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Comment: Re:WWJD? (Score 1) 1147

I generally agree that this is repellent, but it's not hard to see where a legitimate problem might arise - many pastors charge a small fee for officiating weddings - are they now obligated to officiate weddings for same-sex couples, which they believe is a direct affront to their religion's principles?

The thing is, I think that those religious principles are entirely wrong, but I think a pastor should not be legally bound to officiate at a wedding he does not approve of. This legislation isn't the answer, but the opportunity for a conflict like this is real.

Comment: Re:Wrong Focus (Score 1) 124

by werepants (#49372933) Attached to: SpaceX's New Combustion Technologies

The ion technologies we have are nowhere near powerful enough, though. We can't get enough delta-V out of them per unit time to make them useful for human spaceflight. The biggest benefit of an ion engine is that you can use a tiny amount of fuel to get yourself to a high velocity, as long as you have lots of time, and lots of electricity. This doesn't match the needs or abilities of humans in space - humans don't have lots of time, and we don't really need to get them to incredible velocities very efficiently - once they are in orbit of any sort, the hard part is done, and the efficiency of an ion engine isn't buying you much. It's like driving an RV across the country and then walking the last 20 miles to save gas.

Don't believe me? Play some Kerbal Space Program. Sure, it's a game, but they've got realistic ion engines, nuclear engines, and standard chemical fare, and as it turns out, for most things where you're traveling from the surface of one body to another, chemical rockets are often the simplest way to make it work. If you have a satellite that needs to be very tiny, or quickly get to deep space, then ion engines are great. If you need a vessel that can travel efficiently between different planetary orbits, nuclear engines are ideal. If you need something that will get you into orbit, or get you down to a planet's surface, chemical rockets are basically the option.

The point being, once you try to actually solve some of the specific problems (get X amount of stuff to location Y), you'll see that the requirements lend themselves better to some technologies than others. It is easy to look at an engine and say "runs off electricity? incredibly efficient? use it everywhere!" but until you crunch some numbers and see what the true implications are for human-sized payloads in terms of accelerations and hence mission times, you won't be seeing the full picture that drives the aerospace industry to make the decisions it does.

Comment: Re:Anyone who believes Wikipedia (Score 1) 264

Strictly speaking, if owning a car allows you to work at a more distant place that pays better, or allows you to take a second job because now you don't spend 4 hours a day walking, it is an investment, in the sense that you expect to receive enough extra money after purchasing it to more than cover the money you've spent.

I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, though: purchases are often incorrectly called investments, especially large ones, to make it seem like there's something noble or responsible about spending big wads of cash. Going from a 2010 to 2015 vehicle is not an investment: it's dumping cash down the drain. But going from a bike to a car could very well qualify as an investment.

Comment: Re:Maybe in a different country (Score 1) 498

by werepants (#49242351) Attached to: Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide

Well, how many automobile deaths are true "accidents", and how many are due to negligence on someone's part? I would bet we've got a similar ratio there, where very occasionally something bad happens despite being diligent and following all best practices, but the vast majority of the times people get hurt are due to human error and stupidity.

The point being, the common meaning of "accident" doesn't necessarily assign fault. I know gun rights advocates want to bang the "people kill people" gong every chance they get, but it really isn't required here.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 1) 331

by werepants (#49188689) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

I guess the big question will be what budget the movie has. If we've got a big headlining star and a go-to action director, then it will be an action movie set on the moon. However, there have been a number of thoughtful sci-fi movies recently, just not big budget blockbusters. District 9, Moon, and the Europa Report come to mind, all of which were in keeping with the spirit of classic sci-fi.

Comment: Re:There might be hope for a decent adaptation (Score 3, Insightful) 331

by werepants (#49183443) Attached to: 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

But changing the title from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" to "Uprising" does not bode well; the book is not about an "Uprising" but about how a society develops when the rules of normal society are removed. The actual "uprising" in the book is almost a by-product and not a central theme.

Not sure that I agree - the main thing that moves the plot forward certainly is the revolution. You could argue that the revolution plot is just the scaffolding Heinlein uses for his speculation about society, but to be fair a huge amount of sci-fi could be described this way. The other thing that makes the revolution critical is that he uses it to showcase the way colonization efforts will eventually evolve - Earth will view colonists as dependent and incapable, but as soon as basic self-sufficiency is possible it will become very difficult to maintain control over determined inhabitants who are acclimated to the very different environment and accustomed to dealing with the challenges of space.

Comment: Re:Long story short (Score 1) 261

It seems to me that you're critical of people that use strategies other than "try harder" to accomplish their goals. You are essentially opposed to the use of tools here.

You've admitted that you aren't a stranger to procrastination - is it the case that you never procrastinate or get distracted now, because you just found more willpower? That sounds unlikely to me.

At any rate, if you accept that willpower is a finite resource (I haven't seen you dispute this), the real issue is simple. You think strategies to conserve willpower use more of it than they give back, I think that the effort they consume is outweighed by the effort they save throughout a working day. It depends on the strategy, of course - I tried the pomodoro approach for a while and found that the complexity and overhead of using it was too much of a burden to maintain. However, there are some other things that I have found which "pay for themselves" consistently.

Lacking a useful way to quantify willpower, it would be hard to test this objectively, but it really isn't difficult to test it subjectively in life. Try a day (or week,or month) using a strategy, and see how it works. If you are happier and/or feel more productive in one scenario, go with it. In my experience, I get a lot more done when I focus on a few simple techniques that limit distraction, so it suggests that these efforts to conserve willpower are worth it. You might experience the opposite, but if you haven't really tried it, your arguments are baseless conjecture.

Comment: Re:Long story short (Score 1) 261

My claim is that it takes basically the same amount of willpower not to open a browser as it does not to click on a bookmark or link and saying "have the willpower to close your browser so you won't go to facebook" is no better and less useful than saying "have the willpower not to go to facebook", because if you can do the latter, it means you can still use your browser for productive things.

Thanks for being clear about what you are saying. I think that your claim is fundamentally neglects all the things we know about human behavior. Willpower is a finite resource (lots of research supports this) and we know that different kinds of tasks use more or less of it.

Sometimes I have surplus willpower, and these indirect strategies and tricks to keep myself focused are unnecessary. Those times are usually when I'm well rested, have an interesting project in front of me, and meaningful deadlines that give me a sense of urgency. If I've got boring work, distant or nonexistent deadlines, or I'm exhausted because of outside commitments or because my kids kept me up much of the night, then I need to conserve willpower and find ways to get myself to work on things when my "short term gratification" impulse is harder to ignore.

Sure, it is more parsimonious to just use the willpower directly, but that is sort of like questioning the point of a bicycle when walking is simpler and can, in principle, get the job done. Additional complexity can be more effective and efficient, and I'd argue that's the case here as well. Using our understanding of the human mind and how it operates seems to be a better approach than expecting everyone to brute force their way to perfect discipline.

Comment: Re:Long story short (Score 1) 261

I tried closing my browser down entirely when I need to get work done, for instance. Leaving it minimized proved too distracting, as the temptation to click over to email or slashdot is too strong. Having it closed all the way down makes it marginally more inconvenient, enough so that I don't indulge my distraction nearly as often.

I can give you lots of specific examples of my approach to beating distraction. You haven't given me a single one yet for your version. It still sounds to me like nothing more than "try harder".

Comment: Re:Color means many things (Score 1) 420

by werepants (#49162149) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

The PICTURE of the dress is in fact a very pale blue color, with a brown/dark gold color.
The PICTURE itself (at least on CNN) is not blue/black.

The point is, this doesn't help us solve the problem. Because very pale blue color (on the monitor) could be gotten by capturing an image of white in the shade, or washed out dark blue. Or lots of other more obscure and less likely ways.

Trying to "analyze" this with photo editors misses the point - this is an optical illusion borne out of artifacts in human vision processing. It isn't a physics or technology problem.

Comment: Re:Color means many things (Score 1) 420

by werepants (#49162139) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

I use a color sensor to calibrate my screen for any production work, which I do occasionally (although not as much as I once did) as a professional photographer. Our brains lie to us, and the "actual" color displayed on screen is next to meaningless. That's what this whole illusion is about - regardless of the color on the screen, we can interpret it to be dramatically different "real" colors, based an the assumptions we make subconsciously about the context of the image.

By the way, I can see it both ways. Just look at it and imagine the dress is in a shaded alcove with incandescent lighting. Then, imagine that it is a shiny dress with bright yellow light on it. All I have to do is tell myself one or the other of these scenarios and I can see it blue/black or black/gold.

Really, the whole point here is that efforts to "analyze" this with photo editors misses the point - this is an optical illusion borne out of artifacts in human vision processing. It isn't a physics or technology problem.

Comment: Re:Perception (Score 1) 420

by werepants (#49154083) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

It isn't about the camera's white balance. It is about the light on the dress, and the lack of sufficient context to determine exactly which light the dress is in. Is the dress in the shade, with a blown out background from a different light source? Or is the dress in the same blown out golden light as the background? The brain can choose one way or the other - if it prefers to think the dress is in the shade, you see white and gold. If your brain thinks it is washed out by the yellow-ish light, you see black and blue.

If you REALLY understand photography, you are well acquainted with the fact that outdoor light (shade especially) is dramatically more blue than incandescent light. If you've got both in the same scene, you get problems like this, and there's no good choice for the camera to make. This is why there are things like gels for flashes, because it isn't a problem with the way the photons are processed by the camera, it's the fact that physics delivers very different photon wavelengths from on object depending on the incident light source.

Comment: Re:Color means many things (Score 1) 420

by werepants (#49154047) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

The GIMP doesn't really mean anything, because what's at play here is our mental perception of color. White snow in the shade has a distinct blue tone if you look at it in a photo editor, but that doesn't mean that it is blue. Really, we've got that exact phenomena going on here - the colors could be adequately described two different ways, white and gold dress in the shade (blue-ish light) or blue and black dress in incandescent light (gold-ish). It's really a matter of interpretation.

For another great example of just how confounding this effect can be: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi...

"Most of us, when all is said and done, like what we like and make up reasons for it afterwards." -- Soren F. Petersen

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