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Comment Re:What? (Score 2, Insightful) 201

Yes, but commercial airliners aren't built with plugs and sockets. For weight savings, everything is directly hardwired. At least, in pretty much every airliner prior to the 787, and I can't imagine Boeing changing that. Military aircraft are built with plug and socket connectors, but both sides of the connection are big bulky heavy metal components. When your plane is a cockpit and wings strapped onto a giant oversized turbine, you basically don't care about weight, but commercial airliners are the exact opposite. They're obsessed with weight savings, so the miswiring happened during initial assembly and their quality control procedures were too poor to catch it. Boeing has fallen a loong long way.

Someday, people are going to look back on the outsourcing mania of core competencies by MBAs over the past generation as sheerest idiocy.

Comment Re:still tied to the old traditional ideas when ov (Score 1) 215

There's nothing wrong with the current university education, other than letting in far too many unqualified students.

What you are asking for already exists. It's called a trade school. It's far more appropriate for what the summary euphemistically calls "struggling students." People who are "needing remedial education" should not be attending a university. Any college that has lowered its entrance standards so far that remedial education is even on the table has turned itself into a diploma mill that will shortly be known as worthless. They're cutting their own throats in pursuit of the almighty dollar, diluting education, deceiving employers, and generally ruining the entire concept of a university education.

And it's going to require multiple lost generations before anything is done about it. That's right, generations. As in, pairs of decades. Unemployment is highest right now among new college graduates, and the severe dumbing down of university educations is one reason why. When the economy is already shifting to eliminate jobs permanently, people who can barely struggle through their supposed education are at a double disadvantage. But this isn't going to sink in with enough people to make any difference for decades. The mystique and cachet of college has a long lasting draw that's going to cause a whole lot of grief before it declines.

Meanwhile there are any number of companies all over the country who are crying for trained, reliable, dependable, competent employees with trade skills like welding. If they can find somebody who already has the skill, they're amazed, and if they can find somebody who both knows the job and will show up to work regularly, they're astonished. And they pay pretty good too. Much better than minimum wage. But the combination of people trying to get educations they are in no way qualified to acquire who also have a poor work ethic has left all the current managers thinking new college grads are useless and more trouble than they're worth. And I can't blame them.

Shit, when did I get old...

Comment Re:Why not mine what we already have? (Score 1) 221

A lot of radiation shielding is simply a question of mass.

Well yes and no. Beyond the Van Allen belt, you're getting pinged by all sorts of energetic stuff and the choice of shielding does matter quite a lot. Pick the wrong shield and you're suddenly irradiating the occupants with enormous amounts of secondary radiation. What is stopped by the shield knocks bits off the molecules of the shield, which then pelt the people inside. Some choices of shield material are worse than no shield at all.

Having said that, I would guess most of the junk currently up there was already chosen to avoid that side effect. Being irradiated doesn't do electronics any good either, so avoiding secondary radiation is a design concern for satellite builders, especially those aiming for geosynchronous orbit.

Comment Re:I'm skeptical. (Score 1) 758

Both. You, the "you" you identify as yourself, is an emergent property of the arrangement of the neurons and their connections in your brain. "You" are a result of that pattern, and when that pattern changes, "you" change. But what causes that pattern to change is a feedback loop from the "you" part. It's not just age, or what you see and hear, that changes your brain. What you think and how you think also induces changes. Also what you feel, physically and emotionally.

As to how it really works, you are entirely correct in your suspicions. Nobody knows. What changes where result in what personality attributes is almost a complete mystery, as is the mechanism of those changes. Even the how it works at all part is still considerably mysterious. The idea has been floating around for a while now that the brain might be a quantum device. That is, phenomenon from non-classical physics like electron tunneling may be commonplace inside the brain. But the truth is, no one knows.

Comment Re:Sounds like a good idea to me (Score 1) 284

Er, the parent said something about sweeping the land and taking all vegetation with it. The fact that certain strains of banana are particularly susceptible to a new disease leaves the rest of the world untouched.

Anyway, the joke was done better further downthread. I forgot about seedless grapes, at least, and I think that post thought up at least one more, too.

All the moaning about genetically modified food seems to forget that we've been meddling with the genetics of our food since prehistoric times. Admittedly we probably weren't using viruses to do the meddling before, which puts a different complexion on things, but still. Edited DNA is rather the rule, not the exception.

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

The destruction of education has occurred during more than one wave. I'm no longer young, but I'm apparently not as old as you are. By the time I came around, classical education was already long dead and buried. My concern about theists is for present day attempts at destruction of what's left after a classical education was long gone to dust. The theists are trying to dismantle what little has survived. Your concerns run further back. (And I'd be willing to bet you're not old enough to remember when a classical education was available in primary school in the US either. Supercentenarians are rare.)

There's little doubt that the current system was instituted in order to churn out factory workers, not citizens. I have no quibble with that assessment. I will go further and say that the current situation has been exacerbated by the particularly moronic belief that the phrase "all men are created equal" is meant to be interpreted as "all humans must be identical". "Equal opportunity" has been used as an excuse to punish and denigrate and eliminate exceptional performers, despite all lip service to the contrary. Political correctness run amok, in other words.

I think because I'm genetically predisposed to think, and I do so in spite of my primary (public) school education, not because of it. But the flip side of that, when you shove aside the errors induced by too much political correctness, is the bald reality that a great many people literally don't think very well. No matter how well they're taught, they never will. I am once again treading on one of Slashdot's sacred cows here, but I think I can depend on the depth of the thread for cover. There's a guy floating around Slashdot with the sig quoting George Carlin's comment about considering how stupid the average person is, then realize that half of them are dumber than that. It's funny because it's true.

So a system meant to churn out factory workers, while of dubious value to the modern American economy, at least addresses the educational needs of a great mass of humanity. The loss for people who CAN think but can't afford a private education is fairly severe, but society will muddle along, putting a selection of both bright and dumb rich kids through a more rigorous education and hoping for the best. Meanwhile, the factory-level educations produced are head and shoulders above the norm for what the masses used to get, so condemning the factory education system is a little premature. Literacy and semi-literacy is at an all time high, worldwide, as is numeracy. A 17th century classical education was all well and good for those who got it, but they were by far the exception. I'd be willing to bet a fair number of those who were in the vicinity of where a classical education was being taught still didn't get one. Being rich then excused just as much as it excuses now.

Given the reality of who is benefiting most from a factory education, bringing up questions like the origin of the universe (if any) is doing them a disservice. I know these people. I'm related to a fair number of them. Their horizons simply do not extend that far, and they get confused and angry when confronted by the fact that other people do see further. They simply can not discuss such topics meaningfully. I know. I've tried. This is probably why something like Big Bang has crept in to the factory education, if indeed it has. Does presenting it as fact shut down thought? Not really. Certainly no more than the previous theistic explanation shut down thought. There was very little thought present in the first place. Somebody, somewhere, probably thought they were doing people a favor by providing another explanation to replace a theistic explanation that's in shambles.

I personally am in favor of continuing to dismantle theistic explanations. They were bad. They were extraordinarily bad, both as explanations of anything and as frameworks for running a society. It is perhaps debatable which is worse, theistic fanaticism or nationalistic fervor. Both have killed millions, down through the millenia. My money's on the theists. "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." -Steven Weinberg

I will close by addressing your sadly mistaken response where you apparently read less than 1/3rd of what I wrote. I am staring at your philosopher self (despite your sig) from the engineering side of the fence, and sorry, but I have the typical engineer's assessment of philosophy. Vast tracts of it are moonbeams and fairy dust. Logic predicated on axioms that have no bearing on reality is irrelevant. "Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence."

Some of philosophy is valuable. Some of it is exceedingly valuable. A carpenter's son in Nazareth suggested the rather revolutionary idea that ran, in English, "Do unto others..." and the fact he was otherwise a self-deluded lunatic doesn't negate the value of that idea. I've enjoyed reading much of the writings of Christopher Hitchens, and surely if a classical education has survived anywhere, it has survived at Oxford, and Mr. Hitchens was certainly a philosopher. Yet he too ran to certain self-delusions and ideas based on pure dreck. (His defense of the Second Iraq War being the head of that list. For the purposes he thought it served, he should have been advocating a war in Saudi Arabia.) So even those philosophers who have managed to generate something valuable served up a fair helping of fairy dust along the way.

The fairy dust is apparently a prerequisite, so I guess I have to tolerate it in order to get the occasional gem, but I do wish more philosophers would stay the hell away from anything a physicist has explored in detail. It is a conceit of philosophers that physics can be discussed without the language of mathematics, but that ship sailed two centuries ago. Philosophy was, is, and ever shall be most useful when exploring the human condition, not meddling around in the ultimate nature of reality. Physicists today have enough to worry about without getting wound up in Zen koans.

Comment Re:Why is this important data? (Score 1) 132

That's rather the point of trying to detect radioactive byproducts. It could very well be they used purely chemical explosives. Now that the first claim to detection of radioactive byproducts has been retracted, the probability that they faked it using chemical explosives goes up.

And the world's intelligence agencies and nuclear watchdogs will keep poking around. It's rather important to find out if they really did or if this is more of the usual fakery.

Comment Re:The Silliness of the Gun Control Debate (Score 1) 758

...except for suppression of enemy fire, and for that, chances are, that's probably not as good as a belt fed minigun or a .50 cal.

I dunno about you, but I'd feel quite thoroughly suppressed even in the face of 0.22 caliber fire if it was belt fed fully automatic...

Just sayin'.

Your post looked awfully lonely down at the very bottom with no responses and no mods. I felt sorry for it.

Comment Re:I'm skeptical. (Score 1) 758

Yes. It did. Brain plasticity declines in adults vs children and the young adults we call teenagers, but it doesn't go away entirely. Your brain can and does continue to shift and change, with new synapses linking more neurons. Brain complexity trends upwards throughout your lifespan. The mechanisms of memory and personality in the brain are still poorly understood, but it is unequivocally true that as your opinions and attitudes changed, your brain physically changed.

People like to say that humans are just biological computers. The metaphor is so flawed it's actively misleading. In a computer, the ordering of the transistors never changes. Once a chip is made, it is forever that chip, no matter what software it runs. What software it is capable of running is very strictly limited by the pattern of the transistors. If a computer behaved like your brain, which transistors are connected and how could change, and would shift constantly, literally from day to day. The software would likewise shift and change every day, adapting to new shapes and functions to match the underlying changes in the hardware. None of those things happen.

The wetware of the human brain is considerably more malleable than either computer hardware or software. It changes constantly, and is even capable of radical change on short timescales (weeks or months, not just years), the most notable source of such radical change being emotional trauma.

There's also a long time public belief, fostered by early neuroscientists who didn't know what they hell they were talking about, that you were born with all the neurons you'll ever have, and that you can never grow new ones. You could only kill the ones you have. As it turns out, this is completely and totally wrong. You can and do grow whole new neurons throughout your lifespan, and they grow whole new nets of synaptic linkages. The rate of growth is quite slow, but it is nonzero.

So relax. You're a man, not a machine. You are heir to marvelous flexibility. Enjoy it.

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