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Comment Re:So Metric will change..again. (Score 1) 92

Actually, English is pretty much a compilation of lots of languages, and "gram" does have lots of meanings, most associated with writing. It does allow one to consider adding (to microgram, kilogram and other aggregate units) the following...
pangram - typical weight of a chimp.
lipogram - typical excess weight of a human. (Useful as you only get heavier if you eat more than other fatties.)
seismogram - typical weight of a tectonic plate
urogram - something that weighs piss all
and so on. It's all quite simple. (And simplicity can be weighed in idiograms.)

Comment Re:Is this flu really "special"? (Score 1) 695

The person I listened to on the news was not some TV actor paid for voice and face quality. I listened to radio, and the person talking was a senior health official. They did radiate concern. No problems about the 'serious bit'. They had reacted rapidly and effectively and had stomped on the immediate problem. My wife (PhD Microbiology) and I had a particular interest. Our daughter lives and works in the area the affected school is in.

What concerned us was that the response seemed to have drained the capacity of Health to broaden its concern to other potentially affected people. Having a new government committed to depleting the Civil Service will not have helped them. Our epidemic response group came across as in severe danger of being overwhelmed. Not enough people, not enough authority.

As for my reference to veterinarians. I am moderately aware of plans for coping with Foot and Mouth or similar animal epidemic in this country. That would trigger a well defined response with rings of army controlled movement rights. That is treating it seriously. Britain has been through it. Whereas on that same news programme, a teacher who had been on the same flight from Los Angeles near the school kids was asking whether he should go to school that day. He wasn't stupid. I think he was being deliberately provocative to underscore a lack of effective follow up.

A real pandemic will overwhelm the professionals. I am somewhat optimistically assuming that this is just another scare. I would like to see it used to develop a network of competent volunteers. It is the sort of thing that Japan and China do quite well. I am not optimistic enough to think that will happen.

Comment Re:Is this flu really "special"? (Score 4, Interesting) 695

I live in New Zealand, which now has (as far as we can test) a Swine flu outbreak among kids returning from a Mexican school trip. Basically, it seems under control due to competent home hygiene, plus intense medical supervision. So, yes it does spread fast. And for those of you who can't find New Zealand on a map. Don't worry about that, a pandemic will find you.

What is really valuable about this is that it looks to be a fairly safe, almost ideal model for the real thing. A test for how competently a pandemic is managed locally. Listening to the news this morning (we are 16 hours ahead of the US), our authorities seem to have concentrated all their efforts in micromanaging the school threat, and ignored contamination of everyone else on the plane. Provided the officials stay inside the school, they should be safe.

Personally, I'd prefer a bunch of veterinarians running it who aren't allowed to shoot and burn. At least they have a holistic approach. However, I'm getting old and cynical. Younger people seem to prefer touchy-feely sorry-about-the-megadeaths administrators.

Comment Re:Job's got it right.... (Score 1) 309

Oh, you mean he's talking about Steve Jobs.

Surely the trivia of a pretty computer shape and snazzy screen layout are not really all that relevant to coping with a looming nuclear disaster. Even though I share your loathing of inappropriate apostrophes, there could well be a better interpretation - the Book of Job. There is a missing 'UI'.

"Job's User Interface got it right."

Now I did last read the Book of Job well before Three Mile island happened, but as I understand it, it is very relevant. Essentially Job had a direct line to God, it was one way, he had the status of a sewer rat, and shit happened to him. Swap 'Nuclear reactor' for God and any control room operator at TMI would have felt akin to Job. No control, shit happening, no clear picture why, and the Good Book of all Possible Procedures was not all that useful.

Which leads to the question : Should people with strong Biblical beliefs be allowed to run a nuclear reactor. After all, the message of the Book of Job is that when shit happens, accept it, sit on your bum, and all will eventually come right provided you continue to claim the the System is Right.

On the other than, the author of the original article wants engineers to be in charge, not administrators. As modern engineers may well have grown up playing games, they could have embedded in their thinking "Only 7 more meltdowns and I will have to start this game over again."

Ok, had my say. Job's done.

Comment top vs bottom post... (Score 1) 1147

That's because we're human, unlike you dwarves.

As do I.
--- I hate people who top-post

Humans start with a superficial view, dig themselves into a hole, and then drop a post. Whereas every dwarf starts off with a 'mine, mine, all mine view', cuts a chimney, and shoves a post up.

The human method is concerned with being upright and upstanding (distance above ground). Dwarves I have to speculate about, but I understand they don't like a post to stalactite down and dent the helmet. I don't even know why you post at all, but maybe its a way of finding out how superficial you've become.

Anyways, both are perfectly fine ways of behaving, as long as we agree to hate each other. Humans do tend to get shot at while posting, whereas dwarves get speyed. Live and let live, ok.

Of course, if I see a hole appear in the ground, I'll drop a sharpened post in it, but that is only in retaliation for whichever of you bastards cut a spade into my bum the other day when I was using what appeared to be a convenient toilet in the wilderness. It just looked like an unused hole. I wasn't being malicious. Bastards.

Comment Re:... freedom to drive recklessly (Score 1) 273

But that is the great asset. Excessive carbon users killing themselves. The trick is to stop them killing sedate boring old farts like me.

A flying car (sorry about getting back on topic) could be mandated to only be able to fly over farmland and wilderness. They could also be a required part of any bankers bonus package. That way they just kill each other with a low chance of killing the innocent. (Innocent is anyone looking on and wishing they had bonuses like that.)

The Darwin effect could be a bit slow, so it seems reasonable to allow them to carry guns as well. As the prop is at the back, a forward shooting machine gun should be easy to set up. If they are allowed to carry their lawyers with them as well (vive le constitution) then we could get a double bonus with every shoot-down.

Parachutes are allowed, provided they are made of gold. (It's a culture preservation thing.)

Comment Re:So, then "Zero" is still... (Score 1) 209

My sig reflects a preoccupation with the ambiguity of language, and also I'm 60 and while I accept QM, I'm still gob-smacked by it.

I'm interested in history, but my competence is sketchy at best. However...

Marxism did not deal in cycles - it proposed that each transitional government/state had inherent contradictions, which developed into an opposition to the state. After conflict, that was resolved into a newer, better state, and so on to a perfect communist state. So it was more sinusoidal on an upwards slope. Marx was a philosopher, not a manipulative politician. Nice guy, killed lots of people. Religions do that.

Lenin on the other hand, destructively took over the Russian revolution, supposedly creating a soviet of free and equal workers. The implication was that the perfectly structured society had been created, now all they had to do was work together to make it physically perfect. Helleleua brother.

Incidentally, I agree with the concept of CC0 - but it is a mechanism for gifting fragments of work, not for applying to everything. The Open Source community and the open music community do envision CC0 as quite widely applying. Suppose it is so wide that it is the majority rule.

In a CC0 society, the workers are all equal. Government has withered away. They take from society according to their needs, and give of their bounty. It is a requirement that all be equal, but society can define that. My language play was on the 'zero' concept, whereby temperature in a quantum environment was similar and possibly identical mathematically to rights status. If enough material (code, images, text) is in a zero state that individuals can function as social animals, then the society could be described as a Bose-Einstein condensate. I am really playing with words in a way, but laws are rules, and physical objects seem to have become indistinguishable from rule sets. I really do not know where the borders are.

Suppose, from a programmers perspective, you have a right to take others code, grab snippets, build anew, and then return that to the code collective. The Open Source Soviet. It can work, provided you have no food, clothing or shelter worries, and status is a function of contribution. I am a bit too cynical to believe it is stable, except in a monastery sense. That is, isolated communist societies can exist, and be very stable, provided they isolate themselves from the main - monasteries.

Marxism was supposed to be a science. I quoted Bose-Einstein to imply that you could apply 20th century science to it, where the workers of all lands had united. Maybe even make a sort of sense. That would be the fun bit. Like applying maths to financial systems.

The nasty bit is that societies really do seem to be groups wanting leaders, and that there are manipulative individuals who want to dominate. In short, the equality would break down. That is my cynic's evaluation.

So does a pool of rubidium atoms act as a nice model for a full copy-left society? Unlikely, but I am an aging chemist, not a physicist. Suppose they are a useful model, an analog social computer. The explosion observed in an actual B-E condensate, the bosenova, implies that they are not a perfect final state, a Soviet. So apart from cynicism, it is possible that a CC0 community has its inherent failures built in. Well, some of them have. It might be just a matter of spotting the causes, and snipping those bits out of the gene pool. You need a distant cold Gulag for the counter-revolutionary programmers. Call it Seattle.

Comment Re:So, then "Zero" is still... (Score 5, Funny) 209

Hey, has anyone done the physics of this. Given that lawyers deal in quantum states (guilty/ not guilty; mine/ not mine) and that the participants are all identical (equal rights), then when you get sufficiently close to zero, Bose-Einstein stats apply and you get a condensate. I'm not sure what the actual entity then looks like, but there must be a physicist out there who has also studied up on what poets or programmers do when they can use everything.

Reading up on the Wikipedia <> article, the thing to be wary of is a bosenova - a spontaneous explosion in which a whole bunch of participants disappear. As a near zero copy-left condensate looks very similar to a communist state, it looks very much like an opportunity for someone to propose a Bose-Einstein-Lenin condensate, wherein all the workers are equal, until a megalomaniac arises. Or if the work is in programming, a robotic overlord.

Comment Re:Human arrogance (Score 1) 177

Actually, human evolution has probably only had 10,000 years - since the development of agriculture. Wide epidemics need population centers. Otherwise, the flu passes through the small wandering tribe, and has run its course before the tribe meets someone new to infect. (Xenophobia is also a really good idea. Chat to strangers over a fire, with them downwind.)

The evolution argument also assumes that antibodies know what the object of the exercise is. I did research on them, but was a chemist way back, and got an Antibodies for Idiots introduction to it. Here's the out of date, last of the ideas still clinging to neurons summary...

Essentially, it is purely a mechanical process.
1. In your body you have in circulation a bunch of cells that each produce antibodies of one precise sequence. Only a really tiny part of really big foreign molecules gets recognized.
2. If an invader is recognized, it gets chomped up and that process also passes on an instruction to make more antibodies, that are similar but with small variations.
3. Cells types that have been ramped up to produce antibodies tend to stick around for a long time.

Essentially, it is a good general purpose mechanical but adaptive system. It isn't out to stop the flu. Being that narrowly focussed would be dangerous. It is like a New Yorker deciding that the enemy for all time is an Indian or Englishman or Southerner or German or Communist or Saudi. Times change. Your immune system works really well most of the time.

Downside is: whilst our immune system is evolving, so is the flu. So any solution could take a while. Ideally, an effective disease does not kill its host, or not many of them. It is like a herbivore that just grazes then moves on when the season changes. As long as a virus can multiply and find a new host to infect, it is fine. If it slowly mutates its shape, it can come back eventually and graze again. We may not have an enormous incentive to focus too heavily on most flus.

Also, the article refers to a minor and implicitly difficult to get to part of the flu virus as the target area. The immune system has no long term strategy. If it recognizes (initially poorly) part of the flu virus, it will work on that with its positive feed-back loops. This is more likely to be the highly modified stick part of the 'lollipop' shape. If the immune system works quickly enough, you won't even know you were infected. The immune system is working efficiently, but it deals with tactics, not strategy.

The article therefore is quite right in finding these very minor part of the immune population antibodies as being more useful. But these researchers too are working at a tactical level. That is, they have a mechanical approach which works well. The 'evolution tells you something' warning might still be valid. For instance, suppose these new antibodies recognize that a bit of the virus neck which also has a similar structure to a protein at a critical stage of human development. Fix the flu, abort a fetus. Now you are into trade-offs. Evolution is quite happy to be active there. (Apologies to any purists who hate an abstract mechanical entity called evolution having emotions like 'happy'.) The worry is - has it already been there, and found out that the trade-off wasn't worth it.

Good research. But anything new can bite you. (Keep it downwind and the other side of the fire.)

Comment Re:1984? (Score 1) 513

It means..
Third-person singular simple present indicative form of be.

I looked that up in Wiktionary, so it must be true.
Not that I understand the answer. And all that simple approach is before someone waffles on about perception versus physical reality, and whether reality is just a bunch of equations chatting on some big whiteboard.

I did note that you were able to duplicate the word 'is', so you cannot have written it in Word, which would have queried it as a possible spelling error. That is, Word would want to know with regard to 'is is'; is 'is is' 'is' or is 'is is' 'is is'.

Comment They deserve to succeed (Score 4, Informative) 257

They have been working at this for decades. My brother travels often to China where he oversees production designed here. He admires their industry (human and machine), relative honesty (not that different from Western companies), and ambition. A company with 100,000 employees has 100,000 people all wanting to own it. The government not only supports business, they have schemes to induce overseas Chinese to return to lucrative positions. And they are not too sympathetic to freeloaders.

In short, he likes them, and considers them a major looming threat. Every design he brings in he knows will be analyzed to enable them to better it. Hey, ho, that's evolution. Competitions wonderful if you can beat it often enough to live. If not, introduce protectionism and live off your capital for a while.

They are not tigers of course. Those are a protected species. Not T. rex cos that's just a bunch of bones. I cannot think of a suitable analogy. An unassuming animal that out-competes us while we are watch video games.

Comment Re:Neat but.. (Score 3, Interesting) 207

What a waste of an idea. I don't understand why they were messing about with such a low payback as malware. Spam relies on say a 0.1% success rate, but millions of fliers. Physical fliers are too costly.

Now, handing out fake tickets to those obviously illegally parked could net a useful income for a while. Especially if the 'objections' site informed you that there had a substantial backlog of cases, and had to be evaluated, parameterized and prioritised. ("and we hope to get back to you before the one month follow up or discard period has passed.) It should be good for two weeks of Paypal heaven. Of course the flier distributor would be caught on video, and identified as wearing a sort of uniform with dayglo highlights including a cap and sunglasses, but hey, its a clue isn't it.

The other worthwhile bit would be advertising. Being caught doing something illegal has your attention. Wow, what an attention grabbing gift. You actually are likely to read the flier. Going to a site would be sufficient warning that you are not in standard territory. Opening page tells you that you are (1) a miscreant and (2) so what, rip up the notice and enjoy the site, brought to you by ....

Of course, city councils would be furious at the disrespect and would find something illegal about it. But if the site poked fun at council misspending and other idiocies, the shut-down could become politically expensive. Political change could be the real objective of the fliers.

Comment Re:Do we want to be found? (Score 1) 774

I sympathize with your arguement, but it's a bit too hopeful for me.

It is not economic to hunt tigers, but they would be extinct by now if they had not been protected.

Why hunt us? Probably not for food. But if you regard 'hunt'in a broad sense, we could be a useful petri dish to test say, meme poisoning. This is where an idea is injected (can be a religion, can be just an innovation such as stirrups) and see how it spreads and what the effects are. That's assuming it is done by a responsible group, with the moral uprightedness of the Romans (those nobly regarded thugs). If it is just done as an experiment by an curious amateur, well, anything goes.

There are other 'uneconomic' reason to invade Earth. One such is an inability to get on with other groups on your home world. I think the Puritans were driven by that, but my knowledge of early USA history is scanty. Another is a drive for religious conversion, and if they do not do it on a convert or slaughter basis, they can still arrive with the equivalent of measles.

Long live the 1c barrier!

None of which solves the Fermi Paradox. It just implies that we should be glad for the nonce that there are no competitors, and be a bit queasy that negative evidence is reassurance, not proof.

The original article seems too vague to comment on. On the other hand, I can be pretty dim on the uptake. I have to guess that it was inspired by Oblers' paradox, which was a proof for a while of a finite universe. But why should 1000 light years be a limit? That assumes one is stupid enough to broadcast. If instead you send the messages only to stars, that is way more efficient. Not all, just say 1 billion selected recipients of our spam, and vice versa. Just how far can a laser beam be seen? Brighter than our sun does not seem to be a difficult target. Of course, you would have to beam on one of the stellar absorption lines, but I dare say the SETI theoreticians have that sussed.

Comment Re:Unsung hero of science? (Score 1) 82

Yep, I bungled how I phrased that. I had read that article, and it does cover Harriot quite well. What I meant to say (since the discussion is on Harriot, moon-maps and anonymity) is that the Wikipedia article on the Harriot crater ironically makes no mention of Harriot at all.

Harriot seems to have been an 'eminence grise', a background figure. There is a college named after him, but it is in East Carolina. England does not regard him so well. He is not 'Sir Thomas' whereas Newton is Sir Issac Newton and Faraday was offered but rejected a knighthood. Harriot's continuing lack of recognition seems to be a matter of regret in the original article.

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