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Comment Re:wars destroy wealth (Score 1) 476

And just to clarify the reasoning behind that big caveat about how this is not an argument in practice against taxation:

- States are just gangs, and taxation is just theft

- Gangs tend to spring up spontaneously in any power vacuum

- Most of them don't know any other way to fund their activity besides theft, though there might in fact be better ways

- Some gangs are better than others (for the people in their turf), and the kind that spontaneously arise are usually the worst; established gangs sometimes in time develop better rapport with their subjects and actually think about the long-term well-being of the turf so as to best maintain their power over time.

- Therefore, it's pragmatically better to accept a decently good gang in power than to let the worst of the worst bad gangs spring up in their absence, and to work toward making the gang in power better (hopefully someday to the limit that it stops being a gang entirely and transforms into an beneficial organization playing by the same rules as everyone else in the turf), rather than just destroying it.

- Meanwhile, since most gangs don't know of any other way to fund their activity besides theft, and we've got to accept the existence of some gang and thus some theft, it's best (as in least bad) if we can get them to steal mostly from those who can more easily afford it, as well as to spend it on activities that not only help out the people in their turf, but help out those most in need more than the rest.

So yes, because states are gangs and taxation is theft, until we can figure out a way to have stateless governance funded by something other than taxes, progressive taxation in a democratic state is the best practical option.

Comment Re: Fake News (Score 1) 236

1. That was just an old theory, and not a widely accepted one.

2. Given what we've just seen, it demonstrably isn't.

That doesn't mean that there aren't compounds formed at great pressure that can remain stable at moderate pressures and represent very dense energy sources - there surely are. Metastability is a very real thing. But apparently not in the case of metallic hydrogen at ~STP.

Assuming that this actually even was metallic hydrogen; even that is somewhat in dispute.

Comment Re:wars destroy wealth (Score 1) 476

Depends entirely on your definition of "anything in return." Even brutal monarchs need to fund military and whatnot (again you can argue whether your taxes are paying for things you personally think are important.)

A mugger uses my cash to pay for something too. If he pays for something I happen to like -- say, bullets with which to kill someone I don't like, or more analogous still, someone from a rival gang in another turf -- does that make it not theft?

That said (and I admit its stretching definition a bit since its hard to justify the king's new gold-plated carriage as being useful to the people,) there is also a major difference between a greedy monarch and a democratically elected representative -- the peasantry don't have any say in choosing their monarch, nor can they "fire" him short of regicide if they think he's doing a shit job of representing them, whereas an elected representative can be voted out (sometimes not soon enough, but I'll try to stay on topic!)

So if the gang start asking the locals who should be in charge of the gang, that makes mugging the locals not theft?

No it isn't, mostly because that "or else" clause has enormously different connotations when its the IRS asking for your taxes vs a mugger asking for your wallet.

They both end with "or else we'll shoot you", the IRS just prefaces it with "...or else pay even more money or else go to jail..." before they get to the "...or else we'll shoot you part". But you're still presented with a choice: pay up, pay up more, get abducted and locked up, or if you refuse any of those, get shot. All laws are ultimately backed by "...or else we'll shoot you." (Which doesn't make them unjust; some things are worth shooting people over, just like sometimes stealing is excusable).

Taxation isn't considered "wrongful" (well, outside of libertarian rhetoric) and therefore by definition, isn't theft regardless of anything else -- even when a greedy monarch uses the money for entirely self-serving purposes.

If the only distinction you make between "taxation" and "theft" is that one is considered wrong and the other isn't, you're basically conceding my entire point. It's the same act, just considered acceptable when one party does it (and given a special name then), and not when any other does.

When the mafia shakes down businesses for "protection" money and is so powerful that they basically control the entire goings-on of a neighborhood, they have effectively become a government, and the money they demand from people has become a tax. If the mafia gradually turns nice and starts polling people to decide on who to put in charge of what neighborhood and even doing genuinely good things for the neighborhood, it never changes the fact that they're still the mafia shaking people down for money. It's certainly better if they do it in a nice way like that, but the underlying reality is still the same.

Of course it helps that the government (monarch or otherwise) who collects the taxes also defines "wrongful." That's part of why the US was founded with strong checks and balances against too much concentration of power -- they knew how England operated and didn't really like the prospect. Hell excessive taxation was no small part of why the US broke ties with the mother country in the first place.

So if a gang robs a crowd and most of the crowd are like "nah man it's cool, we know these guys, they ask us who they want running our hoods, and like kill the foreign gangs and sometimes do cool murals and shit" then that makes it not theft? Even of the people in the crowd who are not cool with it?

And again, reemphasizing my original point: I am not arguing here for the immediate abolition of all taxes and let the pieces fall where they may, or even really for any practical change in who is taxed what to pay for what. I have pragmatic opinions on those matters, given the practical alternatives, that are probably even more progressive than yours. But when it comes down to brass tacks we're talking about a kind of theft masquerading under a different name and an aura of legitimacy, and there's just no denying that.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 194

Indeed, on both counts. And in particular I like the word "rogue planet". Again you have an adjective imparting additional information about another object ("Rogue X"), "rogue" can be readily quantified ("Not in a stable orbit around any particular star or cluster of stars"), and it's a very evocative term. And rogue planets are absolutely expected according to our current models. They'll be incredibly difficult to find, but they're out there.

We're also coming to the realization that there's a lot of objects, potentially including large ones, that are only tenuously bound to our solar system. And it's likely that we readily exchange this mass with other nearby stars over cosmologic timescales; parts of our solar system (primarily distant ones) likely formed by other stars, and things that condensed during the formation of our star system are likely now orbiting other stars.

Comment Re:"Toxic" comments huh? (Score 1) 187

The only way you legally prevent anyone from doing anything is to threaten them with consequences for doing so. Every law is a statement to the effect that "if you do X we will do Y to you in retaliation" (where "Y" is usually "fine you money or else put you in jail or else or shoot you"). The consequences are the prevention.

In light of which the example I gave was actually a bad one. In many respects you are not free, even in the meaningless "if you accept the consequences" sense, to rob an armored car, because it's not just threat of consequences that keep the contents of armored cars safe. Unless you attempt the robbery at just the right moment, odds are that you simply will not be physically able to get into it even if the guards stand around doing nothing. That's why it's armored.

A better example would be: you are not free to kick an innocent child in the head. Nothing will physically prevent you from doing so, but you will face consequences as a result of doing so, some of which constitute the legal prohibition on doing so. The fact that people will drag you off to jail for doing it (or shoot you if you resist that) -- those consequences -- is what makes you not free to kick a kid in the face. If there weren't any such consequences, you would be free to do so. It's the precisely the consequences that limit the freedom.

Comment Re:First amendment ? WTH ? (Score 1) 108

The problem with their logic is, of course, that the police aren't forcing anyone to buy an Alexa device.

o.0 That's not a problem with their logic - that's something utterly irrelevant that you've pulled out of thin air.

If I choose to purchase a device that, by design, records everything I say, then I've voluntarily sacrificed my right to privacy in exchange for the benefits afforded by the device.

That's an assertion on your part, not a fact.

It's not the police's fault that I've done so, and they're entirely within their rights to seek a warrant for the information that I've served up on a platter.

Yes... and no. The police certainly are within their rights to seek a warrant to obtain information so long as is it relative to the case. They may not however use warrants to conduct fishing expeditions on the off-chance that information might be found that might be relevant to the case. Though they phrase it in First Amendment terms, that's the heart of Amazon's argument - they police have not established that the recordings are material to the case, and thus have no legal right to make a blanket request for private information.

Comment Re:"Toxic" comments huh? (Score 1) 187

And those consequences make that specific speech in those specific circumstances not free. (Which might be a good thing in those circumstances; not all freedoms are good, like the freedom to punch a stranger in the face for no reason). You are not free to shout "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, because you will face legal consequences for doing so. The consequences are what makes you not free to do so. So this "free but not from consequences" meme is nonsense.

Comment Stupid and dangerous (Score 1) 109

I think this idea is stupid and dangerous. Just image you have your entire house covered with this kind of wilreless plug.

With ordinary appliances you can be fairly certain they're safe if you pull the plug. With a gizmo that taps a wireless power source in your house you can never be.

If for some reason you want to do something to a device that's less than safe if it's plugged in you run a risk. If you want the device to be guaranteed shut off. e.g. because you want to clean it under the tap, or because it overheats (potentially causing a fire), or because you want to screw it open, you may have a serious problem.

If you want to ensure some sneaky piece of hardware (like a "smart" TV set with voice command operation) is really off're out of luck. If you've bought an appliance with IOT functionality that you don't want on all the time ... tough.

As I've noted before, in this age of networked machines, the real issue is control. Who controls a given piece of hardware? You or the manufacturer? The manufacturer has several ways he can monetise control over an application. Ranging from privacy intrusion to enforcement of policies.

Most ordinary people, good little consumers as they are, have already lost this contest. Their "smart" hardware can be under manufacturer control for all they know and may phone home and collect and transmit personal ("anonimised") data back to the manufacturer as that manufacturer sees fit. This basically applies to anyone who uses a smartphone, a recent car, or any kind of networked piece of electronics in "consumer mode". Only people with interest in (and expertise in) hacking and controlling their stuff can retain control.

It will also allow the manufacturer to enforce all kinds of "policies" on the user of that appliance. E.g. a printer will stop printing when the ink cartridge tells it the allotted number of prints has been reached. Regardless of how much in is left in the cartridge. Or a "smart" espresso machine that refuses to work with any but the manufacturers own coffee cups. Or a console will refuse to play a non-authorised game. Several e-readers will refuse to display files that aren't on "allowed" servers, plus they will tattle about what you read, when, and for how long. If you're unable to run Wireshark on your home network (or simply lack the time) you may never know.

This cordless plug is simply the next step towards a world where individuals' control over their home and the stuff in it is diluted and either off-loaded to whichever party thinks they can monetise a little piece of control over your personal surroundings, or routed through some piece of electronics that exercises actual control instead of the appliances' owner and balk in an emergency.

If I want an appliance to work, I'll find somewhere to plug it in.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 194

The short of it, Jupiter moves things around; it's very good at scattering other bodies, even large ones. First it dragged outer populations into the inner solar system, then scattered inner solar system material out, and then on its retreat pulled outer solar system material back in. It's actually a very big deal that it did that, as it brought ice into the inner solar system.

Comment Re:"Toxic" comments huh? (Score 1) 187

I wasn't talking about the specific topic of discussion about banning people on forums and whatnot, just that phrase "freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences" which keeps being repeated everywhere lately. It's not true. Something like it is true -- freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from all consequences, say -- but the nuance is important, because what makes any freedom a freedom at all is entirely the disallowing of certain kinds of consequences, so freedom of speech is freedom from some consequences.

Also, more on the actual topic: the kinds of thing you describe do actually limit freedom of speech within a given venue. And that's perfectly within the rights of the venue operators to do, but it is limiting freedom of speech. I don't pretend to offer absolute freedom of speech to everyone who comes into my home -- insult me and I'll show you out -- but then, I don't claim to, and I don't have to. It's not free speech, and that's ok, but still it's not free speech.

Comment Re:"Toxic" comments huh? (Score 1) 187

First, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

Stop saying that.

Freedom of any kind absolutely means freedom from certain consequences. If any kind of retaliation to speech is permitted, then the speech is not really free, beyond the sense that you're free to rob an armored car so long as you accept the consequence of getting shot.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 194

1. "Adjective nouns" need to have similarity to "noun" but aren't necessarily a subset. Gummy bears aren't a subset of bears either.

Gummy bears are not a scientific term. Besides, the IAU itself already uses the word dwarf in this manner. Dwarf stars, dwarf galaxies... but carved out an inexplicable exception for dwarf planets.

I'd like to see a citation on this. I highly doubt that you can simulate the formation of a solar system where multiple Mars analogues can coexist in the same orbit

False equivalency. There's a difference between "two Mars sized planets existing in the same orbit" and "Mars' orbit having been cleared". And more to the point, the biggest problem with the concept of Mars clearing its orbit is that its orbit was already largely cleared when it formed. According to our best models, Jupiter reached all the way in to around where Mars' orbit is today, and had cleared almost everything to around 1 AU. Earth and Venus accreted from planetesimals between each other. Mars accreted from planetary embryos ejected to the space in-between Earth and Jupiter. Without Jupiter's migration, simulations produce an Earth-sized Mars and several planetary embryos in the asteroid belt on eccentric / high inclination orbits, something akin to the situation between Neptune and Pluto - except with the embryos nearly Mars-sized.

3. In a geological sense yes. But the current definition of planets is based on orbital mechanics, after which Earth is a lot closer to Jupiter than to Ceres/Pluto.

Huh? By what aspect of orbital mechanics? By semimajor axis and velocity, Earth is much closer to Ceres than Jupiter. Are you talking inclination and eccentricity? Then we should boot Mars in favour of low inclination / eccentricity asteroids.

4. Hydro-static equilibrium as a dividing line is way worse. There are roughly 100 TNOs where we don't really know whether they are elliptical.

Hydrostatic equilibrium can be very easily estimated based on mass, which can be approximately deduced within a range of feasible albedos and densities, and very accurately deduced if the body has a moon. By contrast, it's almost impossible to estimate neighborhood clearing to any distance beyond Neptune, or at all in the case of extrasolar planets. Which, to reiterate, the IAU definition says aren't planets, even though they have an extrasolar planet working group.

We'd have to visit each and every one of them with a probe just to put them in the proper category.

This is utter nonsense.

Meanwhile, it's completely clear which bodies qualify for the "clearing its orbit" rule.

No, it's not. We have virtually no clue what lies in the outer reach of our solar system. As we speak there's a search for a new planet that could be as big as an ice giant. It's a huge open question as to whether it would have cleared its neighborhood, and it will be very difficult to ascertain.

All currently qualifying planets have roughly 99% or more of the mass in their orbit in themselves. Ceres has 30%.

You seem to have some weird concept going on that "semimajor axis = orbit". Ceres has nothing of significance in its orbit. The asteroids are not all in the same orbit. They're certainly more likely to cross each others orbits, but that's not the same thing.

And again, since you apparently missed it: the reason that the inner solar system is largely cleared except for the asteroid belt (and the reason that the latter exists) is Jupiter. Mars did not clear its own neighborhood.

5. The definition should be mutable. Why should a planet that gets ejected keep counting as a planet?

You seriously have to ask why something that hasn't changed but is in a different location shouldn't suddenly be declared to be something entirely different? If you take a rabbit to Canada does it suddenly become a dwarf rabbit?

6. I highly doubt life could form in a non-cleared orbit.

Once again, you're stuck on this misconception that the only orbital parameter that exists is the semimajor axis. And also apparently a notion that stable orbital resonances don't exist.

Orbits can come in a wide range of forms. If you want to see how crazy they get, check out Epimetheus and Janus ;)

As for a life bearing celestial in orbit around another (gas giant) planet: I don't think anybody feels bad about calling that one a moon? As in "Yavin 4".

The funny point with your example being, that whenever you illustrate a large round (hydrostatic equilibrium) moon in sci-fi - Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, whatever - people invariably keep calling it a planet and having to correct themselves. We inherently recognize "large, round object with relevant gravity = planet", and have to shoehorn our minds into not using that term.

7. "Within each other's periapsis and apoapsis" seems like a reasonable enough definition that neither Ceres nor Pluto qualify for.

Once again, you ignore most orbital elements (seriously, stop right now and go read the Wikipedia article on orbital elements). We don't live in a 2D solar system. And your notion is oversimplified even for 2D.

All of this, let alone other aspects such as mass ratios, resonance, metastability, etc. And it gets even more complicated when you view the solar system not as a 2-body problem but a multi-body problem. Then things like horseshoe orbits, Lagrangian points, etc come into play.

8. Yes that's silly but that'll probably be changed easily enough and has no effect on Pluto.

1) It's over a decade later. Where's the fix?
2) It's just a symptom of how horribly hasty and ill-thought-out their action was.

9. How are you planning to ascertain hydro-static equilibrium for an exoplanet if we can't even do it for Varuna.

What are you talking about? Varuna is the size of Ceres. The fact that it hasn't been declared a dwarf planet by the IAU is again a symptom of the IAU's dysfunction on this issue. See #18. By contrast, we'd have no snowball's chance in hell of identifying all potential orbit crossers for it.

The fact that you bring up Varuna makes me think that you feel it shouldn't be a planet because it's an oblate spheroid. If so, that just reveals yet another problem with your understanding: you need to go look up the definition of hydrostatic equilibrium. Hint: if Varuna wasn't an oblate spheroid, then it wouldn't be in hydrostatic equilibrium.

Comment Re:TL;DR something you claim is cogent...? (Score 5, Informative) 194

The IAU spend months in total hashing out this issue and three days talking in meetings before the vote

That's just the issue: that's not what happened. The IAU discussion was a disaster. Here's the timeline:

2005: The IAU appoints a committee to investigate the issue and generate a proposal. The committee investigated the issue for a year.

The IAU meeting is scheduled from 14-25 August 2006.

16 August: The committee recommends a definition based on hydrostatic equilibrium. No "cleared the neighborhood" nonsense. They publish their draft proposal.

18 August: The IAU division of planetary sciences (aka, the people who actually deal with planets) endorses the proposal.

Also 18 August: A subgroup of the IAU formed which opposed the proposal. An astronomer in the group (aka, someone who studies stars, not planets) - Julio Ángel Fernández - made up his own "cleared the neighborhood" definition. While most of the membership starts to trickle away over the next week, they remain determined to change the definition.

22 August: The original, hydrostatic equilibrium draft continued to be the basis for discussion. There were some tweaks made (some name changes and adjusting the double-planet definition), but it remained largely the same.

Late on 22 August: Fernández's group manages to get to just over half of the attendance at the (open) drafting meeting, leading to a very "heated" debate between the two sides.

22 to 24 August: The drafting group begins to meet and negotiate in secret. The last that the general attendance of the conference knew, they'll either end up with a vote on a purely hydrostatic definition, or (more likely) no vote at all due to the chaos. Attendence continues to dwindle, particularly among those who are okay with either a hydrostatic definition or none at all.

24 August: The current "cleared the neighborhood" definition is suddenly proposed and voted on on the same day. Only 10% of the conference attendance (4-5% of the IAU membership) is still present, mainly those who had been hanging on trying to get their definition through. They pass the new definition.

It's not generally laypeople who are upset about how it went down, it's IAU members. Many have complained bitterly about it to the press. The IAU's own committee of experts was ignored, in favour of a definition written in secret meetings and voted on by a small, very much nonrandom fraction of people, the vast majority of whom do not study planets.

If there's one thing I hate, it's people who pretend that anyone who opposes the IAU definition does so because they're ignorant morons overcome by some emotional attachment to Pluto, when in reality it's been planetary scientists themselves who have been the definition's harshest critics, because it's an internally self-inconsistent, linguistically flawed, false-premise-based definition that leads to all sorts of absurd results and contradicts terminology that was already in widespread use in the scientific literature.

Comment Re:The definition is fine (Score 1) 194

Exactly. I think Stern's always been on the right side of this. The original paper that the Stern-Levison parameter comes from has a great system laid out, where you have a bunch of adjectives that you can apply to different bodies based on their varying physical (composition, size) and orbital parameters, and you can use any combination of them as needed. Which seems to me to be so obviously the right solution.

Comment Re:The definition is fine (Score 5, Insightful) 194

Saying pluto is a dwarf planet seems pretty good to me as it gives it a special place among planet like objects already.

If they had simply stopped there, that wouldn't have been a problem. The problem is that they didn't. They declared that dwarf planets aren't planets at all - which is nonsense. Mars has far more in common with Pluto than, say, Jupiter. If anything should have been separated out, it's the gas and ice giants from the rocky/icy planets.

Hydrostatic equilibrium is a very meaningful dividing line to split groupings on. If a body is in hydrostatic equilibrium, it's experienced dramatic geologic change in its history - differentiation, tectonics, internal heating, generally fluids (particularly liquid water), and on and on. It's the sort of place you go if you want to learn about planetary evolution or search for life. If a body is not in hydrostatic equilibrium, it's made of primordial materials, preserved largely intact. It's the sort of place you go to learn about the formation of our solar system and its building blocks.

It's rare that nature gives you such clear dividing lines, but when it comes to planets, it has. It's not perfect - you can (and do) have bodies that straddle the border and are only partially or slightly differentiated. But in general, nature has drawn an obvious line in the sand, and we should respect that.

if the object is really big and clear

Is Earth's orbit clear? No, we have a huge massive object co-orbiting with us. Is Neptune's orbit clear? No, it has Pluto in it. They try their hardest to pretend that the IAU actually chose a "gravitationally dominant" standard, but that's not what they actually put in the definition. The standard in the definition is "cleared the neighborhood".

And it's based on a false premise - that each planet cleared its own neighborhood. Which is just pseudoscience. All of our models show that Jupiter, and to a lesser extent Saturn, cleared most of the solar system, including the vast majority of the clearing around Mars, and a good fraction around Earth (lesser around Venus). Mars did not clear its own neighborhood. Nor is it gravitationally dominant in its neighborhood; the vast majority of asteroids are in orbital resonance with Jupiter and not Mars.

And I've heard some people try to sneak around this by saying "Okay, maybe it isn't gravitationally dominant / cleared its neighbood now, but it has enough of a Stern-Levison parameter that it would have been had Jupiter not existed". First off, that's changing the definition yet again (to "would have cleared its neighborhood if no other planets were there"). But beyond that, it's abuse of the Stern-Levison parameter. The Stern-Levison parameter is built around a body's ability to clear asteroids - bodies with the current size and orbital distribution of our asteroid belt. Not protoplanets. In the early solar system it was the ability to clear protoplanets that caused neighborhoods to be cleared. Jupiter got rid of some really massive things that were forming in and near the inner solar system. There's a reason why our planetary system has such an unusual size distribution: the inner planets start getting bigger, the stop getting bigger, then get small, then debris, then something huge. That "something huge" stripped the building blocks out of the inner solar system, preventing it from becoming dominated by super-Earths. Saturn appears to have been our savior - its (delayed) formation appears to have stopped Jupiter's inward migration.

And even just going with the Stern-Levison parameter - Neptune has a Pluto-sized body in its "neighborhood". Now, Pluto may be small compared to Neptune, but compared to Mars it wouldn't be - yet Mars has a much lower Stern-Levison parameter than Neptune. Again: the only reason Mars doesn't experience stuff like this is because Jupiter cleared its neighborhood for it.

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