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Comment Exciting but not Proof (Score 1) 155

While it's true that some naturally occurring, non-living process (that I've so far not heard of) might be capable pumping out Oxygen

That's the problem. I agree the discovery of oxygen in a planet's atmosphere makes that planet a very likely home of extraterrestrial life it is not conclusive proof because we really do not know what exotic minerals and natural processes may exist on that planet and, unlikely as it might be, some might produce free oxygen. So I would put the discovery of oxygen down as very exciting but not conclusive proof.

Comment Times Change and so Should Laws (Score 1) 1125

First would dispute some of your logic. The second amendment of you constitution says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...". So to me the clear intent was to make sure that the early US government had a body of armed and trained civilians to call on to defend it should Britian, or any other European power, decide to invade. This goal did indeed make a lot of sense 200+ years ago but not so much today. However importantly the clear aim was the defence of your country i.e. not to fight against your government but to fight for it against foreign invaders. If you want to have a look at a "well regulated militia" today try Switzerland. They arm, but also train their citizens. The result is a well regulated and trained militia but very few deaths due to gun violence.

Secondly though there seems little point for the law in today's world. The US has a huge military force and it is just about inconceivable that it would ever need to rely on armed citizens to defend itself. That same force means that even you interpretation, that citizens need guns to hold the government to account, is also irrelevant today. There is no way that they could possibly defeat the US armed forces if they continued to follow the government's orders. The best defence of democracy today is the same as it has always been: the will of the people. Governments are made up of people and if enough people refuse to serve it, and many resist it, it will fall.

So I agree that there was a very good reason for the law initially. However now the actual aim of that law is being completely ignored and, in today's world, the aim is irrelevant anyway. If you cannot change your laws to deal with changing circumstances you will end up in a lot of trouble.

Comment Re:Not Science, Medicine (Score 1) 331

Uh, no. This is where a good scientist keeps digging into it in order to expand our level of knowledge.

In which case your original premise that "causation is frequently so complex that it can not be deciphered with our current level of knowledge" is not correct. You cannot have it both ways: either the causation is understandable - with hard work and insight - or it is not. If it is understandable then this is what a scientist will go after because understanding is their goal. For a medical researcher establishing causation is enough which is very susceptible to random statistical flukes.

Comment Re:Not Science, Medicine (Score 1) 331

No, they focus on correlation because causation is frequently so complex that it can not be deciphered with our current level of knowledge.

Exactly but if they were a scientist then this is when they would stop and go and look at a different problem that they can decipher with our current level of knowledge. That is part of being a good scientist: you have to tackle things which you can ultimately understand because it is that understanding which is the goal of science. In medicine the correlation is enough: if substance X or activity Y cures ailment Z that's good medicine, why and how is of secondary importance.

Comment Not Science, Medicine (Score 5, Interesting) 331

This is medical research, not science. Medicine uses science because often the best way to cure something is to understand it but, very importantly, it has a very different motivation to science. Finding a "magic" pill which cures disease X without side effects but whose mechanism is completely unknown is great medicine but appalling science. Science is all about understanding how things work, medicine is all about treating human ailments.

This leads to a different approach using the tools of science. Medical researchers tend to focus far more on correlation over causation because that is what is most important to this. Unfortunately this approach leaves them open to random statistical effects which require a very good understanding of statistics to avoid and even then it can still be very easy to fool yourself e.g. the Monty Hall effect.

So lets call this problem what it is: a problem with medical research.

Comment Technology Disruptive like Wars/Catastrophes (Score 2, Informative) 514

Yes, technology levels the playing field.

That is because, like major wars and catastrophes, it can devalue established wealth and power and empowers others to succeed based on their ability. The great thing about technology though is that it usually does this with far fewer people dying and it does not require wars to spur it on even though they often do.

Comment Re:Ways around this (Score 1) 514

American border patrol was just given authority to conduct is security theatre in Canadian airports too

There is one subtle difference doing it in Canada though and that is while Canadian law requires you to tell the truth you have the option to withdraw from the process at any time and not enter the US. Hence if you are asked for your phone you can choose to decline but then you will not be allowed to travel to the US. This is actually quite a sensible arrangement: countries should be free to set their entrance requirements and foreign travelers should be free to decline to travel there if they do not like them. The problem is that if you come from Europe you are already in the US and declining leads to arrest and detention not just denied entry and a return flight home.

Comment Re:The published article (Score 1) 218

It seems that they're claiming energy densities of ~20Wh/L

Compare that to petrol which has an energy density of 46.4MJ/kg which is 12.9kWh per "equivalent litre" (1l water has a mass of ~1kg but petrol itself is less dense than water). Now you gain something back because an internal combustion engine is far less efficient than an electric motor but even if you assume it is ten times less efficient (which is not the case) you would need a fuel tank ~64 times larger to have the same range as an internal combustion engine.

Even for a laptop you would need a 4 litre tank to replace the existing Li-ion which is typically ~80Whr. Before this technology becomes useful they need to gain at least an order of magnitude in energy density. That's when it will become interesting.

Comment Re:And the freezing temperature is...? (Score 1) 218

Actually you would probably want it to work down to -50C since -30C is not the extreme low just the typical low for a week or two most winters. Going below -40C is not uncommon for a day or two every few years so -50C should be relatively safe unless you live up in the territories.

Comment Re:Not Ready for Prime Time (Score 1) 123

They can build something that can fly itself and take you from point A to point B.

Yes they can but can they do this at a cost which most people can afford and with a vehicle that is small enough that it does not take up much more space than a car and can take off and land vertically while not making more noise than a car? It also needs to be capable of travelling a few hundred kilometres too.

By the time you add all those caveats it becomes a lot harder to build such a device. This is what is preventing the era of flying cars, not the lack of infrastructure. That will come once a practical flying car is available which I doubt will be in three years.

Comment Pragmatism (Score 1) 328

What's their angle - drive wages down?

I expect that their angle is pragmatism. Given the way things seem to be going in the US foreigners are increasingly unlikely to travel there so you won't encounter people speaking foreign languages and the same restrictions will mean there will be a huge shortage of IT skills such as programming.

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