Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Re:Because girls just can not hack it with boys. (Score 1) 588

Separate classes are okay. Separate schools are not.

Why? Nobody is going to attend this school except by choice - if a parent wants to put their child in a single-sex STEM school, why shouldn't they be able to?

Dumping the boys into a "language arts" school is not an acceptable alternative.

Again, why? Assuming the boys go there by choice, and that the school is legitimately trying to offer excellence in those areas, I see no problem in offering a specialized school, whether it is gender-specialized, subject-specialized, or both (in these examples). If you have a student who is highly interested in writing, literature, foreign languages, etc, I could imagine a very successful school with that focus.

Comment: Re:Because girls just can not hack it with boys. (Score 1) 588

I've seen the same in robotics clubs I've sponsored, but I think this sort of STEM school is actually a great way to try to remedy the issue. There are a number of studies that have shown girls do better at STEM in single-sex classrooms. Whether this is because they stop trying to impress boys, or feel more confident to speak up in class, or whatever it might be, it does seem to be a consistent observation, and something we could use to improve learning.

Having more choice is good, I think - nobody is being forced to go to this school, and if it works really well for some girls, what's the problem?

Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 1) 698

by werepants (#49480723) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

As far as I'm aware "non-profit" means nothing at all about charity. It means that the organization doesn't tuck money away in an account somewhere. The executives of a non-profit can and do make tons of money, use private jets, etc - as an example, the NFL of all things is a non-profit entity.

Comment: Re:Too early for criticism. (Score 1) 238

The simple numbers aren't too bad either - 1.7 million spread among 80 workers gives you about $20k a piece, so this is clearly cheaper than a job-creation initiative where you simply pay salaries directly. On top of that, this being NY, those are probably decently high salaries, so once you account for the extra taxes brought in, you probably aren't too far off from break-even. Especially after you give the program some more time to work.

Sounds like an attempt to smear a program that is actually working decently.

Comment: Re:I'm going to say it (Score 1) 676

by werepants (#49461163) Attached to: Hillary Clinton Declares 2016 Democratic Presidential Bid

Ok, I'll bite - I don't care for Hillary because she's done nothing particularly admirable that I know of. Compare Elizabeth Warren - I like her ideals, I like the bills she's proposed, I believe she means what she says.

Certainly some people dislike her solely on the basis of being female, but surely that is a tiny, tiny minority. These preemptive accusations of sexism really don't improve the discussion.

Comment: Re:Tabs vs Spaces (Score 1) 428

by werepants (#49449087) Attached to: Stack Overflow 2015 Developer Survey Reveals Coder Stats

I have never (ever!) had a bug based on a whitespace typo in Python. Compare to the times I've had the wrong number of braces or missed a semicolon in C++, which is probably something like 1 in 5 compiles. Even considering that I've spent 10x the time coding in Python, I've spent far less time dealing with syntax errors than I did in C.

It is ludicrous to claim that tabs are more onerous to keep track of than superflous punctuation. Especially considering that you should be indenting anyway to make your code human readable, so what you've really done going to whitespace-based syntax is made life much simpler, however you look at it.

Comment: Re: Oh, Okay (Score 1) 587

by werepants (#49425287) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political

If you wonder why there seems to be a big gap of 12-15 years where not a lot of new good SF authors came out in book form, except from Baen, it's because the literary elite decided SF should be about identity politics instead of about science and speculation. SP/RP are about taking the field back for real SF that the fans of SF like, not the kind where it's "important" because it shows a woman musing about how the evil corporations are ruining the environment but if only her homosexual boyfriend would wake up from his coma they could live happily ever after mutually respecting each other in hipster anguish. -Gasp-

This is total nonsense. If you look over the last several years of Hugo nominees, you'll see Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman... consider Charles Stross's 2010 award winner, Palimpsest - white male author, white male protagonist, so it certainly didn't win an award via SJW points. It is mind blowing on multiple levels, it conveys the enormity of space and time like nothing I've ever read, it paints a devastating picture of the heat death of the universe, it presents an entirely new sort of time travel mechanic, and it somehow manages to celebrate technological progress and human capacity by the end. It made me understand the universe differently and my place in it.In contrast, the two Baen books I've read recently, one by John Ringo and one by David Weber, were both fun reads with some cool high-tech war weaponry. And that's it.

Award winners should be the kinds that redefine the genre, that make people understand life and the universe in new ways. The best sci-fi does that, and I love it for that reason. Baen books (at least the ones that I've read) don't qualify though. They fit more into the realm of fun and interesting escapism in a futuristic setting. Classic sci-fi, stuff I enjoy reading, but not stuff that should be held out as the very best the genre has to offer.

Comment: Re:Holy misleading summary, Batman! (Score 1) 587

by werepants (#49425069) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political

I haven't read all the authors you listed, but I have read David Weber and a number of Baen books, and while I would be happy to read more of them I wouldn't put an award anywhere near the stuff I've read.

This has nothing to do with politics - sure, some of them are military porn and I can see how that would be interpreted as right-wing, but ultimately I think they tend to be a bit more of wish-fulfillment escapism. That kind of stuff can be enjoyable to read, but the kind of thing that sets speculative fiction apart as a genre is the ability to explore new ideas about technology, and to use different universe settings to explore how societies might adapt to circumstances dramatically different than our own. In good sci-fi, the setting is not the point, it is a vehicle for asking deeper questions about technology and humanity.

I haven't found that to be the case with Weber's stuff, or Baen in general. For a counterpoint, consider Charles Stross's recent award winner, Palimpsest - mind blowing on multiple levels, it conveys the enormity of space and time like nothing I've ever read, it paints a devastating picture of the heat death of the universe, it presents an entirely new sort of time travel mechanic, and it somehow manages to celebrate progress and human capacity by the end. It made me understand the universe differently and my place in it. Mutineer's Moon, by Weber, which I read more recently and is a longer book, was just a fun read with some cool high-tech war weaponry. I've already started to forget a fair bit of it - it made a minimal impression.

At any rate, what I'm saying is that the critical establishment would have good reason to object to hordes of fans overriding the award process and nominating stuff that is the sci-fi version of Michael Bay films. There's nothing wrong with reading that stuff and enjoying it, I do myself. But I expect that award winners should be the ones that advance and expand the art, that have a lasting impact on the reader, and those works are not always the ones with popular mass appeal.

Comment: Re:What an Embarrassingly Vapid Article (Score 1) 477

3. What happens when every pedestrian, cyclist, etc., knows that pretty much every car on the road, being automated, will run itself into a tree rather than hit you? How far is the urge to ride down the street on a skateboard and whack cars with sticks or newspapers as a prank to set off car alarms from the urge to jump in front of a car knowing you can force it to stop?

4. Conversely, how long from that point will high-end cars, built for paranoids and assholes are programmed NOT to stop for pedestrians, etc., but instead to knock them out of the way with a directed blast of sound or wind? Or a 'pain beam'? Or a water-cannon?

5. What happens when someone roots his car (or someone hacks cars) and directs them to run over pedestrians, or malware enters the car's systems and causes them to slam into each-other at freeway speeds?

6. How long until advertising takes the form of a car that's cheaper for you to own, but when you tell it to take you to Chili's, instead takes you to Apple-Bee's because Apple-Bee's is a partner of whoever made your car, and Chili's ISN'T? Or you tell your car to take you to Wal-Mart and it drives you to Target instead? ETC. ETC. ETC.? If you thought multi-colored blinking popup ads were annoying, wait until a destination POPS UP IN FRONT OF YOUR CAR!

7. Or how about when you want to go to the rally outside _______'s headquarters and your car takes you to a "black-site" instead, where you're locked up without trial for a few days, then released when it's too late for you to do anything, like join the protest that's now over, or VOTE in the election...

None of these problems are specific to autonomous cars - they are just slightly different vectors for people to commit crimes that they already commit today. The situation will be much the same, where some idiots cause problems but they go to jail. If you kill somebody with your car today, you are held to account legally. No different if you program your car to kill somebody. If you are jumping out into traffic or vandalizing autonomous vehicles, you are likewise guilty of crimes, and what's more, it would be trivially easy to log location, time, and even video recordings that make a conviction trivially easy.

Comment: Re:Sorry missed your Stern-Gerlach (Score 1) 172

Well SG always bugged me because the magnetic field only affects the spin that is in the axis relative to the field, yet even if it was quantized why would it nicely have spin related to the field? So even if it was quantized, if you were actually measuring the spin you'd still expect it to deflect by different smooth amounts, depending on the orientation of the spin to the field. The fact its a fixed amount surely means you are not measuring a spin effect AT ALL. Quantized or not.

The most provocative thing about Stern-Gerlach is that it suggests spin orientation itself is quantized, not just magnitude. You seem to object to this interpretation, but I don't see you providing any alternative. I'm inclined to go with the established consensus among quantum physicists.

Comment: Re:The real question here (Score 1) 172

Actually, you are wrong: While you think this is "clearly impossible" there is nothing clear here and it is completely unknown whether this superposition of states is possible or not. On quantum-level it is, but quantum-effects apparently do not scale up.

So, have you ever experienced a cat being alive and dead at once? Can you ever, really, imagine this happening with anything you experience directly? Just because you can say the words doesn't mean you understand something. This is one of the most fundamental tenets of formal logic - you cannot occupy two mutually exclusive states of existence at the same time. It cannot be raining and not raining. A cat cannot be alive and dead.

Nevertheless, QM makes it abundantly clear that this happens all the time in the realm of very small things, and it is easy to describe thought experiments (such as the feline predicament) that inherently tie the state of large, classical things to microscopic, quantum things. So we can make the impossible happen (or so Schrodinger suggests). The whole thing was conceived as an objection to quantum mechanics.

The one thing that is clear is that for sentient beings above a certain level, the superposition is impossible, because if it were possible the person in it would immediately collapse it. For inanimate objects it is not a problem at all having a superposition like this, you just move the time of the random event and adjust its nature. For the cat, it depends, see my (mostly satirical) statements above.

That's not clear in the slightest. Researchers have been devising lots of experiments to demonstrate quantum behavior in progressively larger objects. First was photons, then electrons, eventually atoms and molecules, with the current target being viruses and then potentially larger single-celled organisms. There's nothing in a fundamental physics sense that makes a living thing more special than ordinary matter - we're all just collections of atoms, after all. What's more, we don't know that sentience causes collapse, or anything on that level.

We DO know that quantum objects behave as particles when the paths they've traveled are knowable (at least in principle), but as waves if the information about the path is unknowable. We've got variants of this for different kinds of particle behavior, with the fundamental idea being that particles exist as probability waves until they are measured and observed in a certain location. What part sentience plays in this is anybody's guess - if it truly does play a part, that means something about our minds changes the state of the universe itself, and if you don't find that preposterous and world-changing, you haven't begun to understand quantum mechanics.

I do not know what you find "unsettling" here though. As long as superposition does not apply to beings on the sentience level of a human, everything is fine for you. Really, get over not everything being as it looks.

I'll let some of the people that developed QM speak for me here:

"Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it" - NIELS BOHR

"Quantum mechanics makes absolutely no sense" - ROGER PENROSE

"If you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it" - JOHN WHEELER

"I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics" - RICHARD FEYNMAN

And finally, from the man himself: "I do not like it, and I am sorry I ever had anything to do with it." - ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER

Comment: Re:The real question here (Score 1) 172

What I'm saying is, everybody takes the wrong thing from that thought experiment, including you. The point isn't that we really wonder about the poor cat, or what's going on with it. The implication of the whole thought experiment is that something which is clearly impossible (a cat being alive and dead simultaneously) seems to be a natural consequence of the things we observe in quantum mechanics. An observer shouldn't change the way fundamental objects behave. Whether a photon is a particle or a wave shouldn't have anything at all to do with who is checking and when. Despite that, it seems that it does.

The point isn't the cat, the point is that quantum mechanics is absurd, and there's no good explanation about why the universe gives a shit about who is keeping track of it. But, for some reason, it does seem to respond in different ways based on how we are observing it. That is deeply unsettling. The cat's sentience is a much less interesting question, and completely distracts from the original point that Schrodinger was making.

User hostile.