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Comment Re:They only show gorgeous women (Score 2) 57

Please ignore the correlation between "looks" and genetic indicators of reproductive health

That would be a nice argument if there was some universal agreement on what is attractive. In some cultures, thin is attractive. In others, fat. Some places like women who stretch their necks out. Others like their feet bound to the point that they can hardly walk. In Meiji era Japan, it was seen as attractive for women to paint their teeth black. Do you find that hot? There is no single standard of beauty. You cannot just declare yours to be universally applicable.

The majority of "beauty" traits have nothing to do with genetic indicators of reproductive health. That said, there are some. For example, for both sexes, "clear skin" is usually desirable, as that is an indicator of immune system fitness. And of course standard secondary sex characteristics, including having typical voice ranges appropriate to their sex, muscle mass in men, in women breasts and wide hips, etc. But the majority of the specific details that make up the "look" of an attractive man or woman versus other men and women in their society are simply cultural.

Comment Re:Stop using cars at all. (Score 1) 183

Which precisely describes the opposite of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens.

Nobody is saying you ought to be forced to take the streetcar from Mayberry to Petticoat Junction. From Monmarte to the Bastile -- transit makes more sense than driving, especially if you factor in time for parking.

Comment For the Bank of Russia it's not even pocket change (Score 2) 71

It's just numbers on a spreadsheet. The Bank of Russia is Russia's central bank and there is literally no amount of money you can steal from a central bank that will harm it. That's because they're the people who issue the fiat in "fiat currency".

The harm is to the economy as a whole, in the form of inflation. In this case we're talking about the release of thirty one million spurious extra bucks into a two trillion dollar economy. Just a tiny bit of inflation, diluted to homeopathic concentrations and applied to everyone who uses rubles.

Of course the bank has to pursue this because it undermines confidence in the system, but this is as close to a victimless crime as any illegal way of obtaining thirty-one million dollars can be.

Comment I find this kind of depressing. (Score 1) 198

I'm all for things that go boom. I love weird, clever little gadgets. I admire a clever and subtle subversion of a system, even when I don't condone its use.

But geez; this thing is not exactly elegant. It uses a fairly basic circuit to exploit the completely unsurprising fact that the interface isn't designed to handle high voltages.

Comment Re:Not much. I do look at data which may upset you (Score 3, Interesting) 286

Attempting to simplify the crises in Syria by pointing at climate change seriously under states all other factors. Hell, one of your own links (the usda one) clearly shows that Syria has been able to meet its needs IF allowed via imports

The USDA link shows no such thing; it shows Syria eating up its reserves as it fails to import enough wheat to make up the shortfall. Yes, Assad underwrote the price of bread, but there wasn't enough subsidized bread to meet demand, forcing people to buy non-subsidized bread which increased in price six-fold. The net bread expenditure went up by 20% in a country where many people spend half their income on food.

I'm not a reductionist; situations like this have multiple important factors. The Assad/Islamist thing had been simmering for decades -- generations really. Had that situation been different, the climate shock might not have destabilized the country. In point of fact bread prices were an issue throughout the Middle East and a major factor in the Arab Spring. Syria was arguably better positioned than most other Arab countries, but the stress of having 5% of your population displaced on top of the deep and old fault lines broke the country apart.

This is precisely how climate shock is going to work. It won't be like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water; it'll be formerly rare occurrences happening more frequently and stressing vulnerable populations. Take sea level rise; cities won't drown slpowly, but what was once a hundred year flood will become twenty year flood. That will stress coastal cities, and the results depend on how stable and wealthy a particular city is.

For example were sea level to rise almost a meter by 2100 (as is now within the scope of mainstream positions), the very wealthy coastal city I live in would go the Venice route and build a tidal barrier, which would conservatively cost at least ten billion dollars. Chittagong Bengladesh, however, will be screwed. My city has twice the GDP of Bengladesh as a whole even though it has 3% of the population.

Comment Police searches (Score 3, Interesting) 198

One interesting use I can think of is to simply carry one around in case you get arrested by the police.

Supposedly police require a warrant to search your personal papers such as your cell phone, so this shouldn't be much different. If they take the USB drive over to the cruiser and plug it in "just to see" then this will fry their system.

You can even tell the officer not to plug the device in, that it's not a thumb drive, and that there's no information on it.

It would probably work at airports as well.

I really don't see a downside to this.

Comment Re:Nope (Score 1) 410

Economy does not work that way, sorry. Hawking should read from a real economist, like Milton Friedman.

Although I generally respect economists within their domain of expertise, they do have a habit of blithely extrapolating from their models to the unknowable, or even the impossible. For example once I was at a symposium on limits to the Earth's carrying capacity. A physicist pointed out that since life is eventually sustained by solar energy, there are at least thermodynamic limits to the number of people you can support on a single planet. The economist on the panel contradicted him, claiming that the carrying capacity of the Earth was infinite. His justification was that all past attempts to put a Malthusian limit on population growth had run afoul of human innovation.

Now he's correct about summarizing the situation *thus far*, but that's only from a few centuries of economic experience that covers an insignificant fraction between the status quo and infinite population.

Now the real problem with futurism, aside from simply getting things wrong (e.g., the counter-intuitive link between higher wealth and lower birth rate), is judging precisely when something that's bound to happen is going happen. If we *do* continue to increase population, eventually we will reach the point where we won't be able to grow it any farther. But we won't know the precise moment we're going to hit the wall until we actually do.

Likewise unless you take a mystical view of thought, eventually computers are going to get better at it than we are. And when that day comes, we'll be obsolete as thought-workers. However we're very far from that now. What I think will happen is that the nature of work will change so rapidly people will find employment to be unstable. I believe what we'll see increasing levels of intractable structural unemployment: square pegs trying to fit themselves into round holes because the square holes have been filled in.

Comment Re:Dumbass (Score 1) 286

If Wheat was the problem, the US would be dropping food bags on the populace instead of TONS OF WEAPONS.

You'd need a time machine capable of sending three million tons of wheat six years into the past.

As to why we didn't do it that the time, you may recall we had a financial crisis to deal with. Very few Americans were paying attention to what at the time was an internal crisis in Syria, and if they had they wouldn't be interested in spending a billion dollars addressing it ($350/ton * 3 million ton shortfall).

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