Michael Mann: Swiftboating Comes To Science
In most places outside the US, science isn't accepted as something that can be so casually threatened by special interests working against all objectively observable sources of information.
I've been following the wider skeptical movement here in the US for a while now. Perhaps earlier on (over a decade ago), challenges to the scientific consensus on things like global warming had some legitimacy as a real movement - but by now, it really is just a shill movement. Every existing doubt remaining is NOT in terms of the science being wrong, but rather which implication of the science is most correct. Yes, you can always find a theory or person willing to speculate in any direction you want - but nothing that still constitutes a challenge to the science of global warming anymore. It's observed from space, observed from dozens of major lines of evidence, observed from all known history we can trace, observed from watching other planets, and passes every known line of meta-analysis that uses an actual scientific process.
It's only here in the US (or perhaps OPEC nations) that none of that really ends up mattering to what a person at random gets to hear. Don't get me wrong - nowhere is science really reported without a million biases, just the same as no scientist or agency perfect - but we really do distort our science reporting with a huge amount of false controversy. It's just painful to see how much of that twisted interpretation of so much science so heavily represented in so many of these slashdot stories.
And so often,l it's from the libertarian side, which also weirds me out - again, I come in as a close follower of the skeptical movement (got a JREF card in my wallet), which is filled to the brim with libertarian ideals. It weirds me out, because in order to have a meaningfully free society, it seems absurd that the overwhelming push is to close off so much from objective observable truth, and to use the constant barrage of logical fallacies so rampant in the global warming denial popularizers toolset.
Honestly, just follow more lines of evidence, in just about any direction you want - the pattern of global warming, and it's predictable (if chaotic at some scales) effects are as much a science as anything I've seen. The studies themselves come from all sorts of people - but they all get to the same places in wonderfully surprising ways, and the overall picture is rather resilient by this point. Skepticism should mean looking for truth, eliminating where we're lying to ourselves, and at this point, the only folks consistently lying have been the folks in steadfast and unobserving denial.
Study: There's a Wi-Fi Hotspot For Every 150 People In the World
Still low compared to college dorm/cheap apartment ratio of about 10 years ago - those folks are spreading out, and spreading expectations.
We sometimes see ideas spreading 'virally', but really, largely shared ideas are often established generationally - the 'viral' ideas are usually just those ideas exposing and exploiting those slowly growing generational ideas that have been growing as people's desires and needs shift.
Wifi is an expression of this expanding set of generations desire to be ever connected to faster information and resources through computers.
It's a neat time to have grown up in - and I don't think we've fully imagined all the places we can go with it.
It's sort of a 'real' version of the previous generation's largescale exploration of meditation, medication and spirituality, only made consistent, shareable, but oddly balkanized. For instance, there's still awesome music involved in all of it, but more sort of everyone's flavor of the month, and seemingly fewer universal classics than previous generations.
Warner Brothers Announces 10 New DC Comics Movies
Come on, Miracleman - I just really liked that comic series.
I know, I know, it's legally impossible, but hey, I can always hope for a miracle, man!
UK Team Claims Breakthrough In Universal Cancer Test
Sounds like generalized damage to white blood cells they're detecting. It's my understanding that "cancers" of a sort kind of exist in pockets in most everyone - they're just not the sort that get aggressive and kill people, because those mutant pockets just don't break enough of the rules of good cell conduct yet to count as a notable risk.
My big issue with the methodology is that when anyone has already detectable active cancer, they usually are on chemo, or too sick to stop the progress... both of which will cause generalized damage to the body's defenses. If they can reliably distinguish the kinds of damage though, that would be a nice development.
Even as it is stated, sounds useful to help distinguish some symptoms from cancer perhaps - but it seems this could also correlate with radiation damage or other generalized damage too. Cool study all the same - perhaps may help lead to cheaper or more automated screening at some level.
Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA
That's science right there - all our best evidence indicates that this can be feasible, and this seems the least effort to try it. Nice plan to at least see how far we can get, before we have to revise and replan. We're testing just the principles we want to test, using established functionality where we aren't testing.
That's far more 'magical' to me, than promising another set of boots in places that won't be feasible without exactly these kinds of experiments happening first. More rovers - more measurements!
When we need to spend the big resources to send people off this gravity well, lets have it make sense, perhaps set up a semblance of an workable environment first. We can barely make earth-based closed etiologies last for long - it would be a sad excuse for a 'backup' with our current level of development. We absolutely CAN expand into the galaxy/universe - but we've still got a few mountains of puzzle pieces left unsorted still, in my particular opinion.
Was Watch Dogs For PC Handicapped On Purpose?
While the unlocked graphics style is certainly better for screenshots, it suffers the problem of highlighting close things, while highly blurring anything at a distance. While more 'realistic', if I were testing the game, I'd definitely suggest disabling this 'feature' by default, as it really can hamper gameplay and discovery. Skyrim EMB mods frequently enter into this territory, and it can be troublesome there too.
The headlight effects are pretty cool though.
The worst middle-finger-to-the-audience has to be the mouse handling though - it's not just mouse smoothing or mouse acceleration, but a particularly nasty form of negative acceleration from capping out the maximum allowed mouse speed, presumably to match controller max speeds. This limitation is a pain in the ass if you're expecting any kind of free or accurate mouse control. I cannot imagine any tester not making this a 'show stopper' bug - it's really, REALLY bad from what I've heard/seen/tried, and can't be fixed so far (lots of half-fixes out there though).
4K Monitors: Not Now, But Soon
I'm typing this on a monitor with 3840x2160 resolution, at 60hz right now. I posted about it weeks ago:
It's like $600 when on sale, and it works superb for coding and playing games. Skyrim/Saints Row 4 plays fine on a GTX 660 at 4k resolution, you just disable any AA (not needed), but enable vsync (tearing is more visible at 4k, so just use that). Perhaps that's just me - but things seem fine at 4k res on a medium-cost graphics card.
A few generations of video cards, and everything will be > 60-FPS smooth again anyway (partially thanks to consoles again), so I don't really need to wait for a dynamic frame smoothing algorithm implementation to enjoy having a giant screen for coding now.
I don't see any reason why you'd want to wait - it's as cheap as two decent monitors, and if you're slightly near-sighted like me, it's just really great. See my previous post for a review link and an image of all the PC Ultima games on screen at once.
Open-Source Hardware For Neuroscience
This has always bothered me with the current state of neuroscience: The whole point of nerves/brain matter is to communicate/remember/transform information, but we're still relying on crude external cues like heat/bloodflow/electrical activity to tell us "somethings happening around...here", and that's pretty much it. It always bothers me when I hear the term "brain signals".
Nerves should be able to query their neighbors about their state, and the state of other nerves - otherwise, they wouldn't really be able to form something like a mind (as in, "the mind is what the brain does"). Why still can't we find a way to just "ask" the nerves what their state is?
Even in our simulations, we just represent nerves as nodes that grow associations - but those associations are useless, unless they can be traversed in queries by the system, to gather inputs, and send outputs at all levels.
Are we getting anywhere close to a stage where we can communicate with nerves to use that same communication system that logically must exist for it to function? Seems like even with limitations, that would be a LOT more useful than analogously inferring from traffic levels what the function of buildings in a city are, like we're doing now.
Turing Test Passed
Just googling a few seconds brought me to:
This article about cleverbot., which also eeked out enough votes to 'pass' a turing test.
It's all sounds just like Eliza, just put into a character with enough human limitations that you'd expect it not to string together phrases well, or keep to one topic more than a sentence.
I'd interpret it basically as an automated DJ sound board with generic text instead of movie quotes - you can certainly string a lot of folks along with even really bad ones, but that speaks more to pareidolia than anything else.
I'd classify this stage of AI closer to "parlour trick" than "might as well be human" that a lot of people think of when they hear Turing test - but that's also part of the test, to see what we consider to be human.
4K Displays Ready For Prime Time
I got it recently, and it's got 4k at 60FPS, in a 28" size - great for programming.
Just to try it, I was able to get all the single-player PC Ultima games running in about half the screen real estate:
ALL THE ULTIMAS
It's around $600 when its on sale, so I think it just about matches the model slashvertised here.
NASA's Plan To Block Light From Distant Stars To Find 'Earth 2.0'
We do what we must - because we can!
Neat design - always liked the kind of foil origami that goes into satellite construction. Designs like this are great, because they compete well against heavier designs to create a de-facto specialized GIANT EYE IN SPACE. They're also seem a little, ahem, short-sighted in the sense that they may not last long against various sources of degradation, but as proof of concept, this is great science!
It's always cool to see the science get done, for the people who are still alive!
Neil Gaiman Confirms Movie Talks For Sandman, American Gods
American Gods was an interesting take on mythology, similar to Wolf Among Us, but with gods bumming around in human lives instead of Grimm tales animals.
It seems like that one would be the better one for a movie - the amusement of seeing gods depicted with human lives would could keep fresh with new and stranger gods, perhaps with some strong personalities popping in and out as they died... but none of it seems like it could keep as fresh as, well, endless dreams with a touch of the Twilight Zone. Every story would be its own universe, with a slow thread of Dream's own tale coming in a few times a season. Sort of a mix between Doctor Who and Twilight Zone, really, jumping around in time and reality to explore both humanity through strange eyes.
They could both make decent movies - it's just American Gods was put together as a single story revealing the nature of the gods being depicted in a clear arc, and Sandman was designed as an endlessly serialized exploration of timelessness and dream, with overlapping story arcs.
I'd be more than glad to see either of them explored though - it's always nice to see stories that twists the usual equations of power to produce a more interesting exploration of humanity than just who is powerful. Both these stories feature characters beyond the usual definition of power, and even morality, and use them to push the other characters into more poignant territory.
In any case, here's hoping the series get good enough writers to match the exploration that these kinds of stories demand, without slipping into the common pitfalls we've been seeing with Superman/Heroes/etc, with world-shaping levels of power. When in doubt, at least they can copy Doctor Who/Twilight Zone.
The Tech Industry Is Getting Ridiculous
Boy, when you remove context from misleading headline excerpts, things sure do get wacky!
You know those jokes that sometimes aren't funny from old movies, that your relatives laugh real hard about? A large number of those came from the same logic - taking a topical story, removing the context, and applying hyperbole to the idea. They know the idea is misleading, and are 'in' on a joke that they just can't explain to you and still be funny.
Just bundling some of those together with a 'technology' theme isn't making a point - its bungling a joke. Not as bad as that whole 'beta' attempt, but still, a bad attempt at a joke.
NASA Pondering Two Public Contests To Build Small Space Exploration Satellites
I'll join the crowd and help post in every thread that pops up, and upvote all the other comments I can find doing the same.
Slashdot Beta is not fixable - it is trash code that should be abandoned as a "lessons learned" exercise. It's not even a close decision - it's pretty much unanimous amongst the users - the ones that provide 90+% of any meaningful content on this particular site in particular.
If this advice that everyone is giving isn't honored by the local 'beta' admins, I believe it's time to start communicating with the people in charge, and pulling the levers of power a bit - and hopefully get these folks a stern talking to about what they were throwing away.
Shorter version: THE BETA SUCKS. LOSE IT.
Update on the March of Progress: How Slashdot's New Look Is Shaping Up
I wasn't able to post this until I logged in, and found a way to reach this url without the beta:
Link to the non-beta version
Holy crap, the beta is just useless! I don't think it can be patched - it really, really should be abandoned if this is where it is after all this time. Use it for 'lessons learned' but that's it.
Nobel Prize Winning Economist: Legalize Sale of Human Organs
What is evil? I like the AD&D definition - a scale of more and more willing to allow harm to others for your own benefit. Of course, what is seen as harm that matters is the rub.
Would an open organ market save lives - oh, yes, and prohibiting it does cost lives - so one could certainly argue like here that the prohibition is evil.
But allowing such a market will create a society that allows much more willful harm for profit. Right now, organ illegal organ harvesting exists, but is somewhat rare and difficult to make a safe profit from. The legal 'market' is based on donations - so there is no prohibition on the act of getting organs, there's just more people with failing organs than people dying with healthy organs.
The results of allowing an organ market would be an opening bubble resulting in increased harvesting amongst the ethically 'invisible' (poor/isolated), and a greatly increased demand for 'donors' either desperate or false (in order to launder organs). Some of this will be caught, but much of it would become institutionalized.
The endpoint would be a lot of poor people across the world dead and permanently disabled, a lot of wealthy and older people living a few months longer, a relatively few children of the wealthy saved, and a HUGE number of people financially invested in the organ market through their banks and mutual funds.
This last part is the big evil thing - markets always, ALWAYS demand more - more organs, more secrecy, more profitability. They thrive on multiplying evil in terms of harm ('externalities') in order to create better profit ratios.
The whole pattern is just far to evil for me.
I'd suggest putting more money into single-organ cloning (there's been some amazing developments lately), but if there's one thing the market process is HORRIBLE at, it's doing scientific research - it always seems to abandon anything long term, treats it only as marketing, and destroys far too much (to prevent helping 'competitors'.) Taxes, though a limited kind of evil, tend to be much more productive over time for the same result.
The Desktop Is Dead, Long Live the Desktop!
There's many, many more PCs in the world than there were last year, and there will continue to be many, many more PCs next year.
Just because it's rate of growth is slower than it used to be, does not mean there will be fewer PCs used - PCs are not actually getting less popular, they're just not getting more popular at as fast a rate as before.
The 'desktop' is as necessary, and as used as ever - there's just fewer folks needing a new copy right now. The role of PCs in doing most of the creation of content, serving of data, and as a customizable platform will not be reduced - there's just other specialized devices getting into their own growth phases in popularity, consuming the content created by an industry of PCs and PC servers.
It's like saying that micro organisms are in danger, because they've filled most of the world, they aren't doubling in number periodically anymore, and other creatures that eat them are increasing in number. But none of those 'competitors' actually fill the same niche, and they all depend on the lowly class of micro organisms to function in the end.
Bizarre Six-Tailed Asteroid Dumbfounds Scientists
Why do so many of these stories have things like "dumbfounded" or "baffled" in the title? Are these scientists just standing there, exclaiming to everyone who will listen - "I'm just so gosh-darn BAFFLED!" Not from any scientist I've met - but it's always reported as such, as if unknowns weren't a crucial element of the whole, you know, SCIENTIFIC PROCESS.
A Math Test That's Rotten To the Common Core
I've worked on programming games of chance for various states and governments, and learned that's there's a lot of problems communicating odds/ratios/differences in the ways this test is laying things out, especially for wide audiences that will validly complain about the terms used.
While they're not always fully ambiguous, you're just going to get a large percentage of test-takers answering incorrectly for things they legitimately know, just because they were thinking 'wrong' about how the information was present at that moment. Now, while this does a good job of showing where real-life problems can mislead people - it does a poor job of testing the actual skills being taught, as it's testing too many distinct things in each question to be meaningful in measuring math alone.
In order to have these kinds of questions be meaningful, you'd have to ask several variants over 100's of questions to filter understanding of each aspect of the questions - and you couldn't do that in one sitting either - which is why these are bad questions for a test of math.
If you wanted to test understanding of language context, use a question just for that - a 'what is the best sentence to describe..', then you don't have to have it as part of every question, and can even use previous questions to establish a context.
What this seems designed to do, is provide poor test results for people who haven't been given special training about 'math sentences' (which don't correspond to much), so that they can inflate their "improvement" when people improve in their tests, which are mostly just about 'math sentences'.
That doesn't sound like a math class - that sounds like a product training class.
Richard Feynman would rant much about this.
New Technology For Converting a Metal To a Semiconductor With a Laser
So... you're saying that the whole "we've got to alter the polarity on the deflector array" technobabble on Star Trek, may be retconned... as reality? With lasers, onto metals?
Seriously though - neat new twist on material science, and great exploration of particle coupling/entanglement! Could result in some rather odd, but promising advances in chip design and layout.