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Russian State TV Anchor: Russia Could Turn US To "Radioactive Ash"

catchblue22 Re:And the US could turn Russia into vapor (878 comments)

Well, considering that conventional warfare is a nono, and nuclear warfare is a BIG NONO, but economic warfare is fair game, I'd say you have a point.

Money is soft power. Military weapons are hard power. This difference is quite obvious to Ukranians in Crimea.

about a month ago

The Next Keurig Will Make Your Coffee With a Dash of "DRM"

catchblue22 Re:Why? (769 comments)

Is it really so hard to just grind the beans and brew it yourself? I do this every morning.

I totally agree. These machines make crap coffee for a massive premium price. They are the ink-jet printers of coffee. And I despise the amount of waste produced.

I use an espresso machine and a decent grinder to make Americano's in the morning...it takes a very short period of time, probably comparable to the kuereg. A cappuccino takes a bit longer with milk steaming, but still fairly fast. And I get a lovely crema which tastes oh so good.

about a month and a half ago

Scientists Study Permian Mass Extinction Event As Lesson For 21st Century

catchblue22 Volcanoes emit CO2 (235 comments)

Volcanoes emit CO2, though currently not at a rate even close to what we are emitting. However, with a long trend rising intensity of volcanic eruption, volcanoes can emit enough CO2 to substantially warm the planet.

about 2 months ago

Scientists Study Permian Mass Extinction Event As Lesson For 21st Century

catchblue22 Parent is using the strawman fallacy. (235 comments)

Environmentalists certainly want you to believe that. It's funny how a group can hate humanity as much as they do and yet not commit mass suicide.

They are the ultimate hypocrites. They want the REST OF US to starve without GMO crops and transportation of food. But they themselves are far too heroic to die, of course.


about 2 months ago

Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic

catchblue22 Re:Survey results != Real world (293 comments)

Only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed 'trolling.' By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were 'non-commenters,' meaning they didn't like engaging online at all. So trolls are, as has often been suspected, a minority of online commenters

What of the percentage of trolls who are in fact paid to post on particular political issues. If I were extremely wealthy and wanted to push public opinion in a certain direction, I think that hiring internet trolls would be a relatively inexpensive way of reaching the public.

about 2 months ago

Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

catchblue22 Market for Grades (264 comments)

It is a fairly common idea in the ideology of many of those who run our education system that if you give students the ability to chose their professors or teachers, they will chose the best professors or teachers. The idea is to make education a marketable commodity with professors and teachers as service providers and students as consumers. There is a deep and fundamental flaw in this view. Markets are indeed extraordinarily good at satisfying consumer demand. The problem is that too many students are not demanding a quality education, but rather the highest possible grade, possibly with the least amount of effort. In other words too many students value the credential rather than the education it is meant to represent. Thus, the market system for education works against the Public Interest, putting an upward pressure on grades and a downwards pressure on standards.

What are some solutions to this quandry? The problem is often that grades for particular courses consist only of a percentage. In most schools and universities those percentages in a particular course do not differentiate between different professors or teachers. Thus a grade given by a challenging professor and one given by an easy professor are difficult to distinguish. The proposal in TFA might help the situation, but I think there is another way. What if each professor got a score not based on the evaluation by students but rather by how his students scored in other courses, especially those that follow his own course. This score for a professor would be like an adjustment factor for his grades. Let's say most students in one professor's Calculus II class who get 75% usually go on to get an 85% score in Calculus III. Thus, this professor's grades would be deemed better than another professor's grades whose 75% students usually go on to score 65% in Calculus III.

This system would reduce pressure on professors to raise grades, especially if students understood this rating system. All that would matter would be that the professor be consistent year after year. It might seem complicated to implement but in our world of computers and databases, I don't think it would be impossible to create. It wouldn't be necessary to follow all of a professor's students, only a few in order to gain a correlation. Indeed, all it would initially require would be for each professor or teacher to be given a unique code which would be attached to each grade given to each student. The rest would be data mining by whatever authority has access to the data.

about 2 months ago

Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

catchblue22 Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (343 comments)

Mandatory insurance is not health care reform. Yes I realize that there is more to the ACA than that but really if you want to provide health care for your citizens there are a lot better solutions out there. Unfortunately there is a fear of socialized health care in the US.

To quote Otto von Bismarck: "Politics is the art of the possible."

about 3 months ago

Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

catchblue22 Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (343 comments)

You see how well the last few years have gone. Every month GWB is looking so much better than Obama.

Yeah, GWB would have brought in sweeping health care reforms. Every time I hear statements like the above I am reminded how intellectually lazy the American intelligentsia is.

about 3 months ago

Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

catchblue22 Re:As an environmentalist and (former) Obama fan. (343 comments)

They didn't award it to Obama for anything.

They awarded Obama the Peace Prize because he was personally spearheading negotiations with the Russians to reduce nuclear armament stockpiles. This didn't go anywhere largely because Congress would have vetoed any meaningful concessions. My source on this is 1 degree of separation from Obama (he works with people who would have worked with Obama.

about 3 months ago

DARPA's Atlas Walking Over Randomness

catchblue22 Re:The robot.. (76 comments)

No human has vibrating feet.

I beg to differ. Try this experiment. Place a thick pillow on the ground, or perhaps two. Stand on these pillows with one leg and no other support for one minute. If your pillow stance is unstable enough, your foot will have to move around rapidly to maintain your balance, since by not being able to change the location of your foot on the pillow, you must instead change the orientation of your foot. I suspect that this robot is actually testing specifically the ability of ankle joints to maintain balance, since there is almost no side stepping visible on the part of the robot. The Boston Dynamics robots referred to in other posts often seem to rely mainly on sidestepping for balance, and often have peg legs instead of feet and ankles. This robot seems likely to be a proof of concept of one particular method of balance that in future robots will be combined with other methods of balance.

about 5 months ago

Scientists Says Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Oceans

catchblue22 Re:On the plus side (274 comments)

This experiment has already been carried out in the Black Sea, and the results are not good.

Except for the jellyfish. For them, their clipboards say Results are excellent!

I guess I was being a bit implicit. I meant that the results are not good for us. Meaning that jellyfish are objectively less nutritious for human consumption. And possibly it will be bad for all oxygen consuming life forms as most of our oxygen comes from the ocean, and because shifting to a jellyfish based aquatic ecosystem could have a negative impact on oxygen producing phytoplankton. Admittedly this is speculation on my part, but I don't think it is as outlandish as it might seem to imagine a world with widespread oceanic zones of low oxygen production. In fact we are already observing large "dead-zones" in the ocean.

about 5 months ago

Scientists Says Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Oceans

catchblue22 Re:On the plus side (274 comments)

I wrote a summary of research paper 10 years ago for a course I was taking. That paper described what happened in the Black Sea after top level predators were removed. As I remember, the removal of the top level predators made the entire ecosystem unstable. Overfishing of smaller fish opened up a niche for other species like jellyfish, which then displaced for a time the opportunities for the populations of the small fish to recover.

In essence, this is what is happening worldwide. We are killing off the sharks via the shark fin industry, and sharks are the top level predator in the ocean. We are also overfishing smaller species. This seems to be opening up niches for jellyfish, which may displace the fish that we normally eat. This experiment has already been carried out in the Black Sea, and the results are not good.

about 5 months ago

US Adults Score Poorly On Worldwide Test

catchblue22 Extreme Religion and Intellectual Development (745 comments)

I would argue that the very fact that members of main-stream American religious groups are in effect required to reject solid scientific frameworks like evolution and geology predisposes them to intellectual handicaps. Science is at its heart an intellectual process for finding truth about the physical world. It requires a person to be open to new ideas, and to use logic and reason to reject faulty ideas. By rejecting scientific ideas out of hand, members of these extreme religious groups are developing habits of mind that erode their entire skill set. They develop the habit of mind to blindly accept ideas as given by a trusted religious authority. They develop the habit of mind to view opposing views as evils to be shunned. They develop the habit of mind of assuming a-priori the truth of certain ideas and then defending those ideas in any way possible, including the use of deceptive and faulty reasoning.

I don't think the apparent decline in the reasoning skills of Americans can entirely be blamed on religion. The decline of the fifth estate (the news media) and the rise of vacuous popular culture have likely played a role. I also think that many in our "academic elite" have fallen sway to facile ideologies that ignore the complexities of history and human nature (both on the left AND on the right). I am also not entirely anti-religious. The Jesuits for example display a healthy respect for logic and reason and have a strong intellectual heritage (they educated Rene Descartes, who used the logical habits of mind he gained from his Jesuit education to help start the Enlightenment).

Nonetheless, having conversed and interacted with many evangelical adherents, I am disturbed by their lack of reasoning skills. In a democratic society, having such a large numbers of voters with such low reasoning abilities is likely to be dangerous. The fact that 90 members of Congress are "Tea Party" adherents is strong evidence of this danger.

about 6 months ago

Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 1 Released in HTML Format

catchblue22 Re:Overrated? (129 comments)

No. Not over-rated. He was capable of communicating ideas, deep and otherwise, clearly, which is very difficult. Consider how to convey the difference in magnitude between gravity and the electromagnetic force. The example he gives goes something like this:

RF: What is your charge right now?

Student: neutral.

RF: Why?

Student: Because we have the same amount of positive and negative charge.

RF: OK. What would happen if you took some electrons from your neighbour?

Student: I would become positive and he would be negative

RF: Yes. Now I want you to imagine you steal some of the electrons from your neighbor. Let's not be greedy. Let's say you take 10% of them. Now you are negative and your friend is positive and you will feel an attractive force towards him. The question is: how strong is the force of attraction. Is it larger or smaller than the weight of the Empire State Building?

Student: Hmmmm...dunno. I'm gonna guess larger.

RF: Yes it is larger. But how much larger. Is the force of attraction between you and your neighbor larger or smaller than the weight of Mount Everest?

Student: I'm gonna go with larger.

RF: Yes, you are correct. In fact, the force of attaction between you and your neighbor WILL BE ABOUT THE SAME AS THE WEIGHT OF THE ENTIRE EARTH!

The above paraphrased lesson emphasizes like nothing I've ever heard before how weak gravity is and how strong the electromagnetic force is. Simply brilliant.

about 7 months ago

The Physics of the World's Fastest Man

catchblue22 Definition of "World's Fastest Man"? (137 comments)

I have a problem with the vagueness of the term "world's fastest man". If the criteria is for a person to reach the maximum speed without the aid of external forces like engine forces or gravity, then I think that Sam Whittingham is the world's fastest man. He rode a recumbant bike 133kph (83mph) over level ground without motor pacing. His bicycle was enclosed by an aerodynamic shell designed by a European sculptor (I can't find his name but he is not an engineer). The record has also been contested by more prestigious university engineering teams but Sam's record still stands. His training runs sometimes took place on Vancouver Island freeways, and it was not uncommon for him to pass cars on the freeway.

about 9 months ago

Global Warming 5 Million Years Ago In Antarctic Drastically Raised Sea Levels

catchblue22 Re:Causation or Correlation? (437 comments)

Unfortunately your link has nothing to do with glacial periods or ice ages. It only shows an graph of the temperature at antarctica. Also: is it a mean temperature? What is the graph supposed to mean? As it is slightly above zero degrees most of the time, the graphbmakes no sense at all anyway.

LOL... Sigh. Not sure this guy has his tongue in his cheek or is actually as obtuse as he appears.

The graph gives the mean temperature in Antarctica along with the CO2 concentrations versus time. This does show the ice ages. Low temperatures imply an ice age. Warm temperatures imply an interglacial period. The CO2 concentrations slightly lead in time. Given what we know about the physics of the greenhouse effect, this graph gives strong evidence that CO2 is a prime cause of global warming.

Really, sometimes I think posters to this board should have to pass some form of IQ test and a literacy test. It provides support for my "tongue in cheek" hypothesis that the self esteem movement has caused idiots and buffoons to believe that their ideas are on par with those of their more educated betters. In the past, they would have just sulked in the shadows realizing that they just aren't too bright.

about 9 months ago

Global Warming 5 Million Years Ago In Antarctic Drastically Raised Sea Levels

catchblue22 Re:More to the point... (437 comments)

A couple of important points: Firstly, 5 million years ago, there weren't 7 billion people living on Earth, people whose food supply was dependent on an agricultural system tightly adapted to today's particular climatic conditons. I will always remember a lecture given by one of my geology professors. He drew a graph on the board, initially without a scale. On the left, the graph fluctuated wildly up and down, going from extreme highs to extreme lows. Then suddenly, the graph settled down to mild up and down variations, and became basically horizontal, continuing to the right. Then he labelled the axes. The vertical axis was local temperature for an area where most humans lived. The horizontal axis was time. The time when the temperature settled down to a relatively constant pattern was about 10 000 years ago, the time when the last ice age ended. Then he asked us what other important event occurred around 8000 to 10000 years ago. Of course, the answer was the dawn of human civilization. Human civilization appeared about 8000 years ago. Civilization can only exist because of agriculture. People begin to plant crops in one area. They grow more food than they can eat, so they can have more children. Not all members of society have to spend time farming; individuals can afford to spend time doing other things like making pottery to store extra food, building better houses, or posting on Slashdot.

The problem for cities comes when the conditions that allowed successful agriculture change. Three or four years of failed crops caused by drought or heat or cold or surplus precipitation will exhaust all stored food. The residents of the cities will have to abandon their cities to begin hunting and gathering again, thus largely shattering any nascent civilization. The lesson from this is that human civilization was not simply the result of the triumph of human intelligence over nature. Civilization appeared 8000 years ago because the climate conditions favored it. During the last ice age, the conditions did not favor the development of cities. Even in areas that were not covered in ice, the climate conditions would have been highly variable thanks to the huge persistent ice sheets to the north. One day the air would come from the warm south, another day, the air would come from the cold northern ice sheets. These unstable conditions would have made sustained agriculture impossible.

My second point is that the well known fact that the climate in the past has shifted from warm to cold to warm should not be comforting to us. In fact, it should be the opposite. The fact that the Earth's climate has shifted in the past indicates that our climate is highly sensitive to relatively small forcings. Tiny changes in the Earth's orbit that cause periodically the Northern hemisphere to get more sunlight, and then tens of thousands of years later less sunlight are thought to have forced the Earth into and then out of ice ages (Milankovic Cycles). The slow collision of the Indian sub-continent with Asia, and its resulting volcanism is thought to have caused a large spike in carbon dioxide concentrations, resulting in a climate where the conditions in the north were near tropical.

The fact that the climate has shifted in the past due to relatively small changes indicates that "relatively small" changes wrought by humans, such as the removal of carbon from under the ground and the dumping of it into the atmosphere are capable of pushing our climate into a very different state, one that is likely to reduce human agricultural output by enough to make our current large scale civilization a dubious proposition.

about 9 months ago

Research Suggests Mars Once Had a Thick Atmosphere

catchblue22 Re:How did it form an atmosphere? (98 comments)

How did Mars form an atmosphere in the first place if it has no magnetic field to keep it from getting stripped away?

One of my favorite moments in my formal education came when I took a second year geology elective called "Geologic Time". We spent some time discussing the formation of the solar system. If I may, I'll give a brief summary, as it will give some context to your question.

Many billions of years ago, a large star composed of hydrogen formed. Due to the high pressure and temperature in that star, new elements formed by fusion, with the largest element formed being iron. The star had a relatively short life, collapsed, and exploded in a supernova. During the explosion, neutrons, amongst other things were sprayed around the already existing matter. Those neutrons, being neutral, tended to "stick" to other nuclei. This, combined with beta decay explains the formation of elements larger than iron.

A wisp of the dust from that supernova began to coalesce into a spinning disk, due to gravity and angular momentum. The larger amount of material in the center of the disk was pulled together by gravity strongly enough to create fusion. Thus our sun was born. Within the spinning disk, some material was naturally volatile (e.g. water, methane, etc.). Some of the material tended towards becoming solid. One such material was silicon. The silicon reacted with oxygen to form silicon dioxide (I think). The silicon dioxide tended to form solid spheres in much the same way that hail is formed within a thunderstorm. These little spheres of silicon were commonly the size of ball bearings or actual hailstones. We call them chondrules.

When the sun ignited, it created an outwards stream of particles, which we call the solar wind. The particles in the solar wind easily pushed volatile molecules like water and methane outwards, away from the Sun. However, the solar wind was not able to push silicon chondrules outwards very much, due to their large size (compared to gas molecules). Thus, the inner planets are made of rocky silicon, while the outer planets, beginning with Jupiter, are made of volatile gaseous compounds.

The inner rocky planets slowly expanded in size due to falling rocks (and later comets). Eventually, radioactive decay in the Earth (and Mars) increased the inner temperatures of these planets enough that they melted inside, that is, they changed from largely hetorogenous chunks of rock to something more like today's planets. As the inside of the Earth melted, the most dense elements sank to the center. The most common dense element was iron. Thus the Earth got its iron core. Due to the motion of that solid/liquid iron core, the Earth developed a natural magnetic field. That magnetic field deflected the high speed charged particles in the solar wind around the Earth, thus protecting our atmosphere from being blown away. For some reason that I am not aware of, Mars did not develop a significant magnetic field. Thus, over time, Mars lost its atmosphere due to molecular collisions with particles in the solar wind.

I think the best way to answer your question would be to say that Mars got its atmosphere the same way that Earth did. Likely from some combination of comet collisions bringing volatiles from the outer solar system, and from volcanism releasing volatiles that were initially trapped in the rocky Earth. The solar wind acted on Mars' atmosphere over many billions of years, slowly removing it molecule by molecule. It wouldn't have happened right away...it would have taken a very long time to thin Mar's atmosphere significantly.

There...a bit longer than what I intended, but not bad considering what I described.

about 9 months ago

Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

catchblue22 Re:Nice (719 comments)

So the Nobel Peace Prize = "I HATE AMERICA" Prize.

Not really. It's meant to be a prize for making the world more peaceful. Giving it to Obama was nuts, and it's now not clear if this prize has any point any more.

I suspect the prize was given to Obama because early in his first term, he was personally spearheading negotiations with Russia to substantially reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. The problem of course was that Congress would be unlikely to approve such reductions.

As for Obama being just like Bush, I think that to believe such a thing is intellectually lazy. One thing that is often missed by arm chair pundits is that the American political elite have an existential fear of a nuclear ransom scenario, where some nefarious organization gains control of a handful of nuclear bombs, explodes one in a major city, and then threatens to detonate the others in other American cities. Such an incident would quite literally unwind the threads of American civilization. Such fears cause our leaders to do all sorts of bad things in the name of protecting society. That said, I think it is important that we keep pressure on our leaders and let them know that the population will not be cowed into submission. Thus I think what Snowden did was important, in that it brought a very dangerous surveillance program into the public eye.

about 9 months ago

What Medical Tests Should Teach Us About the NSA Surveillance Program

catchblue22 Re: Flawed Analogy (107 comments)

Some doctors have a name for what happens when modern hi-res imaging causes doctors to think benign irregularities may be harmful: getting "VOMIT"ed on...ie "Victim Of Medical Imaging Technology".

about 9 months ago



The Gods Strike Back: Wall Street's Risky Hubris

catchblue22 catchblue22 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

catchblue22 (1004569) writes "The Economist has an interesting essay that gives some perspective on our economic situation. From the article,

THE revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of the gods and that men and women are not passive before nature. So wrote Peter Bernstein in his seminal history of risk,"Against the Gods".

Wall Street quants have claimed over the past decade that they had the ability to quantify financial risk down to several decimal places. The Great Recession has shown their claims to be absurd. Wall Street's supposed mastery of risk allowed financial institutions to package risky loans as derivatives that ostensibly had definite and identifiable risk profiles. Our recent financial collapse shows the limits of our beautiful and elegant mathematical models of the economy."
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