2560 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009
Re: During the meanwhile ...
"not eat pork as it is the greatest sin" - like what did the poor pigs do to deserve that!?!?
in the Middle East, in centuries past, pigs carried a parasite that can infect humans with dire consequences.
Declaring pork to be unclean was a very sensible public-health measure at the time. The reason why it was so was at that time unknown. The unfortunate thing about religion is that now the reason IS known, the true believers nevertheless adhere to a commandment that makes absolutely no sense if you are living in 21st-Century England.
In other words, "Don't think. Just do what you are told".
Almost all mainstream religion has this fundamental flaw. As do many well-known secular cults: communism, fascism, managerialism, and many lesser ones.
IBM got it's first commandment right: "Think!"
The prior art for that one is milennia old!
The ancients used to write with no spaces between their words. Then they started to insert dots. Finally they hit on the idea of using spaces.
As for computer prior art, awk and its split() function is a relatively recent example!
Have any of these people claiming to be hypersensitive to radio emissions been put through a double-blind test? Did any of them pass (i.e. prove that it's even possible for a human being to tell whether an alleged mobile phone in their proximity is or is not turned on, if it's sealed in an opaque plastic box that they can't touch or open, that's provided to them by a person who also doesn't know if the "phone" is on, off, or a root vegetable.
It's the same as with drugs. Some get better because they believe that inert tablets are useful medication (placebo effect), and some report unpleasant side effects even when the pills are inert dummies (which one might call drug hypersensitivity if it weren't a double-blind test).
Re: Why blue LEDs?
Why never white LEDs?
I can guess: Apple has a patent on them.
There must be something odd about those Canadian windows.
In all the years I've been looking at birds on a feeder table through a picture window, I can remember only a few bird bonks and only one fatality (a pigeon). They seem to be able to see the glass. A few do have to take emergency evasive action at the last moment - that this happens rarely suggests that they learn from experience.
Re: this device will fall flat in the UK...
It's pretty unlikely to end up standing on its edge after a fall. Wonder how many falls before it fails.
Re: Great.. .but better ways to do the power...
A PC power supply will be VERY unhappy supplying many amps at 5V and none at 12V. It may refuse to work with that load, overheat and emit smoke, or simply waste a large fraction of the power going in. They're designed for use with modern PC hardware, with the lion's share of the power being consumed at 12V.
Just source a single-voltage power supply that delivers enough amps at 5V. There will be plenty of PSUs to choose from at RS or CPC. It may be cheaper to use multiple 5V 4A or 5A "bricks" than a single (say) 40A unit, and may also be easier to wire up.
Re: Sounds even worse than durian fruit
I thought Durians were banned as cargo by every airline on the planet? Or has someone purchased a jet for the sole purpose of moving loads of Durian around the planet?
I'd have thought it made them radical feminists of the "castrate them at birth" persuasion.
Forget Joe Sixpack ... think businesses.
I'd say that the main reason people who know as little as possible about computers don't use Linux is far simpler than any of the above.
Linux can't run Microsoft Office (or some other MS-only package to which they are attached by advertising, brainwashing or addiction ). Yes, they could switch to LibreOffice with less trouble than switching from Word 2003 to Word 2007 ... but they won't unless someone tells them that they have to, because of inter-operability issues. (If I said peer pressure to conform, I'd not be too far off the mark).
The question we should be asking, is why are big businesses and governments almost all still wedded to Microsoft, when one might have thought they could save huge amounts of money by switching to Linux?
One answer is "support costs too high". A more likely one is "migration costs too high". Once again, Microsoft Office is the moat Linux would have to fight its way across.
I don't know the answer, but I'm certain that arguing the minutae of font design on a particular Linux desktop option isn't the least bit relevant.
Re: Waste of my time
So, you think it would be a really smart move for the UK to decide overnight that everyone should be told to drive on the same side of the road as Europe?
Of course not. It would cause chaos and kill lots of people.
Well, Windows 8 has made the same mistake, except it won't kill so many people. (It will certainly kill some. Annoyed or stressed users having heart attacks. Emergency service operators or medics failing to react correctly or fast enough because they are struggling with the unfamiliar new interface. And so on)
Yes, I'm sure I could get used to it. I just don't see why I should waste my time on a completely pointless change.
Hybrid drive query
Something I've been wondering about hybrid drives: do they remain readable if/when the flash cache fails?
In my experience, most (not all) conventional disk drives fail gradually and the SMART statistics (especially reallocations) give you advance warning. In contrast flash devices go from working storage to utterly bricked "just like that". It would be nice to be told that if the flash part of a hybrid drive does turn into a brick, what's on the magnetic disk can still be retrieved.
Failing which it will be smarter for one's operating system to control a flash cache and a magnetic disk drive as separate devices. In fact maybe the drive manufacturers could package this option as one SATA device with two LUNs, or even make it a jumper-configurable mode?
Mathematical crypto also has its problems
Crypto systems have a critical weakness: private keys have to be kept secret. If they fall into the wrong hands, the cryptography is broken.
There are also mathematical weaknesses. It is now known that not all keys are equal. Statistical techniques have been developed that make a subset of keys very much more crackable than others the same length. Of course, once such an attack is known, vulnerable keys can be rejected, but suppose there are other mathematical weaknesses that have not been made public?
Also, most modern crypto depends on the Riemann hypothesis being true. Few mathematicians think otherwise, but it has yet to be actually proved. By the way, if you ever discover a disproof, spam it far and wide and then go into hiding for a few months. It's the only way you'll remain alive and at liberty!
Re: No life?
Venus is too close to the sun for terraforming (unless orbiting sunshades are possible). Venus suffers/ suffered a runaway greenhouse effect caused in the first instance by water vapour, which we couldn't do without.
Mars's problem is low gravity, meaning atmosphere (especially water vapour) tends to drift off into space. However, that's a slow problem taking geological time. It *might* be possible to terraform Mars by directing a lot of cometary ice at the planet to replace or supply the necessary water. Then pump loads of CFCs into the Martian atmosphere to create a super-greenhouse effect, to compensate for the weaker sunlight.
Of course that way there would never be an ozone layer to keep UV out, but Mars is further from the Sun so theUV will at least be weaker by proportion. We'd have to colonise the Oort clouds first, though, to get hold of the vast amounts of water-ice it would take.
Re: Fossil Finds...
Either way, it would cast a whole new perspective on our place in the Uniwerse.
Unfortunately, not so (unless Martian biochemistry proves to be utterly un-earthlike). Extinction-level meteor impacts can eject bits of Mars into orbits that are later captured by Earth, and to a lesser extent (because it's more "uphill") vice versa. Microbes can survive incredible accelerations, and a long time in vacuum. Therefore, it's a near certainty that whichever planet first evolved microbial life would have spread its microbes to the other. So if we find familar RNA-based microbes on Mars, they probably originated here. That, or Earthlife originated on Mars.
Citation hardly needed: do the statistics
Someone who was ten in 1945 would be 77 today. The majority of such people will still be living. The activities of the Gestapo in the occupied Nederlands are well-documented. And the legal structures of a country usually arise out of its history.
It is of course a hypothesis: as with most statements about society it's almost impossible to prove scientifically.
This is probably because even today there are people in the Netherlands living with the memory of jackbooted thugs arriving at their front doors and dragging off their loved ones (parents, mostly, these days) to be "interrogated" and shot.
The Netherlands may have gone too far to the opposite extreme, but it's certainly the lesser error.
Re: Odd system
Some branches of my extended family tree are extinct.
When the state of Germany was founded under Bismarck, my distant ancestors happily trotted off to register themselves as citizens. One of the things they volunteered was their religion: "Jewish".
The rest, as they say, is history. Never assume that government will remain even slightly benevolent for the duration of your lifetime, and for that of several generations of your descendants. In case you don't realize it, your DNA could be used to identify your children or even great-grandchildren, many years after your death.
System on Cockroach! I was drinking coffee when I read that!
Re: A bit off topic but...
The problem is of course, that most users will just click yes without actually reading the question, so what we need is another question to check you really meant to click yes. The problem is of course, that most users.....
The answer is to generate an informative message and at the end, something like "To confirm that you have read and understand the above, please type the first letter of the fourth word on the sixth line, followed by the fifth letter of the second word on the seventh line" (ideally, with random nths).
That will at least jog the user out of auto-click mode. The rest is down to whether he's got a brain to engage. If he's just a slightly higher-level automaton than the computer, there's nothing can be done about it. (Ignorance is curable. Stupidity is terminal).
You are just a simulation of a human brain in the aliens' computer. It monitors where you think you are looking and sends appropriate simulations of reality back to simulated optic nerves.
Same idea on a grander scale, and a bugger to disprove. Isn't Occam's Razon wonderful! Relax and watch ze blinkenlights.
Re: 35 years old
Your radio is in a moist oxidising atmosphere. Why do you think that things we want to last for a long time are vacuum-packed?
It will evaporate(*) well before eternity. It will probably have evaporated before it next encounters a solar system (unless they managed to aim it precisely at one of our nearest neighbours a mere handful of light-years away).
(*) most things have a vapour pressure greater than that of interstellar space. Also it's being bombarded by high-energy particles.
Re: It's somewhat sad...
There's a great difference between a species dying out due to a virulent disease and a species dying out because we killed it.
But we did kill this species, just less directly. We killed almost all of them. They bred back, but because the species had at one point been reduced to a small number of individuals, they all share a very restricted gene pool. Hence this cancer, which can infect all of them, and which may cause their extinction.
There may also be a wider lesson. Another species which came through a genetic choke point is our own. It's reckoned that at some point about 80,000 years ago, the entire population of homo sapiens was less than a thousand. We too are far more vulnerable to extinction by some new plague, than most other species.
Re: Reverse the polarity of the Neutron flow.
Unlocking our telomeres would be much more likely to increase the rate of cancers than giving us immortality.
More realistically, it might give most of us a healthy life extending to 100, maybe 120 years. How successfully depends on how many of the diseases and failings of old age are caused by the biological senescence mechanism, and now many by other causes such as accumulating cellular mutations.
Alzheimers is not a certainty. I remember interviews with Jeanne Calment (she lived to 122, despite smoking heavily all her life!) and Harry Patch (the last veteran of WW1). Both were of sound mind when their bodies quit on them. So are the majority of people who (mostly) die in their 70s, 80s and 90s from causes related directly or indirectly to cellular senescence.
Wrt cancer: as other causes of death become curable or treatable, its incidence increases. It's also more likely the older we are, because of accumulating cellular mutations. Personally I'd take an increased risk of eventually falling to cancer, than the near-inevitability of falling apart in my 80s or 90s when my body's self-repair mechanisms start to turn off.
Immortality is not even conceptually attractive. However, a few more decades of reasonably enjoyable life most certainly is.
I've always wondered why medical implants can't be recharged by simple mains-frequency inductive coupling. An iron-cored coil connected to a rectifier inside the patient (sealed in appropriate non-metallic bio-compatible material). To recharge, strap a bigger mains-activated coil on the outside of the body.
Ancient technology, but it's how my electric toothbrush is recharged. Why haven't medical devices used it for decades?
However.... I must agree that the forced indentation is a REALLY poor design decision. I know why Guido did it - to force a common format on everyones code. But what it has resulted in is people accidentally deleting some whitespace (easy if some idiot has only used 1 or 2 spaces) moving an end of block line outside of the block it was in but leaving a program that still apparently runs but now has a potentially serious bug.
But it's just as easy to make mistakes with curly brackets or the dangling "else" in C or similar languages! And worse, you don't know where you should be looking for the bug. The curly brackets may not be where you expect them in your coding style. If it's an editor flub, they may not be where anyone expects them in any widely used coding style.
I didn't like Python indentation-as-syntax when I first met it. The dislike lasted for a few hours, acceptance lasted the next couple of days, and then it blossomed into love.
A winner of a name?
I've just realized, if my proposed global low-voltage cabling ever comes about, the cables should of course be called LOVE cables. LOw Voltage Electrical. Beats IEC C13 (aka "kettle flex" -- inaccurately, kettles use C15)
Longer USB cables = FAIL
The maximum length of a USB2 cable is 2 meters. Period. (You might find a longer one on sale, but it's out of spec and may cause data corruption or unreliability). You can reach 4 meters by employing two cables and a hub. Above that you need an expensive USB to Ethernet (well, RJ45-Cat5e-cabled something) to USB bridge.
WHY there is such a stupid maximum length, I have no idea. Anyone at Intel reading this? (I think it was Intel whio invented USB). Anyway, we're stuck with it.
As for power bricks, there's a desperate need for a single global standard low-voltage power source with a standard connector that everything can be expected to run off. Then, hotels, business premises and even homes could be constructed with it built into the walls, and in the meantime any adapter would power any standard-compliant thingy. How about 12V nominal (up to 15V allowed, for automotive use), current-limited to 3A (36W, enough to fire up a 3.5" disk drive). DC-DC power conversion is no big deal these days.
Good job Hague, Ecuador has now called your bluff. What are you gonna do now?
Nothing in the short term would be a good idea. Personally I'd quietly offer to do nothing for as long as they do nothing in support of the Argies w.r.t. the Falklands ... OK, assume they say no to that by word or deed.
Long-term, he could find another building that's superior to the current Ecuadorian embassy, and tell Ecuador that he requires them to move to the new embassy within (say) a year. During the transition both buildings would have the status of embassies, and all usual privileges will be maintained for diplomats and diplomatic bags. Removal costs would all be footed by the UK government.
Assange is not an Ecuadorian citizen, let alone a diplomat, so a year later we'd have him without setting a disastrous precedent for diplomats elsewhere. (There surely must be a precedent for an embassy being relocated at the request of the host nation, with reasonable notice? For example, if the building is blocking a major infrastructure development? )
Re: Getting him out
The only thing which bothers me is that neither the UK nor the Swedish government has completely nixed his assertion that the rape charge is a subtext for passing him on to the USA.
I'd urge Sweden to state that after he is acquitted, or after he serves his sentence in Sweden if he's found guilty, then he'll be allowed unconditional free passage to anywhere in the world that will have him. If he won't voluntarily return to Sweden after that assurance, the conclusion is obvious, and Ecuador would be best advised to throw him out of their embassy into the hands of the UK police.
I've heard that such an assurance is already implicit under EU extradition law, but why not make it explicit? I'm no lawyer so I'm somewhat unconvinced by the former, but would be completely happy with an explicit assurance by the Swedish government. Anyway, why not make explicit what they know to be implied?
I forsee a problem
We may think it's from the Dr. Who mythos, but what does it think?
I expect these things will be claiming assylum at wherever the embassy of Biroid life-forms may be. Which means as far as us humans are concerned, it'll be here today and inexplicably gone tomorrow.
Re: Methane and Global warming
Better then to figure out how to keep the temperature up when the gradual cooling sets in.
Methinks that's a long-term problem, after dealing with the runaway thawing of the arctic and consequent temperature and sea-level rises. (The cooling after that is inevitable, once there's no longer any supply of short-lived methane into the atmosphere from thawing permafrost. The methane converts to CO2, and plants once again start trapping the CO2, and the ice once again starts to creep down from the pole, once again locking up the methane from decomposing vegetation as methane hydrates ... repeat many times, until continental drift does away with the Arctic ocean.)
Methane and Global warming
Methane is anout 15 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, true, but it has a short half-life in the atmosphere (about 10 years from memory). It gets broken down by UV and recombines with oxygen as CO2 and water. Incidentally water vapour is an even more potent greenhouse gas than methane, but the atmosphere is naturally pretty much saturated with the stuff. If it weren't for global warming caused by water vapour, the planet would mostly be too cold for life.
Anyway: methane does not accumulate long-term in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 (probably) does. Which is why the focus is on the CO2.
There IS a clear and present danger of a runaway warming event caused by the thawing of methane hydrates of natural orogin currently trapped in permafrost across the world's Northern tundras. If the permafrost thaws, lots of methane is released, causing increased global temperatures, causing more thawing and more methane. A positive feedback loop until all the arctic has thawed. The fossil record shows that this has happened several times in recent geological time, without human causation. A very sudden thaw, followed by a gradual cooling. To my mind, this is the key reason why we should be VERY bothered about human CO2 emissions.
Re: Why Hydrogen instead of methane?
Actually Methane is already out there. Cars can be converted to run on CNG (compressed natural gas) as well as LPG (Liquid petroleum gas, better remembered as low pressure gas).
The problem is that to get enough range out of a reasonably sized tank, a very high pressure is needed. The potential for explosions if the tank is badly maintained is high (far higher than for a tank of gasoline). Also refilling is not nearly as simple as pumping a liquid, or plugging in an electric cable (and not as fast as the former, though faster than recharging a battery).
For these reasons the general public are not in general offered CNG vehicles. You'll find it used for running taxis and public transport in some cities. If oil runs out and gas (shale gas) does not, that might yet change.
Re: RE= Aluminum Paint killed the Hindenburg
unfortunately the liquid medium is unstable itself when heated during normal vehicle operations
You mean, like a tank full of gasoline?
Well worth pointing out that the Hindenburg was actually a good demonstration of the relative safety of Hydrogen! The majority of its passengers survived the disaster. Those that didn't mostly jumped from too great a height or were crushed by falling structural components. It was the aluminium-paint skin that started the disaster, and the hydrogen burned harmlessly up into the sky, being so much lighter than air.
Re: True Cost/Efficiency
...which means you need to invent a solar cell that's better than 15% efficient, which means -- you guessed it -- back to the drawing board!
Completely wrong. For solar electricity, the energy source is inexhaustible in human terms and has zero cost. It beomes a matter of economics: the cost of making solar cells and the cost of the real estate on which you put them. At present the real estate cost is close to zero (no-one much wants the vast tracts of near-lifeless desert that exist) but the cost of the solar cells is rather high compared to the cost of generating the same electricity from fossil fuels.
Raising the efficiency of the solar cells is one way to improve this. Making them much more cheaply is another. If we could make a plastic sheet that generated electricity as cheaply as we make polythene sheets, it would not need to be even 5% efficient to revolutionise the world.
(Nature did this a long time ago. It's called a plant. Conversion efficiency of solar energy to hydrocarbons rarely better than 1%, but a very low production cost in human terms because to a large extent, they grow themselves into useful products, and make their own seeds. If only they didn't need so much water to grow! )
Re: "can soak up so much of the stuff ..."
i can't see how you can adsorb a material to a higher density than a bulk liquid.
By rearranging things chemically so that the density of hydrogen atoms loosely bound to some carrier compound is greater than the density of hydrogen molecules in liquid hydrogen. It's akin to the old party trick of pouring a pint of water into a pint glass already full of sawdust. It all goes in! (Water packs more tightly around just about anything, than the dynamicall changing open structures in liquid water).
The density of liquid hydrogen is an extraordinarily low 0.07 (water is 1.0) so there's a lot of scope for it to pack down into the interstices of open crystal structures. That's the problem with storing hydrogen at high pressure in metal tanks. It does pack down into the interstices in the metal crystals, and as this happens, the metal becomes progressively embrittled.
(Source for 0.07 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_hydrogen corroborated elsewhere by Google. That's quite a lot less than 1/4 the density of petrol. More like 1/12 working from memory)
Re: So to recapitulate...
Who's the asshat that thought of this then ?
Got a better idea? If not, the choice is to punt the problem into the future without destroying any data, or to give up and hire some skips.
Re: 11 Pb?
I did wonder what it all was. Geophysical survey data explains it. You could compress it heavily, but you'd probably end up throwing away the information that future interpretation exercises might need!
Nevertheless, I wonder if anyone investigated the possibility of lossless compression of geophysical datasets, on the fly between the old and new archives? (I don't mean of a single data stream, I mean by removing redundancy from outputs of multiple sensors and shots in a single seismic run).
Re: I would love to have LASIK
NO! look up "common mode failure". Examples: incompetent surgeon /operator, incorrectly calibrated LASIK equipment, idiosyncratic (unusual, bad) reaction to the surgery in one particular patient (ie you). Any of these could cause BOTH your eyes to be knackered if you have the procedure performed on both eyes at once.
Same reason airlines NEVER service both engines on a twin-jet at the same time!
Re: I would love to have LASIK
The question should be whether your life is really seriously impaired without LASIK? If spectacles are able to correct one's vision defect, then LASIK is a risk being taken for little reason beyond convenience or vanity. If it goes wrong (which sometimes it does) one is irreversibly worse off, and spectacles then won't help.
The thought of someone risking both eyes at once is quite incredible. Have one done, and wait until one can judge the short-term results before risking the other one! Having one eye irreversibly screwed up is bad, being functionally blinded is far, far worse.
Re: LASIK night-vision loss
Night vision loss - I'd guess that what people notice is increased scattering of bright light, such as oncoming headlights, by the scar tissue. Light scattered into the dark parts of your visual field means that the subtle gradations of dark are washed out by the "noise".
Everyone's dark vision deteriorates with age, but an optician may point out that you have a "pre-cataract". That's clouding of the natural lens in the eye, which will lead to a cataract but which at present is only hurting one's night-driving vision. Hard question: give up night driving, or pay for and risk a cataract operation a decade before the cataract will be causing everyday vision problems?
I also wonder whether some people who try LASIK to correct severe lens defects which spectacles can't properly address, might be better treated with a full cataract operation to replace the faulty natural lens in their eye? The cataract lens-implant operation has an extremely high success rate and leaves one with vision that's in some ways more perfect than nature. I guess the risk of losing the eye altogether is higher for cataract surgery, though the risk of being left with vision that's worse after the procedure than before is surely higher with LASIK. And one does have two eyes .... But there again, eye lens implants haven't yet been tested for a full lifetime. People who have lens implants are usually elderly, for whom a lifetime is unlikely to exceed 20 years (and the implants have now been well-tested over that timescale).
Re: @Nigel 11
The effects of drugs taken for a short time are almost certainly reversible, even if your body reacts badly. The adverse effects of long-term use of Ibuprofen are well-known, starting with increased risk of heart attacks (read the leaflet in the packet). It's a long-term effect, caused by the drug interfering with your body's self-repair mechanisms. Short-term (for a few days), it's a negligible risk.
Surgery is almost by definition irreversible. Contact lenses are equivalent to long-term drug usage, and I would also counsel avoiding elective use of a drug therapy for the rest of one's life if the treated condition isn't life-threatening or seriously debilitating.
I have in fact made that choice with respect to life-long use of anti-gout medication (no thanks). I prefer to put up with a few hours of extreme pain in my big toe maybe once a year, and treat that with diclofenac (a more powerful version of ibuprofen) for about a week when it happens. Someone suffering from gout more severely would doubtless choose otherwise, as I will if the attacks become frequent, or develop into chronic gouty arthritis, or spread to my major joints.
Don't consider ANY elective surgery until they can point at a statistically valid number of guinea-pigs, sorry people, who have lived to a ripe old age with no undesirable side-effects. The medical history books are full of treatments that looked like a good idea at the time, but proved to be a long-term disaster.
I won't even consider contact lenses. It'll be another couple of decades before there are ninety-year-olds who were wearing them since their twenties. Does vanity or slight convenience justify even the slightest increased risk of losing your sight in your old age?
(It is of course different if the surgery is to address a life-threatening or seriously life-limiting problem.)
Re: Sunk cost
Concorde would have been out of service sooner or later because of the airframes wearing out (metal fatigue) and no production line for replacement Concordes. Don't blame BA alone. All the world's airlines decided Concorde's fate by not buying into the supersonic aviation concept. Maybe supersonic passenger transport might someday be economically viable, but Concorde's worst flaw was that it could not bridge the Pacific ocean.
I've always wondered, was Concorde really just a state-sponsored civilian air transport project ? Or was the real purpose to develop technology for supersonic bombers, that was rendered pointless by accurately targeted ICBMs?
Re: Sunk cost
The semi-intelligent life would survive an unexpected belch from old Sol, unless it was on a scale that hasn't happened since life was walking on dry land. Our civilisation might not ... but we'd probably find a way back within the next hundred thousand years or so.
Probably ditto with respect to extinction-level meteor impacts. The dinosaurs died out because they were big and dumb and didn't shelter in holes or cache food. (The mammals did. The birds or flying dinosaurs substituted long-range mobility for hiding in a hole).
We can't do anything about Sol. Since we might do something about meteors, maybe we should. On the other hand, we've scanned the skies and made sure that there aren't any extinction-level impacts coming from objects orbiting the inner solar system during the next few decades, and we would notice them coming with enough time to react. Probably.
Re: Oh wow
Yes, for certain restricted values of "internet", "know" and "people".
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