* Posts by tfb

180 posts • joined 11 Jan 2010

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190 Cray employees hosed down with shower of pink slippery

tfb
Boffin

Re: Supercomputers?

It's a small but important market. People who need HPC generally really need it, and despite other comments no, you generally can't just rent time from some cloud provider: a huge farm of machines is not an HPC system (even though HPC systems are huge farms of machines, they also have serious interconnect & I/O), and while there are a few rent-HPC-time people a lot of HPC users are understandably uncomfortable about their code running on other people's machines.

Unfortunately because it's small, relies on a tiny number of very large purchases, and is dependent on governments, it tends to be very variable. HPC makers have the some of the same problems that very expensive car makers have.

[source: I run code on HPCs.]

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UK.gov snaps on rubber gloves, prepares for mandatory porn checks

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FAIL

The payment card industry will love this

So, probably porn sites are not run by the most scrupulous people in the world (I mean, I'm sure most of them are fine upstanding citizens, but some probably aren't). And the idea is that people who want to access these will now have to hand over card details. So quite apart from a whole bunch of new places from which card details can now leak if they get hacked, there's a fairly obvious attack here: set up porn site, accumulate card details, sell details.

This is just an insanely dumb idea. If there needs to be a way of proving age (which seems to me mostly unobjectionable) there needs to be a way of proving it which doesn't involve really obvious avenues for identity theft or just plain theft.

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All your bass are belong to us: Soundcloud fans raid site for music amid fears of total collapse

tfb

Re: 9 years

Did Google have a business plan? I suspect they really didn't early on. Worked OK for them.

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Mappy days! Ordnance Survey offers up free map of UK greenery

tfb

Re: mafia

I use the OS maps (iOS but I think it is on other platforms as well), which has 1/25k ('explorer') maps for everywhere, as well as all the other more fashionable ones (including this new one). The digitisation isn't quite as good as their older iOS app which is mildly annoying, but for that app you had to buy tiles.

As someone else said: check the subscription prices, as they may be better direct. They are also very approachable -- I botched my renewal and spent some time exchanging mail with someone to get it fixed.

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tfb

I think the article misrepresents what they've done, which is to produce a map of green areas anyone can walk in (and not just 'on roads near' or 'on footpaths through').

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tfb
Mushroom

Re: mafia

I have four apps on my phjone's home screen which can display maps, of which two are explicitly mapping apps. One of the four uses OS map data. So they are failing dismally to be a monopoly. And OS maps app (which is, not surprisingly the one that uses OS data) costs me, I think, £20/year for full offline everything across a couple of devices and the web. Which is cheap: so they're also failing to enforce any kind of monopoly pricing.

So no, not a monopoly: you're just making stuff up.

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While USA is distracted by its President's antics, China is busy breaking another fusion record

tfb

Re: Crazy ideas?

They have been found out. So have the people who claim that aliens shot JFK, Homeopathy works or the US government was behind the WTC attacks: this does not stop people believing these things, or people making money by exploiting believers.

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tfb

Re: Worse..

A lot of things are too important to be cocked up by politicians. Unfortunately that doesn't stop them doing just that.

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Britain's warhead-watcher to simulate Trident nukes with Atos supercomputer

tfb

You are either confused or lying: I won't try and second-guess which. Whichever is the case you're so wrong it's not even worth arguing.

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tfb

Re: do we really need to simulate this?

(You know, I could probably even live with that it it was true; as long as I can file bug reports.)

Well, we're obviously in a simulation. Just look at Trump's hair: it's just obviously not rendered properly. And they've attached the hands of a much smaller person to him, and the whole colour balance on his skin is just hopeless. We're not just living in a simulation, we're living in one which is being done on the cheap.

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tfb

That's why we run lots of different models (and lots of incarnations of a given model with different inputs) and compare their output with each other and with what actually happened (when the models are run in the past), yes. That's the whole fucking point of all this simulation: you don't think we write some golden model, run a copy of it and write a report, right?

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tfb

Re: do we really need to simulate this?

We need to know if it will go off.

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tfb

Re: "Give it time and I'm sure there will be some advanced boffinery on ARM."

Fortran is a very good fit for big supers. The language has semantics very well designed for good float performance & has evolved to be a lot less horrible than it was, there are extremely good compilers (Intel's is very good, and vendors usually provide their own which may be better), and MPI / OpenMP support is very good indeed (again: vendor libraries help here). And there are really substantial libraries of course.

Source: my day job involves running big numerical simulations, written in Fortran, on large HPC systems (not atomic weapon simulations).

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Ker-ching! NotPetya hackers cash out, demand 100 BTC for master decrypt key

tfb

Re: This was just a test , , ,

If a big financial institution goes away for any length of time the results are likely to be a zombie-apocalypse level catastrophe: all the other institutions expire, the ATMs stop working, looting for food, &c. That's why the banks got bailed out in 2008: 'let them fail' was not a serious option, no matter how appealing it was,

I think it's fairly likely that a big financial institution will suffer some catastrophic failure in the next ten years.

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tfb

Re: And...

Well, the IBM 360 has a good claim to have been the most influential processor architecture there has been I think (not because it was a mainframe but because it got so many things so right, so long ago). So, they were a great company in 1964, at least.

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Elon Musk reveals Mars colony rocket capable of bringing pizza joints to the red planet

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Mushroom

Re: Carbon

Fuck off, why don't you?

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tfb
Boffin

Re: Carbon

Technologies don't exist, in fact, or not in a usable form: if they did then global warming would be a non-problem (and let's just ignore the denialists).

As an example, consider something like Apollo. Let's assume the whole first stage is burnt in the atmosphere: the fuel and oxidizer load of an S-IC is about 2,000 tonnes, and about 7/10 of this ends up as CO2 (based on C12H24 + 18O2 -> 12CO2 + 12H2O and using atomic masses of 1, 12, 16 for H, C, O). So about 1,400 tonnes of CO2 ends up in the atmosphere. I will gratuitously round that up to 1,500 tonnes because now I can divide by 3 and get 500 tonnes per person (also the load is a little more than 2,000 tonnes in fact).

So, for a million people this is 5E8 tonnes of CO2. This is about 10% of the annual emissions of the US, or rather more than the whole annual emission from the UK. So this is bad, but not catastrophic.

I don't know how much better you can do than an S-IC: the obvious trick, as I said in a previous comment is to burn hydrogen and oxygen and crack those with solar power, but I am not sure if such a thing is viable as a first stage.

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tfb
Boffin

Carbon

I wonder what the carbon cost of sending a million people to Mars is? This is a serious question: I don't have a real feeling as to what the answer is, and it obviously depends on the fuel you choose and how much of it is burnt in the atmosphere, and how little mass you can afford to lift as well as the people. (A hydrogen/oxygen rocket which uses solar or nuclear electricity to crack the water is, I guess, carbon-neutral in theory).

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Uncle Sam bungs rich tech giants quarter of a billion bucks for exascale super R&D

tfb
Boffin

Big impressive numbers in the headline

Quarter of a billion dollars sounds a lot until you realise that it's less than three times the cost of, for instance, the Met Office's recent HPC purchase. Supers are expensive.

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We're not saying we're living in a simulation but someone's simulated the universe in a computer

tfb

Re: Numbers

I think it's clearly a very low number of particles/galaxy. But it's probably what they can manage on the machine they have.

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tfb
Boffin

Re: That is not science..just a waste of time and resources!

In the beginning the drive was PATA? I think you'll find that the old testement makes no mention of SATA but refers instead only to SMD. Most modern scholars, however, regard SMD as a later interpolation: no-one is sure what was there originally, although some claim some significance to the term 'RAMAC' which has been discovered in some apoarently-early versions of the sacred texts.

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Elon to dump Trump over climate bump

tfb
Boffin

Re: Coal stocks fell today

The real tragedy of what Trump is doing is that he's not just trying to cause an environmental catastrophe, but that he's also, apparently intentionally, trying to ensure the US ends up as some backwater. On the one hand developed countries were pretty good at mining coal and making steel in bulk more than a hundred years ago. Both of these are just solved problems that involve a lot of more-or-less deeply unpleasant and more-or-less dangerous manual labour. On the other hand we have people like Musk who are trying to solve hard problems like getting people into space cheaply and making better batteries. Just think about the battery thing: whoever makes a battery which is really practical for electric cars is basically going to rule the world: not because electric cars are more environmentally-friendly but because they are *better*: better acceleration, less wear, better: all they need is good batteries. There is *so much money* sitting in that technology when it works.

But no, coal was good enough for the Victorians and it's good enough for us: let's leave the Chines or the Europeans to invent a really good battery while we slowly fade from relevance.

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BA CEO blames messaging and networks for grounding

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Alert

But there will be as soon as enough prescriptive-grammar fogeys who can remember that once there wasn't die off. This is how language evolves: by the death of idiots.

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BA's 'global IT system failure' was due to 'power surge'

tfb

Re: Only one way to do it - and that is the right way.

So, all your systems were physically close to each other then? That is not 'the right way'.

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tfb

Re: "Tirelessly"?

I worked for banks. They had DR sites. DR tests typically involved a long, carefully-sequenced series of events to migrate one, or at most a few, services between the sites. If they ever had a major event in one if the DCs and had to do an unplanned DR of a large number / all of the services then I had no doubt they woukd have failed, both to do the DR and then shortly afterwards as a bank (and, depending on which bank it was, this would likely have triggered a cascade failure of other banks with results which make 2007-2008 look like the narrowly-avoided catastrophe it was).

Banks are not better at DR: it is just convenient to believe they are. We now know what a (partial?) DR looks like for BA: we should live in the pious hope that we never find out what one is like for a bank, although we will.

Of course, when it hapens it will be convenient to blame people with brown skins who live far away, whose fault it isn't: racism is the solution to all problems, of course.

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Juno's first data causing boffins to rewrite the text books on Jupiter

tfb
Boffin

Re: Astonishing science

Worth mentioning in this context that people do actually use GCMs to model the atmospheres of other planets (ie this is not just a 'we could do this in theory' thing). The stuff I knew about was expolanets, but you are completely right that modelling other planets in the Solar system is particularly good as we can get good actual data with which to compare the models.

(I am sure OP knows this: I'm just putting this here for other people.)

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UK ministers to push anti-encryption laws after election

tfb
Boffin

Re: Plugins

It does worry me that this is the sort of answer we are heading for. Yes, there will be no bad terrorists talking secretly to each other, but on the other hand we'll be living in some kind of medieval world of mud, pigshit and lice, dying of the flux while the politicians live in their castles surrounded by groves of impaled serfs. I am looking forward to this.

(Actually, what really worries me is that, quite clearly, we are now living in a world which our politicians simply are not equipped to understand and, worse, which they don't understand they don't understand). I don't mean Trump, who clearly would have been out of his depth in the stone age, but superficially well-educated people: people with PPE degrees from good universities. We live in a world where science, engineering and in this case maths, are critical, and they not only don't have the background or facility to make sense of these things, they *don't know they haven't got it*. So they propose laws which amount to declaring that pi is 3 or something, and we're all fucked as a result. I'm not suggesting a revolution by scientists, engineers and mathematicians (I'm two of these things and I would be a profoundly terrible politician), but we need to get to a state where the people we elect are at least competent to deal with the world we live in, and we are not in that state now.)

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tfb

Re: Plugins

So what you're actually saying is that the answer is to forbid general-purpose programmable computers.

That's right: that is the answer.

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tfb
Alert

Plugins

So when the inevitable happens and they make encrypted messaging apps illegal, this is what someone should do:

Write a simple unencrypted messaging app. Something like IRC, but with much better support for phones and other modern devices than IRC clients typically have. Such a thing is clearly legal.

Provide it with a plugin API which lets you write extensions for it in, say, JavaScript or (better) Python, with an embedded JS/Python interpreter & runtime. This is already done by several apps (I have at least a couple) and is clearly both legal and satisfies the various App Store limitations. It should be possible to install these plugins from uncontrolled locations or write your own: again, this is already done by several apps and is clearly just fine.

Sit back and wait. Oh, look, someone has written a plugin which supports end-to-end encryption over the app's connections, how odd, no-one could have predicted such a thing, right?

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tfb
Flame

But they're not proposing removing encryption. They're proposing what is essentially key escrow: the security agencies will have additional keys which they can use to read encrypted communications, if they need to. And as we all know the security agencies are very good at keeping secrets. Random contractors never steal vast troves of information from them, and they never reveal zero-days they are hoarding causing resulting ransomware attacks. We can trust them, implicitly, with this information.

OK, yes, they are, in fact, proposing removing encryption, because handing your additional keys to a bunch of useless clowns who will leak them in a few months is just exactly that.

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GPU-flingers' bash: Forget the Matrix, Neo needs his tensors

tfb
Boffin

Re: Well duh.

A tensor is a linear function from a bunch of vectors (and dual vectors, but don't worry about those) to numbers. Vectors are pretty much what you think -- little brass arrows of various lengths -- and 'linear' means that T(u + v) = T(u) + T(v) and things like that. This is an oversimplified description, of course, but the whole 'tensors are matrices with certain transformation rules' thing is what physicists still learn (I was one) and it's just not helpful.

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LastPass now supports 2FA auth, completely undermines 2FA auth

tfb

Straightforward algorithms

are, unfortunately, straightforward to break. There really is no substitute for an 'algorithm' which is 'pick n random (really random, not pseudorandom) symbols from a sufficiently large alphabet'. This isn't actually an agorithm technically, hence the quotes.

If you pick your alphabet to be 'printable ASCII' and n sufficiently large this yields strong passwords which you can't remember. If you pick your alphabet to be /usr/dict/words and n to be rather smaller (because the alphabet now contains tens or hundreds of thousands of symbols, rather than a few tens) this yields passphrases which are both strong and easy to remember. This trick was publicised by Randall Munroe. Note: it matters that you pick the words randomly: do not use a natural language or anything like it.

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tfb

Re: 256 bit AES encrypted plain text file

This is the answer I think. I use a GPG-encrypted TiddlyWiki but it's the same difference really. You can then sync it to everywhere with sime impunity, and anywhere there's GPG and something that will read a TW (or, better, plain text) you can read it if you have to.

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Ransomware scum have already unleashed kill-switch-free WannaCry‬pt‪ variant

tfb

Re: Inevitable

And the good guys have such good security that none of the backdoor keys will ever leak. Nothing has ever leaked from the NSA for inst... oh, wait.

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RBS is to lay off 92 UK techies and outsource jobs to India – reports

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Mushroom

Re: Indian skills? What skills?

I was waiting for the first (not-so-)crypto-racist comment: well done.

Of course, Indian developers and systems people are just like everyone else: some of them are OK, some of them are fantastic, and some are not.

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tfb

Re: A local bank for local people

No, UK-focused and offshoring are not mutually exclusive. The UK-focused bit is about where the customers are, the offshore bit is about where (some) of the staff are.

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London app dev wants to 'reinvent the bus'

tfb

Re: Regional variations..

I lived in Edinburgh for 23 years (until 2012, so not that long ago). I agree the LRT service was fine: in my time the exact-change thing was a significant annoyance, but I think that's gone now since there's some Oyster-like thing. The tram was, obviously, a catastrophe (has anyone senior yet lost their job / gone to jail for it? it certainly smelled badly of corruption to me). About £1,700 for every inhabitant of Edinburgh is not a good deal.

After that I lived in London for a while, and it turns out that the bus service in London is *also* fine. Not sure about WiFi, but the rest are all there.

So this is just Citymapper grasping around for some way of making any money at all I think: it will be very sad when they die (or become a google mouthpiece which they already may be) which they probably will because it's a fantastic tool.

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tfb

Re: Ulsterbus

What they are smoking is 'we've got about as far as we can with our app whose income stream is zero and we now have three options: become a toxic ad-slinger like google; charge subscriptions for the app; or start running a public transport business'. They are trying the third, which will fail, and they will then change to the first (because they have a lot of data about you if you use the app).

This is the beginning of the end of citymapper as a useful tool.

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Why Firefox? Because not everybody is a web designer, silly

tfb

How soon we forget

Apparently "this time it's different, because Chrome is different, Chrome is pretty good", because, implicitly IE was pretty bad.

Except it wasn't. Yes, it was terrible by 2006 or something, because it was competing with Firefox which was actually a modern web browser. But that's not what IE originally competed with: it competed with Netscape Navigator. And by 1998 or something IE was just better than Navigator was: yes MS competed unfairly but they would have won that war even if they had competed fairly, because Navigator had turned into this bloated buggy horror which just needed to die.

Of course, once IE had killed Navigator and gained control over any kind of corporate installation it sat and rotted, because that's what monopolies do.

I think I agree with everything else about this article.

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Far out: Dark matter bridges millions of light-years long spotted between galaxies

tfb

Re: Webs!!!

It's the only thing the star goat is frightened of.

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tfb

Re: The assumption that it's matter - It's a hypothesis.

It is 'an hypothesis' in some dialects of English, including the one you speak perhaps: almost certainly it is 'a hypothesis' in the dialects most commonly spoken now. Do you go to 'a hotel' or 'an hotel' for an example of another shift which is pretty much complete now (my grandfather would have gone to the latter, I go to the former).

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tfb
Boffin

Re: The assumption that it's matter

It's not on a par with 'cosmic star goat': 'cosmic star goat' is much more plausible. Indeed I am reasonably sure that it explains pretty much everything, especially comments on The Register about 'displaced gravity fields'.

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Drive-by Wi-Fi i-Thing attack, oh my!

tfb

Re: a buffer overflow fixed by better input validation

I think it has to do with the PDP-11 being a really slow machine with almost no memory in fact. We are all doomed to live in a world defined by the tradeoffs needed to use a machine which was obsolete forty years ago.

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Samizdat no more: Old Unix source code opened for study

tfb

There seem to be at least two different things called 'streams', one of which is STREAMS and was in the SysV stuff, and the other is something else. I'm reasonably sure that the stuff in v8-v10 is the 'something else'. However I have not followed the discussion on this closely (there's too much mail), and I may have the details wrong.

And yes, people care: this stuff is historically important and interesting to people who care about history.

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UK Home Sec: Give us a snoop-around for WhatApp encryption. Don't worry, we won't go into the cloud

tfb

Re: perhaps itself encrypted with a key known only to law enforcement

Do you remember Snowdon? Perhaps that was too long ago: do you remember the CIA leaks that are currently being dribbled out?

Here's the thing: information leaks from law enforcement agencies. And when this super-secret key leaks, which it will, *every bit of communication it protected is now plain text*.

Seriously, you need to think a bit harder about this, because you are looking silly here.

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TRAPPIST-1's planets are quiet. Quiet as the grave, in fact

tfb

Re: It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

No-one knows exactly, but we need some way of weeding out places not to look so we have a chance of finding somewhere where there might be life, because there are a shit-load of exoplanets. If we restrict ourselves to the kind of life we know about then, for instance, avoiding planets which are red-hot or hotter is a good start, and looking for planets where there might be liquid water is another, and so on.

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tfb
Boffin

Well, given a few hundred million years and a lab the size of a planet, we probably can.

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tfb
Boffin

Re: We won't be living on alien planets.

No-one (or no-one who has thought about the problem very hard at all) is looking for expolanets with an aim to living there: Trappist-1 is 40ly away, and we are not going there any time soon and almost certainly not going there ever.

People are looking for habitable exoplanets because it's the first step to looking for exoplanets which actually have life on them, and detecting life anywhere else but Earth is about the coolest thing I can imagine doing. (Yes, we should be doing it in plausible places in the Solar system too, and we are, of course).

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Engineer who blew lid on Uber's toxic sexist culture now menaced by creepy 'smear campaign'

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Boffin

Re: Why does Uber even exist?

It is sane for a taxi license to cost more than a house if you can derive a larger income from a taxi license than a house. I don't know if that's true (and note part of the income may be the increase in value of the house, not just the rent), but it might be.

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NASA taps ESA satellite Swarm for salty ocean temperature tales

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Re: Astonshing.

I agree that the whole 'overwheling consensus' thing has been harmful. It's really a politeness problem I think: the science abd data is so obviously correct as to make dispute really laughable. But peopke are polite: no-one wants to say out loud that the peopke who dispute it are stupid, uneducated or have a financial stake in doing so, because it's just rude. So we get this whole skirting around the issue thing.

(Of course the situation is very different with evolution: there are no business empires at stake if evolution turns out to be true, so the evolution-deniers are more obviously just religious fruitcakes, because no-one will pay plausible liers.)

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