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Comment Re: How is everyone supposed to use Emacs? (Score 4, Funny) 315

Which is why it's called an "Escape" key. You use it under exceptional conditions. You don't want it underfoot, but when you need it, it needs to be there.

First they came for my floppy drive, and I did not speak out, because floppies were slow and I was glad to be rid of them anyway.

Then they came for my CD-ROM drive, and I did not speak out, because I appreciated a lighter, more compact laptop.

Then they came for my headphone jack, and I did not speak out, because I use my damn phone as a phone, not a stereo.

Then they came for my escape key, and I knew there was no way out.

They they came for my power button, and there was no one left to hear the perpetual screams.

And my MacBook, never flickering, still is sitting, still is sitting
By the pallid bust of Steve Jobs just above my basement door;
And its screen has all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the process o'er it streaming throws exceptions galore;
And my soul from out that process started back in days of yore
Shall be turned off -- nevermore!

Comment Re:did it drive like most truckers? (Score 1) 206

Honestly if you are not passing by at least 4mph dont pass. they should let cops ticket truckers for passing without using their gas pedal.

Uh, have you ever been behind a truck going up a long hill? You know how they slow down? That's because they have the "pedal to the floor" and yet the engine pulling that much weight can only manage so much going up a long incline.

Now, put that same truck on a straightaway where they're stuck behind some idiot or they're forced to get out of the right lane to avoid some idiot who doesn't know how to merge on an on-ramp or whatever. But then the road suddenly starts to slope up A BIT. Doesn't have to be a lot to make acceleration on a truck that size quite slow if not non-existent.

Couple that with a guy in a car in the right lane who starts going up the incline and starts pressing down the accelerator a bit more, and suddenly the truck can't even keep up, let alone pass.

I've never driven a semi. But I've driven large trucks a couple times. It's a MUCH different experience than driving a car. Heck, it's even a different experience than driving a mid-size moving truck, which might still be able to accelerate up a hill.

Obviously some truckers do stupid or annoying things sometimes. But having been in a situation myself on the highway when I thought I was going to be able to pass, but then the truck just couldn't accelerate because of a mild change in slope... I have an appreciation for the problems truckers have to deal with. It's easy in most cars to accelerate another 10-15 mph to pass reasonably fast; in trucks this may only be possible to do quickly going downhill.

A final note is that when driving a vehicle that large, quick changes in general are harder and potentially dangerous. Thus, truckers often don't like to change lanes as much and they tend to go at constant speeds when possible. So, depending on the exact situations you're talking about, in some cases it may not have been that the trucker was even trying to "pass" but was simply trying to drive in a reasonable consistent fashion (rather than a lot of car drivers who tend to be a lot more aggressive and needlessly maneuver around a lot).

Comment Re:Virtual public spaces (Score 1) 356

Currently, FB and Twitter are free to censor political speech and push political agenda.

As private corporations who own, operate, and maintain these services, that generally is the default. Yes.

You could argue that in 2016 as a politician you are effectively censored if you don't have access to FB and Twitter. This shouldn't be the case, insofar politics these should be considered virtual public spaces and any censorship of this kind should be disallowed.

I'm sympathetic to this argument, and in fact I've argued similarly that we need to consider how these things work in "virtual spaces" (these simply aren't "public," any more than than Facebook's headquarters is a "public space").

The closest analogy that some people have made is to public utilities, like phone service. A phone service that tried to refuse service to someone on the basis of the speech content of phone calls likely wouldn't get very far... unless there was a court order from a proven record of harassment or something like that.

But a number of issues arise when you try to extend that analogy to a service like Facebook or Twitter. First, phone calls are by nature ephemeral and generally not recorded for permanent record (except by the NSA, I suppose), and they're generally not audible/visible publicly. Facebook and Twitter posts are frequently VERY visible (often to millions of people) and there's a record that people can reference immediately.

A process like going through a court to get a restraining order against someone to disallow them service is just not set up for the kind of visible, persistent record that services like this provide.

And before you say, "Well, just allow all speech on these services then!" But the very nature of social media is that stuff can spread like wildfire, and the drumbeat for action will often continue until something happens. If you have people actively advocating terrorism or other violent actions or whatever and actual records that thousands of people are "liking" and agreeing with such things, there's going to be backlash from users. There's going to be media attention. And if some horrific event transpires that there's a permanent record of where these things were planned and encouraged, there will be lawsuits. And if stuff like this happens repeatedly, you can bet there will be calls for government officials to IMPOSE censorship.

That sort of thing just doesn't normally apply to things like phone services. So even if the government passed a law requiring "free speech" on such "virtual spaces," I doubt it would last very long. Even with court mechanisms to remove user access under extreme cases, it simply won't be fast enough for the outcry of social media waves of interest. And what about foreign users? Do they have the same "free speech rights?" What about anonymous users? Or do you only qualify for rights if you have a registered account with a verified real name and address?

And even if you magically came up with a way of making this work that users, companies, and government officials were satisfied with, just how do you determine which services qualify for this sort of speech protection?

Facebook and Twitter may seem obvious choices. But what about the "up and coming" social media service? Or the declining one? Or the random internet forum? Is Slashdot a "virtual public space"? How many active users do you need before these protections kick in? And how do we determine that threshold?

Again, with phone service there was one standard fairly early on, and interconnectivity was essential. Interconnectivity between different social media services is rarely the same -- even if data can be transferred between them (not always the case), they tend to have different use cases. So again, you're looking at potentially protecting a multitude of different KINDS of "virtual spaces." Where does it stop? How do you determine that?

I'm not saying this is impossible. But it's a legal and regulatory nightmare to even imagine how to do it.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 506

Why isn't there a similar push to get men into kindergarten education or nursing?

Well, there are actually. There are advocacy groups like the American Assembly for Men in Nursing and there are loads of groups who think it would be good to encourage more men in teaching (e.g., look here).

Now, these groups don't tend to get as much media coverage. You're correct. And that you may legitimately wonder about. I don't think it's any mystery why you don't hear about such groups on Slashdot -- a piece on that stuff wouldn't get much response, but put up an article about women and tech, and you're bound to get hundreds of screaming comments (=pageviews = ad revenue).

But there ARE people out there who are concerned about getting men in other professions -- particularly because we have a shortage of good nurses and good teachers (though for teaching the biggest shortage areas are places like high school math and science, a place where a lot of men happen to have qualifications).

As to why we don't see a specific push for male kindergarten teachers, I think it has to do with a much more disconcerting gender bias these days, which is the suspicion of any contact between men and small children likely means "pedophile." Seriously, there was a daycare near where I lived a few years back that hired a man to work with the preschool kids, and I heard parents talking and wondering things like, "Why would a MAN want to spend so much time with such young kids??" Or even "I'm okay with him being around to help out, but he shouldn't be doing things like changing kids or taking them to the toilet alone!"

From my perspective, the current pedophile hysteria is a much more disturbing gender issue than a lot of stuff we talk about... and it's largely targeted at males. (Note that child abduction and abuse rates are much lower than in the past; we just tend to hear about them a lot more often nowadays. Also, note that stats show the vast majority of sexual abuse has always been targeted at underage teens. Those cases make up most "sex offenders." The number of true PEDOphiles who are going to abuse preschool kids is orders of magnitude smaller, yet that seems to be what most people worry about. What they should be concerned about is inappropriate contact with their teenage son or daughter.)

Anyhow, all of this concern about young kids and men reinforces traditional stereotypical gender roles within the family, who is the "caregiver" in the family, etc.., which ultimately influences stuff like the fact that most men don't want to do nursing. (Where would a man have the kind of nursing "caregiver" role modeled for him by another man, unless his dad was unusual in taking a more active role in the family or something?) So personally I'm not so much concerned about trying to shoehorn more men into nursing and kindergarten, but I am somewhat concerned about the societal implications of why there are so few.

And personally I'm really glad that my son had the privilege to have a male kindergarten teacher, who by all accounts seemed to be an excellent teacher and role model.

(I'm not going to comment on the whole women in tech thing, just noting that there are issues are men and careers too.)

Comment Re:67% is not that good (Score 2) 175

When you're pushing the boundaries, anything over 50% is good.

Is it? It depends on the data, the model, the thresholds for "correct forecast," etc. There are lots of places in the world where a "persistence" forecast (i.e., today will be the same as yesterday) will net you a greater than 50% accuracy within a reasonable margin of error. And one should also always consider forecasting models against general predicted climate averages. Again, taking those into account, a forecast system just using climate averages might do pretty well too.

It really depends on what the percentage "accuracy" means in this case and how it was measured. I'm guessing they wouldn't bother reporting it if it weren't significant, but just how significant is difficult to tell without the details (and it seems the full research paper is behind a paywall).

Otherwise citing a number like "62% accuracy" is utterly meaningless. If you had a task like, "Guess how tall the next person to walk into the building will be," and I achieved 62% accuracy, that could be remarkable and improbable if the margin of error was 1/8 of an inch. But if I instead was guessing "Taller than 1 foot or shorter than 1 foot," then 62% accuracy might mean I'm mentally retarded.

Comment Re:Hold down power button and ... (Score 4, Interesting) 427

Donald Trump is an anti tyrant. He's more like a little boy who has no idea what to do or how to do it.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Donald Trump has "ideas" about "what to do." He's pretty famous for them. They may be wacky or unrealistic or even impossible, but he has ideas. Some of which could have major political ramifications if he even attempts to follow through.

Anyhow, I think you may not realize that "tyrants" in world history take many forms. Relatively few of them throughout history started out as clear "twirling the mustache" evil dudes who had a Machiavellian plan to become a "tyrant." Much more common are situations where you take a somewhat average guy, put him in a leadership position, create some tough choices, and watch him choose the bad ones. A lot of "tyrants" throughout history very gradually slipped into tyranny, often with the support of the public along the way, cheered along by their fears and promises of "security" from a well-meaning leader.

You know what prevents that sort of thing? Knowledge. Knowledge of history. Knowledge of politics. Realizations that paths others have taken before have led to badness. History has shown again and again that the most ignorant "nice" folks who end up leadership positions can turn out to be the worst... they don't know any better, so they can be swayed into all sorts of bad acts.

And Donald Trump doesn't even have that "niceness" to go along with his ignorance.

In some ways having a child who doesn't understand politics at the top of what is shown to be an institutionalised assault on the rights of all may actually be a good thing.

Maybe. Or it could be even a faster track to a dictatorship. The problem is that it's completely unpredictable.

None of this should be viewed as an argument in favor of Clinton, who is also a terrible candidate. But acting like things are likely to be better because Trump is an "outsider" and less corrupt (at least by the political establishment) is just not a safe bet.

Comment Re:Yes, selecting the US president isn't "gossip" (Score 3, Insightful) 356

Those parts of the emails are valid to report on. Stuff like a staffer thinking Lessig is smug is not valid to report on.

Who determines what is "valid" to report on?

Good reporters report on the part that matters, bad reporters just try to find something salacious to poke a bee hive.

Yeah, except "the part that matters" is never some objective category valid for all places, times, and people. This site used to have a tagline about "stuff that matters," but the reality is that a lot of the stuff posted here didn't "matter" to the vast majority of people in the world. Meanwhile, a lot of stuff that "matters" to the vast majority of the world wouldn't be of interest to a significant portion of the audience here (e.g., sports, celebrity gossip).

Here's the reality of journalism -- the "news" is mostly about selling stuff, NOT informing people. Yes, "good journalists" who want to be respected generally tend to focus on certain topics and ignore others, but they are conscious of the "bottom line" like everyone else. And if some reporter claims to be completely oblivious to stuff like that, you can darn well bet their editor isn't.

So, the question is rarely "Is this too salacious to be 'legitimate' news, or does it 'matter'?" The question is usually, "We know that this will get a lot of clicks/sell a lot of ads/papers/whatever. But will it piss off our readership or advertisers if we do so?" Somewhere down the list, far below that set of concerns about revenue, maintaining readers and advertisers, etc., are things like, "Is this 'respectable journalism'?" Or, "Does this matter?"

Because, let's be honest here -- even if something appears to be "too salacious" to be a story, if it gets caught up by SOME major media source, eventually most of the other major media will start reporting on it. You don't want to be the newspaper or whatever who steps "out of line" and starts looking like a cheap tabloid, but as long as everybody else is writing about it, it's gonna be fair game.

What really "matters"? Human life? Well, most Americans (even educated liberal well-meaning and loving ones) don't really have much interest in African news. I mean, some say they do -- but they really don't care about reading about that stuff every day, even if every day is pretty much a bad day for millions of people in Africa.

Meanwhile, is the Queen of England having another great-grandchild?!? Let's devote weeks of news for that. Does that "matter"? I don't mean to pick on the royals -- any celebrity gossip will do. Or what about sports? Does that really "matter"? It's certainly not going to have as much of an impact as that genocidal African dictator, but editors know that there are loads of people who basically pull the "sports section" out a newspaper (or do the equivalent online) and ignore most of the rest.

But to bring this back to the current political stuff and scandals, we basically end up in a situation where fans of politician A think stuff "doesn't matter" and publishing it is "salacious" but people who don't like politician A definitely think it matters. To many fans of Bill Clinton, the various scandals about possible affairs and interns "didn't matter" compared to his leadership capabilities as President. To some Trump fans, clearly his views on women also "don't matter" to the evaluation of his leadership abilities. (I'm not equating these two people or their actions by any means, just noting similar reactions I've noted among fans.)

To those fans, publishing a bunch of stories about such stuff is just "salacious" and yellow journalism, which is targeting stuff that should be irrelevant to their political life. To others, this "matters" deeply and it's irresponsible NOT to publish something that tells you something about their "character."

Anyhow, getting to TFA, the question of where information came from is WAY down the list, far below other ethical concerns about journalistic "integrity" and reputations of the media source and individual reporter. (Note that I'm assuming the information is verifiable, as much of it seems to be in the present case. Obviously if there was a question of whether the information was even true, that's a separate issue. But assuming it is believed to be true, it's really unfathomable to me that most modern journalists would ignore a story simply on the basis of where the information came from... legal or not. Even if they tried not to report, other media sources would, and then they'd be duty bound to do so as well to avoid being left behind in coverage.)

Comment Re:AI -- FAR more hype than substance (Score 1) 210

But the things you listed aren't features of intelligence, they're bugs in our brains (or simply, things that natural selection de-emphasized out of comparative irrelevance in your basic cave man survival scenario).

Nope, they aren't "bugs." Learning is fundamentally about prioritizing information, making "higher-level connections," creating abstractions that lead to "understanding," etc. No AI system can do this on even the level of a small human child. But a fundamental process necessary to this stuff is being able to prioritize information, which necessarily entails de-emphasizing most of input that's less relevant. It doesn't NEED to be forgotten, but these "bugs" are probably the most efficient way of dealing with the problem.

If those short term memories were more reliably committed to long-term, or there was no real distinction between those things, would that really be a disqualifyier for intelligence?

Yes, if the "long-term" commitment was not accompanied by an incredibly complex (by current AI standards) abstraction process that effectively renders most of the irrelevant "long-term" data as "background" that would rarely or never be accessed anyway. "Forgetting" again is not essential to the process of intelligence, but it likely makes it a lot more efficient and easier for the algorithms in our brains to work. A computer AI which refuses to prioritize information in this way is always going to lag way behind human comprehension.

Comment Do i really need *these* movies on streaming? (Score 2) 93

Brazil has movies that those of us in America could only dream of streaming, like The Godfather Part II, Fight Club, and The Empire Strikes Back.

While this is a list of good movies, I'm not sure this is the sort of stuff I'd like Netflix to prioritize. Some people like the new content showing up on streaming services, especially "original" content. I like some of that, but what first made me love Netflix's DVD service years ago was the more obscure stuff -- discovering good movies I hadn't seen before. Even Netflix's streaming service when it first came out had a great selection of old films (usually "classics," but not the most popular ones) as well as really great more recent ones (though not many new releases). I first watched films like Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage on Netflix "Instant watch," while rediscovering old classics from more obscure Buster Keaton and Chaplin films to old TV series like Yes, Minister and the classic Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett.

Most of that stuff is gone. And frankly, I don't really want to watch this stuff again. People who love these movies probably already have purchased them either on DVD or through some streaming, so they'll permanently have them available.

And actually, do I really want to watch Godfather Part II again? Sorry, I think it's overrated. (Yes, this is just my opinion.) The two narratives are disconnected, and while I love the early De Niro period piece, the other story is too dark. I love the original Godfather (and have watched it quite a few times), but I sometimes wish I could just except the early period stuff from part II and watch that separately. Fight Club? Are there lots of people who actually WANT to watch that repeatedly? It's a fantastic movie, but it goes in the category of things that are just not pleasant to watch again. And, sorry, but if you're a fan who wants to see The Empire Strikes Back over and over, you probably already own some special collector's edition. (Or, if you're a TRUE fan, you've probably sought out the "Despecialized" version before Lucas messed with it.)

I'm not saying it wouldn't be good to have such classic films as options on Netflix. But I know they'd be really expensive to have available, and they wouldn't be my priority.

Comment Re:So...FUD propaganda then? (Score 1) 83

Let's remember that coral is - literally - one of the oldest life forms on the planet.
They existed in much warmer, higher CO2 environments for hundreds of millions of years.

First, let's also remember that we've seen sudden significant die-offs in coral in the past couple decades (and especially in recent years). So something verifiable is happening that seems to be having a widespread and large-scale effect on coral. The question is the magnitude and ramifications.

Second, the question I'd have to ask is why exactly many of the world's experts in coral would be sounding an alarm if there was nothing to worry about. What exactly do these folks have to gain by lying about that? There's still a LOT more lobbying money available for paid shills from fossil fuel companies than there is from environmental groups. What's the benefit for all of these scientists to lie? (And if they actually believe what they say, then perhaps they likely know something more about why things are happening and the flexibility/adaptability of coral than some random guy posting on Slashdot.)

Finally, I'd just note that I could survive quite well living at sea level. I could also survive quite well living on a submarine, or on a high mountain. But if you transported me rapidly from one of those areas to another, I might suffer from severe reactions to altitude or pressure effects on the human body. The rate of change matters. And if the mountain was livable but gradually started cooling down, I've have plenty of time to migrate down. But if a rapid storm came up and plunged the temperature to well below zero unexpectedly, I might not survive.

The question really has to do with RATE of change here. Yes, coral have lived through all sorts of conditions on earth over hundreds of millions of years. But unlike humans, they can't just get up and move a hundred miles away when the weather turns. Migrating and rebuilding takes long periods of time. And they're not good with handling rapid temperature fluctuations.

The acidification is relevant because (as I understand it) it makes it even slower to build and repair damage to coral. Again, it's not necessarily about whether they could survive a CONSTANT pH level once they were established and adapted to those conditions. The question is whether the changing pH will make it even harder for adaptation to occur, on top of more rapidly changing temperatures.

Sure, we don't know everything, and we're extrapolating a lot of stuff about the way we think things happened in the past vs. the way things happen today. But simply saying, "These things have been around forever, so obviously they're going to survive and anyone else is an idiot!" doesn't make it true.

Comment Re:Yes Bribe (Score 1) 122

These alleged actions by Samsung were definitely attempts at bribery by definition. Their actions may or may not have been criminal depending on the local laws but they definitely were bribery.

And, frankly, this is nothing new in terms of behavior of large companies. The difference is that your average consumer used to lack a mechanism to disseminate videos and such directly to wide audiences. So, if this happened to someone a few decades ago, there would likely be no video of the even to begin with, and then you'd get investigations by consumer safety organizations, local news media, etc.

But meanwhile the big corporation would be trying to do "damage control" too. It would be contacting the news media, the safety orgs, etc. and negotiating time for press releases, time for the company to respond to try to work on a fix, etc. Most of this "backroom" dealing still went on, perhaps even involving bribes, but we just didn't see it.

Now, you have people around the world who can record and post some bad product behavior INSTANTLY, and it can spread like wildfire.

Comment Re:My phone is how I keep my memory? (Score 4, Insightful) 552

Use your eyes. And brain.

I still recall when I spent a significant amount of time in Rome over a decade ago. This was before smartphones were common, but reasonably portable videocameras were pretty cheap.

I remember how many tourists I saw walking down the hallways in the Vatican Museums or whatever with their videocameras plastered on their eyes, bumping into everything, basically oblivious to the world except for their camera and its settings.

In general, most of these folks were completely oblivious to the fact that they were surrounded by priceless art, historical artifacts, etc. And they could probably have bought some "virtual tour" DVD for a few bucks that would give them an even better visual record than their camera.

This tendency has only worsened in the era of the smartphone. To each his own, but I actually sometimes like to simply live my life and experience what's going on around me to the fullest, rather than spend the whole time making what's probably an inferior recording.

I kept an electronic journal of sorts during my visit to Rome, reflecting on my day's activities. Sure, I've forgotten some things, but sometimes I'll go back to those log entries and that will be enough to jog a lot of memories. Personally, I'm really glad I take time to stop and enjoy the actual experience, and I probably have a lot more memories of what I encountered than those who make a video that they likely watch once (if that) and then never again.

Comment Re:Uber is a scam for drivers (Score 5, Insightful) 196

The problem Uber was changed from its original intent.

[Citation needed]

Initially it really was for computers who were all going to the same place, and the driver could make a few bucks while bringing a bunch of of other people to the same area they were going. It wasn't really a Taxi service, just a way to share your ride.

I don't see any evidence in the historical record suggesting this was EVER the "original intent" of Uber. Uber's name was originally "UberCab," suggesting some similarity to, well, CABS, i.e., taxis, or at least hired cars.

Here's a Techcrunch article from right after the initial launch in San Francisco in July 2010. The article compares Uber to a taxi-finding apps and notes:

UberCab calculates the cost of your trip based on milage and time in the car, similar to the way other limo companies calculate fares. However, the startup says you are able to get better fares because its drivers perceive these on-demand trips as extra money in addition to their regular full-priced trips to and from the airport.

In other words, the initial market was heavily based on limo drivers trying to get extra money. This is confirmed in a Techcrunch article a few months later when Uber was first challenged in court. The article concludes:

... Uber -- nee Ubercab -- often pitches itself not as a taxi service, but an app that helps ride seekers book a premium car and driver quickly and easily via mobile, and helps licensed limo drivers connect with clients.

Or, take the word of USA Today as Uber was interviewed preparing for its national launch in 2011:

Backed by star Silicon Valley investors, Uber offers people with iPhones and Android-based phones an app that connects them to limo drivers of black Lincoln Town Cars.... Uber partners with local limo companies that work with the start-up to earn some extra business during down times.

Then, in late 2012, Uber shifted its emphasis toward lower-end options. Here we zoom in on September 2012 and an interview with the CEO. But by this point you have Lyft and numerous other start-ups in the low end "ride-sharing" space. So, by the time Uber turned to "ride-sharing" instead of professional drivers, there were already PLENTY of amateur folks already doing "ride-sharing" as de facto cabs.

Basically, Uber has shifted its emphasis away from high-end transport over the years. However, it was NEVER this mythical "ride sharing" opportunity for folks to just hook up with "someone going my way." At the beginning it was focused on off-duty limo drivers, and then more folks with lesser cars joined. But Uber has always been about hiring a professional driver, not just "sharing a ride."

Sorry, but you've fallen for their legal propaganda.

Comment Re:A little perspective (Score 1) 435

The Founding Fathers created the electoral college system specifically to prevent populist perverts like Trump becoming president.

The EC has disagreed with the popular vote only four times in history and one of those was a Bush presidency. Tell me again how great it is.

Who said the electoral college was "great"? I'm not a huge fan of the idea, but it is what it is, until we amend the Constitution.

Anyhow, there's a big difference between saying there's something undesirable about the electoral process vs. claiming that an election is "rigged." That implies that there's a secret behind-the-scenes variable manipulating election results. The electoral college doesn't satisfy that criterion -- I suppose it would if there were so-called "faithless electors" who could be bribed or something on a regular basis. But the last time faithless electors played a major role was in 1836. Well, there were a couple situations since then when a candidate died before the inauguration, in which case one can argue about the utility of forcing them to vote for a dead person.

In any case, the majority of states have laws prohibiting electors from being "faithless," so "rigging" by means of swaying the electoral college isn't realistic.

But you don't even seem to be talking about that. This last post seems to be claiming that even a discrepancy between popular vote vs. electoral vote is "rigging."

There are at least a couple problems with this argument:

(1) Candidates actually make significant campaign choices to try to win the electoral vote, NOT the popular vote. They show up in some states just to grab those votes, when otherwise they'd probably just spend most of their time in major cities and ignore half of the country (where population density is less). Is that good or bad? I don't know, but the point is that it's hard to call an election "rigged" when the rules are clear and candidates choose to campaign to win the electoral vote. (It also makes the "Gore should have won in 2000 because the electoral college sucks" argument a little specious -- Gore and Bush were not campaigning to win the popular vote. If they were, they might have campaigned differently, and there's no evidence that Gore would still have won if they made different choices to try to win the popular vote, since the margin was small. By the way, I'm NOT arguing in favor of a Bush presidency, just that the "Gore won the popular vote" thing is just a BS argument, since the candidates were trying to win the electoral vote.)

(2) There are plenty of situations where the "one person, one vote" argument is not what we'd consider the best. If three kids vote to have M&Ms and Cheetos for dinner, should the parents give in, since they're outnumbered? Or should the parents' votes "count more" in this circumstance?

Obviously the U.S. system is more complicated than that, but it was designed in such a way as to prioritize individual state "voices" more than popular votes. After all, it's up to individual states to determine how their electors are allocated. A couple (e.g., Nebraska) don't do "winner-take-all" but most do. Thus, the anti-populist impetus takes place on various levels of government that have little to do with the electoral college directly.

And really, if you're going to complain about problematic voter representation, are you seriously going to claim the electoral college is the worst offense? How about the entire U.S. Senate? States like Wyoming and Alaska get as much voice there as California. Is that "rigged"? If so, our entire federal government representation system is "rigged."

But again, that's not what the term usually means. Instead, we should note that the Founding Fathers prioritized state voices -- that's why they made Senate representation equal for all states (and why senators were originally appointed by state legislatures, rather than popular vote). And that's one reason why they designed the Electoral College the way they did.

The priorities were created in a different time and were never intended to be representative of a direct popular vote. Every candidate knows how the system works and campaigns to try to win within that system. So, I'm really not sure how the term "rigged" applies.

Comment Re:Well, duh. (Score 1) 75

I kinda have this impression, which I know to be completely false, that everyone prior to the modern era were total idiots who ascribed all natural phenomena to humorous vapors and spirits and the mumbling of witch doctors.

This is the fault of both bad science teaching and bad history teaching. The history of science is generally taught as a barrage of "cherry-picked" historical anecdotes that make it look like a series of brilliant unerring people who always seemed to find their way progressing to the next advance. We rarely teach the failures in any depth, certainly not acknowledging the reasons why many learned people used to believe in different models or ideas. When we do bring up some failure -- like phlogiston, to take a prominent example -- it's often just to laugh at it. "Oh how quaint and ridiculous people were back then!"

Meanwhile, general historians often no longer receive in-depth education in science and math, so they're ill-equipped to tackle specialized stuff like the history of science. They may be used to questioning "narratives of progress" or Whiggish history in other intellectual areas, but they don't have the expertise to critique the stories about science.

For years, I've believed the best way to improve this would be to teach the Copernican controversy in some depth. No, not the stereotyped version of the Galileo affair where Science (now endowed with a capital "S") confronts "Ignorant Religion" and triumphs. I mean the real version when in 1633 -- when Galileo was on trial -- nobody had incontrovertible empirical evidence for the earth going around the sun. (That would have to wait until 1727, when James Bradley's chance observation of stellar aberration finally put heliocentrism on empirical footing.) In fact, throughout the 1600s, there were loads of people -- not just Galileo -- looking for things like parallax and Coriolis forces and other evidence of the earth's motion and not finding them. (These were not clearly observed until the 1800s.)

So, contrary to the Galileo stereotype, it was a really tough situation for scientists to figure out what was going on in the heavens in the 1600s. Once Kepler came up with his ellipses (something Galileo rejected, preferring the perfection of circles, a la Ptolemy), there was at least something mathematically more elegant in favor of the heliocentric model. And by the time you have people like Newton coming along, trying to continue to do math in a geocentric (whether Ptolemaic or Tychonic) universe had become increasingly tedious.

If you really want to know how learned people were trying to tackle this problem in the 1600s, it might be good to look at something like Riccioli's 1651 compilation of 126 arguments concerning the motion of the earth (49 in favor of the Copernican hypothesis, 77 against) as part of his 1500-page astronomical treatise. Unfortunately, they've never been translated to my knowledge from the original Latin, but you can read an English summary here.

It's really amazing the sort of reasoned debate that was going on about issues like this. Lots of experimental evidence brought to bear, etc. If we had people who were training to become scientists have a look at stuff like this, they might get a much greater perspective and respect for earlier attempts to produce scientific knowledge... much better than fairytales about Galileo, or Newton getting hit on the head by an apple or whatever.

And, frankly, it might be fodder for discussion of modern speculative theoretical physics, which also has headed toward divorcing itself from empirical verification (at least not in the near future for many theories) in pursuit of mathematical elegance. Newflash to those folks -- some parts of physics for most of its history has depended on major speculative theories with little empirical support. It might be instructive to look back at how earlier generations handled this problem.

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire