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Comment Re:Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!!! (Score 1) 743

Softer sciences such as linguistics and cultural anthropology are more about taxonomy than anything else, though they still deal in falsifiable claims. Just because the assertions that they produce are not 100% proveable does not mean that they are likewise non-falsifiable. Classifications are updated as new evidence becomes available. Heck, nothing is ever 100% proveable, especially in the hard sciences.

Your argument that I.D. is testable has fallen back on the "irreduceable complexity" concept. I agree that this is the best chance that I.D. has to be taken seriously, but so far none of the specific arguments made in support of this approach have proved to be compelling. Unless I am uninformed. Are there currently any promising results in favour of irreduceable complexity that are being reproduced or verified by independant teams?

While claims and theories can be considdered to be "sciencey" before they can feasably be tested, they must be recognized as nothing more than a hypothesis. One must of course begin with a hypothesis. Until that hypothesis can be tested, though, it should not be awarded the same significance as other hypotheses that have been tested.

I suppose what I am saying is not so much that I.D. cannot be considered to be scientifically valid, but that it has not managed to establish scientific validity yet. Admittedly, it seems unlikely to me that it ever will, because it's inspiration lies in the Bible, rather than through the result of any empirical observation.

Comment Re:Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!!! (Score 1) 743

Forgive me, as I should have included my opinion on what does or does not constitute science.

My view is not that science "is whatever excludes ID", nor that science should be restricted entirely to problems that can be approached through the strict application of the scientific method. You are correct that the strict application of the scientific method would exclude all sorts of soft sciences. My family likes to point out that the scientific method cannot be applied to geology, and so perhaps geology should not be considered a science?

It is my opinion that science deals in falsifiable claims. You cannot start with an infallible claim, as I.D. does, and work backwards to build "proofs". Unless you are willing to have your premis proven false, you are not practicing at science.

The very existence of God is not a falsifiable claim, and so cannot be examined scientifically. I am not arguing that God does not exist, nor that Intelligent Design is not a valid idea. I am only saying that neither of those opinions has been yet framed in a way that qulifies for scientific scrutiny.

What confuses me though, is why anyone feels that these things should be examined scientifically?

Comment Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!!! (Score 5, Interesting) 743

I'm agnostic, while the rest of my family are devout Mormons. I've noticed over the past few years that my family has begun to support the teching of Intelligent Design in science class. I've asked them why they believe that their matters of faith be taught in science class, and whether it would stand to reason that the scientific method be tought in sunday school? They keep responding with one of two disappointing answers:

1. If Intelligent Design does not fit under the definition of "science", then it is obviously time to expand the definition. -- This seems to be the result of ignorance and the fact that both science and religeon use the same words for subtly different purposes. The first example that comes to mind is the word "evidence", which has a very scrict definition under the scientific method. Religeous folks hear that science requires evidence, and become frustrated when their "evidences" for the existence of God are brushed off as incomplete or incorrect. We can probably blame a poor education system for this misunderstanding, though the condition does seem to be self-reinforcing at this point. Not good.
2. The one sister I have who actually has a decent understanding of the scientific method thinks that perhaps I.D. should not be tought in science classes (Thank God!!), but believes that the recent push by religeous folks to influence scientific discourse is the natural reaction to the "war on faith" that religeous leaders have been talking about for as long as there have been religeous leaders. If us un-enlightened would only see the light and conform to their supersticious beliefs, this entire dispute would go away. -- This is the more troubling problem, because the solution requires that we train people to think more critically, both about scientific and spiritual issues. There is room for God and science to co-exist, but very little room for the litteral interpretation of scriptures or the blind acceptance of religeous dogma when one learns to think critically. Unfortunately, I don't think people are generally smart enough to make this leap. Religeon is to comfortable, and offers easy answers to the complex questions that life presents.

Hitchens was right, religeon poisons everything.

Comment The problems with solar go beyond just the cost (Score 2) 520

I'm all for solar and wind evergy, but they cannot replace hydroelectric, fossil fuel, and nuclear generating facilities. They can only suplement them. The primary challenges, beyond cost, are as follows:

1. Supply cannot be adjusted to demand. My understanding is that wind is especially bad for this, as it is windiest in the evenings, after major industrial energy consumers have closed down for the day. We currently have very few options for storing generated power for later use. Batteries and capacitors are nowhere near ready for this task. There are a few hydroelectric stations that pump water up in to large resevoirs during the night for use during the daytime surge in demand. The areas where wind and solar are most effective, there is often little in the way of hills and water, making resevoir-based energy storage impractical. Also, resevoir storage requires the costly construction of a resevoir, pumps, and an entire hydroelectic generating station.

You might think that wind and solar could be used to provide baseline power, while "traditional" coal and nuclear adjust to peaks. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Many PLWR and BLWR nuclear designs (almost all American designed plants are one of these two types) are not able to idle. This means that if the load on the plant falls beyond a certain level, the plant must perform a full shutdown or risk heat damage. This might not sound too badm but these same plants take at least a full week to restart, and require lots of electricity to do so.

Hydro is able to adjust it's output very rapidly, however there are only so many locations where hydroelectric dams can be installed. People often cite massive untapped locations far away from existing populations. Excellent! Now all we need to do is build costly and inefficient long-distance transmission lines to carry that power to where it will be useful.

Coal is also able to adjust output quickly, but, well... it's coal.

2. The second problem is that of dealing with a phenomenon called "reactive power". This is when voltage and current on an A/C line are thrown out of phase. Ideally, as voltage reaches it's peak, so does current. If you're voltage and current get thrown more than a few degrees off, you're home outlet may still be delivering 100 volts and 15 amps, but not really either at the same time. First you get 110 volts, but low amps, followed quickly my undervoltage and full 15 amps. This means that the usefull power on the line is diminnished.

Reactive power occurs as a result of inductive loads such as electric motors and transformers. As the coils in the motors rotate past the magnets, or the electric field rises and falls in a transformer, these devices become generators. This "reactive" generation is always slightly out of phase with the input power, and so the power that they feed back on to the grid causes voltage and current on the grid to skew slightly. Multiply this effect by the number of inductive loads on the grid (refridgerators, industrial equipment, televisions) and you can start to have a real problem.

Electrical generation sources that employ large turbines are able to adjust the magnets inside their generators to help counteract reactive power by producing power that is out of phase, but in the opposite direction.

Traditional wind turbines are unable to do this, though I believe some newer designes can, at least to some degree. Solid state inverters such as are used to interface solar cells to the grid are not able to to this at all, and so there is a very real limit to their usefulness on the current power grid.

Anyhow, I'm all for wind and solar. I just don't think they are able to provide a complete solution. Nuclear seems to be the way to go, but it must be done right. The Canadian Advanced Candu Reactors look like a viable option. They are designed such that they cannot melt down, produce relatively safe waste, and are capable of idling quite safely. I don't know why everyone insists on using dangerous PHWR designs.


Submission + - IEEE Seeks Data On Ethernet Bandwidth Needs (

itwbennett writes: "The IEEE has formed a group to assess demand for a faster form of Ethernet, taking the first step toward what could become a Terabit Ethernet standard. 'We all contacted people privately' around 2005 to gauge the need for a faster specification, said John D'Ambrosia, chairman of the new ad hoc group. 'We only got, like, seven data points.' Disagreement about speeds complicated the process of developing the current standard, called 802.3ab. Though carriers and aggregation switch vendors agreed the IEEE should pursue a 100G bps speed, server vendors said they wouldn't need adapters that fast until years later. They wanted a 40G bps standard, and it emerged later that there was also some demand for 40G bps among switch makers, D'Ambrosia said. 'I don't want to get blindsided by not understanding bandwidth trends again,' D'Ambrosia said."
Operating Systems

Submission + - ReactOS 0.3.13 Released ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: A new release of the ReactOS, the free windows compilation, now 0.3.13 to the next versions, the 0.4.x. Many issues over the memory, graphical and audio management are now fixed. More SATA drives are supported. Programs as Skype, Thunderbird, FlashPlayer, Mono of VLC work now.

Submission + - Human powered helicopter aims to break records (

An anonymous reader writes: A team of 50 from the University of Maryland has developed a human powered helicopter “The Gamera”, which took 2 years to complete. The size of the helicopter is one third of a football field. The helicopter is made from light materials such as balsa, mylar, carbon fibber and foam and weighs about 210 pounds and aims to hover at least 3 meters off the ground.

Comment This is how I read it... (Score 5, Insightful) 480

Dear Slashdot,

I'd like to become an expert in a field in which I have no experience.

It takes many years for most of the folks working in this field to gain the knowledge required to be effective, but I am very, very smart. So much smarter than most people, infact, that it shouldn't take me more than a month or two to get a firm gasp on things.

There's just one small problem that is preventing me from teaching myself everything that I need to know to be able to do my job well. See, I'm not smart enough to know how to even begin to teach myself anything about this field. I'm sure if someone could just point me in the right direction, I'm quite sure that I'll be able to make sense of things.

Also, which vendors provide "easy" buttons on their gear?

Please advise.


Comment They used to do this on purpose (Score 4, Informative) 298

I've had a hotmail account since '94, well before Microsoft purchased them. I used it for everything. It had all sort of amazing stuff in it, letters between myself and some of my first girlfriends, things I really rather treasured. I was quite a fan of Hotmail. Even when Gmail was released, I didn't think I had much use for it. Hotmail did everything I needed.

Until one day in '04, when I logged in after having taken a bit of a break from the online world. It was the first time I'd logged in to my Hotmail in a month, so I expected there to be quite a lot of mail. There were plenty of new messages, but all of my old email was gone!!!!

I freaked out for a while, then read through the "terms of service" or whatever they were calling it at the time. Seems they had silently implemented a policy whereby they delete ALL of your email if you fail to log in for 30 days. Ten years worth of email GONE!!

I suppose they were trying to provide incentives for people to log in to their Hotmail more regularly, but it all it motivated me to do was to open a Gmail account immediately.

Sure, it was a free service with no guarantees. Perhaps I should have been making backups of my precious emails. Thing is, this was not something they did by mistake. This was a policy that they willfully implemented. They chose to punish their subscribers. I don't get it.

Microsoft sucks.


Red Hat Support Continues To Flourish 215

ruphus13 writes "As the pure-play Open Source companies continue to dwindle, Red Hat has thrived through the recession. Its support revenues have grown 20+%, and account for 75+% of its revenues. 'Instead of the traditional strategy of selling expensive proprietary software licenses, as practiced by the Microsofts and Oracles of the world, Red Hat gets the vast majority of its revenues from selling support contracts. In the third quarter of last year, support subscriptions accounted for $164 million of its $194 million in revenue, up 21 percent year-over-year. All 25 of the company's largest support subscribers renewed subscriptions, even despite a higher price tag.'"

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