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The US Public's Erratic Acceptance of Science

jandersen Re:Difference between erratic & erotic (569 comments)

Well, yes, ... - but what you are saying is nothing more than what all scientists agree on: that all theories are models limited by our understanding and observattions. The big bang model is a proper theory, by the way: a hypothesis, that has produced predictions, none of which have been falsified. And it is amazingly accurate for such a long shot. We have very little reason to doubt that something very much like a huge explosion happened around 13 - 14 billion years ago; where the doubt creeps in is some time before inflation. That is no surprise, since we, as scientists, are working within the limits of our observations and can only speculate about what we can't (yet) observe.

I'm not convinced about what you say about time and location, or measurements; for one thing, we still don't have a clear understanding of several of the fundamental concept we use. For example, why does time seem to be so different from other dimensions? Why does the speed of light seem invariable? What is a particle? And a field? And mass, electric charge, ....? Just because we have a mathematical form to fit these observables into, doesn't mean that we actually understand what they are.

2 days ago

Google Aids Scientology-Linked Group CCHR With Pay-Per-Click Ads

jandersen Re:The Harsh Light of Day (185 comments)

Think how crazy this sounds: the Catholic church tells us that during communion the bread and wine literally turn into the blood and body of Christ. However, through some mysterious process, they appear to our senses as unchanged. So the Catholic church tells you that what you're seeing and tasting is wrong, and you should ignore the evidence right in front of you.

Ah, but you forget that Jesus was not of this world, and who are you to say that the bodies of the residents of Heaven are not, in fact, made of substances that to our limited senses are indistiguishable from bread and wine?

3 days ago

Beer Price Crisis On the Horizon

jandersen Re:So - who's in love with the government again? (397 comments)

How about composting it, then? Just a thought, and it may well not be profitable. However, living in the city I have often had the opportunity to observe how, on one hand, there's a lot people with small gardens, who spend small fortunes on expensive soil mixtures - basically peat or compost - while on the other hand, just a few miles away there are livery stables that actually pay farmers to come and take away horse manure, which would have been an excellent basis for production of compost. I can't quite understand this sort of thing.

When in deep shit, sell manure.

5 days ago

Google's New Camera App Simulates Shallow Depth of Field

jandersen Re:Why? (126 comments)

That candid picture of your Mom sharing a moment with your aunt would look great if it were not for the Ronald McDonald billboard in the background.

Hmm, perhaps. But I have increasingly over the last few years seen so many, brilliantly clear photos with fabulous colour etc etc which are so achingly dull because the photographer has no sense of the artistic and no experimental curiousity. Despite the fact that with a digital SLR camera it is cheaper and easier than ever to experiment: just try and then throw out the failures.

Personally, I have started on taking deliberately imperfect pictures; I am particularly fond of under-exposure - it is surprising how much structure you can find in a seemingly black photo, using eg. edge-detection in GIMP.

5 days ago

The Internet of Things and Humans

jandersen What are the benefits? (55 comments)

Are there any benefits to having everything connected to just one vast address space? I certainly can't spot them. I think this is a solution to a problem that has already been solved in another (and better) way.

Although I may concede that it could potentially be useful to have a larger address space, I think it would be massively stupid to start frittering it away on insignificant frivolities like an "internet of things". I mean, would you want your fridge to have 'friends' on Facebook or start tweeting about its contents? When we're all worried about privacy?

about a week ago

VA Supreme Court: Michael Mann Needn't Turn Over All His Email

jandersen Re:So what? (348 comments)

Exactly. Empirical science is not about proving truth, but about discovering the flaws in our current theories in the hope that there is an ultimate truth behind it all, and that we will get ever closer to it by eliminating the things that don't match observations.

about a week ago

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

jandersen Re:Are you kidding (817 comments)

This makes me think of the ideas of certain thinkers, who said that this kind of society is inherently unstable - the social inequality will keep growing, the rich becoming richer by extracting wealth from the poorer, until there is nothing left, the value of wealth vanishes because there nothing the spend it on, and the whole thing comes tumbling down. I think it was Karl Marx who said it, actually. He was sometimes a very clear thinker.

I believe it is true that he also advocated bringing on a revolution, but the main message was that at some point something will by necessity happen to overturn the system and level out the imbalances, not for ideological reasons, but because the economic dynamics make it unavoidable, no matter what we do. He also imagined that a perfect society would be something like communism or socialism, and he may well have been right; but it will have to evolve naturally, as people become convinced that this is what they want. Well, one can dream.

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace?

jandersen A good idea, if ... (452 comments)

Since I am the only guy with Linux experience I would have to support the Linux installations. Now the problem is what works perfectly fine for me may be a horrible experience for some of my coworkers, and even if they would only be using Firefox, Thunderbird and LibreOffice I don't know if I could seriously recommend using Linux as a desktop OS in a business. Instead I want to set up one test machine for users to try it and ask THEM if they like it. The test machine should be as easy and painless to use as possible and not look too different compared to Windows. Which distro and what configuration should I choose for this demo box?

All changes are painful, and there will always be some that will whinge and tell you that can't live with it. So, you have to prepare the ground, persuade people that it is worth it, all the same. Having worked in the industry for 30 years, I have seen a lot of changes, and the thing that I have learned is that you absolutely must do your groundwork if you want to succeed. It doesn't actually matter whether the programs are best in class or whatever - it is amazing what people can put up with if they feel it makes sense; after all, they have lived with Windows and Office, which for most of the past decades has been unstalbe and poorly designed - it is only since XP that Windows didn't unversally require reboot several times per day. I mean, just run that last sentence past your mental SYSRDR one more time - other OSes have stayed up for years since the 60es.

So, prepare people and get them on board (one really can't say this too much); after that, it will be fine. Linux is great on the desktop, as you already know, and if you do have to support people, you can use ssh -X or even Xnest, so you won't even have to climb around in the compund all that much.

IOW: make good preparations (sorry if I repeat myself). Ask people what they use their systems for, what they really want to be able to do in Linux (including the non-work things!) and find out to do it. Make plans for how you will support them and how you will teach them things. Done well, this can be great for everyone.

about two weeks ago

Can the ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers Be Believed?

jandersen I really don't understand Americans (723 comments)

I really don't understand you guys. I really, REALLY don't. I mean, how can anyone believe that a for-profit healthcare can be both better, cheaper and more fair than something run by society? But as soon as anybody opens their mouth to challenge this view, they get 1) modded down, and 2) called 'socialist' or 'communists'. I can only assume that this is an expression of what goes for 'faith': the ability to reject clear facts in order to avoid having to change your mind.

To paraphrase Terry Pratchett - there are certain people who one one hand wouldn't believe it if a high Priest told them the sky was blue, and could show them signed affidavits to that effect from any number of people of good standing, but on the other hand are perfectly willing to bet their lives on the word of a stranger they've met in the pub.

Now, to my mind, and you can call me socialist or worse - and I shall wear that title with pride - that mindset is exactly why America is no longer the greatest nation in the world. You seem to have closed you minds, so how could it be any other way?

about two weeks ago

Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

jandersen Geocentric? Sure. (642 comments)

In a universe that seems to be infinite in size (or a closed manifold), any point can be declared to be the centre. The reason for saying that Earth and the other planets circle the Sun is that it makes it easy to understand the observable orbits of the planets. But, it is perfectly valid to put Earth in the middle, if you have a wish to do so, just not very useful.

about two weeks ago

Cuba: US Using New Weapon Against Us -- Spam

jandersen Re:Accused? We planned to do it. (139 comments)

- paid for by the tax-payer.

I like no 5:

5. Contaminated cigar. They may have given up on the TNT stogie, but the idea of spiking his smokes was still being floated around. The CIA even went as far as to recruit a double agent who would slip Castro a cigar filled with botulin, a toxin that would kill the leader in short order. The double agent was allegedly given the cigars in February of 1961, but he apparently got cold feet.

Cold feet, or maybe he was just dying for a smoke.

about two weeks ago

Cuba: US Using New Weapon Against Us -- Spam

jandersen Re:The amusing thing is... (139 comments)

Another, perhaps less amusing thing is that the US actually do care; at least as long as there is a noisy group of displaced, Cuban voters to please.

about two weeks ago

Fifty Years Ago IBM 'Bet the Company' On the 360 Series Mainframe

jandersen Re:software (169 comments)

Mainframes are not user friendly, and youngsters are not likely to devote two or three years learning something from the grannies, on a very harsh learning environment, with a step learning curve, when all their peers are talking about creating a new app and selling to Google for a gazillion dollars.

Well, that's the problem to solve, then.

1) Make it less difficult to learn - this is only a matter of investing in producing good teaching material and making it easily available.
2) Make the idea of mainframes much more appealing. There's loads of stuff in a mainframe and even in z/OS, that is way cooler than the average PC crap.
3) Make it legal for people to download and run z/OS etc on the Hercules emulator for development and study purposes after a similar model like Oracle's

People have taught themselves Linux and Windows, not because it is more interesting, really, but because it is much more approachable; and within the reach of a tight budget. Which teenager is going to invest tens of millions in a mainframe? Make it free, like Oracle did with their database - it worked for them.

about two weeks ago

A Third of Consumers Who Bought Wearable Devices Have Ditched Them

jandersen Re:Wearable device feasibility (180 comments)

Wearable devices will not be massively popular unless they will be as simple to use as headphones

- and give the user something they actually want or need. The smartphone is popular because it is flexible enough to cover a wide range of needs that people have, not because it is cool or "wearable". In fact, I suspect that being wearable often counts against a device, because it so often has to be worn in a highly specific way, unlike a phone, which you just stuff into a pocket, bag, glove compartment or whatever.

about three weeks ago

Vermont Nuclear Plant Seeks Decommission But Lacks Funds

jandersen What I don't understand is ... (179 comments)

why they don't just sell their spent fuel? It shouldn't be difficult to find buyers in, say, the Middle East.

about three weeks ago

UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

jandersen Re:Projections (987 comments)

Any time someone cites personal observations that don't support global warming, they get smacked with "ZOMG! ANECDOTE, YOU FUCKTARD!" by the climate orthodoxy.

Yes? That is of course not right - anecdotal evidence is valid evidence, but one anecdote is not enough evidence to either support or reject a theory. My postulate, if you will, is that is we collect all anecdotal evidence and review it without bias, what we will see is that:

1) There is a growing trend towards more unusual or even extreme weather, and
2) Overall, there will be more anecdotes about unusually warm events than about unusually cold ones.

There, I have now put forward two predictions; if you want to be scientific about it, go and find evidence to falsify them. It is a large undertaking, of course, but it is something most people with access to Internet, libraries etc can do if they want.

about three weeks ago

UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

jandersen Re:Projections (987 comments)

I've met and seen many scientists argue against GWA.

Really? Do you happen to know their names and what their branch of science is? And BTW - what is "many"? You are simply postulating vague nonsense without quoting any evidence; unlike the real scientists, who are specific and quote evidence.

As for fear mongering - what you guys are saying is "Look, they want to take our cars and our modern lifestyles away and make us poor"; is that not fear mongering? In contrast, the scientists are not spreading fear and despondency like you; they say it is possibly to avert much of the harm if we work on it, and they point out that we can, in fact, benefit economically from doing so. How is that 'fear mongering'?

Finally, explain this: Many, if not most people of my age (55) in northern countries can remember how, in their childhood the winters always seemed colder and with more snow; now, in N. Europe winter seems more like an extension of autumn. I have seen flowers in February that I remember from late May when I was a child. And so on - there's even large flocks of wild parakeets living in many parks in London now, fig trees thriving and in one place, on the A40 near Ealing in London, there's even a date palm.

about three weeks ago

One Person Successfully Removed From US No-Fly List

jandersen Re:Shocked and saddened (286 comments)

Ironically, most Americans (apart from the relatively few Native Americans) were foreigners not long ago.

about a month ago

Operation Wants To Mine 10% of All New Bitcoins

jandersen Re:I admire their spunk, but... (275 comments)

I can't claim to understand bitcoin (or virtual currency in general), but as far as I can make a mildly educated guess, the value stems from the fact that the work required to produce them is so great that it has to be a collective effort. If it somehow becomes easy, then they are no more than a form of pyramid scheme.

Other currency standards are based on things of tangible value - even gold or diamonds have a practical value far beyond being pretty. Bitcoins, on the other hand, have no intrinsic value - we could wipe them out completely today, and the world would be no poorer in real terms.

about a month ago



10 TB cloud storage for free

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about 5 months ago

jandersen (462034) writes "Chinese Tencent are going to launch a free, 10TB cloud storage service:


10TB is some 5000 times more than Dropbox, and 666 times more than what you get with Google (Yes, I know, that number keeps cropping up, doesn't it?)

What will no doubt worry people is that it is a Chinese company, although they are planning to store the data outside of China. I guess, with the NSA scandal unfolding, it is just a question of choosing your poison."

Arctic thaw may be first in cascade of tipping points

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year ago

jandersen writes "Here's an article from New Scientist that's guaranteed to arouse yet another controversy (from http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729064.500-arctic-thaw-may-be-first-in-cascade-of-tipping-points.html):

ONE climate domino has fallen, and it may start toppling others. A recent study outlined an interconnected web of climate tipping points, some of which make the next ones more likely. Now, an analysis of data from the last 23 years suggests we passed the first of these tipping points in 2007, when Arctic sea ice flipped into a new, less stable state. That may speed the world towards the next tipping point – the thaw of a vast expanse of Siberian permafrost.

New Scientist is sometimes criticised for being sensationalist, but this article seems sober to me: it is well referenced, and they try to include opposing viewpoints to balance it. If what they say is true, we may be in for a series of increasingly dramatic changes, and sooner rather than later."
Link to Original Source


EU to spend 1 billion euro on graphene and brain research

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year ago

jandersen (462034) writes "The EU is going to spend 100 million per year over the next 10 years to boost research and interdisciplinary cooperation by launching two flagship projects in March:

- The Human Brain Project: Aims "to develop a large-scale ICT infrastructure for the specific purpose of understanding the brain and its diseases, and of translating this knowledge into new computing technology." Basically, they want to build a working computer model of a human brain. (http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/in_brief.html)

- The Graphene Flagship: Aims "to take graphene and related layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionize multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe." (http://www.graphene-flagship.eu/GF/index.php)

How cool is that? For more info, see http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/programme/fet/flagship/home_en.html — but be warned: this is EU, and understanding the whole setup is fiendishly complicated."

Ask Slashdot: Server room toolbox?

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year ago

jandersen writes "I am the system manager in charge of a smallish server room (~50 servers, most in racks), and I am going to buy a set of tools; but first I want to hear what other people think would be a good idea.

Certainly a range of good quality screwdrivers — slotted, Phillips, Pozidriv, Torx (here for the whole range of strange screwdriver standards: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screw_drives). But what else? Tape measure? Spirit level (for aligning the racks)? Any meters or cable testers? A wood lathe? I can probably get away with a budget of a few hundred GBP, but there ought to be some mileage in that."

The revolution is coming

jandersen jandersen writes  |  about a year and a half ago

jandersen writes "According to Peter Turchin, University of Connecticut, we may be heading towards serious, social unrest within a decade (article on New Scientist — registration (free) required: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528781.800-calculated-violence-numbers-that-predict-revolutions.html?full=true):

The mathematics underpinning the rise and fall of empires suggest that the US faces imminent and bloody unrest. How worried should we be?

Is he on to something? Note, this is not a head-in-the-clouds-prophet speaking, but a real scientist, who proposes a real theory: a falsifiable hypothesis; and as he says ""It is easier to predict timing than the height of the peak. My feeling is that it's going to be worse than we expect. Hopefully I'm wrong — I have to live through this."."
Link to Original Source


A sad tale: US gov online visa app

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jandersen (462034) writes "It was recently my fortune to have to assist in applying for a US visa for a Chinese citizen living in London. This turned out to be a very painful journey, not least because of the online application form — give it a whirl yourselves:


- and here is the video that introduces it:


Don't worry, it isn't dangerous, and the effects can mostly be fixed with counselling, eventually.

On top of the horrors of this supremely inept piece of code, you get to be treated with a mixture of hostility and indifference at the embassy plus constant demands for further documents about trivial nonsense — like "You state that you went to primary school x until such and such date, but didn't enter secondary school until 6 months later; what did you do in that time?"; presumably they have words like "training camp" rolling around the vast empty spaces in their heads (makes you wonder what they would think of an American teenager who has been to "boot camp" — now there's damning evidence if ever there was)

And what do they expect to hear when they ask "Are you coming over to commit terrorist offences?" — "Oh dear, it's a fair cop, they've caught me now, right enough. And there was I, wondering if terrorism would require a work permit.""

What Open Source Forum SW is best

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 4 years ago

jandersen writes "I want to do something about improving morale and team-spirit in the company where I am the UNIX manager; and I thought it might be good to run some sort of social forum where people can engage in intellectual discussions on a high level, just like on Slashdot. People will, of course, waste time there — at least if you ask management — but I don't think of it as wasted. After all, people tend to "waste time" talking about sport and solving the great problems of the world any way, so why not put it on a server? And the thing is — this is a global company, and we don't really know our colleagues in India, China, Europe and so on. But which software should I choose? There seems to be a lot of for forum/BSS software around; what I want is something similar to /. — I like the concept of users being able to mod each others up and down — and it has to be open source, rather not Java, and run on Linux. Other than that, I am open to suggestions. What does the people think?"

Non-violent, cooperative games?

jandersen jandersen writes  |  more than 5 years ago

jandersen writes "While I generally don't really play computer games, I do occasionally play games like Crossfire or The Mana World, because they have more of a story line and allow you to go at your own pace; they require a little bit more intellect and less testosterone, perhaps. What I don't care much about, though, is that they are still basically about killing monsters and amassing wealth, and it gets very tedious after a while.

Are there really no games where the goal isn't so much about increasing your own power and defeating others, but where you instead grow by doing things that benefit others, where enemies shouldn't be killed out of hand, but befriended, where learning, teaching, research and social skills are more important than killing and conquering? Would people be interested in a game of that nature?"


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