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Comment Cars will go the way of horses (Score 1) 181

I think in a relatively near future - 25 years or so - manually driven cars will be regarded much in the same way that we regard horses today. They'll still be around, albeit in smaller numbers. There'll be lots of people who love them and keep them as a hobby. There will be special trails were you can go ride them. There will be enthusiast meetings and the like. But no one will use them as transportation to go back and forth to work every day.

Comment Re:Love camera phones (Score 4, Insightful) 182

Or, in other words, unless you really know what you're doing, you're probably wasting your money.

For myself, I tend to buy the cheapest item available of any category until I understand why the other ones are more expensive.

I did the opposite and started out by buying one of the more expensive consumer-level dSLRs (a Nikon D7000) without having a clue about photography. The idea was this:

a) A camera like that will not be the limiting factor - my own skills will be
b) It's expandable by a myriad of objectives and accessories if I want to get more advanced
c) If it turns out this photography thing wasn't really for me, I'll still get great vacation pictures with the auto mode!

I think some hobbies are just like that - you can't have gear with too poor quality or it will affect your experience so badly you'll lose interest. Learning to play the guitar on a cheap guitar that can't keep the tuning sucks. Learning astronomy on a cheap toy-level telescope is just as bad. Photography might be a different beast, but to me it seems you can't go wrong by buying quality gear from the outset.

Comment Re:I'd be excited about this movie, except... (Score 1) 470

I can appreciate Ender's Game for being a suspenseful and somewhat interesting book, but I still think Orson Scott Card is a fucking bigot and I DON'T WANT TO GIVE HIM MY MONEY, which I would do by buying his books. I have no such problems with Wagner or Picasso (who are both dead and thus cannot receive my money). I agree that you cannot judge the art by the artist, but refraining from supporting the artist is another matter.

I also think the idea that you deserve respect for your bigotry because it's based on religion is preposterous. Being born in the 18th century is a good excuse for being a homophobe - being a mormon isn't.

Comment Re:I agree that programming is not for geeks (Score 1) 317

I expect less than half of those who have learned to write are actually able to do so.

Wait a minute, how did you come up with this figure? If you can't write an actual letter that is sufficiently intelligible to serve a simple purpose, then by any reasonable definition you can't write. Are you saying half the people who have learnt how to write have since forgotten it, or that they have a level of writing that isn't even sufficient to compose a letter? I don't buy that. If you've learnt how to write, you can write a simple letter.

This isn't off topic either, because the analogy carries over to programming. If you've learnt how to program once, then you can probably use that skill for simple tasks like writing VBA macros for Excel. It doesn't matter if you don't know the exact syntax - you can always search the web for that - but the basic knowledge of variables, formulas, loops, how code is executed line by line, how to step through the function to debug and so on, that's something that far more people than actual programmers can use. I should know - I'm not a programmer and I wouldn't know how to write a standalone program that could do anything remotely useful, but I do save a lot of work every day with my custom-written macros.

Comment A change of world views (Score 4, Interesting) 90

What I think is so cool about these discoveries is, in the words of astronomer Steve Vogt, "the emerging view that virtually every star has planets". Think about this for a while. Look at all the stars in the sky, and imagine every single one of them having a planetary system. Suddenly it doesn't seem to much of a stretch thinking some of them might be habitable, or even harbour some kind of life.

In my eyes this fact, if it gets confirmed by subsequent studies, is the biggest discovery about the universe since the theory of relativity. When I grew up I was taught there were 9 planets in orbit around the sun, and the existence of (or at least abundance of) exoplanets where largely speculative, with the first observations just being confirmed during the 90's. When my kids grow up they'll be taught there are thousands of exoplanets in our very vicinity and millions in the galaxy. And there are free-floating bodies as well, rouge planets that are not gravitationally bound to a star! How cool isn't that? To top it all, we will soon have instruments sensitive enough to measure the very spectrum of an exoplanet atmosphere and look for biosignatures. If it finds free oxygen and methane, that's a very strong indication of life as we know it. (Since oxygen is highly reactive, it tends to show up in compounds such as carbon or silicon dioxide. Biologic activity is one possible supply of free oxygen.) The search for extra-terrestrial life, long belonging to the realm of science fiction, has turned to a serious and highly active field of research in just a few years.

Comment I don't understand this picture (Score 3, Insightful) 32

There's something about that picture that's hard for my brain to process. I get the backlit rings to the sides of the planet and the shadow the planet casts on its rings on the dark side, but where do the rings on the upper half of the planet come from and why do they seem offset from the other rings?

Comment Somewhat misleading headline (Score 4, Informative) 64

This is very cool, but it's got a really long way to go before it can be used to build anything remotely like an integrated circuit. I'm also not sure the benefit will be that large since the wafer cost isn't a very big part of the cost of making integrated circuits today. What I think it can be great for is solar cells, nanotubes and other products where getting rid of the wafer will solve two problems: the cost and the size. If you can make an arbitrarily large solar cell panel, that's a real advantage over wafer-based manufacturing methods.

Comment I'm not completely against this kind of law (Score 1) 254

While I'm definitely against censorship and a big supporter of freedom of speech, I still think it's reasonable to set certain limits to it. Long before the Internet there were several laws that can be seen as limiting free speech:

- Defamation. If you maliciously spread false rumours about someone, that constitutes a crime in many jurisdictions.
- Perjury. You're not allowed to lie under oath.
- Causing danger to others (not sure about the English term for this). It might be illigal to shout "fire" in a theatre, to take a classic example.

To uphold free speech we must protect it from abuse. As long as the wording of the law is clear and precise and proper trials are held, I think laws like these are acceptable. Online bullying and harassing are big problems today, so you need to see both sides of the coin. If you're making life a living hell for someone and constantly send them harassing text messages or slander them on Facebook, you can't expect to hide behind free speech.

Note that I still strongly disagree with any kind of law that tries to limit free speech that's being "offending". That's bad for two reasons: 1) What's offending is different to different people and 2) it can be used all too easily to silence inconvenient voices.

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