Author Topic: Episode #288  (Read 6710 times)

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Offline Anders

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #30 on: January 23, 2011, 07:04:04 AM »
Isn't that Tesla-machine the same Galt uses in Atlas Shrugged?
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Offline Alan

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #31 on: January 23, 2011, 07:22:22 AM »
Oh, and I vote for ought-one-one, ought one-two, ought one-three so on... ought needs to make a come back.
Yes, it ought to be. Although some people say they Kant.  ;)

Offline matt_g

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #32 on: January 23, 2011, 07:44:17 AM »
The nom nom sound cats make is pretty normal. I had cats that would always do it if you gave them food that was recognisably part of an animal.

You could give them sliced chicken meat, and they'd eat it quietly, not mind you being around. Give them a chicken wing and as soon as you come near them they start growling through the chewing like that.

I've also seen them make those sorts of noises, chirping and opening and closing their mouths quickly while watching birds in the garden through a window.

I guess it's some sort of repressed hunting behaviour.

Oh and this:



cheers
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« Last Edit: January 23, 2011, 07:52:56 AM by matt_g »
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Offline seaotter

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #33 on: January 23, 2011, 08:48:04 AM »
Is there a movement to standardize that analysis of how much a particular study changes the body of knowledge on a topic? What was it again? Batsian analysis?
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Offline DRmeg378

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2011, 09:21:54 AM »
Bayesian analysis. It's not so much a movement as a different hypothesis testing paradigm. It runs into computational problems for anything but the simplest hypothesis, but with the computers we have now and new algorithms for simulating distributions, it's sure to catch on (and it is).
"I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that may be, is likely to get me into trouble. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in." - Carl Sagan

Offline Trinoc

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #35 on: January 23, 2011, 09:53:35 AM »
WTN is at 52:09. It's British comedian Stewart Lee.

(Do I get a special prize for getting this in the Episode #287 thread before this episode was announced?)
Yes.

It is called the sad little man award ;)

Thank you. So kind. :)
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Offline Trinoc

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #36 on: January 23, 2011, 10:10:30 AM »
I'm sure no sensible person is suggesting that the Living Earth Simulator will be able to make definitive predictions which will make chaos and free will obsolete. It will however be useful in the same way that weather forecasting computer models are useful. We can put in the best parameters and heuristics we have and make a best guess. Then we can vary the parameters by small amounts and find out how much the best guess changes. If it changes by a lot we can assume the system is chaotic at that point so any predictions are very unreliable. If it doesn't change much then we can make a prediction with reasonable confidence.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #37 on: January 23, 2011, 11:19:12 AM »
I do think someone hit upon the real reason for the inconsistency - no one says "twenty hundred". Therefore the consistency argument fails, because you can reasonably argue that saying two thousand eleven is being consistent with numbering convention.

At the same time, I've never heard anyone say "ten hundred" either, but it's a pretty common way of expressing years in the eleventh century.

I never give it much thought, but I'm sure that I've said it both ways and will probably continue to do so.  Eventually we may reach a consensus, but I doubt it will be any time soon.
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Offline Trinoc

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #38 on: January 23, 2011, 11:22:06 AM »
I love the way threads about podcast episodes get bogged down with endless messages about the least important matters.
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2011, 03:12:39 PM »
I love the way threads about podcast episodes get bogged down with endless messages about the least important matters.
What could be more important than the protocol for deciding between totally arbitrary modes of expression?
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #40 on: January 23, 2011, 03:37:53 PM »
I'm sure no sensible person is suggesting that the Living Earth Simulator will be able to make definitive predictions which will make chaos and free will obsolete.
I think Robert Heinlein has been unjustly neglected as a source of quotations for this Podcast, so let me quote him now: 'Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.' Even normally sensible people can get carried away by the claims of some to be able to predict the future.
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It will however be useful in the same way that weather forecasting computer models are useful. We can put in the best parameters and heuristics we have and make a best guess. Then we can vary the parameters by small amounts and find out how much the best guess changes. If it changes by a lot we can assume the system is chaotic at that point so any predictions are very unreliable. If it doesn't change much then we can make a prediction with reasonable confidence.
The last sentence does not follow. False parameters and heuristics may generate non-chaotic results which are still nevertheless wrong. The only way to test a prediction is to wait and see if it comes true. As far as the 'heuristics' which would apply to human interactions go, there is no place even to start. At their very best some approaches to economics seem to be reasonably effective in generally describing what has passed, none have any useful predictive power beyond the most general of trends, and even those are in dispute. Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner and NYT columnist, reckons that the US needs more stimulus spending. Most free market economists -- some of them also Nobel prize winners, disagree. Ben Bernanke was a monetarist, now he is apparently a Keynesian.

Which of them predicted the GFC? Now that the GFC can be viewed from the vantage of a couple of years in the future, do we know what caused it? Dozens of 'causes' have been insisted upon by their proponents with a great deal of certainty.

Computerised economic models are notoriously poor even at near-term prediction.

And economics is by far the most advanced of the studies of human interactions.
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Offline Old Hoplite

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #41 on: January 23, 2011, 03:45:18 PM »
I can't wait for the new mammoth hunts of the future; where jetpack equipped mammoth slug it out with us (puny) humans armed with Stinger missiles. Of course that wouldn't leave a lot of meat for eating.

So perhaps we shouldn't give jetpacks to the new mammoth herds, but rather only be allowed to hunt them like our Cro-Magnon ancestors with spears and throwing sticks. Talk about an even contest, you would certainly earn your daily meat that way.

mmmmmm mammoth burgers for everyone.
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Offline Stephen Dawson

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2011, 04:51:52 PM »
Living earth simulator - I don't think the primary purpose of the simulator will be to make predictions. As you say, some things are inherently chaotic and unpredictable.

From the BBC report: 'It would be able to predict the spread of infectious diseases, such as Swine Flu, identify methods for tackling climate change or even spot the inklings of an impending financial crisis, [Dr Helbing] says.'

This is the guy behind it. Dr Novella, you know a lot about infection diseases. Do you think that this guy has a clue about the complexity of his undertaking? He reckons that already he's identified 70 sources of data. He'd need to bump that up by many orders of magnitude to even start to track all the passengers leaving an area of infection, cross matching against their individual susceptibility to the disease and their exposure, or personal contacts with others who may have been exposed. And so on.

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It is an interesting project and I can see how it might have some utility, but it's real utility will be determined after it is up and running and people think of interesting ways to use the data.

GIGO. Except that the machine through which the garbage will be processed will also be garbage. We not only don't know enough, there's a respectable argument to be made that we can't know enough.

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... So don't dismiss the LES just because it's not a Hari Seldon device. Twenty years ago a colleague of mine dismissed the internet because he didn't think that people would adopt it as a means of communication. He literally said it was going to "go the way of the CB radio."

I dismiss LES because it is a Hari Seldon device. Even as a pretty damned credulous teenager I thought Asimov was over-reaching by far. I was somewhat relieved when the existence of the Second Foundation was revealed.

My central point is that a projection/prediction/trend identification can be very dangerous. The more 'scientific' it seems -- because really, really big computers were used and some tens of billions of dollars were poured in and lots of bright people are involved -- the more dangerous it will be. The scientists for the most part could well be sensible, but once the outputs get into the hands of politicians and other enthusiasts, they will insist on expensive remediations of imaginary future problems, often at the expense of resilience. Right now here in Australia there is a debate going on about whether the flood mitigation dams were used properly. The argument is that they were kept too full because of long standing predictions of permanent climate-change-induced drought. This is still playing out so it may well be wrong, but it illustrates the point.

Speaking of which, I am surprised by your use of the anecdote about your colleague's false prediction. The success of some technology -- in quite unexpected ways -- says nothing at all about any other technology. I know that you used this to buttress your suggestion that different surprising uses may be made of the project's output. Well, I can think of one: if the output is rigorously analysed after each run and then compared to the real world as it develops, it might help us keep our predictive ambitions in check.
Stephen Dawson
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Offline Reverend Kel

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #43 on: January 23, 2011, 06:12:51 PM »
Is rebecca not on Little Atoms anymore, and should I be pissed at somebody?

I can only reply to the second part of that question, and the answer is "yes."
Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity.
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Offline stands2reason

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Re: Episode #288
« Reply #44 on: January 23, 2011, 06:19:04 PM »
The 2038 problem is an artifact of computer architecture -- UNIX time is traditionally represented by a 32-bit signed integer, meaning that UNIX time can register as a negative number (thus allowing for support of dates as far back as December of 1901). Systems traditionally utilize the upper half of a signed integer's range to represent negative numbers, meaning in this case that if you exceed 2,147,483,647 (or 2 to the power of 31, minus one), the integer will roll over into negative numbers, with the obvious consequences.

Computer architectural isn't the problem. Most 32-bit CPUs have architectural support for 64 or 128 bit integers, not to mention whatever programming language you're using probably has a library for implementing big integers regardless of hardware, or it could even be done manually.

The problem is the software that's already been written. There is code, both source and binary, which already stores Unix time using a 32 bit integer. This is mostly only a problem for legacy, embedded, or otherwise forgotten code as you said.

 

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