45 posts • joined 30 Aug 2007
Popular delusions and the madness of crowds
I am currently reading 'Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds", (1841) C MacKay
We have been here before, many many times.
Re: So easy to make....
Yes the $200 also includes a 'guaranteed to work' premium. If you assemble it yourself then it would be your fault that its doesn't work!
Organisations and people use tools they are familiar with.
When an organisation, or a person, faces a problem they employ tools they are familiar with. A carpenter may choose a chisel, an electrican a screwdriver, a mechanic would choose some sort of wrench and an administrator would choose a sheet of paper or its electronic equivalent. It has probably always been like this and I would guess it always will. Blaming NGOs for complex formal procedures is like blaming dogs for barking. It is true, but that is what they do. What we really need are wise legislators who listen to the various groups proposing their own solutions and then choose the least worst solutions wisely. This will only happen when significant numbers of the 'citizenry' take notice and take interest in what is happening and make sufficient noise about it to drown out the siren calls of the various NGOs with their own axes to grind. Politicians listen to the noise and react accordingly - for they want to be re-elected.
Re: No Chance in Hell
Of course it won't work!
The Wright brothers took to the air in 1903, achieving what most people said was impossible. 65 years later the first Jumbo Jet flew.
The simple lesson from history is that engineers regularly achieve the impossible.
My experience is that "Well that won't work" really means that the speaker has no idea how to achieve the particular goal and won't accept that there may well be someone who does know how.
to AC at 18:17
You raise two interesting questions:
Are you arguing that politicians should be paid more to attract a higher level of smart people? - I'd be with you on that one.
However, just because a law is easily broken by someone with technical knowledge doesn't mean that it is a bad law. Are you really proposing that murder should be taken off the statute book because it is so easily committed with a sharp knife, a poisonous concoction or a firearm? Should burglary no longer be a crime because those with sufficient skill can force a lock or break down a door?
I think it is shameful that clever people, be they bankers, lawyers or IT people should believe themselves to be above the law because they are clever.
Re: Why don't they just close the loopholes?
"One reason is because what does the corporation get for paying the tx ? Health Care,m nope, corporations don't use the NHS, Education, nope, and so on. "
This is not correct. Corporations do benefit from health care. Healthcare provides them with healthy workers who generate healthy profits. Healthcare also provides them with healthy customers who earn more money and can afford to pay for their products. The same is true of education, law enforcement, infrastructure.
Wealthy countries lead to wealthy corporations and wealthy corporations should lead to wealthy countries in a virtuous circle.
The problem is that not paying your fair share of tax penalises everyone else but you gain. It is parasitism. In my opinion, the way forward is to load cost onto companies who do not pay sufficient tax with an operating costs to make good the tax losses. Base it on turnover and charge fairly (from the point of view of those who compete with tax avoiding corporations) so that corporations cannot avoid the 'costs of doing business even though they avoid paying tax'.
Time not position
Navsats provide base stations with a very accurate/precise time signal. If you know where you are the system will tell you what time it is to within a few nanoseconds.
Bennett's Comet - I saw it in March 1970, even better.
Year 1900 Compliance
In the run up to the Millennium I checked a range of software to see if it could handle the previous century update. Most software that was date sensitive reported that the year 1900 was a leap-year.
It would be interesting to see if any of this non-compliant software remains in use.
Re: Trying to be a bit clever...
You are correct. Much of Southern Africa drives on the left.
Interestingly, animals have right of way on roads in Botswana and people are really careful to avoid driving into them as recompense has to be paid to the owner.
On a recent trip through Botswana we counted 20 dead cows on the roadside. Not victims of traffic accidents but starvation. One's wealth is measured by the number of cows one owns and of course Botswana (or much of it) is in the Kalahari desert. Increased wealth leads to more cows and less food to go around. Even the elephants have a hard time surviving in the desert.
Re: Flying "Legos"
You don't make friends by correcting people in an insulting manner.
Accept my criticism graciously.
Happy Christmas to you all
Re: Cost of AGW
When bamboo flowers it then dies. This is a real problem because all the bamboo flowers at the same time so every 30 - 50 years you end up with a swathe of dead bamboo - and no sustenance for the local pandas. This means that pandas are forced to move to look for bamboo that has not flowered. If there are no access routes to these yummy bamboo locations its certain starvation for the pandas.
Re: "But we can't escape economics; it's a discipline we're cursed to continue."
It has always struck me that economists are historians who can do mathematics - Economics can tell you what has happened and offer a reasonable explanation as to why it has happened, but like History, hasn't a clue as to what is going to happen next. Everything (just like to weather) is just to complicated to make realiable predictions.
Perhaps we should treat Economics more like History. It is worth studying to enable us to avoid making the same mistake again.
Speaking as a non-merkan with an interest in politics, it strikes me that compared with a rest of the democratic world, the USA enjoys two right wing parties.
Re: Invention != Innovation
An alternative definiton set is Invention is the creative step of producing something completely new to solve an existing problem. Inovation is the organisational effort (including manufacture, marketing and sales) of getting the whatever it is to be adopted as the new way of solving the problem by governments, businesses or consumers.
Inventors dream up new stuff. Innovators get it to market.
Apple are not inventors of much but they are the best innovators since the last lot. (Microsoft?)
Re: Best outcome.
Obviously, you have never been to Ecuador. You should be aware that the Chinese are playing a very large part in the exploitation of oil reserves in the Amazonian areas of Ecuador, much to the detriment of local Ecuadorians, including tribal peoples. At least the United States oil companies employed local people, unlike the Chinese who are shippping (or perhaps flying) in their own nationals to do the work.
Re: Clark's Law trumps Kaku's prediction, thus extending Moore's Law
"Michio Kaku is certainly distinguished. He's also recently turned 65 and that makes him elderly."
Steady on with the elderly bit! - I'm 66 and I consider myself only a teeny bit old (though my children and grandchildren might hold a different opinion!
In my day as a teacher, we would try to inspire our pupils (shows my age) by getting them to do something that was intruiging and challenging. The best IT toy I used was BigTrack (tm) which was an excellent introduction to the programming language Logo.
Of course you could argue that was just 'playing' - and so it was, just like my generation learnt most of it's programming skills.
No Problem with my email and websites
At least one 1&1 customer is not complaining.
Re: I'm sure the music industry hates me
Well actually you do contribute! - Money paid for second hand CDs will most likely be spent on new CDs by someone else. And if the bands who publish their own music do well they will do even better when they strike a marketing deal with a distributor. Every penny paid for music feeds the industry somewhere in the chain.
Re: 15m people using iPhones on a 2G network?
For the same reason that many people buy expensive watches (a Rolex?) and then don't set them to the correct time - a very common phenomenon over much of the world, particularly South East Asia, Carribean and Latin America. It is a status symbol, nothing more and nothing less.
As evidence of this, I offer you fake Rolexes as well as fake iPhones.
Dinosaurs probably not cold-blooded
Speaking as a biologist, the general consensus is that dinosaurs were probably warm blooded - just like their immediate descendants, birds.
Daylight Saving Time in the Tropics
No point mate!
The patient records need to be with the patient - it is after all their own data! This is what happens in France. You keep your own medical records. If you don't look after them then it's your problem. My experience in the UK is that you get some medical tests, and then two weeks later you go to see a specialist and you find that some of the essential notes have gone missing. In France you go for a test, and you take the results to your own doctor/specialist whatever yourself, very often on the same day.
Businesses use up large blocks of numbers
In ye olde days, when a business could afford a receptionist, a company would "own" a single telephone number but perhaps half a dozen overflow lines as well. Customers would dial in using the advertised telephone number, but because of the use of overflow lines, six (in this example) different customer calls could be handled simultaneously. The receptionist would transfer the calls to anyone of the let us say 30 internal telephone lines.
Now we shall come upto date. The company has sacked the receptionist and moved onto direct dialling. So the 6 lines still exist but they now handle 30 different telephone numbers. These extra numbers are purchased in blocks - and in our example, 100 numbers reserved for 30 direct dial numbers. So ye olde company used 1 telephone number and now it uses up 100 telephone numbers.
Pedants among you will want to add fax numbers - but they are just nit picking, like those of you who blame the use of extra telephone numbers on adsl only connections.
Come to think of it, it's the same problem as ip (v4) addresses
Look to History to see how it should be done.
The Venetians, ruled by an elected Doge, had a wonderful mechanism for dealing with irrational complainers. A letter box at the palace to the receipt of anonymous letters. Anyone could vent their bile against a neighbour in the most splenetic language. The end result was most satisfactory. The anonymous writer felt a lot better and no one else was a bit bothered because all letters were secretly burned. A wonderful example of a conspiracy against the small minded.
Put them at the bus stops!
Buy your ticket before you get on the bus. When the bus comes hop on and and away you go without the interminable wait to hand over cash, get change, get ticket, etc. If everyone did that bus journeys would be a lot faster - as they were in the older days when bus companies employed bus conductors.
Not got a suitable phone? Not handing over any personal details because 'your personal data is private'? Not got any money on the phone/rfid account - well walk!
The wire safety cage is an eminently sensible component - if only to avoid a Darwin Award following on from some unforseen event.
Good engineers need to survive to complete their good engineering.
It reminds me of one of the best engineering team of the 20th Century - the Wright Brothers. They realised that powered flight could be dangerous so they put the engine along side the pilot so that if there was an accident the pilot would not hit the engine - or vice versa.
Woah! Too much self righteous moral indignation
Surely there needs to be a balance between the security of data that can only loosely be defined as 'personal' and the usefulness of such data.
If you broadcast your MAC address then don't complain if others use it to assist in navigation. If you don't want anyone to know switch the bloody wireless access point off!
To pre-emptly defend myself from the "it's my data brigade" I will tell you about the last time data useful for navigation was suppressed. During the war road signs, station signs and other useful labels were removed. The bright idea was to make life difficult for spies. The net result was chaos, as you can well imagine.
Foreign sounding gentleman "Excuse me, what station is this?"
Local person thinks 'bloody hell a whole carriage full of spies!"
Reality - a whole carriage full of French sailors (serving with the Royal Navy) wondering where the hell they are because they have to change trains at Crewe on the way to Liverpool to pick up a ship. (true story - one of the sailors was my dad)
Modern reality. GPS is great but it doesn't work in big cities with big tall buildings - where most of us live. WiFi identification data does work in pinpointing your location with a fair amount of precision.
Still not convinced? - OK so not only should you turn off your WiFi but cover up your street sign and very definitely remove the house number or name from your front door or front gate. That will show them!
rheopexic, to be pedantic.
Invention and Innovation are separate activities with different risks and costs.
Traditionally, invention happens with individuals or very small groups - primarily because it is a creative process and it is people who have ideas. Innovation is the process of taking an invention to market, and it requires vast resources and many different activities - hence it is essentially the province of large corporations because only they have the resources to do it.
The cost of R&D - essentially the cost of innovation, is well recorded in the accounts of large corporations, and the full costs are exposed. This is not true of invention. Most inventions come to nothing, but the wasted efforts and expenses are not recorded, except perhaps in bankruptcy proceedings!
The economics of the two processes then are essentially different. Inventors are like writers (authors) whereby a very few strike it rich, but most fail to make any meaningful return on their work. Innovators are like film or theatre production companies, they take the works of a very few authors, and then spend huge sums of money trying to create a blockbuster.
Now look at the return on investment. The Oscar winning author makes a huge return on investment and the film company makes a big profit, but as return on their enormous investment, it is far more modest.
Of course, if we factor in the total costs of all the failed authors, I would suspect the the film companies actually turn in a better ROI, and this is why they purchase the creative output of independent authors.
I suspect it is the same with technology megacorps. Don't try and invent everything 'in house' because it is much cheaper to cherry-pick from the creativity of others, and by doing so you avoid the costs of failure.
Oracle stealing customers?
Why doesn't Red Hat sue Oracle for stealing customers and using Oracles support stuff without consent? They (Oracle) set the precedent by suing SAP for $1B for 'Corporate Theft'.
Censorship - That takes me back to when I was a child.
In 1953 or perhaps '54 I live in a Devonshire village called Uffculme. On Tuesday nights my dad went to the pub next door to watch a film, and then on the next evening I would go down to the village hall, pay my 4d - ( just over 2p in modern currency) to watch the film.
Except one Wednesday my father told me that the village watch committee (O.K. all the men in the pub) has decided that the film was unsuitable. - Then he went to the pub to watch it again.
It's the old joke isn't it.
Chairman of the watch committee (local censorship committee), "Well gentlemen, shall we watch it one more time before we ban it?"
Any suggestions as the the banned film? ;-)
Earthworms are hermaphrodite, so 'gayness' would not be an option would it?
So far you have only discussed the affluent world - most people don't live there!!!
Three observations from other parts of the world.
On a recent trip to Bolivia I took a torch so that I could read in bed, and get dressed in the morning. The best selling light bulbs are 25 watt incandescent which are unbeleivably dim - but when you don't earn a lot of money (average wage is equivalent to 2 US$ a day) electricity is unbelievable expensive and efficient light bulbs are just too expensive what do you expect?
Last October I was in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia). Driving through the city in the middle of the night I was amazed by the amount of darkness - the only lights on show were traffic lights, the very occasional advertisement and the red lights on top of sky-scrapers. Again, when energy is expensive it pays/saves to turn out the lights. In the prosperous parts of the world office lights seem to be left on all night, even though everyone has gone home!
A related matter - involving energy consumption, is the experience of much of Africa, which has become denuded of trees because of the seemingly insatiable hunger for firewood. Cooking on an open fire in very inefficient, so some good people invented a more efficient stove that required less wood. Did this work? - Well no! People used just as much wood, using the greater efficiency to cook more elaborate dishes.
So, the lesson I would suggest is that you should judge a statement not by your own circumstances, but considering the circumstances of others which may be very different from your own.
@Mexflyboy - Ants - they are the super-aggressors of the animal kindom
Compared to ants, humans are very meek and mild. If someone tells you 'only humans wage war' they have never studied ants. If ants developed nuclear weapons, the jungles of the world would be incinerated in a flash (well several flashes). Ants don't compromise - they just attack using their massive jaws and a bit of poison besides. In Amazonia one species of ant is known as the bullet ant - because if they bite you, you feel as if you have been shot.
Hulton Picture Library/Getty Pictures
The Hulton Picture Library - once owned by the BBC, was sold to Getty Images some time ago. I am sure there is some reciprocal arrangement between the Beeb and Getty, so it is probably much easier to grab a photo from a file than download it from a digital camera.
Instant prints are brilliant
'Instamatic' type cameras are very useful in out of the way places. Three years ago a group of us travelled to Ecuador to visit some indiginous peoples. One member of the party took a polaroid type camera (actually Fuji) to give photographs to tribespeople who had never seen a picture of themselves. (If you live in a jungle you may not even own a mirror).
A rugged and simple device that doesn't rely on electrical supplies compensates for the cost of the film.
One day the whole world will own a mobile phone with a built in camera - and yes some tribal people owned one, but at the moment there are at least a billion people who do not.
It isn't every day that you meet a tribesman who hunts with a blowpipe - but when you do it is a wonderful experience to be able to give them a photograph of the meeting so they they have a momento - we can take out digital cameras back home and print out as many prints as we like.
Well done to the people who are keeping instant photography alive - there is still a need for it.
to Charles 9 - PETN
PETN contains nitrogen: the clue is in the name. Pentaerythritol tetranitrate
Everyone thinks just like I do don't they?
One of the first lessons learnt in Social Science Research Methods 101 is that everyone tends to think differently – and this seems to come as a shock to most people.
It isn’t just extremists who think everyone else thinks like them, it is most of us.
Fast charging not really an option
Let us consider some numbers...
1 Litre of Petrol ~30MJ, so 5 Litres ~150MJ
Let us try and store the equivalent of 1 gallon of petrol in storage batteries (150MJ) and demand a recharge time of 5 minutes (300 seconds)
150MJ/300seconds = 500 kWatt - That's a serious drain on the National Grid. O.K. - it's less than an electric train but given that the local Tesco has 12 pumps we are talking about a maximum load of 6 MWatt dropping to nil very quickly when the store/station closes.
Slow charging is a much better option for the National Grid, especially if Wind Power forms a significant part of generating capacity. The car is charged up at night, while you sleep, and in the morning, if there is no wind, you have a cold breakfast and drive to work, or a hot breakfast and walk!
There's room for both rechargeable batteries (commuting and shopping cars) and fuel cells (long distance vehicles)
Insect wings move up and down in a special way...
Small insects, such as mosquitos, beat their wings at very high frequencies (which is why they buzz at high frequency). If you cut off the ends of the wings, they will beat at an even higher frequency. This shows that the wings are beating like the tines of a tuning fork, i.e. they are vibrating. The energy to accelerate and decelerate the wings as they move up and down is not wasted but stored and released elastically.
The insect's flight muscles simple add the energy required to move the air to generate lift.
Small insects fly with amazing efficiency. Insects are regularly carried enormous distances (even across the Atlantic) by the wind, with the creature only having the consume minute amounts of food to stay aloft for a couple of days or so.
Of course, it is a matter of scale. If you increased the size of a mosquito to a 747 the natural frequency of vibration of the wing would be so low that no useful aerodynamic forces would be generated.
Target spammers via credit card payment systems
Spam works because enough people buy spammed products using credit cards.
If the banks refused to handle payments to spammers then the flow of funds that drives spam would stop.
Perahps the solution to spam is not a spam message filter but a spam payments filter.
More is less.
Plants need to breathe in carbon dioxide, water vapour escapes in the process. If stomata close (because the plant has breathed in sufficient carbon dioxide) then less water vapour will escape.
Now though we all know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, not so many appreciated that water vapour is a far more significant greenhouse gas. (Carbon dioxide concentration is <0.04%, water vapour is 0.9% of atmosphere.)
Clearly our climate models are too simplistic if they neglect the full effect of plants and conveniently neglect water vapour, dust and smoke, ozone and other significant drivers of our climate and weather.