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Comment: You not understand does not equal faith (Score 3, Informative) 105

by sjbe (#47409829) Attached to: Mapping a Monster Volcano

Sure, that's cool. Have you? Or are you taking it on faith?

Boy did you miss the point. The point is that I COULD. That is hugely different than simply taking what someone else said as the final word without questioning. What makes processes like science or open source software so powerful is not that I have to check everything myself to trust it. What makes them powerful is that I always have the opportunity to check for myself. If you cannot see the difference then there is not much I can help you with here.

BS. Most of religion centers on claims about the right way to live - perhaps to have a happy life, or a successful community, or so on.

Religions are based on nothing of the sort. Most religions are a philosophical interpretations of collection of fables detailing things that cannot be proven to reassure and generally to gain power over those who are insecure and afraid. All that nonsense about the "right way to live" is simply trying to put a digestible coating on a pile of unprovable nonsense. Telling people "god said to do it" is much easier to explain than actually making a rational argument about why killing other people is a bad idea.

Very testable claims.

Really? Prove to me that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Prove to me that there was a garden of Eden. Prove to me that Jesus or Mohammed actually said any of the things they are reputed to have said. Prove to me that there is a diety of any sort. The bible, the koran, etc upon which the major religions are based are based on nothing testable at all. They are stories told to prey upon vulnerable people's insecurities so that others may gain influence and power. Organized religion gives "answers" that cannot possibly be true or proven or known.

Only in quantum mechanics do I feel I'm still taking too much on faith, as the math there is just so much damn work to even understand the most basic results.

So because you are inadequate to the task of understanding quantum mechanics it becomes faith? Perhaps you feel the need to drag things you don't understand down to your level so you don't feel so bad about yourself. The observations are there to be made and whether you understand them or not is irrelevant to their existence. You not understanding doesn't make it faith. It simply means you don't know and there is no shame in admitting that.

Again, you have a very narrow view of religion. I suspect you've spent as little time studying religion as you have studying science

You know nothing of my background so you can keep your insults to yourself. I've plenty of background in both - enough that I find your assertion rather bemusing.

I have no patience for those who blindly follow religious dogma out of insecurity and then try to drag rational discourse down to the same level. If you want to believe in absurd things you have no basis for then by all means have at it. But don't expect me to follow along or condone your lunacy for even a moment.

Comment: Trust != Faith (Score 1) 105

by sjbe (#47409535) Attached to: Mapping a Monster Volcano

The fact that you COULD observe it, doesn't mean you actually will.

Which is irrelevant. Nobody has time to observe everything themselves. If it becomes important that I confirm it for myself then I will take the time and effort to do so.

Thus, until you actually observe it yourself, your knowledge of reality is still coming through faith.

Wrong. Trust is not the same thing as faith. I trust that which I have the ability to confirm even if only in theory. I trust the scientific process because I have copious evidence that (in general) it works AND I always have the option of confirming for myself if needed. There is no need for me to try to confirm every scientific observation myself. There is no need for BLIND faith either because I always have the option to confirm the observation should I feel the need.

I very much doubt that many could afford a telescope that could see Titan, and so their knowledge will never rise above a simple belief that the scientist knows better than he does and he is not deceptive.

No one needs to buy a telescope to see Titan because you can simply borrow one. Any local astronomy club almost assuredly has one you can use. And even if you did need to buy one, such a telescope is not very expensive. I have one sitting 30 feet from me as I type this which isn't terribly powerful or well maintained.

I might add that the criteria of 'duplication' in many of the most advanced areas of physics are close to impossible for all but a very select few.

As long as the results can be duplicated independently by more than one group then we are good. Some observations are more difficult than others but they remain observations rather than blind faith. Your argument is a strawman.

Comment: If you can observe it, it is not religion (Score 4, Insightful) 105

by sjbe (#47409221) Attached to: Mapping a Monster Volcano

But anything you just believe because the "smart people" say it's so? That's religious faith, plain and simple.

Wrong. There is one HUGE and critical difference. I can at any time I wish attempt to duplicate the experiment of the scientist. With religion there is no possibility of confirming the assertions of religious "wise men" because they are making claims that cannot be falsified. For example I haven't actually gotten out a telescope to confirm the existence of the moon Titan around Saturn even though plenty of scientists assure me it is there. However I can actually do so any time I wish. That is not religion, it is simply pragmatism. I don't have time to confirm everything for myself but I'm willing to lend more credence to observations I can replicate myself if I so choose.

Religion is taking something on blind faith that cannot be confirmed with observation. That is enormously different than trusting to a scientist who is describing his observations.

Comment: Rational investment analysis (Score 1) 225

by sjbe (#47376429) Attached to: Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

You misunderstand what a sunken cost is and why it matters. How much we have already spent has NO bearing on whether we should continue to spend more. That money is gone and it isn't coming back. It doesn't matter AT ALL that the project isn't finished. All financing decisions are made for projects that haven't completed yet. It's not different if it is research or if it is manufacturing a product or digging for ore. The payoff for all of these activities is uncertain. Research is more uncertain than many other activities but the basic process of deciding whether to continue to invest in research is identical.

Almost all (rational) financing decisions for any project are made on a forward looking probabilistic basis. We estimate the cost and benefits of the project and we guess at the probability of success given what we know. If the project is a failure or probable failure based on *currently known* information, then you do not continue to spend on it. If the prospects are such that there remains a reasonable chance of success in the future then you continue to invest. In either case what happened in the past is irrelevant to the decision to continue to invest more.

Think of it a bit like playing a hand of poker. You do not have perfect information about what will happen so you bet based on what you know and the probabilities of a positive outcome. Your decision to stay in a hand should in no way be influenced by what you have already bet. If the odds are against you then it makes sense to get out and cut your loses. If the odds are in your favor then it makes sense to stay in the hand. Either way the information that determines how you play the hand isn't dependent on what you've already bet.

I'm an accountant with a degree in finance. Doing this sort of analysis is part of what I do for a living.

Comment: So they ARE doing something illegal (Score 1) 115

by sjbe (#47376217) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

Were you trying to imply narcotics trade or something like that?

That is merely one of the possible options. There are countries where you cannot legally do certain activities that have nothing to do with narcotics trafficking. For instance in some countries it is illegal to exchange the local currency for dollars because the government is trying to control the money supply. I said they were doing something illegal and that can mean many things.

That's my backhanded way of saying you are wrong. In place such as Argentina, there can be a lot of risk in exchanging dollars under one of the "cambio" signs, and the fees can be quite stiff.

So they ARE doing something illegal and I was right.

Comment: Prove that it is a boondoggle (Score 1) 225

by sjbe (#47376111) Attached to: Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

I do hope that the congress critters redirect at least some of the funds towards US based non-tokamak alternatives which have struggled to get funding in light of the giant sucking sound that is ITER.

Which "alternatives" are worthy of greater funding? (credible alternatives mind you) I think fusion research is hugely important but its unclear to me what worthy research is being starved of funds by ITER. If an idea has real merit it typically doesn't have too much difficulty getting funded so I find it surprising that you think there is some worthwhile project that would obviously work if only it had more money. That's the sales pitch a scam usually makes.

Assume that the remaining members of ITER are successful before they are bled dry. Do you honestly think that any commercial venture will exclude customers in non-ITER countries?

Customers? No. But being a customer isn't where the biggest economic benefit lies. A successful project would have a lot of technology that would be controlled by those who contributed. Like any investment, the biggest rewards usually go the the folks who were involved at the earliest stages and stuck with it.

Better that the US pay a premium on each reactor built (assuming that someday ever happens) than to continue to pour money down a hole today.

I disagree. Iit is unclear if ITER is a money pit but let's assume for the moment that it is not. In those circumstances it is definitely NOT better that the US pay a premium for the technology. The premiums that would be paid would be enormous. On the other hand if ITER is simply a research project with the usual unclear future benefits, then it still makes sense to invest as long as the money is available to do so, which it is if we want it to be. The only cases where it clearly makes sense to get out is if it is obviously a dead end, if there is a clearly better alternative or if we simply cannot afford it. Neither of those are clearly true here. We might have other priorities for the money but the US certainly can afford it and it isn't at all clear if the research is a dead end. Might be but that case does not appear to be at all conclusive.

Besides, I'd rather pour money into a dead end fusion project and hope for some spinoff benefits than buy yet another aircraft carrier that we really don't need.

Comment: A Non Apology (Score 3, Insightful) 159

by sjbe (#47375513) Attached to: Facebook Fallout, Facts and Frenzy

"This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was," Sandberg said. "It was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you."

This is identical to saying "I don't know what we did that upset you but whatever it was I apologize". They don't get it. It basically means that they are going to continue treating their users as insects to be experimented upon and lack the moral compass to understand why what they did was wrong. The fact that they ran an experiment is fine in principle but HOW you do it matters. We insist that academic researchers run their psychology experiments by a review board and when necessary get informed consent. It's not a hard thing to do and we do it for very good reasons. Facebook has not presented any plausible reason we should hold them to a different standard.

I'm very glad I do not have a facebook account and at this point I doubt I ever will. This is simply not a company I care to be involved with any closer than I have to be.

Comment: Sunken cost fallacy (Score 1) 225

by sjbe (#47375435) Attached to: Senate Budgetmakers Move To End US Participation In ITER

Seems a little odd to have gone this far and then bow out.

Depends on what you believe the prospects of the project to be. If you think that ITER may result in some worthwhile advances at some point then you are right that it would be odd to bow out now. However if you are less sure then any money spent to this point is a sunk cost and further investment would just be throwing good money after bad. The fallacy most people tend to make is "well I've spent so much already I have to see it through" which is not rational. The money has already been spent so the only question worth asking is whether future expenditures will get the result you want for a price tag you can live with. How much has already been spent is irrelevant. The money is gone and cannot be recovered regardless of the future prospects of the project. Any future investment in the project needs to be done on a forward looking basis.

Personally I don't really know enough about ITER to really make an informed judgement about whether it is sensible research project or not. However I suspect more good will come out of it than from buying a few more bombers even if the project ultimately fails so I'd say get the money out of the defense department's budget. We spend too much on the military as it is.

Comment: Coal isn't going away unfortunately (Score 1) 133

by sjbe (#47375087) Attached to: Solar-Powered Electrochemical Cell Used To Produce Formic Acid From CO2

On the other hand, if you shut down the coal plant, and use the PV panels to generate the same amount of electricity, you've saved all 10 units.

Except we aren't going to shut down the coal plants any time soon and we do not presently have the ability to use PV panels to replace it. There is NO energy scenario for the next 40 years which does not involve substantial amounts of burning fossil fuels, including coal. Even if we reduce the amount of coal used and thus reduce CO2 emissions, why would we not reduce them further (even if only a little) by other means if those means are economically viable? Your point is valid theoretically but it's a bit of a strawman.

Comment: The point (Score 1) 133

by sjbe (#47374877) Attached to: Solar-Powered Electrochemical Cell Used To Produce Formic Acid From CO2

There's no point at removing a small amount of CO2 if you continue to add 10 times the amount somewhere else.

Sure there is. It keeps you from adding 11 times the CO2. Granted you could accomplish more by getting rid of whatever is adding the CO2 but that doesn't make this a futile endeavor. Furthermore if we eventually are going to need CO2 scrubbing technology to survive then we may as well get busy developing it now. This strikes me as the sort of technology we don't want to start thinking about after climate change gets out of hand.

Comment: Gambling with exchange rates (Score 1) 115

by sjbe (#47371223) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

Seriously, I love hearing that. Not everybody deserves to be a Bitcoin early adopter.

"Deserves"? How precious that you think yourself so clever. You go ahead and put your money on the bitcoin roulette wheel. I'm going to put mine in investments that actually do something productive and are a lot more predictable as well. Maybe you'll get lucky and exchange rates will move in your favor... but I doubt it. Your odds are better in Vegas frankly.

Comment: Illegal activities (Score 1) 115

by sjbe (#47371175) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

I know a couple folks who don't have the option of using US dollars thanks to their governments. They are doing a substantial amount of business in bitcoin instead.

In other words that is a backhanded way of saying they are doing something illegal. I've been all over the world including to places where they don't allow free exchange of the local currency into dollars (like China). It is NEVER a problem to do business in dollars. In fact in places where the local currency is a bit shaky (like Vietnam) they actually generally prefer to do business in dollars.

Comment: Weak != Bad (Score 4, Insightful) 115

by sjbe (#47369461) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction

Bitcoin frees people from trying to operate in a modern market economy with weak currencies.

No it does not. A currency that is "weak" is a relative valuation of exchange compared with other currencies. Weak does not (necessarily) equal bad. A "weak" currency benefits exporters and hurts importers. China has purposely been keeping their currency weak for some time now to facilitate their manufacturing exports. Whether bitcoin is "strong" or "weak" depends entirely on what you are comparing it with. (Never mind the fact that bitcoin is ridiculously volatile which doesn't help either) Furthermore unless you plan to actually hold bitcoins instead of using them as a fancy money order spending little time holding them, the relative strength of bitcoin as a currency is irrelevant.

With the help of Vaurum and this newly purchased bitcoin, we expect to be able to create new services that can provide liquidity and confidence to markets that have been hamstrung by weak currencies.

What a load of malarkey. Bitcoin is no where near stable enough nor widely accepted enough to serve this function.

Of course, no one is totally secure in holding their own country’s currency.

I'll take my chances with the US dollar thanks. I trust it FAR more than I do bitcoin.

Comment: Turn it off yourself (Score 1) 348

by sjbe (#47369245) Attached to: Bug In Fire TV Screensaver Tears Through 250 GB Data Cap

This isn't a monitor, it's a TV.

A distinction without much of a difference these days. I can pipe my TiVO or my laptop through either a TV or a monitor with basically the same results and using the same HDMI cable. The screen resolution is identical (1920x1080) either way.

And burn-in is an issue if you have a plasma TV

Not if you turn it off when you aren't watching it.

I find the problem happens when you're watching Netflix and the show ends and you are off doing something else

Either you are watching Netflix or you are off doing something else. You cannot be doing both. If you are doing something else, turn the TV off if it cannot do it without you. Not seeing anything in your argument I feel inclined to sympathize with. There is no excuse for any TV sold in the last 10+ years to not have reliable power saving equipment. There also is no real excuse for people being lazy about turning it off when they aren't using it.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire