Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Comment: Re:Hardly surprising.. (Score 1) 288

by timholman (#47479963) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

Barring a total miracle like Rossi's unicorn reactor it seems we've already passed the point of no return.

If there are any miracles to be had, I can assure you they won't be coming from a pseudoscientific scam artist like Rossi.

It's not like we don't have the technology to tackle AGW. We know how to build nuclear power plants right now, and we also know how to deal with the waste. All we lack is the political will to do it. We don't need "miracles" from snake-oil salesmen like Rossi.

Comment: Re:what a waste of money (Score 4, Funny) 190

by timholman (#47349375) Attached to: NASA Launching Satellite To Track Carbon

We must go even further than that. We must entirely eliminate all carbon and carbon-containing compounds from the earth's biosphere. Otherwise, oxidation of organic compounds will once again result in the release of CO2.

As a side effect, doing so will eliminate all danger of young children dying due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Think of the children!

Comment: Re:Well, in all fairness... (Score 1) 104

by timholman (#47332553) Attached to: Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

If you do some Googling for a Paul McArthur locator patent, you get two patents. That doesn't say he exist, but if he doesn't, somebody's gone to an awful lot of trouble to pretend he does, as one of these patents were filed 12 years ago (not Bluetooth at the time, obviously.)

Yes, that could be the same Paul McArthur. I also notice he is last on the list of inventors, which probably indicates he had the least contribution. But with a name like "Paul McArthur", who can be sure?

So maybe his name really is Paul McArthur ... or maybe not. But in any case, "Dr. Paul McArthur", the man with the B.S. in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design", the man who earned a Ph.D. and M.D. by the age of 28 while working full-time as an RF design engineer, yet has no presence on the web and don't bother to list the details that would allow anyone to verify his expertise ... that man is definitely a fake.

Comment: An obvious pseudoscientific scam (Score 4, Interesting) 104

by timholman (#47328347) Attached to: Funding for iFind Kickstarter Suspended

The iFind project stunk of a pseudoscientific scam from the outset. Ignoring WeTag's laughable claims of the iFind being able to harvest any usable amount of energy from a device that small (RF harvesting circuits either need big antennas or to have RF energy beamed right at them), consider the biography of the so-called "Dr. Paul McArthur":

Currently I am working out of Plano, TX. I have been involved in this industry since 1984. After I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Microprocessor Design, I continued my education and obtained my two graduate degrees while I was also working full time as a senior RF design engineer in MRI, at the ripe old age of 28. My Ph.D. also included bipolar IC design at that point, but was more system level, concentrating on RF interactions with the body from consumer product sources. My other degree was medical.

A bachelor of science degree in "Electronics and Microprocessor Design"? That's like earning a degree in "Computer Programming and Windows Apps". Pseudoscientists love to claim academic credentials, but always seem to screw up the details, because they want their credentials to sound as impressive as possible. And on the flip side, they'll never tell you where their degrees supposedly came from.

Then there's the matter of the Ph.D. and the M.D. degrees, both earned by the age of 28 while he was working full-time as an RF design engineer. Really? So did he start when he was 12 years old? And I guess he never slept? And of course you could ask the obvious questions, such as:

(1) "Dr. McArthur, what schools did you earn your graduate degrees at? And what years did you earn them?"
(2) "Dr. McArthur, can you point us to the references for the journal articles that you published as part of your Ph.D. degree?"

Not that you would ever get an answer, because "Dr. McArthur" is a fake. He was clever enough to pick a name that was less obvious than "John Smith", but still essentially impossible to track down using web searches.

If you look into "free energy" scams, you'll find people like "Dr. McArthur" everywhere. Some of them buy fake degrees from diploma mills, and others just make up their educational credentials wholesale. If you ever find yourself dealing with someone who touts his credentials but won't give you a straight answer where and when he got them, then you can be certain you're dealing with a fraud or a pseudoscientist.

Comment: Re:The real question in my mind (Score 2) 119

Seems odd to me though that they can't provide easily verified sample problem spaces where their device works better than a conventional PC as the problem gets 'bigger'.

This "failure to do the obvious thing", i.e. the designers not providing their own sample problem spaces to validate their own design, is one of the warning signs of pseudoscience.

It is equally troubling if they state "Hey, you didn't run the right test" as a post hoc excuse, while failing to specify just what the right test was beforehand. They are shifting the burden of proof to others - another warning sign of pseudoscience.

There are many, many historical cases of otherwise reputable scientists and engineers falling into a pseudoscientific mindset. It should not be ruled out here.

Comment: Re:Too bad about evolution (Score 2) 161

by timholman (#47197177) Attached to: Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

I really liked Mims's electronics books, but I can't respect him as a scientist when he misrepresents the theory of evolution and proposes (essentially) intelligent design instead.

Personally, I have no problem respecting Mims' contributions as a scientist. There isn't a single scientist or engineer on earth who doesn't have some blind spots in his philosophical and political worldview. No matter how smart or accomplished someone may be, I guarantee that if you talk to them long enough, he or she will reveal something about his or her personal beliefs that will leave you scratching your head and saying, "WTF?"

I may not agree with Mims' views on evolution, but keep in mind that no one reading this Slashdot article knew what those views were until they read his answers. Mims has never used his books as a platform to proselytize his religious viewpoints. Furthermore, those books have inspired many, many people to learn about electronics, and that is a net gain for the world.

In the long run, scientific facts will stand on their own. They will not go away, regardless of how many people refuse to believe in them. As long as Mr. Mims doesn't try to force his ideas on others, then I choose to appreciate him for the good he has done, and ignore the rest.

Comment: Re:Kind of a problem ... (Score 1) 626

by timholman (#47050139) Attached to: Driverless Cars Could Cripple Law Enforcement Budgets

This to me has always been the point at which driverless cars kind of fall apart, determining who is really in charge, and defining what that means.

The only thing that really falls apart is how we assign blame if an accident occurs. You are right, it is silly to pretend that people will be expected to take control of an autonomous car in a split second. They will sleep, read, play games, eat, whatever ... but they will not pay attention to the road. The car will be in charge, and with every passing year fewer people will even know how to drive, much less want to.

So ... who pays if a driverless car has an accident? Easy enough; every owner pays into an annual fund managed by the government that is used to pay for any injuries. In effect, the government indemnifies everyone, because the benefits of driverless cars (far fewer deaths and injuries overall) far outweigh the potential risk of death and injury to a few.

The model is already used by the U.S. government for vaccines. A very small percentage of children who get vaccinated have a very bad reaction to them. Their injuries are paid for by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. That way, vaccine manufacturers don't get sued out of business, and we don't have thousands of children dying each year from communicable childhood diseases.

I would assume a similar model will be adopted for driverless cars. Instead of having human drivers kill 35,000 people a year, we would have autonomous cars killing orders of magnitude fewer: a tremendous net gain for society as a whole.

Comment: Re:single biggest threat to STEM education (Score 3, Interesting) 264

by timholman (#46895667) Attached to: An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

Yes. THIS.

The single biggest thing that renders useless an otherwise-great STEM education is the lack of ability to write well.

Legion are the devs who string together many words, but forget to have a verb or period at the end. Innumerable are the IT wonks who can't scrape together a coherent and concise summary of 1000-page compliance reports. I swear, the collective plural noun for some of the security analysts at work is "a shimmer of tin foil hats" or "a fuckery of subjectivism" ...and they don't even understand the nature of the criticism.

Can I *PLEASE* have a critical thinker and good writer in the house???? Anyone??

You are absolutely correct. Most people with STEM backgrounds cannot write a coherent paragraph or make a coherent presentation. But guess what? The same is true with most humanities majors.

I used to serve on a faculty committee that evaluated essays for the entire university. As a group, we would read a short essay, grade it, and determine if the student needed to take remedial composition courses before graduation.

I never saw any significant correlation between a particular major and writing skill. The good, mediocre, and bad writers were pretty much spread across the entire student body.

The one correlation I've observed in my career is this: good writers universally tend to be good readers. They read for pleasure, and read a wide variety of books. Those also tend to be exactly the people who have good critical thinking skills, because they've had the voices of hundreds or thousands of different authors in their heads all their lives. That exposure to so many different viewpoints is absolutely critical.

If you want to make people better writers, then make them better readers. That is the hard part, and there is no simple solution.

Comment: I've heard this before (Score 5, Insightful) 264

by timholman (#46894067) Attached to: An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

I'm not quite sure where Dean Fitzgerald is coming from with this editorial. It's not as if every accredited ABET school doesn't already teach humanities as part of its engineering curriculum. In fact, the ABET 2000 accreditation process requires every engineering school to demonstrate that its undergraduate students are exposed to cultural, ethical, and economic concepts.

As someone who works at a university and teaches engineering courses, I've heard similar remarks from faculty members in the humanities throughout my career. To me this is just another example of the old "engineers aren't fully rounded human beings, because they haven't majored in the humanities" spiel.

"So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities - the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence - as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences."

I agree completely. But where are they going to get that understanding? From my experience, probably not in a humanities classroom.

In too many humanities courses, it's not about critical thinking, it's about figuring out the personal beliefs of the professor, because in many cases your grade depends on not offending those beliefs. I saw it when I was a student, and I still see it as a faculty member today. Too much of the grading in the humanities curriculum is entirely subjective, and in that sense I mean that it's the professor's opinion that counts the most ... and the students know it.

When I give an exam problem, the student's political and religious beliefs are completely irrelevant to their grades. The answer is either right or wrong, with partial credit assigned according to a standard rubric. My personal prejudices are meaningless. I wouldn't have it any other way, and neither would my colleagues.

A good engineering course teaches the essence of critical thinking: look at a problem, analyze it, write down a system of relevant equations, and solve it. What passes for critical thinking in many humanities courses is: "Repeat back my personal viewpoint verbatim, or else suffer the consequences with your grade."

So I think I'll take this latest editorial from Dean Fitzgerald with a very, very large shaker of salt. This strikes me as yet another in a very long series of not-so-subtle digs at STEM curriculums.

Comment: Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (Score 4, Insightful) 184

by timholman (#46737805) Attached to: The Case For a Safer Smartphone

we need are smarter drivers on the road who fucking know better.

Here's the problem: we've tried to make people into better drivers since the automobile was invented. It hasn't worked. You can't change human nature.

People still drive drunk, they still drive distracted. The main reason fatalities have dropped is only because cars are safer.

We don't need smarter drivers. We need smarter cars ... or specifically, self-driving cars. Take the human entirely out of the equation, and only then will you see a real difference.

We'll have self-driving cars on the road long before anyone invents a smartphone that "knows what's good for you". And when that happens, the problem of distracted driving will become completely moot.

Comment: Re:I expect... (Score 1) 126

by timholman (#46727901) Attached to: The Graffiti Drone

He's not going to complain when the police drones provide a counterpoint by dousing him with pepper spray, right?

Or let's put it another way: does KATSU object to the police having drones in the sky, providing 24/7 surveillance?

Because if he does, his high-tech vandalism is providing the government with the perfect rationalization for putting their drones in the sky: "See? The bad guys have drones, and they're using them to commit crimes. We need our own drones to stop them."

Add to that argument the fact that homeowners and business owners hate taggers, and idiots like KATSU are simply making things worse for everyone.

Comment: Re:Now it's the grid engineers' problem to solve.. (Score 1) 227

by timholman (#46684995) Attached to: Nanodot-Based Smartphone Battery Recharges In 30 Seconds

A Tesla S has an 85kWh battery. To charge that in 30 seconds requires 10,200,000 watts of power - approximately the full electrical service to a decent size skyscraper. That's 42,500 amps at 240V, the full maximum power available to over 212 modern homes and a totally impractical amount of current to handle with any reasonable electrical equipment. So while fast-charging batteries are great and a necessary step forward in technology, the universal adoption of electric cars will require not just upgrading our infrastructure, but a complete rethinking and redevelopment of the electrical grid using not-yet-imagined technologies.

Not to mention the fact that you are assuming perfectly lossless charging. If the charging process is 90% efficient (an optimistic number), then you need 11.3 MW to charge that car, with the battery pack dissipating 1.13 MW of waste heat during the process. That won't do much good for the interior of the car or its occupants.

Unless someone invents room temperature superconductors for electrical transmission lines, it will be impossible to replace our modern fleet with all-electric vehicles. Even if a refueling station could offer "swap out" batteries, it would still draw about 708 kW from the grid on a continuous basis trickle-charging the batteries, just to refuel 200 cars a day (and that's assuming lossless charging).

Electric cars are best suited for overnight charging from the grid, while the Tesla fast-charging stations are only practical because so few people use them. If everyone in the country bought a Tesla, the shortcomings of the electric power grid for electrical vehicles would quickly become evident.

Comment: Re:What we've learned from Bitcoin (Score 4, Interesting) 221

by timholman (#46468255) Attached to: The Future of Cryptocurrencies

There are scaling problems. Currently, every user has to have a complete copy of the entire transaction journal back to the first Bitcoin, and has to keep up with all the transactions as they happen. The confirmation process has a 7 transaction per second limit. Confirmations take about half an hour before they can be trusted; longer during busy periods.

IMO, this will be the ultimate nail in the coffin for Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency that relies on a single blockchain. Bitcoin advocates wax eloquently about the beauty of the BTC transaction verification system, but it has always struck me as profoundly stupid. It's as if someone said, "Hey, let's create a giant Excel spreadsheet, and have everyone in the world record their financial transactions on that one spreadsheet. Plus, your transactions won't be confirmed until a majority of people verify your math. Brilliant!"

No, it's stupid. If I want to buy a hot dog in New York, why should that matter to a guy who wants to buy a newspaper in Los Angeles? Why does my financial transaction have to be intertwined with his while we both queue up on the same blockchain? It is absolutely one of the most profoundly inefficient ways of spending money that anyone could have possibly invented.

Or put it this way: the BTC network can handle about 604,800 transactions a day. Assuming the average person buys or sells something with BTC an average of 5 times a day, that means the network hits its limit with 120,960 users ... worldwide. And this is the financial system that is supposedly going to replace all fiat currencies? It's laughable.

Of course, Bitcoin supporters will claim that the network can always be scaled up in speed. But what they don't point out is how quickly bandwidth and disk space requirements will explode if this happens. For example, scaling the network up to 2000 transactions per second would result in a Bitcoin node downloading about 1 MB per second. No big deal, until you realize that means each node will need about 2.6 TB of bandwidth each month, and that's just to handle the needs of 10% of the population of the United States, assuming 5 transactions per person per day.

The numbers don't make sense, and never will. Modern economies are far too complex to operate in the serial fashion that a blockchain mandates. Bitcoin will never be more than a niche player in the world financial system.

Comment: Re:Muckraking and FUD, move along, nothing to see. (Score 1) 115

The blog author is... pretty much clueless. Nobody but him is confusing Bitcoins and Amazon Coins, or referring to the latter as crypto-currency. Nobody but him is confused about the difference between the two.

I think there is a less obvious motive behind this article. It's not that BTC promoters think that Amazon Coins are confusing consumers; rather, to them any competing digital currency is a danger to Bitcoin. The only thing that makes a BTC "valuable" is its scarcity. Since only 21 million BTC will ever be mined, that makes every BTC unique and irreplaceable.

But being unique and irreplaceable does not necessarily equate to being valuable. As in all things digital, Bitcoin's own popularity will be its undoing. There are already dozens of competing crypto-currencies out there, many of them little more than BTC clones. If you have BTC, then it is in your best interests to attack the competition in order to preserve the uniqueness of your "investment". Although no one will be confused by the difference between BTC and Amazon Coins, the very use of the word "Coin" dilutes the BTC brand, so to speak.

In fact, I think we may be seeing the opening salvos of a brand recognition war between competing crypto-currencies. If you have BTC to sell, you do not want a potential buyer to consider an alternative currency. Similarly, if you have Dogecoins, Peercoins, or Litecoins, but not Bitcoins, then it will benefit the value of your own stash if you can promote it as a superior alternative to BTC.

It will be an interesting battle that will ultimately wipe out the speculative value of BTC (and all other crypto-currencies), as consumers realize that many, many different currencies exist that behave just like BTC. Ultimately the value of a BTC (or any other crypto-currency) will drop to a level that is more representative of the network processing costs to verify a transaction, rather than any intrinsic value of the coin itself. And when that happens, BTC may actually go more mainstream, as it will no longer be subject to huge day-to-day shifts in value, or market manipulations by get-rich-quick schemers.

"People should have access to the data which you have about them. There should be a process for them to challenge any inaccuracies." -- Arthur Miller

Working...