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Comment Re: God created the moon (Score 1) 140

OK, have to step in here. The map is not the territory, and the idea of a thing is not a thing. If you are saying "God is not a thing, it is an idea" I'd agree with you. But ideas are not in any necessary one-to-one correspondence with the Universe of "things that actually exist", and ideas to the very best of our experience a) are highly complex phenomena contingent on all sorts of material stuff and do not just float around like quantum particles that permeate and surround the Universe (h/t to Terry Pratchett); b) cannot and do not "create" anything, ever. In fact there is no evidence that anything, ever, has been created. The laws of physics are all pretty much constrained by conservation principles (consistent with observation) that state that nothing is ever created, it is all just existing stuff changing form and moving around.

The second thing I'd object to is the idea that anyone at all can "reason" about God in a meaningful or useful way. The first step in such a reasoning process is to choose one's premises, or axioms, or postulates -- the basis for one's eventual "consistent" conclusions. This is precisely the same whether one is reasoning about mathematics, the Universe of stuff that actually exists, or the enormous metaphysical space of pure speculation -- reasoning about pink unicorns, trying to decide if Santa likes hot chocolate with or without a splash of peppermint Schnapps on Christmas eve, how many angels can dance on the head of a standard shirt-packing pin. The premises themselves cannot be proven -- they are PREMISES -- so all reasoning contingent upon the premises is Bullshit in the precise sense that there is (as noted) no necessary one-to-one correspondence with the pattern of consistent results on derives with the very best of intentions and the real world.

The second step in USEFUL reasoning is to seek out objective correspondences between those contingent results AND the real world. To the extent that they are discovered to exist, we strengthen our degree of belief in the conclusions, and by Bayesian reasoning, the premises that led to the conclusions in good correspondence. To the extent that they are contradicted, we at least weaken our degree of belief in the conclusions, and again by inheritance in the premises that led to the contradiction. This is a slight oversimplification as multiple premises contribute to most nontrivial conclusions and it is not necessarily clear which one(s) fail, but there is no doubt that REASON requires reduction of belief in the conclusion itself rather than amplification when there is either no evidence supporting it (but there is evidence supporting competing ideas and arguments) or if the evidence contradicts it.

And here's the rub. The very first step about any reasoning process about God has to begin with the pure assertion that God exists. This is because we have no direct and usable sensory data, no direct "experience" of God the way we have experience of toast, or things falling down when dropped. We have built powerful apparatus that extends the range and sensitivity of our senses and none of it reveals God. We have conducted careful statistical analyses of human experience contingent on things like belief and prayer and behavior and -- outside of obvious stuff that behaving "well" is more likely to make one happy than being a butt in human society -- no phenomena or statistical anomalies are observed that require supernatural explanation. One cannot predict one single thing about the world and how it behaves or outcomes based on religious belief or the asserted premise "God exists for some useful meaning of the word `exists'". To paraphrase, the rain falls on Saint and Sinner alike.

What we CAN do is examine the consequences of BELIEF ITSELF. Believing in something has an enormous impact on human existence. In a sense, our society (or societies!) are defined by their beliefs, their memetic structure, their history, their evolution -- including religious beliefs. Religious beliefs make an enormous set of untestable, empirically unsupportable assertions, assertions that are blatently internally inconsistent. Contradictions abound. One can, as everybody SHOULD know, "reason" your way to any conclusion you like from contradictory premises, so it comes as no real surprise that humans are constantly manipulated and manipulate others on the basis of these absurd contradictory beliefs. Since all major religions assert a special exception for ordinary reasoning processes when it comes to reasoning about the religions themselves as a necessary step in getting people to continue to believe in the absurdity, they persist, and humans who accept them make monumentally poor decisions, choices that they would never make if they were actually reasoning correctly and optimally in and about the real world.

Religion is arguably the number one killer of humans active on the planet at this very moment. It is directly responsible for some of the largest and longest running armed conflicts in our mutual history. It enslaves and distorts the judgment of some 3/4 of the human population -- literally enslaves perhaps a billion women in the Abrahamic faiths. It causes the redirection of a huge fraction of the global production of the human species into the "service" of the priesthood(s) of the various religions, who spend most of it supporting themselves without an actual job that actually produces something useful, like toast or Schnapps flavored hot chocolate. The religions that persist after a brutal memetic evolution process involving world conquest and domination at the point of a sword are almost without exception socially engineered at this point to make the poor and disadvantaged human content enough with their lot to avoid revolution against the prevailing powers that keep them poor and disadvantaged by promising them eternal pleasures in an imaginary afterlife if only they behave themselves and are good little proles in this one.

Sure, this too is an oversimplification -- some people, in some religions, also do some good things. But that is more because they are good people than because the religion itself is good, and good or not it isn't likely to be TRUE. Reasoning from FALSE premises isn't all that great a thing to do, or to base a sane society on.

Comment Finally! A Real Science article on /.! (Score 1) 279

Just kidding. Not so much.

Personally, I think we evolved without it when we took to walking upright. A penis bone would have kept all male penises pointing up at the angle of optimum intromission. This would have forced all males to urinate in long rainbow arcs that got piss all over the place in a highly conspicuous way and would have made the penis, sticking out and up right up front, highly vulnerable to all sorts of weapons as tribal man fought one another. Hard to tuck the junk back and out of risk when you are standing if you have to break a bone to do it. Humans are also enormously mutually fertile (roughly 10% of the time) and live a very long time, so long intromission, short intromission, neither one is going to be effective at ensuring "monogamy" and of course arguing that human culture is monogamous even today is pretty much to make a RELIGIOUS argument as the best that can be supported empirically is some mix of serial monogamy, serial polygamy, serial polyandry, and just plain fucking around with a smattering of true "lifetime exclusive" monogamy mixed in, maybe 10 or 20%. Swans may mate for life, but humans are lucky if they mate for dinner, if one follows overt statistics, and even that is probably driven more by religious memes than by "nature". The memes are rather at war with the genes, and different cultures follow different patterns for optimizing mate selection worldwide.

Comment More of a desk reference than a novel... (Score 1) 381

As many above have pointed out, there is little reason to read the entire series "like a novel" from cover to cover, in addition to the fact that yeah, it would take a while to WORK through it like a textbook as opposed to read through it quickly to see what is there. And yeah, there are better books now in profusion on many of the topics covered, although AFAIK there is no book or book series that is as encyclopedic on the subjects he covers.

However, many people will find some of the sections very useful. I personally found "Seminumerical Algorithms" useful indeed when learning about random number generators and testing random number generators. It isn't the last word, and it certainly isn't the latest word as we move into a 64 bit world and beyond, but it is an excellent starting point. In other parts of the series there are other gems or nuggets well worth studying or reading, even if you move on to actual research papers or better books afterwards.

To sum up, it is a useful thing to own if you are doing a lot of very widely spread code development and need to acquire literacy quickly in subjects it covers, even if you are going to end up looking for an O'Reilly text on some of those subjects to get a more modern perspective. Those OR books are probably going to reference, rewrite, and augment Knuth.

Note well that I'm an Old Guy (tm) and actually did write a lot of code in Fortran once in the long ago before abandoning it for C and Unix and beyond. TAOCP was one of the ONLY really good encyclopedic references for people who were NOT CPS majors and who needed to learn about algorithms of one sort or another or some aspect of coding covered in one of the many CPS courses they never took. They (I) didn't need a course with the best textbook of the day -- we needed to get started. Once started, we knew how to learn and go beyond the start. 1.5 cubic feet of shelf space wasn't too high a price to be able to learn something about everything or anything to get started.

Comment Re:It helps the economy too (Score 2, Interesting) 351

Damn skippy. If they are going to do this, they need to start -- start -- 3 to 5 years ahead by requiring ALL small motors to be built so that they can run on ethanol. And bear in mind that there are other problems with ethanol-laced fuel, the biggest one to my own experience being that it sucks water right out of the air and into your fuel tank. Alcohol is hydrophilic. Gasoline is hydrophobic. Put them together and you get the worst of both worlds -- a gas tank that builds up water in the bottom just sitting there in normally humid air.

Then there are the various parts in small motors that dissolve in ethanol.

Could this all be fixed? Sure, I imagine so. Not so sure about how the water issue can be fixed, but at least the engines can be designed not to break if you use ethanol either for timing reasons or because your fuel system turns into sludge while it operates. But they're not. So I'm left having to pay for no-E gasoline at a premium price from one of the few stations that carry it just to mow the lawn, run my chainsaw, run my boat, etc. This isn't just about cars.

Comment Re:You can't (Score 1) 1321

You are right, unless the voter can visually verify THE ACTUAL PAPER that gets stored, the system can be hacked. And you are absolutely right that N boxes per state if not per precinct should be RANDOMLY (using e.g. actual dice, not electronic random number generators that could be tampered with) selected for quality control, opened, and checked for accuracy to within some very small tolerance. In the case where users are TOLD that their votes are not valid and they have the instant opportunity to correct to obtain a valid vote and then check it, tampering would involve tampering with the ballot box itself AND matching tampering with the machine, and that's a problem we always have, presumably controlled by honest and bipartisan representation in the polling officials.

I'd suggest not actually putting the paper in the hands of the voter, but letting them see it inside a glass screen right before it either spits it out or deposits it in the box, where they can SEE it go into the box, or do it over if it isn't valid or they accidentally voted for the wrong person somewhere.

Comment Re:You can't (Score 1) 1321

I replied above, or I'd mod you up. I completely agree. Paper trail, consistent right down to the fingerprints of the voter (should it come to it) on the paper form is not orthogonal to electronic counting. I'd even throw in a REQUIREMENT that actual dice be used to select a random sample of machines from each state to be opened and audited whether or not there is any evidence of tampering. ANY machines that give the wrong total outside of very, very narrow tolerances (determined by the empirical study of ballots that are incorrectly filled in etc) should trigger a statewide, or at least precinct-wide audit.

This isn't about this election, by the way. It is about "elections". I honestly believe that the polling officials at most polls in America are honest and patriotic and take their job as the guardians of democracy very seriously. No American who values free and honest elections should oppose ensuring that the system of voting itself is difficult to tamper with and self-auditing. Penalties for gaming the system should be extremely severe, and any court-admissible evidence that a candidate or party has actively participated in suborning the process should be grounds for overturning the election and forcing either a do-over, this time with the open door closed, or if the candidate is involved and a court so determines, both loss of the election EVEN IF THEY WON and felony jail time so that they can never run for public office again.

Comment Re:Spurious correlations (Score 1) 1321

Please. You can audit the software, and the networks, and the process of preparation. The problem is that software audits have ALREADY demonstrated that the machines can be hacked. There may well be direct evidence that they HAVE been hacked if one audits their internal firmware, and this could easily be done and wouldn't even be that expensive.

If one finds even a single machine that has been hacked, of course, chaos ensues. The founding fathers never anticipated this. The only fair thing to do would be to go back to the precincts and either hold an open re-vote or limit a re-vote to people who actually voted in the original, this time with paper ballots and a crowd of poll-watchers, but I don't think the constitution has any provision for this; at best the courts would have to order it in the absence of law or precedent. And "fair" isn't the standard "prescribed in the constitution" is.

But if there were clear evidence of tampering in these states -- really clear evidence -- if Republicans challenged both the clear evidence that Clinton won the popular election by a solid margin AND the clear evidence that the election in key "battleground" states was tampered with in favor of Trump (possibly with evidence of who did the tampering) then they'd be well advised to either concede the election in the electoral college (in exchange for keeping Trump actually out of jail) or at the very least, replace Trump with somebody centrist, that is to say NOT with Mike Pence. Maybe McCain. Even Ryan, although it isn't clear how centrist he really is. Or one of Trump's primary opponents that the Dems could live with. Otherwise they would face the mother of all backlashes in the next elections, forever.

Comment Re:Spurious correlations (Score 1) 1321

Richer precincts are more likely to have e-voting machines. Richer precincts are also more likely to lean Republican. Therefore, precincts that have e-voting machines are more lean Republican.

It's odd that you would say this, given the almost perfect polarization between urban, educated, rich precincts that almost without exception voted for Clinton and the rural, comparatively poor, precincts that voted for Trump. It is also something that is easily controlled for. The problem is that they compared counties with SIMILAR populations and the ones with voting machines produced a 7% surplus for Trump. Fairly consistently. This is not only not expected, it is (given a consistent pattern over many such counties and precincts) almost impossible, statistically. Yes, correlation is not causality, but at some point the p-value of the null hypothesis of an unrigged election goes to zero, independent of glib explanations like this one.

Comment Re:Popcorn time! (Score -1, Flamebait) 1321

Note well that the issue isn't that Trump won counties. It is that when one compares counties that are side by side and demographically similar, Trump won by an average of a 7% margin HIGHER only in those counties that used electronic voting machines. 7% is, frankly, an enormous factor given the large populations involved. But that isn't the problem. It is the p-factor. What is the probability that this PATTERN of events is due to random chance variations?

Here it is a no-brainer. The p-value for the null hypothesis "The election was fair" is basically zero, if there is a 7% marginal difference between electronic and non-electronic voting that is almost entirely biased in one direction. You don't even have to do a computation -- p has many zeros before the first 1, especially if the pattern persists over three different states, even more so if they are the CRITICAL states, even more so if they are states where polling before the election consistently got an entirely different result that would almost perfectly be explained by the 7% surplus.

What this is really saying is that there is almost no STATISTICAL doubt that the election was tampered with on a grand scale. The only remaining questions are: Who are the perpetrators (I personally doubt the RNC who honestly wouldn't dare, but somebody in Trump's campaign, a group of Trump-supporting hackers, or the Russians are all plausible alternatives, with IMO the Russians being way, way at the head of the line) and Did they leave behind any hard evidence of the exploits? It is going to be difficult to sell a statistical argument, no matter how compelling, to a population that doesn't even know what a p-value is, but any hard evidence at all of an exploit of even one machine would be enough to create constitutional chaos. Any evidence that tied the exploit to (fill in the blank) some specific group would lead to an overturn of the election, maybe even the election(s) (down into the Senate and House and state offices). Any evidence that ties in either the Russians or anyone at all in Trump's campaign will spark a large scale congressional investigation and, quite possibly, prosecution for treason of all involve in the one case, and a SERIOUS, GLOBAL escalation of tension in the other. You almost have to hope that it is an anonymous group just because of the danger to the world if it is the Russians and the damage to the country if it is any Republicans in or outside of Trump's campaign.

At the very least, the congressional investigation will open up Trump's true financial situation and start looking for hard evidence that he is controlled, financially or otherwise, by the Russians. For example, do they have evidence of him having sex with (fill in the unsavory blank)? Do they hold enough of his business debt that they can bankrupt him overnight? Is Melania his handler? His behavior towards the Russians has been "peculiar" throughout his campaign. This would explain a lot.

Comment Sanity check... (Score 1) 247

OK, lessee, 60 mph is 26.8 m/sec. To go from zero to 26.8 m/sec in 2.4 sec requires an acceleration of 26.8/2.4 = 11.17 m/sec^2. g = 9.81 m/sec^2, meaning that it has to accelerate at 1.14 g.

The only force that can accelerate it is the frictional force from its tires. The maximum force of static friction (under ordinary circumstances, like ordinary tires and ordinary roadway) is f_s = \mu_s mg, producing a maximum acceleration of a = \mu_s g, so \mu_s would have to be 1.14 in order for this to be possible. This is well above the maximum for ordinary tires. So in order for your Tesla to do anything but burn rubber, you'd have to invest in some pretty serious racing tires capable of exerting an acceleration force greater than the weight of the car.

Comment Re:Fascinating stuff... (Score 1) 52

Anyway, tidal forces are indeed responsible for things like tidal locking of the moon (where the moon's slowing down was compensated by a change in its orbital distance and smaller effects on the axial rotation of the earth) but I don't see how it can tilt the rotational axis of a planet. Certainly the sun's tidal force at that distance is nowhere nearly strong enough, or is it?


I guess that together, they are! The moon and sun exert an AVERAGE TORQUE on the Earth, and it is large enough to cause the axis to precess! This effect is also very dependent on things like mass distribution -- ice ages rearrange substantial surface mass and can indeed alter the tensor moment of inertial and hence cause the axis of rotation itself to move relative to the not-terribly-solid earth, with interesting consequences, see:

especially: "The redistribution of ice-water on the surface of the Earth and the flow of mantle rocks causes changes in the gravitational field as well as changes to the distribution of the moment of inertia of the Earth. These changes to the moment of inertia result in a change in the angular velocity, axis, and wobble of the Earth's rotation.

The weight of the redistributed surface mass loaded the lithosphere, caused it to flex and also induced stress within the Earth. The presence of the glaciers generally suppressed the movement of faults below.[72][73][74] However, during deglaciation, the faults experience accelerated slip triggering earthquakes. Earthquakes triggered near the ice margin may in turn accelerate ice calving and may account for the Heinrich events.[75] As more ice is removed near the ice margin, more intraplate earthquakes are induced and this positive feedback may explain the fast collapse of ice sheets."


Comment Re:Angular momentum (Score 2) 52

Not to go into this in complete detail, but:

a) The moment of intertia is a tensor, not a scalar like you learned (maybe) in Intro physics. So lots of motions -- like a skater extending just ONE arm out well above her center of mass -- are going to alter the axis of rotation. This is why it is important to balance your tires -- to keep the 'natural' axis of rotation identical to the physical axis of your car's bearings.

b) A moon exerts a torque on the planet it orbits. If the moon isn't perfectly in the ecliptic plane with the sun or if there is any bobble, not just the magnitude of the angular momentum varies, but the direction too. This is why the Earth's axis precesses -- it is tilted relative to the average direction of these torques.

So maybe the physicists who published the article(s) and their referees aren't actually incompetent. Just sayin'...


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