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Comment Re:The theory of gravity is under review :) (Score 1) 763

Your answer to my quoted question is as much a non-answer as turtles all the way down. "Don't worry your pretty head about it" is no answer either. It is, however, the typical last resort of the religious. It is not an acceptable answer, and teaching that response isn't acceptable either. The contradiction is not simple and is not resolved just by saying it's not there.

In any case, I was not aware that Big Bang is being taught in primary school. I have no recollection of it being taught when I was in school. "Science Class" as it was called before we got into high school and started being taught classes with titles like Chemistry and Physics and Biology, was far more concerned with teaching us things like bird recognition and the anatomy of algae. I recall no discussion at all about the origins of the universe, or even anything about cosmology in general. I guess times have changed. I'm going to take your word for the change in curriculum.

Taking you at your word, then I have a problem with the current curriculum as well. Big Bang should not be taught in primary school. It wasn't, when I was in school, and it should be removed if it has crept in. Cosmology suffers from the same fault as climatology and geology: all three are purely observational sciences. Calling them science is a bit of a stretch in consequence. They're half sciences. Exacting observation is very much essential in science, but it is only half of the process. The other half is experiment, followed by further exacting observation. Observation without experiment, and in particular multiple parallel experiments with controls, is perhaps useful, but if it's science, it's a much weaker kind.

Worse, all three subjects have, to all appearances, existed for vastly long timescales, and our period of exacting observation is only a tiny tiny fraction of that time. Conclusions about very long lasting processes using very short observational periods are often shaky, statistically. We're finding out just how shaky only recently, as we start seeing the assessments of scientific papers in many fields by statisticians, and learn just how poor the math really is. Even those observing short processes are poor. Slashdot has covered that particular revelation recently, and I think the implications and revisions are going to ring throughout science for a couple of generations, at least.

If anybody is still reading this far in the past and this deep in the thread, I'll get dinged for distinguishing between experimental and observational science and giving observational the short end of the stick, but my karma can take it.

To address your dilemma, it is not acceptable to teach anybody's fairy tales with taxpayer money. If the separation of church and state is about nothing else in this day and age, it is about the distribution of money. (Since apparently every damn thing is about the distribution of money.) Government that promotes dogma is the greatest scourge the Earth has ever seen, and I include not merely the de facto church government of Catholicism during the Middle Ages, but the Stalinism of the modern age as well. Both were horrific, and for the same reasons. Stalinism behaved like any other religion, despite its nominal atheism. You could classify it as a non-deistic religion, if that makes you happy.

More to the point, the particular fairy tale you seem to be interested in is not an appropriate subject for taxpayer funded classrooms for another reason: it is invariably not about the question and the philosophy, but about a very specific answer, namely, Christianity. Clothing the subject in terms of the question and the philosophy is always, in America, a Trojan Horse, and that metaphor is particularly apropos because it is, in every respect, an assault by an invading force that will wreak havoc once within the walls. That is the reason for the serious pushback against even bringing up the question in the modern public classroom. The question is a false front, and the people asking it aren't even remotely interested in high minded debate, or philosophy, or critical thinking, or logic. They are only interested in asking the question as an excuse to give their pet answer: God with a capital G. God who killed himself to appease his own wrath. And all that rot. I've never heard of Larry Kraus, but his tag line is quite accurate, and I hope he is making assloads of money. But I very much doubt he's making any of that money from public funds.

My opinion of the question is relevant to anybody who is honestly interested in the question, and not some specific answer they think they already know. You betray your own biases right there, by dismissing my opinion while claiming, in the very same paragraph, to be interested in opinion. You're not. You're part of the problem. Countless people do indeed find the question entertaining and challenging and important. Me, I think it's mental masturbation. It's the wrong question. And that's why we shouldn't be bothering children with it. They're not being denied the chance to learn. They can sit around in coffee houses and wank as philosophy students as much as they like. In college. Or in bars. (If you can distinguish the two.) Even in church, if a church would go so far as to discuss alternatives to their pet answer. (None of the ones I've been to ever did.) It's a ridiculous subject for primary school, and should be kept out in any form.

Primary school is for teaching the things we KNOW. 2+2=4, always. The Earth is an oblate spheroid. "I" is the subject form of a personal pronoun and "me" is the object form of the same personal pronoun. Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays. Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. And by the time we exhaust the list of things we KNOW, there's no time left for philosophy, and I'm fine with that. It can wait. Pattern their brains with truth, as tools for dealing with the world. Leave the guesswork for later.

If the curriculum needs to be adjusted, it's to remove Big Bang, not introduce America's majority fairy tale as an alternative. Allowing that giant wooden horse within the walls is a very dumb idea.

Comment Re:The theory of gravity is under review :) (Score 1) 763

That was rhetoric, not logic. Your assertion was too nonsensical to deserve logic. Nor am I one to defend the Big Bang. I find it a poor answer for the actual problems it's trying to solve, which are the Hubble Constant and entropy, not God.

I believe entropy is poorly understood, and I speak as an engineer who has been educated in the use of the equations that use the term. The equations work. We power civilization using them. But at best, entropy is poorly understood. At worst, it is an approximation along the lines of epicycles. As for the Hubble Constant, it arose from Hubble's observations that light from distant galaxies appears to be red shifted, that is, lower frequency than it should be. The only explanation put forth so far is that distant galaxies are retreating rapidly from us. This is the genesis of the Big Bang theory. What makes everything retreat from a center? An explosion. Hence, Big Bang.

Now you will find hordes who will rush to correct me, and inform me that the Big Bang was not an explosion at all, but an event that involved rapid expansion in all directions from all directions, that by the rule of similarity, this specific bit of space (occupied by Earth) is not particularly special compared to any other bit of space, and therefore the red shift is visible from anywhere and always appears to be centered on the observer, and therefore the expansion is a universal thing. All well and good, but Hubble himself is on record doubting the conclusions reached by other people about his observations, and I'm with him on this. And in any case, I stand by my claim, that the Big Bang was inspired by explosions, Mythbuster's style, and not science, and has subsequently been papered over to cover the flaws.

But that doesn't answer your question. The answer to your question runs something like this: the universe is a big complicated thing. The answer to "what created it" can not be a big complicated thing because that's no answer at all. God is a big complicated thing. (And if you have the nerve to claim God isn't, I can point you at 12,000 years of human religion, and I need say no more.) If God created the big complicated universe, what created God? It's a turtles-all-the-way-down answer. Meaningless. The Big Bang has simplicity, if nothing else. There's a guy floating around Slashdot with the sig "First there was nothing. Then it exploded." A succinct and insightful description if ever there was one. As to why a simple answer is preferable, I refer you to Occam's Razor. A rule of thumb, true, but a correct rule.

Your claim that the expanding vacuum quantum theory is unknown and new is odd to me. The idea is both old and well known. So well known that the concept appeared in at least one comic book in the late '70s, to my certain knowledge. The plot revolved around the what-if questions, "what if the rate of expansion of the quantum vacuum (space) is nonuniform and what if that expansion permanently affects the atoms in it?" So if you could leave our current vicinity faster than light, spend some time elsewhere, then return faster than light, it could be that you would arrive only to discover the Earth is the size of a beachball, to you. That you've become huge in comparison to your native land. An interesting series of what-ifs that were mostly an excuse for the final illustration of a giant man, unable to return to the beachball Earth, but that illustration very finely demonstrates my point: the concept was well enough known that it made it into main stream comics as part of a plot device.

Me, I think the question "what created the Universe?" is a Zen koan. It's meaningless. Noise. It's the same sort of question as "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" I refer you to Neil deGrasse Tyson's answer: "Words that make questions may not be questions at all," an answer he composed in response to the challenge by Stephen Colbert to answer the question "Why is there something instead of nothing" in ten words or less. It's a credit to both of them that Tyson managed to answer in 10 words, on the fly, in the middle of an interview, and that Stephen, hearing the answer, realized in seconds that it was, in fact, 10 words. (An honest, unscripted double-take, on Stephen's part. Priceless.) The video of the complete interview is on Youtube.

I believe (and I use the word with precision and exactitude, as I have neither evidence nor mathematical model) that the universe is eternal in a way few people truly grasp. That "forever" extends not only into the future, but also into the past. The universe has always been here. There is no beginning. There is no creator because there was no beginning. The need for creators and beginnings is a purely human need, born out of the fact we are born, and have beginnings and creators of our own. The possibility that the world into which we are born is not subject to beginnings or ends, as we are, is too scary, and so we invent Big Bangs to try to wish away the frightening concept of eternity. Prior to science, we invented gods, and for the same reason.

The universe has always been here, and my answer to entropy is black holes. Specifically, black holes of galactic mass. There are galaxies that emit giant streams of energy from their centers, in a mind boggling display of power. There is currently no explanation for the phenomenon. I believe it's what happens when a super-massive black hole reaches critical mass and overloads. It turns into a white hole. An emitter of everything it ever swallowed, in a massive convulsion that brings to mind some of the conditions alleged for the Big Bang. Black holes are the Great Recyclers of mass-energy that keep the universe from running down.

Comment Re:Peanuts? (Score 4, Insightful) 104

Or mangled one: "pocket change".

And yes, by government standards, it is pocket change. But astronomers have been so thoroughly beaten up in the budget battles for so many years that they've learned to get by on pocket change. Really, it doesn't take much more than that. A handful of decent telescopes at decent sites can do complete sky surveys nightly, aimed by machine, and the data fed into software that looks for lights that weren't there last night (which is code that already exists for a task absolutely ideal for a computer). The results are reviewed by the local astronomer as a sanity check, who then pushes the appropriate button to categorize the results (Good, clear night, Bad, cloudy night, Bad, bug on the telescope, etc.). The results are forwarded to a central database, washed against meteorology reports as an additional sanity check, and a report is generated and emailed to a selected bureaucrat. We don't even need to invent a new bureaucrat. It's a glance it over report, if all the software people and the astronomers have done their jobs right.

Most of the software already exists. The $5 million pays for piecing it together, adding the few bits that are missing, like an interface for the astronomers and the report generator, plus one lonely machine in a rack in a NASA data center somewhere that acts as the clearinghouse. A competent programmer could put it all together alone in a few months. Spread around the leftover cash to buy a little more hard drive space for the participating observatories and to prop up the budget of whatever department hosts the lucky bureaucrat (because the bureaucrat's manager will whine if you don't).


Of course, what will actually happen is too depressing to think about, and involves assinine turf wars, cowardly non-decision-making decision makers, industry lobbyists (choose OUR con$ulting company for the software!), intellectual property arguments, random bungling and assorted stupidity.


Comment Re:So much for the guns (Score 1) 134

I don't know about him, but that's precisely what I think. Muslim hatred for America is extraordinarily specific to the USA. The fact that Canada has a very similar culture is utterly irrelevant to the haters. The hatred has absolutely no bearing on reality, and is significantly artificial anyway, which divorces it even further from reality. (See Saudi royal family funding for the artificiality.)

So no, Canada would not be "next on the list" if they succeeded in overthrowing the Great Satan. Israel is next on the list. Actually Israel is first on the list, but we're standing in the way (not too cleverly, I might add), so we're first by dint of being nosy. Canada does not stand in front of Israel, therefore Canada is of no concern at all.

Comment Re:Yes (Score 1) 218

Bizarrely, open source works against itself. Open source, and the GPL in particular, was supposed to discourage balkanization. With the source to your tools available, if you found a problem or needed a feature, you could fix it or add it, and the terms of the GPL meant everyone else would (usually) benefit. There Should Be Only One.

Where does the idealism fall down? Humans. Politics. Assorted bullshit. There's no question we wouldn't be where we are without Stallman and the GPL, but he reckoned without human nature. Only to fall victim to it himself, and the emacs/xemacs fork is one of the oldest open source forks around, all because of Stallman's ego. Eric Raymond said one of the fundamental motivations keeping open source going is ego—being known for one's contributions. Unfortunately, he didn't address the flip side of ego-driven development, which is politics, fiefdoms, infighting, and forks.

That, if you like, is irony.

Comment Re:Yes (Score 3, Insightful) 218

That ended up as something of a rant, but it's all true. I've been periodically trying to use Linux as my desktop since the late '90s, and it has always ALWAYS sucked. To the point where I abandoned the RedHat distribution in 2001 because of self-contradictory package dependencies. For a while, it was simply impossible to have a sane system at all. I dumped it. I've used Debian since then, but even they have run into that same sort of idiocy. They're all better about packages now, but the driver situation is definitely a disaster. Linux supports a truly impressive array of legacy hardware, but too often, something somewhere is broken and has to be manually tweaked in a config file somewhere. WiFi never EVER works right.

And yeah, sorry, the whole sound subsystem situation is just beyond retarded. I don't even understand that one. I've been coding to music for almost 20 years now (the sound isolation is absolutely essential in an office environment), and I know I'm far from unusual in that respect, so why oh why is Linux audio an utter trainwreck? It boggles the mind.

So I use a Windows desktop, and run XWin32 if I need access to Linux GUI apps, and PuTTY for everything else, and it takes something like ChromeOS to finally get close to a Linux Year of the Desktop.

Comment Ustream claims capacity for 3.3 million viewers (Score 1) 94

Over 300,000 watching the live feed from Ustream right now. Come on Slashdot, we can break 'em!

On another note, it's funny that the asteroid shows as a streak on camera. Most of astronomy is about long exposures, so the camera at the Gingin Observatory apparently isn't very fast at all. This particular event is radically faster than most of what astronomy observes. If the watching of large rocks becomes a world-wide pastime, observatories are going to start wanting budgets to add a high speed camera.

Comment Interesting. (Score 1) 49

The article is slashdotted, but there's only 19 comments, and only one of them is a hater. Fascinating. Could it be that VR might actually make it this time? Really and truly? How does it go? “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Looks like Gandhi was right.

Comment Re:OK then what about the 2nd amendment? (Score 1) 498

I think it would be o.k. to hire a few rocket scientists for a change.

Good luck with that. Who'd WANT the damn job? Oh sure, it's all Law & Order out there, detectives investigating homicide and the case is solved in 44 minutes.

Pfft. As if. The unsolved cases far outnumber the solved ones, and it's not for lack of intelligence. It's for lack of evidence. No amount of smarts can actually zoom in that fucking far. I'm sorry, but you just can't. What is it actually like? Most cops are uniforms, and the highlight of their night is getting called out to deal with Stupid Fucker #1 vs Stupid Fucker #2 outside some bar, and hoping they can keep the peace without getting shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, or run over. Is it really any wonder that so many of them turn so severely cynical and turn into chiseling thieving bullying bastards? It's not an atmosphere conducive to niceness.

When you get down to it, what you want on the job are people with high empathy, and people with high empathy are exactly the ones who just can't take that job.

Oh, and a population gets the police force it creates. If the population goes out of its way to drive every cop with a shred of decency out of the force, what you have left is not going to be very nice. And yet, there's plenty of poor slobs on the job who will still give your sorry ass the benefit of the doubt one more time in your stupid-ass he-said she-said argument with your dumbass cousin. Fewer of those every year though.

Comment Re:Not good for vehicles! (Score 5, Informative) 419

It doesn't "waste fuel". Ethanol is less energy-dense than gasoline. Your vehicle was extracting the same percentage of energy from the ethanol as it was from gasoline (more or less, and a piss poor fraction it is, too). There's just less energy to be had per gallon. So yes, you get better mileage from pure gasoline. It has better energy density.

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