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Comment: Say what...? (Score 1) 896

by rgbatduke (#47902865) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Kirk? Spock? Metaphor?

Atheists do not believe in God, because there is no sound evidence for God and atheists do not believe in things without evidence. Scientists tend not to believe in things without evidence, God is a thing one could believe in, so absent evidence many scientists are atheists. But so are plenty of non-scientists. This point is simple, and is utterly disconnected from morality. Santa Claus might illustrate some sort of imperfect morality as metaphor (not that I think that this is the case) but that that doesn't mean Santa exists, or that the argument for Santa depends in some way on whether or not the Tooth Fairy is needed to fill in moral gaps in pure Santaism.

Many atheists, like many theists, have an admirable personal moral system. Indeed, since they act in morally good way without any hope or expectation of postmortem supernatural reward or punishment, one could argue that a good atheist is a much better person than a good theist whose good acts are in any part motivated by hope of reward or to avoid punishment. Atheists tend to recognize that if heaven or hell exist, they exist right here, right now, on Earth and human action is the only thing that can increase the prevalence of the one and decrease the prevalence of the other. An observation that was reportedly made several thousand years ago by the non-supernatural empirical social philosopher atheist, Siddhartha, a.k.a. Buddha.

Atheists often try to live a life that minimizes both their suffering and the suffering of those around them, and to work for a better world for all because that's the only safe and secure way to maximize a better world for themselves and those they care about. A rational morality is actually quite possible without an imaginary source of supposedly perfect magical justice in a world that is quite obviously lacking any such thing.


Comment: Re:One reason they are extinct (Score 1) 108

by rgbatduke (#47800029) Attached to: The Passenger Pigeon: A Century of Extinction

So you're saying that we should instead be trying to re-introduce something a bit more innocuous, like smallpox or giant locusts or Dire Wolves?

Makes sense to me. But I mostly like the idea (following) of re-introducing the Carolina Parakeet. Or Wooly Mammoths. I bet they'd love Alaska, and it would give certain people something new to hunt to distract them from the pursuit of dangerous activities, like running for president. Besides, why should Africa and Asia have all of the really dangerous large mammals? We have nothing larger than a coyote to worry about in Durham, and the only human-relevant animals at risk from them are small yappy dogs and the occasional fat baby. Now a Dire Wolf -- that would be really cool. Since there isn't a large enough food supply, they'd almost instantly start predating on humans and livestock. Take that India! Finally, our man-eaters can stand up to yours and America no longer needs to hang its head in shame!

Or, I dunno, do Dire Wolves eat Passenger Pigeons? Do Passenger Pigeons eat Kudzu? Do Snakeheads eat Lionfish? Can Lionfish adapt to freshwater and eat Zebra Mussels? I'm feeling a full resculpting of the US ecology here...


Comment: Re:Federal vs. local decision (Re:I like...) (Score 1) 643

by rgbatduke (#47768241) Attached to: U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

And probably non-constitutional, if any state had had the pills to take it to the Supreme Court. I seem to remember this bit about separation of powers, and tying it to special treatment of states in the disbursement of commonly raised tax money is openly, transparently, an attempt to circumvent that bit and hide the fact that it is basically passing a federal law that applies to a domain reserved to the states. And while I think the camera is a good idea as well, and only the tip of the iceberg of electronics needed to safeguard civil liberties (just think of doing precisely the same thing within the prison system) I don't at all like the idea of illegal arm-twisting a state compliance through the threat of differential access to federal funds. The states are not constitutionally bound to do what the federal government wants them to do on states rights issues in order to be eligible for federal funds returned to the states on an absolutely equal basis.

Of course, this is only one of many, many places where the federal government exceeds its mandate both in the collection of taxes and the return of those taxes to the states in a substantially inequitable way. We should either scrap this part of the constitution and eliminate states altogether or else do some pretty serious cleanup to try to put Our Government in some vague approximation of compliance with both the letter of and the clear intent of the founding fathers in the constitution.


Comment: ...because giving them a hardwired unique ID... (Score 1) 465

by rgbatduke (#47756983) Attached to: 33 Months In Prison For Recording a Movie In a Theater

...that enables the thief to be arrested and the phones returned to their actual owners the first time the miscreant tries to connect the phone to a service provider, that would be, I dunno, undemocratic. Un-amurrican. Besides, it would undercut the important corporate businesses that insure phones, make new phones, sell you upgraded phones, and they employ a lot of people. If we actually arranged it so that phone theft is impossible because stolen phones could always be traced the first time the non-owner tried to register to use them anywhere in the world, how would poor people and unemployed teenagers ever get smartphones?

No, it makes much more sense to completely rearrange it so that the phones can automatically be turned off when they are stolen (or whenever some official wants to violate your civil liberties without a warrant) and not even try to arrest the criminals. Our police are too busy busting pot smokers, underage beer drinkers, and giving out citations for expired boat trailer license plates -- y'know, keeping those streets safe -- to bother to run down actual theft, even when it is impossible to use the stolen device without connecting it to a network that can locate it to within a meter or so almost anywhere in the world at will.

This makes complete sense. Go California!


Comment: Re:Gotcha covered... (Score 2) 259

by rgbatduke (#47608697) Attached to: The Man Who Invented the 26th Dimension

Oh, and what about the graphic dimensions and hidden dimensions? Just because your working physical-space dimensionality fits in 640K -- at least, if you have a backing store with a few megadimensions to spare -- doesn't mean that you don't need someplace for God to hang out and run things, or dimensions needed for your inner spiritual eye to be able to visualize the projective results of the stuff in the 640K.

Now, for just 2^{640!} dollars, I'd be happy to sell you an expansion space with an extra 400K dimensions, to let you offload God into a meta-space of Its own and still have sufficient dimensional resolution to be able to achieve satori or visualize the cosmic whole in some sort of projection. And it comes with both serial and parallel dimensional portals, not to mention a built-in communication channel connecting your working dimensionality with God-space. It also permits you to expand your paltry 64K dimensional mother-Universe to a proper full-scale Universe with all 2^{1024} dimensions that the underlying physics can use -- with indirect dimensional addressing -- accessible.

For the first time, your matter assemblers and compilers will have the dimensions that they need to work. Inflation will be tremendously accelerated. You can cut the time required for a full-scale big bang reboot to end up with Intelligent Life from 14 billion years to a mere 20! Just think of what you can evolve after that!


Comment: Re:Derp (Score 2, Informative) 168

by rgbatduke (#47482593) Attached to: New Mayhem Malware Targets Linux and UNIX-Like Servers

Surely you must be joking. There have been Explorer bugs that went unpatched for six months. No operating system is immune and security flaws arising from bugs in code are an inevitable accompaniment to having code in the first place, especially complex code with lots of moving parts (some of them infrequently tested/visited), but Microsoft has historically been Macrosquishy when it comes to security and patches. LOTS of holes, and many of them (in the historical past) have taken a truly absurd amount of time to be patched, resulting in truly monumental penetration of trojans and viruses via superrating wounds like Outlook. I still get an average of one email message a day that makes it through my filters purporting to be from a correctly named friend or a relative and encouraging me to click on a misspelled link. You think those messages are arising from successful data-scraping via Linux malware or Apple malware or FreeBSD malware?

Perhaps, driven by the need to actually compete with Apple and Linux (including Android) instead of resting on their monopolistic laurels, they have cleaned up their act somewhat over the last few releases of Windows, but on average over the last 10 or 15 years, certainly since the widespread adoption of apt and yum to auto-maintain Linux, the mean lifetime of a security hole in a Linux based system all the way out to user desktops has been around 24 hours -- a few hours to patch it and push it to the master distro servers, mirror it, and pull it with the next update. Microsoft hasn't even been able to acknowledge that a bug exists on that kind of time frame, let alone find the problem in the code, fix it, test it, and push it.

If they are doing better now, good for them! However, look at the relative penetration of malware even today. Linux malware has a very hard time getting any sort of traction. Apple malware has a very hard time getting any sort of traction. Windows? It's all too easy to whine that it gets penetrated all the time because it is so popular and ubiquitous, except that nowadays it is neither.


Comment: Few alternatives? (Score 1) 89

by rgbatduke (#47465855) Attached to: Harvesting Energy From Humidity

While that may seem slow, people in remote areas may have few alternatives.

Other than:

Solar power, at roughly $1/watt (and then "free" for 10-20 years), price falling on a nearly Moore's Law trajectory.
Wind power -- expensive, unreliable but simple technology and humidity isn't reliable either.
The entire panoply of standard sources -- coal, oil, gasoline, nuclear, hydroelectric, alcohol, diesel, methane... which we can deliver a variety of ways including simply delivering a small generator and fuel.

I would truly be amazed if a new, patented technology of this sort was within an order of magnitude -- or even two -- of the cost of a solar source superior in nearly every way, and there are very few places where the humidity is high, temperatures are reasonable, and the sun does not produce enough light to make this work. This is truly an edge technology unless they make it astoundingly cheap.


Comment: Re:Ingredients for water? (Score 1) 190

by rgbatduke (#47229251) Attached to: New Evidence For Oceans of Water Deep In the Earth

The interesting question is, I suppose, whether or not this source of "water" is responsible for the oceans, or if they came about from e.g. cometary impacts post-crust formation (before the crust formed they don't really count as "cometary impacts", it was all just part of the formation process). This has a significant impact on the probability of finding water on extrasolar planets and hence on the CO_2/O_2/H_2O/N_2 life cycle establishing itself. There is of course evidence in the form of e.g. Europa and Titan that there is abundant water out there that COULD form seas on planetoid objects in our own solar system if the temperature/atmosphere composition range were right, but I'm not sure that we have a compelling, evidence supported picture of the details of the Earth's early evolution and how much of it was a comparatively rare accident, how much is commonplace in planetary formation. If we built a really, really big telescope at e.g. one of the Lagrange points -- maybe something with a 100 meter or even a kilometer primary mirror and similar scales for the optical paths -- we might be able to "see" extrasolar planets at a level of detail sufficient to resolve the chemistry and maybe more of smaller planets and planetary objects, not just the ones with orbits and mass parameters sufficient to make the current cut. And see a lot of other really cool stuff as well, of course -- such an eye in the sky could look across time to the big bang and immediate aftermath a lot more effectively than the Hubble.

Let's see, a primary mirror with a diameter of d = 1000 meters, \alpha = 1.22 \lambda/d, visible light is roughly 1 micron, so diffraction-limited resolution would be order of 10^9 radians. Nearish stars are order 10^16 meters, so we could barely resolve details 10^7 meters in size. Darn, that's just over the size of he Earth. We could actually photograph Jupiter-sized planets, but Earth-like planets would still just be a (fat) dot. Of course in the UV spectrum we could get one more order of magnitude out of ordinary optics so we could possibly see continent sized features and oceans in the UV (and resolve an Earth as more than just a dot). And people might find a way to cheat resolution a bit more than that -- build a coherent array of smaller telescopes, whatever. It would need damn good optics, as well.

One can dream, right? The Big Eye. Crowdfunding, anyone? If everybody on the planet contributed a dollar a year, we could build it inside a decade. Or maybe two. I might even live to see the first pictures come back. But probably not.


Comment: Re:"Simplest explanation" (Score 5, Informative) 105

by rgbatduke (#47180849) Attached to: Evidence of Protoplanet Found On Moon

Damn, I had to give up modding this to answer, but I can't leave this.

One cannot "capture" a body the size of the moon by any two body elastic (e.g. gravitational) interaction. Within irrelevant perturbations such as gravitational wave radiation (presuming such a thing to exist), energy is conserved, and if it starts out unbound to the Earth it will end up unbound to the Earth.

One can capture in a three (or more) body interaction, but in that case the missing energy has to go someplace, and we are talking about a LOT of energy in the case of an orbiting moon. Enough energy to basically melt the moon and the earth and then some. One would expect to see some sort of orbital remnants of such a many-body event, and all of the other bodies in the solar system are a bit too far away to be good candidates in terms of the forces needed, and show none of the orbital perturbation one would expect as a consequence.

That leaves inelastic events. Tidal interaction is inelastic over time, but to make it strong enough to mediate a "capture" it would damn near be a collision anyway, brushing up on Roche's Limit (look that up). Also, that too would leave the nascent moon in an orbit much closer than the initial radius of its apparent orbit. Also, it wouldn't explain the apparent deficit of heavier elements and an iron core in the moon (thought to have been literally blown out of the incoming body in the collision and either ejected altogether to carry away the missing energy and momentum needed to leave the remnant in orbit or absorbed into the Earth) and a bunch of other things.

So really, the collision hypothesis makes "enough" sense and is consistent with enough data that it is AFAIK the "accepted" explanation of the moon's origin, with the usual caveat that contrary evidence or a better argument in the future might change that as we cannot easily be certain about events 4.5 billion years ago.


Get hold of portable property. -- Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations"