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It might not be Tuesday today, but still, here's an old (yet still good) physics problem for you to take a crack at:
"An airplane (jet or turboprop) is standing on a runway with a moving surface (like a conveyer belt). The surface can move in the opposite direction to the plane, that is, towards it. It has a control system that tracks the speed of the plane and adjusts the speed of the conveyer belt in such a way that the speed at which the wheels of the plane rotate would be equal (but the opposite) to the speed of the conveyer belt. Can the plane take off from this strip?"
Just noticed that UID=1000000 has finally been registered. Lucky bastard.
I discovered an interesting (and funny) site today, called I Used To Believe. It's a collection of ideas that people thought were true when they were children. Reading the things other people used to believe reminded me of some of my beliefs. For instance, I used to believe:
- That back when my parents were kids, everything was black and white just like in the films.
- That nuclear bombs were huge, black and round -- just like the bombs in cartoons, except huge. To throw such a bomb, I reasoned, one would need a huge slingshot, or maybe a catapult.
- That after a fire, all you had to do was sweep the floor and get a new carpet
- That there was a treasure chest buried somewhere in my back yard. I spent hours digging for it. I didn't really dig deep, though.
What about you?
Some of you are probably familiar with Jared Diamond's thesis of the human destruction of the ecosystem on Easter Island. According to Diamond, "In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism." But now, in American Scientist, Terry L. Hunt offers an alternative explanation to the collapse of the Easter Island civilization. He presents new carbon dating evidence showing that the human colonization of Easter Island took place about four hundred years later than previously thought. Hunt then argues that contrary to previous estimations by Diamond and others, the human population of Easter Island reached a maximum of about 3,000 and remained "fairly stable" until the Europeans arrived. The actual downfall of the Rapanui resulted not from internal strife caused by a rapid degeneration of the ecosystem as previously thought (by Diamond and others), but from contact with Europeans.
Hunt finds that the deforestation cannot be explained with human activities alone. Instead, he claims that much of the damage was caused by the rats introduced to the island by the first colonists. "It was genocide, not ecocide, that caused the demise of the Rapanui. An ecological catastrophe did occur on Rapa Nui, but it was the result of a number of factors, not just human short-sightedness."
When I read Sol's journal, I immediately had this great idea for a story. It was supposed to be about this miracle maker who never makes any miracles. He has all the power in the world, yet he abstains from using it. If he only wanted to, he could make the whole world a better place at the blink of an eye -- yet he doesn't use these powers he has and lives an ordinary life in an ordinary house. From the outside, his life looks very dull and grey. He never does anything out of the ordinary. In the end, he dies, alone, without committing a single miracle.
I was so excited! For weeks, I had not come up with a single story, not even the tiniest one, but now, I had this great idea! It was such a great idea that I could actually turn it into a novel if I wanted to! A whole novel -- I had never actually written a story longer than six or seven pages! And now, I was ready to write a novel! Is that a miracle or what?
All excited, I fired up my text editor and started to write. "There once was a man..." I wrote, but then stopped. I couldn't think of a single word to add. What else was there to say besides this? He was, after all, this perfectly ordinary man who never did anything out of the ordinary. But if he never did anything out of the ordinary and never committed a single miracle, then why are we calling him a miracle maker?
I tried hard to stop thinking about this. Surely, there must have been a way for me to indicate that this man was actually a miracle maker who just happens to make not a single miracle in his whole life? But it was too late. I kept arguing about this with myself, on and on, on and on, until I got too tired to write anything. So I closed the text editor without saving my work and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I found a dead miracle maker lying in my bed.
This just popped into my inbox:
Dear Beloved in Christ,
It is by the grace of God that I received Christ,having known the
truth,I had no choice than to do what is lawful and right in the
sight of God for eternal life and in the sight of man for witness
of God's mercy and glory upon my life.
I am Mrs.Melissa Pointer the wife of in the Mr.Harry Pointer,my
husband worked with the Chevron/Texaco in Kenya for twenty years
before he died in the year 2001.We were married for twenty-seven
years without a child. My Husband died after a brief illness that
lasted for only four days. Before his death we were both born again
Christians.Since his death I decided not to re-marry or get a child
outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against. When my late
husband was alive he deposited the sum of US $3.5M. (Three Million
Five Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars) with a Bank in Europe.
Presently, this money is still with the Bank and the management
just wrote me as the beneficiary to come forward to sign for the
release of this money or rather issue a letter of authorization to
somebody to receive it on my behalf if I can not come over.
Presently, I'm in a hospital in Kenya where I have been undergoing
treatment for esophageal cancer. I have since lost my ability to
talk and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to
live. It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity
organizations any where in the World.Because relatives and friends
have plundered so much of my wealth since my illness, I cannot live
with the agony of entrusting this huge responsibility to any of them.
Please,I beg you in the name of God to help me Stand and collect the
I want a person that is God fearing that will use this money to
fund churches, orphanages and widows propagating the word of God
and to ensure that the house of God is maintained.
The Bible made us to understand that blessed is the hand that giveth.
I took this decision because I don't have any child that will
inherit this money and my husband relatives are not Christians and
I don't want my husband's hard earned money to be misused by
unbelievers. I don't want a situation where this money will be used in
an ungodly manner.Hence the reason for taking this bold decision.
I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that
I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that
the lord will fight my caseand I shall hold my peace. I don't need any
telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless voice
and presenceof my husband's relatives around me always.
I don't want them to know about this development. With God all things
are possible. As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the
contact of my attorney who is in Europe, as he will be the one to
assist you in laying claims for this funds.
Yours in Christ,
It's a damn shame that it's not real -- I'd be tempted to take the money and run with it
It occured to me the other day that Deep Thought lied about the answer to "life, the Universe, everything". When it starts solving the problem, Deep Thought states that it will take seven and a half million years to solve it. After seven and a half million years of computing, DT gives an answer (Forty Two) to the question and states that it's the correct one.
The problem is, however, that (according to an age-old thing called the halting problem) it's not possible to know for sure how long a program will run or if it will ever halt without running it. Therefore, Deep Thought lied about the time it would take to run the program and either hadn't finished the calculation when seven and a half million years had passed, or just made the number up -- but in that case, it could just as well have made up the "answer". In either case, we cannot decide whether the answer is correct or not.
PS: In case you were wondering, then I know that the book is satirical and not meant to be taken seriously. Well, neither is this JE
224 journal entries.
First JE: Friday, May 7th 2004 (for the record, the first JE I read was one of Surak's)
Favourite JE: Cheering the Draggen (you-know-which-one is a close second)
Least favourite JEs: the first ten or so I posted
0 foes (who needs them anyway?)
Sorry for not posting anything in weeks. I've either been feeling too tired or have just had too much things to do.
Daniel Charms researchers have often pointed out that there's no reliable information about his exact date of birth. Some claim that it's because of the war (either because noone had time to keep birth records at that time, or those records were lost); others point out that the calendar was changed so many times back then that it inevitably caused mixups and a lot of confusion. Lately, however, some new evidence has emerged, pointing towards the possibility that Daniel Charms was not even a real person. It is the task of this essay to take a closer look at this evidence and comment on the significance it could have to the study of Daniel Charms.
The new materials were found in the Archive and recently published as a series of magazine articles (see the Appendix for a reproduction of some of the key writings). It is not the task of this essay to give a complete commentary to all of these; we will only briefly comment on but a few of the writings uncovered; those writings, we think, form the crux of the evidence pointing towards Daniel Charms' irreality.
The first of these is a short story, titled "Daniel Charms: A Biography" (see the Appendix for the full text of the story). Handwriting analysis confirms that it was written by Daniel Charms -- or the person generally thought to be Daniel Charms -- sometime towards the end of his life, when his i-sight was apparently already dimming. The story gives an account of how Daniel Charms was born out of an egg. What's interesting about it is, that unlike Charms' earlier "(auto-)biographic" works, this one is mainly written in third person perspective. Only the first paragraph is written in first person:
Last night, I dreamed about being someone else and talking to myself. It was a strange experience. We were talking about me, arguing about some insignificant event from my childhood. At some point, I (the other person, that is) grabbed a book from the table, titled "Daniel Charms: A Biography", opened it, and proceeded to read a passage he had marked with a red pencil. This is what was written there.
(continued on page 23)
According to Microsoft adCenter Labs, there's a 33% chance that a Slashdot reader is female. It also says that about 9.8% of Slashdot users are under 18 years old.
Curiously enough, the same statistics apply to Digg. What's even more interesting, however, is that the age group distribution of Slashdot and Digg users corresponds exactly to that of people searching for 'porn'.
I know most of you don't probably read the front page anymore, but there's a front page article I'd like to turn your attention to. It's titled Immaturity Level Rising in Adults . The article itself isn't really good or interesting (just this short bit from Discovery News about a study that has supposedly shown that "a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth". I don't think the Discovery article is worth reading. But one comment in that thread caught my eye. This one: "Somewhere in my youth...I matured and I learned too much...I want to live simple again."
Is this what you want? It's not what I want. I don't know what I want, but I definitely don't want to live simple again. This is something I've been offered several times (mostly by Hare Krishnas), and every time I've turned the offer down. These people have promised to make me happy, but this is not the kind of happiness I want. Or maybe I don't want it at all, I don't know. Sometimes, it seems to me that the most important thing in life is being happy despite all your problems. Then again, I could be wrong.
Here's something I would have posted in my journal half a year ago, had I not been busy trying to get (and have) a life. Now that I've totally given up on this (it was, at best, a feeble attempt anyway), I feel like I owe you at least this much. So, if any of you still haven't seen this, then here's Kafkamesto, a point-and-click adventure based on Franz Kafka's life and works. I have to warn you, though, that if you haven't read Kafka, then you might find the game a) awfully confusing and b) very difficult. Make no mistake, it's not an easy game. It's much easier to die in this game than make it out of Kafkamesto alive.
As Soren Kierkegaard once noted (somewhere in his journals), "People hardly ever make use of the freedom which they have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation." I find this to be true for many, if not most, of the people on the Internet. They demand the freedom to express themselves in any way, yet they rarely put any thought into what they say -- only emotions. "This sucks!" "You suck!" "omgwtflol!!" And so on. If their thoughts are being deleted, they're quite eager to call it censorship. In a sense, I suppose, they're right, as they are quite clearly being restricted from expressing themselves. They should, however, not two things:
1) Freedom of speech is not absolute. Freedom is not absolute. There'll always be some restrictions to what you can do or say.
2) Censorship is not absolute. It only works here and now. You cannot ban something everywhere. You cannot ban it forever. You can only make sure that people don't read a book, an essay, or a comment here and now. But this is really what counts for anyone using censorship as a weapon or a tool. What the future might bring, does not concern them.
Right now, as I write this, there's a censored book on the desk in front of me. Not one of those that have once been banned somewhere (although there's lots of these in my bookshelf), but one that's actually been censored (It's a strange feeling, looking at it, knowing that it actually happened). It's a collection of papers from a meeting of the Soviet Estonian Academy of Sciences held in late 1948. The subject discussed there was the conference held in Moscow earlier that year where Genetics was declared "a bourgeois pseudoscience" (see the Wikipedia article on Lysenkoism for some background information). Several pages have (rather sloppily) been cut out from the book; the title of the censored paper and the name of its author have been blanked out with black ink. The unknown censor has done his (or her) job well -- you cannot make out neither the name nor the title. But the Machine as a whole hasn't done (couldn't have done) as thorough a job as one of its parts. I was still able to find out who the author of that paper was -- it was actually a speech by the President of the Academy of Sciences (he was arrested a few years later). I could even read the text of the speech if I wanted to: it was published in a national newspaper the next day. But I haven't read it. It's not a part of this book anymore.
Is anyone else here using the experimental interface thingy (aka University of Michigan Testing)?
It's interesting to note that using that thing has forced me to quite drastically change my browsing habits. Now, I normally read Slashdot at a threshold of -1, with a +3 bonus added to all the negative moderations and a +1 karma bonus. The first thing I changed when switching to the experimental interface was losing the karma bonus. I don't find users with an Excellent karma to be intrinsically more intelligent than others. I only ever used this because then I didn't have to open every comment in a new tab. Unfortunately, this would clutter the comment pages with loads of boring comments from boring people who think that just because they have this +1 bonus everything they say is pure gold. But now I can skip all this crap and only read it if it sounds remotely interesting.
The other thing I did was adding a +1 bonus to friends/fans. I did this because in journals, I want to see all the comments at once. It's a good solution, but not a perfect one, as the scores next to comments are different from what I'm used to seeing. But it's something I'll have to get used to.
I still haven't practically touched the focal comment control buttons. Does anyone know what these could be good for?