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Comment: Re:How does one tell the difference? (Score 1) 103

It can be difficult to tell the difference between rocks that have been modified by people and rocks that have been shaped by natural processes. That being said, there are things to look for.

First is material. From the photographs in the linked article, it appears that the purported tool is made from some kind of fine-grained silicious material (high in silicon, rather than magnesium and iron, as evidenced by the color), whereas the surrounding rock appears to be basalt (mafic, therefor darker in color). If you work in an area, you get to know the geology of the region, and where rocks come from. Seeing rocks far from their sources often indicates human curation. That being said, it seems unlikely to me that anyone would bother to curate a general tool like the ones photographed, so that probably isn't going to be a huge factor in this case.

Second, after seeing hundreds or thousands of stone tools, you get good at identifying them. It is kind of like chicken sexing---it may be difficult to quantify *exactly* why something is a tool, but people get really good at it, none the less. Again, this isn't the whole story, but it gives you an idea about why one might pick up a rock in the field. People who have a lot of experience and training are more likely to recognize potential tools.

Third, there are morphological indications of human modification. Rocks that fall and break naturally tend to have random patterns of flaking, whereas intentionally modified rocks will show flaking that is concentrated in a particular place. This isn't foolproof (indeed, there were purported pre-Clovis tools found in California a few decades ago that, upon closer examination, turned out to be naturally formed), but, again, it is an indication.

Fourth, it is often possible to tell a tool from other contextual clues: is it near a hearth? a pile of animal bones? other easily identified tools? Again, given the age, this is unlikely to be useful in this context, but you asked a more general question, so this is part of a more general answer.

Finally, there are lab tests that can help. One can check for residue (i.e. blood or plant reside that might indicate use in preparing food), or microflaking that might indicate use, for example. These are things that you can't see in the field, and almost certainly can't see in a photograph that was taken in the field.

Comment: Re:Yeah good luck with that... (Score 1) 587

by the phantom (#49419965) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political
Yes, I read that too. I think that you are reading way too much into what is written there. It seems pretty clear to me that he is planning on casting his own ballot on the merits of the works nominated, but that he understands those that would vote against the sad puppy slate on the theory that intentionally disruptive behaviour should not be encouraged. Moreover, even if I granted your interpretation, that would be Scalzi pushing against a given slate, rather than pushing his own slate of nominees, which is what was claimed by ageoffri in the first post to which I replied.

Comment: Re:Yeah good luck with that... (Score 3, Informative) 587

by the phantom (#49414539) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political
Citation, please? I've noticed that Scalzi leaves a thread open on his website where people can push their own recommendations or slates, but I don't think that I have ever seen him endorse any particular slate of candidates. Again, my recollection may be flawed and my quick look at the Google may not have turned up whatever you have in mind, so I am more than willing to be shown that I am wrong---but for that to happen, I would need you to point out where Scalzi has posted such a slate (as I seem to be unable to find it myself).

Comment: Re:Your justice system is flawed, too. (Score 1) 1081

by the phantom (#49259281) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century
I'm not sure I understand what your point is. My point was that the person to whom I responded created a false dichotomy, with life without parole being an option not addressed. I did not claim that "death", "life without parole", and "parole after X years" were the only options (my intention was not to create a false trichotomy, but merely to point out that there were options not considered by the OP).

Comment: Re:Idiotic (Score 3, Insightful) 467

Since you refuse to clarify, and I, being relatively ignorant, must rely on the dictionary definitions, I don't understand the point you are trying to make:

sociopath: a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

misanthrope: a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.

From those definitions, it appears that it is possible to be a misanthrope and not be sociopathic, but that one of the defining characteristics of being a sociopath is some level of misanthropy (or, at least, misanthropic behaviour). Of course, rather than berating the original poster, perhaps you could attempt to bring clarity. On the other hand, perhaps you were trying to exemplify the misanthropy suggested in the original post, in which case I apologize for missing the joke.

Comment: Re:Atheists *are* believers ... (Score 1) 755

by the phantom (#48700955) Attached to: Science Cannot Prove the Existence of God
Agnosticism and theism are not incompatible. Agnosticism and atheism are not incompatible. Gnosticism is a statement of knowledge: I *know* that there is a god. Theism is a statement of belief: I *believe* that there is a god. One can be both atheist and agnostic: I *believe* that there is no god, but I do not *know* this for certain. That being said, it seems perfectly rational to be atheist, in light of the utter lack of evidence that an omnipotent, omniscient entity of any kind exists.

Comment: Re:Yes, that was a problem. Not unsolveable (Score 1) 250

by the phantom (#48693789) Attached to: How Amazon's Ebook Subscriptions Are Changing the Writing Industry

A trivial partial solution is to require reader ratings of at least X to get a share, or a rating of at least Y to get a higher share.

Or require that the subscriber actually read a certain portion of the book, which is Amazon's implementation. Since they control the Kindle market and can track what you do with your Kindle, I suspect that it will work pretty well. There are probably ways of abusing it, but they are not exactly trivial.

Comment: Re:Climate means men won't teach (Score 1) 355

And Russians stand uncomfortably close by American standards. If I were to stand as close to an American student as most Russians would, I would be considered weird and creepy. Americans also consider eye contact to be very important when, say, disciplining a child. Lots of Hispanic cultures prefer that children look down and away when being disciplined, which causes a lot of American teachers to assume that their Hispanic students are ignoring them or being defiant.

Moral of the story: different cultures accept different things. Americans often smile at each other, and a male teacher should not be considered suspicious because of this.

Comment: Re:Considering how few boys graduate at ALL (Score 2, Informative) 355

It is a fairly well known problem that men and minorities are underrepresented in the teaching profession, particularly in the lower grades. If you were paying any attention at all to the teaching community, you would know that teacher education programs are trying to recruit and retain more men. A quick Google search to get you started...

Comment: Re:I am no economist, but as a geek ... (Score 1) 205

by the phantom (#48557223) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

Also, I did not imply that you had claimed that hunter gatherers have it easy, although you may have been misled by my british turn of phrase. I would claim that 13-20hrs of work a week is having it easy, my question to you was whether or not that was true that hunter/gathers worked less than this? My assumption is that they would need more time than this to acquire food each week.

A typical person in a hunter/gatherer society spends (on average) less than four hours per day on subsistence activities (acquiring food, shelter, clothing, etc.).

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.

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