* Posts by tfb

638 posts • joined 11 Jan 2010

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The Large Hadron Collider is small beer. Give us billions more for bigger kit, say boffins

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Black Helicopters

Re: Dark matter/energy question

Yes: cost. We can't afford more than one of these things, if we can afford even one. If we can afford one, we can only afford it if we reuse a lot of the stuff we're already reusing for the LHC to prepare particles and inject them into it in the first place.

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Re: If all you have is a hammer

Hello, pet crank

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Alien

Have you heard of a fashionable new thing called the 'world wide web'? That was CERN.

It's raining, then? Hallelujah. Big Blue super 'puter sharpens forecasts

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Re: Observations

I think people do take account of things like that in some models, yes.

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Alien

Re: Global Weather Conspiracy

I can't work out what this comment is trying to say. Rather trivially there is a global state of the weather since there is weather everywhere in the planet, and that is what a global weather model tries to predict.

I rather suspect that this is some kind of attempt at global-warming denialism but from someone who does not understand the difference between climat and weather. But even then it's failing: clearly there is a climate, whether or not it is changing faster than it usually does.

I'm tempted to think this might be some denialist bot which has seen some terms in the article which triggered it and then generated a hugely nonsensical comment since the article is not actually about climate change at all.

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Re: More detailed is not more accurate

It could just continue to be wrong, but it's clear that low resolution forecasts can't be as good as high resolution ones: if there are phenomena which take place on a scale smaller than the resolution then nothing you can do, apart from increasing resolution, lets you model those phenomena, so low resolution models just miss that part of the system.

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Re: More detailed is not more accurate

I would hope that if forecasting organisations start using data from phone sensors then the deal would be that you get forecasts without ads. But probably it will not be because the MBA pinheads have taken over the web stuff.

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Re: 3.5PB of Spectrum Scale parallel access file storage

The amount of computation scales as the square of resolution in the horizontal plane, so probably at least 36 times the storage (a factor of 9 for spatial resolution and 4 for time resolution). But it may be more if they increase vertical resolution as well.

Forecasts are in fact a lot better than they were (I think weekly forecasts are now as good as daily ones were 30 years ago or something) but weather is, rather famously, a system where long-term prediction (of specific events: it's much easier to predict averages of them) scales very badly indeed as there's chaos.

In fact forecasts which tell you what is happening for the next hour or so in a apecific location are very interesting to people who go outside: do I need my raincoat when I go for my walk?

People say tabloid hacks are always looking for an angle. This time, they'd be right: Tilting disk of proto-planets spotted

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It's flat, but it is not in the same plane as the orbit of two stars which it surrounds. Which is weird. The article botches the description by comparing it to our system, which is not a binary system (let alone a double binary).

If I could turn back time, I'd tell you to keep that old Radarange at home

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Re: Running backwards ?

You are falling into a black hole. Fire your rockets now!

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Re: NTP

I can remember early NTP implementations which, if the clock was too far wrong (or perhaps the clock drift was too large) would go mad and start 'correcting' the time in such a way that you ended up with the time being out by days or perhaps years.

Begone, Demon Internet: Vodafone to shutter old-school pioneer ISP

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Newsfeed

When we moved away from Demon (aka not-really-demon-anymore) they still nominally offered a newsfeed but some investigation with dig showed that they actually were just reselling (well, it was free so not selling) someone else's. I don't know when it changed, and in fact I can't remember when we moved away from them: it might have been as late as 2011.

xHamster reports spike in UK users getting their five-knuckle shuffle on before pr0n age checks

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Re: Incompetence expected

It won't stop VPNs because the sites have no interest in doing so. Netflix and the BBC actively want to prevent people skirting aroind restrictions using a VPN, porn sites actively want people to do just that. So VPNs will work unless the UK govt force ISPs to filter VPN traffic: probably they won't do that because it's too totalitarian even for them.

Dozens of .gov HTTPS certs expire, webpages offline, FBI on ice, IT security slows... Yup, it's day 20 of Trump's govt shutdown

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Re: Just an idea

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously said she could not afford to rent an aprtment in Washington DC until she got her salary after being elected. So I don't think that is quite 'poor' but it's not rich. It also means that in the event of a shutdown, with the rule proposed here, she could no longer pay her rent and thus would presumably not attend Congress, vote &c.

And this, again, is why this idea (attractive as it is) doesn't fly: rich politicians have little to lose personally from a shutdown while poor ones have much more to lose. So rich politicians can starve out (not literally) poorer ones by imposing shutdowns. That's anti-democratic: poorer people should not be disadvantaged as politicians.

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Re: Just an idea

The problem with that is that it means that politicians with private incomes can cope with shutdowns, while those without can't: it's a law which gives rich politicians an advantage (more of an advantage).

Typical! You wait ages for a fast radio burst from outer space, and suddenly 13 show up

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Boffin

Re: 'Something big'

Martin Gregorie's comment explains it very well.

But it's worth reading the history of the discovery of quasars in this regard. Quite early people understood that they must be physically compact because they vary on timescales of tens of hours, so they must be no larger than the Solar system. But the 'stars' associated with them seemed to have absolutely mad spectra. Someone then realised that no, they didn't have mad spectra, they had reasonably ordinary spectra which were hugely redshifted. That left two options: quasars were really far away, or they originated at the bottom of some very deep gravity well. The second doesn't really work: any star that massive will collapse, and people really knew that.

So that left one option: they were very distant. But if they were distant they must be extremely luminous: thousands of times as luminous as normal galaxies. And they must be small because they vary, so this power is coming from something the size of the Solar system, or smaller. There are hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, so a quasar might be emitting a hundred trillion times the power that the Solar system emits, from a similar volume.

I don't know how fast people realised this (this must all be known as it's relatively recent), but this must have been a serious 'oh, fuck' moment: suddenly the universe was a different place. In particular this was one of the points when people really understood that black holes were not just this theoretical toy, because the only thing that explains that kind of power output from that kind of volume (fusion is laughably too weedy) is stuff falling into a black hole.

Astrophysics is the science othe sciences want to be when they grow up.

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Other than IBM I think all the HPC people are Linux now.

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Boffin

'Something big'

Actually this means 'something small': if an FRB lasts 3ms then whatever made it is no larger than 1,000km across, which is tiny: the Earth's radius is more than 6,000km, so the things that do this are 1/12 the size of Earth or less.

Of course they are 'big' in terms of energy output. I remember reading about people's reactions when they first realised what the inferred power output of quasars were given how small they must be based on the rate at which they vary. That must have been a serious 'oh, fuck' moment for people I think.

Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

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Terminator

Re: the Eagle Nebula dubbed the Pillars of Creation

Perhaps you'd like to provide a pointer to this proof?

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Boffin

Not clickbait: if the problems are serious it can't be fixed because there are no shuttles. But we can't know whether they are serious or fix them if they are not because of the orange shitgibbon.

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Re: How many Shuttles could have been kept operative..

Shuttle launches were about $450 million each (I think in 2011 dollars). So perhaps ten launches.

Bish, Bash... gosh! Good ol' Bourne Again Shell takes a bow as it reaches version five-point-zero

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Re: Bourne Again Shell (Bash – geddit?)

I don't think bash was really the successor to ksh in any useful sense. Some people probably had ksh, although I'm not sure who they were: it didn't ship with BSD distributions, or not any of the ones I used.

Instead we had sh, csh and various derivatives of csh like tcsh. sh was too minimal to use interactively, csh was OK interactively and tcsh was quite nice. But both csh and tcsh were just horrors to write scripts in compared to sh. So bash came along having all the interactive niceness of tcsh and some more, while clearly being a Bourne-family shell.

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Terminator

Re: "with the latter having microsecond granularity."

A world in which knowing the time accurately is a security problem is a world which is fucked in more ways than I can count. A world in which the fix for that problem is not to allow high-resolution timers is a world which is fucked in more ways than it is possible for anyone to count.

How the fuck did we get here? What terrible sin did we commit as children that this awful crapness must be visited on us by some angry god? Can't we just burn it all down and start again? Please?

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Alien

Re: "Trusty command interpreter"?

I don't know if bash is secure or not: I assume, given how big it is, not. What I'm much more sure about is that shell scripts (bash or otherwise) of any complexity almost never are. And I recently discovered bash's programmable-completion stuff, which can involve a hundred or so shell scripts (actually functions, which are worse because they are less isolated from each other) being run every time you type tab. Some of these functions can do things like run python and ask it for the list of module names. I'd guess the chance of this system not being just infested with security holes is essentially zero. It's just horrifying.

This is the final straw, evil Microsoft. Making private GitHub repos free? You've gone too far

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Re: Industrial espionage?

Google is not stealing your copyrighted code: it's inferring things based on your behaviour, which is different. GitHub, I assume, are doing that already.

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Re: Free! For up to three collaborators!

That model works if the three people share a basement. If they have their own basements then they need a mechanism for propagating changes between the basements, as well as an anointed & backed up repo. GitHub is a suitable mechanism for propagarion. Using it for propagation of changes is not giving up control unless it is also the anointed, backed-up repo (which, OK, often it is, but that's a different thing).

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Re: That didn't take very long.

Hmm: so, no concrete examples then. Could you perhaps be making stuff up?

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Re: As ever

You pay for open source products by contributing to them.

If that was true, such products would only ever be useful to their developers.

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Terminator

Re: That didn't take very long.

Would you like to give a concrete example? If account reuse is possible in general that's a famously catastrophic security problem and I'm very sure a lot of people would be extremely interested in it.

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Re: Industrial espionage?

If they ever get caught doing that then their business collapses, and they likely get sued. So they probably don't do it. Much more lokely is that they get broken into and all the private repos stolen.

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Re: Free! For up to three collaborators!

I use GH private repos for what I suspect a fairly large number of people use them for: propagating a repo between two places which can't otherwise see each other and where the contents of that repo is not public. One collaborator is enough for me!

Attention all British .eu owners: Buy dotcom domains and prepare to sue, says UK govt

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Re: Don't worry, it's only money

well, leave.eu did

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Re: Wow, it's almost...

The electorate was explicitly told this was a once in a generation vote, and that the outcome will be implemented.

But they weren't told that at least one of the campaigns was breaking the law: perhaps both sides were, which makes it even worse. They also weren't told that agents of at least one foreign power were fucking with the referendum.

Now all that has come to light it's clear the result of the referendum is not valid. The proper thing to do is to hold another, with extremely careful scrutiny of the behaviour of the campaigns and extremely careful checks that foreign intervention is not taking place.

Low-power chips are secret sauce behind long-life wearables

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Re: Lower end

I believe that some modern watches have things known as 'second hands' which will tell you the time to a hitherto-undreamed-of accuracy of under a second. I've never seen one myself: I'm happy with my portable hourglass.

Dark matter's such a pushover: Baby stars can shove weird stuff around dwarf galaxies

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Re: Sums over matter do matter

You realise that people are busily looking for ways to observe dark matter, right?

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Re: Alternate theory

I knew there'd be an electric universe crank in the comments.

More nodding dogs green-light terrible UK.gov pr0n age verification plans

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Big Brother

Re: Just like buying a magazine.

If the parents of children 'just don't care' then they should probably not be having children. If the tools are too hard to use or too expensive, then solve that problem: make available tools which are easy to use and make them be free. The result of the current braindead scheme is simply going to be the ready availability of vpn software which is simple enough for anyone to use.

It's 2019, the year Blade Runner takes place: I can has flying cars?

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Alien

Re: The Chinese room is erroneous.

The Chinese room is really an argument against the Turing test. It presupposes that the room can pass the test (ie it can converse with a Chinese native speaker in such a way that the native speaker believes they are talking to a human, which means talking to a human who can learn things), but claims that even so there is no intelligence.

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Boffin

Re: surpass humans in specific intellectual tasks

That's probably not going to work, because the machine would find it hard to be able to work out who won the games: people do this by understanding a lot of stuff about human behaviour (the one jumping up and down cheering has won, while the one jumping up and down shouting has lost) and if you have a machine which can deal with that you've probably already solved the general-AI problem.

But if you are willing to give the machine reinforcement (you tell it if it's won without expecting it to parse facial expressions) then yes, machines can learn this sort of thing, and there's a fairly recent example of a machine learning to play video games this way. (I think this is the PDF of the paper, and here is an article which talks about it.)

Note that I don't particularly think any of this tells you anything about general AI: see my other comments.

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Re: 'Machines can already surpass humans in specific intellectual tasks ...'

Well, if the Antikythera mechanism provided a smaller, cheaper and (I bet) more reliable way of performing the task it was designed to perform than a human astronomer/astrologer did then it did, in fact,surpass a human for that specific task. Which should not be surprising: that's what we build machines for, after all. Steam engines and levers surpass us at various specific physical tasks, calculating machines at various specific intellectual tasks.

But generalising this to a single machine which surpasses humans at all intellectual tasks is just AI hype: there's no reason (I believe) that this should not happen, but it is an enormously harder problem to solve than a collection of machines, each of which surpass us at one particular task.

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Boffin

Re: Where we are vs. Sci Fi predictions

Sci Fi, even in a dystopic work, tends to be more optimistic about our future than reality. This is because in the Sci Fi world, there aren't a bunch of ninny-nanny wealthy "I have mine but you cannot get YOURS" socialist types that use their power and influence to "keep the rest of us in our place".

Ah, I see, it's socialsm, and nothing at all to do with the laws of physics not needing to apply because it's, you know, science fiction. If it wasn't for socialism we'd all have hover boots and time machines, right?

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Re: Absurd AI claims

I woukd not be entirely surprised if Michie made similar claims, although I like to think he was too smart to have done: he certainly seemed very smart when I knew him.

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Re: AI? Not

I've always thought that, too. Replicants are a way around the problem of needing humans to do dangerous, unpaid work: you can't do that because of human rights, so instead you make humans (except, of course, you don't call them humans bcause that would make it obvious what trick you are doing) and use them as slaves. Blade Runner (the films, at least) isn't about AI, it's about slavery.

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Terminator

Re: C'mon

'Skilled but unpaid labour' has a name if there's no way of avoiding it: slavery. 'AI' is in fact being built on slave labour.

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Alien

Re: "I can has flying cars?"

The really astonishing thing here is: how long ago was 'I can has x'? I think ten-twelve years. So (a) that's actually quite a long time, and (b) there are, already, people for whom this is such ancient history that they don't know about it.

I mean, the internet worm is ancient history, the green card scam is fairly ancient history, but 'I can haz x'? not ancient history. Except it is.

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Boffin

Re: surpass humans in specific intellectual tasks

That's essentially the Chinese room argument. If you believe it you either end up believing that there are some special magic things which somehow can not be 'broken down into a series of mathematical or mechanical steps', or you agree that intelligence can be perfectly simulated by such a process while not actually being intelligence. Searle (who is responsible for the Chinese room) holds the latter view I think (I think that view is absurd: I'm with Einstein in believing that if two things are indistinguishable, even in principle, they are the same thing). I think Penrose holds the 'special magic things' view, which seems to me a lot stronger than Searle's.

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Boffin

'Machines can already surpass humans in specific intellectual tasks ...'

Every time I see someone say this, with the inevitable implication '... and soon they will be as smart as we are' I want to laugh. I have a Curta, a thing made of brass and stainless steel, which 'surpasses humans in specific intellectual tasks', namely arithmetic. Machines have 'surpassed humans in specific intellectual tasks' for well over a century and probably much longer than that (Napier's bones? the Antikythera mechanism?): this tells you nothing about whether a machine will surpass humans in all such tasks any time soon.

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Re: 30 years, perhaps more, to reach human-level AI

I knew a cat which learnt 'food'. She then learned 'food' spelled out, and in turn if it was spelled out as 'fud'. Our current cat, fortunately, is not so smart.

New Horizons probe reveals Ultima Thule is huge, spinning... chicken drumstick?

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Re: In a better future ...

I think that might be a worse future.

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Alien

In a better future ...

... when the good images arrive, it's going to turn out to be a dead alien spacecraft, tumbling end over end.

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