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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

SoftwareArtist Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (655 comments)

No, that is not at all what the study found. Let me quote directly from the abstract:

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Let me state that again: the only interest groups with substantial influence are those representing business interests. All other interest groups have "little or no independent influence". Organizing a grassroots movement is not an effective strategy.

4 hours ago
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This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions

SoftwareArtist Re:It was a "joke" back then (270 comments)

And the whole point of this cover is to be a joke - showing a "future" computer that is clearly completely impractical, because you would need a magnifying glass to read the tiny text on it, and because it would be completely impossible to actually type on a keyboard that small. The artist was having fun by pretending computers would just get smaller without changing in any other way, when this clearly couldn't happen in real life.

yesterday
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Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing

SoftwareArtist Re: Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (590 comments)

It doesn't exist in anything. That's the point: mathematics is independent of any context. When we say a piece of mathematics "exists", what we really mean is that certain consequences follow from certain definitions. It doesn't matter whether anyone has yet derived those consequences, or whether anyone has written down those definitions, or even whether there exists a person who could write them down or a surface on which to write them. It still remains true that certain consequences follow from certain definitions. And "the universe", according to the MUH, is the consequence that follows from some (currently unknown) definition.

Here's the Wikipedia page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.... I tried to include that in my first post, but it looks like Slashdot beta has changed how you specify links. :(

5 days ago
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Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing

SoftwareArtist Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (590 comments)

The best, and really only, answer I know for that question is the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. It says the universe is a purely mathematical structure that exists in an abstract, logical sense because by definition, it must exist. That's a hard concept to wrap your brain around, but it's the only approach I know of with even a hint of being able to answer your question. It gives you existence without needing God, quantum fluctuations, or anything else to bootstrap it. And so far, it's the only game in town.

5 days ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

SoftwareArtist Re:Fuck Obamacare (720 comments)

Sounds to me like really bad public policy. But nothing in the Constitution bans congress from passing that law.

5 days ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

SoftwareArtist Re:Fuck Obamacare (720 comments)

Encouraging people to buy health insurance certainly counts as promoting the "General Welfare of the United States". That's about the vaguest, least limiting wording I could have imagined. Allowing the government to collect taxes to promote the "General Welfare" is pretty much a blank check allowing it to do so for any purpose whatsoever.

You may not like that. You may think Article 1 should have been much more explicit and restrictive in its wording. That's fine. You're allowed to disagree with the Constitution, and you're allowed to campaign to get it changed. But for the present, it says what it says, and you don't have the right to pretend it says something different from what it plainly does say. (Morally speaking. Legally, I suppose you have the right to pretend whatever you want, but that doesn't make it true.)

about a week ago
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Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

SoftwareArtist Re:Fuck Obamacare (720 comments)

Suppose that instead of calling it a fine for not buying insurance, they had simply described it differently. Suppose they decided to tax everyone by a fixed amount, and then offered a tax rebate to anyone who bought insurance. Would you still feel that was unconstitutional? The government has the right to levy taxes - no question about that. And they have the right to spend money however they want, including giving it out as tax rebates to encourage particular behaviors. Yet the two situations are completely identical as far as money is concerned. The only difference is how they describe it. What makes the first unconstitutional and the second not?

Anyway, your claim about the Supreme Court is simply wrong. They've ruled that choosing to spend money in particular ways in particular circumstances is protected free speech, but they've never made any blanket claim that money=speech. For example, they still allow lots of restrictions on donations to political campaigns. You can't donate more than a fixed amount to any one candidate, and while you're allowed to buy political advertisements on your own, you can't coordinate with the campaigns you intend to support. And much more relevantly: so far as I know, they have never ruled in any context that you have a right to refuse to pay taxes or fines levied by the government.

about a week ago
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P vs. NP Problem Linked To the Quantum Nature of the Universe

SoftwareArtist Re:Computable? Simulatable? (199 comments)

That's exactly right. I just finished reading the paper. He's basically saying that we don't know what the Schrodinger equation predicts for macroscopic systems, because it's completely impossible to do the calculation and find out. Actually, whether P=NP doesn't really matter as far as that goes. Whether or not it will some day be possible to do the calculation, thus far we haven't done it, so we don't know what the result is. We shouldn't go around making claims about half-dead/half-alive cats when we have no idea whether QM predicts that or not.

There's a bit more to the paper than that. It has two main parts. The first is a proof that solving the Schrodinger equation is NP-hard. He then considers the case of a simple test system (for which we can solve the Schrodinger equation) coupled to a complex environment (for which we can't). He makes some heuristic arguments based on a set of reasonable sounding approximations, and shows that they lead to the standard probabilistic behavior and wavefunction collapse for the test system.

I don't think any of this is really new. It's just a different way of looking at decoherence. Still, it makes interesting reading.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Moving From Tech Support To Development?

SoftwareArtist Go for it (133 comments)

It sounds like you're at a point in your life where your ability to take risks is as high as it will ever be. If you don't aim for what you love doing now, you'll probably never do it.

about three weeks ago
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Creationists Demand Equal Airtime With 'Cosmos'

SoftwareArtist Re:Everything *credible* is on the table (667 comments)

It's not even a question of "credible". Everything is on the table to be suggested, discussed, and dismissed because it's completely inconsistent with the evidence. Creationists (and lots of other people who don't really understand science) keep missing that last point. They seem to think that "science" means you can believe anything you want. They don't get that if it was inconsistent with the evidence yesterday, and inconsistent with the evidence the day before that, and the day before that, and no new evidence has come up to change that, then you don't get to keep bringing it up. You have to follow the evidence, and if something is clearly inconsistent with the evidence, you may not believe in it.

about three weeks ago
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Time Dilation Drug Could Let Heinous Criminals Serve 1,000 Year Sentences

SoftwareArtist Re:Ridiculous. (914 comments)

You're missing a critical point. This is a way to torture people while pretending it isn't torture. Sadists love that sort of thing.

about a month ago
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Waves Spotted On Titan

SoftwareArtist Re:Different chemistry of life? (73 comments)

I don't think temperature is a problem. You just adjust your energy barriers to be appropriate to the temperature. So proteins would be much less stable than earth ones, but then they'd be much colder, so their stability would come out the same. Just like extremophiles have much more stable proteins than other organisms, so they don't fall apart at high temperature.

A bigger problem is DNA and RNA. Those would instantly precipitate out in methane. So you'd need a different molecule to serve that function, something that's nonpolar.

Agreed about life being easy to spot, at least if you're free to do whatever experiments you want. Look under a microscope, and it'll be obvious that something is there.

about a month ago
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Waves Spotted On Titan

SoftwareArtist Different chemistry of life? (73 comments)

I wonder what sort of chemistry any organisms living in those lakes would have. The whole concept of hydrophobicity would be reversed. Polar groups would be "methanephilic" and nonpolar ones would be "methanephobic". They could still have cell walls made from lipids, but they'd be flipped around with the polar part on the inside.

about a month ago
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The Tech Industry Is Getting Ridiculous

SoftwareArtist In other news... (102 comments)

A former cowboy became President of the United States. Oh, that was in 1901. And the U.S. overthrew the government of Guatemala to help out a fruit company. Oh, that was in 1954.

You can make anything sound crazy if you just say it in a silly enough way and leave out most of the important details. Heck, conservatives are fond of pointing out that Obama is a "former community organizer." Also a former senator, but who cares about that?

about a month and a half ago
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Making Sure Our Lab Equipment Isn't Tricking Us

SoftwareArtist Re:Superdeterminism (108 comments)

It's intellectually unsatisfying to think that superdeterminism could relate to something as supremely complicated as a scientific apparatus:

Why do you say that? If the whole universe is deterministic, then of course every part is deterministic. A scientific apparatus is incredibly simple compared to the universe as a whole.

Perhaps what you mean is that you want to know what mechanism creates the appearance of randomness/entanglement/free-will in a fully deterministic universe? Why does it appear that your actions have an influence on distant events, and that influence takes the form of a certain type of correlations between observables? It would be unsatisfying to declare, "It just happens, and there's no reason for it. It was just predestined that you would make the choice consistent with those correlations - for no reason." That would be incredibly improbable. Clearly there must be a mechanism.

Fortunately, we have very good ideas about what that mechanism might be. There's increasingly strong evidence for retrocausality and/or non-locality, either of which provides a straightforward mechanism to produce those correlations. And, not surprisingly, either one of them would be very hard to reconcile with a non-deterministic universe.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: An Open Source PC Music Studio?

SoftwareArtist Re:MuseScore? (299 comments)

MuseScore does support SoundFonts. It comes with a really low quality set of instruments, but that's just to keep the download size down. Download the FluidR3 SoundFont and it sounds a lot better.

about 3 months ago
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Powering Phones, PCs Using Sugar

SoftwareArtist Re:It's not a battery. (199 comments)

Also, there's my default assumption that journalists are idiots.

:)

about 3 months ago
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Powering Phones, PCs Using Sugar

SoftwareArtist Re:It's not a battery. (199 comments)

From the article:

The sugar battery is rechargeable, but also refillable.

Where did you get the idea it isn't rechargeable?

about 3 months ago
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RNC Calls For Halt To Unconstitutional Surveillance

SoftwareArtist We should support this (523 comments)

Yes, these people are partly responsible for creating these programs in the first place. But at least now they're opposing them. That's something I agree with. We should let them know we agree with it. And just as import: tell the Democrats we agree with it. Tell them they'd better get behind this, or they'll be on the losing side of the issue in the next election.

And yes, I know that many of the Republicans who voted for this are probably just doing it for political reasons, because they have to oppose whatever Obama supports. But that doesn't change the conclusion. If politicians just do whatever they think will be politically beneficial, then you need to make it beneficial to do what you want them to do. And when they do something you agree with, don't hesitate to voice your approval.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Petition to Reduce the Term of Copyrights

SoftwareArtist SoftwareArtist writes  |  more than 2 years ago

SoftwareArtist (1472499) writes "There's a petition up at whitehouse.gov to restore the term of copyrights back to what they were in 1976: a max of 58 years. We all love to complain about copyright law, so let's do something about it and complain to the people with power to change it. It needs 25,000 signatures by Feb. 20 to be guaranteed a response. For the Slashdot community, that should be easy! One petition won't change the law, but if we don't tell our elected representatives what we think, it will never change."

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