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Comment My (academic) perspective (Score 1) 286

It all depends on what kind of notes you take and what for. I am a professor and I tend to jot down lots of quick thoughts that some day I may work into a publication or else post online. I also write down detailed notes on books, i.e. what important thing I found on what page. I tend to hand write notes on color-coded post-its in the book and then I transcribe these on the computer either by typing or by voice.

I used to use OneNote a long time ago because it is very versatile and it's easy to make charts, etc. I switched to Evernote (free) because I wanted my data to be synced and because of the utter simplicity of it. At the time I didn't like how I couldn't do color and formatting on Android and I still hate Evernote's awful tables.

However, I developed a Perl script that allows me to type up my book notes in plain text and then easily format and color-code them. the script then automatically imports the output into Evernote. The API--at least back when I made the script--is not terribly great, but it at least works and I don't have to fuss with stupid VBA. I think I just used a command line script.

I think these recent changes my seriously chase me away from Evernote, because I need more than two devices and the subscription fee is just outrageous. I have seriously thought of paying it before, but it just is not worth it when there's plenty of competition. Evernote is far from a great company; their UIs are often terrible and they hardly ever improve their apps in ways that actually help the users. For example, their UI just keeps getting more and more blinding white, and they will never add any option to be able to make it sensibly dark for those of us who have to stare at it all day. Thankfully I recently found an easy hack that at least improves it a little bit:

Nowadays I take most quick notes--like shopping lists--on my OneNote app on my Windows Phone. It sucks terribly, but it's much quicker than waiting for Evernote to load.

Comment Re:Google Keep (Score 2) 286

I think it's dishonest for Google to name something "Keep." We all know in a few years (or less) when Google inexplicably decides to focus its attention elsewhere, it will screw all of its users and take down the service. At that time I'm sure people will come up with plenty of complaints and puns for the name.

Comment Not black enough! (Score 1) 107

Sad--when I saw the headline I was hoping that Google would stop with the blindingly white background on everything and provide a dark interface. At least for now I can use Stylish to make Google dark, but there's way too many blindingly white web sites and apps out there and if Google were to change, it might encourage some others to do so as well. Twenty years from now I'm sure Slashdot will be covering studies showing that this generation's eyes have been destroyed by all the excessively bright white UIs.

Comment Re:How is this a test on free will? (Score 1) 386

The study shows our primitive mind makes a lot of decisions for us. But nothing about free will.

Exactly. In fact, better studies have even shown that some pre-processing of visual information occurs before the signal even reaches the brain. This reinforces the conclusion that much of our cognition is essentially prior to the activity of consciousness, even though consciousness would be a presupposition of free-will. (For example, my mind determines that a glyph on a screen is the letter L and then sends my consciousness not the raw pixel data, as it were, but rather the glyph pre-interpreted as an L; once within consciousness, I may or make not make a decision in regard to this glyph.) Thus the only relevant statement that the present study can make with regard to free-will is that fast-paced declarations about the imminent future may be at least partially determined in advance by preprocessing that occurs prior to the full experience of consciousness.

Note that I say "declarations about the imminent future" and not "choices" or "decisions." This study does not really deal with free-will directly because the participants are not necessarily even intending to make real decisions but only to pronounce upon the future. (Some may even interpret this as a kind of "psychic" prediction.) Hence their conscious minds are essentially tasked with acting like random number generators. But it is no surprise if we are bad at being random, just as computers are not fully random. If you ask me to come up with a random number, I will almost certainly pick a number that I am already predisposed toward picking because of the situation around me, or because it is one of my favorites, or because I am trying to be crafty, or because it happens to currently on my mind, etc. I can never be certain that any random number that I generate is truly random.

But free-will is not reducible to randomness, and therefore a lack of genuine randomness is not tantamount to a lack of free-will. Free-will is not the ability to do something random, nor the ability to be absolutely undetermined by outside influences. (Ironically, this study, implies that free-will in this case would be the ability to be wrong about predicting colors.) Ultimately free-will is the ability to decide about oneself to take up the mass of conscious data and concrete, pre-determined factors and to weave them into a connected narrative of selfhood. Thus free-will is not incompatible with any kind of predetermination whatsoever. Quite the opposite, when we experience ourselves as having made a free decision, we can also look back at that decision and see that it "makes sense." Hence I experience myself as freely deciding to eat lunch; but this makes perfect sense because I am hungry, I have a lunch on hand, I am used to eating lunch at this time, etc. We are too used to looking for ridiculous exceptions in order to try to prove free-will, like I need to make a decision that makes absolutely no sense at all. However, free-will is something that--at least according to our own conscious experience--occurs not simply in such extreme and exceptional cases, but even in the most mundane and predictable parts of conscious life.

Comment Re:Consoling a friend? (Score 2) 230

Haha, that quote is exactly what was going through my mind as I read this abstract, too.

The comment below by Reaper9889 is correct and thus highlights the fact that one could argue that the black hole goes to another universe but still kills whatever passes through. Nevertheless, this shows the silliness of the whole idea suggested now by Hawking. Any information that might be transferred to another universe would be essentially garbled beyond all recognition such that it would have only a nominal connection to this universe. A person goes in, and out in another universe comes some shadowy noise (of Hawking radiation?) that can never again be reassembled into a living person. On the other side, could we be sure that whatever "information" is really ever arriving from another universe? In fact, it is just as easy to conclude that whatever "arrives" is just random, meaningless noise with no basis in any universe whatsoever. Ockham's Razor would make such a multiverse assumption seem extremely improbable.

Perhaps the biggest problem, however, is that normal people read this kind of "news" and think that black holes are portals that might bring living people to other universes. Thankfully we don't have to worry about people throwing themselves into black holes any time soon, but people do turn this kind of gibberish into metanarratives of meaning--similar to how Bender is comforted by the thought that maybe she could still be alive in another universe. The thought of infinite other universes helps us to forget the pain and evils of this one. Example: "Maybe our little human civilization will be meaningful after all because some small little information about it will be able to reach another universe in some way and some other intelligent race will know that we once existed and that we were intelligent, after all." (Richard Dawkins says something similar to this in one of his books, but premised not on multiple universes but on the endless expanse of space.) "We maybe," I reply, "But maybe when that garbled, scratchy, noise that used to be information comes through to the other civilization, just maybe they won't give a damn. How meaningful will that be?"

Comment Re:Already disputed and debunked (Score 1) 170

Plus, by the very laws of capitalism it's almost certain that people will continually up their mining operations in order to account for dwindling returns. They will want to make sure that as fewer bitcoins are handed out, they themselves do not feel that decrease. So even though this growth might be offset somewhat by the decline of smaller mining operations, it is likely that larger operations will grow exponentially. (Disclaimer: I base this prediction upon human nature, not upon a strong understanding of bitcoin mining.)

Comment Re:Perhaps The Acheans? (Score 2) 135

That's fascinating, thanks. I still wonder, however, how precisely the desire for amber was translated into a large-scale battle. Trade goods would easily generate war if there were two particularly large tribes that were united enough under centralized (or central-ish) leadership in order to come to war with one another. However, if the society was decentralized and diffused into small tribes--which, in my very limited knowledge of the region and times seems possible--then it is more difficult to generate a large scale battle even over a precious commodity. In terms of Carl von Clausewitz, it is difficult to generate and maintain enough hostile intent that transcends the petty boundaries of the different peoples fighting on the same side. In fact, I would bet that for the purposes of uniting multiple distinct peoples for a common campaign, a symbolic trophy would actually be much more potent than a physical commodity (hence the role of Helen, who became more than a mere person for the Greeks). Thus, for example, a religious conflict (e.g. over sacred land, sacred materials) or a conflict over cultural identity would be much more effective, especially when coupled with basic economic factors that appeal to human greed.

However, there are so many variables and it seems like some of the speculations of TFA could be open for debate. So for example if it were not one battle but several over a long period, or if they over-estimated the number of combatants, then it becomes much easier to explain.

Comment Re:Perhaps The Acheans? (Score 2) 135

... it could have been part of some major trans-European migration like the one that brought down the Roman empire. Secondly it could have been a large scale raid like the armies that raided Britain and France during the peak of the Viking age.

I'm guessing that you are merely comparing these events rather than suggesting that this find represents these events, since TFA suggests that this battle occurred 3200 years ago, while the events you mention occurred within the last 1000-1700 years.

The oddity, of course, is that such a major cultural-ethnic event has not left other significant evidence. Moreover, it should be recognized that a large-scale battle generally requires a large-scale political organization--if not a centralized government, then the possibility of a coalition among several clans such as in the Trojan War--and this is not as easy as one might think within a basically local, dispersed, tribal society. Homer attributes the Trojan War to the symbolic significance of Helen; one might wonder what could have been meaningful enough to these people to generate such massive warfare.

Comment Re:Perhaps The Acheans? (Score 1) 135

Many Englishmen seriously have a history of thinking that all world history points squarely to them. I remember coming across a goofy occult religious website once that claimed that the English were the "lost tribes" of Israel (i.e. the northerners who were deported by Assyria in the Exile but never returned) and that because of that they were destined to inherit the kingship of the world.

Comment Re:Turn them off by default (Score 4, Insightful) 119

Yeah, as a professor I use macros a lot for common tasks in writing papers and for managing my gradebook. The main problem with macros is that they are so stupidly designed and VBA is such a stupid, inconsistent, and insecure language. Macros are already disabled by default until you enable them via a popup, but there is no distinction between harmless operations and dangerous ones that could compromise a user's system. I think Visual Basic needs to be replaced with another language, and macro security needs to be redesigned from the ground up. But Microsoft never does anything so sensible.

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