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Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

Gavin Scott Meh, not this guy again. (289 comments)

Horgan has been going on about stuff like this for years. He wrote a book in 1997 called "The End of Science" which I read and thought was completely ridiculous. My recollection (possibly faulty as it's been quite a few years) is that he came across as very anti-science and wandered off into religion later in that book. It feels to me as though he WANTS science to fail at some point.

I don't know why he seems hell-bent on convincing everyone that we're going to run out of things to discover, but I just don't buy it.

Even if we manage to get to the "bottom" of Physics some day that's cool and all but it's hardly the end of much. The biology of even simple cells is fantastically complex and there's lifetimes worth of discovery left there. Also even if some day we we know most or all of the "rules", the possible applications of these simple rules are virtually infinite, so no scientists or technologists or explorers are likely to be unemployed any time soon.

Every time humanity thinks it knows everything, someone thinks up a clever new idea for measuring things and boom, a whole new world of complexity opens up. There might be an end to the turtles at some point, but I'm not worried :)


5 days ago

How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

Gavin Scott Re:How can they be certain no one survived? (491 comments)

Yes, that could be. But it seems clear that the plane was not being controlled by anyone who wanted the plane or its passengers to be rescued, so "oh, I've just flown the plane as far away from civilization as possible and I've just run out of fuel, yet I think I'll try at the last moment to make a successful water landing so as many people as possible can be saved" just does not seem likely. Either the plane was not under control, or those in control were not trying to save anyone.

And more specifically I strongly suspect the life-rafts were equipped with EPIRB satellite transmitters, none of which were activated. So that sort of suggests there aren't a bunch of people floating in a raft somewhere (which likely would have shown up during the satellite debris search I suspect).

Even having a rough idea of where it went down might still mean that the wreckage is not found for a long time. There's a lotta damn ocean out there, and I don't think the range of the "pingers" on the data recorders is that huge.

One thing I've been curious about is the cockpit voice recorder on the 777, specifically what the recording duration is (is it just a 30m circular buffer) and can the pilots disable it and/or the flight data recorder by pulling circuit breakers?


about three weeks ago

Interviews: Ask J. Michael Straczynski What You Will

Gavin Scott Hour 25 memories? (276 comments)

I first remember hearing you as a recurring guest during the Mike Hodel era of Hour 25 on KPFK in LA.

Any great memories of those days that you'd care to share?


about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: Should I Get Google Glass?

Gavin Scott Re:Don't forget the cost of your medical bills (421 comments)

Yeah, but just think of the ad revenue from putting the resulting video up on YouTube for us all to laugh at.

POW! Ha ha, that never gets old.


about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Should I Get Google Glass?

Gavin Scott You'll regret being an early adopter. (421 comments)

Pretty soon there will be a $399 version that's 10x better than the first generation.

If you can get $1,500 worth of fun showing it off to people in the first year then sure.


about 2 months ago

Google Tells Glass Users Not To Be 'Creepy Or Rude'

Gavin Scott How do I get what I want, not what Google wants? (341 comments)

Google with their insistence on a camera-based social-media augmented-reality creepy-invasive experience is going to set back the cause of direct human-computer interaction by years.

Honestly I don't want a camera in my "glass". I want a link to something like my desktop computing resources. It's an intimate experience between me and the computer, not between my computer and the environment around me. Sure there are some cute apps you can do with the camera, but the creepy factor is going to make people as self-conscious and obvious as a Segway rider (and we know how that turned out).

When I can PAY for a device that has MY interests at heart rather than the latest data power grab by Google then I'll be interested.

Connect me with the Internet then get the fuck out of the way. I don't need you to mediate every interaction I have, not only with information from the net but with the real world around me.


about 2 months ago

Majority of Young American Adults Think Astrology Is a Science

Gavin Scott Cryonics vs. Cryogenics (625 comments)

Indeed, I think it's probably a good sign that kids today probably don't know what Astrology is and figure that it's "the one with the telescopes".

Similarly how many people here know the difference between Cryonics and Cryogenics? One is the study of ultra-low temperature, and the other is the movement surrounding freezing your body after you die with the goal of resurrecting you later when technology advances far enough. But do you know which is which without looking it up?


about 2 months ago

Tiny Motors Controlled Inside Human Cells

Gavin Scott A couple things... (46 comments)

A couple things...

The environment inside a cell is nothing like a lake or ocean that you can go merrily boating through. The cell is packed with molecules jostling each other around and it's random thermal motion that rules that world. Overcoming that with a motor and expecting to maneuver around to specific places just does not seem like it is going to be effective.

Nature is actually quite fond of electric motors (you have lots of them in every cell in the form of ATP Synthase, and they're used by bacteria to drive flagella etc.) but has apparently not found them useful for maneuvering around inside a cell.



about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What happens when there are no more bitcoins left to be mined?

Gavin Scott Wikipedia? (1 comments)

When I had these questions, the Wikipedia article on BitCoin (and the associated one with the protocol details) answered them.


about 3 months ago

GMail is down

Gavin Scott It's Back. (3 comments)

Nothing to see here...

about 3 months ago

SpaceShipTwo Sets a New Altitude Record

Gavin Scott Geez, it's just a test flight. (117 comments)

The original Spaceship One went something like five or six times higher, so I presume these are just "low altitude" test flights before they try for "space".

It's notable as continued progress in the development and testing of the Spaceship Two vehicle and system, not for its altitude.

Use of the word "record" in the summary is not particularly helpful.


about 3 months ago

Metal-Free 'Rhubarb' Battery Could Store Renewable Grid Energy

Gavin Scott You owe me $0.05. (131 comments)

I'm going to start demanding a nickle in response to every press release announcing a new miracle battery technology.

I figure that will let me retire in about 18 months.


about 3 months ago

Steam Family Sharing now out of beta

Gavin Scott Summary and title are wrong. (1 comments)

According to TFA linked in the summary, this does NOT include the Family Sharing feature, just Family parental control options.


about 3 months ago

Are High MOOC Failure Rates a Bug Or a Feature?

Gavin Scott Definitely a feature (122 comments)

The ability to join in a course based ONLY on the fact that you're interested in it, with no risk of "failure" is, I think, one of the best features of many MOOCs.

Where there's no difference between "auditing" a class and trying for a certificate, it means that people may be much more likely to try something which they might turn out to enjoy and do well in.

Now, I'm sure if you required people to pay something for the class, or commit to trying for a certificate such that there would be a record/cost of failure, then that would greatly increase the *percentage* of people who would pass. The question is whether you would get more people passing overall since it would stop everyone who was not sufficiently "serious" from attempting the course.

Even those who sign up on a whim and don't get far in a course will probably get something from it, and they might well decide that it was something they want to try again more seriously the next time once they have a taste of what it's about and the amount of work involved.

So absolutely I think "no pressure" is the right way to run a MOOC.


about 3 months ago

Brain Function "Boosted For Days After Reading a Novel"

Gavin Scott It has always worked for me (110 comments)

I find that reading a good book is like a complete exercise workout for your brain, and I know I feel a lot sharper when I'm reading regularly.

If I'm having trouble working through some problem or other then taking some time to read is always helpful, even if the subject of the book is unrelated to the problem at hand.

It seems as though it needs to be something with a lot of prose but either fiction or non-fiction works.

Moderately technical non-fiction is OK as long as it is interesting and mentally stimulating (makes you stop and think etc.).

But pure technical books don't seem to help at all and may just clutter things up with new knowledge that the brain is trying to assimilate. So for example pretty much anything from O'Reilly will not make me feel generally smarter even though it may be very good at cramming in the domain specific knowledge I need for some project.

So just reading tech books is not very helpful at all, and needs to be supplemented with more general works from my experience.


about 4 months ago

GNU Octave Gets a GUI

Gavin Scott Re:Graphical REPL? (Mathematica replacement) (166 comments)

Well, Mathematica is now free for non-commercial use on the Raspberry Pi of all things.

You could run a Raspberry emulator and run it inside that on other operating systems. But I haven't looked at the license agreement so maybe that's explicitly prohibited.

No idea how it performs, but the screenshots at Wolfram look promising.


about 4 months ago

Thieves Who Stole Cobalt-60 Will Soon Be Dead

Gavin Scott Or are they just trying to scare the thieves? (923 comments)

Seems to me that the device itself had to be relatively harmless unless you managed to actually crack it open and get directly at the cobalt. Maybe this was a very old device, but after previous deadly incidents of ignorant people getting their hands on such things, I would think they would be manufactured such that it would be REALLY difficult to get at the cobalt inside. Maybe if you stare into the bore of the thing for a while though?

If the cobalt had actually been accessed/exposed then I would expect them to have a nasty hot clean-up exercise on their hands, but the Mexican authorities seem awfully unconcerned.

I suspect they are just trying to scare the shit out of the thieves, perhaps to motivate them to turn themselves in hoping for some sort of treatment.


about 4 months ago



Gavin Scott Gavin Scott writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Gavin Scott (15916) writes "Blizzard has introduced a new web site called the Armory which lets you get information on any World of Warcraft character, extracted from their live databases, in near real-time. This exposes a great deal of information that was not previously obtainable including profession choices, skill levels for all skills, and the character's complete talent specification and all faction reputation data, along with all gear currently equipped. The complete roster of any guild or arena team is also available.

Some players are upset about this, such as arena PvP teams who now have all their gear and talent choices exposed to the world, players with non-standard or less-popular talent choices who fear they will have difficulty getting into pickup groups now that people can instantly find out everything about them, and even role players who worry that the site will reveal what clothing they are (or aren't) wearing at any particular moment.

Are these complaints fair? Blizzard claims to own all the data and the characters, but at what point does this data represent personal choices and information about their players which would be covered by their own privacy policy? In a virtual society, should people be able to present a view of themselves that differs from (virtual) reality, or should all details be exposed?"


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