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Rapiscan's Backscatter Machines May End Up In US Federal Buildings

steppedleader Re:I almost hope they do it... (171 comments)

I think you are probably right on two points at once. "Assault weapons" look scary because they look like military weapons (which of course are associated more with killing people that the average hunting rifle) and military weapons look the way they do because of ergonomics. It's much easier to effectively use a highly ergonomic weapon in a high pressure situation, be it combat or a mass shooting. That is more than simply a cosmetic difference like some people claim, though.

I don't know why people don't just argue that in fairly close quarters like where many mass shootings take place, a handgun is as effective as an assault rifle, and someone with a couple handguns and a couple pockets full of magazines will in most cases be able to do just as much damage as someone with an AR-15 (read: Virginia Tech vs. Newtown). That's a perfectly good argument against banning assault weapons -- it's not worth it because it won't have a significant effect. To have a significant effect we would have to ban semi auto guns in general, which just isn't going to happen in the US without a massive cultural shift, regardless of the daydreams of a few congresscritters on the left.

about a year ago
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Rapiscan's Backscatter Machines May End Up In US Federal Buildings

steppedleader Re:I almost hope they do it... (171 comments)

It's the gun grabbers who are calling to lock people away in jail for owning a rifle with scary parts

Even though I'm fairly liberal, I see little reason to believe bringing back the assault weapons ban will make a significant difference in gun deaths -- it would probably be somewhere well south of a 1% difference. So I'm not out arguing that the ban should be brought back.

However, every time someone says that the only difference between assault weapons and regular weapons is that the former look scary, I have to ask: Why are such guns so popular if that is the case? Do you realize you are implying that all those people clamoring to buy such guns are doing so simply because they look scary? If that is the only distinction between these guns and others, why else buy them? The sort of person who chooses a gun simply based on how scary it makes them look is exactly the sort of person that shouldn't have a gun.

There are, in fact, functional differences between assault weapons and other guns. How important those differences are with regards to mass shootings seems like a reasonable question, although as I mentioned, I doubt they are huge. Why don't you argue that instead of implying that people who share your politics are just fools who have bought into Bushmaster's marketing that they need an AR-15 to be big scary man?

about a year ago
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Flying a Cessna On Other Worlds: xkcd Gets Noticed By a Physics Professor

steppedleader Re:Not going anywhere... (148 comments)

He used a simulator for Mars that accounts for things like the effects of density differences on prop thrust, son.

What exactly are you trying to prove by refusing to read the article?

about a year ago
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Federal Gun Control Requires IT Overhaul

steppedleader Re:Reduce gun violence? (436 comments)

Obviously in certain configurations it looks like a military rifle, which I could understand some people being spooked by, since military rifles are more closely associated with killing people than a typical hunting rifle. That doesn't necessarily mean that's why people buy it, though. My point was to respond to the rather common argument made by the GP that the only things that make the AR-15 different from other semi-auto rifles are cosmetic factors -- the fact that some people find it to look "dangerous", or scary. It is people on the gun rights side of the debate who are arguing the only reasons to buy the gun is the way it looks, which makes it sound like people buy it to look dangerous.

As you point out, functional differences are, in fact, a part of the gun's appeal. To what extent those differences make it easier to kill lots of people quickly seems like a reasonable subject of debate. It's disingenuous, though, when people dodge that debate by claiming that those differences simply don't exist and that the gun just looks different.

about a year ago
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Federal Gun Control Requires IT Overhaul

steppedleader Re:Reduce gun violence? (436 comments)

Secondly, "military style assault rifles" are not a problem, as those are fully automatic, and are highly regulated. If you believe that the semi-automatic rifles that look "dangerous" and which were banned for sale by the "assualt weapons" ban can give someone an advantage over a person who is carrying a not-as-dangerous-looking hunting rifle (for long range) or a pump-action shotgun (for close range), then take your own advice and "stop spouting off about things you don't know enough about".

This brings to mind a question I've had since this whole debate exploded after Newtown. If so-called "assault weapons" are effectively no different than other semi-automatic weapons, aside from looking scary, then why are so many people seemingly obsessed with owning such weapons? Every time there's talk of a ban on them, tons of people rush out to buy them. Why not just buy an ordinary looking semi-auto rifle if it would be just as effective? This makes me think that either there is more of a functional difference between "assault weapons" and other guns than gun rights people are willing to admit, or that a sizable portion of gun rights folks are just desperate to look like scary bad-asses. Some of the advertising I've seen points toward the latter (e.g. The AR-15: "Consider your man card reissued"). Are "assault weapons" buyers just really insecure about their manhood? Do they actively want to scare people? Are there other reasons to buy a "scary looking gun" if the only special thing about it is that it looks scary?

about a year ago
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Stanford Uses Million-Core Supercomputer To Model Supersonic Jet Noise

steppedleader Re:Physics is on their side. (66 comments)

Laplace's Equation and Poisson's Equation are examples of elliptic equations. Among other things, Laplace's equation can be used to model irrotational fluid flows, and Poisson's equation can be used to relate spatial electric charge distributions to electric potential, which can in turn be related to an electric field.

I'm not extremely experienced with the details of numerically solving these equations numerically in parallel, but generally the solution of an elliptic equation at a given grid point depends on values at surrounding grid points. Since spatial domains are often broken into smaller tiles for parallel computing, this may complicate matters somewhat compared to a problem that solely depends on values at the previous time step.

about a year ago
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Credit Card Swipe Fees Begin Sunday In USA

steppedleader Re:its not a roadblock (732 comments)

Sounds like a good idea, but a law that cuts into the profits of those multinational financial institutions? This is the US we are talking about. Who wants to grow balls when it could have a negative effect on their campaign funding and/or future job as a lobbyist?

about a year ago
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Credit Card Swipe Fees Begin Sunday In USA

steppedleader Forbidden except when the state itself does it (732 comments)

Consumers in ten states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Texas) won't be affected, since laws in those states forbid the practice

In Oklahoma and Kansas, at least, there is a law forbidding the practice, but the states themselves are exempt from it, and are instead actually required to pass surcharges on to customers. They get me almost every time on my vehicle registration. It's hard to remember to carry a lot of cash or my checkbook on one single day each year, and I usually forget until I'm at the DMV and see the sign about the charges while in line waiting to pay. I suppose the point is to keep non-driving taxpayers to have to cover the cost of the surcharges. That makes sense, but it's pretty annoying nonetheless.

about a year ago
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J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars VII

steppedleader Re:No more time travel! (735 comments)

D'oh, didn't notice you had beaten me to mentioning that episode. I suppose it could use mentioning in multiple posts, though :)

about a year ago
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J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars VII

steppedleader Re:No more time travel! (735 comments)

I'll second Babylon 5 and 12 Monkeys.

I'll also toss in "Roswell That Ends Well" from Futurama -- you don't see too many comedic time travel stories, and it has a great twist on the Grandfather Paradox.

about a year ago
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US Attorney Chided Swartz On Day of Suicide

steppedleader Re:such BS (656 comments)

Ah, so you are saying it's criminal every time a server gets overloaded because someone or some group of people were using it more heavily than it was able to handle. After all, once the server slows dramatically or goes down, service is being denied whether that was your intent or not. I hope you have never been a part of a slashdotting -- it'd be a shame if you had to go and turn yourself into the police for your crime now.

Seems rather absurd to treat a temporary and reversible depletion of limited resources, that can easily be caused by legitimate use of said resources, the same as we do something like homicide. When it comes to something like DoS, intent would obviously bear on whether or not a crime was committed.

about a year ago
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NASA Discovers Most Distant Galaxy In Known Universe

steppedleader Far Out! (105 comments)

like, literally, man.

about a year and a half ago
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Curiosity Snaps 'Arm's Length' Self Portrait

steppedleader Re:Where is the arm? (96 comments)

Hmm, the thing on the upper left looks a bit like a camera... I think they've buried the lede: Curiosity has clearly found a big mirror on Mars!

about a year and a half ago
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Italian Supreme Court Accepts Mobile Phone-Tumor Link

steppedleader Re:In Other News (190 comments)

Good point. Seems to me the biggest issue with the whole idea of cell phones causing brain tumors is simply the fact that while cell phone use has increased dramatically in the last 20 years, there hasn't been any corresponding increase in brain tumor occurrence. If those two things aren't even correlated, how can anyone conclude that cell phones actually cause brain tumors?

Someone could claim there is a time lag for tumor development, but these sporadic cases of supposedly cell-phone-linked tumors have been popping up for years and years now, while the overall tumor rate has stayed mysteriously constant.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Richard Dawkins About Evolution, Religion, and Science Education

steppedleader Re:Good question (1142 comments)

Funny you should mention the possibility of a right brain / left brain influence on religious belief. My cognitive abilities are tilted heavily enough towards what are considered left-brain abilities that I've been diagnosed with a (non-verbal) learning disorder. Does that play a role in my inability to believe? Hard to say. I spent years trying to make myself regain the faith of my childhood, though, so I think it is indeed an inability. However, I look at it like this -- if I can't believe simply because of the way my brain is wired, that by itself contradicts Christianity enough that I would seriously doubt it's truth. I suppose it may not contradict a strict Calvinist interpretation of Christianity, but I find Calvinism disturbing enough that I wouldn't be interested in worshiping its God even if he existed. Any other religion that requires belief for a positive afterlife would fall into the same boat as Christianity.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Richard Dawkins About Evolution, Religion, and Science Education

steppedleader Re:Naturalism, Agnosticism, and Atheism (1142 comments)

All very true. I've had numerous conversations where I ended up wishing I could go back to the beginning and say "okay, before we go any further, we need to precisely define a few words". Personally, I think the proper understanding of 'atheist' and 'agnostic' are as orthogonal descriptors. Atheism/Theism is and ontological question, while agnosticism/gnosticism is and epistemological question. In the end, I consider myself both agnostic and atheist. Unfortunately, it seems few people I have met categorize the terms in the same way. Although Russell doesn't explicitly define things in such terms in the essay I referred to, he describes what is ultimately my viewpoint: There are some things where it is impossible for us to know if they exist for sure, but we can consider their existence to have greater or lesser probability. Furthermore, although actually quantifying the probabilities can be quite difficult or even impossible, such an approach is definitely not limited to considering uncertain things to have a 50/50 chance of being true as some people seem to see agnostics as believing.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Richard Dawkins About Evolution, Religion, and Science Education

steppedleader Naturalism, Agnosticism, and Atheism (1142 comments)

A few years back I saw on C-Span a talk that you gave at (IIRC) Liberty University. Afterwards, an audience member asked you a question along the lines of "Could you imagine any event that you would construe as evidence of God's existence?" Unfortunately, I remember feeling that your answer at the time didn't really address the substance of the question, and I'd be interested to hear your answer to the same question without the pressure of having to come up with something immediately. I'm already an agnostic/atheist myself, but I'm curious as to how you deal with the fact that supernatural causes are ruled out axiomatically in a naturalistic philosophy -- any unexplained event is assumed to be due to an as of yet undiscovered natural cause. If a supernatural cause existed, could we ever know, even in principle?

You've been described as a 'militant atheist', but do you consider yourself to be certainly atheist or rather technically agnostic, in the same sense that Bertrand Russell described himself as in his essay "Am I Atheist or Agnostic?"

about a year and a half ago

Submissions

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Gamma Ray Bursts Possibly Ruled Out As Source Of Ultra-Energetic Cosmic Rays

steppedleader steppedleader writes  |  about 2 years ago

steppedleader (2490064) writes "Scientists at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory have possibly ruled out gamma-ray bursts as the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. From an article in the Christian Science Monitor about the observations:
"The investigators focused on neutrinos whose energy levels suggest they are linked with gamma-ray bursts. The fireballs that give rise to the gamma rays seen in gamma-ray bursts were thought to potentially hurl particles at very high energies, generating both cosmic rays and energetic neutrinos. After analyzing data on 307 gamma-ray bursts in 2008 and 2009, the scientists discovered the levels of these neutrinos were at least 3.7 times lower than expected. This suggests gamma-ray bursts are probably not the sources of the most powerful cosmic rays."
The cosmic rays in question are notable because their energies can be beyond the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit, our current theoretical upper limit for the cosmic ray energies."

Link to Original Source
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Gamma Ray Bursts Possibly Ruled Out As Source Of Ultra-Energetic Cosmic Rays

steppedleader steppedleader writes  |  about 2 years ago

steppedleader (2490064) writes "Scientists at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory have possibly ruled out gamma-ray bursts as the source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. From an article in the Christian Science Monitor about the observations:

The investigators focused on neutrinos whose energy levels suggest they are linked with gamma-ray bursts. The fireballs that give rise to the gamma rays seen in gamma-ray bursts were thought to potentially hurl particles at very high energies, generating both cosmic rays and energetic neutrinos. After analyzing data on 307 gamma-ray bursts in 2008 and 2009, the scientists discovered the levels of these neutrinos were at least 3.7 times lower than expected. This suggests gamma-ray bursts are probably not the sources of the most powerful cosmic rays.

The cosmic rays in question are notable because their energies are beyond the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit, our current theoretical upper limit for the cosmic ray energies."
Link to Original Source

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