warping (lift and control both done by the same component) was a poor fit for wood-and-fabric technology, so ailerons (lift and control done by separate components) was a good move. Metal frames and skins were not much different from wood and fabric in this regard, but now we are making aircraft mostly out of plastic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_787_Dreamliner) it may be time to reconsider the problem (which I guess has been done for some military aircraft already).

But it's not like this is a super-innovative work of genius. It's a pretty standard move that any good engineer is likely to consider when faced with a problem of efficiency (although exactly why integrated flaps are supposed to be such a huge improvement is not at all clear from TFA).

Comment: Re:When pet theories die... (Score 1) 137

by radtea (#48347267) Attached to: CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

Rather than just admit that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras" (ie, the simplest explanation is usually the right one)

What makes horses simple and zebras complex?

Answer: nothing.

The issue is not simplicity, but prior probability. All else being equal, horses are more likely in most locales than zebras. When you hear hoofbeats, the plausibility of "There is a horse nearby" and "There is a zebra nearby" go up by the same factor. Since horses were already more likely, horses are still more likely.

Ockham's razor works, in the very few cases it does, as a consequence of Bayes' rule, and invoking some ill-defined notion of "simplicity" rather than prior plausibility is misleading.
 

Comment: Re:Confirmation, not proof [Re:Problem with induc. (Score 1) 137

by radtea (#48347227) Attached to: CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

In general, this is correct: you can prove a scientific theory false, but never prove it true.

Science is the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment, and Bayesian inference.

Because science is at heart applied Bayesian reasoning it is not in the business of certainty of any kind: theories become more plausible or less plausible, and are never "true" or "false", which would imply that they are immune to any further evidence whatsoever. This state simply cannot be achieved within the Bayesian formalism.

The quest for certainty is science's equivalent of alchemy: alchemists weren't wrong because of their investigative techniques (which were often quite good) but because they were pursuing the wrong goal (transmutation of the elements). The proper goal of science is not certainty but knowledge, which is inherently uncertain. Philosophers don't understand this, and will no-doubt continue to promulgate the model of Poperian method for generations to come.

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