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Comment Young Tom Edison (Score 1) 1078

I recently watched an old movie staring Mickey Rooney as the young Thomas Edison. In one scene, Edison makes some nitroglycerin and disaster is only averted when he shows it to a knowledgeable military officer on the train - this results in some tense moments before the explosive can be disposed of. Although Edison did get into some real trouble over this, he was lucky that the current legal climate wasn't in effect back then. Now he'd be charged with a dozen serious crimes, including the manufacture of WMDs, and find himself locked up for the rest of his life.

Comment Re:The IAEA has no actual evidence (Score 5, Informative) 299

It is really a stretch to describe Iran as a country "awash in oil". Production peaked decades ago ( ) and there is the obvious point that reducing internal oil consumption will help extend the life of existing oil fields and/or maximize exports. It might be noted that Saudi Arabia has plans to build 16 power reactors ( ).

Comment Re:I say cut the F-35 (Score 4, Insightful) 484

Pension plans offered by employers are disappearing or being scaled back. At the same time, the primary response of the financial industry is to devise ever more complex financial products that are designed to sound better than they are. We are not far from a situation where a prerequisite for retirement will be to win a lottery or be a financial planner - it is really naive to think that the average man in the street is able to adequately plan for his retirement without being backstopped by social security or something similar.

Comment Re:Nice thing about red dwarf stars (Score 1) 132

There is a possibility that water would evaporate on the irradiated side and freeze out on the dark side. This is unlikely to be a good thing most of the water would end up in the form of ice. Note that this would be similar to the situation on Mars - most of that planets water is locked up in the weakly irradiated polar ice caps. Variables that might affect the probability of this scenario include: - atmospheric density and concentration of greenhouse gases - geographic distribution of land and water (a large continent on the middle of the dark side would receive little heat from elsewhere by means other than atmospheric circulation

Comment Differences between play by humans and computers (Score 1) 328

Many comments suggest that the differences between the play of human and computers. A good human player will generally come up with some kind of plan and follow up with moves that are consistent with that plan. In practice, he may have to respond to his opponent's play. There may be direct threats that he cannot ignore or he may find a need to come up with a new plan when it has become apparent that the original plan is no longer workable. Chess programs generally perform an exhaustive search through sequences of moves and select the move that leads to the best evaluation of the position that arises after the opponent has made the best moves (as determined by the result of the evaluation). Consequently, computers tend to be deadly in tactical situations; oversights by the opponent are ruthlessly exploited. Also, they often defend difficult positions well; sometimes by finding moves that appear, at first sight, to be ridiculous to a human. However, a major weakness of computer chess programs concerns the evaluation criteria. If a forced checkmate is available, this is obviously going to be the preferred choice. In the absence of this possibility, material is easy to measure and, as a result, tends to be heavily weighted; this is reflected in the decidedly materialistic play play of most computer programs. However, other positional considerations are more subtle and a good human player can be at an advantage here. For example doubled pawns are usually considered to be a weakness (the pawns cannot form a chain where each pawn is protected by another). However, there may be ample compensation; the pawns may control critical squares and the accompanying half open file may be put to good use by the rooks. In this, and many other situations, the assessment of whether a particular feature of a position is good or bad depends on many factors and will change as the position evolves with further moves. In this example, the doubled pawns might be desirable in the middle game, but a liability in the endgame where their vulnerability becomes important. A strong human player will have ability to make good judgements as to the implications of his potential choices. Computers are generally much weaker in this respect. In closed positions, it is not unusual to see computers making aimless moves, for example indecisively moving a piece back and forth between two squares, whereas the strong human player will try to find a plan for gradually improving his position and forcing positional concessions on the part of his opponent. Also, computers will sometimes leave their king weakly defended while they pursue material advantage elsewhere on the board. The result is that there are definite differences in the style and conduct of the play between strong humans and computer programs.

Comment Re:Global Warming Hurricanes! (In 1978....) (Score 1) 448

How did this get rated "informative"? Sandy was atypical in a number of important respects: - extremely powerful surge, - immense size, - timing (it occurred towards the end of the hurricane season when sea temperatures are falling), - it survived periods of strong wind shear. Yes, you can argue that any one weather even is a fluke. However, there have been a large number of unusual weather events, some of which include: - a dramatic loss of arctic ice - high temperature records out numbering low temperature records by a large margin - large areas affected by severe drought or flooding

Comment Re:Such dubious words... (Score 1) 757

There is a considerable amount of heat required to account for the melting of ice that has occurred. Moreover, the water has a large thermal capacity and will not heat as quickly as land. So, it isn't surprising that there hasn't been a large temperature change in the Arctic. However, we have witnessed a striking temperature event in Greenland. You are really fooling yourself if you thing that the events that are happening are nothing out of the ordinary.

Comment Re:meanwhile.... (Score 1) 757

This is known as cherry picking. Sure, you can find the odd result for a specific set of circumstances (note that the link refers to a single day of the year) that seems to support your viewpoint. In reality, what is happening in the Antarctic is not far out of the ordinary. It's a different story for what is happening in the Arctic. The previous record, set in 2007, smashed the previous one and now, the 2012 record has done the same to the 2007 one.

Comment Re:Extremely good question (Score 1) 735

If we go back to the late 1950s, the Soviet success in being first to orbit a satellite served as a powerful wakeup call. The risk of being placed in a position where we would be virtually powerless against a deluge of Soviet ICBMs was too much to contemplate. In hindsight, Goldwater did have a pragmatism that would now be viewed as treasonous by many current Republicans. Among other things, he made the following astute observation: "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them." ( ) . It is really strange that, although I thought he was a lunatic at the time he was running for president, I now find myself in agreement with many of his views.

Comment Re:crazy (Score 1) 735

II am not talking about irrelevant personal beliefs. To be more specific I am referring to the "Prosperity Gospel" churches ( ) . I did have the experience to attend a service at a local church where I heard repeated over and over again the message that the faithful will be looked after and that the world was coming to an end in 2047 and that they alone would be saved. There was a huge number of people there who were swept up with enthusiasm through all this - this all seemed more like a cult than anything else. It is possible to be religious and be rational. There are prominent Christian denominations that do accept that man has responsibilities for stewardship over the earth and I am a member of one of these. I have no difficulties with the personal beliefs of individuals as along as (a) they do not attempt to impose them on others and (b) they do not act on them in a way that will likely lead to widespread harm.

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