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Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool

Artifakt Re: I thought the distinction was arbitrary alread (57 comments)

Then the mod system was abused by somebody who either doesn't understand what simple English means or deliberately chose to misuse their tiny, trivial amount of power, probably because they have such a lack of a real life that they actually get an ego boost from it. Why are you sticking up for that?

5 days ago
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Real Steampunk Computer Brought Back To Life

Artifakt Re:But alas (81 comments)

,,, and this and other early examples used all the luminiferous aether up, which is why there isn't any now. More proof, if any was needed, that "Science" only creates self fuffilling prophecies to keep its priesthood in jobs. ;-)

about a week ago
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US DOE Sets Sights On 300 Petaflop Supercomputer

Artifakt Re:Ehhh Meh (127 comments)

Well, you could just actually test old and unrefurbished nukes to see just what all those decay products accumulating beneath their shells do, or you could just simulate it. No wait, the politicians have sworn off all actual testing, you can only simulate. Back in the 2000's Supercomputers were all we had to tell us what was in the decomissioned former Soviet nukes they were asking us to open up and get the Plutonium out of - some were seven to ten years behind scheduled maintenance and nobody was sure just what had built up in it, but the Russians still had Chernobyl in their minds and would love to comply with the treaty by destroying it, it was just their technicians were getting readings as soon as they opened up the outer casings that convinced them they would have died if they had gone any further.
          It's no accident that most of the US title holders for fastest supercomputer have been built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The whole US supercomuting program to date has cost much less than one decay induced explosion releasing the sort of stew of Polonium, Americium, and other incredibly virulently radioactive glop that builds up in old nukes, simply because all the possible scenarios are so ultimately nasty, as in covering the area of 100 Chernobyl's nasty.

about a week ago
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AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled

Artifakt Re:ATTlas... (306 comments)

Atlas Shrugged is actually a mixed bag on that point. You have scenes where crooked businessmen like Orren Boyle or James Taggert act to manipulate the National Legislature, but then you have remarks in the authorial voice, or from the mouths of the heroes such as Galt and d'Anconia, where she claims it's always people in the government creating laws that encourage bribery and corruption of basically honest businessmen, not the other way around. It's incredibly easy to quote A.S. as support for the whole "Government isn't the solution, government is the problem." school of thought. Perhaps if you actually described what happens as businessmen and government agencies interact in various parts of the book, you might get a more nuanced version of Rand's views on that subject.
              But that makes the book at least a technical failure. Because a work where some priveleged character gets what they say rubber stamped by the author is a form of Mary-Sueism. Having scenes where a valid or complex theme is developed, but having all the good lines become soundbites for a much more simplified version of that theme, is a case of an author not having the skill to do their theme justice. That's really why it's a shame that A. S. is often the first long, complex work that a lot of 14 to 17 year olds read. I could criticise Catcher in the Rye for being somewhat of a Mary Sue book in the same way - it's not enough to make a book terrible, but it, too, is not a good book for a young person to pick up too early, before they've done some other serious reading.

about two weeks ago
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Philae Lands Successfully On Comet

Artifakt Re:second picture (188 comments)

That's amazing - you've finally come up with a convincing argument why teenage girls aren't the foundation of all wisdom. I would never have suspected that!

about two weeks ago
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Philae Lands Successfully On Comet

Artifakt Re:second picture (188 comments)

Based on numerous examples, it's acceptable on /. to whoosh at the very presence of idocy, funny or not. Predeclared cases invoking this rule are also the only cases where a first party follow-up whoosh (FPFW, pronounced Fip-Fwu) is acceptable, but I'm going to be socially responsible and wait to see who's dumb enough to set themselves up for one and not just hand them out like candy. Don't even ask about Meta-Whooshes - The Foo-Whoosh, Bar-Whoosh and their ilk are for situations which cannot happen unless /. fixes their text encoding.

about two weeks ago
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The Strangeness of the Mars One Project

Artifakt Re: It's a scam (246 comments)

I'm a big fan of every single one of these things you mention, from more leisure, to equitable resource distribution, to political and social sanity in general. I'd add some things like educating many more people much closer to their true potential, moving away from a permanent wartime economy, curing the vast bulk of unaddressed diseases and finding the answers to a great number of fundamental mysteries of science. However, all these things make a good case for a counter-argument.
            This is, all of the economic models we widely use seem to run counter to achieving every single one of those things. Dismissing the "space-nutters" on any grounds relating to economy means we are using the same tools that seem to prove we can't have a more leisure focused society (or even to count a 30 hr .week as fulltime for any benefits). It's using the same tools that are moving us constantly away from equitable resource distribution, to 'prove' that what the 'space nutters' want doesn't make sense. It's letting failed ideas such as gave us trickle-down economics and perpetual austerity tell us what, if anything, we can do in space.
              That's one reason I'm putting 'nutters' in single quotes. We should preserve some respect for them, because it is quite possible that if we came up with computer algorythms for food distribution that were a tremendous step towards making sure everyone got enough to eat, the same sort of math might show that the cost benefit ratios of something like a Mars colony made a lot more sense than we thought. I keep remembering the economic arguments against high speed trains in the USA, that 'show' high speed rail doesn't work in any of those other countries that ARE making it work either., or all the puffery about why the USA can't have nice internet because it only works for densely populated nations such as Canada, or ones that don't have cold weather like Japan and Korea, or whatever BS it is this week. Until we start moving solidly toward at least some of these planet-side goals we are discussing, we may never be able to realistically judge just how nutty a given goal in space really is, or isn't.

about two weeks ago
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The Largest Kuiper Belt Object Isn't Pluto Or Eris, But Triton

Artifakt Re:Does the rock run Linux? (61 comments)

Eris and its moon were provisionally Zena and Gabrielle for working names. Sometimes I wish the IAU wasn't so formal. I'm also old enough to remember 70's era suggestions that if successors to Pluto were found, they should be Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and so on. I understand people feeling this is serious, formal, black tie dinner stuff and wanting to keep the humor out, but I keep thinking of how The Culture's starships feel about accusations they need to cultivate more gravitas.
            It used to be we were respecting Classical Greek and Roman culture with Astronomical naming, even though very few people actually beleived in those names as gods anymore. Then we got less dismissive of various Esquimaux, Nordic, Polynesian and other cultures, but it's still all about religions most people don't believe in anymore, just more inclusive of all the different ones. Being culturally inclusive of all the religions that can't field a modern army but none of the ones that can seems like the least justifiable cultureall sensitivity of all.
            Meanwhile, the special rituals of my people involve combining large amounts of H2 and O2, compressing Plutonium spheres, and wiggling electrons more and more quickly. Most of the other cultures alive seem to have even odder rituals, like bashing any persons standing too near crude oil sources and taking it, pretending all our wiggling electrons are their real money, or country-western music. If we're going to be absolutley dripping with gravitas, how is it that naming a new object after some other cultures old god or goddess show cultural sensitivity, but naming it after a historic person of their culture doesn't?

about two weeks ago
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'Star Wars: Episode VII' Gets a Name

Artifakt Re:No thank you (267 comments)

It's hard to blame anybody else for screwing up Star Trek with Time Travel, given the original series had time travel by Slingshot maneuver around a stellar mass, the Guardian of Forever, visiting a planet that looks just like Roaring 20's Chicago or Alternate History Rome, and something involving roling in the snow with a fur clad Mariette Hartley. There's at least 5 different ways to get displaced in time in TOS, It's the series biggest weak spot. Some of these were very good episodes - City on the Edge of Forever is certainly one of the top ten SF videos of the decade, even if video includes full feature length films. But, taken as a group, they leave the viewer thinking any plot problems can be fixed by the end of the episode, by using one of the many forms of time travel available.

about two weeks ago
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'Star Wars: Episode VII' Gets a Name

Artifakt Re:No thank you (267 comments)

Midiclorians is a special grade of boner - it doesn't make sense, goes against the existing continuity, AND if it's true, the whole moral stance of the Jedi is a lie (as in, they don't get more power by meditating, learing to control their emotions (all that stuff Yoda was teaching Luke in the original series), and somehow becoming morally fit to serve as the galaxy's force for order and niceness, their power comes simply from being genetically prone to high Midiclorian counts). Midiclorians mean no one can become even the poorest grade Jedi by trying to follow all of Yoda's teachings, even if they practice for their entire lives. All that talk about not giving in to fear because it leads to anger is just guff to manipulate the masses. This is all something the film that introduced Midiclorians specifically announced was affected by heredity, and the whole point is reinforced by Luke being a descendent of the most powerful Midiclorian bearer known.
          With Midiclorians, the Jedi are genetic superhumans who lie to the rest of the galaxy and only claim their authority comes from their moral code and devout worship of the Force. The Jedi and Sith become nothing but two cabals of hidden Nazi Ubermensches, and whichever one wins will continue lying to the common people, practicing cynical realpolitik, but neither group will really believe in such values as truth, democracy, or freedom - the Jedi will just use their lies to put the old Princess system back into power instead of the new Emperor. I quit watching the series after that, because I fully expected the next movie would reveal Yoda was a cannibal necrophiliac and Han's grandmother was really Heinrich Himmler. Frankly, Star Wars would have to stand on a stack of Wookies equal to the total number of Midiclorians every Jedi in history was infected with, just to be able to see the slimy underbelly of the morally bankrupt ending to Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. (Which was repugnant, if funny, but much more palatable than what Star Wars became).

about two weeks ago
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New Particle Collider Is One Foot Long

Artifakt Re:NEXT Thing you know. (161 comments)

Nonsense, if YOU personally caused the rise of feminism, my ex-wife would clearly be wrong, and of course that's impossible.

about three weeks ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

Artifakt Summary is misleading (468 comments)

The summary starts by mentioning the House Majority Pac, and then segues to a claim a Democratic Pac wants to push people to vote. The House is, of course, where the Republicans have the majority, not the Democrats. Both sides aren't doing it, one side is.

about three weeks ago
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Creationism Conference at Michigan State University Stirs Unease

Artifakt Re:Why at a place of learning? (1007 comments)

There are more Christians (by denomination) who don't believe in Biblical Inerrancy, and more English speaking Christians who don't beleive the KJV is the best or only correct translation, than vice versa. One of the big points people like Luther and Wesley claimed for the Protestant Reformation, was that the Bible was sufficient for grace - not infalliable, and particularly not an infallible guide to matters of ethics, science, or politics. It's a minority of spin-offs of spin-off churches that have adopted Inerrancy as a position, and in claiming all true Christians believe that, they are not just supporting Creationism (and Young Earth Creationism in particular), they are saying that a whole lot of the people who disagree with them are Heretics, That's just the sort of thing that needs exposed to the general public. This is precisely the problem with closing off Universities to such debates as creationism. Limit the debates to a particular someone's church, and how can there be any neutral ground to address the underlieing assumptions of the Creationists, and how does anyone expect anyone to change their mind if you can't address any of the underlieing assumptions?
        Anne Coulter wrote a book about how many Christian denominations were not really Christian, because they tended to vote 'Liberal'. Should that claim and all related politics be off limits at universities and only debated in those churches that actually believe only Republicans are going to Heaven? Do we stop having televised debates between candidates until a sufficiently small percentage of churches are equating Republicanism with Jesus, and how small is sufficiently?

about a month ago
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Dwarf Galaxies Dim Hopes of Dark Matter

Artifakt Re:We don't know anything is weird here (137 comments)

I suspect we should have avoided terms like "Dark X', in favor of something that sounds more neutral and less dramatic. (I know, 'dramatic' sells research programs, especially to congress...).

            Linguistic problems have happened frequently in Physics and particularly Cosmology. After all, "Big Bang" was a term made up to poke fun at the idea it described, coined by Fred Hoyle, who wanted to defend the alternative ""Steady State" theory and thought "Big Bang" would sound rediculous. The phrase "Collapse of the state vector" in Quantum Mechanics has a similar problem, in that 'collapse' itself has a negative connotation, and makes it sound to some people like the Quantum state is superior to the Classical state, like some sort of 'fall from heaven' occurs when the vector reifies. "Reification" was a more neutral term that many people such as Dirac and Minkowski liked, but which died out in use by the 1970's. A lot of the Depak Chopra sort of writing on QM seems to stem from seeing the process of quantum probabilities becoming classical events as a fundamentally negative thing, and the Quantum "Realm" as somehow closer to God than the regular realm we experience, and calling it a collapse certainly encourages that view.

              Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be causing something of the same effect, where a more neutral term, such as "Undetected Matter", or "Unknown Force" might not.

about a month ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

In Biology, there's the concept of Stochastic Mutation. It's most commonly attributed to viruses, for example HIV is a known stochastic mutator. In these cases, some (not all, just some), types of cell mutations occur, where there's no selection pressure - the virus changes its protein coat in one of several ways (4 for HIV), and type B is just as likely to mutate back to type A or into Type C or D, as to stick where its at. In equilibrium, none of the protein coats is preferred by natural selection, and there's no pressure for one type to come to dominate. HIV also undergoes non-stochastic mutations, just like (we think) everything else with a genetic code does, and stochastic mutation has been studied for many other viruses and probably happens in more complex species.

          That's the point - evolution is essentially a two part theory, a synthesis of Mendel's genetics including mutation, and Darwin's natural selection. Cases where all the organisms subject to selection pressure are identical, are not evolution*, and cases where the organisms are not identical but there's no selection pressure applied are not evolution either, and so there really are at least two categories of biological change which are not evolutionary. It's just that 'cases where there's no selection pressure' pretty much discribes some sort of paradise where nothing dies or is limited in how often it reproduces, so there are not a whole lot of known examples of that, especially over a long term, and it would be pretty expensive to create such an environment over a short term.

* If you had some organisms, and they have 0% chance of mutating in the particular way that responds to that particular selection pressure, then you could say that they are identical in that respect. Imagine for example a bunch of Leopards suddenly introduced to an environment where there are abundant fish in deep subsurface pools which can only be reached through narrow fissures. There's really no selection pressure sufficient for those Leopards to start adapting into creatures that can squeeze through six inch wide cracks and use their gills to dive deep enough to catch those tasty fish. All the Leopards are effectively identical, in that they are identically unsuited to take advantage of the new factor in their environment, tasty deep dwelling cave fish. However, I get a feeling you would reject generalizing that sort of example into one of the cases such as you are asking for, so let's just stick to Stochastic Mutation

about a month ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

Darwin himself was careful to specify what he was arguing for - His first book was, after all "On the Origin of Species", not "On the Origin of Life". His theory is about how existing life divides into distinct groups, and (in a modern version of his phrasings), why species are 'distinguishabe sets with fuzzy boundries', and doesn't really touch on where the first life forms came from, one way or another. We could start from some assumed single primative life form, or imagine a world where there was somehow only one very complex life form, say existing as millions of identical clones, and speciation would still occur, and the mix of species, once formed, would still change over time, according to the theory.

Darwin made predictions which were testable, and could have been falsified - for just one, there's a prediction that the genetic code (unknown at the time), wouldn't allow unlimited blending of traits (Mendel published the first proof of this as a general fact, and Crick and Watson's work in actually discovering the code confirmed it was the sort of coding that didn't allow blendable traits). One problem I see with the "anti-evolutionists", is they keep talking like 'testability' means we have to have two copies of Earth and run the great experiment twice, or there's no testability at all, when a little real familiarity with Darwin's work reveals lots of testable predictions of the same sorts we see in many other works of science. It's sort of like how early critics of Special Relativity dismissed the 1919 solar eclipse test as not sufficient by itself, and people who wanted to reject Relativity on any and all grounds turned that into its not being a test at all in popular discussions. I suspect there's real debate needed about just what the limits of the Theory of Evolution's predictions are, but those debates need to be among people who know what the theory does or doesn't predict, what testability itself means, and other fundamental ideas.

about a month ago
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High Speed Evolution

Artifakt Re:Falsifiability (282 comments)

It's not quite that simple, but you could probably simplify it to a few basic steps, like:
Is there a coding mechanism for heredity? - Yes, the genetic code.
Is there a way to generate new code? - Yes, mutation.
Does that code allow unlimited blending? - No, if it did the two sexes would completely blur together, among many other lesser examples.
Is there selection for fitness? - Yes, not everything gets to reproduce as much as it attempts to, and at least some of that is attributable to being "unfit".

Basically, people can point to examples where limited blurring may occur, or being taken out of the gene pool may have nothing to do with fitness (all dinosaurs are equally unfit to survive a 5 mile wide asteroid strike), or many other such factors, but they aren't really offering any effective criticism of evolution unless they want to claim things like selection or mutation never happen.

This is also why what Darwin did was science. His publication made several testable predictions - that there would be a genetic code, that the code could be altered on occasion, and that it would not allow unlimited blending of traits.

about a month ago
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NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

Artifakt Re:my thoughts (372 comments)

Some types of mutation are fantastically unlikely - by one account, Ebola would have to mutate into a form that only weighs about 20% or even 10% of what it now does, change from a long, twisted rod to something more like a sphere, and switch the conditions it actually grows under from inside the bloodstream to in the alveolar structures of the lungs to become the sort of threat some people are worried about. There are big differences between viruses frequently mutating and that mutation leading to fast evolutionary selection, but I've tried to explain that on Slashdot too many times to keep hammering at that particular type of ignorance - some people just need to sit down and read a whole good college textbook on Evolution. It may be somewhat reasonable to worry that some mutation in the direction of drug resistance is likely, especially if we don't get this strain under control quickly, but some people are basically describing having a smallish frilled lizard sneak into the country on a piece of driftwood, and six months later, it's stomping buildings flat and breathing radioactive plasma on Mothra, and those same people are too busy spreading rumors to learn anything at all. As they panic at the drop of a hat, people who are actual experts (and not just armchair biology hackers like me) are getting very afraid to say anything at all, because when they give an honest answer that sholdn't cause panic, and might even be a bit reassuring, they expect to be misquoted as saying Ebola will make the Nemesis black hole wander into the inner solar system early and reverse all our magnetic poles, and Raptor riding Jesus will come back and eat our heads, so panic now and avoid the rush!!!

about 1 month ago
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Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

Artifakt Re:Overly broad? (422 comments)

The 40 to 55% of HFCS that isn't Fructose is Glucose, which triggers insulin production immediately when it reaches the small intestine and is transported into the bloodstream before the insulin reaches it - Insulin is then needed to transport the glucose out of the bolldstream and into muscles and other tissues. Sucrose has to be cleaved first into glucose and only starts triggering insulin production after cleavage by other enzymes. This means, qat the very least, that Sucrose gets farther into the intestine before triggering insulin production, and that the rate of production is limited by the rate at which the sucrose is split and not the much faster rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream. I really don't see how you can call those two processes identical. Note I'm not saying that its been proved the differences in how high and low insulin levels and blood sugar levels get necessarily means there's a difference in health consequences, but its certainly not impossible just because of the fact both forms of sugar get to the same organ before digestion. And what about the part that is Fructose? That's certainly dealt with separately.

about a month ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Artifakt Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (350 comments)

It's possible there are as yet unknown natural laws. It's even possible that there are natural laws our species is just too dumb to discover, ever. But the chance of undiscoverable laws is lower than the more general chance of as yet undiscovered laws.
            In the same way, the chance that there's an as yet undiscovered law which applies to this particular technology, and which has certain properties making it at all likely it gets inadvertently followed sometimes is possible, but is an accumulation of low probablility circumstances, and so has very low overall likelyhood. It's generally more likely that any undicovered laws will be ones where they consistently block getting the technological configuration right. For a simplified example, if there's some undiscovered property of, say, Tungsten, then it's likely to become apparent when people note that all the claims for success come from experiments where tungsten was used for a particular stage of the process in a particular way. There's much less chance that simply having a certain mass of Tungsten within a certain number of feet of the device, whether it's made into a part of the apparatus or light bulb filaments, will make the experiment very likely to succeed in either case.
        Try to describe a hypothetical law that works in such a way it is very hard to spot a pattern or regularity that will lead the researchers to really formally formulating that law, but makes a big enough difference that it determines general success or failure much more than many other variables. Try to craft such a genuinely new law for explaining anything, from apiary colony collapse disorder to zebra camoflage evolution*. I'll bet this results in a very long, convoluted law to explain all the conditions. That's what usually happens with novel approaches - sure every once in a while one pays off big time, but not every discovery is Special Relativity. If you end up with a long formulation, full of various clauses which make it fit all the observations, then what you have is a chain of things, and if any link of that chain is wrong, the whole formulation collapses. If a chain is really only as strong as its weakest link, then a very lengthy chain of logical inferences is a chain with a very low probability of being right.

* why do Zebras have stripes when one of their predators in roughly the same size range has polka-dots (Leopards)?, and another one even closer to Zebras in size is solidly colored (Lions)? Try to develop a new law relating to natural selection that rules out any possibilitys that this is simply happenstance, and yet that doesn't predict what sorts of camoflage any other species should display in case some of the facts don't fit that case.

about a month ago

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