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Comment Re:Time to get encryption working (Score 1) 246

you would long for the good old days when the worst you could get linked to is the guy

'Would'? Where've you been for the last five years? hello.jpg is positively vanilla by modern standards. People nowadays link you to 2girls1cup, 3guys1hammer, SWAP.AVI, Pain Olympics,, cp, beheadings, mutilations, massacres, cat burnings, witch burnings... If you're still thinking of good old goatse as the worst thing in the world, wow. Go and hang around on the Russian chans, you'll find what you describe has long since come to pass.

Comment Re:Missing episodes (Score 2, Interesting) 97

Well, look, we can analyse the details of the plot and deduce the necessity for off-screen time travel. I mean, we know full well the Doctor has all manner of adventures that don't get televised, he was only ~600 when we first met him and now he claims to be in his 900s and everyone knows he's fibbing about that (and by the way, Doctor, regenerating as a younger man every time is fooling nobody). So there's centuries of the Doctor's life we simply don't see happen.

Plotting only the time journeys that made it onto TV is more than enough of a job. Exploring the rest of the timey wimey ball... well, my monitor has only a two-dimensional display.

Comment Re:it's the same thing (Score 1) 452

Seems to me that there's no need for the robots to meet to have sex. Obviously in deep space that's going to be a problem, what with distances and speeds. Instead, the robots could quite easily have sex by radio. Sex is, after all, just a way of exchanging genomic data. Let the robot broadcast excerpts from its own design data archive to anybody who cares to listen; let a robot hearing the broadcast patch the input data together with its own design data to produce hybrids.

Certainly this is unnecessary if we're postulating superintelligent machines perfectly capable of redesigning themselves on the fly to meet whatever situations they encounter. But the road to a Culture GSV is a long one. You might well begin with a swarm of rather dumb self-replicating probes with very limited capabilities - I mean, somewhere down the line there must have been an intelligent designer, and so the progenitor robot would have had to be incredibly basic. But if you give them the means to exchange design details with each other over long distances - this worked, this didn't - then eventually you might indeed have a horde of sexy, sexy von Neumann machines, all procreating and evolving their way to becoming a galaxy-spanning intelligent race in their own right.

And anyway, even if the robots do not exchange design data - if they don't have sex at all - well, most living things on Earth don't have sex either. Doesn't disqualify them from the 'life' category.

Comment Re:inflaton? (Score 2, Insightful) 163

There might or might not be a $20 bill in my wallet; I won't know for certain until I look for it?

No, cash behaves fairly classically. It's the rest of the economy that's quantum. For example, your house might or might not be worth $200,000. You won't know for certain until you try to sell it.

Comment Re:So, Conspiracy Theories Are /. Worthy Now? (Score 1) 415

Didn't a bunch of whackjobs a few years ago try and claim that Hurricane Katrina was the result of some Weather Control Device created by the Axis of Evil?

That was created by HAARP as well. As was the Haiti earthquake. And the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Bloody versatile device, all things considered.

Comment Re:Firest a ground zero mosque now this whats next (Score 1) 671

Also, there was this one C64 game, where you nominally play a world peacekeeper, IIRC. However, despite being a small kid (or perhaps because of it), I quickly figured out how to provoke nuclear exchanges; much more entertaining.

There was Balance of Power which was a Cold War sim; you'd normally play that until you got sufficiently pissed off at the endless manufactured crises and then go and play Bravo Romeo Delta until the planet glowed. Myself I was quite fond of Central Intelligence where you were the guy in charge of organising a revolt in some banana republic or other; it had a wonderful simulated society and economy, you'd graduate from organising student leaflet campaigns to stealing explosives from quarries and using them in your freedom fighting to arming and training guerrillas in the woods. Lovely idea, shame about the dreadful interface.

Comment Re:Infinite complexity? (Score 1) 830

The human brain is composed of one hundred billion or so neurons. Looks like it's pretty much finite to me. I have ten times as many bytes of information in my hard disk.

That doesn't mean your hard disk is anything approaching the complexity of a human brain. The amount of information encoded in a neural network is far, far more than the number of neurons in it! 100 billion neurons, each with something like seven thousand connections to other neurons. So more like 700 trillion connections. If each neuron is numbered using a 37-bit ID (enough for 100 billion) then to list a neuron's connections takes 7000 times 37 bits = ~32k. Multiply by 100 billion, that's three petabytes.

Then represent excitatory versus inhibitory (1 bit per neuron? Or do we have to allow grey areas?), activation potentials (continuous? What's the range, and how granular do we need it?), and any relevant hormones or drugs or other chemistry currently in operation on the neural network, and you're looking at some big numbers. Big, but not beyond contemplation: Google must be getting towards that size, the Internet probably got there years ago. We might be able to model the brain as a neural network before too long. That's probably where we find out that all that gooey chemistry stuff that computer scientists don't like to think too much about actually mattered more than we thought...

Comment Re:Ah the joys... (Score 1) 551

The "Windows Compatibility List" is pretty much every piece of hardware everywhere.

You would think so, wouldn't you? But it seems that drivers for my USB wireless adaptor are not to be had for anything later than Windows XP, though it's only a few years old. Manufacturer not supporting it any more. In Ubuntu it just works, just as I expected, but to get it working in Windows I had to find out the chipset it used and try a whole bunch of unsupported driver files downloaded from dubious websites until I found one that worked.

I consider myself a reasonably advanced computer user, but on this showing Windows isn't ready for the mainstream desktop. Can you imagine expecting Grandma to handle that sort of mess? No way. The mainstream will stay with Linux and leave Windows to the nerds, geeks and hobbyists who are into the whole 'closed-source' movement.

Comment Re:They certainly don't know science. (Score 1) 989

If we started finding fossils that suddenly changed from one type of animal to another in a single generation

That wouldn't falsify evolution. Consider the classic Just-So story of speciation. Let there be species X which lives throughout country C. Sea levels rise and the centre of country C is flooded, splitting it into countries A and B. In the new climate, life is easy in country A, but very hard in country B. So the lineage of species X in country A changes very little over the next few million years, while the lineage in country B adapts to its great hardship and changes into something we would call species Y, which we'll suppose is a badass tough variant.

Now let sea levels fall and country C be reunited. Species X and Y are now in competition with each other, and Y wins handily, driving X into extinction across the whole country in very short order.

Millions of years later we dig in what was once country A, and we find fossils of species X and Y. What do we see? Species X was replaced by Species Y - an obviously related successor - almost overnight!

Comment Did you forget something, Bruce? (Score 4, Informative) 314

I think Bruce must have forgotten the rules. Bruce, will you remind Bruce of the rules? All right then Bruce.

Rule 1: No Poofters!
Rule 2: No member of the faculty is to mistreat the Abos in any way at all, if there's anybody watching.
Rule 3: No Poofters!
Rule 4: This term I don't want to catch anybody not drinking.
Rule 5: No Poofters!
Rule 6: There is NOOOOOOOOO Rule 6!
Rule 7: No Poofters!

Well there you go Bruce, them's the rules here in the philosophy department of the University of Wooloomooloo.

Comment Re:Mass vs Radius (Score 1) 202

Ah, but core temperature isn't what we're interested in here. We're interested in the surface temperature. What are the dynamics of a star's atmosphere - of the outer layers of gas not participating in nuclear fusion? Well, there's gas pressure which tends to make the atmosphere expand and cool, and gravity which tends to make the atmosphere contract and heat up. As the atmosphere expands and cools, gas pressure decreases, and as the atmosphere contracts and warms, thermal pressure increases, and eventually an equilibrium is struck where the gas pressure outwards equals the gravitational force inwards.

The core heat source is actually secondary to this. More massive stars are hotter because they are more massive - the sheer mass of gas that collapsed from a nebula to form such a star provides huge amounts of energy by gravitational accretion. Then, because of being so hot to begin with, they burn fuel faster than their smaller, cooler cousins, and that keeps them hot.

So the largest stars are the ones where the equilibrium is found at a point where the atmosphere is large, sparse and cool, and hence red. This isn't such a star. In a super-hot star like this the radiation pressure comes to predominate over gas pressure, and that has a tendency to blow any surrounding gas clean away. It's too heavy, and, as you say, too hot, and very unstable. So it can't form a well-behaved convective envelope around itself and become a red hypergiant. It remains a very massive, very hot, and very luminous star, but it never troubles the list of the largest stars known.

Comment Re:Mass vs Radius (Score 1) 202

One thing the article didn't mention was the radius of the new star. It's obviously larger than the sun, but is it the "largest" star found or simply the most massive? It seems with that kind of mass it might be denser than your average supergiant and have less volume, and therefore less radius.

It's blue, therefore it's hot, therefore it's dense, therefore it's (comparatively) small. VY Canis Majoris would be much larger, even if not so massive - and cooler, and therefore red. Indeed, notice the diagram in the article, showing this star as compared to the Sun. The Sun is visible on the diagram. This would not be the case with VY Canis Majoris!

It's all gas law really, just like in high school physics. pV = nRT. When a star contracts, it heats up; when it expands, it cools. As a supergiant's core switches on and off as it works its thermonuclear way up the periodic table, it may inflate and deflate over and over again.

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