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Comment Re: 1.4 Billion and off to retirement (Score 1) 176

Prototypes are expensive, mate. Cost of progress

What is this "progress" thing of which you speak?

It's certainly nothing to do with the ability to kill people in an almost entirely consequence-free way so the empires of the 20th century can extend and preserve themselves by sowing death and discord across the globe, all using technology that if deployed for peaceful purposes could alleviate many of the problems that those empires were created to solve.

The pity is that there are people smart enough to build systems like this machine for killing, but stupid enough that they think doing so is a better idea than applying their genius to things that will create peace and prosperity, rather than war and poverty.

Comment Re:It's not contamination (Score 3, Insightful) 62

I've read TFA, and thanks for adding some clarity, but I still have to wonder when they'll sequence the DNA.

Apparently you neither read the TFA nor the reply to your original false assertion that they didn't sequence the DNA.

Nor does your claim "if it's just an already known species then it's just contamination" make any sense.

I was on a remote island recently. I picked up an odd feather on the beach. I brought it back home and used it to identify the bird it came from. It was a known species.

There is absolutely no basis in that observation to support the claim that my backpack had somehow become contaminated by feathers from that species, and DNA is no different from feathers in this regard, when subject to ordinary standards of careful handling for such samples, which were obviously applied in this case (that is: the people doing the research are not and should not be presumed to be complete idiots.)

So you're completely wrong about all that, but have a nice day anyway!

Comment Re:"may head off backlash" (Score 1, Troll) 229

That is what environmentalist want.

This is why people calling themselves environmentalists have opposed:

1) all hydrocarbon development of any kind, including natural gas and fracking (which oddly enough plays well with the coal lobby...)

2) wind power because of the non-existent "negative health impacts of infrasound"

3) solar power under the false auspices of "concerns about toxins"

4) long-range power transmission (building new transmission lines or upgrading/expanding old ones) because of concerns about the non-existent "electro-sensitivity" of some psychologically disturbed individuals

5) nuclear power development because "environmentalists" have prevented anything being done to improve waste disposal or development of newer and safer reactors over the past 30 years

And so on.

Every self-proclaimed "environmentalist" will tell you they are all for "new technology" but turn out to be absolutely against any particular project you specifically mention.

Given that someone calling themself an "environmentalist" is opposed to every single option other than returning to the stone age, it is a little difficult to reclaim the term at this point.

Comment Re:wow, stupider than MAD! (Score 4, Insightful) 192

just ask yourself: what would a "thinking war machine" actually "think" about? it's not as if war is just a boardgame - heck, it's not as if the political and military moves we make are even carefully thought-out at all!

In fact, war itself is well-known to be fundamentally irrational. There's even something in economics called the "war puzzle" or "war problem": under the economic model of rationality, war is irrational.

Actors can always generate better outcomes by negotiation, and in real-world case studies typically both sides believe they have a much greater than 50% chance of winning (which violates the law of conservation of probability...)

As Clausewitz might have said if he'd known about Darwin: war is reproductive competition carried out by other means.

As such, creating bigger and bigger machines to prosecute wars is the stupidest thing humans could possibly do. On the other hand, if you think a weapon is a tool for changing your enemy's mind, then machines that educate are the most powerful weapons of all.

If we want to dump billions into making the world safe for American Imperialism, teaching machines of the kind envisioned in "The Diamond Age" would be a far better investment than exa-scale hardware that won't be able to think, but will be able to knock one more decimal place of uncertainty off of opacity coefficients for thermonuclear simulations.

But human beings are too stupid and irrational to do that, and would far prefer to engage in the least efficient, least effective strategy for solving any human problem: war.

There are people who are so stupid that they believe, for example, that because war was required to end slavery in the US that it was somehow a good solution, and they are so ignorant that they are unaware that slavery was eliminated in many other places without warfare. Simply because some bunch of idiots somewhere were too stupid to solve their problems without war doesn't mean that war should be the go-to solution for any problem that faces us.

Comment Re:Optical density, schmoptical schmensity! (Score 1) 182

What they are actually using is two photon absorption, the two beam setup allows them to have a tighter distribution of two photon absorption events.

Reading the actual paper it seems to be more about the chemistry of the photopolymerizable substrate than anything else: my impression is the two-photon technique was known previously (although it's extremely clever, as the two-photon absorption probability changes very rapidly with the beam intensity, making the sub-diffraction-limited spot size possible.)

But this also appears to be a write-only system, and there's nothing about speed, and while the new resin is "hard" there's no data on longevity in a real storage conditions. Such small spot sizes require very little flow in the material to screw them up.

So I'm with the other posters here who think this is an interesting laboratory demonstration of a technique we will almost certainly never see on our desktops.

Comment Re:Genius judge (Score 4, Insightful) 540

I offered you a plain donut, you accepted a plain donut, that's the contract. Offer and acceptance. And that would probably be the last free donuts the office got.

Now in plain fact YOU didn't offer anyone a "free donut": the corporation did. This is a critical distinction.

Corporations exist solely by virtue of Nanny State interference in the operations of the Free Market.

This gives corporations--which offer internships--a vastly privileged position in the negotiations they undertake with potential employees, interns, etc.

Again: corporations are a privileged form of social organization by statute (the reforms to the Companies Act in Great Britain in the 1850's, and similar acts passed by parliaments and congresses around the world.) I own a corporation, and when I incorporated I did not engage in free an uncoerced trade with my fellow humans: I filed forms with the government that upon approval gave me as a corporate owner certain legal, state-defined and state-protected privileges that my employees do not have the benefit of.

Advocates of Corporatism like yourself tend to forget this little detail: you as the owner or agent of a corporation have the backing of the massive, coercive power of the State. Your employees do not.

So quit pretending you live in some mythical Free Market where the Nanny State hasn't tilted the scales massively in your favour. Show a little humanity and humility and decency, and remember that what the State giveth the People can damned well take away.

Comment Re:If it were a "modest" encroachment, ... (Score 1) 341

And if the metadata so meaningless, why collect it?

Precisely. The organs of the State want us to believe both that a) the metadata can be used to infer everything about "terrorists" and b) the metadata can't be used to infer anything about YOU.

If metadata is so useful (which it plausibly is) as to be an efficient stand-in for content in many cases, it should have substantially the same legal protections as content.

When President Obama says, "No one is listening to your phone calls" he should be adding, "because we don't have to: getting the metadata is sufficient to let us use powerful algorithms to tell us everything we want to know, which we would otherwise have to listen to your phone calls to get."

Comment Re:Early Crimefighting Crowdsourcing in Salem (Score 1) 270

But that's not the same as a lynch mob.

"Better than a lynch mob!" is hardly the standard the American legal system once aspired to. Although I guess people with darker hued skins might disagree.

There are innocent people being held in Guantanamo Bay without access to the rights that the American legal system was supposed to protect.

Shrugging and saying, "Well, at least we aren't burning anyone at the stake! I don't see what you're making such a big deal over!" is not a civilized response to this situation, and making out like the procedural snafus were the biggest issue kind of misses the point.

Comment Re:Will Box for Passport (Score 1) 1109

There's only one thing all terrorists have in common, and in light of recent events I thought it important to point it out. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's the one thing that unites terrorists all over the world, from the United States to Russia, India, the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany and even Canada?

In every case you find one and only one thing that is exactly the same amongst all of them. Every single one. You know what it is, don't you? It should be obvious now after decades of senseless attacks on innocent people. The thing that unites them all is only too clear.

It is the ONLY thing that they all have in common.

You've figured it out, haven't you?

That's right.

Every single one of those terrorist attacks was carried out by a human being.

Comment Re:Cataclysmic events may be required (Score 1) 272

This may be one factor (of possibly several) that explains the Fermi paradox.

Another factor is that specifically human intelligence of the kind that proves theorems and builds spaceships is almost certainly an accident of sexual selection. There is absolutely no utility in being able to prove theorems or build spaceships in the stone age, so there couldn't have been any selective pressure in favour of that type of specifically human intelligence.

This is likely why specifically human intelligence is so rare, despite all the apparent building-blocks being common. Rudimentary tool use isn't especially rare, nor are basic communication skills that appear to be the basis for language. But since the selection for these things is an accident of sexual selection and not a predictable product of natural selection there are a lot of co-incidences that have to happen to make beings like us.

It is quite likely from what we know of abiogensis and evolution that life will prove to be quite common in the universe, and intelligence extremely rare.

Comment Re:Looks like creationism... (Score 5, Interesting) 272

On the other hand evolutionists rarely notice that a process of natural selection doesn't create something "new", it only causes a (mathematically preexisting) potential arrangement of atoms, one of an infinite set, to actually appear

The problem with "philosophical literacy" is that it makes you say things like "mathematically pre-existing" as if it meant something other than "non-existent".

You seem to want to reify the mathematical language we use to describe reality, as if the tool we use to describe the world and which we have invented and adapted to describe the world ever more deeply, somehow "predates" the world that language was invented to describe.

I see no reason to privilege math over English in this regard. Both are just languages we use to describe, understand and communicate our understanding. Neither has any ontology apart from us, the beings who invented them, and to impute otherwise is both unwarranted and uninteresting. There is no explanatory need to do so, nor any operational test we can apply to test the validity of the hypothesis (although it would be damned interesting if you could come up with one.)

There are certainly many cases where our mathematical description has to be "fixed up" by hand to actually describe the world, the most obvious one being the excess of solutions to almost all the basic differential equations we use in physics, particularly the things like the backward-in-time solutions to any given wave equation. (That the time-reversed solutions of the Dirac equation can be given meaning does not change this, it merely emphasizes what a poor tool mathematics is for describing the universe in all the other cases where the advanced wave has no apparent physical meaning.)

Given what a lousy tool math is to describe the world, it would be very, very weird if the world were somehow "following" math. The hypothesis that we invented math to describe the world in much the same way we invented to stone ax for changing the world looks a lot more plausible.

Comment Re:High School Students (Score 2) 41

I was an FRC mentor for several years and it was both incredibly demanding and incredibly rewarding. You'll see high-school students go from clueless newbies in their first year with the team to competent, confident and capable young men and women by the time they're done.

A lot of it is the unplanned activities. One of my favouite memories is teaching a couple of students some vacuum technique for ensuring the pneumatic system was sealed properly. The students are motivated, interested and eager to learn, and you get to see their competencies undergo these sudden upward steps where they are frustrated and confused one minute and doing the job properly five or ten minutes later.

It's really worthwhile for everyone, and if anyone had told me how much fun it would be to work with teenagers I would have laughed my head off. But it turns out it is.

Comment Re:Good thing it's dead (Score 1) 138

Although you're more correct than most of the people posting here, much of what you say is wrong.

SGML is a very flexible language created (pre-web) to be a universal document format - or perhaps a meta-format.

Meta-format is close. SGML is a language for defining markup languages. That's what the "G" is about (it stands for "Generalized" but should have been an "A" for "Abstract"). You're correct that with suitable clever ticks you can make almost anything a valid document against some SGML language. The "" to "/>", which is very clever but incompatible with HTML.)

SGML plays the same role in markup languages that EBNF syntax plays in programming languages.

You're right about the power and flexibility, though: I once created a concrete syntax and DTD that would let me use SP to process RTF documents.

XML and HTML were both subsets of SGML.

"Subset" isn't the right word to be using here (why yes, I did take a double-dose of Pedantic Pills today!) XML and HTML are both concrete markup languages whose definitions are valid SGML DTDs and that use the SGML concrete reference syntax (mod the redefinition of NET used by XML).

XML somehow became popular for serializing data, but it's just not a very good tool for that. JSON is far simpler and less verbose for object serialization, but I couldn't see using it for sparse document markup.

XML is just fine for serialization, and no more verbose than JSON when used properly (contrived examples to the contrary). What it lacks is a lightweight parser: the compelling advantage of JSON is you don't have to pull a huge parser over the wire to handle a few hundred bytes of information. JSON would be a bad tool for document markup, though.

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