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Comment Re:Solved. Next? (Score 2) 533

It’s not really executable as I understand it, but I am not a biologist. The translation from DNA to RNA is hard to construe as ‘execution’. Then in the next step the RNA goes to ribosomes to construct proteins. So maybe DNA is ‘compiled’?

The field of computational biology would probably have a good metaphor to map the ideas from biology to computer science.

Comment Re:Privatise it (Score 5, Insightful) 97

Firefighting isn’t profitable. Police services aren’t profitable. Parks and playgrounds aren’t profitable. Plowing the streets and sidewalks isn’t profitable. Public art isn’t profitable. Keeping the air and water clean aren’t profitable. Teaching children isn’t profitable. Maintaining our highways isn’t profitable.

Yet we spend our money on these things. Why? Would you volunteer to pay for fighting fires in a neighborhood on the other side of your town? Or how about to pay for a highway that connects two cities you’ve never been to? Or to educate someone else’s children?

People are selfish, obviously including you. We don’t want to pay for things that don’t obviously benefit us. But we still want to live in a world where we have things like clean water, educated children, and people to put out our burning homes. Paying for scientific research is the same thing. We have governnments that tax us so that they can provide exactly those services that nobody is willing to voluntarily pay for.

If you want to live without them, why not try moving to Sudan or tribal Pakistan? Try living without the modern society you’re accustomed to if you really don’t want to pay for it. Give it all up. When you have, maybe then you can come back and tell us about how everything should be paid for on a strictly voluntary basis.

Comment Re:GNU excitement (Score 1) 161

And on the high end of optimizations... gcc compiles one piece of code with LTO in 40 minutes on a 256MB raspberry pi, while clang OOMed after several hours on my main box (8MB ram + 8MB ssd swap).

You're compiling on a system with only 8 MB of ram? Are you still stuck in 1993 or something? Memory restrictions in embedded systems is one thing, but on a development machine it seems bizarre. Like cutting off your legs just to see how slow you can run a marathon on stumps.

Comment Re:Unconstitutional Drone Strike on Canadian Geese (Score 3, Informative) 196

The only place in Alaska that geese stay year-round is near Juneau, as far as I know. But in places where they do stay year-round, like further down the coast, they can be a real pain. Their year-round residency is because of human habitat modification, making open green lawns that are highly appealing to them. They should be migrating but, like hummingbirds, decide to stay all year because of the easy food.

Comment Re:Wait a second!1 (Score 4, Interesting) 412

This has nothing to do with math, actually. It’s instead a conceptual and linguistic problem because of two different metaphors we use in English. One is that the increase in value of numbers from zero to infinity is modelled as a vertical scale. Thus zero is at the bottom, one is above zero, two is above one, and so forth. The other is that the *decrease* in value of numbers from infinity to zero is *also* a vertical scale. Thus zero is at the top, one is below zero, two is below one, and so forth. So we have two metaphors:

1. Numbers are vertical. Zero is the top.
2. Numbers are vertical. Zero is the bottom.

Note that neither of these is actually valid in any physical sense. Numbers have no physical relationship with vertical alignment in a space. We use these sorts of metaphors because they map abstract concepts to our perceptions of the physical world, thus making it easier for us to visualize them – to “see” them mentally. Unfortunately for us, metaphors may conflict between people, and then our communication about these abstract concepts becomes confused.

A similar situation arises with time, which is another abstract concept that we can’t perceive (we have no perceptual apparatus for time itself, only for physical changes over time). Suppose I have a party scheduled on Tuesday. A friend can’t make it, so he wants to reschedule it. He says to me “Can we move the party ahead?” Does this mean the party should be moved to Monday, or to Wednesday? It turns out there are two competing metaphors involved.

1. Time moves forward.
2. Events in the future move toward us.

If you apply the metaphor in 1 then the party should be moved to Wednesday. This is because, since time moves forward, “ahead” means a point in the future in the direction of time’s movement. But if you apply the metaphor in 2 then the party should be moved to Monday. This is because, from where we “stand” in this vision of time, if an event moves “ahead” of its position then it will move toward us. In effect the events “face” us. The party then occurs *earlier* in time, hence on the day before Tuesday. Now that you’re aware of this difference, you may discover that it depends on some physical properties of our experience. In fact, people who are moving – say walking or riding a bike – are more likely to use metaphor 2 above. People who are sitting still are more likely to use metaphor number 1. So if you walk into someone’s office, you’re primed for 2 and the seated person is primed for 1. You agree together to move a meeting “ahead” and then later discover the misunderstanding.

These sorts of metaphors are typical across the world’s languages because they handle perceptual limitations common to all humans. The need for these metaphors is universal, but the precise metaphors are not necessarily the same. For example, there is evidence that Aymara – a language indigenous to the northern Andes of South America – has a metaphor for time quite unlike what English speakers are used to. In Aymara, people have a metaphor that amounts to “Time is visible”. Events that occurred in the past are visible, and thus lie ahead of the speaker. Events that occur in the future are not visible, and hence lie behind the speaker. Time then moves backward in conceptual space, exactly the opposite of what we’re accustomed to in English. This isn’t the same as “Events in time move toward us”, but it’s similar.


Submission + - Proposed Canadian anti-spam rules restrict secret ISP monitoring (

Fnordulicious writes: Although Canada's anti-spam legislation is already in place, the rules to implement it have been under development for more than a year. This weekend the proposed rules from the Department of Industry were published in the Canada Gazette. Kady O'Malley reports on the CBC Inside Politics Blog that Canadian ISPs will not be allowed to secretly monitor activity except in the case that the activity is illegal and represents an "imminent risk to the security of its network". In addition, consent would be required for monitoring of legal activities "that are merely unauthorized or suspicious".

Comment Re:Chinese Edition (Score 1) 117

Mandarin is a spoken dialect of Chinese, roughly equivalent to what "Received Pronunciation" is to English.

This is factually incorrect. “Chinese” used colloquially in English refers only to Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin is not a dialect of a larger language, it is a language in and of itself. Speakers of other Chinese languages, e.g. Min or Yue or Hakka, can’t understand Mandarin hardly at all without formal education. The analogy is more like English versus Dutch or German. Dutch and German speakers are often fluent in English, but this is only because they have extensive schooling in English. Their languages are related, but mutual intelligibility is very low.

Chinese can generally understand all Mandarin, though few outside of Beijing can speak it perfectly.

In fact, many (ethnically) Chinese people have a hard time understanding Mandarin without education. The simplest test is to see how well young kids (5–8 yo) in a randomly selected village can comprehend spoken Mandarin. At that age they will have a reasonable competence in the local language, but haven’t received much formal education in standard Mandarin. The effect is even stronger outside of China (PRC/ROC) where Mandarin isn’t as important and some other unrelated language is dominant. Examples include Hakka speakers in Tahiti, or Penang Hokkien in Indonesia.

Modern written Chinese borrows heavily from Mandarin grammar and vocabulary, while retaining some conventions from Classical Chinese, the older written form that was pretty much impossible to understand when read aloud.

This is true. But it’s more accurate to say that modern written Chinese *is* Mandarin with a few Classical Chinese bits retained. And most people don’t use much of the Classical Chinese stuff in everyday writing, say in email or forum posts online.

While it is possible to write in Chinese characters using Cantonese, Minnan or Wu grammar, it's quite rare and considered strange or wrong, even in regions where those dialects are spoken.

This is also true, but only from a Mandarin-speaking perspective. The large number of highly literate people speaking Cantonese has led to a fairly standard written form for that language. It’s often unintelligible to Mandarin readers, particularly since the inventory of characters is enhanced with Cantonese-specific ones and also partly because some well known characters are used for different purposes in written Cantonese.

The PRC government has a strong interest in promoting Mandarin as the “one true Chinese language” to the detriment of all other Chinese languages. They meet a lot of resistance from Cantonese speakers, but other linguistic groups have less power and literary history. The situation is quite different in the ROC, where Mandarin is certainly the language of state, but many people – especially in the south – speak a mutually unintelligible Chinese language (Hakka or Taiwanese Southern Min).

Comment Re:Research seems to support you in this (Score 1) 221

What ‘basic assumptions’ are you referring to? That particular claim is at least as old as Grandpa Sapir, if not much older. I am completely unaware of any theories that depend on the negation of that as an assumption. Indeed, in much of linguistic theory today the rest of the mind is considered to be irrelevant or at least abstracted away from so that it doesn’t complicate the (already fiendishly complicated) models. If you’re referring to things like the various cognitive grammar theories, then you’ve missed the point. Those instead take the assumption that generalized mental capacity can be exapted for grammatical processes (thus obviating the need for a specialized universal grammar faculty), not the other way around.

Comment Re:Now to understand what it means (Score 1) 2416

What Canada do you live in? I’ve never seen anything like that. Except for the increasing scarcity of GPs, which is apparently happening in every single developed nation on Earth. And which is probably due to the rapidly increasing amount of specialist knowledge required for medicine more than anything else.

In sum, [citation needed].

Regardless, comparisons between the two systems are logically nonsensical because the Canadian health care system and the new American one are so fundamentally different that the comparison is fraught with type clashes.

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