Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Prep for the CompTIA A+ certification exam. Save 95% on the CompTIA IT Certification Bundle ×

Comment Re:NASA should spend its money wisely (Score 1) 71

I appreciate your apparent sincerity, but why doesn't Occam's razor immediately cause you to dismiss all this? What is easier to believe: that there's an incredibly well organized collusion between otherwise non-cooperative government entities in order to propagate an extensive disinformation campaign for no good reason, OR, that all the scientists, aerospace engineers, and travelers are just being honest about the earth and space?

Space isn't easy, but the technical challenges it presents are much easier to pull off than the kind of conspiracy you suggest. And, for what it's worth, I've personally worked on a sounding rocket experiment that went to space and took pictures in which the curvature of the Earth is very prominent, and I'm good friends with a guy who spent quite a while doing research in Antarctica.

Comment Re:WIRED has it right (Score 1) 1037

First of all, Stross' story Palimpsest, for instance, is one of the most innovative and well-executed sci-fi stories in recent years. A Hugo award winner, incidentally. Some of his stuff is better than others, but no question he is an excellent author. Second, sounds like you're talking about the Laundry Files, which I'll admit isn't usually award-winning material but is a hell of a good time if you can keep up with the inside nerd jokes. Which maybe you can't.

Second of all, trying to read some big conspiracy into all of this is just foolish. What's easier to believe, that a handful of second-rate authors just don't tend to write award-grade material, or that there's a secret group that is coordinating behind the scenes to keep out nonbelievers? Occam's Razor, etc.

Comment Re:WIRED has it right (Score 1) 1037

The only 'clique' that exists is people who enjoy Stross' work - fans.

This was basically a big whine session from Baen authors and fans who complain that they never get Hugo awards, and rather than accepting the truth (Baen publishes primarily mediocre, escapist, wish-fulfillment sci-fi that is undeserving of any kind of literary award) they invented a conspiracy out of wholecloth to make themselves feel better and try to force their way into recognition.

The 'club' that Stross refers to is nothing more than the existing sci-fi community - you know the one, it actually recognizes talent and innovation.

Comment Re:It'd be hilareous if not so sad... (Score 1) 338

That calculation has to happen with absolutely everything. Wind power? Workers are going to fall off of turbines during installation and maintenance, and die. Solar power? Same thing, with roofs. The dangers of hydroelectric have been well described below.

The thing is, in terms of Deaths/MW of delivered energy, nuclear is among the very safest technologies. Accidents are noteworthy because they are so very rare, and because it's easy for sensationalist reporters to exploit the scientific illiteracy of the public to make nuclear accidents sexier and more frightening.

Comment Re:Too many significant digits. (Score 1) 66

If they are going through 5000 jokes a week and comparing whether a human assessment and computer assessment agree, there are at least 3 sig figs to work with. You could add some additional measurement uncertainty, I suppose, but you are already measuring something subjective - are you worried about incorrect button clicks or something?

Comment Re:11 rear enders (Score 1) 549

That's a fairly contrived example, but even so: Can you imagine normal drivers making those value judgments within the bounds of their reaction time and subjective bias? I would feel much more comfortable leaving that situation in the control of a computer, programmed by teams of engineers who thoughtfully considered the corner cases.

Comment Re:Never heard that one before (Score 1) 504

People getting offended at every little thing = Predictable and Annoying.

People getting angry because people are offended = More predictable and more annoying.

Journalists like to create controversy because it makes them seem enlightened and it draws readers. By getting worked up about it whether you agree or disagree about the offense you just play into their plan. So instead, stop giving a shit. It is a work of fiction.

Comment Re:TNSTAAFL (Score 1) 272

If history teaches anything, it's that when private industries become nationalized, the service quickly turns to shit. The reason for that is simple: It becomes a monopoly so the people who provide the service don't have to worry about competing with anybody else.

Sounds like you need to go back to history class. Bell, acting as a tightly regulated monopoly, managed to develop basically ALL of the technology of the goddamned information age. Seriously, starting with vacuum tubes, which allowed the first coast-to-coast phone call, and their crazy drive for reliability, which led to the development of the transistor. They developed digital transmission, fault-tolerant communication, operating systems, programming languages, the cellular phone network, etc, etc. Landlines are pretty damn bulletproof too - I don't know if I EVER dropped a call. They literally invented the field of quality control just so they could provide reliable service.

The point is, your conventional wisdom which purports to be fact-based is entirely wrong. The service provided under that regulated public utility might have been pricey, but it WAS reliable and constantly improving via Bell Labs innovation. And besides, have you checked your phone bill lately? I for one haven't seen my costs dropping precipitously.

Comment Science progresses one funeral at a time (Score 1) 692

What this means is: society will stagnate if the old generations aren't continually dying off to make way for new ideas. Especially considering the fact that age gives you a huge leg up in society - you have time to take advantage of compounding interest, you have seniority at the workplace, you have experience, you have an extensive network of successful and similarly well-connected people. As it currently stands, this is tempered by the fact that your body and mind deteriorate until you eventually must stop working, leaving room for less experienced people to take over the vacated roles.

Even as it is though, the fact that the boomers are living longer, and generally did a shitty job saving for retirement, means that they are sticking around in jobs far longer than they should have, which means promotions for newcomers are fewer and farther between because there's no room being made at the top.

To make progress as a society, to come up with new theories to extend relativity and quantum mechanics and lead the way forward, we need to allow old thinking to die and new thinking to take its place. When human mortality ends, so does human progress.

Comment Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 1) 444

No doubt all of these things are necessary - I'm just saying that any student who is capable of such things is already far above and beyond their peers. Even those basic standards often aren't met by "scientists" who are getting published in major journals, so it isn't much of a surprise that high school students aren't getting there.

Yes, it should be much better, but this is just one entry in a long list of things that are wrong with education.

Comment Re:Maybe science went off the rails... (Score 1) 444

I think you are overestimating the average science student. The fact that they've even measured something and gotten within an order of magnitude means two things: they have actually DONE an experiment (rather than just a survey or some engineering project described by a poster) and secondly, it is falsifiable! (ie, the result actually has meaning in a scientific sense). Getting those two aspects right will instantly put a student in the top few percent of projects in a school.

Furthermore, most of these things are done at a middle school level, sometimes at a high school level. Although many criticisms could be levied against their experiments, what is the real point? To have a flawless experiment? Or for students to understand the scientific process? Experimental design and clear communication about complex topics is much more important than accuracy of results, and the science fair venue is adequate for that.

I don't disagree with you that we need higher standards, but the science fairs are merely a symptom of very deep systemic problems. For starters, anti-intellectualism and ineffectual teaching (because of crappy teacher education) are good places to start.

Comment Re:23 down, 77 to go (Score 1) 866

The trinity is clearly present throughout the Old and New Testament.

Citation needed. Nowhere will you find the word "trinity", nowhere will you find "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" spelled out directly. The Trinity is inferred, a theological construct. In this particular case, I have no objection to it, but we shouldn't pretend it is literal scripture - it is derived, indirect theology.

You are correct that Christians today do use terms which are not found in scripture - word for word. We use terms like rapture to describe the events as written in 1 Thess. 4, 2 Thess. 2, and Revelation 4:1 (hereafter being after the church age of Rev 1-3). It is easier to just use one word that is understood among believers than to read out 1 Th. 4 every time you want to talk about the event.

The idea that all believers will vanish and disappear into the sky is said nowhere directly in scripture. The Left Behind series has about as much to do with the Bible as Taco Bell has to do with Mexican cuisine. The entirety of rapture theology was conceived in ~1830 - so it didn't exist for most of the church's history.

These are literal Bible truths.

They aren't. They are indirect interpretations made by humans, but you've read the bible in that light for so long that you don't see any other possibilities there when you read it.

My point is, biblical literalists often aren't really taking the literal meaning of scripture - they are taking one specific interpretation of scripture, a certainly flawed theological construct (being developed by humans, and diverging significantly from past doctrine) and claiming that it is the only possible interpretation.

You decry the schisms within the church, but in my mind the phony appeals to Biblical literalism, and every denomination's tendency to mistake theology for scripture, is exactly the problem. We must admit to one another that even if the Bible is divinely inspired and completely flawless, our individual readings of it will always be slightly different and mistaken, and hence we shouldn't get too caught up in any specific brand of systematic theology because we are all certainly mistaken in one detail or another.

The point being: we can say, with no doubt whatsoever, that Love is the priority of Christ. The bible communicates this both taken as a whole and taken as specific verses. Holding this belief also will tend to make us act more like Christ. The rapture, on the other hand, is clear only if you interpret many different verses in very specific ways, and it isn't clear how it fits into the overriding message of Love. What's more, it causes its adherents to behave in very un-Christlike ways... after all, if this world is going away, why care for it? If people's souls are all that matter, we should just evangelize to them and ignore their earthly troubles, right? This is an attitude not at all in keeping with Christ's actions, and this theology produces very "Bad fruit" in believers, so why defend it?

Let's be true literalists, and humble ones, and focus first and foremost on those things that are unilaterally clear from the text, and be willing to compromise on anything that is an indirect derivation of scripture. This attitude will tend to unite us by promoting the things that all Christians already affirm, and it also has the fortunate tendency to move contentious issues into the sidelines, where they belong.

Comment Re:Finally (Score 1) 866

There has been zero correlation between health and religion.

False. A study in the 1996 (Kark et al.) has found that death rates for 3900 Israelis in religious and non-religious settlements over a period of 16 years were lower in religious communities.

Also: Church attendance has been found to increase life expectancy (Hummer et al. 1999) with a life expectancy at age 20 of 83 years for frequent attendees and 75 years for non-attendees.
I could do this all day, it is well established in the literature.

This contradicts your first point, as it might make me happier ( and it does ), to be an Atheist and it might make you happier to be a Christian, so if we sustain in our own areas of belief, then we will both see a correlation between mood and our actives.

That has nothing to do with my first point. If you want to be an atheist and find that works for you, go for it. But don't pretend that there isn't the possibility that Christianity has a positive impact on its practitioners, such that it is *entirely reasonable* to continue engaging in it, at least from a cost-benefit perspective.

It's a fact that the OT in The Bible, God tells man he can rape ltitle girls, and to show I'm not joking or making that up, check out this verse: Judges 21:10-24 NLT.

Reading comprehension: try it.

There are plenty of ethically troubling commands by the Old Testament God, but this isn't one of them. This is a group of tribal elders telling some people in the tribe to go kidnap women to be their wives. Yes, it is a bad thing, but nowhere is "little girls" implied, and it is explicitly *not* a command from God.

Finally, to sum this all up, there is no good reason to believe in religion, there is no good reason to believe in God, believing in an unproven, non-existent being who created the universe, wants to punish you, demands you give money other is not rational. Religion is now the security blanket of the adult who is to scared and worried to grow up and venture into reality.

In all areas you have completely failed to recognize the actual meaning of the words in front of you. Because, my assessment was that *belief* isn't the only thing defining rational behavior - it also matters what the impact on your life is. There are criticisms of religion to be made, but you've managed to completely avoid the good ones - all you're doing is manufacturing weak strawman arguments.

Help me, I'm a prisoner in a Fortune cookie file!