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Comment BOTH! (Score 1) 297

Either they're willful manipulators or incompetent buffoons, but not both.

Yes, they can be both. They can be incompetent buffoons in the sense of not realizing that their stupid empty ideology based on religious indoctrination is a mental trap that pushes them beyond stupid, yet be very good at manipulating things to accomplish their childish goal of armageddon and rapture. Or, they can be total slaves to their corporate masters with no sense of morals or ethics of their own, and yet be very good at carrying out the goals of their masters.

Comment I built a Prusa i3 (Score 1) 251

I discovered the world of 3D printers when I was looking for interesting projects to build with Arduino, as I'm starting to learn electronics to augment my coding skills. I could have started with a programmable LED cube, but when I discovered the RepRap project I was immediately hooked. Not only could I learn a lot of useful skills and get soldering practice, but at completion I'd have a machine I could use to build custom cases, buttons, and any other custom parts I might need for future projects!

I did a lot of up-front research comparing the commercial offerings to a growing plethora of open source designs. It seemed clear that I would probably save money and gain more valuable experience by self-sourcing parts and building a RepRap myself, so it was really just a matter of choosing a design. I finally settled on the Prusa i3 Mendel for several reasons, foremost being the large (20cm^3) build area, low cost, and elegant design.

The sourcing and acquisition of parts took me about a month, and I made some noob mistakes, such as buying unsuitable stepper motors and the wrong RP parts for my chosen i3 variant (single plate). I also needed to buy tools and supplies, such as a soldering kit, a grinder to cut metal rods, a glass cutter, nuts and bolts, Kapton tape, blue painter's tape, acetone, etc. My main sources were SeeMeCNC, eBay, and McMaster-Carr. I overspent a bit up front, but I was able to recoup most of that overage in reselling my surplus. Today I have much more savvy (and now I can print my own parts) so I could easily build a sister to this printer for under $500.

I did learn a lot in the process of building this machine, and I've learned a lot in the process of enhancing and upgrading it since. The printer certainly hasn't "paid for itself" even a year later, but that doesn't matter to me. I did this project to educate myself and get hands-on experience, and compared to the cost of a college semester it's been a total bargain. Not only am I now familiar with Arduino programming (and have contributed code to Marlin firmware - you're welcome), but I've gotten pretty good making things in OpenSCAD, gotten to know a great group of geeks at the Seattle Metrix:Create Space, delved into Blender 3D, and gotten to know electrical current and the smell of burning components... None of which I would have gained just buying an off-the-shelf Cube3D.

The progress of low-cost 3D printing has really been accelerating lately. Some of the most vexing problems (such as bed leveling) are being solved, better extruders are being made, the slicing software is smarter and faster, and the quality of parts designs is constantly improving. I've got a half a grocery bag filled with failed prints and imperfect prototypes after a year of messing around with this machine, but I've gotten really good at calibration at this point, so very few prints fail now. You do still need to watch prints carefully, and that goes for the commercial machines as well, but generally speaking the reliability of newer machines is much better than their predecessors.

As for how useful a 3D printer is to any individual, that will depend on the intensity of their interest. I took the time to learn OpenSCAD, but not everyone will feel inclined to do so. I've made some useful items, such as the "hanger" part to repair some Sony headphones, a light cover, a slick sign for my workshop door, some iPad sound deflectors, cases and covers for various things, and of course upgrades for the RepRap itself. I've made several sets of printer parts and sold them on eBay, so the printer is slowly paying for itself. I help others with their 3D printer builds, sharing the experience I've gained in my first year, and that's a lot of fun. I think it's a great tool for hobbyists and professionals alike, especially those with engineering skills, and I can anticipate a time, not too far in the future, where 3D printers will be as ubiquitous as home computers.

Comment Re:Ultimaker (Score 1) 251

The Ultimaker software is outstanding. I don't have an Ultimaker machine, but I still prefer to use Cura to slice my models because it does such a great job of arranging extrusion into one long continuous line. The latest version (14.03) finally added an option to lift the Z axis when retracting or moving across perimeters, which is helpful for those parts with overhangs that rise as they cool and obstruct the nozzle.

Comment Re:Not only in the US... (Score 4, Insightful) 168

It's become something of a crusade of mine lately to promote reason, spurred on by stories like this, the rise of scientific illiteracy, and the destruction of culture through a dumbed-down commercial media. I'm not down with any specific ideology, in fact I promote rising above ideology to a more anthropological and phenomenological view of humanity and nature, and a faithful application of empiricism to all things we call "knowledge." Too many people invoke the chemical feeling of "belief" just to get high on it, and have no interest in the hard won truth which comes by skeptical inquiry. Too many of us are willing to swallow conspiracy theories that fit our overblown narratives of authoritarian control, as well, and in that manner also become stupid with time-wasting and untenable beliefs.

I urge people to get into understanding things as they actually are, practicing their arts and exploring the sciences with enthusiasm, focusing on results rather than just pure jollies. Religion, ideology, and self-deception are insidious traps that can hold people for a lifetime, and are very hard to fight against because people are so inured. But fight we must.

Comment An Open Watson please! (Score 1) 100

What I would love to see is Watson's training interface on the Internet, as a service, with anyone able to pick a domain and contribute expert knowledge, whether in the form of questions Watson should ask, answers to those questions, or even just links to sources of relevant information. Through a crowd-sourced approach Watson's capacities could be so much more quickly developed. By keeping each user or group in sandboxes and maintaining knowledge in each domain more or less separately, there would be no problem for those who just input nonsense, or wrong information, because Watson can build up a reliability profile and consider that in later recombination of its knowledge.

Of course first there has to be a nice easy way of making Watson nodes that can be widely deployed. Frankly this is one area of research that deserves all the money we can afford to throw at it. In the future Watson will be able to derive new hypotheses and new knowledge obtained from inference, and it will certainly accelerate our research capacity.

Comment Brace yourselves for the amazingly weird genes... (Score 1) 112

It will eventually become clear what genes encode the proto-concepts in the brain for mother, father, food, water, etc. Not only that but the concept of the Sun, Moon, and stars will likely have been encoded in there as well. Extrapolate from that notion, you can get Jungian archetypes, a whole catalog of fetishes, and most certainly the predilection towards religiosity.

Bene Gesserit meetup this Sunday.

Comment The Totalitarian State (Score 1) 445

Set aside the religious fundamentalist aspect of the thing, and what you see is totalitarianism in action. Indoctrination is so deep that the people fully sanction their own oppression. It's a nationalistic form of Stockholm Syndrome. Every powerful regime uses religious and nationalistic pretenses to make heretics, infidels, and apostates out of the most rational, individualistic, and liberal people in the society. Under the hypnosis of a culture that promotes alienation and fear, the mob gleefully hunts down and tears apart all independent-minded individuals.

Westerners forget that for much of the world it is nearly impossible to cultivate a modern, rational, humanist intellect.

Comment Positive stuff (Score 2) 915

It's true that some religions are nicer and more rational than others. I think Buddha's teachings are alright, in that he encourages skepticism and doubt as the means to get past illusions, even including the illusion of the ego. In Buddha's philosophy sectarianism and blind belief are errors born of ignorance. The religions built around Buddha sometimes have superstitious elements, but that doesn't indict the rational psychological core. So I try to encourage people who believe in nutty things like the Son of God to look at Eastern philosophy more closely, to augment and clarify the rationale for their ethics and meditative practices. That makes me more of a Sam Harris style atheist, in that I perceive great value in things like yoga and meditation.

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