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The Students Who Feel They Have the Right To Cheat

John Allsup When qualifications matter and learning doesn't (438 comments)

Ok. Let's think for a moment. What can a piece of paper with 2(i) in Physics do, on its own? Nothing, that's what.

What can a student capable of getting a 2(i) in Physics on their own merit do? Probably quite a bit.
What can a student capable of only getting a 3 in Physics on their own merit do? Probably less.

Exams are meant to test what a student has learned. If someone can't add up or multiply, having a first class maths degree to their name doesn't change that.

Judging people by qualifications is a shortcut to assessing their actual ability. But if qualifications are unreliable, and cheating makes them unreliable, then we have to revert to actually assessing what people can do, and ultimately by methods that are not written exams: rather the throw-em-in-the-deep-end sink-or-swim type tests. This takes more effort and resources, for no material gain. Hence everybody loses.

But cheating and corruption are the natural destination for a system which prizes exam results and pins career prospects on the back of them, rather than on genuine ability.

about a month ago

Mathematical Proof That the Universe Could Come From Nothing

John Allsup And where, pray tell, (429 comments)

did the metastable false vacuum come from?

about a month and a half ago

Schizophrenia Is Not a Single Disease

John Allsup Bangs head against wall (222 comments)

Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis and Schizophrenia for Dummies who know a little physics etc.

Life is generally in a good position when it has potential (like gravitational potential in the case of high ground) and the capacity to use it in a controlled fashion. That means balancing in a position that would otherwise be considered an unstable equilibrium in the sense of dynamical systems theory. Our bodies are at their most efficient when well balanced (just watch a good dancer to see this in action) and our brains are at their best when similarly balanced. If something disturbs the equilibrium, this disturbance and the required correction can be used to understand the disturbance. This is how stimulation affects us.

Now consider a simple example of a balancing physical object, but with no control mechanism: a spinning top. This has three states--spinning upright (when the gravitational potential is near its maximum), wobbling (when the gravitational potential is slightly lower, in which case it behaves erratically and gives up its energy randomly until...) finally we have the fallen over state. This is what medical people term depression. The simple solution is to get upright and balanced again, but this is hard in our modern overly complex society, and the result of trying to get up is often a lot of wobbling, which gets diagnosed as things like mania, psychosis and schizophrenia depending on how exactly this wobbling manifests itself. The key is to get balanced before you get pushed over, and that is hard when the medical mental health people seem to have the idea that you fix a wobbling spinning top by knocking it over and gluing it to the floor.

Trying to understand mental health in a 'sum of the parts' way is just dumb, but it is the obsession of the medical fraternity, and is to the extent that it is politically very difficult to suggest otherwise. How our genetic code creates us is an approach that misses the point that without the environmental context in which that genetic code develops, it won't develop, so you need to understand the environment as well (and that means understanding the entire world in complete detail, which is rather a long way the other side of impossible).

Viewed as an equilbrium seeking system, 'mental illnesses' like mania and schizophrenia are just seen as things like oscillations and resonant modes that are being excited by either an appropriate drive, or are resonating within the equilibrium seeking system. The biological stuff is just an implementation detail in much the way that transistors on a chip are implementation details of your python program that you are running that you can safely ignore in most cases. Medication is basically trying to solve a software problem by randomly pumping noise into the processor. A computer will crash instantly if you do this, but humans are rather more robust, and can survive for a long time in an unbalanced state. They are, however, rather unproductive in this state and won't tend to find life enjoyable. But they can survive for a long time, but can become desperate to get out of such states.

about 3 months ago

Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

John Allsup Eventually... (546 comments)

Imagine a world where coding is as ubiquitous as reading and writing is to us today. Bear in mind that centuries ago, reading and writing was about as ubiquitous as coding is today, and was at one point in time the preserve of the masses. Writing for machines and reading machine instructions will at some stage become part of our everyday literacy. The thing is, efficiency matters: in a competitive marketplace, for a given market niche, barring underhand business tactics, the more efficient (and effective) software will tend to do better. Eventually underhanded business tactics will become too inefficient relative to the state of the art, and will be destined to die out (as, in general, will self-serving greed, it too not being the most overall efficient use of resources). Maths is unavoidable, and computer science is an outgrowth of maths, and is the part relevant to modern digital computers. Furthermore, concepts and phenomena we see in computer science and artificial intelligence often have implications and applications well beyond digital computers once considered in mathematical generality. Long term, coding is not enough, but not being able to code when computers are as ubiquitous as they are today is as sensible as not being able to read or write, or do simple arithmetic.

about 4 months ago

Are Altcoins Undermining Bitcoin's Credibility?

John Allsup Re:It's all funny money... (267 comments)

Whats all that got to do with the price of eggs?

about 4 months ago

Comparison: Linux Text Editors

John Allsup Re:My Personal Favorite (402 comments)

Of course, you could use a few Bash aliases for fun.

Who needs :47,80s/hello/world when you can do

mknod -p a b c
head -n 47 myfile > a & tail -n $(($(wc -l myfile) - 80)) myfile > c & ( head -n 80 myfile | tail -n $((80 - 47)) | sed -E 's/hello/world/' ) > b & (sleep 1 ; cat a b c > myfile.version2)

on the command line.

Caveat, this has neither been run, nor tested, so may need debugging.

about 5 months ago

Comparison: Linux Text Editors

John Allsup Re:Ed man! !man ed (402 comments)

When I first played with Linux in 1995, with no *nix experience, I recall the situation of getting trapped in ed or vi. After trying various random key combinations, I discovered that Ctrl-Z got me back to a command prompt, then jobs -l gave a list of stopped jobs with PIDs which I could pass to kill -9. That restored sanity. Years later I actually got round to learning vi(m) after hearing from a local sysadmin how useful it was, and by then there were tutorials online that eased you into it. The thing I'm most grateful for with vim is how I can get a command prompt on windows, mac, linux, or over ssh to my webhost, and the environment works the same way. But for things like android programming I tend to follow the sheeple and use eclipse/android-studio and I'm beginning to get into Code::Blocks for some things. I've thought for years of writing my own vim-like editor as an exercise, but haven't got round to it yet.

about 5 months ago

Following EU Ruling, BBC Article Excluded From Google Searches

John Allsup Re:Blaming Google (239 comments)

I can imagine Streisand effects coming into play. If google blacklists one article, in compliance, what is to stop other articles containing the information and possibly linking to the original appearing.

about 6 months ago

Swedish Farmers Have Doubts About Climatologists and Climate Change

John Allsup Re:funny (567 comments)

How many biologists understand the nature of randomness though? When it comes to metaphysical stuff, the biologists are punting the difficult bit into the term 'random' and ascribing this 'random' thingamajig the properties that fundies ascribe to their God. Then things such as mind, consciousness and intelligence have yet to be turned into sufficiently concretely defined concepts to answer questions like 'is evolution directed in an intelligent way' let alone how and if human intelligence and consciousness arise from brain activity, or emerge in other ways. We really know less than we think, and many untestable hypothetical foundations are elavated to the position of unquestionable dogma by the phenomena of 'near universal acceptance by experts'.

That climate change is happening is beyond doubt, but the case that humanly produced CO2 emissions are the primary cause, and that massively reducing our CO2 emissions will fix the issue is not beyond doubt. Funding for projects which subject these ideas to scrutiny is harder to get than funding for projects which assume the CO2 caused warming and then show results consistent with it. The diagram correlating CO2 with global temperature as inferred from ice cores, famously used by Gore in his 'inconvenient truth' has been claimed by some to put the causative relationship the wrong way round (suggesting that instead rising temperatures cause the oceans to release stored CO2, hence the increase in CO2). Some have advanced the notion that solar activity is the cause, with evidence. But global warming has become so politicised that proper scientific debate is stifled, for example by the need to adhere to CO2 caused warming theories in order to get funding for your project.

Your point of 'Never underestimate the power of a person to disagree if agreeing means that they will need to alter their worldview.' is just as valid for the wide acceptance of the CO2-warming relationship. The great political momentum attached to this worldview is hard to argue against, even on scientific grounds, since those who don't wish to change can keep pointing to the mass who believe CO2 causes global warming.

Caveat: I'm not an expert in this area, but find how politicised it is to be worrying.

about 6 months ago

Exploiting Wildcards On Linux/Unix

John Allsup Re:Question... -- ? (215 comments)

There are multiple manpage sections. For example

man -s1 stat

will get you the docs for the command line tool called stat, which will have STAT(1) in the top left, whereas

man -s2 stat

will get you the docs for the C library function stat, and this will have STAT(2) in the top left.

about 6 months ago

Exploiting Wildcards On Linux/Unix

John Allsup Re:what about? (215 comments)

*.* is a DOSism -- in *NIX shells it matches all files who have a . in their name, such as 'file.png', but will not match a file called 'hello' which does not have a dot. sudo rm -rf /*.* won't do a lot, whereas sudo rm -rf /* will.

about 6 months ago

Wayland 1.5 Released

John Allsup Wayland is the wrong place for remote transparency (179 comments)

The most common use case today is local applications. This must be optimised for. Have a separate server and protocol to network transparency for the classes of applications that network transparency is useful for (simple GUIs, text editors and suchlike, rather than nonlinear video editors and 3D games). Likewise with audio, there is a need for a simple high performance backend for some applications, and network friendliness for others. In both cases there should be two layers, a fast light low level backend and a network transparent application layer for applications that want to use it.

about 7 months ago

Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

John Allsup Science has (at least) two meanings (517 comments)

The word science has an interesting etymology. One branch follows modern sciences such as physics, but classically pre the formation of the modern philosophy of science, the word also meant a reliable body of knowledge and discourse about it. Rigorous discourse should be fine, but a word other than science is needed, and a clear philosophy underlying said discourse. Much of the way our reality works is beyond what science can touch, since so much only happens once, or involves more variables than can be controlled in an experiment. I tend to explore these things through mathematical thought experiments, modelling what a human experimenter could see, and thus tend to be aware of 'aliasing issues' where too few observations allow false 'truths' to be inferred without contradiction. Proper scientists, as my last word, try their utmost to blow their results to kingdom come, and only accept what remains. Ask these 'holistic science' people two things: what are the limitations of their scientific methods, and what steps have they taken to try and disprove their claims. Unless, as we see in our physics textbooks, one can say 'this has survived every experimental test we've thrown at it', then a claim can't be said to be scientific in my book. (This means I throw much of biology and medicine outside what I consider scientific, but I am happy as a hardliner when it comes to what is scientific, and I am happy that there are other reliable bodies of knowledge that work differently.)

about 9 months ago

Ouya Dropping 'Free-to-Play' Requirement

John Allsup More evidence that you can't trust promises... (107 comments)

My recent experience with the Mac App store (if a newer version won't work on your hardware, you're SOL and can't get older versions that do work) has burned me enough not to trust a model where I don't take delivery of a physical copy with the means to activate it without the intervention of third parties. I run the windoze that comes on my laptop until I decide on a HDD upgrade, then run Debian or UbuntuStudio. I'm beginning the painful process of weaning myself off ShinyJuicyAppleses.

With this console again it just goes to show that business needs trump claims and promises to consumers. You get what you pay for, and anything else is a bonus that lasts as long as it lasts. Mr Caveat X. Emptor is very much alive and kicking.

about 9 months ago

Flies That Do Calculus With Their Wings

John Allsup Next they'll discover... (107 comments)

that humans do signal processing with their brains, and that such processing involves complex analysis. One day they'll learn that those squiggly symbols in maths books actually mean something. It's an embarrassment to science that these insect chasers are called scientists rather than sciensecoolhuhwowists. End rant of an old school fundamentalist.

about 9 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks?

John Allsup Programming Old School (306 comments)

Programming was done and dusted as a discipline in the sixties, got creative in the seventies and has been taking the piss ever since. New programmers need to stop learning tricks and learn to write good programs that work on minimal resources and work under strain and with no guessing games involved, just like the Space Shuttle people did, and learnt the beauty of purity that Lisp showed, the beauty of simplicity that Forth showed, and redevelop the lost art of programming. Modern day computing is ugly. [ Here ends the rant of an old school fundamentalist ;-) ]

about 9 months ago

Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health

John Allsup I misread the headline many times (126 comments)

"Solar Powered Toilet Torches deemed a Waste to the Public Health budget" is one example misreading.

about 9 months ago

Child Porn Arrest For Cameron Aide Who Helped Plan UK Net Filters

John Allsup Just proves the anticensorship case. (205 comments)

A perfect child-porn filter that only filters child porn would be wonderful, but that is fairy magic.
In reality we cannot trust those who wish to filter our internet, and this is why.
There is no substitute for proper discipline and compassion in upbringing.
Being forced to learn to fight crudely at school to protect myself (and fight my own battles) has caused me crippling psychiatric issues in adulthood.
Being forced to porn act to make daddy money (this did NOT happen to me) is an even worse evil.
Children need to grow, learn and play, and be free from influences such as sexuality and violence, but must be taught proper discipline about both so that as they reach maturity these things are no longer a fascination and do not cause the grown up child to turn to unhealthy sex and violence as a crutch. Society needs fixing.

about 10 months ago

Slashdot Asks: Do You Label Your Tech Gear, and If So, How?

John Allsup Nail (250 comments)

Varnish! (Works a treat for colour coding things like laptop PSUs.)

about 10 months ago



I can prove P strictly contains NP, the Riemann Hypothesis is an Illusion and...

John Allsup John Allsup writes  |  about 9 months ago

John Allsup (987) writes "Psychiatry is a dangerous medical cult, and has been from the start. I am slightly less confident of the latter, but am still pretty damned certain. See my wiki, esp. SoundMind and note that this is slashdot user 987 speaking here: I've been with you guys faithfully since before you had user accounts."
Link to Original Source

Legal defintions of 'computer' and 'sound recording'

John Allsup John Allsup writes  |  about a year and a half ago

John Allsup (987) writes "I have been reading through copyright law (UK, since that is where I live) and have noticed that they talk about 'sound recording's and yet never define them clearly in the context of digital information. Is there are non-absurd legal definition of 'sound recording' that makes sense in the age of the modern digital computer? I began thinking this through whilst writing content for a lightweight wikiwiki site."
Link to Original Source



The Law for Lawyers and Non-Law for Non-Lawyers Manifesto: A Call to Arms, Legs,

John Allsup John Allsup writes  |  more than 5 years ago


We demand the right not to be treated as lawyers, by laywers, subjugated under the will of a legal system run by lawyers. We've just had enough "legal fertilizer probably legally obtained from a possibly illegally owned cow's rear end" and "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

Well (Non-)Ignorance of the (Non-)Law (respectively subect to the existence of at least one Non) is equally No Excuse.

So hear our Non-Law and take your Law of Lawwers, by Lawyers, of Lawyers and for Lawyers back to you planet of Law and leave us in peace to explore the rest of the Universe.

Important Non-Legal point:

By adding to this document, you are declaring Your intention to lay down Your life if required to do so in the event that You are required to Die so that Your inconsistent addition may be removed for the sake of all others.


My blog.

John Allsup John Allsup writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Ok, whoever may read this. I've set up a standard free blogging account with blogger.com. You can go there to read thoughts that I want to jot down. Chances are, I won't write anything much in my journal entry here. This may change, but given that I've been a slashdotter since before it had user accounts, and I've never bothered to make a journal entry here before, don't expect much.

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