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Comment: Re:It makes you uneasy? (Score 1) 1007

I think people should keep in mind that science doesn't try to prove thing - it tries to disprove things.

A theory is proposed, and it is scientific if and only if it makes testable, unique, quantifiable predictions. Those predictions are then tested and if they are shown to be 'not wrong' then we keep the theory.

At some point with most theories a prediction is found that does not pass the test, and then the theory is modified or replaced.

None of this implies that the theory is proved correct, only proved not wrong.

Religion doesn't do any of this - it does not make any testable predictions. So, there are valid reason to prohibit religion from the arena of science, but not really valid reasons to prohibit religion from the arena of truth.

(oblig. disclaimer - I am an atheist)

Comment: Re:"The data come from" (Score 1) 93

by tendrousbeastie (#48223269) Attached to: Decades-old Scientific Paper May Hold Clues To Dark Matter

It isn't, I'm afraid. A 'herd' or a 'flock' etc. are a grammatical class called collective nouns, which are indeed treated as singular. The word 'data' isn't (and here I am refer to the single word 'data', not some collection of many datums).

You can tell that they're not the same thing, try saying "A data indicates that..." - it doesn't feel at all right does it? The fact that it only work when prefixed by 'the' tells us that it is a true plural noun and not a singular.

However, language being something that is subject to perpetual change though, it is something that 50 years form now will probably be very different. Many (most?) people do feel more comfortable conjugating 'to be' in the singular for the word data ( "the data is" rather than "the data are" ) so it is clearly undergoing some change at the moment.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 839

by tendrousbeastie (#48161929) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

In the UK we have VAT (Value Added Tax), currently at 20%.

It is not applicable to food, clothing, utilities (electricity, gas, etc.) and a very few other things, but is applied every other consumer retail transaction (things you might buy with cash or credit card)

In principle this exempts the bare necessities, but includes everything else.

It does not apply to capital spending, investments, property, etc, but then these fall under other tax categories (stamp duties, capital gains, etc.)

Just trying to give some context to the discussion.

Comment: Re: What's wrong with Windows Server? (Score 1) 613

by tendrousbeastie (#47882915) Attached to: You Got Your Windows In My Linux

It is though in part an issue of reputation - nobody claims that IE6 + 7 and older were secure; even Microsoft accepts that they are insecure.

But OpenSSL gets/got an implicit guarantee of security from its OSS nature.

Everyone knew IE6 was awful at security. People just trusted that OpenSSL was OK because of the OSS argument.

"Many eyes make all bugs shallow" is true, but relies on there being many eyes looking our for all of the bugs (not just those in the most obvious of systems).

Comment: Re:Empirical Data Trumps Information Theory (Score 1) 211

by tendrousbeastie (#47874615) Attached to: Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life

Information does travel through space at a velocity faster than c - see the EPR paradox, which was subsequently questioned by Bell, and then experimentally tested by Alan Aspect (sorry I don't know the correct French spelling for his name).

Based on the evidence, quantum information does seem to travel faster than c.

Given the paradox of the wave-function collapse within the Copenhagen interpretation of QM (once a particle is measured it takes on a definite set of properties, which means that the wave-function must collapse everywhere simultaneously) it suggests that quantum information is transfered instantaneously.

Comment: I love this debate (Score 1) 427

by tendrousbeastie (#47864185) Attached to: UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

I agree with you entirely, rational debate about the facts and their support is entirely subsumed by the factional rivalry. But, there is a great and similar split in the followers of String Theory - those that assume it to be the only and obvious explanation of the world vs. those that don't even consider it science. The only difference is that because ST doesn't touch upon public policy there is a larger third community - those who don't care.

I think that fundamentally the difficulty with the AGM debate is that it is very hard (i.e. impossible) to separate the policy issues from the science issues.

Comment: Re:Time for GATT Article XX tariffs (Score 1) 427

by tendrousbeastie (#47864135) Attached to: UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Surely, when the UK has a population of around 65 million, and China has a population of around 1400 million it makes a difference. We are talking about influencing government policy. So, we spend a huge effort changing UK policy, and at most we can effect a reduction in an output of:

7.7t * 65m = 500.5 million t ... while at the same time China is outputing:

7t * 1400m = 9800 million t.

The entire UK output is 5% of China's. If the UK can reduce its output by 20% (hugely unlikely, as just holding steady seems impossible to do), while the Chinese increase theirs by just 1% then the two effects cancel out (to some rounding error that I can't be arsed to calculate).

Focusing on those countries who are both raising their output the most and also have the largest populations (hello too India) seems perfectly sensible.

The Universe is populated by stable things. -- Richard Dawkins