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Comment Re: That's the state of the universe then... (Score 1) 268

I think I can partially answer my own question. The protons and neutrons in the nucleus can be described as being in a sort of quantum fluid with essentially no viscosity. So Although in some sense the nucleus is hard and almost incompressible, it's more like a superfluid than it is like a crystal. So I'm guessing that the "pear" shape is an unexpected nucleon wave function. Again I'm no nuclear physicist but maybe the situation is something a little bit like that?

Comment Re: That's the state of the universe then... (Score 1) 268

I am not a nuclear physicist, but I still don't get the distinction here. Nuclei are formed through processes that are full of asymmetries. For example, two nuclei collide, or a neutron is captured, or whatever. Is there some theory that asserts that nuclei must obey certain symmetries regardless of the constituent parts? These are unstable nuclei to be sure. Maybe they are an excited state that decays via gammas to a more symmetric one (which could be even less stable)? I'm not sold here but hoped some slashdotter could help illuminate this better.

Take snowflakes for example. They aren't all perfectly symmetric even though the bonds have a certain symmetry. The history of their formation manifests in the shape of the snowflake and causes deviations from the prevailing symmetry.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 1080

I like to think about various different market sectors, and how capitalism succeeds and struggles in these sectors. The auto industry is, for the most part, a good example of capitalism at its best. It still has issues with safety & emissions regulations -- pure market forces would favor lower costs over safety, and definitely favor lower costs over low emissions because the individual car owner doesn't suffer exclusively from their own car's emissions. And there are globalization market effects to contend with, as well as monopolistic tendencies.

Service industries are also great in free market economies, like hair salons and auto shops. Though auto shops do benefit from sleazy tactics that are hard for the average consumer to detect. But a haircut is easy, you know exactly what you're getting and what you're paying. How about the tipping culture though?

I think where capitalism struggles the most today is in information industries like software, news, music, etc where the per-unit production costs are zero or are dwarfed by "development" costs. In these industries, I believe the efficient market hypothesis no longer applies because one of its predicates (an aspect of scarcity) is no longer true. These industries are becoming larger and more important today, so it's not surprising that capitalism itself is being challenged.

This doesn't make me "reject" capitalism, because it still has tremendous value and use. But I don't expect it to work very well in the not-distant future without some significant modifications. And no, I wish I knew what those modifications might be but I don't.

Comment Re: So what? (Score 1) 133

AFAICT, snaps is no worse in this regard than any other packaging system out there: dpkg, rpm, pacman, etc. Am I right? Is all this fuss about the claim of better-but-not-actually-perfect sandboxing? Admittedly there is this gaping hole in X11 security (the way it's implemented in any case), which has been around for decades. But the article makes it sound like snaps are a new kind of bad. I don't think that's true, but hopefully some slashdotter will set me straight.

Comment Re:hard (Score 1) 154

Typically in university-based research, most of the government funding goes to post-doc salaries. The professors are paid by the university, and most of a grad student's research assistantship (basically minimum wage) is also paid through the university. Post-doc salaries are between about 1/3 to 1/2 of what industry would pay the same people.

Comment Re:hard (Score 1) 154

I have to disagree with this, at least as it relates to R&D spending. It sounds like you're advocating for pure, unregulated markets and want to rely on free market economics to somehow, magically, create a thriving privatized research program.

I wish I could believe in that, but it's way too simplistic. People point to Bell Labs as an example of successful private research, but other than that and Research Corporation, I don't know of any privately-funded basic research programs. Both of those, combined, produced very little basic science. Not to belittle them, but government funded programs far exceeded them in terms of funding and science output. I view Bell Labs as a market anomaly -- a momentary quirk of a market failure, possible only because Bell telephone held a monopoly for a while and had money they didn't know what to do with and no competition to keep them running lean.

In a properly-functioning market economy, companies that aren't 100% dedicated to maximizing return-on-investment will fail. This rules out basic science funding by corporations. Then you have private philanthropy, which only works when you have such an enormous wealth disparity that the top 0.0001% of citizens hold a large fraction of the nation's wealth and feel the desire at some point to spend a lot of it on research. Again, a consequence of a failed economy.

The way science has been successfully funded in the US has been through government spending by politicians who were motivated to do the right thing for our country. This was publicly justifiable, especially during the cold war, and probably for the wrong reasons. But starting around 1993, the public has begun to steadily lose interest in science and other long-term goals, and our politics have reflected that.

I don't even pretend to know about the pros and cons of the federal reserve bank. I know its history is suspicious at best, but beyond that there is a lot of intelligent debate that's outside my field of expertise. This is an important issue for sure, but I don't see how any fixes related to the Fed would do anything to restore a beneficial state of research in the US. In a healthy, thriving, and competitive economy, basic research can't and won't happen in the private sector.

Comment Re:Corporate bias? (Score 1) 178

I just read this and thought: Google the phrases "you liberals" and "you conservatives" and see if there is an asymmetry in the search results.

"you liberals": 196,000 reslults
"you conservatives": 60,400 results

I don't know what to make of that, but it's some measure of how pervasive partisan politics (us vs them) is among the major parties.

Comment Re:Primary? (Score 1) 178

I'm worried that half-measures like this do more harm than good, because they can create dissatisfaction with voting reform efforts. Get it right, and do the math. Start with replacing plurality / first-past-the-post with any other system. CA's system by itself will probably cause havoc because of the spoiler effect. I like reweighted range voting best for multi-seat elections, but would be happy with transferrable votes and probably others as well.

Comment Re:Primary? (Score 1) 178

I don't see much activity on this front, but I like the material at rangevoting.org. I wonder what the status is of current efforts to get range voting implemented in the US?

They make an interesting argument that it's better to lobby for range voting than approval voting, because it's a little harder to repeal. The graph at the bottom of the home page, for me, is a shockingly strong argument. With the plurality system, we do not do much better than picking a winner at random. If we actually value democracy, we should place more emphasis on this issue. The electoral college system is also badly flawed, but I'd honesly go after the voting system first.

I think challenging the two-party system (a stable equilibrium of plurality voting) is extremely important for political debate because, for one, mud-slinging is most effective when there are only two viable candidates. At rangevoting.org they argue that range voting helps independents more than any of the other systems considered.

Comment Re:Equivalent to 500000 cars over what time period (Score 1) 240

That's a valid point. I'm really preferring my $2 trillion cleanup figure anyway. Not that anyone is going to actually clean this up, because no one can afford to be responsible. And I suspect that $200/tonne CO2 reclamation is not a very accurate figure, even hypothetically.

Still, I'd like to suggest that we aren't addressing global warming until we enact a reclamation tax for all significant greenhouse emissions including gasoline prices and electricity from coal plants.

Comment Re:Equivalent to 500000 cars over what time period (Score 1) 240

You're dividing 112 days of methane leak by one year's-worth of automobile consumption. So now we're at 0.7%.

That still seems smallish, and when talking about greenhouse emissions it's a global problem. One has to take into account global greenhouse gas production, but also global carbon sinks. I wonder what percentage of unabsorbed greenhouse gasses this contributed to over that period of time?

Maybe another way of digesting the impact is in terms of money. That, we can relate to. So maybe here's the question: given current technology for atmospheric carbon reclamation (and they say methane traps 100 times more heat than CO2), how much would it cost to reclaim 9.71 Gg of CO2? I see one reference quoting reclamation at $200 per tonne CO2, which for this leak equals $2 trillion. How does this compare to past disaster cleanup costs? It's a lot of money.

Comment Re:Anything the US does is suspicious (Score 1) 287

While on the topic of Nazi Germany, this whole ICBM in NK thing reminds me of the history surrounding Hitler deploying troops in Rhineland. This and subsequent military pushes violated a neutral zone established after WWI, and no other countries reacted because at that time the public was adamantly anti-war because, again, of WWI. By the time any actual resistance was established against Germany's invasions, it was too late. I've heard historians identify the occupation of Rhineland as the last time at which Nazi Germany could have been contained without nearly as much loss of life.

I don't know all the complexities with NK politics today and their relationship with China, etc. So I hate to suggest this but with them having developed nukes and now testing ICBMs, it seems to me like today could be a modern-day parallel to that pre-WWII situation in some ways.

This is dangerous talk because it's such a vague analogy and makes more of an emotional issue out of this than anything else. I'm generally strongly in favor of talks and negotiations, but I'm a little worried that in some situations there is a clock ticking and negotiations have a time limit.

Comment Re:Temba ... his arms wide ... (Score 2) 104

I don't know the details, but the signals they are looking for are particular distributions of light. There are a lot of background processes that produce light, but in patterns or distributions that can be subtracted out. The experiment is carefully designed to have small backgrounds with respect to the signals they hope for, but I'm sure there is still a lot of data being generated.

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