Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 1) 156

by rgbatduke (#49779921) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

No, I got the bit about fiction. I just finished reading recent science fiction that utilizes very similar plot lines in several distinct stories, that's all. Even in the movie "Merlin", Mab's existence was contingent on belief. I think American Gods by Neil Gaiman is pretty much precisely that as well. To quote from its Wikipedia page:

The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them (a form of thoughtform).

So as I said, yes, you are quite right, it is (or can be, a premise for a good science fiction/fantasy novel. And has been, several times. And quite a number of bad ones as well. It's a very interesting philosophical/ontological problem -- does belief precede or follow existence?

Personally, as a physicist, I have to say that correct/best belief (as opposed to fantasy) follows existence, and ultimately is empirically founded on it. Religion is the other kind, the one where there is plenty of belief but no solid evidence for the existence of the objects of the belief.

To paraphrase Austin Power, I may believe in a gold plated potty but that doesn't mean that one exists, not even in an infinite Universe where it is possible that one exists.

Or, to toss in a reference to Russell, it is possible that there is a silver teapot floating around in an orbit around Saturn. I might, if I were un-sane enough, believe in such a teapot, and write out an entire mythology based on the teapot and how it got there and what its existence means for the Universe in general. But even if I convinced every human alive on Earth that I must be right, that as an authority on all matters concerning the Sacred Silver Teapot my word on this cannot be doubted, not even the deep and profound belief of every person in the world has the slightest chance of either creating the teapot from nothing but the belief itself or increasing the probability that the teapot exists from a number so close to zero that their kids go to the same school, noise from parties in zero's yard keep the probability up at night, they argue about who is going to trim the hedge and who is providing the beer...


Comment: Re:root knows all (Score 1) 156

by rgbatduke (#49779871) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

So you mean, God's omniscience is, well, sort of like not being omniscient at all. I mean I can look at the Universe and get all of the information I "need". Well, at least I can get all of the information I need if I'm omniscient enough to know what information I need before I look at it, or if I have moderate needs.

Next you'll be telling me It didn't really create the Universe, it just sort of nudged already existing stuff around, sort of like using a debugger to rewrite existing code. And that It doesn't really control the Universe, it just hacks it a bit so it does some of the stuff that it wants.

Then I'll be telling you:

a) sort of like, not being God at all, isn't it?

b) and besides, there is no evidence that any of these assertions are true, or consistent.

In the end, if God has nonzero information entropy, then It is not God. If it has zero entropy, it has no Choice (and is not God, not in any way that matters). The Universe has zero entropy already.

Assertions of God are almost invariably made without any appreciation for the mathematical challenges of complexity and information content on infinite domains. A shame, really.


Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 1) 156

by rgbatduke (#49779669) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

An interesting science fiction plot that has been used so many times it is hackneyed.

It is also a horrendous abuse of the concepts of quantum theory. The problem with the hypothesis of God is that there has been no reproducible, objective, measurement or observation of God. Quite the contrary. The Universe unfolds precisely as if there were no such thing as God, with truly awesome, mind-boggling consistency, follow rules known only approximately (so far) as the "Laws of Nature" which leave no room whatsoever for God, unless it is God's will that the Universe evolve in time as if there were no God.

This is a far cry from asserting that the Aharanov-Bohm effect implies God, even allowing for the imprecision of stating that particles can be "controlled" by observing them, and worshipping something has never, as far as I know, caused that something to come to be.

Finally, there is an information-theoretic argument that proves it quite impossible to create a God by any means such as you suggest. It is quite literally as impossible as reconstructing an encoded string a gazillion bytes long from a single tiny fragment of that encoded string. The information content of God has to be greater than or equal to the information content of the Universe (this is literally the God-property of omniscience). I am a (very) finite part of the Universe. I have enormous (information) entropy relative to the Universe quite aside of the possibility that I have in some sense a quantum indeterminacy in my state. God (if God exists) has zero entropy, quantum Universe or not. There is simply no way the former can generate the latter. Violating the second law of thermodynamics is an understatement.


Comment: Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 4, Informative) 156

by rgbatduke (#49779575) Attached to: Creationists Manipulating Search Results

The real problem is, in an infinite, probabilistic universe, even the smallest chance that God exists is a certainty. Of course, there is no shortage of conflicting, self defeating pseudo-science airheads that will believe anything else rather than making an attempt at living a Christian life with a little less ego.

I do not think that this "probability" means what you think it means.

I will try to tell you. No, it is too much, I will sum up.

Suppose you have an infinite barrel of marbles, 10% of which are green. Then the probability of drawing a green marble is (wait for it) 10%. This isn't a particularly small probability. If there is a single green marble, somewhere in the barrel, the probability of drawing it is asymptotically zero, statistically neglible, less than the chance of winning the lottery, and winning the lottery in one try is far from certain. If the probability that God exists is 1 x 10^{-403} in an infinite, probabilistic Universe, then the probability that God exists is (gasp) 1 x 10^{-403}. This is most definitely not certainty. Certainty isn't the "smallest chance", it is probability 1. It is the largest (possible) chance.

Even 1 x 10^{-403} isn't in the same ballpark as "the smallest chance", by the way. It is enormous compared to the probability that all of the air molecules in the room I'm in will suddenly (by pure chance) happen to bounce in just the right way to form a big blob of liquid air in the middle of the room and leave me gasping in a vacuum as air molecules outside of the house by strange chance miss all of the myriad pathways into the room. Which in turn is unbelievably, awesomely hugely enormous compared to the probability that the infinite, probabilistic Universe is in fact determined and known at the subatomic level by a perfectly organized, uncreated, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent superbeing that created it all by pure magic from nothing.

Oh, wait -- that's a contradiction, isn't it! If the Universe is infinite and probabilistic, then it can't be infinite and deterministic and hence known by an omniscient, omnipotent being, because there is nothing less probabilistic than something that is completely determined by an all powerful, all-knowing being. So your premises directly contradict your conclusion, in addition to demonstrating nothing more than the simple fact that you have absolutely no clue about probability distributions on continuous spaces.

Ego aside, you might want to contemplate learning something about probability and reason itself before you argue in favor of something empirically, logically, and statistically indefensible. God (as a concept) is all three.


Comment: Re:Mozilla barking up wrong market (Score 1) 85

Mozilla is trying to add features to HTML5 to the point that mobile devices don't need native applications and can do everything the user wants in HTML5. At that point, the differences between iOS, Windows Phone, Android, Blackberry, WebOS, and Firefox OS become irrelevant because you can do anything you care about with a good browser on your phone. That is the point of Firefox OS. Not to dominate the mobile device market, but to fundamentally change the way it works so that no corporate juggernaut can dominate it.

Comment: Re:Why do this in the first place? (Score 1) 85

Mozilla is trying to foster platform independence - the ultimate goal of Firefox OS is not to get Firefox OS onto every smartphone in the world, the ultimate goal is to make is so that the host operating system of every smartphone in the world is irrelevant because you can do everything you want on a smartphone with an HTML5 browser.

HTML5 supports offline storage. Once enough applications are built to use that feature in an intelligent way, world-class data plans don't matter as much.

Comment: Re:Why do this in the first place? (Score 1) 85

I'm less certain of this than I was a year ago. In mid 2014, I would confidently assert that Firefox matches Chrome everywhere, and Chrome's multiprocess advantage was irrelevant because Firefox was so stable it did not matter. But this spring, Firefox on Ubuntu has been awful for me. After it's been open for about a day, it starts to hang left and right, even with all add-ons disabled. I had to change my user preference to "When Firefox Starts: Show my windows and tabs from last time" and now I kill the browser manually when I can't stand the lag about twice a week. I've gone through all of the steps at and my machine has 12GB of RAM, and aside from the fact that applying any suggested fix involves a full restart of Firefox (which solves the problem for about two days) nothing seems to work.

Maybe the situation is better on Windows, OS X, and Android. I certainly hope it's better on Firefox OS, since of course low and even mid range mobile devices don't have the same memory available as traditional laptops and desktops. I leave Chrome on my work machine, which also runs Ubuntu, open for months at a time.

Comment: Re:Well there's the problem... (Score 1) 180

by ultranova (#49775209) Attached to: Court Orders UberPop Use To Be Banned In All of Italy

If licenses weren't numbered, the proliferation of taxis would render city streets unnavigable.

...Taxis carrying who? The same people who are now using their own cars? Why would that make things any worse? If anything, they should get better when more drivers are professionals.

That said, if the license system is abolished, then the government should reimburse the current license holders. After all, having had to pay for a license when newcomers don't puts them at an unfair competitive disadvantage due to opportunity costs.

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 1) 241

by ultranova (#49774847) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Spoken just like someone who doesn't actually have to deal with that situation...

Okay, time for the facts of life: I, who work for a living, pay taxes too. For all intents and purposes that's an investment of time and effort, rather than money. So what happens if I'm not satisfied with my level of return and choose to cease investing - that is, quit? Why, I don't get paid, of course.

Perhaps you've never had to deal with that situation. Good for you. But don't except those who do to have much sympathy for your plight.

Comment: Failure should be celebrated (Score 4, Interesting) 349

by Dixie_Flatline (#49774447) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

I think part of the problem is that nobody wants to publish a paper where the experiment failed--but they should.

Failures are useful; they're not wasted time. You've almost certainly learned something from a failed experiment. Maybe you learned that the setup wasn't rigorous enough, or maybe you just learned that a certain avenue of research wasn't viable for one reason or another. I get that journals are looking for breakthroughs, but it would be so useful to read a paper in your field and find out that someone already tried the thing you're attempting, and now you don't have to fail in exactly the same way.

But that requires a much more collaborative system, and one where the community is interested in finding answers, not glory.

Comment: Re:Surprised those edits weren't reverted (Score 4, Informative) 107

I think there's a sense of defeat amongst most Wikipedia editors right now, that if they revert the removal of sourced, no-BLP-problems, negative information from Wikipedia, they're going to end up in a fight that leaves them banned for "edit warring" or "incivility" by admins and arbs more keen on the appearance of dealing with conflict than on resolving real issues with off-site organizing of vandalism and harassment.

I wouldn't recommend anyone get involved in that hole for a while, and as such I reluctantly discourage anyone from reading Wikipedia for anything but the least controversial articles - unless they're also willing to put the work in and examine page histories, checking references, etc.

Comment: Re:Clear code: Cultural background (Score 1) 413

by DuckDodgers (#49774301) Attached to: The Reason For Java's Staying Power: It's Easy To Read
C mathematical operator syntax is probably more intuitive for a mathematician or even just someone that completed high school math classes. But the other syntax for pointers and dereferencing pointers, arrays, and curly braces for code blocks is probably still unintuitive, even if you have a mathematician. They would probably still go from "complete novice" to halfway between beginner and intermediate faster with Basic or Python than with C.

I can't speak for Fortran, I've only ever looked at a few snippets of it. As for Haskell - I think Haskell syntax is still puzzling. Yes, the function definitions are mathematical and the case matching mechanism for defining function paths is brilliant and elegant, but until you understand what it means, it looks bizarre.

Comment: Re:"Easy to read" is non-sense (Score 1) 413

by DuckDodgers (#49774253) Attached to: The Reason For Java's Staying Power: It's Easy To Read
The fact that Lisp syntax is so simple is a strength of the syntax, not an absence. Instead of spending days to grasp all of the syntactic quirks of a language, you can grasp the whole thing in just a few hours.

The parenthesis inherently give you grouping, so there are no operator precedence rules to grapple with. And often you don't need a fancy DSL for a syntactic map to your data structure, you can use Lisp data structures as-is.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson