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Comment Re:Big problems ahead (Score 1) 283

The young will be piggy banks for so long before getting tired of it.


Let's imagine for a moment a world where 50% of what a young person makes goes to support the non-working elderly. Sounds horrible, right? But lets imagine in that world in which those young people are 4x as productive as they are now. Would they have a legitimate beef supporting an older generation that bequeathed them a world whose technology, infrastructure and educational institutions allow them to take home twice as much pay as they did?

This is not just sci-fi conjecture; in many ways this resembles the situation we have today. If the current work force had 19th C technology, education, and infrastructure, then we'd only be able to support a fraction of the retirees who don't want to work. The modern working class enjoys a lifestyle that is considerably more comfortable than they did a hundred years ago, while supporting many, many more non-working retirees.

If you want to live a long and comfortable retirement, you'd better be committed to progress. But I question whether progress is a common American value anymore. With respect to education, I hear a lot of people who voice what amounts to this argument: if it was good enough for *me* then kids today ought to make due with it. After all *I* didn't understand algebra or chemistry when I got out of school and *I* did alright.

The problem with that argument is that todays's students are going to be the workers keeping your investments productive in your retirement years. They'll be the doctors taking care of you; the civic leaders making the laws and keeping the peace when you leave your home. It's not rational to want to limit the educational opportunities of the next generation to what worked for you; enlightened self-interest would support producing a next generation that's better educated than the world has yet seen.

Comment Re:What were the pings then? (Score 1) 245

I think you're conflating the satellite pings sent by the plane's maintenance system to satellites and the ultrasonic "pings" that the submerged flight data recorder is supposed to generate. Right now there's nothing particularly mysterious about the fact that we can't locate the wreckage of the plane in the middle of millions of square miles of featureless ocean.

In any case, the simplest answer is to have planes transmit a GPS fix a couple times per hour to a satellite communication network. The cost would be negligible compared to the overall operation cost of the airplane.

Comment Re:It's only "settled" in the minds of zealots... (Score 2) 661

Wyoming may not be "politically correct" on the issue, but they are correct that "global warming" being caused primarily by man-made emissions isn't settled science. (And no, computer scientists are not the correct scientists. ;) )

You have *no* idea of what you're talking about. Computer scientists don't run climate models, climate researchers do.

The rest of your post is full of baloney that is readily refuted, but it's a tedious and probably hopeless job so I'll just pick on one statement: "The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report concedes for the first time that global temperatures have not risen since 1998."

This is outright dishonest. 1998 was, at the time, the hottest year ever in the instrumental record by a *long* shot. It remains the third hottest year in the instrumental record. And this is the year you (or the people you listen to) have chosen to ask whether the climate has gotten warmer "since then". This is exactly analogous to this reasoning. In 1991 Carl Lewis ran 100 m in 9.86 seconds. Of the eleven world championships held since then, six have been won at slower times. Therefore, the average speed of a 100 m sprinter hasn't been getting any faster since 1991. You see what I've done? I've taken an exceptional performance (Lewis' record shattering 100 m sprint) and pretended it was "representative".

Honest people in the climate debate don't use outlier years as their baseline. They use decades (e.g. 1990-2000) or longer (1900-2000) as their baseline.

Comment Re:Why the hell... (Score 1) 661

Reasoning and factual knowledge go hand in hand. A modest fund of basic scientific fact and terminology is indispensable to an educated person. What is energy? Entropy? What is a molecule? Radiation? What does statistical significance mean?

I agree that observation is probably given short shrift. But Emersonian self-reliance notwithstanding, it's still essential to be able to see the big picture outside your parochial experience. If most of us judged by what was going on outside our front doors last winter, we'd say, "what global warming? It's *cold* out here!" Never mind what was going on *elsewhere* in the globe, if we rely solely on our personal observations we'll get a different picture than people looking at the whole pattern (jet stream, anomalies in sparsely populated parts of the globe like East Greenland).

Holding to the notion that something is more significant because *I* experienced it isn't the hallmark of an educated person.

Comment Re:So a bicyclist is safer..... (Score 1) 490

Cyclist here. The proposal is *not* to allow bicycles to ride through stop signs into oncoming traffic; it would require the cyclist to *yield*.

One thing you might not know if you haven't done a lot of bicycle commuting is how much greater a cyclist's situational awareness is than a driver's would be. A cyclist can see and hear much better than driver, and has more time to take in developments because he's moving slower. A cyclist tends to be more alert than a driver too, because exertion produces higher levels of attention.

So this is how I imagine the Idaho stop *might* work. It exchanges an increased danger that a cyclist might ride out into cross traffic for the decreased danger he might be hit by a distracted driver making a right turn. Whether this is safer or more dangerous for the cyclist depends on the relative probabilities of those two situations. In my opinion the chance of a cyclist entering cross traffic is nil, unless he's inebriated. A non-hearing-impaired cyclist can detect the approaching traffic from considerable distance, easily a hundred yards. Distracted drivers on the other hand are a commonplace threat to everyone on the road.

All that said, I don't favor this change for political reasons. The rules should be simple: bicycles are just another vehicle. They obey the rules that other vehicles do, including the special restrictions for vehicles that have to travel slower than the prevailing speed. As soon as bicycles are seen as *privileged*, this will inflame the irrational anger that a few drivers already display toward cyclists.

Comment Here's how you tell a compelling story. (Score 4, Insightful) 192

You talk about something the listener wants to hear. Things that interest them.

It's simple in principle but tough in practice because you need to know your audience. The only way to do that is to listen to them. What are *they* talking about? What are they trying to get the company to do? Use that to frame your story. So if it's trying to cut costs, tell them a story about how you successfully cut costs; or even better, how you *failed* to cut costs and but then later on figured out a better way. If they're pushing some management theory, show how you are putting it into practice, and how it's going to solve some long standing problem you've been struggling with.

There's not a "clear bright line" between effective communication and kissing ass. Superficially it looks much the same because both involve getting the audience to connect your story to something significant to them. The difference is in what you intend the audience to take away. If they come away knowing something about IT they didn't know before, that's solid communication.

Communication requires some shared frame of reference; a common model to which the symbols you are exchanging refers. I learned that on the first page of my data communications theory text, and it's true for human communications too. To communicate effectively with an audience you have to speak in their language. If you don't, everything you'll say just sounds just blibber-blabber to them, even if they're a *smart* audience.

That's another simple-sounding principle that's hard to put into practice. If you want to communicate unfamiliar information to someone, you have to bridge the gap and familiarize yourself with their mental landscape. Imagine a cosmetologist is tasked with explaining to you how to select and apply make-up. If she talked to you the way she'd talk to another cosmetics geek, you wouldn't learn anything. If she related it to something you already understood, like the OSI network stack or the 3SAT boolean satisfiability problem, you might learn something. But it would be a lot of work on her part; it's a lot easier to pretend you understand what she's talking about and hope you come away with something.

Comment Re:Retrieving memories causes decay? (Score 2) 426

It implies that the memory is overwritten with the memory of recalling the memory, which is a huge and ridiculous assumption.

However the notion that memory is overwritten by recollection actually does have experimental support. The idea isn't ridiculous, it's just repugnant because it implies that our grasp on reality isn't as firm as we'd like to believe it is.

The only way that conciousness could be non-computable would be if there is a supernatural element to it. Otherwise, the fact that it exists means it must be computable.

Not necessarily. One way consciousness could be non-computable would be for it to be non-deterministic.

In any case this is all fuzzy; not only is "supernatural" a fuzzy word, the discussion of "computable" is fuzzy too. What would it mean for consciousness to be "computable"? Is a Turing machine "computable"? Well it can be *simulated*, but aspects of its behavior cannot always be *predicted* (e.g., halting).

Comment Re:sigh (Score 1) 627

How's this for cherry picking: The Earth has been on a cooling trend every year since 1965.

Genuine global mean temperature data, continuous coverage from 1965 to 2013.5, no tricks or manipulation other than cherrypicking 5 dates to split it into 6 cooling trends. The graph was inspired by recent claims that warming has stopped, it's a perfect illustration of how utterly fictional that claim is.


Comment Re:Uh... (Score 2) 208

I had a friend who once interviewed R. Buckminster Fuller for his college newspaper, and got into an argument with Fuller over geometry. That took chutzpah, but my friend was on solid ground: Fuller claimed that lines couldn't really intersect because the bits that touched would have to somehow interfere with each other.

Clearly this visualization-based dislike of intersecting lines didn't hamper his use of the *abstraction*, otherwise Fuller couldn't have functioned as an architect.

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