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Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

impossiblefork Programming is unlikely to be a primary profession (578 comments)

It's clear that not every job lost can be replaced with a programming job. To imagine a single rather small profession as the profession into which coal miners, plant engineers that become redundant due to equipment that breaks less often and so on isn't sensible.

I don't feel that the matter is that coal miners aren't intellectual enough, but that the need for software isn't infinite. Finding productive work for people is going to require finding completely new ways for humans to contribute and to do so is going to be very difficult. Trying to let people who have been laid off study and learn something new is a good path for a society, but I don't believe that there is enough programming to be done for programming to be sufficient.

about two weeks ago
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Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

impossiblefork Re:The world is changing. (224 comments)

I remember reading Rudin's little analysis book and reading it on the principle that it was appropriate to stay on each page for about 30 minutes, or until all proofs were remembered and could be reproduced at will, following a recommendation of some famous mathematician whose name I can't recall (but for some reason I think that it was Hardy or Littlewood).

There's also apparently such a recommendation in Axler's linear algebra book, but there the recommendation is that one should take no less than an hour per page. I think that this recommendation may be excessive though and I don't think that either of these should be followed strictly for all pages, but they're a good warning for seeing that one is trying to read too fast.

about two weeks ago
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Elon Musk Talks Tesla, Apple, Model X

impossiblefork Re: Truly (99 comments)

No, it's fairly good. A smith needs substantial infrastructure to do what he does, his whole smithy with numerous tools which represent a high capital cost. A carpenter does not have quite the same capital cost although an analogy with a carpenter instead of a smith does have definite appeal. Especially now that I come to think of Hogarth print in which there is an image of a carpenter pawning his saw.

about a month and a half ago
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Elon Musk Talks Tesla, Apple, Model X

impossiblefork Re: Truly (99 comments)

A captain rarely owns the ship the ship he captains though.

I think that what one ought to imagine here is something like a smith who doesn't own his tools, but has access to tools which he does not control, with his tool access and the tool access of many other smiths entirely at the mercy of some large tool-owner.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk Says Larger Batteries Might Be On the Way

impossiblefork Re:Wake up SAE. Standardize TREs now. (191 comments)

With broken sentence I wanted to express that I believe that 'series hybrids are an established thing that I believe they are the reasonable solution to range problems in electric cars', but as can be seen I failed at this.

about 2 months ago
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Elon Musk Says Larger Batteries Might Be On the Way

impossiblefork Re:Wake up SAE. Standardize TREs now. (191 comments)

I feel that adopting a design in order to bypass a legitimate regulation is rather bad.

There's also a whole lot of inherent problems with towed generators: A car towing something is not maneuverable and unlikely to pass the elk test, there will be unnecessary drag and towed generator will be heavy, since it will need to have wheels and some sort of shell. Series hybrids are already a fairly established thing and I do not believe and are the reasonable solution. The BMW i3 already has an optional built in generator (a two-cylinder petrol engine), Jaguar made a concept with two turbines some years ago and the Chevrolet Volt is also a series hybrid.

Consequently, good systems solving the range problems of electric cars have been in production for years so there's no reason to go for a bad system like a towed range extender.

about 2 months ago
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Your 60-Hour Work Week Is Not a Badge of Honor

impossiblefork Re:It's a status thing (717 comments)

There's an Swedish radical socialist song about this from 1972, by a band called Blå Tåget: "Each hand knows what the other does" (which of course, is a clever title in Swedish). Below is a somewhat crappy translation (the original fits a rhyme scheme, and a metre).

"The capital raises the rents, and the state the rent benefits
In this way one fiddle with the Iron Law of Wages
and even pay less wages than the price of food and rent,
for the state merrily pitches in should the living expenses grow to great".

They then go on to give further examples of how a welfare society merely masks fundamental injustices in capitalism and how it is something which alleviates symptoms instead of going for democratic control of the means of production. I've long wanted to translate this song into English properly, because it's insightful and the ideas in it are somewhat foreign to most English speakers.

about 2 months ago
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Your 60-Hour Work Week Is Not a Badge of Honor

impossiblefork Re:Your Boss (717 comments)

You can't stop though, because if others continue there is no reason for other employers to offer better conditions.

A corporation is certainly in some part dependent on its employees, but if they hold any real resource, like say, a mine, oil wells or an expensive factory then they are likely to be able to find other people to exploit. Your proposal of a combination of boycotts and quitting is likely to lead to a small improvement, but it won't be all that substantial, especially in an economy with a labour surplus.

about 2 months ago
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Financing College With a Tax On All Graduates

impossiblefork Re:How about no tution at all? (597 comments)

While the Germans have different tracks, we don't here in Sweden and university is free here as well (there are also loans and benefits for living expenses, conditional upon getting a certain number of credits and so on), so it's unlikely that the track system is a necessary part of the German system.

about 2 months ago
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How Silicon Valley CEOs Conspired To Suppress Engineers' Wages

impossiblefork Re:see also, increasing the # of H1Bs awarded (462 comments)

This isn't really true. Any reasonably coherent group has common interests and engineers or workers in general certainly are such groups.

The degree to which ones relationship with ones employer is voluntary is also fairly doubtful. It is voluntary only in that there is a possibility to choose among employers, but even if they were in perfect competition this does not make making the choice voluntary. That is only voluntary as long as one has the resources to become ones own employer.

The engineers at google might have those resources if they banded together and formed themselves into a worker co-operative, or had a union which regularly threatened that they would form themselves into such an entity, and that might give them an equitable share of their production. In more capital intensive industries the workers, even collectively can't do this, and must resort to threatening strikes. These are policies necessary for getting a good share of wages even in competitive markets and when people form cartels against people who don't even have a union there will be a reduction in wages.

A house seller might be a friendly adversary in transaction, but in a world where ordinary people do not own houses, but rent them with no realistic chance of every buying, it ceases to be quite the same situation and that is more akin to the situation that most workers are in with respect to those who own capital-intensive companies and land.

about 3 months ago
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Will Electric Cars and Solar Power Make Gasoline and Utilities Obsolete?

impossiblefork Re:Energy density. (734 comments)

While cars are about 30% efficient, this is far from the Carnot limit. Even in Otto cycle engines, like in typical car engines a compression ratio of 10:1 is enough to produce a theoretical cycle efficiency of 60% (http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/OttoCycle.html).

Furthermore, not every car uses the Otto cycle and things like gas turbines (Brayton cycle), Diesel engines (Diesel cycle) do exist. Even existing turbo-compound diesel engines like the 3rd generation Diesel-Ethanol Scania 9-litre engine achieve thermal efficiencies of 43-44%, depending on fuel. There are also all sorts of potential future innovations, such as camless engines which have the potential to make engines smaller and lighter as well as increasing valve control so that more efficient cycles can be implemented. Then there's the possibility of adding additional power strokes, for example, by adding additional cylinders in which exhaust gases are further expanded, or by using water injection followed by two additional strokes to make use of the expanding steam.

Beyond this there are really experimental things like wave rotor engines and other inventions that may well continue to improve car engines to keep them competitive for well into the future, especially for people who like light vehicles with high power-to-weight ratio. Of course, batteries will still make sense, since hybrid configurations may permit engines to run at fixed loads and batteries might become lighter I still.

I especially doubt whether fully electric trucks and busses, a thus whether electric *vehicles* to achieve the goods and people moving capacities of gasoline powered vehicles, are practical at all, although I have little doubt that they will likely become hybrids.

about 3 months ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

impossiblefork Re:Test scores (715 comments)

I have strong doubts whether learning the multiplication table as a table is useful (although showing people a multiplication table to demonstrate that these small multiplications can be tabulated is sort of okay). If done as rote memorization it does however not seem like real mathematics.

It might serve as an excuse to give people experience in applying the commutative and distributive laws of multiplication, but I imagine that it's fairly rare that it's done that way and that it's usually treated as rote memorization. However, if you do things correctly you can perform multiplications about as quickly as someone who knows the multiplication table by only memorizing that 7*7=49, how to double a number, how to halve a number, how to triple and number and how to divide a number by three. Then you can compute 9x as 3(3x), 5x as 10x/2, 8x as 2(2(2x)) and all the others. If you want to go to multiplying all numbers up to 12 you can choose either to compute 11x as 10x+x or by additionally memorizing that 11*11=121.

This is good exercise if it's done right, but I think that the point of it is to understand the commutative and distributive laws of multiplication as preparation for algebra. If one after doing this wants to learn to compute things quickly one will, once one understands the general principles have no difficulties learning to do so.

about 3 months ago
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Building a Better Bike Helmet Out of Paper

impossiblefork Re:Bike helmet? (317 comments)

There are actually helmets designed to reduce the rotational forces though. For example, I remember my own university trumpeting one helmet design in which a kind of inner helmet was allowed to slide inside an outer helmet on a low-friction liner. Simulations demonstrated a reduction maximum strain forces on the brain. There's a presentation on it here by the company which now manufactures them: http://mipshelmet.com/how-it-works/the_invention and since it's a simple design I suspect that it will be a component of the helmet of the future.

However, honeycombs make excellent single-use shock absorbers, so those surely have a place in helmets as well.

Even if the site you link to were reasonable there is every reason to believe that helmets can be made truly excellent and made to give incredible protection both against shocks and rotational forces.

about 3 months ago
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SpaceShipTwo Sets a New Altitude Record

impossiblefork Re:New Altitude record? (117 comments)

I prefer to compare it with the altitude record for sailplanes, which is 15445 meters (50,671 ft). Of course, pressure drops off exponentially with increase in altitude, but it's still not all that much higher.

about 3 months ago
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Nintendo Defeats and Assumes Control of 'Patent Troll's' Portfolio After Victory

impossiblefork Re:Automatic invalidation (87 comments)

It would depend on how quickly the two came up with the idea and how much thought it required.

For example, going to the different field of mathematics/theoretical computer science, no one would say that Cook's theorem was obvious, but despite this it was almost simultaneously proven in the West by Cook and in the Soviet Union by Levin. I think that the right way to judge obviousness is to have it done by the patent examiners, although it might be hard for them to be 'skilled in the art' when examining patents in very specialized fields.

about 3 months ago
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Kazakh Professor Claims Solution of Another Millennium Prize Problem

impossiblefork Re:His bio: Solution for n-particle problem (162 comments)

While it's probably hard mathematics I do not think that finding a bunch of explicit solutions to such problems is likely to be all that novel.

While It might sound as if though it's a claim to have found an explicit formula for n-particle motion in every case, it's fairly clear that they're talking about particular cases. It also seems unlikely that he makes trivial errors given that he got a PhD from MSU.

about 3 months ago
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Polar Vortex Sends Life-Threatening Freeze To US

impossiblefork Re:In which units? (684 comments)

Yes, and it's because it doesn't make sense that we immediately understand that it means something different.

When someone asks how cold it is answering with the temperature is a good answer, but that isn't really the precise answer to the question. It depends on context and when we aren't talking about heat engines and ratios of temperatures in Kelvin then we understand that that it's 'twice as cold as -10 C' means something like 'the rate of cooling of body at about 37 C in the present conditions is twice as high if were -10 C and there was no wind'. The only way to not come to such a conclusion when one thinks about it is to purposefully not understand.

I don't even believe that this is something that might risk causing misunderstandings about heat and temperature, because people usually have fairly good intuition about the cooling effect of the wind and arrive at this interpretation naturally as soon as they give it any thought.

about 3 months ago
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Polar Vortex Sends Life-Threatening Freeze To US

impossiblefork Re:Cue the climate change deniers ... (684 comments)

The AC is making a serious error here and it almost seems as if though he imagines the US to be the entire world even weather-wise.

Meanwhile, here in Europe we have weather so unusually warm that it's almost unnatural. I live in Sweden and this time of year I can usually do such things as skate, ski cross country and engage other snow-requiring activities. However, today it's been six degrees Celsius and I'm seriously considering taking a short drive with the top down tomorrow provided that it's sunny.

This is of course kind of anecdotal but actual data (http://www.smhi.se/klimatdata/meteorologi/2.1353/showImg.php?par=tmpAvv) demonstrates the same thing. About five degrees warmer than the normal temperatures and probably much warmer during the warmest part of the day.

about 3 months ago
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Polar Vortex Sends Life-Threatening Freeze To US

impossiblefork Re:In which units? (684 comments)

Well, I imagine that the total chilling effect on a human is doubled. Half the temperature reallly only makes physical sense in Kelvin though (i.e. "The hot end is at 600 K (326.85 C) and the cold end is 300 K (26.85 C), so the heat engine is at most 1-300/600=50% efficient").

about 3 months ago

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