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How Birds Lost Their Teeth

shoor Re:The beaks won (137 comments)

I think it has more to do with being light weight since birds fly. After all, not all birds dig for grubs. Of course, not all birds fly anymore, but maybe the common ancestors did.

Another thing, birds evolved from reptiles. I watched the science documentary series 'Your Inner ...' (Inner Fish, Inner Reptile, etc). They mentioned that reptiles can replace their teeth but the teeth are undifferentiated, whereas mammals, who only get two sets, have them custom designed with a tight fit so some are good for tearing flesh, some for grinding, etc. Presumably the teeth the birds lost would have been less efficient reptile teeth.

3 days ago

AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

shoor nobody knows the future but AI is gonna happen (414 comments)

Unless we wipe ourselves out or reduce ourselves to a stone age existence, AI will happen. Whether it will replace ordinary human beings in a gradual, gentle way (maybe preserving us awhile the way we preserve threatened species now) or whether it will be something more unpleasant, that's what is hard to predict. There's bound to be surprises however it goes.

But suppose somehow the folks opposed to AI could stop it. Then what? 1000 years from now, would ordinary human beings still be doing their thing? Would we have managed to create a utopia or would there still be human vs human strife? And a million years from now, would they still prevent anything 'superior' from replacing ordinary humanity? Is that a future to be yearned for?

Perhaps it will be a kind of middle way of transhumans with artificially enhanced intelligence, with the artificial part of the transhumans becoming a larger and larger part of the total being until the purely human part is just a tiny vestigial thing.

about a week ago

Hawking Warns Strong AI Could Threaten Humanity

shoor What is the alternative? (574 comments)

A million (or a billion) years from now, are we humans supposed to still be around or is something supposed to replace us? Are we supposed to evolve naturally?

One sort of 'middle path' might be transhumanism. We become machines in steps gradual enough to be mostly tolerable.

about two weeks ago

Linux On a Motorola 68000 Solder-less Breadboard

shoor The original 68000 interrupts were inadequate (147 comments)

The original 68000 was almost there for running a real multi-tasking OS. But, it didn't save enough state on the stack during an interrupt. You couldn't guarantee restoring a process's exact state when returning from an interrupt. I heard stories of designs that used two 68000s where one was running one step behind the other. I don't know how true they were. I see on the wikipedia that Motorola fixed that with the 68010 in 1982 and that's when the 68008 came out. So maybe the 68008 doesn't have that problem.

about a month ago

'Microsoft Lumia' Will Replace the Nokia Brand

shoor Re:Not a very exciting name (150 comments)

There's an urban legend that the Chevy Nova didn't sell well in Spanish speaking countries because 'no va' means 'no go'. At least, the wikipedia says it's only an urban legend.

about 2 months ago

Be True To Your CS School: LinkedIn Ranks US Schools For Job-Seeking Programmers

shoor Re:In theory (130 comments)

Hmmm, I really like that saying, but I learned it as
"In theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they're different." It might even be a Unix fortune. I've seen it attributed to Yogi Berra. (A lot of things are attributed to Yogi Berra by the way, "Deja Vu all over again" is another one.)

In my day (and I'm old enough to have actually seen Yogi Berra play, though he was in the outfield by then), computers were not that common, so going to school was a place to have access to a computer. I did notice that by the 1990s, employers would give you some kind of test to make sure you weren't a fraud during the job interview, no matter what your resume said.

about a month ago

Goodbye, World? 5 Languages That Might Not Be Long For This World

shoor Re:Thinking back late 70's Algol, SNOBOL etc (547 comments)

I was a CS major in the late 70s too. We learned to program at least a smattering of Norwegian University Algol on our Univac 1106, as well as SNOBOL (StriNg Oriented and symBOlic Language), APL and something called XL6 (a 'list processing language' so obscure it's not even in the wikipedia, but I'm pretty sure I got the name right.) In other classes I learned some specialty languages, Dynamo (Dynamic Models) and GPSS (General Purpose Simulation System).

Whatever happened to Algol anyway?

As I recall, SNOBOL was actually pretty cool, sort of like Pearl in that you could learn to do some useful things very quickly in it. I don't know that the code was all that readable even to the coder after 3 weeks though, since I never had to look at my code 3 weeks later. And I think even the professor who taught it complained about some of the choices for characters to use as operators. Still, I have this lingering feeling that somehow SNOBOL was a language that was unfairly passed over, maybe because of the comical name.

about 2 months ago

2014 Nobel Prize In Physics Awarded To the Inventors of the Blue LED

shoor Is it really the same as incandescence? (243 comments)

As I understand it, our eyes can differentiate the frequencies of visible light into the colors of the rainbow, but the rainbow is a continuum frequencies. There's not just one frequency that's perceived as 'red' for instance, but rather a band of frequencies perceived as 'red'. So, does the 'white' light from these newfangled things produce one red frequency, one green, and one blue, or is there a band of frequencies, such as you get from incandescence? And if there isn't a band of frequencies, will it matter to our eyes?

about 2 months ago

Object Oriented Linux Kernel With C++ Driver Support

shoor Re:Why do people still care about C++ for kernel d (365 comments)

Full disclosure: I have lots of experience with C and almost no experience with C++. (I started to learn C++ but I was suspicious of its complexity. At least, that's what I tell myself, but maybe I was just lazy or too old to learn new tricks. Anyhow, I didn't learn it.)

"Every sufficiently large C project re-invents key portions of C++, poorly."

I have to wonder if that is because every sufficiently large C project is going to have C++ programmers in it who are 'thinking' in C++, and if it was team just of guys like me we would be doing things strictly the 'C' way.

(Incidentally, I realize that C has lots of faults. That's why I'm intrigued by languages like Golang (aka Go) because Ken Thompson is one of the designers, out to fix the faults of his 1st language.)

about 2 months ago

The Physics of Space Battles

shoor Conservation of Momentum (470 comments)

If you're going to have reaction drive style thrusters for maneuvering, you're going to run out of fuel very quickly, dissipating mass, unless your thrusters are thrusting out little bits of mass at VERY high speed, in which case they could be used as weapons themselves. (Sci Fi writer Larry Niven came up with the idea of a reaction drive as a weapon, google the 'Kzinti Lesson' for more info.)

I think it would be interesting to have space battles where several fighters were somehow connected to each other via some sort of tractor beam, so they maneuvered by transferring momentum between each other instead of dissipating mass into the vastness of space; they might look a bit like bolas circling each other but with quick changes snapping in and out as they went in to battle, or maybe they would be tethered to a mother ship, somewhat like World War II aircraft carrier that sends out figher planes to do the fighting. The mother ship would have enough mass to let the fighters seem to be free to zap around easily.

("Cough Cough") I wrote an unpublished Sci Fi Novel (I did send it to a bunch of publishers at the time, over 10 years ago), where interstellar travel used 'draggers'. There was no faster than light travel so it took years and years to go between even nearby stars, (The travelers themselves would be in an accelerated frame of reference so it wouldn't be so long for them.) In the novel it took a long time to set up a system between two solar systems, similar to the way it takes a long time to set up a railway between two cities, but then you could use it very efficiently. A vessel would attach itself to a dragger, and be quickly accelerated (that's the hard part, dealing with the sudden accleration that would flatten everything against the back wall like you were in a super cream separator), the dragger, much more massive than the vessel, would be slowed down some, but then, at the other end, as the dragger wheeled around a star, the vessel would transfer it's momentum back to the dragger and slow down to become part of the other solar system.

The thing about conservation of momentum is that it means the center of mass of a closed system doesn't change. If two solar systems and the draggers going between them were a closed system, then the center of mass would shift as the vessel moved between one and the other, but, if the vessel returned to the original system again, then the original center of mass would be restored, and the energy used to move between them could be recycled, plus there wouldn't be reaction mass being spewed out all over the place.

about 3 months ago

Nvidia Sinks Moon Landing Hoax Using Virtual Light

shoor Is it healthy or unhealthy for society to have ... (275 comments)

I'm just wondering if when a society has conspiracy theorists speaking out freely, the 'tin hat' crowd, is that the sign of a healthy society or not.

It's bad I suppose when conspiracy theorists are flat out wrong, but would a repressive government try to silence them or do repressive governments only bother suppressing people who are telling the Truth?

Does it do harm in that when somebody really finds something bad going on people will tend to disbelieve them because of all the flakos (sort of like crying wolf too many times)?

Is there some sort of bell shaped curve of attitude towards what the establishment tells us in that a few people on one end of the curve will believe everything and bury their heads in the sand over any problem (like maybe global warming), and a few on the other end of the curve will leap at anything as a plot, while most people are somewhere in the middle? If there is such a curve, maybe it's characteristics (skew, standard deviation, etc) are what determine the 'health' of the society.

about 3 months ago

Study: Chimpanzees Have Evolved To Kill Each Other

shoor Not just Chimps and Humans (224 comments)

Lions and wolves will fight and kill each other. One argument I've seen is that they are at the top of the food chain so there is no other animal out there to keep their numbers in check.

about 3 months ago

Massive Study Searching For Genes Behind Intelligence Finds Little

shoor Re:This may sound silly...Epigenetics (269 comments)

I was wondering about epigentics myself. If I had points I'd mod the anonymous coward up.

about 3 months ago

Microsoft Paid NFL $400 Million To Use Surface, But Announcers Call Them iPads

shoor Re:football can cause brain damage (405 comments)

I agree calling the thing 'Surface' could lead to confusion. If an announcer said something like "the coach is checking his Surface now", what percentage of viewers might have thought he was referring to something other than the gadget in the coach's hand?

about 3 months ago

GSOC Project Works To Emulate Systemd For OpenBSD

shoor Re:Er? (automatic locale?) (314 comments)

Hmmm, it sounds like what's needed is a daemon that queries location from a GPS system as well as time, and automatically adjusts timezone and whatever (would you want it to change language? Seems like that's more of a user thing, and something you only change when you change users). Of course, it would require the system be hooked up to a GPS system, otherwise do things the old-fashioned manual way. There could be an app that puts up a map where you click on the location I suppose, instead of fiddling with configuration files.

I'm an old time unix user (going back to 4.2 BSD days). I like the idea of text configuration files for everything. But I wouldn't mind a front end app that was easier to use than constantly having to look at man pages on the formats of everything. A sort of IDE for all the text based config files the way an IDE is a helper for the text code files of a programming language. (But NOT a binary that bypasses the text configs! Which is what systemd seems to be doing, if I've been reading this right.)

about 3 months ago

Scala Designer Martin Odersky On Next Steps

shoor Re:Why attack Java like this? (94 comments)

Isn't Python supposed to have suffered from a big revision change? My first thought, when I read about Dr Odersky making revisions is that he would be running into the same problem that Python did. Maybe Scala isn't as widely adopted yet as Pascal was, and he thinks he should fix it now before there would be too big of a flap over it. (Actually, if they're changing Java as I gather they are from the interview, wouldn't that also be a blowback for Java?)

I'm an old timer who has never used any of these new-fangled languages professionally (where new-fangled is anything newer then C), so I'm not trying to editorialize here, just wondering.

about 3 months ago

Research Shows RISC vs. CISC Doesn't Matter

shoor Re:It's a question that WAS relevant (161 comments)

Back in the 1970s I worked at a computer manufacturer, writing code for their product's instruction set in assembler. The computers were designed and built around AMD2901 bit slices. The hardware guys implemented the instruction sets using microcode and, as the computers got bigger and more complicated some of the instructions got so elaborate that programmers found ways to do an operation faster using a few simpler instructions instead of one complicated one.

Nowadays, with the kind of speedups from using cache memory, branch prediction, and so on, I reckon it could be a whole different ballgame. I suspect though, that proving correctness might become the most important criteria, and simpler would make proving correctness easier.

about 4 months ago

Can Our Computers Continue To Get Smaller and More Powerful?

shoor Re:yes. Especially per passenger. (151 comments)

The Concorde also had a sonic boom which limited the airports it could fly to. (Competitors may have exaggerated the problem, but I do believe it was a problem.)

about 4 months ago

Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

shoor Re:Is the complexity of C++ job security? (427 comments)

I'm not a C++ programmer. But I have come across situations where people seemed to deliberately use weird, obfuscating stuff just so nobody else could take their place, (I particularly remember a company where somebody had convinced management to use UUCP instead of FTP for internal data xfers because it was more secure. When I was being interviewed on the phone they asked me what I thought of UUCP, and I think I was one of the few people they interviewed who had even heard of it.)

So, if C++ is as complicated and full of stuff as I keep reading about, I can see how somebody might deliberately cultivate for themselves a set of esoteric off the wall constructions that they'd throw in their code just so nobody else could work with it, all the time selling management on how 'good' it was.

about 4 months ago

Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++

shoor Re:Is the complexity of C++ a practical joke? (427 comments)

"Life is a learning experience, so break out the reference manuals"
That's fine if you're a student. I've been in situations where I was working for a small company and I had to fix problems for the company quickly so they could bill their client and make payroll. If C++ is supposed to be a bunch of languages rolled in to one, then, the code should be flagged, "This is C++ as a functional language, only people who know all the functional stuff should use it, or be hired to maintain it in the future, and don't stick in anything of exotic flavors X, Y, or Z from C++ in it". Or, if the company was serious about doing the product in a functional way, one could use Haskell or Scheme or whatever in the first place."

about 4 months ago



Why doesn't somebody invent a GOOD archival system

shoor shoor writes  |  more than 6 years ago

shoor (33382) writes "It seems like the topic of good archiving, via tape, hard drive, optical media or whatever, is always coming up with a lot of debate and no good conclusions. There certainly seems to be a need, and I wouldn't think the problem is all that hard. (Too hard for me, but not for a small research department with an engineer, materials scientist, and appropriate lab equipment.)

To me, an archival system is write once because, from personal experience, I've lost as much stuff I wanted to keep by overwriting it as by any other method. The main factor is pure longevity of course, but other factors are ruggedness (could it withstand moisture? a small fire? getting knocked off a shelf in an earthquake?), compactness (dvds and tape are sure a lot better than punched cards or floppy disks), and cheapness. I would say it doesn't have to be particularly fast, but it should have random access ability, which leaves out tape.

The way the media is written doesn't have to be the way it's read. Trying to think how I might do it if I had the scientific/engineering chops, I conceptually start with old fashioned photographic film. The negative is exposed to light when the picture is taken. The negative is still very fragile until it gets chemically fixed. After that it can safely be 'read' (exposed to light) while an indefinite number of positives are made. In a hypothetical computer data archiving system, the fixing operation could, for example, be a chemical reaction that is triggered somehow immediately after or while the data is set, and it could be triggered mechanically or in response to heat or UV radiation or a magnetic/electrical charge, or something exotic that I haven't thought of, while at the same time, some other effect (mechanical, electrical, photonic,...) is causing chemicals to react, as in photography, or perhaps tiny nanoparticles to either accumulate in a region or disperse or maybe molecules/particles just rotate slightly in one direction or another due to a magnetic field or polarisation of light. What matters is that the end state is stable and non-destructively detectable.

It doesn't really seem like it should be all that hard to do, so what's the problem? Not a big enough market? Not glamorous enough? Are the current solutions just considered good enough? Or is it actually a much tougher problem than I imagine?"

Is there open source ganzfeld software?

shoor shoor writes  |  more than 7 years ago

shoor (33382) writes "I recently saw a BBC documentary, one of a series on supernatural science, about ESP. They mentioned "ganzfeld experiments" which seemed to be the most reproducible versions of ESP. I've always been very skeptical myself about ESP, but this particular episode of this series seemed less skeptical about the possibility than about other subjects it's tackled (zombies, levitation, etc). So it occurred to me that it shouldn't be that hard to write software to allow do it at home ganzfeld experiments. Basically, the computer chooses randomly from a set of pictures, the 'transmitter' person, stares at a picture, maybe tries to draw it, for a set amount of time, then the 'receiver' who has been isolated is shown a set of pictures, one of which was the image, and tries to pick the correct one. The computer could keep track of the statistics of success and so on. Here's a link to a website that offers a little more background (and skepticism) than the documentary: http://skepdic.com/ganzfeld.html If I wrote up a program, would there be a chance of copyright or patent flack over it?"


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