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Comment Re:Fracking Probably Had Nothing to Do With It (Score 2) 299

Work in the industry (not a shill, though) It's perfectly possible to put a lot of geophones (seismic monitors) in an area and work out exactly where the initial focus of a quake is, and also what type it is (opening fracture, strike-slip sideways movement, slip directions, etc.). Could take up the precautionary principle and prove exactly where these quakes are initiating, and if it's at all related to local fracking, before doing any more work in the area. I think everyone is fed up with subjective opinions on both sides of this. Don't think tracers are required by state law, but it's certainly possible to include a non-radioactive chemically detectable tracer which you could pick up later, although it would be a big stretch to detect something that had supposedly diffused from a frac through thousands of feet of other rock and then through an aquifer into someone's tapwater, that's several magnitudes of dilution. Completely agree that if you can, with solid data, point the finger at a certain well and certain company doing bad drilling, they should be slaughtered in the courts as a deterrent. Those of us who think we are doing good work are awfully fed up with the one or two cowboys.

Comment Re:Can we get some peer review? (Score 1) 271

In this case, it looks like the politicians had a succession of um, fringe researchers, with a very definite axe to grind pushed in front of them. Here's the actual Council of Europe report, http://assembly.coe.int/main.asp?Link=/documents/workingdocs/doc11/edoc12608.htm There's a clear bias in the report which has fairly uncritically accepted a lot of contentious claims, often promoted by just one or two individuals, while being very hostile to anything that looks industry-related, or, frankly, anything repeatable or widely peer-reviewed. Plus it recommends more funding for those favoured individuals, which I'm sure is very nice for them.

Comment Re:Great Scientific American article on multiverse (Score 1) 387

For anyone else who is similarly repelled by Mr. Horgan's myopic rant, I would also recommend looking at David Deutsch's excellent (and quirky) The Fabric of Reality, which includes the Everett-Wheeler type of multiverse as Deutsch discusses quantum computing.
Now a lot of commenters have jumped in with "... but this stuff is all unfalsifiable...", which Deutsch explicitly addresses, pointing out that if algorithms such as Shor's or Grover's work, they point fairly clearly to a multiverse, otherwise where is the algorithm actually solved?
A very interesting read, imho.

Comment Re:"Formenting dissent"? (Score 1) 293

The nadir of geological ignorance evinced by phrases such as "the underground aquifer" puts, imo, the folks complaining about this into the "concerned but completely clueless" box. Most high-access potable water aquifers have a connection to rainfall to recharge them, and aren't therefore connected to natural gas reservoirs, otherwise the gas would have escaped long ago. Shale gas wells tap the gas from a tight shale that's completely separated vertically from the aquifer. Nobody who has just spent $$$ on drilling a well wants the very gas they were after to piss itself away into an aquifer. You may doubt companies stick to regulations, but I'm sure you don't suspect their desire for not literally letting their profit evaporate.
Equally, fracking fluids don't go anywhere near anyone's aquifer - they go in the shale and that's it. I could be convinced that a company that felt like being a corporate dick might try and lose spare fluid in a ditch somewhere on surface, but that would have to be a far more convincing case than you see in 'Gasland'. Believing that because stuff is put "in the ground" it must all get mixed in with everything else in the ground - water, gophers, pirate treasure etc. - is really dumb, and basing any other arguments on that, however worthwhile, also looks dumb.

Now if you want to get back on topic about the sort of bastard offspring of DHS and corporatism that this story seems to represent, then great, because that's a lot more worrying than gas development, even more worrying than the idea that some fool would shoot or vandalise a gas line.


Ray Kurzweil Responds To PZ Myers 238

On Tuesday we discussed a scathing critique of Ray Kurzweil's understanding of the brain written by PZ Myers. Reader Amara notes that Kurzweil has now responded on his blog. Quoting: "Myers, who apparently based his second-hand comments on erroneous press reports (he wasn't at my talk), [claims] that my thesis is that we will reverse-engineer the brain from the genome. This is not at all what I said in my presentation to the Singularity Summit. I explicitly said that our quest to understand the principles of operation of the brain is based on many types of studies — from detailed molecular studies of individual neurons, to scans of neural connection patterns, to studies of the function of neural clusters, and many other approaches. I did not present studying the genome as even part of the strategy for reverse-engineering the brain."

Comment Re:43 (Celsius) (Score 1) 525

I don't know where he is, but here in the lovely Sahara desert (two-thirds down Algeria towards Niger) it's more like 49 Celsius. On the plus side, there's no humidity, except my slow evaporation. Dry and hotter than hell is fine, I really hate warm and damp.

Comment Re:Is this really a big deal? (Score 1) 133

Outside of science fiction novels, where did it do that? If you're thinking of WWII, the Allies had a gigantically larger industrial base than the Axis could ever summon, and basically won by throwing enough men and materiel at the problem. At most, crypto might have shortened that war, but even that's not crystal clear.

Part of the importance of keeping Enigma secret after WWII (up until the late seventies) was that the British circulated Type-X coding machines widely into colonial countries (and the US may have done similar things, I don't know). That enabled GCHQ to run decrypts against a very large number of governments, presumably including those in the post-colonial wars, Suez, etc, although this is (unsurprisingly) not publically well documented. That's a fair number of wars right there.

Even during the earlier stages of WWII, key areas such as North Africa were won with very significant help from decrypts, not to mention the Atlantic. Without that, and assuming that Purple had never been broken either, WWII would have probably ended in 1943. All the "men and materiel" is irrelevant if you're an ocean away from the enemy and can't engage them.

Comment Re:Another common mystery (Score 1) 307

Actually we're finding out more about probable functions of Stonehenge over time, not by peering at the stones, but by its context in the landscape, connections to pathways, riverways, nearby linked burials, all suggesting other interesting places to dig. It can be easier to find stuff in urbanising areas because they're being dug up - the Eton rowing lake 'bridges' in the UK or the marvellously preserved Hypogeum in Malta, found when digging out foundations for new houses, being examples. Whereas places like Catal Hoyuk and Gobleki Tepe are windswept and unlikely to be dug up except by archaeologists. 'Guesses' about agriculture and social groupings can be greatly strengthened if artefacts can be found that show commonality with other areas, or, more recently, male/female line DNA of current inhabitants can show interesting things about who has passed through the area in the past, and where they came from. So it's not as agnostic as you might think.

Streaming Election Night Broadcast TV? 396

kakapo writes "A couple of years ago, we dumped our cable TV, and don't have much luck getting old-fashioned broadcast where we live. That's fine — we can download or netflix almost anything we want to see, and it is great not to pay the Comcast tax every month. Problem is, now I want to watch the election live, complete with talking heads, pundits, glitzy graphics and all the rest, rather than reading about it on a website. So, is there any way to download network TV / CNN / MSNBC in real time — I don't mind paying. And yes, we could visit friends, but ideally our kids would watch the first part and then go to bed — and a sitter would be expensive if we have to wait until late for the result."

Bush Causes Cell Phone Ban 588

An anonymous reader writes "When President George Bush visits Sydney, Australia for the APEC Summit in September, all cell phone calls within the radius of a football field will be suppressed. The president's motorcade will be shadowed by a helicopter equipped with signal-jamming equipment. Terrorists have used mobile phones to detonate remote-controlled bombs in Iraq and elsewhere in the world." There are other ways to detonate explosives remotely. Doesn't seem like the smartest thing to let potential enemies know of such plans in advance.

Feed Fatalistic Beliefs About Cancer Cause Many To Ignore Cancer Prevention Advice (sciencedaily.com)

If you feel that you are fated for cancer, your belief could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to a national survey of more than 6,000 US adults a substantial number of American adults hold fatalistic beliefs about cancer and are correspondingly less likely to take basic steps to lower their cancer risk, such as exercising, quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

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