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In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

Pentagram Re:Why not push toward collapse? (415 comments)

Well, Iraq was pushed to collapse. That did not go so well.

What do you mean? The country was then conquered within months by us. Saddam Hussein himself was then captured, tried publicly, and executed deservingly.

There were over a million deaths by some estimates caused by the invasion. A million! Even if the estimates are off by half, that's an incredible number of people.

Iraq is still in chaos many years later. IS has taken over a lot of the country. The Middle East as a whole was destabilised and has yet to recover.

I'd hate to know what your definition of a catastrophe is.

2 days ago
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N. Korea Could Face Prosecution For 'Crimes Against Humanity'

Pentagram Re:first (325 comments)

I wasn't commenting on the motives of the western countries, nor whether atrocities have been carried out by the rebels (it appears they have, though not on the scale that Assad has). I was replying to the OP who seemed to think the reporting in Syria was all propaganda. The coverage in the media seems to have been reasonably balanced, reporting the abuses of both sides. There has not been the dramatic attempts to control the media by e.g. the US and UK governments that we saw in the Iraq war.

about 10 months ago
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N. Korea Could Face Prosecution For 'Crimes Against Humanity'

Pentagram Re:first (325 comments)

I've been to Syria recently -- well in the last couple of years, after the start of the revolution. I experienced first hand the extreme corruption, the ever-present secret police, and the aura of fear and intimidation.

Just because some of the information coming out of the country is untrue (how could you not expect some of it to be?) doesn't mean the current state of Syria is propaganda. Most of the reporting is true; the alternative is that every major news organisation, charity and most governments (bar Russia and Iran) are part of some vast conspiracy.

about 10 months ago
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200 Dolphins Await Slaughter In Japan's Taiji Cove

Pentagram Re:That doesn't seem right. (628 comments)

Yes, but the point is, a pig is not one of the top intellectual hitters by any measure. It's reasonably smart but it doesn't get close to, say, an orang. Claiming it is the third smartest species after humans is just plain wrong.

about a year ago
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200 Dolphins Await Slaughter In Japan's Taiji Cove

Pentagram Re:That doesn't seem right. (628 comments)

The mirror test is just one test of animal intelligence amongst many.

But it's probably the most important.

Different animals have different strengths in their intelligence, as one would expect - the intellect of each has evolved for different environments.

This is why I said the order is up for debate.

Sorry. Different intelligence tests are correlated so being good at one tends to make you good at another. Humans are unambiguously the smartest and can outwit any other species at practically anything. Chimps/bonobos are next. Although you can quibble about where a particular species is placed, there's certain generalities you can assert.

My list is commonly accepted, but by no means absolute.

No serious researcher in animal intelligence that I know of puts pigs in the top four most intelligent species. Feel free to provide a reference.

about a year ago
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200 Dolphins Await Slaughter In Japan's Taiji Cove

Pentagram Re:Everyone creates arbitrary lines (628 comments)

Why is thinking a necessary criterion for suffering?

Consciousness is a necessary requirement for suffering. If an entity can't experience something then it can't suffer from that experience. We can demonstrate this because consciousness is easily disrupted in humans by relatively simple chemicals. Anaesthetised humans do not suffer, even during what would otherwise be traumatic experiences such as medical operations.

about a year ago
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200 Dolphins Await Slaughter In Japan's Taiji Cove

Pentagram Re:That doesn't seem right. (628 comments)

But the top 3 animals for intelligence after man are the dolphin, the chimp and the pig

Well this isn't true. There's a few species that pass the mirror test, which is about the highest non-subjective test for intelligence in other species we have. Pigs don't pass the mirror test.

So I'd rank humans, the other great apes (chimps/bonobos, orangs, gorillas), dolphins, orcas and elephants ahead of pigs, and probably other animals too.

If pigs did pass the mirror test I wouldn't eat them (actually I tend to avoid eating pigs anyway because we tend to keep them in such terrible conditions).

about a year ago
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US Forces Ready To Strike Syria If Ordered

Pentagram Re:Assumptions assumptions (918 comments)

Agreeing with the poster but pointing out that "proof" is very difficult to come by is "hand-waving"? Sorry, you'll have to explain your thinking on that one.

It seems that Assad has indeed been using chemical weapons over the past year, and without any comeback.

about a year ago
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US Forces Ready To Strike Syria If Ordered

Pentagram Re:Assumptions assumptions (918 comments)

1. There is no proof regime used chemical weapons.

No. But "proof" that will satisfy everyone is very hard to come by.

2. Why would regime use chemical weapons ? They're "winning" already..

I think you've answered your own question there with your use of quotes. The regime are looking at the thin end of a potentially multi-decade civil war. There's no prospect of a decisive victory in the forseeable future.

3. Why would regime use chemical weapons ? The rulling party there is NOT stupid, whatever you may think of them. You think they wouldn't know it would come to this (worldwide condemnation) ?

The regime has been torturing kids to death for years with little comeback. It has already achieved worldwide condemnation. The Assad family doesn't care. The only risk to them is military intervention by a superior power but after 100k+ deaths and years of atrocities they don't believe anyone will intervene.

They were quite good friends of many Western countries until quite recently. The US used to give them prisoners to "interrogate". Even after years of brutal repression with much video evidence there are plenty of people on the internet who believe Assad and friends are the good guys.

4. The ruling party have majority of peoples votes. Why would they undermine that ?

Elections in Syria are meaningless charades, of minor use to the regime as a rubber-stamp only.

5. Why would they allow UN to come inspect the site then shoot at them ?

It doesn't seem to be in either the rebel's or the regime's interests to shoot at the UN. It seems likely that this was an error by one group or another.

It seems entirely plausible and in character for the regime to use chemical weapons. They have the stocks and a history of being willing to use extreme brutality.

The idea that the rebels have launched the attack in an attempt to blame the regime is somewhat plausible. They are desperate enough and some of their elements seem to be capable of acts of harshness approaching that of the regime. However the attacks were in rebel-held areas and there is no evidence of the rebels gaining any chemical weapons.

I think it's rather more likely that the regime made the attacks based on past history and circumstantial evidence, but we don't have very much in the way of proof either way.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: Unity/Gnome 3/Win8/iOS — Do We Really Hate All New GUIs?

Pentagram Re:Efficiency, Psychology (1040 comments)

It is not proven that Gnome3's or Unity's approach is perfect yet.

To say the least. But I've tried both for a few weeks each and they definitely make me less productive than Gnome 2.

However, the problems of the taskbar/windowlist is, that they are grouped by no order at all. Minimizing a window leaves no trail where to find it again, except the 0.3 second animation with shrinkboxes or some compiz effect. Users might remember that for some time, but not much.

You can see at a glance which windows are open by their icon (which admittedly only shows the program, not document), title, and you have a good cue of which window is which from its position (rightmost is most recently opened). There may be a better solution but this is excellent in minimising number of clicks (everything is one click away) and quite good on impact on short-term memory (not much demand to remember which windows are open).

Gnome 3's approach: When there is no way to minimize a window, it keeps its position. Keeping positions of objects is a powerful cognitive concept that Windows and KDE seem to have completely dismissed.

This pretty much fails when you have overlapping windows. It doesn't help that a window keeps its position if I can't see it. I find it's also useful to minimise a window to reduce visual distraction. I find in Gnome 3 I waste lots of effort manually shuffling my windows around so I can either hide them or so they're slightly overlapping so I can click on them without putting my cursor into the corner. Surely the opposite to what was intended.

And after pressing the funky key, users can see all the windows, not-overlapping, from a bird's-eye view and select much larger surfaces to access them. That is actually much more "efficient" that scanning a list of minimized windows

It's less efficient in the sense you have to click somewhere or press a key or move your mouse to see the windows. Changing mode to change windows and having all those windows flying around I find is more distraction to my workflow. Maybe our brains work differently? I'd be happy to have both options however as sometimes an expose-style window map is useful if you've "lost" a window.

Another good idea in Gnome3 is creating virtual desktops semantically instead of having a fixed number of them.

I think this is potentially a good idea that needs more polish. In Gnome 2 I can click on the desktop I want with one click from the taskbar but in Gnome Shell I need to go into the separate mode.

I think a lot more can be done with virtual desktops. It would be nice for example to have one project per desktop and then to be able to save that desktop (open programs, views, files) as a project, close it, and be able to reopen it at a later date, link it to a to-do list, etc.

Not directed against you, MrNiCeGUi: many people claiming to be "power users" and needing a lot of config options, are in fact wasting time and are just feeling to be productive by staring at pointless data diagrams or actually designing their own UI by moving stuff around, very likely making it measurably less efficient.

I agree to the extent that you can make something too configurable. Too many options make it hard to find what you want to change, make things too easy to break, too hard to test. However, you can also make things not configurable enough. People's brains work differently so like to work in a different way, people have different hardware and software setups (e.g. number of displays), and work on vastly different projects. I think Gnome 3 shell and Unity have gone significantly into the "too little configurability" camp. Gnome 2 was a very good balance by contrast.

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

You conveniently ignore the risk reward part of this. Fermat's Last Theorem is not deciding major public policy. Unless you are severely retarded, you can do the math to empirically show that it is true. Maybe I am just smarter than you, but *I* don't just take math experts word for Fermat's Last Theorem. I have run the numbers myself, and found the theorem to be more likely true than not via my own independent calculations.

You can't prove Fermat's last Theorem empirically because it claims to be valid for all integers. You could only disprove it that way. The idea you can prove it statistically is pure comedy; no matter how many tests you run, there are infinitely more numbers you haven't tested, so your confidence in your result is still 0. You need a formal proof; however, the proof found is very complex and only absolutely top maths experts could get their head around it.

I have a PhD myself and have some modest scientific advances to my credit and while I don't claim to be the smartest person around, I'm better than most and I know more about science than the vast majority of the general population. I'm pretty good at maths but I haven't a hope of beginning to understand the proof without years of study. Even if I did commit myself to that, that's only one field out of thousands. You can't hope to be an expert in them all. You have to trust the experts in fields you haven't mastered. It's what human civilisation is built on.

Do you research materials science before climbing a tall building? Make sure you're satisfied with aeronautics before flying in an aeroplane? Life would be impossible.

You seem to think you have enough knowledge to challenge the experts in an advanced scientific field whereas (as you've demonstrated in this thread) your knowledge of the subject is as superficial as your knowledge of maths and logic. Sheer arrogance.

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

You can't say that there are no major cracks in the theory when you don't understand what is being said.

Don't be ridiculous. Of course you can. I don't understand the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem but the maths experts tell me that it works so I accept that it's true.

We also are not talking about a doctor who has no political reason to lie to you.

I think you'd have to be pretty paranoid to think your doctor was lying to you. And then absolutely certifiably insane to think that 98% of doctors were simultaneously making up cancer diagnoses in order to secure more ontology research funding.

These people are predicting the end of human civilization.

No. No, they're not. You obviously are getting your news filtered through some crazy right wing news service, not from the scientists. So you're not even arguing against what is actually being predicted. Please, educate yourself, and not through Fox news.

Using other people's knowledge is a risk. To rationally use them, you have to weight the risk reward of taking their word for it vs. doing the research yourself.

Yes, you can either do the research yourself and become and expert (which you clearly haven't) or you can accept the experts' explanation.

And if you determine that they are in fact correct, then you would be a sociopath to do anything less that join with bands of like minded people to destroy every carbon producing facility you can get anywhere near.

This all rests on the premise that the prediction is for the end of human civilisation, which isn't the case. Even it was, there would be more attractive options than suddenly destroying all our power sources, like gradually switching to nuclear.

Right, it's been fun but I'm bored now. You clearly have a very tenuous grasp of reality.

more than 3 years ago
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Ubuntu Heads To Smartphones, and Tablets

Pentagram Re:This is clearly what he was always planning... (281 comments)

switcher as well,

If you mean the workspace switcher, I think it's a train wreck. Instead of one click to change workspaces, it's two (one double click). And why is there no visual indication of which workspace you're on, like in the Gnome 2 switcher? Come on! That's surely not hard to program. I assumed this was a bug that would get fixed in 11.10 but apparently not. Fine, someone made a really stupid UI decision but THEN you can't even remove the switcher because someone decided that I wasn't allowed to do that in case I confused myself. Aargh! A minor thing, but a good summary of Unity: bad UI decisions which are then locked down so you're not allowed to change them.

What do people who constantly rag on Unity want?

A taskbar. I've tried Gnome 3 and Unity for a few weeks each and the fact is that I'm significantly more productive with a taskbar. It's just the way my brain works, it doesn't like "modal" applications like the unity Dash/sidebar or the Gnome 3 thingy (I don't like vi either).

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

As someone that does not even claim to understand the science, and is only taking their stance because it is the mainstream position

Correct. But overwhelmingly mainstream to the experts in the field, don't forget.

Anyway, you say that like it's a bad thing. Although a scientist myself, I don't feel that I have to understand every detail of a theory before I can accept it. In fact it would be impossible. There are so many. You have to trust the scientific method. It's served us pretty well so far.

and bows to appeals to authority

I'm not bowing to an appeal to authority, I'm making an appeal to authority. Although an appeal to authority can't be used to win an argument from a sense of formal logic, it is an essential heuristic if you want to make use of other people's expertise.

For example, if a doctor told me I had cancer, I would believe her and take the steps she suggested, even if I didn't want to accept it. If a physicist tells me it is possible to detect extrasolar planets then I will trust him, even if I find it hard to believe.

There aren't any cracks in the theory. There aren't any serious competing hypotheses. Something like 98% of the experts studying the issue agree with the overall conclusion. And you're complaining that you're being called a denier? What would you like to be called? A fringe crazy? I think denier is the polite term.

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

The person I was replied to called themselves a denier so I can hardly be accused of introducing the term.

In any case, I don't claim to understand the science. I understand it on a basic level, enough to accept that it is plausible, but I certainly don't know all the details. I am just willing to accept an overwhelming scientific consensus, as I am for many other scientific fields. I'm not arrogant enough to assume I know better than the experts when they are all consistently agreeing on something.

"Denier" might be slightly inflammatory to the thin-skinned but if you're going to challenge a massive scientific orthodoxy without a competing theory then you have to accept that you will attract a certain amount of ridicule. At least admit that the deniers have been less than polite in the argument.

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

You've got some odd ideas about reality. What terminology I use in no way affects the validity of the science.

I don't really understand why deniers get so precious the term "denier". No, actually I do: it's because the science is overwhelmingly against them so they try desperately to cling on to whatever credibility they think they have. If you want to call me a denier of whatever pet theory you have to explain climate change (sudden dramatic (but unmeasured) increase in the sun's output, implausible number of simultaneously corrupt scientists. magic rays...) I won't complain. I'll be amused.

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

It's a completely reasonable term to describe someone who denies a massive body of consistent scientific evidence. For example, I would describe someone who disagreed with evolution by natural selection as a "denier", that is, denying something in the face of extremely strong evidence.

In any case, deniers of climate change don't show a lot of good faith. Their main arguments seem be that a huge number of scientists (including several Nobel prize winners) across a lot of disciplines are either ludicrously incompetent or highly corrupt in that they modify their views according to some mucky grab for research grants. Such libel is really not in the same league as calling someone a "denier".

more than 3 years ago
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Droughts Linked To Global Warming

Pentagram Re:We're not there yet... (535 comments)

This is exactly how I feel.

The deniers use words like "feel" and "believe" (GP) a lot. This isn't a subject you can use your intuition on. The science is very strong but also complex. The only people who can reasonably disagree with the science at this point are experts in the field (except they don't).

but I am by no means convinced that there is a causation link between the two,

That's not how it works. The science is so settled that it should be the baseline now. It's not everyone's job to convince you beyond reasonable doubt. If you want to tell people that solid, well-established science is wrong, it is your job to convince them. Is our fundamental understanding of chemistry and physics wrong? Are our models wrong? If so, what is wrong with them?

more than 3 years ago
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Syria Drops Off the Internet As Turmoil Spikes

Pentagram Re:Religious context (94 comments)

Syria's government isn't really based on religion. The governing regime is from the same minority religious group (Alawite), but that's more to do with corruption and cronyism than any strong religious belief.

Syria is a pretty free country so far as religion goes. It is a culturally Muslim country so women can't sit in the front of taxis/wear bikinis etc. but there's no problem if you want to go to church or be an atheist (even Jews living in Syria is acceptable, at least in theory).

There are religious tensions in Syria but really that's the least of their problems at the moment. The regime likes to raise the spectre of protests being religiously inspired but the protestors have been doing their best to demonstrate their unity cuts across these lines.

more than 3 years ago
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Intel's Atom To Ship In Over 35 Tablets Next Year

Pentagram 35 is not that ambitious (146 comments)

35 tablets isn't that many. Apple must have sold 10 million iPads by now.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Call for scientific research code to be released

Pentagram Pentagram writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Pentagram (40862) writes "Professor Ince, writing in the Guardian, has issued a call for scientists to make the code they use in the course of their research publicly available. He focuses specifically on the topical controversies in climate science, and concludes with the view that researchers that are able to but do not release programs that they use should not be regarded as scientists."
Link to Original Source
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Political viewpoints linked to fear

Pentagram Pentagram writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Pentagram (40862) writes "Researchers, writing in Science, report that the political orientation of test subjects who have strong views is linked to how easy they are to startle. They found that subjects who were more fearful were more likely to have right wing views, such as being in favour of capital punishment and higher defence budgets. The researchers suggest that this psychological difference is why it is so difficult to change people's minds in political arguments^W discussions."
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Climate change not due to a change in solar output

Pentagram Pentagram writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Pentagram writes "Skeptics of the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change have frequently pointed to variation in solar activity as an alternative cause. However, new research published by Mike Lockwood and Claus Froehlich in Proceedings of the Royal Society A shows that the Sun's output has actually declined since 1985, apparently ruling this argument out as a cause of climate change over the last 20 years. As lead author Lockwood states, "The temperature record is simply not consistent with any of the solar forcings that people are talking about. They changed direction in 1985, the climate did not ... [the temperature] increase should be slowing down but in fact it is speeding up.""

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