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Comment Re: "visible in small optical telescopes" (Score 1) 44

Seriously? When I see Jupiter (which is coming up right around dark, the brightest thing in the sky to the west besides this week's full moon) it doesn't seem that scary. Why do you cringe? Venus is quite beautiful as well. With my 10" scope I can take Saturn -- easily seen with the naked eye -- and magnify it to where we can see its rings and moons. As for meteors, I remember lying out on a dry lake bed far from city lights during one of the better meteor showers -- can't recall any more which one -- and seeing an absolute rain of them, two or three per second, for hours. Quite the opposite of a cringe-worthy experience.

You must be a very delicate soul, if tiny lights in the sky make you cringe, or if other people talking about seeing the tiny lights makes you cringe.


Comment Re:Positive (Score 3, Interesting) 316

People who lived paycheck to paycheck had NO health insurance. This was the problem obamacare was trying to fix. Something like 20% of the population of the United States has no insurance or terrible insurance. You can try to pretend that this isn't true, you can assert loudly that it is "their choice" not to buy insurance, but -- remember, they are living PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK or on NO PAYCHECK AT ALL. If they chop out $200 to $300 each month (or far, far more) for insurance, you're just saying that they have a choice between eating, or wearing shoes, or living somewhere other than under a highway overpass, and health insurance.

My wife is a physician and has been taking care of these patients for her whole career. Your "free market" solution for most of her career was this: If an indigent patient (or one who lived paycheck to paycheck, or one who just couldn't/wouldn't afford to pay) walked in to see her, she could see the patient, accept whatever medicare (elderly) or medicaid) (poor) payments they might qualify for -- well under the market value of her billable time -- or just see them pro bono, which she might well do for a patient she'd been seeing who lost their job. Hospitals were in an even worse state. If somebody walked in off the street into a hospital ER, they were LEGALLY OBLIGATED to take care of them, whether or not they could pay. Even a very small hospital/ER visit costs a lot of money, and medicare/medicaid (if it pays or paid anything at all) payed only a small fraction of the actual cost of the visit.

Your "free market" pre-obamacare solution was thus to screw the physicians and hospitals and nurses by simultaneously requiring them to provide medical treatment to people who couldn't afford it and exploiting their good nature on top of that for people living on the edge of the poverty who -- at best -- could only afford to pay something much less than the cost of the service and cannot possibly afford even the cheapest health insurance. And before you even start, let me assure you that for a physician in pretty much any practice, overhead is AT LEAST 2/3 of their billing, maybe a little bit more, so a free patient isn't just a matter of a physician contributing a bit of time, it is contributing their own time and PAYING their nurses, receptionists, PAs, for the lab (and any labs they order) and of course there is the building itself and all utilities all paid OUT OF POCKET -- directly eating into their income. This isn't a zero sum break even games, they lose money for underbilling and collectable accounts, and medicare/medicaid doesn't even pay for the overhead on the visits they supposedly pay for. So yeah, in order not to go broke WHILE working 60-65 hour weeks for half of what they would be making in a "free" market, they charge 30% more to everybody else (more like 100% in hospitals, where hospital ERs are the most expensive possible way to deliver routine health care). Guess what! You've socialized medicine, but in the worst possible way, the least fair way. And the saddest thing of all is that people don't even realize that this has happened, and yammer on about free markets and how having competitive insurance plans is somehow optimal and can take care of everybody that needs -- is mandated in law -- to be taken care of.

Obamacare didn't fix this problem, of course. It did, however, make it a lot better, and more fair, in that by increasing the number of the insured and directly subsidizing insurance for the working poor who previously had to rely on the charity of doctors or hospitals to get medical treatment or routine well-patient care, they passed the costs on to the people of the US collectively instead of forcing the physicians and hospitals individually to do what they insisted that they do, at a loss. And I'm not just talking the unemployed, I'm largely talking about precisely those living paycheck to paycheck, often working several jobs because employers don't want to have to provide benefits and only let them work 30 hours a week (each). I have three sons doing just this, and without obamacare and the 26 year old rule only one of them qualifies for an employer group health plan, and THAT is so expensive that he opted for high deductible insurance (so they could afford food, clothing, day care) and got totally screwed when he had a major health issue that lasted two years before they finally figured it all out. One is on obamacare, and as the person who actually pays for the insurance I can assure you that it is way cheaper than it would be otherwise. One is still on my group health insurance (for five more years, if congress doesn't trash a perfectly good thing that yes, I'm paying for but at group rates).

My wife is firmly convinced that unless and until we go to a single payer system, health care in the US will remain the way it is now: massively broken. We are all firmly convinced that if the US congress were required by law to use the health coverage they think is "adequate" for medicaid or medicare patients or if they were required by law to get their health care through the national VA hospital system (my wife currently works for the VA and has to wrestle with that special brand of crazy that dominates it) all of this would literally be fixed overnight. The US is behind almost all of the developed world in the tortured and demented way we provide insurance and drugs and health care. The system is anything but a free market, and as long as human poverty and disability and greed remain the way that they are will never BE a free market unless you are prepared to see people literally dying on the streets for a lack of health care.

Most people think that would be a bit barbaric. I certainly do. Beyond that, the only question has always been: Do we come up with a plan that is universal and fair, or do we try to force physicians to cover the vast distance between universal and fair by hiding the costs of universal under a thin veneer of "capitalist" respectability that makes it both socialist anyway and incredibly unfair. While (double bonus) maximizing the profitability of the insurance and big pharm industries and maintaining those all-important political contributions to BOTH parties from the insurance and big pharm megacorps.

Human rights are, of course, an illusion; life in a state of nature is ugly, nasty, brutish and short (to semiquote Hobbes). We INVENT things like the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and it is up to us to invent and establish a society where those "rights" have some meaning. It is up to us and only us to determine whether the right to "liberty" means "the freedom to starve" in a world where we have sufficient wealth to provide a decent living for every single human and still have plenty of room left over for a strong system of differential rewards for labor and sacrifice. This "utility pool" is only going to become broader and deeper over time as we invent ever more labor saving devices -- robots, automated manufacturing, sales, and delivery systems, tractors that run themselves, cars and trucks that drive themselves. We can do a lot better than the freedom to starve, the freedom to suffer and sicken and die, a life where happiness is literally impossible to pursue due to the accidents of our birth, the accidents of our life, or the vagaries of the economy.

Was obamacare a perfect solution? Of course not. With the entire country polarized, ripped apart between competing and utterly illusory memes of the ideal free market capitalist society and the ideal managed market communist/socialist society, mere common sense didn't stand a chance, and still doesn't. Congress votes on the basis of a complex religion that doesn't even have a fixed scripture or universal set of rules, and congress is for sale because we have systematically created a democracy where one cannot even dream of running for office without a stupendous budget for advertising, a budget that can only be realized with corporate money, money that only appears in your coffers if you promote policies that don't bite the hands that fill the coffers and from time to time throw them a juicy pork bone. With Big Pharm and all the insurance companies and HMOs in the country advocating on both sides of the aisle for solutions that let them continue to make enormous profits, how could anything work? And hospitals and doctors themselves aren't always saints either, but forcing them to do what we wouldn't force a mechanic to do -- to fix EVERYBODY's car, and if you can't afford to pay for it, well, the mechanic is responsible for buying the replacement parts and fixing it and paying all the overhead for his tools and garage and don't forget taxes on all of the above -- is not a reasonable or fair solution.

And before you go there, things that would work for cars (which we can at least imagine are NOT actual necessities of life itself, so sure, forcing people to earn the money to support them or do without is at the very least less crazy) would not work for people, at least not unless you are comfortable passing the corpses of men, women and children abandoned on the side of the road the way we now sometimes see dead cars.


Comment Let's do the math... (Score 1) 136

OK, so if you install windows 10 (compared to almost anything else) you save no money at all. If you installed it last year, you saved no money. If you install it this year, you STILL save no money! Hmmmm

    0_2016 x 0.28 = 0_2017

OMG! They are telling the truth! Microsoft 10 this year saves you 28% more than it did last year, because 28% of nothing is still nothing!

Of course, hmmm, if installing it actually COSTS you money -- if ROI is negative, by the time you finish messing with all of the hassles and broken bits -- are they asserting that you lose EVEN MORE (28% more!) money in 2017 than in 2016?

Enquiring minds want to know...


Comment Re:Sounds great! (Score 1) 422

No argument, but that process will occur independent of the data. Having the data out there at least makes it possible for people TO challenge conclusions based on it. Not just climate change data, although that is an excellent example. For example, the scaling of error bars in HADCRUT4 makes no sense at all, with error estimates in the temperature anomaly from the mid/late1800s being only three times as large as error estimates from the last decade. The error as represented in the DIFFERENCE in the anomaly estimates from the major anomaly products is already as large as their acknowledged error even in the present, making it almost certainly larger now than is acknowledged.

In the mid 1800s, Antarctica was terra incognita. Much of Africa was lightly explored, if explored at all. Central Asia (most of Tibet) was more or less inaccessible. Huge tracts of the Pacific Ocean had little to no systematic observation. El Nino had been neither observed nor named. The number of thermometers representing the globe was perhaps two or three orders of magnitude fewer than today. The quality of the records kept and methodology used and instruments used are nothing like as accurate as they are today. And yet total error then is only a factor of three larger then than now? I don't think so...

But it is not easy, not easy at all, to get the data even if you have the time, the money, and the inclination to challenge this to try to show that this absurdity (for statistically, that is almost certainly what it is, an absurdity, given that in general, error scales like 1/\sqrt{N} as the number of samples increases, with some fairly substantial multiplier for the lack of representation of almost all of the 70% of the Earth that was ocean and the entire continents without a single systematic measurement site or sampled only at a handful of places on the periphery.

God invented double blind, placebo controlled trials for a reason. Pesky humans find it all to easy to fool themselves, to find any patterns that they WANT to be true in pure noise that's all that they have to work with. We also LIKE to pretend that we know all about the Dinosaurs when we write textbooks on them and so on, which works really well until somebody finally makes a few discoveries that demonstrate that we don't even have the major divisions right or probable evolutionary trajectories right over a hundred million years or so (where even the correction may not be right, because we may never FIND the evidence that would let us GET it right difficult as it is to acknowledge it). Proxy-derived data is even worse, and even more susceptible to meddling and selection, since you have to START by making selections and those selections cannot avoid being made with assumptions that may be consciously or unconsciously biased or just plain wrong.

Even reproducibility won't rescue you from sufficiently entrenched bias, because your Bayesian priors that underlie the analysis may be wrong. If they are, it will show up (usually) in subtle ways -- like absurdly small errors signaling the inflation of a less noisy signal selected out of noisy data but reweighted to cover territory it cannot possibly be said to cover (which still happens in Antarctica, BTW) -- but fixing it may not even be possible. You cannot manufacture evidence that no longer exists or never existed in the first place.

Science often, even usually, does correct all of this stuff eventually, but it isn't quite as simple as some people seem to think, that a referee can run off and in ten minutes show that some paper they are refereeing is right or wrong. Lots of what ultimately proves to be crap gets through simply because the referee DOESN'T know what is right or wrong, but the result presented is "reasonable", the methodology clear, and it is up to future research to verify it or disprove it. Which may not happen for years to decades, even for hot button topics. I just read that "Dark Energy" may end up being an artifact of an approximation used in solving the Einstein equations for the expansion. Note well the "may", as this is still early days and I'm sure the hundreds of people working on Dark Energy don't want the rug pulled out from under them (and may be right). Or not. The point is that you can waste a generation of physicists chasing a chimera in the observational data created by our own inadequacy to solve hard problems in something much simpler than climate science! Because the differential geometry involved here is still many, many orders of magnitude simpler than solving globe-spanning Navier-Stokes equations numerically on a grid at the Kolmogorov scale covering the planet, from unknown and unknowable initial conditions, obtaining chaotic solutions that never actually correspond to a climate trajectory of the actual Earth when they are approximated on a scale 30 orders of magnitude shy of the point where we have good reason to think we can believe them.

Comment Re:Sounds great! (Score 3, Interesting) 422

If only I had mod points, I'd add to your +5 still further, sir AC. If only people who ranted above noted that no, it doesn't supercede HIPAA before making absurd allegations that it did, or that the EPA would itself be required to reproduce every piece of science it uses to arrive at its conclusions and rules, starting by reproducing Brahe's observations of planetary motion, Kepler's analysis, and Newton's solution just so it can use the law of gravitation when assessing the environmental impact of falling asteroids.

It is actually HIGH TIME they were held to the basic standard of science, because as it is one cannot even fight its star chamber edicts. Now, is everything it does bad? Of course not -- this bill doesn't mean that either. It just means that when it SAYS something is bad, it has be able to show that it is bad based on actual data that anybody can look at, obtained with methods that are openly published, and it has to show in some equally scientific way that its remedies to the problem (that is now proven to actually exist and be objectively serious) are at least scientifically effective if not cost-effective. How can this be a problem? How can this be viewed as some unreasonable burden? If only we held ALL government activity to such a standard! Drug laws would vanish overnight. People of alternative sexual orientation would be loudly ignored until and unless it is demonstrated scientifically that their sexual proclivities involve blood sacrifice of babies. But the commons could and will still be protected -- dumping mercury into our drinking water is an objectively demonstrably bad thing all the way down to some very small level indeed, and this permits cost-benefit analysis to be conducted on an objective basis.

Since even now a huge fraction of the artificial light we use comes from exciting mercury vapor (in both my laptop and the overhead lights in my office at this instant, for example) this issue is extremely relevant. In the real world we have to trade off many evils in order to realize a greater good. If we use incandescent lighting, the bulbs themselves have little impact but we literally burn a lot more stuff and spend in the long run a lot more money. If the EPA had completely banned mercury use ANYWHERE because all mercury used in e.g. a light bulb sooner or later makes its way into the water and/or biosphere, then we would have burned a lot more coal over the decade or so where CFL bulbs were available in parallel with incandescent. Coal (in addition to containing mercury on its own) releases bad things that cost money to remove and aren't always fully removable, and has an ecological cost to the commons mining it. It isn't OBVIOUS how to balance the interests, the costs, and the benefits here, but doing it without full transparency and open public debate is not a good solution no matter how good your intentions. The advent of LED bulbs makes this even more complex, as the LEDs are themselves doped with still OTHER toxic metals (less toxic than mercury, fortunately). They also use still less energy, and as economy of manufacturing scale kicks in so they are overwhelming cheaper as well in even a pretty damn short run, they will probably obsolete all other forms of bulb except for a few special use cases in short order, with or without regulation.

The point of which is, that decisions in the public interest, even ones in defense of the commons, are not necessarily "simple" -- they involve cost-benefit tradeoffs and often hurt a lot of people even as they (perhaps) help the majority. Government agencies in general, and to be frank government LAWS in general, should ALL be based on transparent, openly debated from a common set of assumptions and data, reasoning.

I'm frankly hopeful that this law, if passed, can be used to challenge each and every regulation throughout government based on religion. Republicans might find that what is really good medicine for all government agencies in their decision making process tastes bitter to them as it is even BETTER medicine for the legislative process itself.

Comment Re: Sounds great! (Score 5, Insightful) 422

Since I'm sure you will be trolled to death here, let me chime in and agree with you completely. Furthermore, let me add that the products -- and I mean all of them, papers, data, methods, etc. -- produced by government funded research should ALL be available freely to ALL Americans, and (because of the difficulty of a citizenship-based distribution system) to ALL of humanity. It is work done for hire that we paid for and don't need to pay for again. Time to end paywalled science altogether and re-open the scientific publication process to realize its full potential. If that forces us to re-evaluate how to publish and referee in the first place, well hey, even 340 (or so) year old traditions may actually have to give way before the advent of the Internet and instant global communications. Non-reproducibility, confirmation bias, and the enormous pressure to get positive, not null, results are also an open suppurating wound on the entire scientific community and are negatively impacting every aspect of science ESPECIALLY medical science.

I was calling for this almost a decade ago, and the issue needs to be addressed quite independent of partisan politics. Science should never be done on a "trust me" basis, especially not when there are special interests, corporate interests, political interests, commercial interests, and even personal interests galore that hinge on the results. It's not like we didn't just spend the last 40 years being told dietary cholesterol was the Devil Himself as far as coronary artery disease, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary (such as drugs like Zetia that dropped cholesterol but had NO EFFECT on coronary artery disease rates) before the entire medical community finally got its act together and issued a mind-numbing "never mind, eat all the cholesterol you want" announcement a few years ago. Its not like the sugar lobby, the tobacco lobby, the all-drugs-are-evil lobby haven't successfully biased the course of government funded research for decades as well.

Science -- and really, everything and not just science -- should be conducted in the open light of day. It gains its strength FROM the fact that it is nominally reproducible and absolutely open to criticism and contradiction by further work. Nothing in the legislation is going to overturn HIPAA or require the release of patient names or personal data, and these are typically redacted anyway in any publication. What it WILL hopefully prevent is cherrypicking patient data (absolutely rampant), data dredging by idiots who have never heard of Bonferroni (see https://xkcd.com/882/), debacles such as the recent Arizona release of what amounts to synthetic pot by a company that has lobbied hard in that state to prevent its legalization, and yeah, the use in climate science of data without pedigree (something that is not so common anymore anyway since NASA already obeys the rules of this legislation but which once was a real problem). Will this affect "our" access and use of private satellite data? Possibly. But there are simple legislative and economic solutions to that as well, and we should be pursuing them.

I have to ask why anyone would want a special exception to the general rules of science to be made for the EPA, or NASA, or DOE, or NSF, or NIH funded research. "Black Box" data has no place in science. If I can't look at your apparatus, your methods, and your actual data and see what you did and how you did it, reproducibility is impossible. Assessing the probability that your result (in and of itself) is correct and reasonable becomes difficult. Without this, there is nothing to prevent people from just making up a spreadsheet of data with some made up error bars and publishing it to (say) get tenure and keep your job, and don't tell me that this never happens or I'll cite you a dozen cases where it happened and EVENTUALLY, the person who did it was caught. But nothing as spectacular as the cholesterol debacle. That one illustrates how a made up result, argued for persuasively by an influential "authority" figure so that it makes it into textbooks, corrupts a whole generation of research as people don't dare to conclude that something in ALL their textbooks is wrong, until it becomes SO wrong that it simply can't be ignored or cherrypicked away any more.


Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 418

You did not read what I said, and are inverting the logic. Yes, the Universe manifestly DOES have a few "simple" rules a.k.a. the laws of physics, and HAS produced rocks. But that is literally irrelevant to the point that there is nothing about rocks -- or, if you prefer, the laws of physics and the medium in which they operate -- that appears "designed". The laws are regular mathematical laws and we have no evidence for some sort of highly imaginative "field" of possible mathematical law sets and possible Universal media obeying them that a designer can select from to create the design, let alone evidence for the insane recursion relation in complexity and design implicit on the existence of such a designer.

Any sentient "designer" of a Universe plus their Super-Universe within which it builds the Universe has more complexity (and greater information content) than the Universe that they designed and built. If complexity implies design, then every designer and their Universe must have a still more complex designer in a still more complex Universe. If you wish to assert that this recursion terminates anywhere, so that you can call the designer at that level "God" or "The Master Simulation Programmer", then you no longer assert that complexity necessarily implies a designer, in which case there is no good reason to apply the rule at all even in the first instance without evidence!

Quite aside from this, rocks specifically do not exhibit any of the characteristics we generally associate with designed things, and we have quite detailed mathematical models for the probable history of rocks that do not require or benefit from (in the specific sense of being improved by) any assumption of active design. Neither, frankly, do the laws of physics.

As I pointed out in another thread, the following is a classroom example of incorrect logic:

All men are mortal.
My dog is mortal.
Therefore, my dog is a man.

All computational simulations are discretized.
The Universe is discretized (or not, see other replies).
Therefore, the Universe is a simulation.

You argument is even worse:

Rocks, that do not appear to be designed, can be designed anyway.
Therefore, we can never say that rocks do not appear to be designed.

Say what?

My dog, that does not appear to be immortal, might be immortal anyway.
Therefore we can never say that dogs are mortal.

Sure we can. What you might get away with is the assertion that there is a very small chance that some living dog (including my currently living dog, that isn't dead yet!) might turn out to be immortal. However, every single dog since wolves came out of the cold that was born more than thirty years ago is to the very best of our observational knowledge and theoretical knowledge of dog biology dead as a doorknob and every living dog that any of us have ever seen appears to be aging and we all understand how aging and disease and accidents all limit life. To assert immortal dogs you have to just make stuff up -- invent things like "dog heaven" where all dead dogs run free and have an unlimited supply of bones, or imagine that somewhere there might be a very lucky ex-wolf that failed to inherit an aging gene and that has never had a fatal disease or a fatal accident and that somehow has eluded our observational detection -- so far -- and (ignoring the second law of thermodynamics and the probable future evolution of the Universe based on the laws of physics) assume that that dog will somehow survive longer than the Universe itself probably will. Both of which are pretty absurd.

So I repeat, there is absolutely nothing about rocks that makes us think that they are designed. That does not imply that they might not be designed after all, it is not a logical statement that rocks could not have been designed, it is an empirical statement that, just as dogs appear to be mortal (and not humans, however easy it is for dogs to make the mistake, especially around dinner time:-), rocks appear not to be designed. When I find a rock on the ground as I walk along, I do not quickly look around trying to figure out who designed the rock because it looks so very much like a made thing. Quite the opposite. And, I can almost guarantee, so do you!

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 418

No arguments. Simulations similarly are generally not "deterministically" scripted. They are constantly rolling (metaphorically) pseudorandom numbers to generate non-repetitive game play. But rocks or gameplay that is "generated" are still generated according to an algorithm that was designed, and I was using the term in this broader sense.

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 418

I was pointing out (possibly badly) that his argument was a formal fallacy of the general sort: "All men are mortal, my dog is mortal, therefore my dog is a man". "All simulations are discretized. The world we observe is discretized. Therefore, the world we observe is a simulation." Same argument, substitute men/dog/mortal and simulations/world/discretized (or whatever). This is simply an incorrect argument in symbolic logic completely independent of the meanings of the symbols per se, unless I am misremembering my formal symbolic logic.

ELSEWHERE I pointed out that we do not, in fact, know if the world is discretized and that even if it is as far as spacetime is concerned, that doesn't mean that it is discretized in amplitude/phase space. And I am teaching quantum mechanics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the moment, so I'm not exactly ignorant about this.

Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 1) 418

Shall I show you my dry stack walls and my mortared fieldstone walls? Besides, this doesn't really impact the argument. The argument is: "Things exist that appear to have functions in a system of interlocked causality. If I were going to simulate this particular system of apparent interlocked causality, I would do so by using things that have these functions so that the result looks like this system of interlocked causality. Therefore, this apparent system of interlocked causality is a simulation because it works the way a simulation of it that I built would work!"

This is an utterly absurd argument. Begging the question doesn't begin to describe it. This is just the argument for God by design dressed up in computer clothing with a side order of Solipsism, and leaves all of the same questions begged and not even acknowledged as "problems". OK, so we are a simulation. Even discretized, the Universe has the information content of at least 10^256! (that's factorial, not exclamation point, all the permutations of all the ways "stuff" can be entered into the apparent cells). Or, of course, as I argued, it could have far, far less information content because all it really has to do is provide a few gigapixels of my apparent visual field, a handful of less dense informational channels for sound, tasted, smell, and touch -- certainly less than a terabyte of information -- and update it according to a set of classical physics rules plus an interactive script. It doesn't even have to do more than one, because if the Universe is a simulation, you could be and probably are a NPC being presented to just me in my VR bodyset -- assuming that in some more fundamental reality I have an actual body and am not MYSELF a self-aware NPC in a simulation being run for things that look like giant amoebic blobs swimming in liquid helium near the cores of gas giants (or in some more bizarre environment as we have no possible way of even speculating about the physics of the world in which the host computer supposedly lies).

We could come damn near building this now -- it's an easy extrapolation of our first rudimentary VR sets. We likely couldn't make it high enough resolution yet, but that's just a matter of scaling of work underway and doesn't require anything like Planck length discretization.

Then there is that computer that we are all running on. One way or another, its information content has to be at least as large as the information content of the Universe being simulated, or Shannon has lived in vain. Furthermore, it has to have an extremely high degree of organization. Indeed, the information content in the physical hardware of any computer ever built -- all the way down to your hypothetical Planck scale -- is almost infinitely larger than the content of its "computational" working memory and processors. Indeed, if one accepts the assertion that real quantum phases etc are real numbers, and meditate on the continuum hypothesis and aleph null and aleph prime, it is infinitely larger. It takes billions to trillions of atoms to represent a single switch, and many switches and other adjuncts to perform even a simple, crudely discretized computation simulating real number arithmetic.

So if you REALLY take the simulation theory seriously, you have to have a Universe somewhere -- somewhere, somewhen, somehow, there has to be a physical basis for the computation, energy and entropy with a set of rules that encodes this massive program -- that has a much, much, much, much.... larger information content than the Universe being simulated. My laptop (plus a remote supercomputer plus a network) can play World of Warcraft and provide me with a very nice simulation shared with a few hundred others (more like a few tens in any given perceptual field representation) based on coarse-grained objects and carefully builts SURFACE representations, because the giant snapping turtles are only shell thick and have no actual internal guts. Even this crude a simulation, skin deep and lacking real depth and transmitting only a shared visual space with added sound effects that don't even try to "share" a sound space, requires ever so much more physical information to represent it.

Now if I were designing a Universal simulation, I would make it self-representing. That is, I would make it its own computer. This makes it information-theoretically compact. The program being run are "the Laws of Physics", and the data being manipulated represents nothing but itself; it isn't stored on something else. Now the simulator for the Universe is the exact size and exact structure of the Universe being simulated, Shannon is very happy, and hey, even the Planck length -- if real -- is now relevant. The only real problem left is that now it isn't a simulation, it is reality itself. And a minor secondary problem -- even if this is how I would design it (if only because I can look around me and see that it works) that doesn't mean that it was designed. One cannot look at something with a given degree of complexity and say "Wow, that's complex! It must have been designed in order to be that complex" without contradicting your own argument with the implicit assumption that there is an even MORE complex layer of reality supporting the designer and the medium in which the design is realized. The only empirical conclusion that is justified and consistent is that what we see is what we get. Reasoning by analogy isn't reasoning at all, either logically or empirically.


Comment Re:In Other Words (Score 5, Insightful) 418

1. Due to limited computational resources, the simulated universe would be granular or "quantum".
2. To limit computation, reality would be held in a fuzzy probabilistic "superposition" state until it is actually observed, similar to how a GPU running OpenGL will skip the generation of hidden polygons.
3. The maximum speed of information transfer would be finite, to limit the propagation of changes through the universe.

All of these are actually true in our universe, ergo, we are very likely a simulation.

And this, sir, is why you really need to consider taking a course in formal logic and maybe learn about logical fallacies.

None of these assertions, even if they were true in some useful way, constitute a statistical or logical argument for the conclusion. This is true at an openly embarrassing level. Suppose one were designing a rock because you wanted to build a rock wall and for some reason didn't want to use actual rocks. Due to the cost of raw materials, rocks would be finite in size. Because you don't want the wall to be boring, rocks would come in many different colors, sizes, and shapes. Because you don't want the fake rock wall to fall down, rocks would be solid, as opposed to liquid, glass, plasma, gaseous.

All real rocks are actually finite in size, come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, and tend to be solid to the point where "rock solid" is a standard metaphor in human speech. Ergo, all rocks are obviously designed.


Teleological arguments are pure bullshit, which is what the physicist in question (as well as myself, also a physicist) are happy to point out.

When one actually looks at rocks or Universes, there is an utter lack of either evidence or a plausible, consistent, evidence linked chain of reasoning that increases the probability that the notion/hypothesis "Rocks are designed" or "We are living in a computer simulation" is/are true from their rightful place (so far) of 0.0000.....(0 until you get bored with writing 0's)...001 to something with a tiny smidgen of actual measure.

These are not independent assertions, by the way. If you take the assertion that the Universe is a simulation seriously, then rocks ARE designed objects, even though there is absolutely nothing about rocks to suggest that they actually are designed.

One could then deconstruct the truth of each of your statements individually. For example, there is nothing in quantum theory that limits computational requirements -- quite the opposite. Indeed, quantum theory is built on top of complex, non-discrete numbers in every quantum textbook ever written -- C-numbers. That is, quantum objects are described in general by (at least) TWO real numbers, not just one. If you attempt to represent the quantum state of a very simple -- the simplest -- two level quantum system such as |\psi> = A|-> + B|+>, one discovers that it requires two continuous degrees of freedom and that the states of the system map nicely into points on a 3D spherical hypersurface. If you try to describe the most general quantum state of N such 2 level objects, it requires 2^N or so continuous degrees of freedom. Consequently, we are limited in our solutions or simulational studies of fully correlated quantum systems to a tiny, tiny handful of e.g. "two level atoms" -- perhaps 20 to 30 of them -- because one very quickly runs out of computational resources to perform even very small general computations.

Second, you are building a whole mountain of assumptions into what appears to be a misinterpretation of the Planck length. To quote Wikipedia's page on this topic:

There is currently no proven physical significance of the Planck length...

so you are quoting something for which there is no direct evidence as evidence in a bad teleological argument for something for which there is no evidence at all.

You also don't address the actual numbers associated with the Planck length/time. If the Planck length \ell_p is order of 10^{-35} meters, and the visible Universe (alone) is ~10^11 light years across, and a light year is 10^16 meters then there are 10(11+16+35)*3 = 10^{186} cubic Planck lengths in the visible Universe, and making Planck time out of \ell_p/c we end up with another factor of 10^70 x 10^186 = 10^256 discrete space-time points. That's a hell of a lot of data, and one has to compute all of this for all of these time slices.

Now speaking only for myself, if I were building a simulation of the Universe, it would NOT look like this microscopically. That's because when one plays a game with a physics simulation, all one has to do is present a perspective view into a purely classical representation of various surfaces, plus some sounds, plus some sundry nervous/sensations. Humans can't see microscopic things anyway, even with a microscope we don't see microscopic things, we see images that our brains plus some cognitive work identify as microscopic things. I don't have to make a virtual world that has actual simulations of individual viruses to simulate the nervous sensations of "feeling viremic". Reality need never be more than skin deep, perception deep. I'll point out that empirically (there's that word once again) ALL actual reality simulations present precisely this sort of a Universe BECAUSE it doesn't require an enormous representation. When a dark iron dwarf in WoW throws a bomb at you, the simulator doesn't compute the quantum chemistry ot a gunpowder explosion all the way down to the Planck scale, it just manipulates a few pixels and sprites according to a very simple model of what an explosion LOOKS LIKE.

Similarly, it is really irrelevant as to what the "speed of propagation of causality" is in a simulation. It doesn't even matter how fast your computer is, since you are just stacking up large arrays of numbers with some index you are identifying with some sort of discretized timestep. And don't get me started about relativity and simultaneity and the ordering of events separated by spacelike intervals and COMPUTATIONS of all of these things -- suffice it to say that your argument itself is in fact naive and incorrect per point as well as collectively.

Could the world of our experience by a simulation? Sure. Of course it could. And pink unicorns COULD fart rainbow colors. There is nothing fundamentally contradictory about either one, especially when you get to make up the terms that aren't being contradicted.

It's just that we haven't a shred of actual evidence that either assertion is true. Or that the Universe is a made/designed thing. Or that we could somehow DISTINGUISH a designed "real physical" Universe from a designed "simulation, unreal" Universe from the real, undesigned, physical Universe we appear to live in. Teleological arguments are just as dumb in religion as they are in the assertion that we are all living inside "the Matrix" in reality. How could you even know?


Comment Re:Is the tech bubble official yet? (Score 1) 77

As far as I know, nobody has yet devised an experiment capable of determining whether consciousness actually lives in the brain, or whether the brain is a receiver for a consciousness which exists independently of the body.

You mean, aside from all of the usual ones? Like, giving people powerful drugs makes their (my!) consciousness go away? Like the fact that strokes, drugs, alcohol, accidents, and acts of violence that damage the brain tissue make consciousness go away incrementally? Like the fact that when people's brains die, they apparently die (from the point of view of every device built to measure the neural activity that we identify as consciousness in everything with neurons that we have ever studied)? Like the fact that we have working neural models capable of at least a few of the first steps towards consciousness? Like the fact that all of our understanding of science so far, working together, provides not the slightest support for an alternative hypothesis?

Asserting that we have no experiments to determine whether consciousness lives in a brain is like asserting that we have no experiments that refute the possibility that we are all just NPCs in a giant MMORPG Matrix, or asserting that we have no experiments that refute the possibility of hidden nonlocal dimensions in physics, or we have no possibility of proving that Jesus didn't raise the not-quite-dead yet and make blind people walk and deaf people see. Science doesn't work that way, evidence doesn't work that way, as it leaves one stuck in the eternal "lack of evidence is not evidence of lack" for an infinite sea of non-contradictory assertions that could be true.

Heres how it works. Nearly all of that "sea of notions" -- possible true assertions -- is nearly perfectly improbable. Not "false", just -- literally -- not likely to be true, given what we know and the evidence so far. There could be a rock on the far side of the moon carved by chance into a nearly perfect bust of Abraham Lincoln -- not impossible -- but there is no point in wasting precious plausible belief in our ontology on such a hypothesis as there is no evidence that it is true. Furthermore, by doing a statistical study of rock shapes on the earth looking for rocks that actually look like they were carved into human busts with precisely recognizable features, we might even conclude that it is very likely to be false because the particular shapes that make up a human head, neck, and shoulder set are simply unlikely to occur by accident. This is Bertrand Russell's "teapot" argument.

Of course there is one amusing way the teapot could fail. We could send a silver tea set into orbit! Or, we could drop a bust of Abraham Lincoln on the dark side of the moon. Neither of these apply to consciousness, yet, but of course that is the point of the entire "True/Strong AI" enterprise. Which I personally think will succeed within the next ten to twenty years, not to preserve human consciousness but to augment it and exploit it (the AI). We are already augmenting human consciousness through the interfaces we already have -- the fingers and eyes and ears -- to the point where google is a major part of our brains, to the point where I can stream this thought chain out into your brain faster than anyone a mere twenty or thirty years ago would have ever dreamed possible.

So please, we have a mountain of evidence that consciousness is, in fact, supported directly by the physical tissue of the brain. We also have an immovable mass of humanity that does not wish to face this fact and shape their lives and ethical systems upon the probably true, scientifically supported ontology that strongly, strongly suggests that this one life is all you get, that if your brain dies you die, that there is no alternative reality or superset reality where you will live in paradise or be tortured for eternity, and that there is no mysterious invisible self-aware construct that grants wishes and enforces "perfect justice" or "perfect law" or "perfect love" on a selective basis depending on whether or not one embraces a particular set of "ancient" beliefs.


Comment Re:Is the tech bubble official yet? (Score 1) 77

I'm giving up mod to add to this. Bug Jack Barron is worth the read even today, as Spinrad is a true visionary. One of my favorite books. Sort of a Rush Limbaugh in reverse, or what Stern wishes that he was. And periodically, you hear snippets of med-tech that still leave open the possibility that Spinrad's take on immortality wasn't completely wrong...


Comment Re: Cutting who? The massively inflated? (Score 1) 649

Why, exactly, is this a sentence fragment?


is a sentence, consisting of a verb in imperative form, with the understood subject 'You' (the listeners). So is "Try." So is "(You) go again." Or "(You) try again."

Oh, and since you are supposedly representing the grammar police on /., and I'm challenging your absurd statement that this is a fragment, I suppose I ought to provide you with at least some K-12 level documentation that your assertion is, in fact, absurd:


Comment Re:Getting Hyrogen from Water (Score 3, Interesting) 106

Yeah, if I were going to get hydrogen from water I would take a solar panel and hook it up to a floating platform sitting in the ocean. Underneath there would be two gold or platinum plated electrodes, one of which I would leave free and the other of which I would put in a vertical tube. On top I would have a small pump (also run by the solar cell, or maybe powered by a small wind turbine since there is usually a wind over the ocean) that compressed the hydrogen into a collection tank. That would produce hydrogen at a very, very predictable rate, fully compressed and ready to use. A small hydrogen powered boat (powered indirectly by the same solar cells) could make the rounds every week or so to replace the tanks and bring the tanks ashore for use. The rafts themselves would attract fish and de facto cool the ocean underneath. And best of all, they would produce the hydrogen for only four or five times what the electricity that produced it was worth!

Now to patent this, get a government grant, and fight the NIMBY battle with all of the boaters and fisherpeople who don't want to see the oceans and sounds scattered with floating platforms covered with solar cells and hydrogen gas tanks. I'll be rich!

Oh, wait. You mean that this idea has been around for over forty years now?


You mean that it is developed to the point where one could produce hydrogen peroxide, or release the CO2 in the ocean water and capture THAT at the same time we generate the hydrogen (for an even larger multiplier for the actual value of the electricity)? You mean that even a patent troll would have a hard time locking this one down? You mean that there really are some people, somewhere, who have heard of the second law of thermodynamics or the first law of economics (that in business, one's product has to sell for more than the cost of production)?

So what? As long as we have a government, these will not be obstacles...


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