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How the World's First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap

Baloroth Re:ENIAC wasn't the first (73 comments)

Fail. The Z1 was the first programmable computer, finished in 1938 by Zuse himself, on private funding.

Yes, but he didn't fail, because that's not what he said. He said first electronic programmable computer. The Z1 (and successors) were electromechanical. Still impressive in their own right, true, but nothing like the electronic computers that were invented later.

7 hours ago

How the World's First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap

Baloroth Re:Except... (73 comments)

Colossus absolutely was general purpose - it just wasn't stored program. You had to set it up fresh for each program.

No, it wasn't general purpose. It was designed from the ground up to solve a very specific class of problems. It would have been possible (as the linked article states) to put a bunch of them together to form a Universal Turing computer, but it itself was not general purpose nor Turing complete.

8 hours ago

Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

Baloroth Re:Armchair cognitive scientist (432 comments)

Watson is actually way "smarter" than any human in certain ways.

That has *always* been true of computers. That is, in fact, exactly why we built computers in the first place: to do things faster than humans can. Saying that something is "smarter than any human in certain ways" is meaningless. Hell, in a way, rocks are smarter than humans. After all, if I throw a rock, it "knows" exactly what path it should take (minimizing energy, interacting with the air, etc.) Sure, it'll be nearly a parabola, but it will be perturbed from a parabola by tiny air currents, minute fluctuations in the gravitational field, et alia. And it will follow the resulting path perfectly. Humans cannot calculate, and will never be able to calculate, this trajectory with perfect precision. No one would ever say the rock is smarter than a human, however, because obviously, it isn't. It has absolutely no intelligence whatsoever.

Watson is, fundamentally, no different from that rock. Sure, it follows a very complex "path" indeed (though laid down by humans), but the only difference between the rock and Watson is the *kind* of path. In fact, Watson's path is less complex than the path of the rock (which isn't entirely a fair comparison, since the rock's path is practically infinitely complex). There is intelligence in Watson, sure, but it's our intelligence, in the same way a thrown rock can make a deadly weapon if well-aimed. This is not to say that it's impossible for humans to design an intelligence that can supersede our own, but the kind of intelligence required for the "singularity" is entirely and almost completely different from anything we've come up with so far. We might do it one day, but it'll require an invention of an entirely new kind of artificial intelligence, and we don't even know what that kind of intelligence would look like, beyond possibly running a simulation of a human mind (which is, quite possibly, one way of doing it).

I certainly wouldn't listen to the "it's coming in 2040" predictions for the singularity: I mean, people seriously thought we'd have fusion power, flying cars, and regular moon trips by now 50 years ago, and none of that happened. On the other hand, we did get the Internet and ubiquitous wireless communication, which few people predicted. The future of technology that far away is unpredictable, because it relies on new discoveries, and by definition we don't know what we haven't discovered yet.

2 days ago

Researchers At Brown University Shattered a Quantum Wave Function

Baloroth Re:Tentative summary (150 comments)

I don't see that this experiment is any different from a photon reflecting between parallel partially-silvered mirrors. You see a range of arrival times at the detector, despite the wavefunction being "fragmented" by multiple reflections.

I only got a chance to scan the paper, but my impression is this. The difference is that the split electron wavefunction is creating a bubble in the liquid helium. Splitting a quantum wavefunction is rather boring: it's pretty easy, all you need is a finite barrier to produce tunneling, or a double-slit to produce separate paths, or a bunch of other ways. What this experiment does, though (if they're correct about the cause) is show that the split wavefunction actually affects the matter through which it travels (creating a bubble), proportional to the amount of wavefunction that splits off, without counting as a "measurement" which would collapse the wavefunction and place the electron definitely inside one bubble or another.

Or, to put it another way, it shows that matter not only behaves like a wave when traveling (which was very well known in quantum mechanics), but can do so even when interacting with matter. That is fairly novel (AFAIK) in QM, since usually such interactions either cannot be measured or collapse the wavefunction into a particle-like behavior. It's a lot closer to directly measuring the wavefunction (or it's amplitude, anyways) itself than most QM experiments allow.

about a month ago

The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google

Baloroth Re:Shash-job-vertisement (205 comments)

Ugh, this reads like a job ad.

When I moved from Matlab to Python three years ago, I saw a massive speed increase of my methods. Also I no longer have to decide whether or not to shell out more cash for the statistics package, it's all there!

Looking back at my old Matlab code also makes me cringe a bit about the syntax of that language.

Reads more like an ad for Matlab (with 2 links to Mathworks and 1 to the Wikipedia Matlab page in TFA) than a job ad. Though I suspect what actually happened was the reporter heard Jonathan Rosenberg mention Matlab (which the reporter hadn't heard of before) and got all excited over his "discovery" when anyone who's likely to get any kind of data analysis/statistics job for, well, anyone, already knows what Matlab is.

about a month ago

The Correct Response To Photo Hack Victim-Blamers

Baloroth Re:Easter egg hunt (622 comments)

If it were April I would say that huge mount of boring text has a point hidden somewhere inside it. Let's hope there's a piece of chocolate attached to it as well.

Although if anyone does find something dark brown and gooey in that text, I'd advise them not to try eating it, as it's probably not chocolate.

about a month and a half ago

Co-Founder of PayPal Peter Thiel: Society Is Hostile To Science and Technology

Baloroth Re:Yes, because everyone is burning their smartpho (238 comments)

Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are both about 100 years old now (really!). Why aren't they taught in high school? High schools mostly teach science that was the state of the art around the time of the US civil war (really!).

Kant is even older than that, and yet you don't see him being taught in high school either. The age of an idea has little to do with the complexity of the idea, and quantum mechanics is quite complicated, if you want to really understand it. Shakespeare is only widely taught because, due to cultural influences, he is considered something that everyone should know, and his plays aren't really all that hard to understand. Quantum mechanics, orbital dynamics, E&M, etc., not so much. It's not simply because they're hard, either, though those subjects are: it's simply because, unless you're going into a field that requires it, you really don't need to know them, just as the physicist doesn't need to know Kant.

about a month and a half ago

GlaxoSmithKline Released 45 Liters of Live Polio Virus

Baloroth Re:These viral samples need to come with their own (209 comments)

Explain how my concept doesn't solve the problem please.

Because giving a bunch of humans a boring,monotonous job doesn't solve the problem of humans making errors, which is what caused this release in the first place.

about 2 months ago

NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

Baloroth Re:Alibaba (192 comments)

They are selling nvidia cards with a modded firmware? Why? Nvidia is going to change their hardware, and hardware will only accept signed firmware. Fake cards, can choose to simply not do any signature checks on their hardware. Unless the fake cards are real nvidia cards, which for some reason run a modded firmware instead of nvidia singed firmwares, this will have no effect on them.

That's exactly what they are. It's pretty trivial to take, say, GTX 440, and reflash the firmware to report that it's a GTX660. It's extremely difficult to make a fake nvidia card that isn't actually an nvidia card that actually works as a video card and isn't completely obviously a fake. The story was even on slashdot.

about 2 months ago

NY Magistrate: Legal Papers Can Be Served Via Facebook

Baloroth Re:But your honor... (185 comments)

The judge may have said it can be used in this one case, but unless struck down by another court, it sets up a precedent for other judges to do the same.

IANAL, so I can't say for sure, but it's unlikely. The magistrate didn't rule on a matter of law, only on a matter of procedure (i.e. how to serve a notice). Judges in most cases are typically free to set procedural changes if necessary at their discretion, no precedent required. It's not a formal court decision, it's a discretionary alteration to formal procedure made necessary by the difficulty in contacting the ex-wife. And of course it's a low level judge anyways: their decisions of any kind tend to carry very little weight with other courts.

Of course, other judges who hear about the case may decide on their own judgment to do likewise, but there is nothing legally obligating or even inclining them to do so.

about 2 months ago

New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100

Baloroth Re:Not a problem... (326 comments)

Midwestern states had higher combined populations than the Northwestern states.

You truly are a blithering nincompoop, aren't you? Can't tell the difference between population and population density ...

Irony: calling the American Midwest "unpopulated", yet calling someone else (who points out that the Midwest is not, in fact, unpopulated) a "blithering nincompoop."

The word you may have meant to use is underpopulated. I know language is complicated, but despite sharing several letters, "un" and "under" do not, in fact, mean the same thing.

Sincerely - One of the tens of millions of people who live in the Midwest.

about 2 months ago

"MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

Baloroth Re:Ob XKCD... (364 comments)

I often agree with Randall, but in this case I think he's (mostly) wrong. Yes, ideas are tested by experiment. Properly constructed experiments. That means repetition, controls, statistics, the whole nine yards. If scientists used Mythbusters-style experiments we'd still think light objects inherently fall faster than heavy ones (after all, most lighter objects do fall slower than heavier ones, thanks to air resistance). You don't think people in the "unscientific darkness" didn't actually try out a lot of the things they got wrong? Of course they did. They got it wrong because they ran their experiments improperly. And Mythbuster's often does as well. To be fair, "it didn't work this time, lets try it out 99 more times to make sure" doesn't really make entertaining television, and that's generally all Mythbuster's is: entertainment. They have the seeds of science (experimentation), but science is far more than that alone. The problem is, when people look at what they do as actually being science, they end up thinking you can confirm a scientific theory with a single experiment run with 20 minutes of work. And the conclusion to that thought process is looking at the weather report and dismissing global warming because it's a particularly chilly summer. Or saying "hmm, well [some action] didn't kill me this time, it must be perfectly safe."

Scientifically educated people don't come to that conclusion, of course, but those people aren't the problem.

about 3 months ago

Is Dolby Atmos a Flop For Home Theater Like 3DTV Was?

Baloroth Re: Stereo (197 comments)

You can't. You just think you can because you over-estimate your abilities. I encourage you to do an internet search for the relevant research. There was a slashdot story about it ~ 5 years ago.

I did do an Internet search, and in fact found plenty of research that indicates humans and other mammals can in fact localize sound in the vertical plane (i.e. whether it comes from in front of behind of you). Of course, it doesn't work for all sounds, but the capability is there.

about 3 months ago

World's Fastest Camera Captures 4.4 Trillion Frames Per Second

Baloroth Re:4.4 trillion frames per second? (94 comments)

(On a more serious note though, how on Earth do they manage to store even a few microseconds of the footage from this beast?)

They don't. From the full paper:

In our proof-of-principle demonstration, the total number of frames was limited to six due to our simple embodiment of the SMD (Supplementary Figs 3 and 4), but can be increased up to 100 by increasing the number of periscopes in the periscope array of the SMD or by using a more complex design (see Methods and Supplementary Section ‘Improvements in STAMP's specifications’)

You can't just record an indefinite length movie with this thing, you basically need to alter the hardware to record longer segments (since it has different physical elements detect different frames of the signal).

about 3 months ago

Can the NSA Really Track You Through Power Lines?

Baloroth Re:Well, sort of. (109 comments)

It may be just noise, but is it different noise between different power lines (and if so, consistently different)? If so, it's a fingerprint. Noise can be information if you're looking for a specific kind of noise. Not all noise is identical, and if you can fingerprint that noise, you can use it to determined the source.

Granted, that's a pretty big "if". I have no idea if powerline noise is consistent enough to be fingerprinted, different enough for a useful comparison, or strong enough to be picked up by standard recording devices. But it could be possible, in theory.

about 5 months ago

SpaceX Delays Falcon 9 Launch To Tuesday

Baloroth Re:This is how rockets work.... delays happen (43 comments)

It is almost like reporting that a thunderstorm was spotted in Florida today. Is that news?

As a pilot once sagely put it: Take-off is optional. Landing is compulsory.

Though, for a satellite, landing can also be optional.

about 5 months ago

Big Bang Breakthrough Team Back-Pedals On Major Result

Baloroth Re:Science by press conference (127 comments)

Planck has yet to release their polarization data, so BICEP2 couldn't use it. To be clear, they also didn't use just the Planck data: the paper lists five different models for dust polarization, only one of which (DDM1) was constructed from what little Planck data they had available. All of them showed fairly tiny amounts of polarization from dust compared to their signal, hence the conclusion that it was a cosmological polarization (there were other reasons for that conclusion as well, of course). They published the conclusions they had based on the information they had available. That's how science works. You publish the results you got (with the uncertainties you calculated), the community looks at it to see if you made obvious errors, then tries to replicate or disprove it.

about 5 months ago

Google To Spend $1 Billion On Fleet of Satellites

Baloroth Re:180 satellites... (170 comments)

I can't find an exact altitude for these satellites, but O3b (whom Google is working with on this project) is putting satellites in orbits 5,000 miles above Earth, which is definitely not LEO. That's lower than conventional geosynchronous communications satellites (which sit ~22,000 above Earth), but well above the low-Earth orbit cutoff (which is roughly 1,000 miles and below). At 5,000 miles, the atmosphere is thin enough to be considered non-existent. Now, Google might be looking at lower orbits for these newer satellites, but they haven't said yet.

about 6 months ago

Which desktop environment do you like the best?

Baloroth Re:icewm (611 comments)

Hey, of course you don't have crazy stuff like wobbly windows, but all desktop effects are fully smooth on all those low-power 10" netbooks under Windows. I have done extensive testing and know this. Under Linux, you put there KDE/GNOME/MATE/Unity and even the simple window minimize/restore animation is choppy.

You've got a software problem there. I have a Eee 901 netbook, which used to drive a 1080p monitor under GNOME 2 (with some eye candy on: window transitions, workspace transition effects, that kind of thing) quite smoothly. It was (and still is) running an old Ubuntu version (12.04 I think?), that may have something to do with it, but either you've got a software problem or the distro you're running it on is bloated.

about 6 months ago

German Scientists Successfully Test Brain-Controlled Flight Simulator

Baloroth Re:Why not just self-driving? (73 comments)

What is brain controlled?

It's replacing the physical flight controls with directly brain-controlled flight controls. As to why: a large part of learning to fly (not the biggest part, certainly, but a significant piece) is learning how to use the fairly complicated controls. If you can simplify or even remove that interface, it makes the process of flying easier to learn.

Since this is Slashdot, someone is undoubtedly going to say that that learning difficulty is a good thing, since it sets a higher bar for pilots. There may be a bit of truth to that, but it's an artificial boundary that doesn't actually pertain to flying ability. It's like having to learn to use a Dvorak layout before you let anyone code: learning Dvorak probably won't make you a better coder, it'll simply make learning to code a more difficult process. Likewise, the complex controls that planes have doesn't make pilots better at flying, it simply makes learning to fly more difficult. So, while complicated controls might keep out lazy pilots, it won't keep out bad pilots (that's what the licensing requirements are for).

about 6 months ago


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