2016-04-28

HA!

It's funny because Nirvana sucks.


Biggest O

This show on algorithms is by the same host as the program on Maths that I've been enjoying.  He does a very good job explaining to the lay person what an algorithm is, and also with the NP hard type problems (without calling them such).

Go watch it.

2016-04-27

ARGGH

Since I'm still sick, I've been working on trying to update my windows 7 gaming virtual machine.  After 2 days, I finally get windows update to work again, and I go to update the drivers for my R9 290 and BAM:

Yep, the graphics driver.

Thankfully, this is a virtual machine and I take LVM snapshots before doing major work.  Here it is restoring:


It will be booted and usable by the time I click publish.

DAMN, it's even more complicated.  I created this VM under openSUSE 13.2, which only had i440fx support (that chipset dates back to the pentium 3, I think). 

2016-04-26

Found Elsewhere

In keeping with the sci-fi literature theme, I offer this:


In the movie of this particular printing, how will the following line conclude?
All those moments will be lost...
Will it involve Kleenex? A tube sock?

[An aside, after taking half of the prescribed antibiotics course, my fever has plummeted from 101 and change all the way down to the mid-99s.  I'm also coughing worse than I ever have before.  It's not strep, or the flu, but it's starting to feel a bit like pneumonia.

If I still have a temperature tomorrow, I'm going back to the doctor.]

JUST DIE ALREADY

Last year the fucking puppies, both sad and rabid blew up the Hugo awards.   They're up to it again this year.
This is a fact the Puppy groups have taken to heart. This year, once again, the two Puppy groups announced slates (or in the case of the “Sad” variant, a “recommendation list”) of people and works they wanted to see on the finalist ballot. Once again, many of their choices made the cut. But where last year’s slates were filled with nominees primarily of interest to the Puppies themselves, this year’s Puppy slates included works and authors already popular with science fiction fans and tastemakers, and (as a subset of both of these) Hugo voters.
Except this year, they're flinging their shit next to their more well attired betters.

There is hope, this may very well be the last year this bullshit happens.
This is also the last year that the tactic of slating is likely to work. At last year’s Worldcon in Spokane, Wash., the World Science Fiction Society, which administers the Hugos, approved a new nominating procedure (called “E Pluribus Hugo”) specifically to deal with groups acting in concert to get work on the ballot. If the procedure is again approved at this year’s Worldcon in Kansas City (proposed rules must be approved twice), it will be in force for the 2017 nomination season.
2017 can't come soon enough.

Great Quote

Charlie Pierce in Esquire
Authenticity is the key. Once you've learned to fake that, the rest is gravy.
Not going to displace the Harlan Ellison quote at the top of this page, but it's definitely up there will all of Yogi Berra's quips.

2016-04-25

Counting the chickens before the horse

Day three.  I'm calling the doctor in a minute.  But this struck me as rather presumptuous.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the convention coming up, the Republican Party Convention. There are reports that you have been vetting running mates. Will -- and that you might announce one as early as June. What can you tell us about that?

KASICH: Well, we have some old hands now who are beginning to do that. These things come quickly, and you don't want to have yourself in position where you have got to pick somebody out of a hat. So I have some skilled hands who are beginning now to take a look and figure out who would really fit.

2016-04-24

Sick

I'm on day two of triple digit fever, so I'm not really up to posting much.  It's a shame, because I'd probably have some colorful words about the white power circle jerk at Georgia's monument to its nostalgia for treason and egregious human rights abuses.

2016-04-22

They Settled?

Subtitle: Why the fuck is "Dr" Oz still licensed?
New York Presbyterian Hospital has agreed to a $2.2 million settlement with the federal government over the “egregious disclosure” of patients’ health information, the Department of Health & Human Services announced Thursday. The violations occurred after the hospital gave the ABC reality TV show, “NY Med,” starring Dr. Mehmet Oz, “unfettered access to its healthcare facility.”

“This case sends an important message that OCR [the HHS Office for Civil Rights] will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients’ privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization,” Jocelyn Samuels, OCR’s director, said in a statement.
No, it really doesn't send an important message, since they settled.  Holding the compliance officer who decided this was ok criminally accountable, and actually prosecuting their incompetent ass would, however.

Especially, because:
The settlement stems from an episode of “NY Med” filmed in April of 2011. Without consent, the film crew recorded the treatment and ultimate death of Mark Chanko, who had been struck by a garbage truck while crossing the street near his home. The crew also surreptitiously filmed from behind a closed door to collect the audio of doctors informing Chanko's family of his death.
That is simply beyond the pale.  "Dr" Oz needs to be fired, delicensed, and blacklisted.  At this point, "Dr" Oz is no more than another Kevin Trudeau.

2016-04-21

Brain-Melting reality

Bumblebees can fly?
About 10 years ago, a little-known aerospace engineer called Roger Shawyer made an extraordinary claim. Take a truncated cone, he said, bounce microwaves back and forth inside it and the result will be a thrust toward the narrow end of the cone. Voila … a revolutionary thruster capable of sending spacecraft to the planets and beyond. Shawyer called it the EmDrive.
A little further down (read the whole thing).
And last year, NASA conducted its own tests in a vacuum to rule out movement of air as the origin of the force. NASA, too, confirmed that the EmDrive produces a thrust. In total, six independent experiments have backed Shawyer’s original claims.

That leaves an important puzzle—how to explain the seeming violation of conservation of momentum.
How is this possible, where does the thrust come from?  That's the really brain-melty part of this whole thing.

The culprit is the Unruh Effect, which I've honestly never heard of before, but it makes an insane kind of sense. [I'm aware of how contradictory that sentence is].

According to the theory of General Relativity, gravity is the curvature of spacetime by the presence of mass.   The observable effect is that a smaller mass will accelerate towards a larger mass due to this curvature of spacetime.   On earth, that acceleration is 9.8 meters per second, per second.

But, here's the thing.  Masses also have inertia, or resistance against changes in momentum (the speed and direction vector).  A force sufficient to overcome this inertia will accelerate a mass, by changing its speed, direction or both.

Here is where the explanation of this impossible EM drive comes from.  Back to the first article:
First some background. Inertia is the resistance of all massive objects to changes in motion or accelerations. In modern physics, inertia is treated as a fundamental property of massive objects subjected to an acceleration. Indeed, mass can be thought of as a measure of inertia. But why inertia exists at all has puzzled scientists for centuries.

McCulloch’s idea is that inertia arises from an effect predicted by general relativity called Unruh radiation. This is the notion that an accelerating object experiences black body radiation. In other words, the universe warms up when you accelerate.

According to McCulloch, inertia is simply the pressure the Unruh radiation exerts on an accelerating body.

That’s hard to test at the accelerations we normally observe on Earth. But things get interesting when the accelerations involved are smaller and the wavelength of Unruh radiation gets larger.

At very small accelerations, the wavelengths become so large they can no longer fit in the observable universe. When this happens, inertia can take only certain whole-wavelength values and so jumps from one value to the next. In other words, inertia must [be] quantized at small accelerations.
That is quite a bit to digest.  Gravity is the curvature of spacetime.  Inertia is the drag of spacetime for lack of a better word.  Even better, this effect has been observed multiple times.
On 8 December 1990, something strange happened to the Galileo spacecraft as it flew past Earth on its way to Jupiter. As the mission team watched, the spacecraft’s speed suddenly jumped by 4 mm per second. Nobody took much notice — a few mm/s is neither here or there to mission planners.

Then on 23 January 1998, the same thing happened to NASA’s Near spacecraft as it swung past Earth. This time its speed jumped by 13 mm/s.
The following year, Cassini’s speed was boosted by 0.11mm/s during its Earth fly-by.

And people finally began to ask questions when the Rosetta spacecraft’s speed also jumped by 2 mm/s during its 2005 close approach.
And this is how the thrust is generated:
The idea is that if photons have an inertial mass, they must experience inertia when they reflect. But the Unruh radiation in this case is tiny. So small in fact that it can interact with its immediate environment. In the case of the EmDrive, this is the truncated cone.

The cone allows Unruh radiation of a certain size at the large end but only a smaller wavelength at the other end. So the inertia of photons inside the cavity must change as they bounce back and forth. And to conserve momentum, this must generate a thrust.
This is devilishly simple and brain-meltingly complicated at the same time.  The apparatus may seem conceptually similar to a cartoon, where a sailboat is powered by an electric fan mounted on the stern, but thanks to interactions between matter and spacetime that we are incapable of observing (or perceiving), it actually works.

The universe really is a much cooler place than our banal reality makes it out to be.

Threes

The world just lost a homophobic bigot.  Enjoy being wormfood, asshole.
When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”
EDIT: It appears that I am horribly mistaken.
He didn’t vote at all. “I didn’t vote for Obama either,” he explained. “Jehovah’s Witnesses haven’t voted for their whole inception.” The controversy over a recent New Yorker “Talk of the Town” item, which Prince feels implied he supported the gay-marriage ban, has upset him. It’s the first thing he wanted to discuss when the Web geeks had gone and we were alone. “I have friends that are gay and we study the Bible together,” he said. He added that two sides fighting “only benefit the third person” who instigated the fight.
While I certainly do not approve of being a jehova's witness, I apologize and retract my statement that he was a homophobe, the evidence is suspect, and Prince deserves the benefit of the doubt.

And a person, who didn't really fit in anywhere, overwhelmed by celebrity, yet somehow not an unsympathetic character, despite her troubles.

Joanie Laurer, who studied Spanish literature and trained with the Peace Corps before gaining fame as the professional wrestler Chyna and as a reality-television star, was found dead on Wednesday at her home in Redondo Beach, Calif. She was 46.


Who will be #3? EDIT: Please let it be Garrison Keillor.

I'm in hell

Or, more precisely, I'm at the car dealer for my 5000 mile service.   The Today Show is on, which itself isn't offensive.   But they're giving the donald free publicity via a town hall.

Why is that fuckstain getting so much free press?

EDIT:  children have their uses;  a man just came in with a four-ish year old boy and changed the channel to PBS.  I'll take Curious George over the overrated imbecile any day.

EDIT AGAIN: Oholymotherofgod is the blogger interface ever worthless on an iphone.  Are there any good platforms out there, preferably where I don't have to sell my soul to google to use?

2016-04-20

Ignatius J Reilly is real

Read this thing on Vox and tell me that they didn't really Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) isn't really Ignatius Reilly in the flesh.

I honestly understand libertarians, but I can't understand how somebody can be so functionally uneducated about history and government to even think these kinds of things.  

Moldbug in particular views American society as a kind of Indian-style caste system. He views the Democratic Party as a coalition of Brahmins (liberal intellectual types who went to fancy schools), Dalits (poor, mostly black or Latino people), and Helots (Mexican immigrant workers). "What the Dalit alliance gives progressives is more than just a vote bank," he writes. "What the Dalits are is muscle, a militia, a mob. … Basically, the Brahmins have every possible Machiavellian interest in encouraging an invasion of Third World barbarians. The more, the nastier, the better. Their real hereditary enemy is the native barbarian — the half-civilized Vaisya, the ignorant megachurched Okie redneck, the Huckabee voter, the Bircher and McCarthyite, America Firster and Coolidge voter."
A class act, that one is.  A hierarchical view of society is pretty much incompatible with most post-enlightenment thinking.   And so far as a model to understand dynamics of a society, the Marxist model does better than any hierarchical model of explaining things (even if Marx's prescriptions are not optimal).

Just as importantly, he and other neoreactionaries insist that contrary perspectives — support for racist governments, opposition to black liberation movements, etc. — are being viciously suppressed by liberal elites in the US: "even just suggest it," Moldbug writes, "and you'll see what it means to have enemies."

Neoreactionaries are obsessed with taking down what Moldbug refers to as "the Cathedral": a complex of Ivy League universities, the New York Times and other elite media institutions, Hollywood, and more that function to craft and mold public opinion so as to silence opposing viewpoints.

Park MacDougald, in an excellent piece on Nick Land's brand of neoreaction, describes the Cathedral as a "media-academic mind-control apparatus." I actually think the best analogy is to the role the patriarchy plays in radical feminist epistemology, or the role of "ideology" in Marxism. Neo-reaction demands a total rethinking of the way the world works, and such attempts generally only succeed if they can attack the sources of knowledge in society and offer a theory for why they're systematically fallible.
The only way to come at such a conclusion is to completely misunderstand why things are the way they are.  See the tagline of this blog.  It would require complete ignorance of any enlightenment principles, the history leading up to the French Revolution, Magna Carta, the horrors of chattel slavery and pretty much anything else bad that has happened since one of our ancestors fell out of the trees and stood up straight.

I mean inalienable rights and social contract and consent of the governed and tyranny of the majority as concepts have to be so poorly developed in such an understanding that the solution is to greatly curtail democratic participation.

But while mainstream libertarians are outspoken about democracy's deficiencies, they rarely propose an alternative. The neoreactionaries do: monarchy. Well, not monarchy specifically, but some kind of nondemocratic system with rule-driven succession. Moldbug likes to use the term "formalism," or "neocameralism," a reference to "cameralism," the philosophy of government embraced by Frederick the Great of Prussia. Moldbug's vision is corporatist, where instead of a nation belonging to a royal family, it belongs to corporation with shareholders to whom it is accountable. "To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country," he writes.
In not so many words, this is simply calling government a business and only allowing the vote to certain people.  Effectively it restricts the franchise to those chosen by the government. 

The article goes on to talk about paleoconservatives, which I think are separate from the alt-right, because they're mostly dead and the alt-right is GenX/Millenial.

And then on to Gamergate, which is the perfect example of the tribalism of the neoreactionaries.  And the puppies, both rabid and sad go unmentioned.

The affinity between gamers and right politics makes sense. "It’s not hard to see why this ideology would catch-on with white male geeks," Klint Finley writes in his excellent explainer on neoreaction. "It tells them that they are the natural rulers of the world, but that they are simultaneously being oppressed by a secret religious order. And the more media attention is paid to workplace inequality, gentrification and the wealth gap, the more their bias is confirmed."

Basically, the root causes are butthurt, projection, entitlement and ignorance. It's not a conspiracy, it's like whoever said, if everyone you encounter in a day is an asshole, then you're the asshole. 

Deck Chairs

Seems kind of a pointless game, doesn't it?  I mean, how would one win?  The damn well better get the sky right!

Maybe the upside is this exists in a universe in which the Downton Abbey that this Titanic triggers will end when Matthew does.

2016-04-19

Bigger O

I think I bit off a little more than I can chew with the idea of explaining why quantum computing is so cool, since I can't really paraphrase it in any simpler terms than what one would find on wikipedia.

As for the categories of problems that a quantum computer would be better at than a conventional, digital computer, among them is cracking encryption.

Generally speaking, encryption is the encoding of data, or performing a transformation on the data using a key.  I'll just let the article on Shor's algorithm say it:

Shor's algorithm, named after mathematician Peter Shor, is a quantum algorithm (an algorithm that runs on a quantum computer) for integer factorization formulated in 1994. Informally it solves the following problem: given an integer N, find its prime factors.
On a quantum computer, to factor an integer N, Shor's algorithm runs in polynomial time (the time taken is polynomial in log N, which is the size of the input).[1] Specifically it takes quantum gates of order O((log N)2(log log N)(log log log N)) using fast multiplication,[2] demonstrating that the integer factorization problem can be efficiently solved on a quantum computer and is thus in the complexity class BQP. This is substantially faster than the most efficient known classical factoring algorithm, the general number field sieve, which works in sub-exponential time — about O(e1.9 (log N)1/3 (log log N)2/3).[3] 

The efficiency of Shor's algorithm is due to the efficiency of the quantum Fourier transform, and modular exponentiation by repeated squarings.
If a quantum computer with a sufficient number of qubits could operate without succumbing to noise and other quantum decoherence phenomena, Shor's algorithm could be used to break public-key cryptography schemes such as the widely used RSA scheme. RSA is based on the assumption that factoring large numbers is computationally intractable. So far as is known, this assumption is valid for classical (non-quantum) computers; no classical algorithm is known that can factor in polynomial time. However, Shor's algorithm shows that factoring is efficient on an ideal quantum computer, so it may be feasible to defeat RSA by constructing a large quantum computer. It was also a powerful motivator for the design and construction of quantum computers and for the study of new quantum computer algorithms. It has also facilitated research on new cryptosystems that are secure from quantum computers, collectively called post-quantum cryptography.

So, yeah, simple right?  This makes my eyes cross, and I have a degree in computer science.

I guess the simple, one sentence summary of the above is that a quantum computer is capable of performing the prime factorization needed to crack public-key encryption in polynomial time (big O of n^x) rather than in exponential time (big O of x^n).   Exponential time increases much more rapidly than polynomial time as the size of n increases (with x remaining constant).

This, and other categories of problems become feasible with a quantum computer.   They are seemingly never easy.

Primary Day

Polls open at noon in most of the state, which is really fucking annoying.  Go vote.

2016-04-16

Big O

What this post is not about:

This is about algorithm "efficiency" (for lack of a better word).   Specifically, the idea of Big O notation.  First, a definition:
algorithm
 process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer:
a basic algorithm for division
In other words, an algorithm is simply a repeatable set of steps that perform a particular task, or solve a particular problem.   By repeatable I mean that the same set of steps can be applied to any set of input and the output would have the same operations applied to it.

For example, sorting a list of numbers from smallest to largest is a task that can be performed by a number of different algorithms.

Take this list of numbers for example:
6 4 2 3 1 5
There are multiple ways that a computer could sort them.  Each way is an algorithm.  And each algorithm would perform the same exact set of steps, regardless of the input list.

The simplest is to simply search the entire list for the smallest number, put it in the first (or next) position, and repeat the process until the list is sorted.  This is known as selection sort.

The big O of selection sort is n^2 (n squared).  That means the number of operations needed to complete the task is proportional to the number of operands squared.  More simply, the length of the list of numbers has a drastic effect on how long it will take to sort.  This is because every number in the list must be compared with every other number in the list so the smallest can be found and placed in the sorted list.  Other algorithms are more efficient, but too complex to discuss here.

Why write about this?  This is why quantum computing is exciting!   This is how we computer scientists categorize algorithms to determine the most efficient process to perform a particular task.  Different categories of problems have wildly different big O's when solved on a conventional computer.  Quantum computers have a potential to improve this efficiency for certain categories of problem.

More to come on the types of problems conventional computers excel at and what categories a quantum computer would do much better at.

Close

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau takes a stab at explaining quantum computers. 
He is absolutely right about how normal computers work, and what advantage a quantum computer has over the normal kind (more complex states).

The why is where he slips.  It's not uncertainty that allows a qbit (quantum bit) to encode more complex information, it's quantum superpositions.

I'll make a not to explain more about computing, and the categories of problems that quantum computers excel at.

2016-04-15

Fire Peter Bright

You know what this is?

It's a whore.

Ostensibly a review editor for Ars Technica, he's nothing more than a shill for Microsoft.  And so out of touch with his readership, that he can't bring himself to acknowledge any validity to any opinion that differs from his own.

He's a petulant child, and needs a permanent time out.

Quantities

The phrase How much Jesus are we talking?  Is what really did it for me with the comic in the previous post.

It means that by that time there were so many Jesuses (Jesi?) that they were effectively uncountable, like water, or a bucket of sand.

Which is the difference between how many and how much.


I LoLed

Link.

Happy Tax Day!

April 15th is tax day (though this year, since it's Friday, the filing deadline is Monday).   In celebration, I've copy-pasted an earlier post on how tax brackets work.



One of the little things that irks me about anti-tax zealots, is they tend not to understand how tax brackets work.

For example, I'm in the 25% bracket, income wise, but due to how tax brackets actually work, I pay around 19.5% in taxes overall.


2015 IRS Tax Brackets
Tax rate Single filers Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er) Married filing separately Head of household
10% Up to $9,225 Up to $18,450 Up to $9,225 Up to $13,150
15% $9,226 - $37,450 $18,451 - $74,900 $9,226 - $37,450 $13,151 - $50,200
25% $37,451 - $90,750 $74,901 - $151,200 $37,451 - $75,600 $50,201 - $129,600
28% $90,751 - $189,300 $151,201 - $230,450 $75,601 - $115,225 $129,601 - $209,850
33% $189,301 - $411,500 $230,451 - $411,500 $115,226 - $205,750 $209,851 - $411,500
35% $411,501 - $413,200 $411,501 - $464,850 $205,751 - $232,425 $411,501 - $439,000
39.6% $413,201 or more $464,851 or more $232,426 or more $439,001 or more


 So using $50,000 as an example, let's calculate how taxes actually work.

$50,000 puts us into the 25% bracket, but we don't pay 25% on all $50,000.  We need to start with the 10% bracket, which covers the first $9,225 of income.

$9,225 x .10 = $922.50

Now we compute the 15% bracket, now remember that only income that falls inside the range of a bracket is taxed at that brackets rate.

$37,450 - $9,225 = $28,225
$28,225 x .15 = $4,233.75

On to the 25% bracket.  We make $50,000, so that is the top number in the range.

$50,000 - $37,450 = $12,550
$12,250 x .25 = $3,137.50

The total tax is the sum of these three:

$922.50 + $4,233.75 + $3,137.50 = $8,293.75

When we divide this number by the original $50,000 to compute the percentage in actual terms, we get:

$8,293.75 + $50,000 = 16.6%

Because of this bracketing, it is mathematically impossible for a person to get a raise that places them into a higher tax bracket, and to therefore make less money after taxes than before the raise.

It's simple, yet the rabid anti-tax side completely ignores this reality.

2016-04-14

Is there a linguist in the house?

I've been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix recently; and I'm impressed with it.  As a tween, my understanding of the world was simplistic and naive, now that I'm 35, I see a bit more nuance in almost everything that I hadn't notice before.

[note: on the other hand, DS9 is even shallower than I remembered]

So <-[here I go again, I'm self aware enough to realize that I start far too many paragraphs with "now" or "so"] here's my question:  the image above is an amusing reference to an episode where the plot was centered around communicating with a race whose language is comprised entirely of metaphors.

How would this work?  Isn't metaphor metalanguage?  Doesn't it require a common cultural understanding to be meaningful?  That's not saying an alien race can't be monocultural, but how would a language that is abstracted from the actual meanings of the spoken words even evolve?

Or in other words, how can such a language meaningfully express a the wide variety of new situations an individual in any culture is likely to encounter while relying entirely on events that have happened before for meaning?  How would they even come up with metaphors to relate to events to begin with?

Old bookmark

On the joys of Chlorine Trifluoride.

”It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that’s the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water-with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals-steel, copper, aluminium, etc.-because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminium keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.”
Sand Won't Save You This Time.

Education Education Education Education Education Education

Education Education Education Education Education Education Education Education Education Education Education Education.

One more time.

Education Education Education Education Education Education.

Roger Cohen's column in today's NYT is depressing.
Liberalism is dead. Or at least it is on the ropes. Triumphant a quarter-century ago, when liberal democracy appeared to have prevailed definitively over the totalitarian utopias that exacted such a toll in blood, it is now under siege from without and within.

Nationalism and authoritarianism, reinforced by technology, have come together to exercise new forms of control and manipulation over human beings whose susceptibility to greed, prejudice, ignorance, domination, subservience and fear was not, after all, swept away by the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Read the whole thing.  

What he doesn't really touch upon is the importance of an educated populace to a liberal democracy.  And that's why the pejorative "government schools" is one of my berserk buttons.

I've been watching The Story of Maths on netflix, and in the episode where they traced the origins of our modern numerical system from its earliest inception in China with counting rods, through India with the introduction of the concept of zero, on to the middle east where it was further refined and finally on to Europe, where it was initially treated as heresy; acted to sort of tie together a few things I had encountered in the past.

Maths makes it a point to state that as Muslims were developing their mathematics, Islam itself demanded learning.  That is not to say that those societies were liberal democracies, just that the religion itself didn't stymie progress in the same way that Christianity did in the west.

Getting back to the op-ed Mr. Cohen writes of the Arab Spring:

The broad failure of the Arab Awakening — the greatest liberation movement since 1989, an attempt by Arab peoples to empower themselves — had many causes, but a central one was the absence of any liberal constituency in societies from Egypt to Libya. Even a country with a large middle class like Egypt was not ready to accept the mediation of multiple truths through democratic institutions. So power went back to the generals, and the Islamists — even the moderates among them — were condemned to prison or worse.

That broad failure was due almost entirely to the lack of a sufficiently educated populace.

Our founding fathers realized this and were unequivocal about the need for public education.

 "It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country."

    Noah Webster, On the Education of Youth in America
(many more quotes at the link, but throwing the bible study horseshit does a disservice to the education idea)

As I've written before, the point of eduction is to teach you what you don't know.  That way, having had exposure to a comprehensive foundation, one would have the ability to tell the expert from the charlatan, and make important decisions accordingly.

A big problem is powerful forces in our society that intentionally confound the ideas of education and vocational training.  And we're the lucky ones.

Arab countries may have high literacy rates, but what fucking good is that when all they read is the Koran?

It's like, as described by Marjane Satrapi, when her uncle was in the hospital with heart issues, the administrator who could authorize transferring the patient to London for life saving treatment, was put in place because of his piety.  He was incompetent.  The uncle died.

And we're seeing the same thing now here with Trump.

There is absolutely no cause for optimism either.  We understand the problem, but there is no solution possible, so long as the forces of anti-intellectualism have a voice in society.  Idiocracy isn't a documentary, it's the best-case scenario.

2016-04-13

Look at the deer!


When I was a kid, whenever we drove by a cow pasture, my father would exclaim "Look at the deer!"  It was often enough that when I hear the word "deer" I picture the above for a second before I correct myself.

I'm definitely paying this one forward.

Practical consideration

All's well that ends well; which is the epitaph I should put on my tombstone if I were the last man left alive. 
 -- Bertrand Russell

Hey Bertie, can I call you "Bertie?"  Who might bury you if you were the last man left alive?  What purpose would such a tombstone serve?

Or is that the point?

Fine

If the NRA and all of the Annie Oakley LARPers out there want to make guns ubiquitous, then they'll have to accept this:

It should become a legal fiction that firearms are capable of discharging accidentally.  The owner of the firearm needs to be held accountable, criminally, for every bullet fired.

Packing is intent to use.  There is no moral difference between dropping your purse and causing discharge, and taking aim at your toddler and intentionally shooting her in the face.  

The law needs to reflect this. Nationally.

Spherical Bastards

ht to gin and tacos

I've heard of Fritz Zwicky, thanks to the Cosmos reboot where he was mentioned, and portrayed as a friendly, silent gentleman.  Here he is from the show:


What Neil didn't tell us what what a tremendous asshole Fritz was.  (the actor does bear a passing resemblance to the man himself)


Cosmos made it a point to document the Newton-Hooke rivalry, so why they omitted Zwicky versus all of his peers is beyond me.  The magnitude of his assholery is truly breathtaking.

“Zwicky began referring to Baade as ‘the Nazi’....He regarded most of the other Palomar astronomers as fools, and Walter Baade as a cretin....He would swear torrentially at night assistants, using scientific terms laced with obscenities....He referred to Baade and the others as spherical bastards—‘They are spherical,’ he said, ‘because they are bastards every way I look at them.’...Hands shaking, Baade whispered to colleagues that he believed Zwicky was going to murder him.” Never mind that Preston called her father “a true genius.” Fritz Zwicky, he also wrote, was “mad.”
I love the "spherical bastards" quote.  It's the kind of thing Kilgore Trout would mutter under his breath.  But that aside, we see that this capacity for being an ass is hereditary.

“Just sitting there in the Athenaeum parking lot, I couldn’t believe it. It was the most vile, slanderous, vicious, vicious attack against my father,” Barbarina says now. She has driven us from the Athenaeum to the nearby home of her son’s paternal grandparents, where she has covered the dining room table with photographs, letters, books, pamphlets, and other memorabilia. “Awful, awful, awful.” Twenty years later, her voice still trembles at the memory. “It was the most terrible thing, what this man did.”
For calling him "mad?" Seriously?  Barbarina, Zwicky's daughter, then goes on a crusade of rehabilitation, including threats of lawsuits, of her father's legacy.  Does this seem like the approach of a decent, reasonable human being?

When Barbarina heard that a certain astronomer had ended a lecture by repeating some stories about her father, she dropped the astronomer a note. Barbarina paraphrases what she wrote: “You don’t know what I look like. I’m going to be coming to your lecture, and I’m going to listen to your colorful anecdotes and lies about my father, and I’m going to get up and confront you.” She shakes her head. “They don’t think there’s a family behind all of this?”
 I guess we know why Cosmos didn't go there. 

2016-04-12

Happy Equal Pay Day!

Psych!  It's a national disgrace that it takes 15.5 months for the average woman to earn as much as the average man makes in 12.

I get that there are circumstances where pay for similar, but not exactly equal jobs, might result in a disparity in pay, but that disparity must reflect the complexity of the task, and/or any specific training the person performing it has, not the person's biological sex.  If my company were to hire a woman who is even more fluent than me in perl, apache, python, mysql, Linux, cray, lustre and PBS, then she should make more than me.  Full stop.

Bottom line: we need equal pay for equal work and merit pay for merit work, and nothing else.

(and no bullshit cost-benefit analyses that assume that just because a biological female may shit out offspring at some point in the future, that she should make less NOW because she might require some scheduling flexibility to accommodate her family at a later date).

like fucking rabbits

What does she:

Have to do with them?


The answer is Neil deGrasse Tyson, of course!

One of the examples of a movie getting science right that Our Personal Astrophysicist pointed to was from Frozen (which, I admit, I haven't seen).  Specifically, he pointed to the following lyric (linked above).

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling [sic] in frozen fractals all around

A Disney princess singing about fractals!  Besides being somewhat geeky, snowflakes are fractals (though physics limits the degree to which one may zoom in and they remain self-similar), the line is quite poetic and profound given the concept it invokes.

After describing what a fractal is to the audience, Tyson went on to talk about FOOD (and my mind was blown)!

That thing is real!  I had no idea this stuff existed!

And here is where I am going to pivot away from fractals and start talking Fibonacci.  Strictly speaking, fractals are recursive geometric self-similarity, and the Fibonacci sequence is a sequence (that is also recursive, in the sense that for position X the value is the sum of position X-1 and X-2).   That aside, the romanesco broccoli's fractal buds are arranged in a Fibonacci spiral!

It's a twofer!

What about fucking rabbits?  Well, that's where the Fibonacci sequence comes from!

The Fibonacci is named after the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci who stumbled across it in the 12th century while contemplating a curious problem. Fibonacci started with a pair of fictional and slightly unbelievable baby rabbits, a baby boy rabbit and a baby girl rabbit. 


They were fully grown after one month.


and did what rabbits do best, so that the next month two more baby rabbits (again a boy and a girl) were born.

And so on. The Fibonacci sequence is almost literally everywhere in nature.  The spiral pattern of a sunflower, pine cones, pineapples, this guy:


It's all over the place!

Neil didn't actually talk about the Fibonacci sequence, since it really wasn't that kind of lecture (I can't think of any movie where the Fibonacci sequence was mentioned), the focus was on science in film, and beer commercials.

Anyway, bonus points to Neil for presenting something that allowed me to juxtapose a Disney princess with rabbits mating.

And have it make sense.

Gotta get me some of that romanesco broccoli now.

2016-04-11

Just got back from NDT at Proctor's

It was awesome!   I'll post more about it tomorrow when I've had some time to digest it, but here are a few observations:

  • It was a full house, or at least the lower level was; I couldn't see the balcony, but if the crowds outside were any indication, it was similarly full.
  • There were a lot of old people.  I thought Neil Degrasse Tyson was more of a Gen-X/Millennial thing.
The topic was "An astrophysicist goes to the movies," and it was pretty much what one might imagine.  He highlighted both accurate and inaccurate science in movies.

I take issue with his BB-8 not having any traction in sand.  He argues that since BB-8 is a smooth metal sphere, that it would spin uncontrollably in sand.  The problem is it is more like an airplane on a treadmill; the ball rolls because of a shifting center of gravity internally.  For that center of gravity to shift, the traction of the mechanism within the ball is important, not the traction between the ball and the sand.

That is not to say that there aren't any circumstances under which such an arrangement would be uselessly uncontrollable, just that the sandy surface provides enough traction for the internal mechanism to shift the center of gravity.  

More to come.

bad ideas

Let me start by saying that I am completely, totally, 100% against the idea of autonomous vehicles.

We already have options for those that do not want to drive themselves around: the bus.

It is heartening that a group of major (foreign) manufactures are pleading with the US to slow down approval of autonomous vehicles.

Scullion also said that NHTSA "should not bind itself to arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines at the expense of robust and thoughtful policy analysis," according to Reuters. The Association of Global Automakers represents Aston Martin, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Maserati, McLaren, Nissan, Subaru, and Suzuki, and Toyota.
The only robust and thoughtful policy that the NHTSA should adopt is an outright ban on autonomous vehicles on public roads.

First and foremost, they need to be banned because they are piloted by a compute that is incapable of determining context of a scene.

Human beings are fantastic at pattern matching and contextualizing information.  If we see a mannequin seated in a chair by the side of the road while we drive, we automatically know that it won't move; that it isn't a real person.  Therefore if we were to need to swerve to avoid a more dangerous situation, then the seated mannequin would be a morally acceptable loss.

Computers view the world in terms of abstract shapes.  There is a surface map that's generated by LIDAR that is the machine's understanding of the road surface, direction, and any obstacles that it may need to navigate around.  Essentially, it is a series of numerical values that represent a height map.  There is literally no data from which context can be determined from such a system.

Context, such as signs & signals, may come from a computer vision system that does real time analysis of optical data (video).    It may be able to find a stop sign, or a pedestrian, and may even be able to map the coordinates of the context information to the 3d LIDAR scene, but it still can't put the combination of images into context.

Computers can be programmed, and that's the key, to be able to recognize faces in scenes, and likewise, they can be programmed to recognize signage and traffic signals.  What they can't do is improvise outside of the limits of programming.

The algorithms for recognizing objects in a 2d scene are all pretty basic.  First step is to find edges by comparing the values of adjacent pixels (a laplace filter works nicely for this). 

Once the edges are found, continuity needs to be determined (which edges belong to what), and the LIDAR would be helpful for this, since edges that coorelate to similar height points would likely belong to the same object.

At this point our mannequin in the chair would be, if it's a very advanced system, recognized as a person in a chair.

The point of this is that the situational awareness of a computer system is vastly inferior to that of a human being.  And that is in perfect weather and visibility.

Weather, slush, ice and snow all have the ability to render the LIDAR and optical systems vastly less effective.   Humans still do fairly well, to a point, when the fidelity of the input is reduced, but computers?  Not proven.

And  this is not even getting to how autonomous vehicles do not behave in ways that human drivers expect, which makes them a hazard.

 We are not at a point, technologically, where it is possible to imbue a machine with the necessary situational awareness of a scene for it to be capable of determining the context of what surrounds it, and therefore to be able to react appropriately to scenarios that it wasn't specifically programmed for.

I'll rant about liability of automated systems later.  But think, when these things crash, and they will, who will be at fault?

Not dead yet

Basically recovered from the cold/sinus infection (they're really fun when mixed with CPAP).

Somewhere in between Friday and Friday, I seem to have thrown my back out, so between the cold and the crippling pain, I haven't really been too motivated to write here.

During a brief window of ibuprofen-fuelled relief, I did manage to install the security camera Saturday morning.  Works very well, but took a little bit of trial and error to get the motion detection windows configured so that it would start recording when a car enters my driveway, but not every time a car drives by on the street.

2016-04-08

Eloquence, thy name is Ricky.

YOU GUYS FUCKED ME LIKE A PACK OF DOGS TRYING TO FUCK A HORSE!!!!

SOWFA king frustrating.

Compiling software for a Cray XC30 isn't quite as straightforward as it would be for a more traditional Linux machine, but Cray has done a very good job putting together tools that make sure that the right versions of MPI, scientific, math, and other specialized libraries are used.

For stuff that uses autoconf, for the most part you just use cc, CC and ftn, and it builds like normal.

For stuff that doesn't, it gets pretty hairy.

OpenFOAM doesn't, but it's not as bad as it could be.

OpenFOAM uses its own build system called "wmake."  It's daunting at first, but after a few years of wrestling with it, I've got a pretty good idea of how to make it work on a Cray (not something that OpenFOAM really supports out of the box, build-wise, the code itself compiles and functions just fine on a Cray machine).

OpenFOAM is also very picky about what versions of the compilers that can build various versions. 

SOWFA, by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is a CFD tool for simulating large wind turbine plants.  Since my client manufactures wind turbines, it's something I need to support.  It is distributed as an augmentation, or plugin to OpenFOAM.

And now for the problems.  We've been running it on our XE6 with OpenFOAM 2.0.1 for a couple of years, but that platform is being retired, and we can't support our international user base with it.

OpenFOAM 2.0.1 will not compile with any of the compilers available on our XC30, it's too fucking old.

Ostensibly, SOWFA works with any OpenFOAM up to version 2.3.X.  Ostensibly.  The problem is the windPlantSolverFAST sources haven't been updated to use any branch newer than 2.0, and it seems that some the headers that were updated for OpenFOAM 2.3 compatibility are still not quite right.

So I'm stuck.  Frustrating.

How's the guns on campus law working out?

Well, wasn't it supposed to make stuff like this a thing of the past?
The 18-year-old dance student was victim of a “horrifying and incomprehensible” killing, UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenve said, the first homicide on the Texas campus since 13 people were killed in the bell tower mass shooting 50 years ago.
They're not disclosing the cause of death, beyond assault, but where was the good guy with a gun?

(not that it would have done any good had one been there)

2016-04-07

Burning Coattails

A while back I posted a quiz that indicated that Sanders was the best fit for me, at least policy wise.  At the time I said I wanted the one with the longest coattails.   That means, the one with the greatest potential to influence down-ticket races.

So after the past week, I've decided on Clinton.  She's been helping out the down-ticket candidates, whereas Sanders hasn't.  We absolutely need a more favorable congress even to make baby steps forward, so the choice now is between somebody emotionally satisfying, who will accomplish nothing, versus a candidate who is less inspiring, but is doing the legwork to get a more favorable congress.

So it seems the candidate with the longest coattails will be Hillary, and that's because she's actually focusing some attention on them.

I've completely lost my patience with the shit fight over qualifications.  I think Bernie's in the wrong on this one, and that it needs to be resolved by early next week.

Uhh

Himalaya?

Hi-MAL-ya or Him-ah-LAY-A?  Which is right?

Woah, this is why I moved back to upstate NY

I'm home with some inhuman plague that's been making rounds about the office and I've been listening to WAMC as I nurse my bovril, and there's a call in show about astronomy.

One of the callers (John) just asked two very, very good questions which while I knew the answers, showed that he genuinely attempted to understand some very hard concepts.

The first question was about general relatively.  He knew that "moving clocks run slowly,"  but didn't understand how that concept interacted with the biological aging process (as if there were a universal master clock).

The answer is that to stationary observers, time for the person moving, or in the intense gravitational field, runs slowly, but still runs normally from the perspective of the observer.  You could hear the light bulb of understanding flip on in the callers head when he replied "Ohhh."

The second question was about the famous e=mc^2 equation.  What does the speed of light have to do with energy and mass?

The answer to that one has to do with the units that we measure energy, mass and velocity.  Energy is measured in Joules (kg * m^2/s^2), or (mass * velocity^2).

These were very good questions, which proves to me that the capital region isn't a bunch of anti-intellectual jackasses like other parts of the country I've lived.

Make my day

On Sunday I order something online.  I didn't receive an email with the tracking number, but the website is reliable so I don't think anything of it.  I choose 2 day shipping.

Yesterday, I check to see where it is, because it hasn't arrived yet.  I check my order status, and get the tracking number from the website.  UPS says it was delivered on Tuesday at the back door.

I have no reason to doubt it, they are usually good about the special instructions to deliver to the back door.

It wasn't there on Tuesday, nor was it anywhere near there when I checked yesterday. 

My neighbors that share my drive way are pot dealers.  All kinds of shady people are coming and going, so I give it a 99% chance that one of those assholes made off with the package.

Solution:

If they're going to put my security at risk because their fat piece of shit son is too stupid to avoid crashing his car, and therefore doesn't deliver, then I'm going to record every license plate that comes up my driveway.

I can angle it such that it will capture my back step, and look down the driveway.

If it happens again, any footage I have goes straight to the police.

2016-04-06

Geraldine


Retread

The latest podcast from YANSS that came up in my queue is the Dunning-Kruger effect.

I highly recommend you go listen to it.

Listening to it again during my commute this morning, I realized that this post reflects how much I've internalized the concept.

2016-04-05

I think I'm being trolled

I love SMBC, but today's doesn't make a lick of sense.

I can't for the life of me make this math work.

Let's start with what I think the joke to be, the assumption on the part of the student that the pattern is geometric rather than linear.  

If we assume a chess board has 64 squares (which it doesn't), then the sum of all of the pennies it easily calculable using Gauss's method.

(64(.65))/2 = $20.80
 So I don't see where the $1.27 could possibly come from.  This is the linear case where the first square has one penny, the second two, the third, three and so on.

The geometric case would be where the first square has one penny, the second, two; the third, four; doubling each time.  This is roughly $655, and not much when compared with college tuition.

Taking all of the other various "squares" embedded in the chessboard, the amount of payout only increases.  If some sort of trickery were involved, such as this larger square includes the contents of the smaller ones, then why not begin with the chessboard as a whole representing the first square and then be out only 1 cent.

(as an aside, calculating the geometric sum of option 2 with all 204 squares would require several orders of magnitude more money than exists on the planet, or probably ever will, in fact it would require 3.985x10^55 metric TONS of material to construct all of the pennies, and frankly, my coin purse isn't that big. That's roughly 2 million million million million (or trillion trillion) [actually closer to twenty-thousand million trillion] times the mass of the sun.)

Take the tuition kid.

EDIT: I was trolled:  $1.27 is 1 penny in the first square and 2 in the next 63.

Stupid Slogans

I'm getting really sick of the phrase "One person, One vote,"  It doesn't really express what the recent (nearly) unanimous SC ruling was about.

At issue was equality of representation, and not a question of the ability of eligible voters to cast ballots.  The same number of people would have been eligible to vote regardless of the outcome of this case. 

The problem that the phrase one person, one vote is that it undermines the idea of equality of representation.  All US citizens, regardless of their status as eligible voters are entitled to representation in congress.  This lawsuit turns this idea on its head.

On the surface, the overall outcome is encouraging, but it doesn't go far enough.

But her opinion saying Texas could use total population stopped short of addressing whether it could have used some other metric. That was just what Texas had argued while defending its plan, causing some to worry about the prospect of a more muddled opinion greenlighting an either/or approach that would encourage states to no longer draw districts based on total population.

Justice Clarence Thomas -- perhaps the challengers’ strongest ally in the lawsuit for his documented skepticism of "one person, one vote" [sic] -- said in a concurring opinion that indeed states should have the choice. Meanwhile Justice Samuel Alito, in his own concurrence, said the majority had gone too far in its praise of total population but that it would require another lawsuit to settle question whether a state could use something else.
What they did is left room for states to change their redistricting laws to allow for other metrics, aside from raw population count.

So it may be unanimous, but it's narrow, and the idea of equal representation hangs in the balance, not one person, one vote.

EDIT: I do realize the opinion refers to one person-one vote and then goes on to define the phrase in terms of equal representation.  Why we can't simply call it equal representation is beyond me.  It would leave the idea open to rhetorical sniping of the kind we just saw with Evenwel v. Abbott.

2016-04-04

Where do I sign up?

Please clog some of my blood vessels with microscopic beads.

In these first seven patients, bariatric embolization was safe, with no major adverse events. All patients demonstrated weight loss and dramatic hunger reduction levels after the procedure. Ghrelin levels trended down, and quality-of-life scores improved. 

In the first month following BAE, participants had an average excess-weight loss (the percentage loss of the pounds above the patient's ideal body weight) of 5.9 percent. After six months, the participants' excess-weight loss increased to an average of 13.3 percent.

2016-04-02

I see no red flags

Of course, since I'm such a failure in the online dating arena, I must bow to the master.


Damn

I like the Thai Thai Bistro.  I hope they survive this fiasco.


Adventist

Though I risk my life by saying so, I sympathize with the redemptionist wing of the ETO.

2016-04-01

Just no

Tesla model 3 was unveiled.  The interior is pure FAIL distilled into a powerful extract.


This touchscreen controls fad needs to stop.  If it can't be operated by feel alone, then it should be banned.  It's unsafe if the driver needs to take her eyes off the road to adjust the climate controls.

And also if she needs to take both hands off the wheel to shield the screen from glare.

Mazda got it right with the 2016 6.  It has a touchscreen, and a control knob.  The touchscreen is disabled when the vehicle is in motion.  The interior is actually why I bought the Mazda instead of a Ford Fusion.

Until Tesla puts out a car with real controls, I won't consider them. 

The Chinese-owned Volvo is also pushing the touchscreen crap.  Ironic given their reputation for safety.

Day 92

So far this is the funniest hoax I've seen today:


What a week

It's been a hell of a week at work.  And VDI is awesome.

In the beginning there was office 2003, and it was good.  It had menus for people who could read and understand the meanings of words.

Then came office 2010 with it's idiotic "ribbon" which makes common functions accessible to the illiterate, but renders anything but the very basics undiscoverable.   Like how do I get excel to show me the seconds in my date/time fields, considering the resolution of the data I'm processing is sampled every 5 seconds....

And now, on Monday, the trigger was pulled on an ill-considered, so-called "upgrade" to office 2016.

And my laptop has been non-functional ever since.

Our IT department tightly controls the software on company-issued hardware, which is well within their rights.   They have some sort of automated mechanism by which they can push these updates, whenever they want, end user be damned.

The office 2016 installer notified me, uninstalled my existing office, and then promptly failed.

I entered our corporate software catalogue to reinstall 2010, and after doing so, was prompted to reboot.

Bluescreen.

Next day, after failed overnight backup attempt, data backed up and laptop reimaged.

Wednesday, laptop returned midmorning, I begin the arduous process of undoing the outrageous defaults MS and XX impose on us.

Wednesday afternoon, laptop slows way down.  I leave early to let it install whatever updates had slowed it down.

Thursday morning, it's trying to pxe (network) boot.  The hard drive had failed.  

Today, they ordered the replacement.

And during that time, I migrated to our VDI infrastructure (that my team controls).   So now when my laptop is finally returned, it will essentially be a dumb terminal. 

All because some CIO-type was dazzled with infant-like glee by the new office appearance.