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Comment Re:Oh great! (Score 1) 23

So in the event of potentially unsafe driving conditions, something with the intelligence of a 2-year-old and the strength of 1000 gorillas randomly grabs the wheel from you. I can't see anything that could possibly go wrong with this.

Well, can you see anything that could possibly go wrong by letting the human driver always have his way when milliseconds count? That's what you have to consider: the relative probability of catastrophe in the two scenarios: continued human control vs. automated intervention.

Most people think of themselves as better than average drivers. Most people *are* a better than average driver... on their good days. But it's not their good days they need to be worried about. It's the days when they're harried, distracted and sleep-deprived that the pose a threat to themselves... and others.

Comment Re:How about. . . no. . . (Score 1) 304

. . . does that work for you ? Because it works for me. No crying babies, chatty teens, or rude patrons playing with their smartphones.

Didn't experience any of that in my last trip to the cinema. But then, that was to see Florence Foster Jenkins, so maybe the problem is the movies you're going to.

Comment Re:Self inflicted (Score 1) 237

Well, financially speaking bankruptcy doesn't happen because you don't make profit. It happens because you run out of cash flow to meet your current obligations.

Had Westinghouse back in the 90s gone all-in on a fuel cycle it had no practical experience with, it would be pretty much where it is today: building the first power plants of a new design, after a multi-decade hiatus in commissioning nuclear power plants. Either way it's a recipe for construction delays, which equal cost overruns without corresponding new revenue, which equals bankruptcy.

The only way to get a large-scale nuclear power plant business off the ground is to have vast quantities of cash on hand, which businesses don't like to do because keeping cash relatively idle costs money too.

Comment Re:What do you get with a TV-celeb as prez? (Score 2) 313

5 is a lot younger than 9. In fact developmentally it's a lot younger than the 45% chronologically younger it is.

Once a medical entomologist I was working with came to me with a flow chart he'd done in Visio. "I need a program that can do this," he said. "I've looked at different modeling applications but it won't be easy in any of them. I'm pretty sure I'll need custom software."

I glanced at his flow chart, scribbled a polynomial on a scrap of paper and handed it to him. "There. Plug that into Excel and you're good to go."

He was flabbergasted. "How did you do that?"

"My job isn't writing programs," I said. "My job is transforming hard problems into easy ones. I only write actual software to prove I'm right."

Coding as an academic activity is a very narrow intellectual pursuit. Coding as a real life activity draws on a lifetime of intellectual experiences, both academic and non-academic.

Children at the age of 5 should be preparing for those experiences. If you want to know what kids that age should be doing, you should look at what public television shows like Sesame Street and Arthur targeted at them depict them doing. They go outside and play. They explore. They make real physical things. They make friends (and enemies). They express themselves by participating in art and music. They learn to deal with winning and losing by playing games.

You know the one thing that kids on those programs almost never do? Watch TV. Real kids spend way too much time in front of screens.

Now I'm all for giving 9 year-olds a taste of programming. Seymour Papert did wonderful work along those lines, including with children as young as the fifth grade -- roughly 10 years old. There isn't much difference between a 10 and a 9 year old, but there's a huge difference between a 5 and 6 year-old.

Teaching a 5 year-old about coding is just virtue signalling. It's not something you do for the kid, it's something you do for your reputation.

Comment Re:Scottish independence (Score 2) 624

Without England, Scotland has nothing to offer the EU except liability.

Scotland is small ,but it has a higher per capita GDP than England, or the entire UK for that matter -- if you count North Sea energy. Scotland as an independent country would be the twelfth largest economy in Europe and almost exactly in the middle of the pack for size in the EU.

Now logically speaking Scottish independence from an independent UK does not necessarily equate to EU membership. Scots could choose independence from the UK on the basis that union with a UK that is not in the EU is not as attractive as union with a UK that is in the EU.

Comment Re: Uh, why? (Score 1) 208

If you think Vista was bad you're not old enough to remember NT 4.0.

I remember the sound system crashing on my Vista laptop, sending a horrible, unstoppable screeching through the speakers. Basically it was an audio snow crash. Yet everything else worked normally; I was able to save my work and shut the system down. And I remember thinking, "that was horrible, but so much less horrible than it could have been."

Comment Re:Good grief (Score 1) 269

>The thesis of this "scientific paper" is basically like a couple of tokers sitting around in their parents' basement saying "DUUUUDE... what if the money in our savings account DOUBLED EVERY YEAR?!???

Again this is not a critique of the paper, it is a critique of tokers sitting around in their parent's basement. There is no substance in your criticism to address, it really is just an expression of your feelings toward the paper's author. Aside from the fact that you're just name-calling, the numerical basis you've used for comparison is just wrong.

Now it so happens I have you at a disadvantage: I've actually read the paper. It's closer the tokers sitting around saying, "How can we achieve a 7% annual compound interest rate sustained over ten years with our portfolio," which is roughly what doubling your money in ten years takes. The authors are talking about what it would take to half carbon emissions which would be a 6.6% reduction each year, and they discuss methods for reducing them, which they break down into near term no-brainer, near-term difficult, and long term speculative. As is usual the further out you go the less concrete and certain you can be. This is normal in economic projections that go twenty or more years out.

Now you may disagree with the specific means proposed, some of which are quite drastic (e.g. attempting to recover external costs through inheritance taxes). But there is nothing inherently irrational about starting with a goal -- zero carbon emissions by 2050 -- then asking what it would take to achieve that. Nor is there anything inherently ridiculous with coming up with the answer that it'll take a mix of things, some of which looking twenty or more years into the future we can't predict yet.

Comment Re:Percentage doesn't matter (Score 1) 160

Oh, I think the percentage bit is significant. It shouldn't be news that they've acknowledged reality; but it's remarkable that their responses is so meaningless.

It makes me wonder whether this is just marketing BS or whether they're really that incoherent about strategy.

Many proprietary software companies have prospered in an era of open source acceptance -- even when very good free software alternatives for their products exists (Microsoft, Oracle). But although we don't tend to think of them that way, they tend to be value-priced. You get a lot of (not necessarily great) software engineering for your $199 Windows license fee.

But the play this game you need scale to amortize development costs over many users. If you have more of a niche product competing against a solid open source competitor is going to be really, really hard. As in SAS charges almost $9000 for a single seat license, and that's good for only a year; thereafter you'll have to fork over thousands of dollars every year. That kind of cash pays for a lot of R training.

Comment Re:Beyond idiotic (Score 1) 269

Well, there's good reason to hope on the carbon emissions front.

The global trend toward replacing coal with natural gas will have a massive impact on human CO2 footprint. And this isn't the result of the strangling hand of regulation either: gas plants are simply more economically efficient and easy to run. It also coincidentally generates less than half the CO2 per kwH that coal does.

This trend alone makes hitting world CO2 goals a lot more feasible. A better electricity grid will allow more diverse energy sources as well. It's really quite feasible to increase electricity production while reducing CO2 emissions.

Comment Re:It Doesn't Work That Way (Score 1) 269

Well, your point is well taken: Moore's law is an empirical observation, not the result of a plan.

However it doesn't follow in the least that doubling clean energy requires a doubling of investments. That's because clean energy is actually benefits more form economies of scale than fossil fuels. To double your output of electricity from coal, you may get better at building coal power plants, and you may enjoy some economies of scale as people invest in infrastructure to transport coal, but you still have to pay for twice as much coal. Renewables use slack resources that are simply being thrown away now: sunshine, wind, water flow etc. Of course there are physical limits to renewables, but we're nowhere near them yet.

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