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Gamma-ray Bursts May Explain Fermi's Paradox

JoshuaZ Re:Simple Explanation (236 comments)

The problem isn't simple visits. The problem is twofold: no signs of communication and no signs of substantial change to the surrounding environment. We don't see any Dyson spheres or ringworlds or stellar lifting or any attempts at that all of which would be noticeable. If there are civilizations out there they are ignoring massive amounts of resources. Note also that in the scale of a few billion years travel and colonization isn't that big a deal: galaxies are only around 100,000 light years across so even going at 1% of the speed of light and hopping between stars should lead to galactic colonization within a a few hundred million years at the most.

3 days ago
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Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'

JoshuaZ Re:This is cool but scary because of Great Filter. (67 comments)

Possible, but seems unlikely. Every species has that level of hysteria? And what about the species born early enough in the universe's history that they didn't have much reason to worry about the Filter?

3 days ago
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Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'

JoshuaZ This is cool but scary because of Great Filter. (67 comments)

While this is really neat, it is yet more of the accumulating evidence that there are no substantial barriers to intelligent life arising or even arising in the early universe. This suggests that something is wiping out civilizations, possibly something the civilizations themselves all do. This problem is known as the Great Filter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Filter (Strictly speaking the Filter is whatever makes massive, interstellar, civilizations apparently rare, but it looks like most of the Filter really is at or beyond our rough tech level.) The Great Filter could be nuclear war, or epidemics, or biological warfare, or bad nanotech, or possibly something we haven't even thought of that comes completely out of left field. But the evidence for it is growing. This is scary.

3 days ago
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Should Disney Require Its Employees To Be Vaccinated?

JoshuaZ Re:Yes. (663 comments)

That's a question of the level of the burden to establish guilt: the point is that a starting presumption of innocence is a court-specific thing.

5 days ago
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Americans Support Mandatory Labeling of Food That Contains DNA

JoshuaZ Link to the study (351 comments)

The original study can be found at http://agecon.okstate.edu/facu... : Another fun bit in the study:

Another fun excerpt: "Secondly, participants were asked “Did you read any books about food and agriculture in the past year?” Participants were asked to select “Yes”, “No”, or “I don’t know”. Just over 16% of participants stated that they had read a book related to food and agriculture in the past year. About 81% answered “No”, and 3% answered “I don’t know”. Those who answered “Yes” were asked: “What is the title of the most recent book you read about food and agriculture?” The vast majority of responses were of the form “I don’t remember” or “cannot recall”. Fast Food Nation, Food Inc., and Omnivore’s Dilemma were each mentioned about three times. The Farmer’s Almanac and Skinny Bitch were mentioned twice. One respondent mentioned the bible."

This appears to follow the general pattern that people will lie to interviewers to seem more smart, educated, or intellectual than they are. They don't mention in the study a correlation between those who said yes to reading a book and then couldn't "remember" it when pressed and those who wanted to ban food containing DNA, but I'd be willing put money on their being a correlation.

5 days ago
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Should Disney Require Its Employees To Be Vaccinated?

JoshuaZ Re:Yes. (663 comments)

A drug test isn't an assumption of guilt in a court of law. The entire guilty until proven innocent is for criminal and civil trials, not for employment. Mandatory drug tests are pragmatically stupid for many reasons in many industries (they are much less likely to catch the hard drugs like cocaine which go out of the system fast than marijuana which lingers, they cost a lot of money), but in the case of Disney where the employees are working on and maintaining rides with many passengers and where people could easily be killed if something goes wrong, drug tests aren't as unreasonable. In general, the real silliness of drug tests is when they are used by things like fast food restaurants or worse when they are used as a condition of welfare (where the evidence is that they cost far far more than they save the state).

about a week ago
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An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI

JoshuaZ Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (227 comments)

Because why just use soil when there's also all that other easily available material also? Note that even if the AI does use soil, using up all the world's soil would still be pretty unpleasant for humans. The central problem is that the AI has no reason to stop at any amount of resources so why not use everything available?

about two weeks ago
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An Open Letter To Everyone Tricked Into Fearing AI

JoshuaZ Re:"Forget about the risk that machines pose to us (227 comments)

We are actively trying to make fully sentient AI. Moreover, we have good reason to think it can be done: there's an example of a sentient thing already: humans. And the real issue isn't that it wants to kill us, but that it can use the matter we're made up of to do something else with. It doesn't hate you: you just happen to be useful atoms.

about two weeks ago
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Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ

JoshuaZ Re:Really? On Slashdot? (1350 comments)

Issues involving free speech and threats to free speech is both a nerd issue and "news that matters." It also is a tech issue because improvements in communication have allowed people to get worked up all over the globe over things that are happening farther away that they wouldn't know about at all otherwise.

about three weeks ago
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10 Years In, Mars Rover Opportunity Suffers From Flash Memory Degradation

JoshuaZ Re:Why are we still fighting with this? (105 comments)

These rovers were designed to last 90 days. The most broad plans extended to about a year if they were lucky. So no plans were made for every thing that could go wrong 5 to 10 years down the road.

about 1 month ago
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School Defied Google and US Government, Let Boys Program White House Xmas Trees

JoshuaZ Re:Considering how few boys graduate at ALL (355 comments)

If you genuinely think this then you haven't been paying attention. The primary point of feminism has been historically to put men and women on equal footing and give them equal opportunities. The fields in question, computer science, are actually a case in point: the percentage of females in computer related fields actually used to be higher. It actually dropped with the rise of the personal computer which was advertised as a thing for young boys. See http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/21/357629765/when-women-stopped-coding and it still hasn't gotten to the point it was in the 1980s. And when skilled people, of any gender, aren't going to the fields where their skills can be most useful, we all suffer.

Yes, there are some radical feminists who have some very bad ideas or end goals, but that's going to occur in any political movement. Paying attention to outliers is not helpful. If someone had said in 1970 that the movement for racial equality's primary objective was to sabotage white people that would be the exact same sort of thing, and it would have the exact same things wrong with it.

about a month ago
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5,200 Days Aboard ISS, and the Surprising Reason the Mission Is Still Worthwhile

JoshuaZ The idea is interesting but I'm not convinced. (219 comments)

The idea here is interesting but I'm not convinced for three reasons: first, the fact that massive staffs are used to plan out their days isn't necessary great evidence that it really is difficult: that could be administrative bloat. Second, for much of a trip to Mars days will end up looking very much like each other until one is actually on planet. They won't be doing much in the way of experiments on the way to Mars. Third of all, a 20-30 minute delay will not really create that many problems with getting plans from Earth unless one is in some sort of emergency situation.

about a month ago
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New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

JoshuaZ Re:Difficult to reconcile with SN 1987A (142 comments)

Reading it more carefully, it looks like you are correct. Thanks for pointing this out. So SN 1987A data is not by itself a good reason to doubt this.

about a month ago
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New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

JoshuaZ Re:Dark Matter? (142 comments)

Possible, but there's no reason to particularly locate that hypothesis. In this conext, the specific particle which may be a tachyon is the electron neutrino. We already know that standard estimates of neutrino mass make it extremely unlikely that the standard three types of neutrinos are anywhere near enough mass to be more than about 5% of dark matter, and that's likely a vast overestimate. As to there being some other particles that are dark matter that happen to be tachyons- possible, but why even identify the hypothesis as relevant? The primary evidence for dark matter is gravitational: whether particles are tachyons or tardyons we expect their interaction with gravity to behave about the same.

about a month ago
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New Paper Claims Neutrino Is Likely a Faster-Than-Light Particle

JoshuaZ Difficult to reconcile with SN 1987A (142 comments)

The primary difficulty here is going to be the same data that was really tought to reconcile with in the OPERA experiment, namely the data from SN 1987A.

In that supernova (the first observed in 1987 hence the name), the supernova was close enough that we were actually able to detect the neutrinos from it. The neutrinos arrived about three hours before the light from the supernova. But that's not evidence for faster than light neutrinos, since one actually expects this to happen. In the standard way of viewing things, the neutrinos move very very close to the speed of light, but during a core-collapse supernova like SN 1987A, the neutrinos are produced in the core at the beginning of the process. They then flee the star without interacting with the matter, whereas the light produced in the core is slowed down by all the matter in the way, so the neutrinos get a few hours head start.

The problem for FTL neutrinos is that if the neutrions were even a tiny bit faster than the speed of light they should have arrived much much earlier. This is strong evidence against FTL neutrinos. In the paper in question, he mentions SN 1987A in the context of testing his hypothesis in an alternate way using a supernova and the exact distribution of the neutrinos from one but doesn't discuss anywhere I can see the more basic issue of the neutrinos arriving at close to the same time as the light.

about a month ago
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US Seeks China's Help Against North Korean Cyberattacks

JoshuaZ "We didn't do it. Shutup or we'll do it again." (153 comments)

North Korea's response seems to be "We didn't do it. Shutup or we'll do it again." See for example the quotes listed at http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/21/world/asia/north-korea-us-sony/index.html?hpt=hp_c2. After saying that they didn't do it, North Korea then says that:

The DPRK has already launched the toughest counteraction. Nothing is more serious miscalculation than guessing that just a single movie production company is the target of this counteraction. Our target is all the citadels of the U.S. imperialists who earned the bitterest grudge of all Koreans.

They then go on to say that their soldiers along with the hackers in question are sharpening their bayonets. North Korea seems to want to have it both ways: claiming that they didn't do it, but wanting everyone to take their threats seriously like they did. At this point, there really shouldn't be substantial doubt that North Korea is responsible. The only question is what the proper response is.

about a month ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

JoshuaZ Re:Should Allah be translated to God? (880 comments)

That's almost the exact opposite argument than you made in your post. You really don't seem to have a coherent point here. Apparently Christians who speak Arabic are perfectly ok using the same word. If they thought that the words had different meanings then they'd try to use different words in Arabic. The fact that they don't shows that your entire claim doesn't work. You seem to be confused about whether "Allah" is a proper noun or a generic. Like the word "God" in English it is both.

about a month and a half ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

JoshuaZ Re:Should Allah be translated to God? (880 comments)

That's true in general for speaking in common contexts among Orthodox Jews. But even then, Orthodox people will simply sometimes say "God" in English or whatever the equivalent is in that language. And that's aside from the many less religious Jews who don't strongly have that taboo.

about a month and a half ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

JoshuaZ Re:Should Allah be translated to God? (880 comments)

Does it impact your opinion at all to learn that Jews and Christians when speaking Arabic use the word "Allah" to talk about their deity?

about a month and a half ago
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Apparent Islamic Terrorism Strikes Sydney

JoshuaZ Re:Muslims? (880 comments)

I don't know what "hate site" means in general, but that's at minimum a source that has very much already decided on their bottom line http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/, which means one shoudl already take it pretty skeptically. But that list isn't very helpful for a simple reason that it just shows that there are a lot of Islamic terrorist events which isn't terribly helpful: we already know that. The question being asked is how common are they compared to terrorist events motivated by other ideologies or religious traditions.

about a month and a half ago

Submissions

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Astronomers find star that doesn't fit

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 3 years ago

JoshuaZ writes "Astronomers have found an unusual small star. SDSS J102915+172927 is a small faint star with very little of any elements other than hydrogen or helium. The star's composition is surprising since standard theories of star formation require heavier elements in small stars in order to allow the stars to be heavy enough to come together. Possibly the most unusual aspect of this star is the complete non-detection of lithium which would be expected in a star of this size. The only elements created shortly after the Big Bang were lithium, hydrogen and helium, and the star should have lithium levels much higher since they should correspond closely with the levels believed to have been formed shortly after the Big Bang. The actual paper can be found at http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1132/eso1132.pdf."
Link to Original Source
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Man arrested in New York for photography

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Joshua Zelinsky writes "A man in New York City was arrested for photographing subway trains. A police officer confronted the man and when the man attempted to explain to the officer that what he was doing was legal the officer arrested him. The man was charged with three separate crimes including one count of disorderly conduct for speaking to the officer in an "unreasonable voice." So far, two of the three charges have been dropped but the third is pending."
Link to Original Source
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ISPs in Great Britain censoring Wikipedia

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Joshua Zelinsky writes "Wikipedia is being . censored by a variety of ISPs in Great Britian. The activity was first noticed when it appeared that almost all edits from Great Britain were coming through only a handful of IP addresses. This created serious problems in preventing vandalism from Great Britain. It then emerged that this was due to the system being used by ISPs to censor Wikipedia. At present it is not known in full which pages are being censored. However, at least one page which is being censored is a page is Virgin Killer about an album from a German heavy metal band which has a naked young girl on the cover. Individuals in Great Britain attempting to access the page report that they are simply getting error messages and not even being told that the page is being censored. Some commentators have already started referring to the Great Firewall of Britain."
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Obama's cell phone records accessed

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Joshua Zelinsky writes "According to Obama's transition team, his cell phone was accessed by unauthorized Verizon employees. Verizon has alerted the Secret Service but there is currently no criminal investigation. Verizon has stated that employees who inappropriately accessed the records will be subject to disciplinary action. This is not the first unauthorized access of politically relevant people. Recently, the Plumber's state government records were accessed by a contractor without permission."
Link to Original Source
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Researchers find spam response rate by spamming

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Joshua Zelinsky writes "Researchers estimated the successful response rates to spam by sending out millions of spam messages using the Storm botnet. They received 28 responses out of 350 million messages sent out and estimate that approximately one of every 12,500,000 spam emails generates a sale. Most disturbingly even with this low response rate the researchers estimate that a spammer will still make an easy profit."
Link to Original Source
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Corp plagiarizes Wikipedia, threatens reporters

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Joshua Zelinsky writes "A Polish company, 4fun.tv, has plagiarized from the Polish Wikipedia by using content without attribution. When Wikinews inquired about the apparent plagiarism, the company first claimed that they had taken the text from an old encyclopedia that was in the public domain that Wikipedia must have taken it from also. When this was shown to be false, the company's representative threatened the reporter saying that "he found the reporter's picture on the Internet and asked how the person would feel if this picture was to appear on billboards or press releases that advertised the TV station""
Link to Original Source

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