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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 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.

Comment Ultralight VTOL (Score 1) 127

This is the VTOL equivalent of the ultra-light aircraft: take away everything but the barest essentials, and a "jet pack" is what you have left.

Unlike conventional ultralights, "the barest essentials" in this case don't even include wings, due to the greater thrust of jet engines.

Computer control is clearly very important to making this thing work--I bet there is a very clever stablization algorithm at work in the background, and various emergency control and landing modes that make it relatively idiot-proof.

Comment Re:Guillotine (Score 1) 351

Old reports of victims turning their eyes and looking at people were always brushed off as nonsense "because the brain dies right away" but this research, though not directly to do with decapitation, seems to refute that... even if consciousness lasts for another 10 seconds instead of 30.

I am not aware of any case of these reports being "brushed off as nonsense". Do you have any citiations for this?

Quite famously, during the Terror, one of the aristocratic victims agreed with a friend or servant that they would blink their eyes for as long as possible after decapitation. They blinked something like ten times, well into the 10+ seconds range. I have read of this in several histories of the French Revolution, and in no case was there any suggestion that anyone anywhere ever brushed it off because of some unsubstantiated belief about "the brain dies right away".

Nor have I ever heard the myth in the summary that any non-religion-addled neuro-scientist has ever suggested "near death" experiences are anything but the activity of the dying brain. I have certainly never heard any neuro-scientist ever suggest that the brain dies instantaneously, and it would be incredibly bizarre if that were the case, as it contradicts absolutely everything we know about how the neuro-chemistry of the brain works.

Comment Re:on a volcano spewing CO2 (Score 1) 232

They conveniently ignore the fact that these are bad things, not good...

What are these "good" and "bad" of which you speak? You seem to be under the misapprehension that climate is a one-dimensional phenomena that can be fully chararcterized by it's value along a single good/bad axis. This is not science: it is politics, pure and simple (very simple!)

As soon as you talk about "better" and "worse" or "good" and "bad" you are only talking about politics, not science. No GCM anywhere has any represention of "good" or "bad". No GCM output is a table of "good" or "bad" values.

Climate is complex and very likely being influenced by human activity. Dumbing the discussion down and talking primarily about politics rather than science is not a recipe for fixing any of the issues.

Comment Re:More buck for the bang? (Score 2) 323

Let's assume that the initial print run is 5000 (apparently not atypical in the US for hardcovers:, see "Lesson 11"). That $3.55 for pre-production comes to almost $18,000. Given how poorly edited most books are, and the degree to which layout is automated (I've created both e-books and print books myself, with purely open source tools, and can script the whole process so a monkey could do the work with a push-button) that seems like a huge amount of money.

I'm not saying you're wrong, just saying that everything I know about traditional publishers points to them being fantasitically inefficient organizations, whose bloated processes are preserved simply by their scale, and the way the marketing channels for books create large barriers to entry for smaller presses.

While it's true that "a score is not an album", that hardly proves that Indie bands cannot exist and thrive, and independent authors should be the Next Big Thing in publishing. We're still about a decade behind muscians in this, I think, but it'll happen, and when it does e-books will be the place it happens.

Editing and production are just not that difficult, and freelance professional editors are surprisingly cheap (results, however, vary markedly even while prices do not.)

Comment Re:Control (Score 1) 416

So even if every government and every state and every person suddenly did everything they could to reduce greenhouse gas emissions...

TFA also mentions this "abstinence only" "solution" to the problem of climate change, and I'm damned curious: given that "just say no" is a proven failure in every single area of social policy where it has ever been attempted, and given that this failure is well-known and frequently derided on the Left, why is it that every single liberal person on the planet thinks that it is the only "proven effective" means of reducing human impact on the Earth's climate?

The purveyor's of abstinence-only solutions have--demonstrably--zero interest in actually solving the problems they purport to be concerned about, but are in every single case primarily interested in controlling the behaviour of other people. This is demonstrable because if they were interested in solving the problems the claim to be concerned about, they would be willing to enact social policies that had a chance of reducing those problems, whereas "abstinence only" is empirically proven to always increase them.

One can only assume that the same is true of "abstinence only" climate crusaders: they don't actually care about the Earth's climate. They are simply glomming on to a convenient excuse to impose their controlling little will on everyone else.

Unfortunately, for those of us who are actually worried about the planet's future, they are standing in the way of a myriad of approaches--such as increased reliance on nuclear power--that would actually help solve the problem.

Comment Re:A practical algorithm for manuscript quality. (Score 1) 128

The average quality hovers somewhere between execrable and toe-curlingly awful, and they get dismissed after a glance through the first page.

And yet 99.999% of the remainder still gets rejected.

Why don't all publishers move to purely electronic submissions with simple algorithms to spell and grammar check each incoming MS? There are even well-researched, validated reading-score algorithms that might also be used for further filtering.

This would instantly reduce the role of human readers to almost nothing, according to the definitive statement of virtually every publisher or editor who has ever written anything about submission quality.

That is, if slush is so obviously, screamingly, overwhelming bad, why aren't publishers streamlining their filtering of it, and in the best case rejecting everything being caught by the filter instantly, thereby reducing their turn-around time on everything else?

One suspects that either the quality of slush isn't so bad, or the publishers are just massively incompetent.

Comment Re:Obligatory (Score 1) 294

Sounds like a great idea, let's find the biomarker (a.k.a. genes) which identify violent behavior. Then what? Lobotomies? Indefinite internment? Put them on an island where they fight to the death on pay-per-view? Deny them the full rights accorded to them as citizens of the United States?

I think these suggestions speak far more directly to the sick, demented, punishment-obsessed society you live in (I'm assuming you're an American...) than any probable response from the civilized world to this knowledge.

Maybe I'm naive, but outside of the US I can't see those kinds of responses getting any play. I can, however, see funding being directed toward ensuring that people who carry a genetic propensity to violence (assuming such a thing exists, which is not completely insane) get counseling and nurturing to ensure that they are less likely to find themselves in the grip of their genetics.

Comment Re:AC Post (Score 1) 294

They are trying to "find all motherfuckers who resemble the motherfucker who killed our child".

I admit to not having RTFM'd, but there seems to me a perfectly ethical, non-vengeful way of motivating this work. I personally would love to know if one of my children was genetically predisposed to violence, so I could help them deal with it early and stay out of trouble.

Only an idiot who believes in genetic determinism (but I repeat myself) would think that anyone ought to be punished or singled out for anything other than special nurturing based on their genes.

Comment Re:AC Post (Score 1) 294

So what do we have here? If you carry that gene you are more sensitive than others to violence against you. You run higher risk than others to become violent yourself if exposed to abuse. Such individuals then would require a tad more consideration rather than being already stigmatized as "potential troublemaker". See how this research will do the opposite of what they supposedly intent?

No, I don't see that at all. What I see is people with a primitive, stone-age view of morality applying the results of this research in a completely inappropriate way.

The research does not force anyone to do anything. Idiots who build their moral codes around the stories their ancestors told them will use it as faux justification for their primitive, anti-Bayesian, gibberish ideas. Bayesian humanists will use it to identify individuals who could benefit from special protection from certain environments, or who might need particular care during their formative years.

Lots of parents would want to know if their offspring was prone to violence, as it would give them the opportunity to support them and teach them to deal with their genetic heritage before the fact, rather than dealing with the punitive "justice system" after the fact.

Comment Re:Mod me down, but I believe it serves a purpose. (Score 1) 1501

Being verbally abusive like this basically helps you to tell more objectively how much people does actually care about something, and it works very well with people who just likes to argue for the sake of being right.

Piffle. You are a bad project manager if you can't tell who is arguing for the sake of argument (or "being right" or whatever.)

I'm all for being blunt and direct (see above). That is distinct from being abusive (which can be fun on /., but is bad management practice.)

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