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The Plight of Star Wars Droids

thms Re:it's just a watering down for increased bottom (245 comments)

The fact that they never touch the philosophical issues of "droids rights" makes me classify Star Wars more into the Fantasy than in the Science Fiction genre. It takes place in a universe where apart from some engineering progress towards bigger weapons no scientific progress is made (except maybe the midichlorians lapse), and technology itself is never questioned but is just a plot device. Just like droids.

about a year and a half ago

Other Solar Systems Could Be More Habitable Than Ours

thms Re:So then global warming is a good thing (143 comments)

No, warmer would be bad.

A warmblooded animal, such as mammals with their core temperature of ~37ÂC for mammals and few degrees more for birds, constantly produces heat. That is heat must go somewhere, otherwise it would lead to overheating. So the only choice is to run at a temperature which is above that of the environment. Once those temperatures come too close to each other, all animals reduce their activity more and more to prevent said overheating.

So, a jump in global temperature, i.e. one that is faster than evolution can keep pace with, would pose a serious threat to animals in areas where the gap between their core temperature and the environment is reduced.

more than 2 years ago

AMD64 Surpasses i386 As Debian's Most Popular Architecture

thms Talking about Debian and AMD64 (216 comments)

How far is multiarch support, i.e. being able to install 32 and 64 bit packages along side each other, and that not just on the Intel architecture but any CPUs which support both 32 and 64bits?

Have any other distros pulled this off?

more than 2 years ago

If You're Fat, Broke, and Smoking, Blame Language

thms Re:Whorfianism (297 comments)

Sounds like the return of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

Just what I was thinking when I read the article. And then I had to think of the Marain, a fictional constructed language in the Culture universe. I wonder if a society would actually decide to change their language if there was sufficient evidence that it hinders their cultural development. Sort of like the switch to the Latin alphabet as it happened for Vietnamese and Turkish, only a bit more invasive.

more than 2 years ago

OS I'd Most Like To See Make a Comeback

thms Re:Old Code (763 comments)

It's a shame Apple bought NeXT-Step and with it Steve Jobs and not BeOS for the UNIX base of OS X. With BeOS and its threads-everywhere model the user experience would have been vastly better than with just the shiny-UI OS X has now.

more than 4 years ago

Scientists Create Programmable Bacteria

thms Re:Antibiotics? (117 comments)

Sorry to rain on your Computer Scientists discover the Wonders of Biology parade, but...

tailor a bacteria to attack or compete with a bacteria which you needed to control

This already exists in the from of a virus which attacks bacteria, also known as a Bacteriophage. It doesn't even have to be programmed from the outside to keep up with the evading, evolving bacteria; it just evolves as well. And even if you wanted to "program" this feature, you'd have to deal with the nasty problem of protein folding in silico. Better to leave this entire process highly parallel in wetware.

programmable immune system

Also known as Vaccination, and this happens naturally after every infection. And again you don't have to program anything, it uses a random walk to find matching antibodies which attach themselves to bugs.

This discovery will sooner result in a very parallel, but also clockrate wise very slow computer than in immunological advances. And if this gets used in the human body via gene therapy it will be used to regulate genes, i.e. as an if/else block, not to calculate anything fancy.

more than 4 years ago

Heroic Engineer Crashes Own Vehicle To Save a Life

thms Re:What about the passengers? (486 comments)

It's not speed that kills, it's the speed difference.

more than 4 years ago

Genetically Altering Trees To Sequester More Carbon

thms Re:What happens .. snowball earth! (279 comments)

Assuming the trees are planet and the humanity stops to care we might pull out CO2 fast enough to reach a snowball earth scenario, i.e. it gets too cold and more snow reflects more sunlight resulting in a negative feedback loop. And maybe this time we won't come out of it again.

more than 4 years ago

Animal Farms Are Pumping Up Superbugs

thms Re:no shocker (551 comments)

Two things:

  • Antibodies are much larger than your typical antibiotic molecule. The latter is like jamming a wrench into a very specific part of the cellular machinery to grind it to a halt. If a mutation in the machinery changes the location where your wrench used to fit you have a resistant bacteria. Because antibodies are larger a single mutation usually doesn't throw them off. This however also means antibodies can only attach themselves to the surface, and that usually doesn't kill the bacteria but flags it for the immune system. The small molecules can pass through membranes and attach themselves anywhere. Finding the spot and designing a fitting molecule is the hard part. And since that is even harder for larger antibodies, i.e. proteins, my guess is they want to take those you find in nature and multiply them.
  • The immune system has its own evolutionary process to counter the problem of a moving target (somatic hypermutation, sidenote, the other idea here is to use bacteria eating viruses, phages, which evolve on their own). One way to jumpstart that is plain old vaccination, maybe there are plans to introduce those blueprints faster.

Don't Panic!

more than 4 years ago

The Map of Critical Thinking and Modern Science

thms Re:Where are the women? (150 comments)

Women staying out of the engineering and "hard" sciences is mostly a phenomenon of the western world (in Cold War terms). In eastern Europe and Russia these subjects are much closer to parity, IIRC the same hold true for China. Even in Iran (!) women don't share the western prejudices against CS, Math etc.

However, once in these fields, there is the entirely different issue of the glass ceiling, i.e. not getting promoted beyond a certain level.

more than 4 years ago

Jack Horkheimer, 'The Star Hustler,' Dies At 72

thms Re:I've seen a lot of amazing things (84 comments)

When I go outside, at any time of the night, I see very few stars. I remember seeing the Milky Way the first time and was quite awestruck, the name made perfect sense then.

Light pollution is turning us into the Krikkit!

more than 4 years ago

Gene Mutation Caused 2009 H1N1 Virus Spread

thms Re:How come viruses get all the cool mutations? (158 comments)

Oh, but you do get mutations! In fact, mutations which allow you to defeat H1N1! And not just a single replaced amino acid, no, lots more! Now how does that silly virus look?

When an immune systems B-cell find something it doesn't like, such as a virus, it goes into a feedback loop, mutates itself so that some copies will dislike said virus even more. In the end you have an immune system against which this virus doesn't stand a chance even though it was a completely unknown pathogen hours earlier. And this response will remain intact for years! (see: vaccination) This is called somatic hypermutation. On the downside, somatic means it won't make it into your germ line so your children will have to mutate all on their own again (though IIRC some of the mothers immune system cells make it into the child to help out a bit).

more than 4 years ago

The 'Net Generation' Isn't

thms Re:Tech is still Tech, yucko! (435 comments)

The tech learning curve is important as well. Those who grew up with computers in pre-GUI times had a rather steep curve but as a consequence became much more proficient.

When the curve became flatter less understanding was required, however more people started using it. So I wonder if the mass adoption of technology compensates for the reduced required depth, i.e. if the first easy steps encouraged more people to take a deeper look at things compared to when you had no choice but to do that.

Data on the percentage of computer users in each generation which were hobby programmers at a certain would be interesting.

more than 4 years ago

The Rise of Small Nuclear Plants

thms Waste of Uranium (490 comments)

As much as nuclear energy would help reduce CO2 emissons, the the anti-nuclear crowd has to be seen as a "force of nature" making new power plants less likely. The idealist would fight against irrationality, but as a realist I would redirect that energy elsewhere, e.g. against the NIMBYs who think wind turbines ruin the coastlines and kill birds or bats.

Also, if oil is non-renewable because it takes millions of years to re-form, then nuclear fuels are the ultimate non-renewable with a "when is the next supernova due?" regeneration period. And the energy density and relative ease of use is just too good to waste it powering our washing machines and slashdot browsing. Maybe in a few hundred years outer solar system exploration will be in a serious crunch because the lack of a good power source after all the uranium, thorium, plutonium etc. has been used up.

more than 4 years ago

World's Tiniest Radiometer To Power Medical Scanner

thms Powered via a cable (37 comments)

At first this "Because there's obviously no sunlight in the body, this light-mill pulls its power from a laser run up through the center of the catheter." seemed rather silly. When you already have a cable why not use that to get all the power you want? But later on the articles mentions that blood vessels really don't like anything above one volt. Other generators/motors (applying an alternating external magnetic field maybe) produce too much voltage already, so producing the power via photons is a safe alternative.

On a related note, I wonder how far the tech for burning blood sugar in a fuel cell is, that would allow for long independent operation of tiny devices and since nothing rotates should scale low wrt. voltage

more than 4 years ago

The Secrets of the Chaocipher Finally Revealed

thms Re:The 20th Century? (121 comments)

In some countries centuries are actually labelled in that fashion. So maybe you should just advise said AC to travel more of the real or virtual world instead. But less breeding is always good. Though, probably not in said countries, with their negative population growth....

more than 4 years ago

The Secrets of the Chaocipher Finally Revealed

thms Re:Wow (121 comments)

Yes, the Enigma algorithm, or actually wiring, was known and Polish and later English Cryptologists worked long and hard to crack it since a lot was at stake. This one as of now relied a lot on security through obscurity. I doubt it would have lasted long in a world war scenario.

Just as the Enigma it might be impossible to de-cypher it manually, but with a machine and Turing-level minds to help you I would think it is solved quickly. But since secure encryption is perceived as a solved problem (still, where is the AES equivalent of a secure hash?) maybe bright minds turn their attention elsewhere nowadays.

more than 4 years ago

Europe To Import Sahara Solar Power Within 5 Years

thms Re:Yay... nope! (450 comments)

The influx of money should raise the standard of living [in] those countries and it might encourage a different sort of economic growth than what we've seen in economies fueled by petrodollars.

What growth? Countries which get essentially "free money" often have shrinking economies . Whether they get paid for oil underground or sun shining on the ground doesn't matter. They don't become poor, but they end up importing everything because local labor is so unattractive an expensive. See Dutch disease etc., this was just recently discussed on /. in relation to the "trillion dollar ore miracle" in Afghanistan.

And these solar arrays are probably built by non-local companies, so no local know-how is rewarded. Then the states just get monetary compensation for maintenance work, not for fabricating anything. Now how to build a local economy.

more than 4 years ago

Apple Quietly Goes After Mac Trojan With Update

thms Re:You have to wonder? (321 comments)

While we are nitpicking, the Trojans are the good guys. You have to be on the lookout for the sneaky Greeks.

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts! And in all seriousness, using the proper term might cause a few more users to think twice about clicking "Ok" and instead thinking about ancient stories and their modern parallels.

more than 4 years ago

A Close Look At Apple's A4 Chip

thms Needed for TPM? (245 comments)

Are there ARM designs yet which support the Trusted Platform Module specification? (Remember this fuzz years ago wrt. Microsoft and TCPA/NGSCB?)

If I were a hardware company and want to sell DRM'ed content with a hardware dongle, this would be the way to go, having the encryption key which ties the media to the device stored directly inside the CPU would make my platform very attractive, maybe even a de-facto standard, for certain media control freaks. And you could make sure that only signed code runs it from the moment it boots, turning it into the ultimate closed system where the producing company stays in control.

more than 4 years ago



European companies want solar energy from N.Africa

thms thms writes  |  more than 5 years ago

thms (1339227) writes ""A consortium of 12 European businesses outlined an ambitious plan [on] Monday to build a massive solar power facility in North Africa that they said could satisfy 15 percent of Europe's energy needs by 2050." writes the LA Times

This so-called Desertec project involves, among others, Siemens AG, the re-insurer Munich Re AG and the Swiss-based electrical engineering firm ABB. The technology will not be based on photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, but on Parabolic troughs which collect heat driving conventional turbines, molten salt can be used as a heat sink to provide electricity in the absence of sunlight.

Estimated costs are around 45 billion Euros ($63 billion), with the entire project around 400 billion Euros ($560 billion)."

Link to Original Source

Vatican Evolution Conference snubs creationists

thms thms writes  |  more than 5 years ago

thms (1339227) writes "The Vatican hosted Darwin conference, marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species", has been criticised by advocators of Creationism or Intelligent Design for not inviting them to the conference. They accuse the sponsoring Templeton Foundation, which has criticized the intelligent design, for pressuring the Vatican against their invitation.

However, "We think that it's not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one," said the Rev. Marc Leclerc, the conference director and a professor of philosophy of nature at the Gregorian. "This makes a dialogue very difficult, maybe impossible." and
"Organizers of the five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University said Thursday that they barred intelligent design proponents because they wanted an intellectually rigorous conference on science, theology and philosophy to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's 'The Origin of Species.'"

The Muslim creationist Harun Yahya, most famous for his "Atlas of Creation" also complained about the conference.

Program of the Conference"


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