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Comment Re:What Happened to Slashdot? (Score 1) 165

I've been reading slashdot for quite awhile (notice "cough cough" my 5 digit Id, and I was an AC for awhile before I signed up.)
The changes in slashdot are to some extent part of changes in the internet itself. More people are interacting now, and younger people, certain tropes or memes or whatever have gotten established, and in some cases become old hat and shrunk away.
Things change, period. I'm nostalgic for the hey day of Usenet, the late 80s. But if I went back and looked at old usenet posts in google groups I'd probably be underwhelmed, partly because the topics from then are dated (flame wars in over tubes vs solid state or digital vs analog), or otherwise thrashed over so often that everything got said thrice over. Part of it would be that I've changed too. If I went back and looked at an archive of early slashdot posts (is such a thing possible?) I'd probably get the same feeling of being underwhelmed that I do with usenet. (But slashdot hasn't degraded nearly as much as Usenet has. In fact, I'm not sure I'd say it's degraded much at all, just changed.)

Comment Function of Consciousness from Documentary (Score 2) 121

I recently watch a Documentary TV series on PBS called "The Brain WIth David Edelman" which I thought was excellent. There was a place where the series talked about consciousness. First, it pointed out how most of the activity in the brain is unconscious. When people are learning a skill, they are doing things consciously and badly, but later, it becomes an unconscious activity and is done more efficiently.

I was going to call this Edelman's definition of consciousness, but decided that it's really his description of the function. Still worth considering I think. According to the documentary, the function of consciousness is to deal with unexpected and novel events. Edelman compared it to the CEO of a big corporation, and there was a scene of him in a power suit on the top floor of some building. This executive doesn't know about all the goings on on the floors below, maintenance, processing sales orders, etc. The executive is there to handle the unusual matters. In the same way, consciousness doesn't usually involve itself much with breathing or walking. A person might not remember anything about going to the kitchen to get a drink of water unless something unusual happened on the way for example.

So, thinking about the function of consciousness might shed light on what it is exactly.

Comment Re:Protection from Cosmic Rays? (Score 2) 43

I visited that link. From what I read, the "no bigger than a large desk" solution is for solar wind, not cosmic rays, which are more energetic. In fact, reading farther down, there was a reply, 'let me rain on this parade' about the strength and power requirements of a field strong enough to deflect cosmic rays. It also gave a link to an article that seems similar to the one I remember reading except that it's gloomier as in 5 meters, not 3 feet of water. It also talks about the possibly negative effects of such a strong magnetic field.

Two things that I wonder about wrt a magnetic field. I'm not an electrical engineer or a physicist, but, do you need to constantly supply power to such a field? Permanent magnets maintain a field without using power. Also, could the astronauts protect themselves from the field by being in something like a faraday cage?

The article mentions that the 'poles' of the magnetic field would not be shielding from the field. How about the astronauts live in the poles and just protect that patch of space with a water shield? (Ooh, Ooh, where's the patent office?)

Comment Protection from Cosmic Rays? (Score 4, Interesting) 43

Years ago I read an article somewhere about protection from Cosmic Rays. It made an impression, and what's also made an impression is that I don't think I've ever come across anything else about it in the discussions about plans to send people to Mars. I gather though, that cumulative damage from Cosmic Rays are a serious enough issue that it would be criminally negligent of the powers to be if they didn't offer protection. So, what to do about Cosmic Rays? This is from memory about what the article said and may not be quite right but:
1. 3 feet of water offers as much protection from Cosmic Rays as the earth's atmosphere (maybe it was the atmosphere as it is in Denver, Colo.) So a ship going to Mars could be sheathed in a water jacket. That's a lot of mass, but, the bigger the ship, the less the total percentage of mass would be dedicated to the water jacket. Also, the water could be used for drinking, then purified and recycled. (Also, since the article came out, I've read about water being found on the Moon. Getting water from the Moon for the water jacket might be more practical as it has less of a gravity well to be hauled up from.)
2. Alternatively, a very strong magnetic field around the ship would deflect the cosmic rays. This would be less massive. Methinks it would have to be a very powerful field and I'm wondering a bit at the technology to do it.

Comment Assembler first (Score 3, Interesting) 214

I learned to program in college before computers were found in the home, starting with Fortran. And, I could do it, but it didn't really come together for me till I learned assembly language. In class, the teacher started with a very simple model of a computer that had only an accumulator and a small instruction set. We didn't learn about index registers until we had had to write self-modifying code to go through a list. We learned about indirection and pointers and so on.

And it wasn't hard! OK, I already had experience, but really, a kid could have learned it easily enough. One could probably turn it into a kind of game without much trouble. And, after that, you just know.

Comment Is this of interest to anyone besides gamers? (Score 2) 115

The main reason I've favored intel MBs recently is that they've opened sourced their graphics, which are good enough for me, so I don't have to worry about them. But then, I'm not a gamer. Are there folks out there who need the high end graphics stuff for something besides games?

Just for the record, I have ways of wasting my time that may not be any better than playing games so I'm not going to adopt a 'holier than thou' attitude towards gamers. And even I may benefit from the gamer world because gaming does push technology.

Comment Language and culture (Score 1) 87

Languages are affected by the cultures they are used in. I think this is mostly a matter of vocabulary. In Japanese for instance, you would use a different word for 'brother' if it was your own brother as opposed to someone else's brother. In fact there are different words for older and younger brother. That says something about Japanese culture. Do you incorporate things in your languages that specifically reflect the cultures involved?

Comment Thoughts on an ideal or optimal language? (Score 3, Interesting) 87

There can be intense debates about the merits and flaws of one computer language versus another. Some languages have tried to be able to do everything and they usually don't catch on. (PL1 might be the first example.)

Natural human languages are not, for the most part, designed, though grammarians may sometimes try to 'fix' them a bit. But they have flaws. The easiest things to point out are the ambiguities and redundancies. (Some redundancy might be a good thing, allowing a listener to guess at meaning when a speaker isn't heard perfectly.)

Do you deliberately put flaws in languages or, on the other hand, try to design 'ideal' languages that are somehow better than the naturally evolved ones?

Comment Forbidden Planet was my Star Wars (Score 1) 400

I was about the same age when I saw 'Forbidden Planet' in its 1st run as the OP was when he saw 'Star Wars' (That's what it was called when I saw it in its 1st run in theaters.)

I have to say, my overall opinion of FP hasn't changed much. I loved the philosophical implications then and I still do now. I didn't like the stupid mushy romance between the Captain and Altaira then and I still don't like it now. I liked the special effects then (though even as a kid I could see that clunky, barely able to walk Robbie wasn't a very practical design), and I still like them now. (One difference, now I can see the monster without getting nightmares.)

After seeing 'Star Wars', I left the theater thinking it was a lot of fun, but overall, probably not quite as good as Lucas's 'American Graffitti'. Hmm, I wonder, if I saw 'American Graffitti' again, would I think that had aged well or poorly.

Comment Re:Stephen Wolfram's Blog (Score 4, Insightful) 124

This is one of those times when I actually RTFMed.
I agree there was self-promotion, but Wolfram has the chops to really digest and understand the Victorian era style and necessarily rough first casting of novel ideas. Plugging through all that documentation couldn't have been easy, and it's not like the guy doesn't have other things to do, so he deserves some kudos in my opinion.
Wolfram may have been serving himself, but he also served Ada and Charles Babbage, and that makes it worth reading.

Comment Can entanglement get past the light cone? (Score 1) 383

One thing that came up several times in Massimo's interesting notes was the limitation of not looking outside the particle cone (or is it 'light cone'). I was wondering though, if someday technology might allow us to recognize that a particle was entangled with a particle on the other side of the light cone, and therefore, give a hint as to what was out there. Hmmm, is that analogous to trying to find out what's inside a black hole?

Comment Re:Feynman on cyclotrons (Score 1) 157

In Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman Richard Feynman talks about seeing the cyclotron at Princeton after having been at MIT, and the one at Cornell later. MIT had a big cyclotron and he expected Princeton's to be even bigger. He was surprised to find out it was in the basement of an old building, but when he saw it, he understood.

It was wonderful! Because they worked with it! They didn't have to sit in another room and push buttons! ...
(When I got to Cornell ...It was the word's smallest cyclotron but they got fantastic results. They had all kinds of special techniques and tricks.

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