Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

Astronomers Discover Earth-Sized Diamond

JoshuaZ Just don't tell De Beers (112 comments)

Considering that the high price of diamonds is a combination of the De Beers monopoly together with their massive PR campaigns to a) make people use diamonds as formal symbols of affection and b) to make people unwilling to sell them second-hand once they've been owned, they should be worried. On the other hand, this is 900 light years away, so maybe they'll just lobby against any research into FTL travel.

about 1 month ago
top

The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call In the Bahamas

JoshuaZ Re:Legally speaking... (205 comments)

Anyone at NSA who is participating in this is committing an act of war against a sovereign nation without any declaration of war.

Under what theory of international law? This behavior is clearly bad and is the sort of thing a country has a right to be pissed off about, but there's no coherent, conventional theory that makes this an act of war. The situation is bad enough without exaggerating.

about 2 months ago
top

Supermassive Black Hole At the Centre of Galaxy May Be Wormhole In Disguise

JoshuaZ Re:Why it matters (293 comments)

Ah, so it would look like a hypothetical thing that we've never seen. Well that helps.

Yes it does- we have models of what that should look like.

Why should we expect that wormhole entrances are common?

If the apparent black holes in galactic centers are really wormholes then by the Copernican principle there exits should be about as evenly distributed as their entrances- we shouldn't expect some part of the universe to have a large number of exists.

about 2 months ago
top

Supermassive Black Hole At the Centre of Galaxy May Be Wormhole In Disguise

JoshuaZ Re:Why it matters (293 comments)

Why? Is there one nearby that we can observe with our extremely primitive and limited technology? Would we know it if we saw it?

Yes, we would know if we saw it. Essentially it would look very close to a white hole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_hole. And we should expect that if wormhole entrances are common then by the Copernican principle we should see some exits near us. This is one of the major reasons to doubt this sort of thing. As to your question about other universes- GR is not really happy with wormholes going from universes to universes- no one has been able to get the math to work out in a reasonable fashion- there's a line between speculation that's decent science and complete science fiction, and right now wormholes fall into the first but wormholes that go to other universes fall strongly into the second. That could change in the future but right now that doesn't look at all remotely likely.

about 2 months ago
top

Supermassive Black Hole At the Centre of Galaxy May Be Wormhole In Disguise

JoshuaZ Re:Why it matters (293 comments)

The main way we've detect Sag A* is its massive radiation profile. That's a completely distinct issue from the issue of mass. But even the mass thing is a problem saying maybe it is filled with some sort of pseudo-matter is even more speculative than speculating it might be wormhole. And even if that is the case, the gamma and x-rays would still fry anything that got near.

about 2 months ago
top

Supermassive Black Hole At the Centre of Galaxy May Be Wormhole In Disguise

JoshuaZ Why it matters (293 comments)

Given the intense environment around Sag A*, even if it turns out to be a wormhole it will be utterly non-traversable. However, there are hypotheses that wormholes to be stabilized require using negative matter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_mass. At least, that's the most plausible mechanism suggested- so this would be inadvertent evidence that negative matter exists, which would be a really big deal. There's also speculation that a cosmic string could do something similar- note that a cosmic string is topological defect in space time http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_string- these are not the strings from string theory although many forms of string theory would predict that such objects would exist. And of course, if wormholes exist in nature there's some small chance we can either make our own o find much smaller ones and put them to use. Unfortunately, there's a lot of dust and other debris between where we are and Sag A*, so even GRAVITY may have trouble getting enough resolution to figure this out.

about 2 months ago
top

LHCb Confirms Existence of Exotic Hadrons

JoshuaZ Implications for the Standard Model (99 comments)

Can someone who knows more about this subject explain what if any the implications this result has for the Standard Model?

about 4 months ago
top

P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe

JoshuaZ Scott Aaronson's take (199 comments)

Scott Aaaronson is a highly respected quantum computing expert at MIT. His initial reaction at comment# 89 at http://www.scottaaronson.com/b... is that "The abstract of that thing looked so nonsensical that I didn’t make it through to the actual paper. If anyone has and wants to explain it here, that’s fine." Given that I wouldn't take this too seriously.

about 4 months ago
top

Will Living On Mars Drive Us Crazy?

JoshuaZ Submarines? (150 comments)

Aside from the number of people being smaller, this does't seem that different from a tour of duty on a nuclear submarine. Three months is normal for that. Having little time to shower is a minor stress which could easily apply to almost any military duty, and submarines are again in that category. Moreover, submarine showers are disgusting. At least with a Mars mission you won't have the constant movement and shaking. And they don't get the regular email contact because they are underwater. http://www.cracked.com/article_20871_6-things-movies-dont-show-you-about-life-submarine.html discusses some of the many unpleasant things about subs. It seems like the people who are worried about the "human factors" are massively overestimating what conditions human minds can actually cope with, and it seems they also aren't doing a good job looking at counterexamples to their worries. This shouldn't be that surprising though: Robert Zubrin in his excellent book "Case for Mars" argued that a large part of the medical and psychological research to see if humans could handle a trip to Mars was more excuses for grant funding than serious concerns.

about 4 months ago
top

Physicists Produce Antineutrino Map of the World

JoshuaZ Re:Hmmmm ... (75 comments)

Fukushima won't show up more than any other nuclear reactor, if anything since there's no longer an active reactor, it will produce fewer neutrinos. A nuclear meltdown does not in general involve the production of more radiation than a running reactor, the primary problem is that all the radioactive waste can get exposed.

about 3 months ago
top

HTTPS More Vulnerable To Traffic Analysis Attacks Than Suspected

JoshuaZ The primary point not in abstratct but not summary (17 comments)

The most interesting bit is not in the summary. Given individual websites they could identify which specific webpage one was visiting thus leaking with high probability all sorts of medical, financial and legal information. Examples used include from medicine the websites of the Mayo Clinic and Planned Parenthood, from finance Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and from entertainment Youtube and Netflix. This sort of thing could be used for all sorts of surveillance or blackmail. Even just knowing what Youtube videos one is watching could be used for such ends.

about 5 months ago
top

Publishers Withdraw More Than 120 Fake Papers

JoshuaZ The key here is "Conference Proceedings" (62 comments)

In many fields conference proceedings have little to no oversight. These papers don't get noticed at all or cited and for most purposes don't exist. The only real issue I can see here is that a large fraction of these are apparently coming from China and this is consistent with prior reports of serious problems with academic quality coming from China. It is possible that people are using these essentially fake papers to boost their publication counts which may give them some advantages as long as no one looks closely, but any institution that is a serious institution will look at everything one has published. I actually found this point more interesting:

Labbé emphasizes that the nonsense computer science papers all appeared in subscription offerings. In his view, there is little evidence that open-access publishers — which charge fees to publish manuscripts — necessarily have less stringent peer review than subscription publishers.

Considering how many complaints there are about low-quality open-access journals, this suggests that that isn't nearly as much of an issue as some people are claiming.

about 5 months ago
top

Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon

JoshuaZ Re:Gravity wells and other distance issues (330 comments)

That's a good point, so from a strict get-there-once attitude this won't be so bad. However, I don't think that slamming into the moon is going to be a good strategy here unless they used some sort of extremely robust system which would create its own problems.

about 5 months ago
top

Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon

JoshuaZ Re:Gravity wells and other distance issues (330 comments)

Ok. I just looked at their plan in more detail (that is read all of TFA). They are planning on getting the solar panels and most other infrastructure from Earth. That means massive costs in terms of riding up the gravity well. This makes their plan look extremely implausible.

about 5 months ago
top

Japanese Firm Proposes Microwave-Linked Solar Plant On the Moon

JoshuaZ Gravity wells and other distance issues (330 comments)

A major issue is that the moon is fairly far up Earth's gravity well. It is easy to get things to low-Earth orbit and already tough to get things to even geo-stationary. The main saving of putting anything on the moon will come if you can do a large part of your construction on-site since otherwise moving that much material up is going to be tough. If you are doing automated construction on site you also are going to need to be able to make mainly a lot of solar cells. Solar cells are primarily silicon and there's already been prior research on refining the moon's regolith for silicon to manufacture electronic components and that looks possibly doable but one does need to get over some technical chemistry issues. See e.g. http://www.asi.org/adb/02/13/02/silicon-production.html.

The other issue is distance for power transmission: most designs for microwave power involve power transmission from at most a little over geo-stat at about 35,000 km. The distance to the moon is about 10 times that, so if you don't have a really tight beam, there are going to be issues. Also, since the moon change's position you are going to need a large number of sites on Earth that can receive the beam, and if you can't switch off smoothly between them always (which would itself require massive planet-wide infrastructure), you would still need power sources on Earth (possibly just massive storage facilities?) to deal with those times.

Overall, a really cool idea with a lot of technical hurdles. I hope they can make it work but I'm not optimistic.

about 5 months ago
top

How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

JoshuaZ Re:Roy Spencer has other motivation. (560 comments)

Nope, not really. The issue isn't his religion, it is that his religion by his own description motivates his conclusions and results. Not too long ago I was talking to an undergrad who said that he wanted to become a climate scientist because he wanted to get people to stop using fossil fuels. I told him that he should instead become an engineer.

The problem in a nutshell is that humans are deeply imperfect. So when we have external motivations, and those motivations are strong enough, they distort what we do. That can occur in a variety of ways such as the file drawer effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_drawer_problem#File_drawer_effect but also more subtle issues. In this particular context, there are literally hundreds of predictions from the 1980s about what the climate would be like today. That means that there are very difficult decisions to make about which predictions one should compare to the current data, and how to measure how accurate they are. Spencer's own motivations make the decisions he makes there to be extremely problematic. And yes, science is universally reproducible, but we're not talking about whether to accept a specific paper in a journal (if we were climatologists who were doing so, I agree that Spencer's motivations should then not enter into that), we're talking about non-climatologists who have neither the full time nor full expertise to make a judgment about all the details of his claims. In that context, the fact that he has strong external motivation is highly relevant when scientists lacking that external bias by and large disagree with his conclusions.

about 5 months ago
top

How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

JoshuaZ Re:Roy Spencer has other motivation. (560 comments)

I have no idea where you even began to get "straight" or "white" on that list. And in this particular context, I'd be perfectly ok with agnostics or atheists or Christians or members of other religions. However, when his beliefs about climate change are specifically motivated by his religion there's a problem. Heuristically speaking, his beliefs are more suspect. There are a lot of Christians who don't think that God is controlling the climate and they do perfectly good climate research.

about 5 months ago
top

How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

JoshuaZ Re:Then we should discount other studies too? (560 comments)

Not really. There's no intrinsic reason an atheist should think that climate change is happening. For that matter, there are Christians who are scientists who don't think that their religion forces an answer to these questions one way or another. The point isn't an atheism v. Christianity issue, but about Spencer's specific religious belief. And yes, funding issues are a problem, and they are worth paying attention to, but there's very little funding that only goes to specific goals, but rather simply to stud climate issues in general. When funding is more motivationally directed that's a definite problem, but that's only a small fraction of total funding.

about 5 months ago
top

How Well Do Our Climate Models Match Our Observations?

JoshuaZ Roy Spencer has other motivation. (560 comments)

Spencer has contributed specific work in peer reviewed journals that is part of the scientific discussion, but his overall opinion on climate change is motivated more by his own religion than anything else. He's both sympathetic to intelligent design and signed a statement which said among other things ""Earth and its ecosystems – created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Spencer_(scientist)#Climate_change Essentially he believes that climate change isn't happening because his religion won't let him. Note how that statement wasn't even just about climate, but about ecosystems as a whole. Christy doesn't seem to have that same sort of underlying motivation and might make more sense to pay attention to, but in this context, the vast majority of experts disagree with both of them, and when dealing with complicated scientific issues, using expert consensus is a useful heuristic, that's before we get to the serious issue that not only is the expert consensus clear, it is a consensus about some very bad results, not just a consensus about an issue which doesn't have substantial impact.

about 5 months ago

Submissions

top

Astronomers find star that doesn't fit

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 2 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
top

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
top

ISPs in Great Britain censoring Wikipedia

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 5 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."
Link to Original Source
top

Obama's cell phone records accessed

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 5 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
top

Researchers find spam response rate by spamming

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 5 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
top

Corp plagiarizes Wikipedia, threatens reporters

JoshuaZ JoshuaZ writes  |  more than 5 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

Journals

JoshuaZ has no journal entries.

Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...