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Comment Re:It;s meaningless to ask if we have reached max (Score 1) 1070

This is precisely the problem: keeping resource consumption fixed. While indeed many seem to view the problem as keeping the population fixed, that is only because they feel rather comfortable with the status quo. If resource consumption is fixed, then 0% economic growth is possible only when we can produce more product from the same resource base. Technology is limited by economics, so it can't improve without more investment (which ultimately depend upon resources). The problem is that the economic units and model employed by virtually every nation today requires exponential growth in resource consumption (the modifier being the "constant" in the exponent) to maintain a given standard of living for each person.

For example, if I can be personally satisfied with my standard of living by making and selling 100 chairs this year, I have to sell perhaps 103 chairs next year (current US inflation rate for April 2011 is 3.16%) to maintain that same standard of living, assuming that everyone else simply increased their prices to deal with inflation in the monetary unit. Every year, I have to increase the number of chairs that I sell to maintain that same standard of living, even though I have to work harder each year to make more chairs. It seems natural, then, to simply increase my prices to meet inflation so that I don't have to work any harder each year. Assuming that I don't just increase the prices beyond what is required by inflation, all I have done is passed the work off to someone else. Eventually, someone has to work harder (and consume more resources) to keep up with inflation.

If one replaces debt-based monetary units with fixed monetary units (perhaps time, but certainly not another physical resource), then the pressure to produce more stuff this year compared to the previous year is no longer a necessity to maintain a given standard of living. Resource consumption could be freed from its current necessary ties to the economic model of virtually every country in the world. Indeed, our current model has logically led to basic resources (food, shelter, clothing) being expensive and luxuries being relatively inexpensive, which is precisely the opposite of any desirable policy on "sustainable living." This inverted value system has been transposed upon western society (and is being exported to other societies) giving rise to institutionalized greed.

To me, this problem about sustainable living is simply a conversation about how we wish to measure our values. Simply put, is a "rich" person a substantially harder worker than the average person, or is it the over way around? If we want to keep resource consumption flat, then we need to answer this question differently. In my opinion, it seems more humane and sustainable to answer this question rather than increase the death rate through abortion or hormonal "contraceptives" (they are all technically abortifacients).

Comment Re:Time heals all trends (Score 2) 395

Although Watson did not actually hear the announcer (he apparently did on the contestants, however), I think that voice control is only useful when it would be more efficient. Simply barking a bunch of low level commands into a computer (or programming with it!) would not be efficient, since you can probably type/mouse faster. Asking the computer a much higher level question, however, could be a massive time saver, such as: "Watson, what is the current status of Libya?" or "Watson, is there a drug which could potentially address these symptoms?" or "Watson, let's play thermonuclear war."

The ability to effectively respond to real questions or commands that you might give to a freshman researcher would make a voice interface amazingly efficient.

Comment Re:Innovative (Score 1) 244

It's true that FDMA can potentially also roughly double the capacity, as well as something more sophisticated like CDMA, but I wonder about its inherent tradeoffs compared to this "full-duplex" system. For practical FDMA systems, the frequency spacing between channels must either be close (implying a lossy duplexing RF circuit) or the spacing must be large relative to the channel bandwidth (so that efficient resonant antennas may be designed). In the first case, there is more loss due to the RF circuitry, while the second case might potentially also be lossy due to RF processing at a higher carrier frequency (things are just more lossy). This solution may allow for more power-efficient wireless communication. The one (very significant) practical problem that I see is that it requires a half-wavelength spacing between the one of the two transmitters and the receiver antenna (this method requires three antennas, or one antenna with two transmit ports and one receive port with substantial isolation from the two transmit ports). This implies that this technology is really only useful (for long-range communications) for base station applications, rather than mobile, since the required space is relatively physically large.

For a base-station, this technology can lower power consumption, if my analysis is correct, but would enforce every mobile node to utilize TDMA. Basically, this technology could be used to sense if the channel is busy with chatter from among the mobile units before the base station butts in to tell the mobile units to shut up for a PSA. But certainly, this scenario does not describe a typical mobile phone network, nor does it describe a typical coffee shop WiFi network's behavior. Abstractly, it describes a strongly linked intranet with weakly-linked internet. This scenario might well describe a laboratory, but I cannot think (off the top of my head) whether it describes a consumer scenario, except when streaming content from one local device to another.

In conclusion, this technology seems promising, but not a revolution due to its current limitations. For it to be a true breakthrough, you need an antenna system which has very high isolation between transmitting and receiving ports, while retaining high efficiency, all in a physically compact package. Full disclosure: I perform research along these lines and I think it is possible to create such designs in certain cases, but not in general.

Comment Re:Impossible (Score 1) 244

Technically, sending and receiving a CW signal at the same frequency communicates zero information, so naturally there should be some measurable difference (whether in phase or something else) between a transmitted signal and a received signal for information to flow. Therefore, while your point is technically valid, it is practically ignorable, since no communication system can use it (and don't start talking about combining TDMA with a CW signal, as the implied Fourier analysis here assumes a periodic sequence instead of TDMA-based pulsing).

Comment Re:I think just the opposite (Score 1) 287

The presence of noise does not necessarily diminish the information processing capabilities of neural circuitry. Stochastic resonance, coupled oscillators, and other types of observed biological neural behavior depend upon fundamentally nonlinear functionality. Sometimes, we might classify it as chaotic (in the mathematical sense, which is distinct from the popular equivalence with noise), but noise can play a critical part in making it all work. It's not just a tolerated element of the system, but rather an enabling element, required for these more sophisticated behaviors to arise. The fact that we have additional coupling paths simply adds the possibility for richer behavior for a given group of neurons relative to that group without field coupling. As for the information content in those coupling paths, I think we would all agree it to be significant if they found a "clock" signal, which is actually a signal with zero information content in the steady state.

Comment Re:No science? (Score 1) 542

I'd like to offer that in my doctoral program (engineering/applied physics), nearly all the exams from the upper level graduate courses were take home, in that you couldn't possibly ask a meaningful question on an exam that would consume less than an hour of work, assuming the answer had to be rigorous. I never cheated, but honestly, the exam was sufficiently difficult and original that it didn't matter how many references you combed through: if you didn't know your stuff, then there was no way to complete the exam.

The problems that this writer tackled (at least the ones he/she described) were largely analysis or superficial synthesis problems. That is, the material usually asked for heaps of creativity (same in my field), but without requiring a deep knowledge of the subject. Because when you get down to it, your professor is just about the same as other PhDs: at most a few doctoral degrees propping up lots of experience. The experience, however, is usually second hand, as the graduate students actually do the work and the professor just gets to read about it (if that). The architecture of Academia is setup allows for cheating, as the professor is rarely a deep expert in all of the subjects he/she must teach. Simply put, the systems of professors and peer review only have a shot at filtering crap from honest students.

Comment Re:Exponential growth (Score 1) 1153

One correction and one addition. The correction: the exponential model for population growth and resource consumption when applied to human beings has been a public failure (ref. every human population explosion prediction from 1960's forward), so please don't reduce a more complex model down to a little exponential equation.

The addition: macro-economics. Specifically, where does money (in the West) derive its value from? Why do we think that exponential economic growth is sustainable given limited resources and populations in decline (though most have not peaked)?

Personally, I believe that the marketing for math which says that you should study it because it is useful is absurd. Math is art, not engineering or some other applied thing. When math is applied to study a problem, it usually forms the foundation for that discipline. Apply math to describing physical things and you have the physical sciences. Apply math to describe societies and you have the social sciences. Therefore, if the student studies these separate disciplines, the student necessarily must pick up the math. It is hard to pick up the math alongside many other new concepts from a given discipline because math is reasoning according to some fixed set of rules (which can be arbitrary). Without the abstract reasoning provided by mathematics, the student must practice it on the fly. My point is that practicing abstract reasoning using math is not necessarily an application of something, but rather a fundamentally creative exercise, like art.

Comment Re:A little more (Score 1) 1153

Perhaps her confusion comes from the idea that the disposition of each child is an independent, random variable. Indeed, each child comes with a certain "random" (i.e. we don't know how it works) combination of genes from the parents, which predispose the child to behave in certain ways (though not necessarily determine behavior in those certain ways). Therefore, it is clear that each child shall behave differently from his/her older siblings. However, while a child's typical behavior determines the part of the difficulty of raising the child, it does not control everything. Parental experience also affects the subjective evaluation of difficulty (speaking as a parent of multiple children). Therefore, the difficulty of raising the N+1 child is, at best, a dependent random variable. The strength of the correlation between the N+1 difficulty and the N difficulty may be weak, but I would argue that modeling the difficulty as a purely independent random variable is incorrect.

Nevertheless, I strongly agree that her statement that she is "due" an easier child this next time around is fundamentally flawed unless she (and her partner) have consciously examined how her own disposition and mindset could have been different so that her previous children would have been interpreted as easier. Of course, the entire idea that she is "due" an easier child is based on a metaphysical concept of fairness, which can only be disproved for simple definitions of "fairness."

Comment Re:The electro-dynamic field came first, of course (Score 1) 145

I think the important point here is that the phenomena be observable ('scientific" is at best redundant). Good science makes no claims on the importance of the phenomena, since that would ascribe a value that is at least anthropocentric. Materialists claim that there are no entities beyond the observable. Everyone else either makes no such claim or actively claims that there are things beyond the physical (i.e. metaphysical). Like causality or God.

Comment Re:The electro-dynamic field came first, of course (Score 3, Insightful) 145

The philosophy of science, like any philosophy, impacts how a person understands the subject. You can go really wrong if you try to supplant the philosophy with another (e.g. Creationism), but it is important to understand why science has worked so well. It isn't that science necessarily rejects anything metaphysical (such as causality, at least up to quantum physics), but simply minimizes the metaphysical requirements of any theory, since science is supposed to be experimentally verifiable. This is a good way to work, since no reasonable arguments can arise without some way to resolve them ultimately. It is important, however, to distinguish between the evidence and the interpretation of that evidence (theory!). The evidence never, ever, ever explains itself, since that requires some metaphysical interpolation (e.g., invoking objective reality, objective truth, integrity of the senses, perhaps causality, etc.).

I agree with most of your comments, except that philosophy does not equal history and science is more than a black box model. Indeed, a great temptation in science, especially the venerable physics, is to consider it simply as mathematical modeling. I have found throughout my doctorate the most useful theories are the ones which attempt to give a non-mathematical description of how the universe works in some particular way. In my field, numerical simulations are entirely possible for some complex situations, but one cannot be considered an expert if one simply presses a button to execute a mathematical model. In my opinion (as an engineer), the real test of a scientific theory is whether it can be used for a realistic engineering application. The typical engineering application requires one to assume a vast amount about the problem at hand and therefore becomes a tedious, uninspired exercise if only mathematical models are used to engineer the device. Whether we are ultimately describing epicycles or true orbits can make a really big difference in the difficulty and expense of the engineered device (imagine designing a satellite to keep up with the motions of the planets if they really moved in epicycles!). The closer we are to completely explaining a physical event means that we have a closer mental model of reality, which is the real pursuit of science.

That said, I am unfamiliar with any necessary interpretations which quantum mechanics places on the student that forces a particular metaphysical result on the question of the existence of God. References?

Comment Re:very (Score 2, Interesting) 774

Is it really so different that the offending items are electronic than if they were physical?

Consider this scenario:
(1) Disgruntled person A wants to get person B in trouble by planting child porn in B's work desk.
(2) A calls the cops on B.
(3) Cops find the porn in B's work desk.

Do the cops automatically jump to the conclusion that B owned the child porn? Or do they try to investigate further to establish how the material likely got there? If yes to the latter question, then perhaps the basic problem is that cops don't get the desktop metaphor: anyone who has access to the desk can put stuff on it. There isn't an invisible shield permeable by only the desk's owner. Computers are literary no different and thoughts of equivalent magic shields around the computer's hard drive only impede justice.

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