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Comment Refusal will be grounds for Interrogation (Score 2) 196

Do they really think that if some ISIS guy flies in, he's going to fill out the customs form honestly and say "Yep, my Twitter handle is @jihad4lyfe!"

No, they probably think that he will refuse to give them a handle and then they will use this as grounds to detain him for interrogation. The problem is that some of us don't use Facebook, Twitter etc. and so I don't have an account to give them - other than a dummy Facebook account which is entirely devoid of any personal information and that I only created because our local airport used to insist on Facebook to access the free WiFi. However I expect this will look like I created a dummy account to hide my real account from them.

I'm beginning to wonder whether the US government's long term plan is to make travelling to the US such a horrible experience for us foreigners that identifying the terrorists will be easy because they will be the only ones insane enough to try.

Comment Re:Less Hype Needed, Highly Speculative (Score 1) 240

I dunno, I find myself just as interested in the crazy new unconfirmed results and speculative additions/revisions to our model of the universe as I am when most turn out to be wrong...and maybe a few turn out to be correct!

There is nothing wrong with that just as long as you remember that the vast majority will be wrong. The problem is when people, usually in the media, try to hype things up without mentioning that it is just wild speculation and overwhelmingly likely to be wrong because that rather important caveat makes it boring to most people. However if that caveat does not put you off go for it - just be honest about the chances when sharing your enthusiasm with others. Sometimes I also get interested as this stage usually when a model solves some other problem inadvertently i.e. a problem it was not actually intended to solve and/or is something I might be able to test myself with the data we have.

Comment Read the Article (Score 1) 990

Yes I know this is Slashdot so you are forgiven but if you read the article you will find that my interpretation is actually spot-on. To quote the paper:

We estimate that this vehicle can meet the energy requirements of 87% of vehicle-days across the US, and 84–93% in 12 of the most populous metropolitan areas, even if relying only on night-time charging. This 87% of vehicle-days accounts for 61% of personal vehicle gasoline consumption in the US.

So technically it is only 87%, not 90%, but with a wide margin of error and when it comes to fuel use it is only 61%. Hence my claim that the problem is that for a single vehicle about 13% of the time an EV is not suitable which is the problem because nobody wants the hassle and cost (on top of the EV premium itself) to rent an ICE to replace their EV 13% of the time.

Comment Renting not Always Possible (Score 1) 990

You know you can RENT a non-EV car for that other 10% right ?

Renting is not always possible when you have a family+dog and need to rent a minivan. Availability is usually very limited and often instead of a minivan they will treat some combined SUV+minivan bastard offspring as equivalent which usually have appallingly bad legroom in the rear seats. In addition where I live in Canada the rental companies all put limited mileage on rental contracts from city locations which makes them extremely expensive for long road trips. If you add to this the inconvenience of having to rental several times a year for this and that you are paying more for the EV in the first place it is hardly a viable option.

I expect we will get an EV for our run-about-town car the moment their price drops to something comparable to an ICE. While you may save on the costs of petrol the cost of installing a recharging station plus the cost of replacing the battery every few years is still non-negligible compared to the fuel savings. However these costs are dropping every year so I remain optimistic that they will drop to the point where an EV is economically viable but unfortunately that point is not yet here at least for me.

Comment Less Hype Needed, Highly Speculative (Score 5, Insightful) 240

Attempting to up the hype a bit

Please don't. The paper contains a wildly speculative idea which, while technically possible, is based on a single, unconfirmed experimental result. Hundreds of these are published every year even in PRL and the overwhelming majority do not pan out. This is just the very early stage in the scientific brain storming process looking for new ideas which might be right and at this stage almost none of them are. The time to start getting interested is when another experiment appears to have data confirming one of the predictions of this new theory - and even then it does not always work out!

Comment 90% of time not 90% of vehicles (Score 5, Insightful) 990

The oil industry and fossil car industries are desperate that people not realise how convenient it is to have a charger in your garage.

For everyday around town use the home charger is fine. The problem is that it is not really 90% of vehicles that the electric car could replace but a single vehicle 90% of the time (which is still 90% of vehicles on the road at any one time). ~10% of the time we used our car for going on holiday or taking long road trips for other reasons. This, along with the incredibly high price, is what makes an electric car impractical for me. The high price will probably get fixed with time but to go on holiday with the family I need a car with a large range that can be refuelled quickly. While I would love to have an electric car with that capability for around the same price as a petrol driven one that is not something I see happening any time soon.

Comment Duty to Protect Privacy (Score 2) 136

I'm of the opinion that anyone that stores data for you in a professional capacity is acting as an agent on your behalf and should enjoy the same legal protections that you yourself would have if you had the data yourself.

That's not what I want since it leaves the provider the option to voluntarily share my data. What we have in Canada is far better: the holder of the data has a legal duty to protect your privacy and cannot share you data with anyone unless required to do so by law.

Comment Yes, shorter by ~30MYr according to the paper (Score 3, Informative) 250

On a more serious note, anyone who has sat and given some thought to what the TFS talks about has probably realized that we could be one of the earliest sentient races. The universe didn't start with the ingredients of life. It was brewed in stars and then spread by the exploding of stars and the re-coalescence of that material. That shortens the possible time frame for sentient life

Actually if you actually read the paper (yes I know it's Slashdot so you are excused! ;-) they mention this there. All the ingredients for life, including the heavy elements, are there in the second generation stars which formed a few million years after the first generation of stars which were around ~30MYr after the Big Bang. The large stars which go supernova have very short lifetimes so heavy elements were created and dispersed into the coalescing gas clouds really quite rapidly. So instead of ~13.6 billion years for life to evolve you have ~30+a few million years less i.e. negligibly less time.

Comment Answering the Wrong Question (Score 2) 250

So, we're those guys [wikipedia.org] after all?

That is not really what this paper is saying. All they have done is calculated when intelligent life is most likely to evolve given a constant probability per unit time for intelligent life to evolve on a planet in the habitable zone of a star. This is obviously going to be weighted towards the longest time periods available because they have assumed a constant probability per unit time and, unless I missed it, do not include any possibility for intelligent life to go extinct or otherwise disappear (e.g. "go beyond the rim" in B5-speak).

The real question which they fail to answer is what is the value of the probability per unit time for intelligent life to evolve on a planet in the habitable zone of a star? If we assume that Earth is a somewhat typical indication of this then the probability for intelligent life to have evolved somewhere else in the galaxy is overwhelmingly large already which is what leads to the Fermi Paradox. The fact that it is going to be higher in the future is no help to explaining why we do not see evidence of life elsewhere now.

To put this is simpler statistical terms it is as if we have already tossed a coin a thousand times and, as far as we can tell, have only manage to get one coin coming up heads. The fact that if we toss the coin another million times that at some point in the future we are far more likely to get some more heads than we have so far (which is what this paper points out) does nothing to solve the problem of why we appear to have only got one head in the first thousand tosses.

Comment Re:Every intelligent person (Score 1) 517

You don't have to be in the EU.

You do if you want to lead the project. So if Britain leaves it can get funding to take part in EU projects lead by EU scientists but it can never lead those projects itself. I expect this will cause many leaders in science to start thinking about a personal "brexit" plan of their own and these are the people who drive research programs and attract scientists from around the world.

Comment Funding Levels Not Grant Allocation (Score 2) 517

I mean there's the Replication Crisis to consider, and the Decline Effect, and then somewhere north of 40,000 neurology papers that were a waste of time

Actually your examples point to the problem which is not how the grants are assigned within a field but the level of funding between different fields. The effects you point to are all predominantly (but not exclusively) related to medical sciences. This is an area where politicians, corporations and the public love to pour huge quantities of money into because of the intense personal connection medicine has to all of us.

A perfect grant allocation system will give the most promising research ideas the highest priority for funding until all the funds are allocated. This means that the more funds you have the lower the quality of research that will be funded even if you have a perfect allocation system. This is what I believe we are seeing today with a good, but obviously not perfect, allocation system.

The solution is to redirect research funding away from medicine to other areas of science. This will have the effect of increasing the output of other fields which will lead to discoveries some of which will in turn help advance medicine as well as advance productivity so we can pay for all the new medical techniques being developed. However this is hard to do because while we all have a strong personal connection directly or through loved ones to curing things like cancer or heart disease very few people have a strong personal connection to making a better battery, understanding superconductivity, finding the nature of Dark Matter or solving quantum gravity etc.

Comment The Pen is Mightier than the Sword (Score 1) 367

Those are consumables. If you only look at durable goods, and you multiply the number manufactured by the useful lifetime, then I nominate the AK-47.

You are forgetting the oft used quote about the pen being mightier than the sword. This is not really talking about the pen itself - although if this statistic is accurate a Bic Crystal ball point pen would only need to have a useful lifetime of 22 days to beat the AK47 if we assume an average lifetime of 60 years and even without taking into account subsequent sales since 2005.

However the quote it really referring to what the pen writes: books. If we take the best selling example, the Bible, then not only has this book alone sold ~5 billion copies (+/-1 billion depending on whom you believe) the oldest of which is almost 1,700 years old. Other religious texts such as the Qu'ran similarly have wide circulations and are older. So even with your criterion for age times circulation these will have the AK47 completely beaten.

Comment Re:Explanation for Americans (Score 1) 621

Perhaps the majority of citizens of the UK don't want to "regard the EU as (their) country".

Perhaps. Sadly we may never know though because a huge number of British citizens, myself included, were denied the right to vote in the referendum simply because we were not living in the UK. I would argue that a huge majority of these, and there are over 2 million in the EU alone, would have voted in favour of remaining because they were actually treating the EU as their country.

As citizens of a sovereign state it is their right to make that determination.

I agree and as a citizen of that sovereign nation I was denied that right which is rather ironic since one of the major complaints of the brexit camp was the lack of democracy in the EU. As a result I and my kids will lose their EU citizenship and my only recourse is to finally get Canadian citizenship so I give a final parting two fingered salute to my former country as it turns its back on Europe and loses the right to call itself either 'Great' or 'United' - quite literally as Scotland will secede. It is a very sad time to be British.

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