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Comment Re:The wording (Score 4, Interesting) 238

It's a shit question.

"Remain a member of the European Union" is ok, you know what is being voting for - and, equally importantly - the people who voted for the other option also know what its proponents were voting for.

"Leave the European Union" is utterly stupid. Nobody knows what it means. For some leave voters it means stop immigration at all costs. For other leave voters it meant "continue the free movement of people and goods within Europe".

Compare this question with the 2011 alternative vote question:

At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the "alternative vote" system be used instead?

"alternative vote" was defined

Imagine instead if this question had been:

At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should a proportional voting system be used instead?'

I would expect that this would have carried. Much like the EU question, the alternative to the status quo is a shifting target that can be defined to whatever the proponent wants. Of course, had that question been asked then we'd then have had a mess to sort out when everybody wanted a different PR system.

What should have happened is that DC should have negotiated with Europe on, say, Britain adopting the Norwegian model and leaving the EU. Once he'd got approval then gone to the country with

"Remain a member of the European Union"
"Adopt the Norwegian model of membership in the EEA"

(Or he could have gone for a no-free movement of people or goods WTO rules model alternative)

Now the question is clearer - and even if it had gone against DC, at least everybody would have known what was going to happen.

Britain is utterly crap at negotiating. We have an adversarial system, both in parliament and in the judiciary. Most European nations have had much more experience with having to establish coalitions. It's going to be interesting to see how the next two years go and whether the press is reporting how those "evil Europeans are ganging up on us" when almost certainly none of them are arguing for what they really want but instead for what they understand they can really get.

At least for some things in Europe we used to have a veto. That gave us a lot of clout - however awkward we were we couldn't be completely ignored (and the 10-12% control of the vote helped too). We also tended to hold the balance of power in Franco-German differences - so neither country to afford to upset us too much. We're giving all that up. That might mean Europe now tears itself to pieces or it might mean that Europe can now rebuild itself stronger in a more cooperative model.

We've now got idiots saying that any deal with Europe should now go to another referendum. I predict that there is NO deal that can be made that will attract a majority of the votes. The single largest minority is probably "remain in the EU" which has already been rejected. I suppose we could put two deals on the referendum and force people to chose one or the other - just make sure that the other option is so bad that it cannot win.

Comment Re:Feasibility of a rerun? (Score 1) 693

so the approach now should be to pull together and try to make the best of what the majority wanted

But what does the majority want?

One obvious way out of this crisis - go to Europe and say we want to adopt the Norwegian model.

Except that that will mean agreeing to enact all EU laws. We've probably got exemptions that we'll lose as a result and basically become even more under the EU's thumb than we were (at least as far as the majority are concerned). So I cannot believe that is what the majority want even if it's what I hope happens (quickly). (And I think this would be an easy sell in Europe - they get the current benefits of the UK in the EU without the "valuable but difficult friend" issues we cause at the moment)

I've seen some claims that just discussing brexit with the EU ministers could now trigger Article 50. So maybe the above is what will have to happen while we find out what the majority really want and then try to negotiate it. That at least would settle the markets and give as much time as necessary to move forwards. Unfortunately I don't see how to move forwards from that so *everybody* will be unhappy because while a majority were in favour of being "out of Europe" I think the single largest minority are in favour of being in Europe and the "out of Europe" are such a disparity of views that each have a different no compromise issue that we'll never be able to decide on anything better than we've given up.

The mayor of Calais is (again) calling for the border to be moved to the UK (and the refugee camps - thousands of extra immigrants that this vote was supposedly supposed to stop. The UK no longer has a veto on Turkey joining the EU and IIUC, should the other 27 members decide to accept it and us adopting the Norwegian model then I don't think we'll be able to negotiate a temporary exemption to the free movement of Turkish citizens.

Comment Re:Is it a binding referendum (Score 1) 1592

Is this a binding referendum?
In other words; is the government forced to do as voted or do they have wiggle room to weasel out of it?

Technically, no. This is an advisory referendum - hence why in the event of a dead heat there was no way to break the deadlock.

However, I don't see how any government could possibly go against the will of the people and ignore this decision (and survive) unless there was something truly catastrophic that happened (such as WWIII) where the conditions changed so much that they could reasonably justify postponing activating article 50 and then another vote (after the war was finished)

It's somewhat bizarre that around 70% of sitting MPs support remain. And the Brexiteers wanted to "reclaim parliamentary sovereignty." So we're going to have the team negotiating new trade deals with Europe being the team that didn't want to do that - and it's hard to see how that proportion could change much even with another general election.

I'm not sure if the Prime Minister (who will not be David Cameron) needs Parliamentary or Royal authority to activate Article 50. So it's possible that Parliament or the Queen could theoretically block this from moving forwards up until a general election elected enough pro brexit MPs. But I think pro remain MPs will respect the will of the people and either support any request for authority or, possibly, abstain. Even if the Queen had come out as an ardent pro-remain supporter (which she hasn't), I can't imagine any way she'd reject the will of the people. And if she did there would be a quick referendum on removing the Monarchy and we'd be back to the same position.

Comment Re: US disagrees (Score 5, Informative) 170

The censorship practice that is commonly called "right to be forgotten" is not mandated by data protection laws.

I am not a lawyer and I don't understand all the nuances around this but actually, in Europe, this is (apparently) mandated.

*Any* collection of personal information into a database is covered by data protection laws. *Any* european citizen can request a report of all the information held on them (subject to some exclusions that probably wouldn't apply to google) for a capped fee. *Any* citizen can request that incorrect information is corrected (again there are some exceptions where it's only necessary to note that the citizen disputes the item) and *any* citizen can request that any information held on them should be deleted unless it's continuing holding is necessary (for example, billing information for a continuing subscription, necessary regulatory regulations regarding data retention etc)

This is complicated by the fact that the highest European court did give a ruling that some of these regulations don't apply to search engines (a ruling that I approve of). Prior to that ruling it could have been argued that google was breaking the law just by building its search database as it should have obtained explicit permission from each person to collect any information on them at all.

Eventually this will get pushed up to the highest courts in Europe and they will clarify what the current law actually means with regards to search engines.

After that there will probably still be arguments about what is right and wrong but pretty much the only way it will change is if the EU states can get together and agree a European wide change to the law (For this particular type of treaty I don't know if it would be majority or unanimity that would be required.)

It should also be noted that many of the requirements of data protection laws in Europe come from treaty but the individual laws are set at a national level - i.e. the treaty says what must be allowed or prohibited but the individual nations are responsible for writing laws into their books that enforce the treaty. So sometimes a national law might gold plate a european treaty - so the EU courts might find that the French law is legal in EU land but not required or they might find that the French law is illegally overbroad and will have to change or, indeed, they might find that French law is deficient in failing to protect some right.

The British government (of all persuasions) is a great fan of gold plating EU regulations, either in rhetoric when they want to beat on Europe or in law when they want an excuse to pass some new draconian legislation. "Europe made us do it" when what they mean is "Europe required us to change the law but didn't require this law which is a superset of what Europe required"

Comment Re:Christian Huygens... (Score 1) 132

One of the problems of using oxygen from the air at high speed is preventing the air blowing out the flame.

AFAIAA all non experimental aircraft slow down the air to subsonic speeds in the engine which limits their theoretical maximum speed to the point where the thrust is just enough to overcome the drag of slowing down the air in the engine.

Rockets supply both oxidizer and fuel so don't have this problem.

Eventually I guess scramjets will become commonplace but getting them working reliably and efficiently at all is still a major research effort.

Comment Re:People don't need supersonic anymore... (Score 1) 132

AA did first class from ORD to JFK back in Feb because I flew it - only to discover that they don't have a lounge at all for internal first class flights, only international (Usually the only real benefit to flying business - I'm not sure any of the airlines offer first - inside western Europe is the lounge before the flight and the shorter screening lines)

And a 90 minute wait for my luggage at JFK baggage reclaim "because it was raining." Don't understand why that would matter but apparently that was the reason for the delay.

Oh, and you get to sit in front of the curtain instead of behind it.

But they move the curtain - I flew business out (mainly because of the greater luggage allowance) economy back same day on one trip in Europe and got exactly the same seat in the same type of plane (don't know if it was actually the same plane) but on the way out the curtain was behind my head and on the way back it was in front of my face.

Comment Re:From the not-a-story dept. (Score 1) 190

In the EU consumers cannot waive their statutory rights. And OKCupid had to self certify that they would not break European privacy rules in order to collect this data from European citizens in the first place.

So it appears that not only are the researchers criminally liable but so is OK Cupid. Oh dear...

Comment Re:From the not-a-story dept. (Score 1) 190

EU privacy laws don't cover US companies with data stored in the US

But EU laws do cover collecting the data. That's what all the hoohaa about safe harbour laws is about.

Under EU law OK cupid could collect the data that they did provided they used it for the purposes it was collected for and required the same terms on anyone else using the data - which I think they did via their TOS.

Comment Re: Finally (Score 2) 319

You're paying more in electricity than it would cost to replace those machines.,

I'm always fascinated when people make these claims because in my experience every "upgrade" uses more power.

My current setup: Two motherboards (I think both VIA but I might be wrong on one of them), ADSL bridge, wireless access point, couple of hard drives plus ancient 1Gb SSD disks which plug into a PATA connector, small switch. The whole lot draws 60W from the mains supply and will run off a single 12V 60W power supply although I run from two as the system is unstable at power on unless you carefully bring it up bit by bit.

One of those machine won't boot with a -686 kernel. It's really hard to find any (fanless) Intel compatible motherboard that draws less power.

If we assume that system is drawing 30W then it's costing me around 50GBP/year. Even if we could get it down to 20W (and I suspect I could if I replaced the spinning disks with SSD) it would only save me around 17GBP/year (which is why I have more pressing demands on my time than rebuilding the FS on SSD until the disks start failing - especially as every month I wait means I can save more on the price of an equivalent sized SSD than on the electricity I'm spending keeping the spinning disks running.

In fact, my primary reason for wanting to upgrade to SSD is because currently my system is almost silent. I'd love it to be completely silent.

I can't see replacing the motherboard can save me more than pennies in electricity. I can buy something enormously more powerful but I cannot find (fanless) motherboards that sip power. I'm experimenting with an Intel Atom fanless board and Xen to see if I can sensibly run everything on a single machine now which might realistically save me 20W but the new setup has got to work for a very long time for the electricity savings to cover the value I place on my time for getting that all setup.

Comment Re:Yeah right (Score 1) 98

And I think you're wrong. I think we've cracked the first third of the problem and are making progress on the second third.

First third - we can build computers (organisms) that can be trained to handle stimulus-reaction type solutions to complex problems - such as learning to drive a car along a road.

Second third - looking into the future to predict what will happen as a result of an action and modifying the action as a result of that computation (some chess programs can now teach themselves to play a respectable game of chess starting from little more than knowledge of the rules of the game) - I'll consider this done when a computer can teach itself how to drive down a busy street with lots of distractions without being trained on the problem.

Third part - the bit I don't know even in theory how to solve - give the computer a vested interest in the future. A program somehow has to "want" to survive to the next generation - it will set itself the goal of finding a better solution to the problem (become a better chess player) because that's what will make us "breed" it.

In my view the first two properly solved would count as artificial intelligence. I'm not seeing any insurmountable obstacles in the road ahead. With the third as well I think we'd have artificial life.

Comment Re:Probaly not Uhruh radiation (Score 1) 532

Look. Photons travel at c if Maxwell's equations are correct.

It's some basic algebra. Start with Maxwell (in my sig). Drop the parts that depend on charges and currents. Substitute D=epsilon0 E, B=mu0 H (we're in a vacuum) - the "trick" is to use this vector identity:

and you will derive a wave equation that has a constant speed. We use c but you can use k if you like and use c for something else - but you'll only confuse anybody else trying to understand your work.

Comment Re:Probaly not Uhruh radiation (Score 1) 532

If Maxwell's equations are correct then the speed of light must be a constant for all observers.

It would be extremely hard to come up with a model for the universe that could have two speeds that are constant for all observers (I would say impossible except that someone will post a 4000 page paper proving that it can be done by warping of space time :-) )

Comment Re:Bring back a large screen model (Score 1) 171

I'd pay $800 if it was 300dpi rather than 150dpi.

Needs to be at least the resolution of the ipad3: 2048x1536 which is just barely suitable for scanned sheet music. (Wouldn't pay $800 for iPad resolution)

300dpi would take it to 3.2k/2.4k which would be ideal.

A4 requires 3.5k/2.5k at 300dpi but 275dpi is good enough.

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