Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×

Comment Re:El Nino (Score 2) 410

The last El Nino of similar strength was 1999, from memory, which kicked off the pause. El Nino is followed by la Nina, which cools the globe, so next year we won't have these tedious articles about short term spikes in weather masquerading as climate.

"Kicked off the pause"? Seriously? What you must mean is that, if you cherry-pick the global surface temperature data to start in 1997/1998, when the oceans turned over to the atmosphere a gigantic quantity of the heat they had been storing, it almost looks like there has been some sort of "pause" in rising temperatures, since then. (As long as you also don't count the new jump in surface temperatures that have happened since the oceans again began to turn over some of the additional heat they've accumulated.)

Modern La Nina years are years times when it's almost plausible to say that there's a pause in the human-caused rise in surface temperatures. But the hypothesis that goes with that assertion is just bankrupt: "I guess all those computer models, and ocean chemistry, and satellite reflectance, etc, musta just been off or something, because, look, they predicted a steady increase." The much more plausible and well-supported hypothesis is that fluctuations in the steady rise of average global surface temperatures are due to the buffering of heat in the oceans.

Comment Re:Pointless and Useless Speculation (Score 1) 559

It's not about visiting us, it's about producing detectable signals. To date, none of the presumed-bazillions of extraterrestrial civilizations have (demonstrably) done this. We're speculating on which factors in the Drake Equation might explain this. These folks are arguing that n_e includes no factor for duration, but that maybe n_e is only n_e for a short time, and that therefore f_l and/or f_i are small because evolution takes time. Judging from the evidence, I'd say another plausible explanation is that the variable L is small, because ... well, Malthus was right. I guess that roughly falls under "blew themselves up", but takes it out of the realm of foolishness by suggesting that life is inherently self-limiting if the same features that are required to survive long enough to evolve are also lethal to those that manage to prevail in that struggle.

Then, again, maybe the rules for what constitutes intelligent life are a lot more open than we imagine, and the place is teeming with life we don't know how to detect. Does it always have to evolve? Does it always require "habitable" planets? (Does it always have to produce EM radiation? Do we just need more-sensitive instruments or more time?) Open questions.

Comment Re:"Habitable Zone" (Score 1) 267

What I find funny about this discussion is that our whole mathematical proof that extra-terrestrial life exists basically boils down to: "There's lots of places to look." Which is fine until we get to Fermi's Paradox, which reels that back in.

Fermi puts bounds on variables in Drake's equation. If L were infinite, then any such civilizations that had evolved long enough ago that their signals could have reached us by now would be in principle detectable. The fact that we haven't detected them would imply an upper limit on how many there might be. On the other hand, if all such civilizations die rapidly from a Malthusian collapse (as ours appears to be doing), then there could have been many many more such civilizations, without our necessarily being able to detect them.

Or, put another way, if you think detectable life could evolve easily, then Fermi implies L is small.

Comment Re:our mind is now operating (Score 1) 386

If free will is not an illusion, then where does it come from? Why do humans have it, but not chimps? Why do chimps have it, but not rabbits?

It remains an open philosphical question whether humans have free will -- whether "free will" is even a meaningful term.

If every physical mechanism in the universe is probabilistic and fuzzy, where does free will come from?

Oddly enough, the existence of quantum mechanics seems to make free will more likely, rather than less. In a fully Newtonian universe, you could argue that by knowing the position and vector of every atom you might predict the future, which sounds a lot like fate, where all future action is based on the past. However, the apparent fuzziness of our reality seems to leave the door open to much more complex probabilistic, entangled, and parallel behaviors.

How so? Being unpredictable doesn't make you "free".

Here's the problem: if you have a "will", then your actions follow from a principled mechanism, interacting with The World. Where's the freedom in that? If your will is not a principled mechanism, but something random, then how is it a will?

You're talking about the experience of "choosing" something in a given moment, as opposed to something else? Not much of a proof, is it? In any of those choices, have you ever chosen something other than the thing you chose? You could have chosen something else ... if what?

Dennett is right: the fear about "free will" is that you would somehow be trapped if free will didn't exist. I think it goes beyond that: predictability is vulnerability, and we fear that if our choices are predictable then we could be anticipated by enemies. But, the fact that you are afraid of this is not a good argument against it (as a different philosopher said). And, anyhow, something might be predictable in principle without being predictable in practice.

Free will and determinism are not opposites.

Comment Re:Tell me w a straight face the AGWers are all Ph (Score 1) 634

In isolation, yes. On a big wet planet with lots of sources, sinks, and feedback mechanisms...it's not clear how much. Because real science with real predictive power is hard, but soundbytes and slogans are easy.

We know the sources outweigh the sinks. We know the system is accumulating energy, and we know roughly how much. The scientific consensus is driven by a convergenece of real science: changes in ocean chemistry, satellite radiance measurements, CO2 measures, thermometers, bouys, and, of course, simulations. We'd be fools not to devote a ton of effort to simulations. You want to know exactly how the weather in Des Moines will look in the afternoon 10 years from Tuesday? That's an interesting question, but not a good critique of the main conclusion. Seems like the soundbytes comes from your side. "AGW is a religion." Yeah? How so? "I'm more of a scientist thabn he is?" Really? 'Cause she sure *seems* like an bloviating gadfly.

Comment Re:Glacial samples (Score 1) 252

There were forest fires before humans existed. Does that mean all forest fires are natural?

The way you answer the question is to look for forest fires that were caused by people. One way would be to use induction to imagine a scenario where huamns start fires, which would leave distinctive evidence that wouldn't happen in natural fires, then look for that, and follow-up. (e.g. fire starts near a campground, evidence of runaway campfire, progression of fire is away from campground, guy who camped there admits "okay, okay, yes, we fell asleep and when we woke up the trees were on fire, and we got scared and ran").

Okay, so, one forest fire, is that a big deal?

The way you answer that question is to become more familiar with forests and forest fires. Maybe a lot of them start near campgrounds? If you investigate and study and learn, maybe you get a sense of how many are caused by people, what the historical record shows about fire rates and scales in the past, etc. Computers might not tell you exactly which trees are going to burn in a new fire you've just discovered, but maybe you can refine the model enough that it can provide a good sense of where it's going to go, how quickly it might expand, where are sparks going to cause new fires, which of these 10 spots should we drop crews, etc.

Comment Re:Evidence of the Great Filter? (Score 1) 365

The Great Filter hides a lot in "step 8". It sounds like the only remaining challenge is the physical difficultly of traveling interstellar distances. But consider the variable 'L', in the Drake equation. Maybe civilizations akin to ours evolve relatively frequently, but almost immediately go silent because they've gone the way of yeast. In fact, evolution is predicated on competition, which implies (as Darwin pointed out, after reading Malthus) that there must be an excess of generation, so to speak, which in turn implies that a "successful" species is an overpopulated one. The fact that we think interstellar colonization is the obvious next step isn't encouraging, in that regard.

What would it feel like, if the first words we hear from an extraterrestrial civilization are "Help! We live in an overpopulated world with a collapsing ecosystem! What can we do?"

Comment Re:That's stupid (Score 2) 417

The 3% figure is a canard. (Doesn't help to have a brain if you don't use your reference materials.) This figure pertains to an *annual* contribution, which is cumulative. We add 2ppm of unreabsorbed CO2 every year.

That's why, by now, the correct figure for human contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere is about 43%.

Ask not who the bullshit is called upon.

Comment Re:Fitness tracking? (Score 1) 110

You're missing the optimization! "How about we cut $50 off your bill if you let us watch your biometrics while you surf the web or TV, including some ads?" "Did you hear about the guy whose life was saved because his diabetes app called 911?" "How about $100 off your insurance if you run an app to let your doctor collect heart data periodically?"

Comment "it was us that scorched the sky" (Score 3, Insightful) 407

Seriously?

Someone is destroying your entire ecosystem, and telling you "we can't stop doing that, because we would lose money." And someone else says, "well, maybe if we cause a corresponding rapid radical transformation in ocean ecology it will offset the other catastrophe". And your answer is "hmm, yeah, that might work."

Comment Re:Cut out that "free will" crap. (Score 1) 210

Free will and self-awareness are unrelated concepts.
The soul is a myth.

You are confusing "soul" with popular myths about freedom of will. The soul, as a concept, doesn't depend on freedom from determinism. As with self-awareness, the two are unrelated concepts. There is no reason to presume that a deterministic universe can't include consciousness. (In fact, there's a pretty good reason to suppose that it can.)

Slashdot Top Deals

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."

Working...