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How Do We Know the Timeline of the Universe?

physicsphairy Re:We Really Don't (111 comments)

Do we really need to establish a cult of science in which the gods are displeased if we don't use enough syllables in our word for "guess"? The words can be used interchangably. A "scientific hypothesis" does often catch more suggestion of testable, derived predictions, but it's also frequently used in a more general sense, just as "guess" can be used in a more noble sense.

I am all about respecting the scientists who invest a lot of work, but the fact they've done a lot of work doesn't make them more likely to be correct in a discussion of novel facts. There's no way to assign a probability to it and say "There is a 25% chance this explanation is correct because of this much work we put into it." In any case, the work is in testing and verifying the hypothesis, which is the science part, not in coming up with it (although work put into testing does of course put the researcher in a position to make further hypotheses).

Please don't paint these as the same thing, it's just doing the anti-science folk a service, and the rest of us a disservice.

Anti-science folk should be ignored. We don't need to scheme and manipulate to make sure our presentation of science leaves them on the poorest footing to rebut us, because, unless they are using science, their rebuttal is irrelevant. IMHO science teaches us to be humble about we have to say. Acknowledging the fact there may be flaws and we can and should be proved wrong is the whole difference between science and wild speculation. I don't think we should be provoked into saying otherwise just to try to entice the crackpots to our side.

6 hours ago

Twitter Moves To Curb Instagram Links

physicsphairy Re:the problem with Twitter (108 comments)

One of the beauties about 140 characters is you have to think about what you want to say and how you say it. Editing for brevity often makes it punchier and better phrased. Many are the occasion when I have written a joke or insight for facebook, modified it for twitter, and then posted the twitter version in both cases because the twitter version was just better.

300 characters is not almost as quick to read it is quite clearly twice as long to read. For me, that would mean that instead of having time to follow 100 people on twitter I would only be able to follow 50. (Another of the other main features of twitter is allowing followers to interact with popular figures with their fans which I imagine also benefits greatly from a terser format.)

Personally, I think twitter has the potential to be one of the social media that survives in the long term. Yes it has obvious limitations but I get much more bang for my buck reading those condensed updates than I do using any other media platform. Sometimes when life gets busy I will quit other sites but twitter remains perfectly manageable and useful. It's great for news, politics, humor, and interacting with relatively large numbers of people. If you have an essay you need to share, you can link to it.

Some examples of how much you can pack into “It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” -- Albert Camus

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." -- Søren Kierkegaard

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." -- William Shakespeare


Lawrence Krauss On Scientists As Celebrities: Good For Science?

physicsphairy Re:Yes. (227 comments)

In fact what we really do need is more scientists expressing their political opinions and backing them up with hard facts and of course working to dismantle the lies put out by professional politicians.

A very nice thought, but logic never survives a descent into "my side vs. your side." As soon as scientists enter into the political sphere their points are no longer judged as factual conclusions but as their adopted positions, as one may rightly question whether it was their political conclusion or their scientific conclusion which they arrived at first.

If we don't want science to devolve into "our scientists say this!" and "oh, yeah, our scientists say this!" we need to keep scientists as far away from politics as possible. And, doing so makes it that much easier for politicans to go against their base, "Sorry, guys, I feel you, but the experts say it's like this, so I guess that's what we're going with."

(Try re-imagining that scenario as, "Sorry, guys, but the Democrat/Republican scientist says it's like this" to a Republican/Democrat audience.)

about two weeks ago

The Search For Starivores, Intelligent Life That Could Eat the Sun

physicsphairy What do you *do* with that energy? (300 comments)

Civilizations of course have energy needs, but devouring stars seems a bit excessive. For strict survival it would make more sense to minimize your resource requirements. A human brain needs 500 calories per day, and our sun outputs 3.8 x 10^26 watts. So efficient use of our own sun's energy could presumably sustain on order of 10^25 human-level intelligences as is. If your appetitite for energy is more rapacious than that, I think it's a good guess it's effectively infinite. In which case, maybe it would be better to examine galaxies than stars. It's going to be a billion times more probably that an individual galaxy contains a star-devouring civilization than that a single star system does, and presumably not unnoticeble.

about three weeks ago

The Search For Starivores, Intelligent Life That Could Eat the Sun

physicsphairy Re:I think... (300 comments)

I'm guessing it was derived as a portmanteau of "star" and "carnivore."

about three weeks ago

NSA Says They Have VPNs In a 'Vulcan Death Grip'

physicsphairy Re: What IP address ranges are in the US? (234 comments)

The problem with a hacker army is hackers don't hold up very well to carpet bombing. If you're a country with nuclear capabilities, sure, go ahead and have a poke at your opponents under the assumption they won't escalate. But otherwise I wouldn't recommend conducting computer assaults on anyone as a nation if you can't back it up with physical firepower.

about three weeks ago

Did North Korea Really Attack Sony?

physicsphairy Re:I was suspicious from the moment they denied it (282 comments)

Why does it make no sense to deny you were involved? North Korea typically does deny things which they actually do ( for example) while taking credit for things they don't or can't do. Their whole game is to live behind an obfuscation of words. If we actually believed them when they said they were prepared to nuke us, they would be smoking crater already. However, if we didn't quietly worry about it, they wouldn't so easily milk concessions out of us (and would probably get invaded). Their ideal outcome would be for anyone planning another Kim Jong Un movie to decide it's not worth the financial risk, while still leaving the U.S. government insufficient proof to retaliate. Don't make the mistake of believing the leaders really are as deluded as their rhetoric. They have real strategic objectives behind it.

about a month ago

UK MP Says ISPs Must Take Responsibility For Movie Leaks, Sony Eyes North Korea

physicsphairy Re:I wonder who bought him (216 comments)

Their wielding of power requires that others are responsible. You can't pass a law against someone unless you've laid some blame at their feet. And it's not necessarily the goal to pass the law, either. Maybe just a friendly reminder that ISPs aren't making enough campaign contributions and might want to reconsider before the next legislative session comes around.

about 2 months ago

Pizza Hut Tests New "Subconscious Menu" That Reads Your Mind

physicsphairy Re:This would be a great idea if... (186 comments)

It is meant to solve the single solitary problem pizza hut has ever been interested in solving: how to make more money. Just as a curiosity everyone now wants to order a pizza to see if it really works. They may keep ordering for a while before the novelyt wears off. There may be psychological biases in which people think the pizza tastes better. If nothing else, everyone is now talking about getting a pizza they will like by going to Pizza Hut.

about 2 months ago

First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

physicsphairy Re:It's all about the merchandising. (390 comments)

To be fair, a lot of those things actually were action figures because that's how the effects were done. And puppets probably translate fairly well. But at least they didn't come off as specifically designed to be turned into a McDonald's toy. I suppose I didn't really get that impression in the new trilogy either, although part of that may be simply because I wasn't made to care about any of the characters and am not sure why I would want them as figurines. . . .

about 2 months ago

Google Told To Expand Right To Be Forgotten

physicsphairy Re:This is not about revisionism or censorship ! (193 comments)

I'm pretty sure for "most of our history" people have lived in the same rural communities where, not only did everyone who regularly encountered you have a pretty good running list of all your past major mistakes (which makes a great way to pass the time) but good luck outliving their memory, especially for the big ones. Identifying tattoos have been used as punishments since at least Roman times, and I'm not aware of any historical laws which really reflect the idea of a "right to be forgotten." Obviously anyone who could write could have gone out of their way to keep records on you at any point in history.

Which is not to immediately say this right to be anonymous is a bad idea, but I don't see how you could support it as some kind of social inheritance.

But note where you have gotten your ideas of anonymity. I assume you're from a modern urban area. There are so many people and so many things to keep track of that everyone is effectively anonymous unless someone goes to an effort to make it otherwise. But this same process is exactly what is happening with the internet. The more information which is provided the more your individual details are washed out. Believe it or not Google and the modern data age is making you *more anonymous.* Lives are not being ruined forever. As time goes on we are soon going to start having to reconcile with the fact that *everyone* is going to have embarassing crap online, not just the unlucky few. In all likelihood we are going to quickly move past it as a society, at least as much as we have ever done before.

As for the accusation of revisionism and censorship : this is the exact reason why the search engine are asked to remove stuff, and NOT the original publication. Because then the information is still reachable by the same OLD fashioned way we did before : old fashioned research.

And exactly how long do you think it is before someone wants the original publication delisted as well? Or before governments realize that there is *lots* of stuff they can think of good reasons to delist? How hard do you think it is to extend the capability? Since you're interested in how history informs the present, why don't you go back a couple hundred years or so and pick out a dozen governments you would trust to have this level of control over what information is presented to the public. Any contenders?

As far as I am concerned the major improvements and liberalization in many governments in recent years relates directly to an increase in public transparency and communication. To a large degree those things happened simply because they were outside the government's control to stop. Now we're back on the otherside of the pendulum where technology is returning power to control information into their hands. I think if you want to bet on their continued benevolence, then you aren't betting on history.

about 2 months ago

Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

physicsphairy Re:Let's do the math (307 comments)

Depends on who you're asking. I've known physicists to take expressions where infinity is mentioned and substitute 10 because it was "big enough." The frustrating part of course is that they got the right answer. . . .

about 2 months ago

Police Body Cam Privacy Exploitation

physicsphairy Since when do the police care about privacy? (301 comments)

Mugshots and information about arrests are made publicly available. Most news articles I read have the names of any supects and arrestees over 17 years of age. This is all before any kind of criminal convinction. Why the sudden concern about whether someone gets "embarrassed"?

about 2 months ago

US Midterm Elections Discussion

physicsphairy Re:Six Years Ago (401 comments)

In a well designed system the House should match the vote. It does not.

What is this well-designed system? It's not an equipartitioned grid -- that would have the Republicans ecstatic and the Democratics up in arms.

In fact, the whole concept of local representatives is incompatible with the idea of representing the electorate in perfect proportions. Unless every neighborhood in the country is the same homogeneous mix of Republicans and Democrats, you're going to have to deal with the fact that some areas are going to have higher concentrations and dilute the impact specific votes in that area have on national outcomes. Trying to balance it out isn't a great idea either -- want to tell people in California they are going to get less net representation so they don't drown out Colorado?

However, the system has the advantage that it does a much better job of representing regional interests, which is basically why it was invented. In some marginal cases that may even mean putting the technical minority in charge. Of course, if your party is the technical majority you will feel up in arms about it and want to change the system. (But you won't because you can't until the system favors you, and then the incumbents will not see it as nearly such a crisis.)

If you want to talk about disproportionate, how about we tally up the number of voters who identify as independent vs. the number of elected candidates who do. Interesting how no party is worried about that little misfeature.

about 3 months ago

Buying Goods To Make Nuclear Weapons On eBay, Alibaba, and Other Platforms

physicsphairy 1940s technology (260 comments)

The technology to actually manufacture nuclear weapons is starting to close in on a century old. What prohibits their manufacture is ultimately a combination of international pressure, expense, and engineering difficulty. If your country doesn't have a bullet train then it probably doesn't have nuclear weapons for much the same reason or else because it has specifically chosen not to manufacture them (the fact any money from western nations would quickly evaporate makes a strong incentive). If you're going to worry about people getting hold of galium and high speed cameras, you're just being ridiculous. Anyone who could even have a shot at building a nuclear weapon also has enough resources to easily obtain those sorts of items, no matter what international restrictions are applied.

about 3 months ago

Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

physicsphairy Re:Not New (468 comments)

The mailer was 10 times better at turning nonvoters into voters than the typical piece of pre-election mail whose effectiveness has ever been measured./quote.
It would get me to the polls, too. Maybe not with the intended effect, however.

about 3 months ago

Virginia Court: LEOs Can Force You To Provide Fingerprint To Unlock Your Phone

physicsphairy Re:This is not like giving a DNA sample (328 comments)

How is gaining access to the contents of your phone not "just surrendering information which is stored outside your brain"?

Your phone and its contents are evidence and once a warrant is issued (which I hope is still a requirement) it is fair game. What is not fair game, thanks to the American constitution, is to say "Either you can tell us that you committed the crime and we can send you to jail for the confession or you can tell us you didn't and we can send you to jail for perjury."

The password on your phone is not protected information because it requires your consent for the police to look at it. It's protected information because divulging it proves you own and have access to the contents and giving it up equates to admitting the same. You can't be compelled to make that admission.

But if the police prove by some other means that you do own and have access to the information, then you're no longer protected from being compelled to dislose the password. E.g., we have had articles here where a defendant admits it is their laptop computer and they know the password, and then are ordered to reveal it.

about 3 months ago

Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans

physicsphairy Re:Disturbing (331 comments)

How is someone with only high school as experience expected to assess how well they will be doing in 401 Statistical Mechanics down the road, what job they will have, how difficult it will be to make their student loan payment on top of a carpayment, rent check, groceries, etc.? Up to this point in life most of them have lived at home, had no job, no responsibilities, and are used to having all the important decisions made for them. Their first real life decision shouldn't concern whether to sign up for a hundred thousand dollars in debt. They realize it's a lot of money but it's all part of some nebulous future to which their parents, teachers, and peers assure them a "good college" is the key to success. And their actual responsiblity to pay back the loan is deferred four or five years into that future.

What's missing here is the other party to the risk. If you were to take out a loan to buy a house or start a business, you would have to convince the bank that it was reasonable for you to pay it back. The goverment has removed that risk to the seller of the loan on the theory that now you can take out a cheaper loan, but with the downside that there is no second assessment on whether the loan is a good idea.

But in the grander scheme the bank is mostly just an accessory. They're earning a percentage, it's the colleges who are pocketing the lump sum, and the colleges are also doing so with the entire risk shifted onto the student, despite their continued intimate involvement in whether the student's investment will pay off.

IMHO, the university should be as responsible for the loan as the student. Call it a partnership.

about 3 months ago

Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

physicsphairy Re:Makes no sense (608 comments)

You're comparing analysis of a decades long trend to single data points. The question which is being asked is "Why has the proportion of females in CS declined?" Yes there are many complicated factors which go into a woman's decision to pursue a career in CS -- more than we could ever hope to analyze -- but taking all those factors as a given, and then allowing a change, it's possible correlate any increase/decrease to that change. This study is purporting to have isolated economic factors as providing that correlation for a particular set of data. No, it does not explain the job market breakdown between women in CS/psychology/art history, etc., but it does explain why the ratio for CS now is different from the ratio for CS in 1985.

about 3 months ago



Automatic Translation Without Dictionaries

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  about a year ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "Tomas Mikolov and others at Google have developed a simple means of translating between languages using a large corpus of sample texts. Rather than being defined by humans, words are characterized based on their relation to other words, e.g., in any language, a word like 'cat' will have a particular relationship to words like 'small', 'furry,' 'pet', etc. The set of relationships of words in a language can be described as a vector space, and words from one language can be translated into words in another language by identifying the mapping between their two vector spaces. The technique works even for very dissimilar languages, and is presently being used to refine and identify mistakes in existing translation dictionaries."
Link to Original Source

Tech School Implements Jedi Council

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

physicsphairy (720718) writes "The Student Association of New Mexico Tech has formed a new government, host to a Jedi Council. The change remains controversial, with an attempted overruling by the organization president, but a 4-1 upholding by the Supreme Court. According to the new constitution, the Jedi will fulfill a largely diplomatic role, participating in such activities as peer mediation and student outreach, while also stepping in as an additional check on the other branches of government. Students have a month to mull over their next move as the Senate will not reconvene until January. The constitution, while effective immediately, will also be up for ratification or censure by the general student body in late April when the Spring Elections take place. The vote will determine whether the Jedi Council remains as a permanent branch of the student government."

physicsphairy physicsphairy writes  |  more than 7 years ago

physicsphairy writes "Perhaps in commemoration of earth day, students at New Mexico Tech placed a seventy pound toilet and pirate flag on top of a 150' clock tower. It was too high to be reached by either the school cherry pickers or the local fire department, and the school had to call a company from out of district to come remove it. No one is quite sure how they got it up there... a rumour on campus is that one of the rock climbers bear-climbed it. Yours truly has some pictures from it being taken down."


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