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Comment Human nature means this question keeps on coming (Score 1) 401

Yes, we moan and groan and point out flaws in the methodologies, cite counter-examples etc. It applies to both the topic of this thread, "Which language is most popular?" and also the similar question, "Which language is best?" But the investigations will not go away because people really, really, really want to know. Programmers starting out want to know so they can find good jobs. Corporations want to know what language to use to build up their own particular software edifice. And finally, computer scientists want to know because they're scientists (Yes, they really are, some of them anyway.) And it piques their scientific curiosity and finding a way to determine the answers is a challenge, and they want to be able to design better languages.

Comment I learned it when I had to, and still sometimes... (Score 2) 131

There was a time when the command line was the best thing you had. It meant you couldn't just sit down and start doing stuff. You had to learn commands. This applied to applications like text editors also. I'm not here to evangelize for command line stuff, but now, when I have the choice of the command line, or something graphical, I very often choose the command line because it's quicker and easier now that I've paid my dues on the learning curve.

When I entered the Unix world, the most popular editor was vi. (I had a little experience with ed, and I'd come from other operating systems with editors whose names I don't even remember. My brother even wrote his own homebrew text editor for a homebrew computer in one weekend, but it was all command line oriented.)

When I tried emacs at work on some kind of Vax computer, it noticeably slowed the computer down, so I stayed with vi, like everybody else. Eventually though, I got an Atari ST as my home computer, and after trying various things out, to my amazement, the best text editor for the Atari was a 'micro-emacs' that had just the most useful emacs commands and nothing else. Those commands got ingrained enough that my fingers would type them out automatically without my even having to think about them. So, when computers got fast enough that emacs was responsive, I'd sometimes use it when I wanted to do something that I thought was easier with it than with vi. I was a computer programmer and none of the other programmers ever bothered to learn emacs. It was only because of that Atari experience that I had even bothered, and I was grateful for that.

I looked at the emacs manuals and tried out various features. There were some things I liked that micro-emacs didn't have or anything else, like delete-rectangle, so I incorporated that into my repertoire, since I used it often enough for it to become 'automatic' and stay 'automatic', but I didn't see the point of learning things that would be so rare for me that I'd have to keep going back to consult the manual.

So, when I see that there are even more features, I scratch my head. For those that want to learn all that, more power to them. Maybe they're on to something. Maybe one gets to the point where they're just in emacs and do everything with fingers hovering over the keyboard and it's really fast and automatic and one never has to reach for the mouse and that's really cool. But personally, I don't think I'll be having a go at it anytime soon.

Comment Interaction with earth's magnetic field??? (Score 1) 248

IANAP (where the 'P' is Physicist in this case), but if the device somehow interacted with the earth's magnetic field, then it could be transferring momentum between earth and itself. If so, in space there might not be enough ambient magnetic field for it to work though.

Just the fact that it's using energy means that it's going to lose mass (a very small amount though, probably not measurable.)

Just radiating photons out in one direction should also produce some thrust.

I presume all the scientists saying this won't work have thought about these possibilities and ruled them out. I just haven't read anything explicit about them ruling those things out.

I suppose that there is a minute but non-zero possibility that it's accidentally stumbled onto some new physics, like maybe it's tapping in to dark matter and pushing that around.

Comment Re:Captain Kirk says...More like Vampire Chronicle (Score 1) 314

I do think immortality could get boring.

But there's something else, something more immediate. A line I remember from the Vampire Chronciles was one rather old vampire saying "The world changes, we do not. That is the irony." I'm old enough now that, when feeling particularly sour I said something about not liking the music now, the attitudes now, etc. And in the next sentence, I admitted that my father felt that way about current times when I was in my 20s. The world has changed and I don't fit in quite so well anymore. Some of that change is the physical aging of course. If my physical body were rejuvenated to 25 no doubt my libido would get a charge. In dealing with people, I think all the hard earned experience and knowledge I've gained could be put to good use (old saying: "we get too soon old and too late smart"), but would I really embrace the gestalt of today? I'm not sure. And I think the 25 year olds of today would know there was something different about me even if I looked like one of them.

Here's something else from a more philosophical point of view:
Even if you continue to live, are you still the same person? Sometimes, when I remember stuff from way back, it almost seems like I'm examining the memories of a different person. If you don't change, you're not really living, just existing, but in changing, the old you disappears a little bit at a time.

Comment Re:Linux is far worse than Microsoft (Score 1) 541

To some extent, any complex system is going to force changes on users. Remember switching from a.out to ELF? Systemd happens to be more controversial than most.

I haven't studied systemd from the standpoint of technical merit, but apparently it was forced on developers by the powers at the top in an undemocratic way, which to me is mighty suspicious. Somewhere I read that the real reason to push systemd had to do with its LGPL licensing. That could be a motivation for undemocratic foisting.

Comment Society as a neural network (Score 1) 609

I watched a documentary about bees (I think it was a "Nova Science Now" segment). A guy set up a bee colony on an island. The bees were going to need a new hive, so he set up 2 possible locations nearby, one was deliberately made to be better than the other. Bee scouts went out looking for a new location, some found the good hive, others the less good hive and came back to tell the colony. They communicate by pointing and shaking their bodies. The bees who found the good colony were more vigorous. Also, when scouts for one location encountered scouts from the other, telling the hive to go to the other place, they would try to suppress them. Eventually the colony made a decision to go to the better location. But the comment was made that this was very similar to how neurons stimulate and suppress each other to reach a decision in an individual brain. so it's a kind of neural network.

After watching the documentary, I was struck by the idea that this is how a human society ought to work. Different people from different walks of life and temperament debating each other, disagreeing with and maybe trying to suppress those they disagree with. But in a healthy society nobody gets to dominate! When some faction gets the upper hand too much, everything goes bad.

Anyway, I think the neural network model is better than the 'rational' one. I've read where sometimes artificial neural networks design stuff better than usual logical engineering methods, and nobody can figure out why they work so well. Human society might be like that.

Comment Interesting, but not conclusive. Also orchestras (Score 1) 499

It's an interesting experiment. But experiments need to be corroborated by being duplicated with independent researchers. So, take it with a grain of salt.

I've read that it used to be, female musicians applying for jobs in symphony orchestras were usually rejected, until they started auditioning behind a screen so that the judges couldn't tell the sex. Once the audition was 'blind', the women fared as well as the men. The blind auditioning had an advantage over the case described here because there was no disguising of voices or worrying about choosing the right words to express oneself. Just pure musicianship and skill on the instrument.

So, with music, it would appear the sexes are 'equal'. It doesn't mean they are equal in other things. For a long time, no one knew how to tell a female brain in an anatomy class from a male one, but eventually distinctive differences were found. So it shouldn't be a surprise that men and women are different. But I'd say there's still a lot of room for debate on exactly what is different, and what is 'better'. In many cases, even if there's some statistical difference, there's probably enough overlap in skill that one should frequently give the person a chance, and try to be objective about evaluating whether or not they have chops to do the job they're applying for.

Comment I consider myself an agnostic and ... (Score 1) 951

Yes, we could be in a simulation. In fact, maybe none of you exist. I might have been created 5 minutes ago complete with false memories in a virtual world where I am the only conscious entity. The folks running the simulation would also be conscious entities. I might be one of their experiments.

The operative words in the above paragraph are 'could', 'maybe' and 'might'. In fact most the time I don't think about it; I just assume that other people exist and my memories and sensory input have a rough correlation to some sort of reality because that seems like the practical thing to do. But I acknowledge that I can't know for sure that that's the case. So, the rest of this post, I'm going to assume that you other people exist and this is not just for the amusement and edification of some AI students observing me in yet another run of their simulation software.

Back in the 1600s, philosopher Rene Descartes considered the matter and decided that the only thing he could know for sure was that he existed, because he was thinking about it. Everything else might have been false. (His famous line, in Latin, was Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am.) Older than DesCartes is the idea that life is a dream, or we are living in the dream of some god, who is himself living in the dream of a god, etc.

Presumably, we (or at least I) might be in a simulation nested in another simulation. But working up through the levels, one would expect to get to the original. The creators of that first simulation don't have to be gods. They might have evolved up from a primeval universe formed in a big bang. They wouldn't necessarily know the answers to the really fundamental questions like how did it all get started? Why is there something instead of nothing?

I don't know the answers to the fundamental questions and I don't think anyone else knows. (If I thought somebody else knew, I'd ask them, and then I'd know, right?) This is what being an agnostic (from ancient Greek for not knowing) is all about.

Comment Re:Elvis? Seriously? (Score 1) 38

Size doesn't necessarily reflect popularity, or importance for that matter. How much documentation still exists for the Maya Civilization for instance? Their writing system was only recently deciphered, and tomb raiders have destroyed or disturbed a lot of archeological material.

Elvis Presley is well documented and a lot of people liked Elvis Presley and may have wanted to contribute. (I haven't read the article, maybe it was only one person who wrote it all out. Ditto for Poland.)

The Polish wikipedia may have a longer article about Poland than about Elvis Presley. (I haven't checked that either. This reply is, to be honest, rather casual on my part.)

Also some writers are just more verbose than others. Being longer doesn't mean more information is conveyed, or that it is conveyed as well.

Comment The 'light' from a red dwarf (Score 1) 122

As I understand it, red dwarfs are the most numerous stars in the galaxy. (Also much longer lived, if the difference between 5 billion and 100 billion years matters to you.) Although they are smaller, cooler, and redder, if a planet is close enough, it will be in the temperature comfort zone for humans. But what kind of light would one see? Would it be perpetual sunset/sunrise? Would chlorophyll driven photosynthesis work?

I'm also thinking it's all very academic because by the time humanity has the technology to get there (if it ever does), things will be very different with us or our descendants (Who may not be biological descendants.)

Comment what'll be the unintended/unexpected consequences (Score 5, Insightful) 158

...of sexbots when they become uh significantly functional?

Will there be a Darwininan selection process where only people who really want children will have them, so eventually everybody wants to have children and is a competent family man/woman?

Will women be relieved that all the jerks have gone off with their sexbots and aren't bothering them anymore?

How many of men and boys that start out wanting a sexbot will grow out of it and learn to appreciate the real thing and how many will be permanently spoiled and never be able to adjust to the give and take of a relationship with another real human?

How many older men, who have had relationships with women, even relatively successful ones, will just decide it ain't worth the work anymore and go for a sexbot?

How many women will want sexbots?

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