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Slashdot editors: science-illiterate or just stupid?

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  about 9 years ago

Whenever I see something like this, I always have to shake my head and wonder where people went to school.

Conservation of energy is a foundation concept in most of science. You literally cannot understand anything significant in physics or chemistry without taking it into account throughout. Yet there goes CowboyNeal, blithely posting an article which implicitly claims that a lossy microwave generator can create energy from nothing.

Science-illiterate I can believe, but Slashdot shouldn't be giving science editor duties to anyone like that. Stupid or credulous, I am a little less ready to believe... though I am willing to be convinced.

The thing that worries me most, though, is that someone's paying editors under the table to get publicity for their hokey products. If that's where Slashdot is going, it either needs to fire the editors or die.

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Slashdot journal theme is BUGGY

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 9 years ago Some element in the new theme is causing the journal icons to overlay journal links and even text. This makes it impossible to read a journal entry directly (the only accessible link is the comments, and THEN you can get to an un-obscured link to the entry body), and parts of the text can only be read by changing the text size to get it to wrap differently or by blocking images from images.slashdot.org. (Even with images blocked, you can't click through to journal entries; you go to a search function instead.)

For crying out loud, we shouldn't have to do this. How hard is it to test things before shoving them onto everyone?

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Slow news day

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 9 years ago News flash: I appear to be one of a very few on Slashdot today.

And on top of that, the very tip of the remains of what was Hurricane Rita is drenching the area.

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People are masochistic, part deux

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 9 years ago Since I had a shitty day and I got some mod points, I decided to share my misery with some of the masochists out there.

I followed a likely link and modded some people up. If my theory is correct, this will cause them angst and discomfort as they feel most at home with curmudgeonly remarks and other negative feedback.

Results of this experiment are pending.

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People are masochistic

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 9 years ago I continue to go through life calling 'em as I see 'em, most especially when I have a negative view of persons or events, and sometimes spicing things up with extra-hot sarcasm and worse. (And the occasional joke.)

Yet despite this, I haven't had a new freak in ages. People continue to "friend" me (this entry prompted by the most recent).

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the part of Slashdot which reads me (probably including most of Sol's and Pixie's friends) has a large fraction of masochists.

(I have mod points. Should I test this by going through my "fans" list and modding people down? I suppose that appreciative reactions would confirm the hypothesis. Hmmm....)

Update: Dang, there's another one! I've got the wrong looks, the wrong personality and the wrong demeanor. Where did I go right? (2 points to whoever catches THAT reference)

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Impressions of a sillypixie

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago Sometimes people tell you what to say about them. Sometimes they tell you what not to say about them... not that you have to abide by it.

I've never been one to censor myself; it's easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Sillypixie said this in mail:

Tell 'em all i have ______-_ _____[1], I dare ya.... HA!

(no really, don't, that's the last bit of imagery I want in their minds, ewww)

I've always had a perverse sense of humor... but more below.

What can you say about someone after hanging out with them for a few hours and a couple beers? Quite a bit; first impressions can be memorable.

The first impression you get from meeting SillyPixie is... not the impression of a pixie, or someone silly. Neither is the second impression, or the third. The first impression is one of friendliness and openness. The next one that develops over time is of a relentless energy, vivacity, bOunCiNeSs.

But it's not an undirected energy, as her readers know well. She is as much of a doer in person as she is on-line; this is a woman with a mission, no make that two missions, no, make that twenty missions. Give her a hot tub to warm herself to softness and a large butter knife and she'd spread herself as thin as gold leaf trying to do all the things she sees as worthwhile. The inability to actually solve all the problems of her life, let alone the world, bugs her.

She really cares. There is no way you cannot admire that.

As you talk with her longer, you become certain that behind the energy and drive is a penetrating intelligence and deep competence. This is somebody who is not just good, she's DAMN good. She's extremely sure of herself, but not vain; in her field she's got few peers, and she's interested in just about everything else. Even the arcana of applied thermogodda... er, thermodynamics. If it affects her or could improve the world around her, she seems to have an interest in it. You know she'd try to soak up just about anything, if she could just spread herself a little thinner...

She wants to have everything. You wish you could give it to her. If I could clone a few dozen of her and hook them up as a Beowulf cluster[2], I think I could consider it my crowning contribution to humanity.

The last part of meeting SillyPixie is having to leave. It doesn't matter what delights you have ahead; parting is still sweet sorrow.

[1] This footnote is here just so that she can have a genuine "oh SHIT!" reaction when she comes across this JE (did I mention my perverse sense of humor?). I will say that she has the most enchanting eyes.

[2] Like you didn't know that was coming. This is Slashdot.

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The numbers (updated)

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago "Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." -- Aaron Levenstein

In that spirit, I bring you... vacation trip statistics!

Duration: 20 days

Miles driven: 6730 (approx)
Scheduled sites visited: 6
Scheduled sites missed: 2
Unscheduled sites/trips: 2
________ Due to opportunity: 1
____________ Due to weather: 1

Maximum altitude: ~8200 feet
Minimum altitude: 3 feet

Fuel consumed: 166 gallons
___________ petroleum: 148 gallons
___________ biodiesel: 17.5 gallons (est)
States/provinces crossed per tank of fuel:
________________________________ Maximum: 3.5
________________________________ Minimum: 1 (Nebraska)

Washer fluid consumed: ~1 gallon
___due to suicidal bugs: 100%

___ Film shot: 14.5 rolls + 2 disposable cameras
____________ developed: 8 rolls
_ awaiting round tuits: 6.5 rolls + 2 disposable cameras
_______ In photo album: 1 roll

National parks visited: 4
___________________ Canadian: 2
___________________ American: 2

Glaciers stood upon: 1
Volcanoes stood upon: 2
Lava tubes explored: 1
Ice crevasses explored: 0

Curses aimed at Slash maintainers for banning leading blanks: countless
(okay, none of that was during the trip... but it's sure on my mind right now!)

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Stories you couldn't write today

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago (I had thought about the topic for this JE, and then forgot about when I was posting last night. Had I remembered it, I probably would have talked about this instead of archaic words.)

(There are two signs of senility. Forgetfulness is one of them, and I forget the other.)

The problem with (hard) science fiction is that it depends on science, and science is uncovering new knowledge at an exponentially-increasing rate. Take the origin of my nom de plume, Poul Anderson's book "Tau Zero". The plot revolves around relativistic time dilation and a cyclic universe. A colony ship-full of people find themselves in a difficult situation: they can accelerate but cannot stop and can't make repairs until they get to a place where the gas density is low enough to be safe (at their speed, each hydrogen atom is a very powerful cosmic ray). By the time they have gotten outside the galaxy to make repairs so much time has gone by that their original destination colony is long past them, so they just continue accelerating and letting the universe age faster and faster around them due to time dilation (tau=zero). The universe stops expanding, collapses and re-explodes; they emerge into the next cycle where everything is new and they get to start over.

You couldn't write this story today, at least not as hard SF. The discovery of "dark energy" means that the universe will expand forever, so the fundamental premise is wrong.

There are lots of other SF stories you couldn't write today, like "The Flying Sorcerers." Not because of the physics, but because you'd have to take all the misogynistic elements out of it. However, satire runs by different rules.

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You stopped using that word.

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago Occasionally I run across a disused word that mystifies and delights me, like an encounter with a fascinating stranger. Most often I run into it in print, but sometimes in other media.

Recently I was listening to some old Brit comedy and came across the phrase "... the sound of a tucket without." (Oh, all right, I'll tell you: Flanders and Swann, "Greensleeves".) I realized that I had no idea what a tucket was, so I looked it up. It's no wonder this was not a familiar word, as the sound of a tucket is certainly a rare thing in this day and age, especially outside Britain.

Another long-absent one is phthisis, which I found lurking in an article extolling idleness. (Hat tip: Zirnike.) I had a nodding childhood acquaintance with it as my father had performed the introduction in one of many impromptu lessons in etymology, but to run into it again after all these years was quite a surprise.

There are plenty more, but those two just happened to come to mind.

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Cereal killer

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago Where have our dual protagonists gone? Recapping the last episode:

As Pixie sailed through the air towards the water, she watched in amazement as Tau sailed through the air towards the boat, snapping up the scotch, shot glass and all! For a moment, they were eye to fish-eye, and then Pixie plunged into the water, gasping as the frigid temperatures chased the alcohol out of her system. As the water closed over her head, she thought she heard a low chuckle...

<As Tau floated to the peak of his trajectory, rolling the shot glass over in his mouth, he saw a remarkable sight. Falling into the water as he fell away from it was... something. Much smaller than a troll - wasn't behaving like a troll, it had been spin-casting instead - smaller than a typical human. It made a splash as he began his descent. Tau lost sight of it temporarily as he spun slowly toward the water, then he rejoined it with a smack.>

<Spitting out the empty shot glass, he turned to examine the fallen thing. Fallen angel? No, it lacked wings, and it was small compared to what an angel was supposed to be. It wasn't plump enough to be a cherub. Was it... a pixie? Fortunately for it, it was too big to do more than nibble on; it was safe from him. Unfortunately for him, it was not accompanied by any tasty barflies.>

<The pixie thrashed in the water, and something else drifted downward.... a bottle, just barely full enough to sink and fortunately capped. Tau darted to retrieve it, grabbing it by the neck. Holding the bottle, he turned back upward.>

Will Sillypixie catch Tau? Will she even get back into the boat? If she doesn't, will Tau be able to enjoy the bottle of scotch given that he's presently a fish and has no hands to open the screw-top? All in the next episode... or not, depending on the whimsy of the authors.

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Good news - and sightseeing suggestions solicited

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago I feel good. I have finally caught up with all of SolemnDragon's journal entries. (Don't I wish that something as interesting as the Twins would happen to a major political convention...)

And I also have something beginning to gel relevant to vacation travel. I should be leaving greater Chicago on Sunday August 29. I intend to hit Minneapolis and Winnipeg over the next two days, which puts me at Tuesday. The following Sunday I need to be in Seattle, perhaps via Edmonton and Calgary.

That gives me about five days to cover 3-4 days worth of driving. I've already shot rolls of film in Banff, though only from the highway. What else should I try to see?

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Somebody's brain-dead

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago .... So I get to work today, and in between trying to find bugs I decide to scan Slashdot. Only I find that yro.slashdot.org has somehow found its way onto the "banned" control list for the second time this year (without explanation), and so have ask.slashdot.org and www.windsofchange.net.

Did I mention that there is no mailto: link for submittal of erroneous blocks?

I swear, the OA department at <censored> has to be run by morons.

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Trip advice solicited

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago It looks like I might get a vacation this year (yay!). And not just a little measly week or two free, but the best-part-of-a-month that is suitable for taking a serious road trip.

This leaves me trying to determine where to go and who and what to see. I will be going all the way to the Pacific and perhaps as far north as Edmonton, but the biggest gap in my list of potential stopping points falls between Illinois/Wisconsin and Winnipeg.

Do you live along this line? Have you travelled this area? What is there that is fun to see? I am partial to natural beauty as opposed to museums or architecture, and I don't do bars.

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Leaving the ranks of the gasoline-burners

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago I'm happy to be replacing my old vehicles. My small car was lucky to get 38 MPG on a slow cruise, and typically got more like 34-36 on the highway. The big car burns even more fuel, achieving something like 26 MPG at 75 MPH and 30 MPG at a constant 60 MPH if I'm lucky. City mileage on the boat was as low as 16.

But I'm done with naptha for fuel; the new car is diesel. It looks to be delivering 40 MPG and it has plenty of room and tons of neat features. I filled it last weekend and have put 360 miles on it so far without the fuel gauge going below half! I need to improve the sound system and add a few other dress features, but other than that it looks to be exactly what I hoped for.

Next step: make my own fuel.

Update 6/14: According to the silly trip-computer thing I got over 45 MPG on the way home from work. We'll see how accurate it is Wednesday, when I fill it up again.

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It's the small things in life

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago A quick trip through one discussion brings 4 up-mods before work.

Now if I only had time to use these mod points, I'd be really happy.

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Not quite lost to history

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago I guess I've been Slashdotting for a while. After a search I found one of my best funnies, and it is almost four and a half.

The really strange part is that it's the only +5 rated comment in the whole thread. Unfortunately the only rating information to survive is the score; the odd datum that someone had modded it "Informative" has been lost. <sigh>

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Keeping cool in a warming world

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago I still have to wonder what the person who asked this question of Slashdot had in mind, but I don't have to wonder what I think of the poster:

Man, there's somebody who takes the climate change seriously and seems ready to do something about it. We need more people like that!

But the question raised by the poster remains: if we are ready to do something, what should we do? Going to rallies and shaking our fists against the threat from global climate change will do exactly nothing to stop or even slow the problem. Whatever we do, it had better be effective... and it had better be cheap too, because we only have so much money and we have many other necessities to which we must attend.

I have long been struck by the absurdity of air conditioning in the US of A (mostly the South, but everywhere to some degree): there we/I/they are, cooling our/themselves using energy which ultimately comes from the combustion of coal, which spews carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing the infrared opacity of the atmosphere and trapping heat more effectively, which increases the temperature and thus the amount of energy required for cooling. Sooner or later we'll get tired of the gunplay, look at that foot and wonder where the toes went.

But the question remains, what do we do? Not just years but decades ago, an experiment was run in a northern city, Minneapolis I believe. During the winter a snow gun was used to create a large pile of ice in a pit on the grounds of an office building. In the spring, an insulating cover was pulled over the pile. During the summer, icewater from the bottom of the gradually melting heap was pumped out and circulated through fan coils to cool the air; the warmed water circulated back to the ice pit to be cooled again. All of this occurred without any energy required for the actual cooling; only circulating pumps and fans had to be run.

Why the heck aren't these things ubiquitous across the north, chilling office parks and shopping malls for free? Oh, yeah, and making productive use of the mountains of snow that we plow off of roads, parking lots and sidewalks?

There's not enough free cold across the south to generate the ice required to carry them through hot summers, but there's plenty of free sunlight. Heat can power a heat engine, and heat engines don't have to push cranks; they can push heat around instead. There is more than one way to use heat to make things cool, so the question rises: why the heck aren't we doing it? Is it really too expensive, or are we just doing the same old thing as always because we're using flawed accounting?

Enough ruminations from me, I've got stuff to do.

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Misconceptions about going to Mars

Tau Zero Tau Zero writes  |  more than 10 years ago In one skirmish in the War on Ignorance, I threw this grenade. It has my research, calculations and thoughts on:

  1. Required throw-weight to Mars and approximate mass requirements for doing so.
  2. Delta-V requirements for trans-Mars injection and atmospheric entry at both ends.
  3. Engine production rates compared to historic levels.
  4. Design for mission failure tolerance.
  5. Comparison against NASA mission assumptions.
  6. Some elementary chemistry.
  7. Reasons for building a space elevator.

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