* Posts by tomsk

28 posts • joined 18 Aug 2010

Parliament face-sit-in to spark mass debate on UK's stiff smut stance


Re: British priorities are interesting...

"(around 50% featuring Asian/Orient women)"

Why's that relevant, just out of interest?

Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet


Nice idea, but it's looking a bit doubtful

There’s a fair bit of research going on. It’s not generally being done by actually dumping large volumes of iron in the ocean and seeing what happens, though. Geoengineering can be quite controversial so scientists often keep things reasonably quiet. The episode off Canada was a bit of a stupid stunt tbh; it was done without anything like enough monitoring in place to let us draw any very confident conclusions.

What’s generally being done is more modelling work and relatively small-scale experiments in mesocosms etc, mostly aimed at the weakest link in the chain from iron fertilisation to long-term carbon sequestration, which is (as you note) getting the carbon to sink to the seabed and be mineralised rather than rotting on the way down and ending up back in the atmosphere within a few months.

Basically creating a plankton bloom is the easy bit and nobody really questions our ability to do it. But long-term carbon export to the deep sea depends on a lot of complex biogeochemical interactions in different parts of the water column, and we need a lot more research to understand whether it’s even remotely plausible at an interesting scale. There’s limited point doing more large-scale trials until we understand the basic biogeochemistry. There have been a lot of papers on this over the last few years and my overall impression is that the results are pretty mixed, certainly not the catalogue of triumph that the boosters of the idea of iron fertilisation would have you believe.

There’s also been some interesting oceanographic work going on to try to understand how ocean circulation might affect the prospects for long-term C storage at depth. The authors of this paper http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL058799/full ran an ocean circulation model, assuming that the above problems had already been overcome and the carbon had made it a kilometre down and then seeing how long it stayed there. Their results suggested most of the carbon was brought back up to the surface by upwelling water pretty quickly - far too quickly for there to be much effect on the climate over a relevant timescale. (They were looking only at the Southern Ocean, though, which is one of the main areas where phytoplankton growth is known to be iron-limited, though not the only one, and so is often the main target for armchair geoengineers.)

My personal view is that iron fertilisation may be able to provide some benefits but is looking increasingly unlikely to have a decisive impact on anthropogenic climate change in itself. But it’s not my field and I could well be wrong.

Bitcoin is great and safe, says, er, the Bitcoin Foundation


In bitcoinland it's always Berlin 1923

"You’d think that central banks would have learnt their lesson ages ago, the nth time someone experienced hyperinflation, but apparently they haven’t."

These people are funny. They just keep talking as if we were in the midst of a Weimar-style hyperinflation episode, and no amount of actual inflation data seems to convince them otherwise. Amazingly, we are not all Zimbabwe despite the continued antics of the hated central banks. Maybe they might make some progress if they stopped blathering on about hyperinflation, which almost never happens, and did some broader thinking about inflation and why it may not always be such a bad thing.

Meanwhile bitcoin’s price volatility continues to make it unusable as an actual currency. I mean I guess it’s fine for occasional drug purchases or whatever, but you really can't carry out your day-to-day economic life with a 'currency' whose value swoops about like a 90s tech stock. As Felix Salmon pointed out ages ago, you can either be a currency or a speculative commodity - not both.

'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with two-year sentences for menacing posts


Re: the war on rudeness

Interesting. I'll just note that this kind of issue has historically been a bit of a blind spot for libertarianism, which tends to talk as if oppression only ever comes from the government. When in real life, it often comes from local actors imposing their wishes on those who are weaker. So while sometimes I agree that the way to increase the sum total of human freedom is for the state to step back and get out of the way, in others it's for the state to intervene and deal with these kinds of local bullies.


Re: the war on rudeness

Well yeah, I think saying things that are merely offensive can normally be dealt with by ostracism and not jail time. I was originally responding more narrowly to CaW's silly point.

On your wider claims: threats of rape and mutilation aimed at total strangers aren’t just stupid and offensive, and they aren’t comparable to political statements. You don’t need to be in favour of either a right not to be offended nor a right not to be criticised to think that overtly threatening people is out of line.

I think it’s fair enough that doing so should carry the risk of some sort of penalty, though I’m unconvinced we needed new laws to accomplish this. Bothering to enforce the old laws seems like it would have been enough. Do you think that would be OK, or is your position that anyone should be able to say anything to anyone online and they should just suck it up because freedom of speech?

I think those whose interest in this kind of issue begins and ends with the freedom of expression of the troller aren’t paying enough attention to the effect on the trollee’s freedoms. Ie allowing people to hound and silence those they don’t like using social media is also likely to have a systematic effect on the expression of political views. Doing nothing doesn't necessarily create a level playing field; it can also reinforce the uneven nature of the existing playing field by making it easy for those with popular viewpoints to shout down those with unpopular ones.

Like when people suggested there should be some more women on UK banknotes – a valid point of view, whether or not you agree with it – and were then buried under an avalanche of grotesque Twitter threats and abuse. Can't imagine ostracism is going to do much to deter the culprits there.


Re: the war on rudeness

I’m more saying that if you say racist things, people will conclude you’re a racist and thus also at best an irksome buffoon, and the fact that you yourself didn’t see anything wrong with what you said isn’t really much of a defence.

Not sure where this hypothetical ‘right not to be offended’ comes into it; certainly I don’t think there’s any such thing. Generally talking about rights tends to spiral quickly off into meaningless blather and therefore seems to me a fairly stupid way of approaching political questions, at least as soon as you get away from those rights that the law actually and objectively provides.


Re: the war on rudeness

You can be racist without meaning to; you can give offence when you think you're only having a laugh. The meaning of your words isn't confined to whatever's in your mind at the moment you said it. In fact, lots of people throughout history have claimed to be only joking around when nowadays we tend to think that they were just being racist tossers.

Or in other words: cluelessness isn't an excuse.

How to catch a fraudster – using 'top cop' Benford and the power of maths


Re: Benford...

No, Zipf's law really is a thing - it's to do with the power law distributions you find in various real-world phenomena, one of the best-known of which is indeed the frequency with which particular words appear in any given body of text in a natural language.

Wii got it WRONG: How do you solve a problem like Nintendo?


Where Nintendo goes, others will follow

“Instead, quick to take stock of its console rivals and determined to rekindle third-party support, Nintendo would have turned to processing power, online connectivity and to new entries into its iconic franchises. Having given up the Wii as a lost cause, Nintendo’s would have launched successor machine a year before Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One with true next-generation hardware.”

Could Nintendo have done this, though? Does it still have the resources to develop a console that can compete with the latest Xbox and PS? I don’t know. My sense is that the underpowered nature of the Wii and its successor were less a strategic choice and more something forced on Nintendo, a sign of desperation.

“The resulting success of a Wii U alternative would have meant less dependence on classic NES, SNES, N64 and GBA games as system sellers.”

Dude, in the paragraph right before this one you say they should have focused on reanimating all the old warhorses, with ‘next-gen visuals and with robust multiplayer’. Then you immediately say this tactic would somehow have lessened their reliance on said old warhorses. What gives? Nintendo’s spent years systematically alienating third-party developers, and now it has very little beyond its own creaking, ancient IPs. I don’t see how a more powerful console would have got them out of this trap. Personally if I never see another game featuring Mario, Bowser, DK et al it will be too soon.

Myself, I don't think there's much long-term future for dedicated consoles. As PCs get smaller and tablets get more powerful I don’t think there’s a niche – when the PC at the centre of your whole entertainment setup lets you play AAA-type games with top-notch graphics as well as browsing the web, communicating with your friends, shopping, playing and streaming media of whatever kind etc, all with far more flexibility than you’d ever get with a console; and when there are tablets, phones and whatnot all over the place for more casual jiggery-pokery - what’s the point in owning a console at all? Nintendo will abandon the effort first I expect, but Sony will follow and eventually MS will cut its losses on Xbox.

Ninten-DOH! Japanese giant slashes Wii U sales forecasts by 70%


Re: Why no follow on?

I totally agree those franchises are hugely annoying too, and I'd cheer their demise. But at least with them the milking is a relatively recent phenomenon!


Re: Why no follow on?

Eh? To me, Nintendo's business model over the last decade or so seems to have consisted of little but franchise-milking. I suppose the casual games/social games end of things may be a bit different, but I don't really care about that. In terms of single-player games, the same long-since-moribund IPs get reheated and shoved onto the market again and again and again, in ever-more-degraded form. To be honest it's got to the stage where having once being a big fan I now actively wish Nintendo harm; I hope they go bankrupt, because from what I can tell that's the only thing that will bring merciful release from this nauseating onslaught of soulless, dead-eyed remakes of Mario and Zelda and all those other zombie franchises. It's a bit like my feelings for George Lucas; the fact I used to love Star Wars as a kid makes me all the more disgusted by his utterly hamfisted efforts to squeeze ever more cash out of creations that were never all that deep or interesting in the first place.

Microsoft: Don't listen to 4chan ... especially the bit about bricking Xbox Ones


Re: I genuinely do not understand...

Yeah, I think the xbone one takes things too far, but the drown-your-iPhone one is surely hilarious. It's like driving your car into a tree at 50mph because some stranger's told you it will make it faster; an act so stupid that you forfeit any right to sympathy.

People's Bank of China bans Bitcoin over 'drugs and guns' trade fears


Re: Fearmongering from the Masters

"Then ask yourself how this is were even possible if the fiat money had any objective value above 0."

Objective value? OBJECTIVE VALUE? For a currency? What in God’s name are you talking about? You should really do some basic reading on how the monetary system works – that is, basic reading that doesn’t start from the overheated premise that fiat money is obviously a scam/Ponzi scheme/other cliché because gold/hyperinflation/Zimbabwe/seignorage=theft/whatever. Because this stuff is just the usual Ron Paul-lite goldbug leg-humping confidently posted all over the interwebs by excitable people without the faintest awareness of the history of economic thought.

Nicked unencrypted PC with 6,000 bank details lands council fat fine


Re: the upper echelons often seem bafflingly immune

“at least some of the people in the lower echelons are accountable”

Often they’re just taking the fall for mistakes that are really the fault of someone higher up, though.

“I'd also note that all of the examples you site have significant interfaces with the government in one way or another.”

Up to a point. The misdeeds that led to the financial crisis really weren’t the government’s fault. The government could have done more to stop the madness, but it certainly wasn’t forcing banks to go on insane lending binges in various bubbly property markets or to make enormous gambles on highly-leveraged pools of credit derivatives.

It sometimes feels like once you’ve made it to C-level you’re almost guaranteed perpetual lucrative employment, no matter how much you screw up (short of actual imprisonment). It’s like football managers; there are so few that are known quantities (and so perceived as less of a gamble by risk-averse boards) that a month after steering Club X into relegation and bankruptcy you’ll be sitting at a press conference with your new employer talking about how you’re looking forward to working with players and staff to restore Club Y to the prominence its proud heritage deserves.


Re: I did not cost the council one penny

“Unless we start sacking the idiots in the civil service, we will keep getting crap like this. In the private sector this would almost certainly be grounds for summary dismissal.”

I hear this kind of thing a lot, and yet I’m not convinced that the private sector is all that much more efficient or less error-prone than the public sector, based on my experience working with both. Companies certainly have an easier time concealing their fuckups than public-sector entities, and you could argue that they tend to fuck up in different ways; amazing feats of bureaucratic inertia and buck-passing are more common in the public sector, while ridiculous misadventures caused by dumbfounding levels of exec-grade arrogance and narcissism happen more often in the private.

Both sectors come out with these kinds of staggering ineptitude often enough that I can no longer take this whole ‘private sector lean and efficient; public sector bloated and incompetent’ mythos very seriously. And while some people in the corporate world may be more likely to face the consequences of their mistakes – lower-paid people, mostly – the upper echelons often seem bafflingly immune to the faintest hint of accountability. Just look at the leaders of so many of our glorious financial institutions, or the seemingly ineradicable Ballmer, or any number of serial failures who nevertheless sail blithely into a succession of heavily-remunerated leadership roles, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

Apple loses bid to ban US sales of aging Samsung smartphone


I approve of the Pynchon reference. That is all.

Microsoftie's tell-all on 'rival-flinging' Ballmer: The politics of disbelief


Re: Interesting to note in passing that Elop left after a year at Redmond.

"it's impossible to be THAT stupid, so occams razor favours conspiracy"

A remarkable claim; I'm wondering what evidence you could possibly have to support it. Some kind of rigorous experimental data on exactly how stupid humans are capable of being, used to support a prooft that Elop’s performance exceeds the human capacity for idiocy? To me it seems pretty clear that human history is littered with examples of people doing far, far more stupid things than running a formerly-successful phone manufacturer into the ground with a series of misguided decisions.


Re: Interesting to note in passing that Elop left after a year at Redmond.

"occam's razor says that Elop is a Trojan."

It says nothing of the kind. If one hypothesis calls for the existence of an nefarious and elaborate conspiracy and another requires only stupidity, Occam’s razor is going to favour the latter every time. Obviously.

Your problem is that you start from the assumption that Elop must have destroyed Nokia deliberately and then go looking for reasons why he might have done this; you neglect the possibility that he might simply have been being massively inept, as parachuted-in corporate saviours so often are.

Samsung ships two smartphones for every one Apple sells


"bottom line"

"Bottom line is revenue and profit"

Actually only profit is bottom line. Revenue is top line. The metaphor comes from accounting, and has a precise meaning despite people's tendency to use it loosely to mean 'the most important thing' or suchlike - a precise meaning that can't help being highlighted when you use the metaphor to talk about some actual accounts. The idea is that you start off with the sales figures (revenue), which form the top line of the income statement and basically mean bugger all unless you’re in some sort of ‘biggest company by sales’ competition. Then you go down the income statement removing various types of expense, thereby stating various kinds of profit – gross profit, ebit, ebidta etc - until finally you get to net profit, literally the bottom line of the income statement, which hopefully (if there hasn’t been too much accounting jiggery-pokery) is reasonably representative of how much cash is available at the end of the year for the owners to buy more pies.

Woz praises Android, blasts iPhone limitations


Whatever your assessment of the differences in security between iphones and android phones, it’s obviously impossible to take anyone seriously who thinks it’s of this kind of magnitude – apple 99.9% effective, android 0% effective, or in other words Apple infinitely better. Fanboyism of the most comical stripe.

Climategate 2.0: Fresh trove of embarrassing emails

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Stallman: Did I say Jobs was evil? I meant really evil



It's amazing how many people who give no sign of ever having set foot in a newsroom still feel qualified to lecture journalists about how to do their jobs. Mostly this seems to come down to thinly-veiled assertions that any story that doesn't fit the carping lecturer's preconceptions and general hobby-horses must be some kind of gross breach of journalistic ethics, 'balance' etc.

You seem to be suggesting that hacks shouldn't report people being critical of the dead, because the dead can't respond to defend themselves. Applied consistently, this principle would have some interesting implications for the media's ability to cover all kinds of things. Obviously it ain't going to happen, and Jobs deserves no more protection than anyone else.

Eurofighter Typhoon: It's EVEN WORSE than we thought



1) The Typhoon does have some features aimed at reducing its radar signature, but they're trivial compared even to those of the F35. Compared to the F22 they're barely worth mentioning. The sales brochure may not be the best place to look for unbiased information on the plane's abilities.

2) The claim that the Raptor "can not attack ground targets" is stark, staring madness. What is your source for this bizarre claim?

3) The Typhoon's alleged ability to shoot down the F22 at BVR rather depends on its ability to detect it before it is itself detected, no? Given that the F22 is a true stealth aircraft and the Typhoon isn't, this may in practice prove to be a sticking point.

4) National pride isn't a good reason to pretend to believe things we know to be untrue.



I think you'll find that in mainstream (ie not-batshit-insane) economic circles, Keynes is still considered a major figure - certainly rather more authoritative than Henry Hazlitt...

iPad 2? Let's be kind and call it iPad 1.5



"Rik, when you have a product that comes from nowhere and ships 15 million units in nine months then maybe you'd have a point. Until then keep your smarm to yourself."

This kind of gibberish is the last line of defence of clueless fanboys/girls of all kinds everywhere. Don't like Justin Bieber? Have you had any international mega-hits? Do you have a vast following among teenaged girls? If not, WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE? WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IT, EH? Bit disappointing it's coming out this early in the game…

One-third of iPad fanbois don't download apps



thanks for that; helpful.


Why is calc different from IE?

"Notice that the inclusion of say, Calculator, Notepad, Minesweeper, Defrag, etc. was never an issue. Nobody cared about what Microsoft included in their own operating system, really."

This is an interesting analogy and one that gets to the heart of my confusion about this whole antitrust thing. What's the difference between calc and IE, really? Why's one part of the OS and the other not? Is it just that there were other companies trying to make competing browsers whereas nobody happened to be trying to compete in the calculator widget market?

If at the time I'd set up a company dedicated to creating a better desktop calculator and selling it for cash, would this have changed the situation so that the powers that be would try to make MS stop bundling calc with Windows? That is, was the only difference that there happened to be a 'market' in browsers but not in calculator or defragmentation programmes? There doesn't seem any fundamental difference between the two kinds of programmes. Can the legality or otherwise of MS's actions really hinge on the kinds of software its competitors decide to make?

Electric mass-driver catapults to beat Royal Navy cuts?


Longevity of F18?

So how well would even recent ('super') versions of the F18 be expected to hold up in a carrier-defence/ground-attack role over the next 20-30 years? It's a 30-year-old airframe already; seems to me it'd be hard-pushed to get near even recent Russian fighters, let alone the kind of thing that may appear over the life of these carriers? Said recent Russian fighters could be appearing all over the place before too long. The F35 at least has stealth…


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