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Comment Re:My spam is all 419 scams (Score 1) 144

Someone please mod parent up as informative. Only a truly incompetent spammer would allow a genuine (i.e., belonging to the spammer) reply-to or from address to find its way into the headers. Anyone who forwards to a spammer any address taken from a spam message header is truly adding to the problem.


Submission + - Is the IAEA overstepping its legal bounds on Iran? (

Lasrick writes: Excellent, thought-provoking roundtable on the IAEA's legal authority in Iran. It turns out that two of the criteria for the IAEA's displeasure with Iran are not covered under current agreements because Iran didn't sign on to them. Interesting stuff. This is the first article in the roundtable, and the analysis is by Daniel Joyner. Joyner posits that the IAEA is viewed as a political instrument of the US and the West, and that this is part of the reason why. Very good information, and good discussion of the issues in this series that will have new opinions added through December.

Submission + - Windows 8 Fights Off 85% Of Malware Detected In The Past Six Months

An anonymous reader writes: Now that Windows 8 is on sale and has already been purchased by millions, expect very close scrutiny of Microsoft’s latest and greatest security features. 0-day vulnerabilities are already being claimed, but what about the malware that’s already out there? When tested against the top threats, Windows 8 is immune to 85 percent of them, and gets infected by 15 percent, according to tests run by BitDefender.

Submission + - Scientists Study "Frictional Ageing" - Standing Objects Becoming Harder to Move ( 1

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: 'Have you ever had the impression that heavy items of furniture start to take root – that after years standing in the same place, they’re harder to slide to a new position? Do your best wine glasses, after standing many months unused in the cabinet, seem slightly stuck to the shelf? Has the fine sand in the kids’ play tray set into a lump?

If so, you’re not just imagining it. The friction between two surfaces in contact with each other does slowly increase over time. But why? A paper by two materials scientists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA, suggests that the surfaces could actually be slowly chemically bonding together.

There are already several other explanations for this so-called “frictional ageing” effect. One is simply that two surfaces get squashed closer together. But a curious thing about friction is that the frictional force opposing sliding doesn’t depend on the area of the contacting surfaces. You’d expect the opposite to be the case: more contact should create more friction. But in fact two surfaces in apparent contact are mostly not touching at all, because little bumps and irregularities, called asperities, prop them apart. That’s true even for apparently smooth surfaces like glass, which are still rough at the microscopic scale. It’s only the contacts between these asperities that cause friction.'

Comment Fountain Pen (Score 1) 712

An extra-fine fountain pen would be perfect. Modern European or American nibs tend not to be as fine as they were in the past. If you want something really fine, I'd recommend either a vintage pen such as a Parker 51. Or a Japanese pen such as a Pilot / Namiki. Or you could go with a custom extra-fine nib made by a nib expert such as Richard Binder. A fountain pen is not a cheap option but nor does it have to be extremely expensive. And it's a myth that (as someone posted here earlier) no one else can write with your fountain pen once you have "broken it in". There's really no breaking in required.

I have about a dozen fountain pens and I like them so much that I rarely write with anything else.

Comment Re:language and taboo (Score 1) 223

That's an interesting point. Mary Douglas, who in the 1950s studied the Lele tribe (10,000 people in what was then the Belgian Congo) reported that they expressed incredulity that grown men would ever come to blows over any topic other than women. This has been interpreted by some people as evidence that they were not very warlike. But there might have been taboo involved. Or perhaps they were joking.

Comment Re:war not human nature? (Score 1) 223

(I'm defining war as lethal group violence within a species)

Humans do pretty much everything in organized groups. Your usage of "group" is a distinction that is unfair to creatures that aren't human. To be fair you should either accept a concept of 1-on-1 war, or accept that "war" is really just a minor subdivision of the key concept: competitive activities that effectively result in death. And yes, even plants do this. That damn pine tree hanging over my garden is using chemical weapons.

I see what you are saying but my definition was deliberate. If we do not specify that we are talking about group violence, we cannot distinguish between war and murder. And I'm not arguing that murder can be eliminated. I was originally objecting to someone's rather casual statement that war is human nature.

Your logic with regard to evolution is circular.

Not exactly: I described a feedback loop. There is indeed a theoretical situation without war, but it is unstable. Picture two worlds, one of pacifists and one of killers. Pacifists give birth to pacifists, on and on. Likewise, killers give birth to killers, on and on. One day in each world there is born a mutant with different behavior. In the world of killers, the mutant (a pacifist) is quickly exterminated. In the world of pacifists, the mutant thrives at the expense of the pacifists. Before long, both worlds are full of killers.

Well, my objection was that you were assuming an unproven innateness and you are still assuming that innateness, aren't you? I mean, you describe a mechanism that would work in a world where people can only be pacifists or killers, and they are assigned to one or other category by genetics. And I understand that you are deliberately simplifying the situation to describe the mechanism but what is missing is the evidence for any kind of innateness at all.

Comment Re:war not human nature? (Score 1) 223

And it has been suggested that some of these confrontations were the result of habitat loss (caused by humans).

ahh so they only go to war if there's an issue with limited resources.

so as soon as us humans can stamp that out we won't have an issue either.

Yes, that's a good point. My point was that this type of behavior is not as common as some popular science in the press has suggested, but you are quite right -- in the right circumstances, chimpanzees will go to war. Your ant example is also a good one (and there may well be other examples among social insects, but I'm not aware of any). Still, war in the rest of the animal kingdom (i.e., among non-humans) is really quite uncommon.

Comment Re:Hey, where have I seen that plane before? (Score 1) 223

I'm talking specifically about war: the resolution of conflict using lethal group violence. Not about the strong dominating the weak, nor about self-defense, murder or slavery. I did not deny that humanity has a darker side. I was objecting to the idea that war is because of "human nature". I think the case for that is unproven because:

1. The archaeological record shows that there is no evidence of warfare before 10-13k years ago. Someone in a different branch of this thread objected that that might be because the human population was so sparse back then. It's an interesting idea and I plan to do some reading on that.
2. There are human cultures that lack war (the !Kung of the Kalahari). Would you agree that if there is a human culture where groups of humans live near each other without war, war cannot be "human nature"?
3. People often do not want war and are tricked into accepting it by leaders using organized propaganda who know that they must find a pretext for war (for example, the Tonkin non-incident, or the Iraqi WMD debacle).
4. There's another interesting book called 'On Killing', by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. He argues that, until military forces started to psychologically condition soldiers using video games and more realistic weapon drills, most soldiers did not fire their weapons or aimed over the heads of the enemy. Dave Grossman is a lecturer at West Point.

I do not believe that we can end conflict. In fact, as an enthusiastic supporter of pluralism I think conflict can be a good thing. But I do believe we can eliminate war as a means of conflict resolution.

Comment Re:Hey, where have I seen that plane before? (Score 1) 223

OK, I will read a paper copy of that 'Science' article at the library (the link you provided leads to a paywall). And I will look for the oxytocin articles.

By the way, in case I was unclear, I am emphatically not making a Rousseau-style "good savage" argument. My point is that warfare is not universally present in human culture, and therefore cannot be explained as "human nature" (it was my objection to that idea that spawned this series of replies). So the presence of warfare in "paleolithic" cultures does not prove the point either way. It's the cultures (e..g., !Kung) that reportedly do *not* have warfare that are interesting from my point of view.

One other thought:

ethologists have build some very convincing models that show that parochial altruism (and the behaviors that follow from it, such as xenophobia and warfare) pretty much inevitably comes up in the evolution of social primates, since, at the stage when you have relatively small groups (of under 100 people) who are mostly relatives, ganging up together against other guys is evolutionary advantageous

Have you seen the bonobo literature? It doesn't correspond to that description at all. They often resolve conflicts with sexual contact, not just within their group but also with other groups of bonobos. I'm not aware of any eyewitness accounts of bonobos killing other bonobos, as individuals or as a group.

Comment Re:Hey, where have I seen that plane before? (Score 1) 223

John Horgan (in 'The End of War') cites the !Kung of the Kalahari desert as an example. However, there's also a book by Lawrence Keeley ('War before Civilization') that argues they were warriors in the past. To me, this is all the more interesting: they appear to be a culture that had war and got rid of it.

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I consider a new device or technology to have been culturally accepted when it has been used to commit a murder. -- M. Gallaher