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Comment Re:So what? (Score 1) 534

Japan is rejecting its existing CO2 commitments...

Because it shut down nuclear power generation after Fukushima, because clearly the problems with a technology aren't to do better, but to quit.

Quitting is made easier by the political unpopularity of nuclear power created purely by decades of hysterical agitation by "environmentalists" who are far more interested in imposing known-failed "abstinence only" "solutions" than actually solving problems.

Comment Re:Double down (Score 1) 534

Had we investing in moderate, completely reasonable solution 60+ years ago when the scientists first agreed that we had a serious problem on our hands we could have nipped this problem in the bud at very little expense.

We tried to. It was called nuclear power. Some bunch of hysterics shut it down and made it politically impossible to improve on the early, relatively crude systems that were in place in the 60's and early 70's.

Today, those same people are telling us what we should do about climate change, which amounts to "anything but nuclear power or even doing research into geo-engineering, because when we pretend to be in a panic about the future of the climate we're lying: if we weren't lying we'd really be interested in any solution whatsoever, not just ones that we happen to find politically palatable."

I mean seriously, isn't it interesting that so many "environmentalists" let their politics over-ride their supposed concern for the environment?

The risks of AGW are real. I'm not convinced they are potentially civilization-ending, but if I was, I'd be screaming from the rooftops to build more nukes and investigate geo-engineering. Anyone who claims to think AGW could be civilization-ending but isn't doing those things is a liar or a fool, or both.

Comment Re:Double down (Score 1) 534

I guess for me it boils down to this: if there is a nonzero probability X that future generations will suffer devastating consequences of our pollution, we should do everything we can to mitigate that. This is true even for small X because the scale of consequences are potentially very large.

By "everything we can" are you including the standard proviso, "except invest in nuclear power or even do research in geo-engineering, because when I say 'everything we can' I only mean 'everything we can to control other people's lives, because I'm a control freak, not an environmentalist'?"

Comment Re:I wish they'd stop calling it that. (Score 1) 71

After that, maybe they could try writing a remotely accurate summary, too! The summary is borderline gibberish, as it is impossible (in linear materials) for EM fields to "deflect" each other.

This "cloak" is interference-based, using active dipoles to generate a field that cancels the scattered field in the forward (0 degree) and backward (180 degree) directions. It's a clever piece of work, but there are fairly hard limits to the how wide an angle such techniques can cover, and moving from an essentially 2D scenario to full 3D increases the complexity enormously, although I'd love to see them try it.

Comment Re:Orson Scott Card (Score 3, Insightful) 732

then introduced a what-if scenario where the rules failed.

...and thus turned the movie into yet another remake of RUR, the primordial "robots go nuts and kill people" story that is precisely what Asimov was reacting against and trying to avoid when he created the 'three laws", whose whole purpose was to write off the very possibility of such a plot from the word "go", so he could concentrate on the interesting questions.

So yeah, they took the title and slapped in on something that was antithetical to the original in every respect. Other than that it was a good movie (except that RUR is a fairly pedestrian play, and doesn't need any more remakes, even though every single movie about robots ends up as a remake of it.)

It's as if someone took "Starship Troopers" and made a film where humans settle their differences with aliens by peaceful negotiation. It might be a good film (it probably would be better than the film that was made of that name) but it would be diametrically opposed to the theme of the original book, just like the movie "I, Robot" is.

Comment Amazing (Score 0, Troll) 43

Monkeys and every other living creature with a brain uses their mind to control all kinds of things. Why is this remotely interesting to anyone?

Show me one example of anyone anywhere controlling anything without using their mind.

I'm typing this grouchy rant right now... using my mind! Is that worth getting written up on /. for?

Or could the headline actually mean, "Monkey controls something using millions of dollars of custom hardware that replaces the functions of some of its nervous system and musculature"? If that's too long, then why not: "Monkeys Move Avatar Arms With Expensive EEG Hardware"?

Comment Re:Ask Doctors ... (Score 5, Interesting) 786

You should talk to Doctors. They seem to have a quite different opinion of Medicare

You should also look at world-wide comparisons. Medicare and other public healthcare programs in the US account for more dollars per capita spent than all or almost all universal health-care systems in other countries, and deliver lousy results comparatively.

Canada--with our nominally single-tier, public, single-payer health care system--has longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and better outcomes by any number of other measures. Critics (sometimes justly) focus on input measures like wait-times, but at the end of the day what matters is that we are getting health care and getting good outcomes. We aren't even the best in the world--just middling-decent as these things go.

So the real question is not "why can't government launch a website" but "why can't the US Federal government, alone amongst all governments in all developed nations, provide a reasonable level of basic, universal health care at costs comparable to those in every other developed nation on Earth?"

This isn't a "government" problem. It is a uniquely American problem, and the solution does not lie in any general ideological fix, but in the detailed structure of the specifically American, particularly broken, Federal government.

Comment Re:How To: (Best Guess) (Score 4, Interesting) 227

Step 5: Model Linux's ecosystem: standards win since they're multiply-implemented.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more mention of standards here, although I've had variable success with standards myself, and good success with open non-standard systems.

Good chioces: Qt, VTK, OpenGL has been extremely long-lived.

Mediocre choices: XML, wx (I moved to wx from Qt when TrollTech went insane over licensing, but have been slowly migrating back in recent years as wx support has decayed on platforms I'm interested in.)

Bad choices: XSLT, VRML

I still use XSLT for some stuff, but VRML was a mistake. Apparently you should stay away from four-letter-acronyms.

Summary: although I prefer standards over non-standards, open vs closed is the fundamental divider between good vs bad bets. Not everything open will survive, but nothing closed will.

Comment Re:Generalized Master Equation... (Score 1) 530

Although I agree this is a fruitful and valuable approach to these problems, it seems to me to side-step the fundamental question, which is, "Why is there a classical world at all, or why is it only the classical world we are conscious ofl?" That is, why is consciousness in particular restricted only to the awareness of one particular entangled state, when all of them exist at the same time?

Decoherence approaches don't actually address this question. They simply take for granted that the only way we can become aware of the existence of quantum physics is via interference phenomena, and once coherence is lost due to entanglement with external sources of entropy, the possibility of awareness of the multiplicity of states necessarily vanishes.

But why is this a necessity? That is, why aren't we consciously aware by means other than interference phenomena of the underlying quantum-mechanical laws that govern the world of our experience? Is there something about the physics of consciousness that makes it so relentlessly classical? (I take suggestions that there is anything particularly "quantum" about consciousness, from Penrose to Chopra, as being obviously wrong-headed: the brain is a highly dissipative system.)

Comment Re:Liberal strategy (Score 1) 1144

There is apparently a notable body of scholarly work that argues presidential democracies are uniquely unstable compared to parliamentary ones: http://www.amazon.com/The-Failure-Presidential-Democracy-Perspectives/dp/0801846404

Westminster-style parliamentary democracy has stood the test of time pretty well, and been implemented successfully all over the world. American-style presidential democracy has barely worked in the US and never worked well anywhere else.

This is deeply unfortunate, as it means the issuer of the world's reserve currency is likely to become increasingly unstable and ungovernable in the coming decades. If the Democrats hold the line in the current crisis, and the Tea Party are sent packing in the next round of Republican primaries, there may be some breathing room, though, and I have a certain level of trust in the "genius of the people" in the United States to, as Churchill said, "do the right thing after they have exhausted all other alternatives."

Comment Re:Where to start with this one...? (Score 1) 408

why he bothered with such a lie I got no idea

Because he believes in the epistemic power of imagination, just like every non-scientist and anti-scientist, from Greenpeace to the Catholic Church, everywhere.

This is the primary distinction between the scientific, Bayesian world-view and the non-, anti- or pre-scientific worldview: the latter is fundamentally based on the idea that what we imagine has something to do with what is.

Rather than base their beliefs on Bayesian updating from evidence derived from systematic observation and/or controlled experiment, such people (sometimes called "philosophers" when they do this professionally, although there is also an important professional sub-type called "economists") chose their beliefs based on what they imagine, or can imagine, or can't imagine.

It's an incredibly common, and you see it amongst self-proclaimed skeptics as well. This is just one particularly absurd example, but believe me, when you (or I!) make claims based on our imaginings rather than ideas that have been publicly tested by controlled experiment and systematic observations (which is just what science is) we look precisely as foolish to those whose beliefs are grounded in the outside world rather than the contents of their heads.

Comment Re:Nature is amazing (Score 2) 213

Who says God doesn't have a bit of Rube Goldberg in him?

Everyone who claims god both all-powerful is not an evil, sadistic, bastard.

A god who could create this world without killing off the vast majority of every generation of every species of every living thing (except humans after we invented science and democracy and capitalism) yet did not do so is unequivocally evil by any sane standard of morality.

A god who could not do so is not all-powerful.

Evolution is the most vicious, inefficient, monstrously cruel mechanism for the creation of the diversity of life you could possibly imagine, and if you want to put that on your god, go right ahead. Just don't expect me or anyone with a gram of human decency to think that your god is anything but a monster, worthy only of our hatred and contempt, because god knows that's all he has shown us.

And again: if you claim that your had no choice but to use this hideous, genocidal mechanism to create us, you are doing nothing but claiming your god is bound by a higher power that imposes that necessity. And what value is god that's merely a beefed up space-alien with superior technology, but still limited by the laws of physics, or logic, or some other greater power that governs the whole ordinary universe, god included.

Comment Re:Yup, we're boned (Score 1) 510

It just boggles my mind that anyone could be so naive as to think emissions can be curbed significantly, in a relevant time frame, by multilateral international agreement.

No one believes that emissions can actually be curbed, but no one cares because no one (or hardly anyone) is actually interested in solving the problem. They are far more interested in using the problem as a justification for controlling other people, in exactly the same way that anti-abortion crusaders don't care about reducing unwanted pregnancy and anti-drug crusaders don't care about reducing drug addiction (not use, addiction and abuse... you know, the things that actually cause the vast majority of drug-related problems.)

We know that prohibitionists of all kinds don't care about the problems they claim to be solving, because prohibition is always a lousy solution. We've known that about drugs for decades. We've known abstinence-only sex education and restricting access to contraceptives increases teen pregnancy. But the people who advocate those things don't care about teen pregnancy: they care about controlling people. Same with drug warriors.

And it's the same with abstinence-only GHG opponents. If they cared about the problem they would be massively pro-nuclear (some are) and more than willing to explore geo-engineering possibilities, however unlikely.

Think about it: there is a class of person who claims that anthoropogenic climate change is likely to produce a civilization-ending event, but are adamantly opposed to even researching any potential solution that doesn't fit into their bizarrely Puritan moral universe.

Comment Re:Wait...what? (Score 4, Interesting) 208

...errr....don't you mean...not die out? And isn't the story here that a presumed barrier was crossed, not that it was a good thing...to some?

Nope. Hybridization is incredibly common amongst plants, so everyone who has ever given GMOs any thought has known all along that the genes would get loose. I've posted about this on /. and elsewhere for years, and presumably others have too.

The important story is that the GMO/hybrids are seeing some selective advantage, which is what people are surprised at: the assumption was that since these genes do not occur in these plants in nature, the odds of them conferring any selective advantage were extremely low. It would be like any random mutation: billions-to-one odds against being beneficial, because there are billions of ways of screwing up the molecular machinery of the cell and only a few ways of making it better (in part because organisms are by definition pretty well adapted to their environment in almost all cases... if they weren't they would have been out-competed by their better-adapted cousins.

I'm not opposed to GMOs as such, because it is stupid to be opposed to an abstraction as diverse as "GMO"--it would be like being opposed to "nuclear power", say, because one particular type of reactor has proven to be uneconomic. But putting responsibility for GMOs into the hands of a small number of global agri-corps seems to me a fairly bad idea because they are going to downplay the risks posed by the genes getting loose, be more concerned with deploying organisms that are profitable rather than sustainable (Roundup Ready plants are a good example of something I'm very leery of.)

Comment Re:Excellent! There pre-reading tests for dyslexia (Score 1) 105

Assuming that the smaller arcuate fasciculus is actually causal in dyslexia, of course.

This is where the utility of brain imaging comes in: it may help localize the causes of dyslexia in particular regions of the brain, guiding further research and perhaps leading to better remedial approaches to the condition.

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