This is the sort of thing that Europe does right. The IWF's reaction is interesting. There is the first, knee-jerk "Nonsense! Britain has the finest tradition of free speech in the world!" speech. This is followed by a gradual retraction, and policy change. Nothing dramatic, but enough to do the job.
Some say the UK should get out of Europe for the sake of the economy. There are people who could make savings if we did not have Europe's about laws, anti-pollution regulations, employment law, human rights regulation, or green policies. Their businesses and investors would be better for it, locally and in the short term; and the rest of the population can go hang. These people already have too much influence over our lives though their money, and they always want more. It's not about immigrants filling up our A&E departments, taking our jobs, and/or living on the dole. They like migrant labour. But they see a chance to cut costs.
If you are in the UK, please don't vote more power to these people.
Don't know His Fryness? You miss out: a good man, even outside his more well-known TV comedy roles. Attracts a lot of the nastier sort of internet trolls who want to make him attempt suicide again.
Much of the internet is a nasty place, and I would not want to live in it full-time. A trolling of some innocent can make me incoherent. A nasty piece of porn can put me off humanity altogether; if they are having fun, why does no-one ever smile? Gaze into 4chan and beyond, and see Hell. But if you totally unplug, you kill the messenger; you remove your levening presence, and leave the mob to their excess. The excess is not the fault of the internet: a lot of humanity could do with improvement, and it is always been easier to destroy than to build. Unplugged you can still read the Daily Mail, but I think you (the public) have more sense. Plugged you can do the same. Keep it all at arm's length. Visit the internet. Re-visit the places you like. Have a look at something new, perhaps something edgy and dangerous, but don't let it bring you down to it's level.
Has El Fry aimed his essay beyond his target? He hasn't actually unplugged by his own admission. Maybe it is easier and more rousing to exhort us to some ideal of total abstinence, but those of us who fall short of this will probably be happier.
Drake's equation is the product of a lot of different probabilities - galactic evolution, stellar evolution, planetary evolution, planetary habitat evolution, the origins of life, the sustainability of life to survive to become something we can study. the evolution of species, the evolution of intelligence, the evolution of a stable society, and so on. Each of these factors has large error bars according to the experts in every field. The best average, which is probably meaningless, has it that there are probably hundreds of civilisations in the Milky way, though probably none with contactable distance in our lifetime. However, the only evidence we really have, from our own planet, suggests that life got going so early that the planet's surface was still part molten when it did it. This suggests that, given roughly the right conditions, life may come into being pretty quickly. It then took most of time to get to a state where complexity took off, which suggests (on a population of one, admittedly) that the initial evolution of life is less of a barrier than something like evolving a decent cell wall. It makes sense to look for life on Mars and Europa, though most people do not actually expect to find it.
Yet, we are told there is this one scientist who has a computer model that says the number of possible earths, modelling all these various disciplines, is exactly one, and with no mention of error bars (and therefore God, and hence Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary, checkmate atheists). I suspect journalism rather than science is happening here. However, if it is the scientist, and he really claims one person can outsmart everyone else in all these fields, then he really needs to show his working. Science is not a democracy, and one person can beat the majority. But it is pretty damn rare. And most of us do not claim to know what most of the mass of the Universe is just yet, let alone how many lifeforms it has made.
I am not saying God does not exist. Proper science has the humility to recognise the limits of what it can measure and understand. But this is just someone standing on science and using it as their pulpit.
Here's something that the original article did not really discuss...
Most of science proceeds by small steps. Someone notices an anomaly. Someone manages to repeat it. Someone manages to extend the current theory to fit it. Someone may come up with a radical theory that also fits. Someone finds another prediction from the radical theory, and looks for verification of that. And so it goes on.
We know that there is a large potential barrier to getting light nucleii close enough to fuse. We can whack a few particles into each other in colliders and explore quite how hard they are. This tells us about the particles and forces involved, but colliders use a lot of energy, and we get almost none back from any fusion. We can try things like stellerators or tokomaks, which are designed to provide lots more collisions of one particular type much more efficiently, and work towards break even. The two positive nucleii will repel each other, but we can replace the electrons with mesons, which are more massive and sit a lot closer to the nucleus, so that gets around some of the electrostatic repulsion; but mesions have a short half-life so we have to keep making the things. All this is not very successful, but it is logical.
The bit that is never explained is why Fleichmann & Pons expected to produce fusion using electrolysis. Or why Rossi expects whatever he does to produce fusion. What was the anticipated process that provides the squish that gets the nucleii together close enough to cause fusion in their experiment? We know a lot about how much energy or force this takes. We also know a lot about the decay particles that we would expect from fusing particular atoms. It could be that there is some entirely novel means of doing this, and some entirely novel decay modes. As scientists, we are required to hold this as possible in principle, but we do not generally do experiments without a credible positive outcome. If you are investigating a small anomaly, such as the 'extra' energy in the F&P experiment, you investigate an unknown: you do not attribute any energy difference in advance to fusion by an unknown process. William of Ockham had a thing or two to say about this sort of reasoning.
Compare and contrast this with the supraluminal neutrinos investigation. An experiment seemed to say that some particles were travelling faster than light. The likely explanation was that there was an experimental error. The error corresponded to several meters in length at the speed of light (a surprising error, but possible) or a timing error (a few nanoseconds, much more plausible), or something else (including the stated remote possibility of a faster that light particle, which would upset a helluva lot of physics, and no-one really believed). They performed tests to verify their surveying and timing assumptions, and found a timing error in their electronics. A lot of science is dull like that.
Named after the robot dog in "A Close Shave?"
Wendolene: "Daddy created him for good, but...he's turned out evil!"
Suppose you had a bit of your handwriting that you could not read. How do you figure out what you wrote. One thing that I do, and you may do too, is to try and imagine writing the thing, and work out the rhythm of what you are writing. If you can get some sense of how your hand is writing, you may see that what was a 'u', or maybe an 'n' or half of am 'm' makes sense because of the way it joins up to other stuff. We seem to have some sort of kinematic two-and-a-half axis model for writing. We use different muscles if we are writing with a pen (fingers and wrist), a blackboard (wrist and upper arm), a spray-can (upper and lower arm), or a tiny engraving tool (just fingers) and yet our handwriting remains much the same. So some computer that can try and fit the same kinematic model should make better guesses for a word it has not met before than anything that just trained on the shape.
This does not directly transfer to OCR. If you have a page of fixed-width text, then every letter has its own little rectangle, and you can either recognize that using the traditional OCR model, or you can't. However, there is something we can do along the same lines. Suppose you have a document that you guess was rendered from PostScript. If you have a guess for a particular word, and the font it was rendered in; you could render that part of text. You can then degrade that rendered image to mimic the properties of the printing and scanning, and check the fit. The best solution will probably be the one that achieves the best fit with the shortest, and hence most probable bit of PostScript. When you have more text, you can pick up hints from the spacing, the justification, and other larger page layout structures.
I actually worked on OCR, and tried both of these once. It might have worked with a large software team, but I hadn't got one.
There are a few examples of engineering projects where everything went right, or at least better than expected. The UK equivalent plane was the Vulcan bomber, which would have been a stealth bomber by accident: only the upright tail gives it away on radar. The AK-47 has it. The London Routemaster bus had it. The Soyuz lifter has it. The Panama canal has it too. Can you think of any others?
More importantly, can we make everything work like that?
I started off programming in Algol in the sixties. I have used symbols and abbreviations.
Abbreviations can give you clashes with variable names. You normally learn what to avoid, but it is easy to have integers i, j, k, and floats if, jf, and kf, and not notice what you have.
That being said, it is a shame we don't have the right symbols on your keyboards. I would like... - Separate single symbols for assignment (:=) equality (==) and perhaps identity, or deep equality - The set cup and cap symbols for logical operations and tests (how many people evaluate CATS and DOGS as CATS and/or DOGS when they write. - A separate decimal and period.
Instead we have all sorts of weird junk, such as the '' symbol on the top right, which only appears in the correct spelling of Lord Xenu's full name. Or something.
Heigh-ho, ain't gonna happen. But we can dream.
I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"