* Posts by Bill

10 publicly visible posts • joined 25 Jun 2007

Prof: Save up fossil fuel reserves to fight the next ice age


Circular vs. elliptical orbits? Really?

My understanding is that earth's orbit is nearly impossible to change; it's a very big object with a lot of momentum and not much pushing/pulling on it but the Sun.

It's *declination* (tilt), on the other hand, does indeed wobble around and have a big effect on climate. So the Learrned Professor's conclusions are still worth debating, but this goof does make me wonder about his scientific know-how otherwise.

How the fate of the US economy rests on a Dell workstation


It's not the size, it's how you use it

In neuroscience--not too far off economics in complexity-- I've done both computation-heavy simulations and also much simpler ones. But much of the heavy computational horsepower is wasted unless you are very, very confident of *all* the parameters and equations you're simulating, which probably isn't the case for macroeconomic models.

In fact, there is a disadvantage to using supercomputers on approximate models: the supercomputer lends credibility where it isn't deserved, and laypeople--nay, even journalists--might be fooled into believing the results.

'HD TV gas' 17,000 times worse for planet than CO2, claims boffin


Is the NET EFFECT important?

I understand that comparable quantities of NF3 may be far nastier than of CO2, but is there actually enough of the NF3 being produced to make a difference? Humankind now produces about 30 billion tonnes of CO2; comparable warming from NF3 would require about 1.7 million tonnes.

But the biggest US producer right now makes only about a thousandth that much (2000 tonnes annually), so I'm guessing worldwide that NF3 warming is still way under one percent of total CO2 warming.

Anyone care to do the numbers properly?


Google a broken hell for five-year-olds


Google interviews too "Googley"

One Google refugee's observation about interviews stood out: "The only think Google wants to know about their candidates are their algorithms and analytical thinking skills. Nothing about technology, nothing about engineering."

I had my first phone screen with them over seven years ago. They didn't care much about my well-known scientific insights, algorithmic inventions, business experience, etc...what mattered was "What is the C-language function call for opening a connection with a foreign host over the internet?" I answered "look it up in K&R", which was apparently the wrong answer.

My two subsequent interview days (a couple years ago) were similar: I kept getting the same questions about the most efficient ways to sort 10^8 integers, for which I had to invent answers on the spot, having never taken a CS class myself. So Google clearly values not just "analytical" skills, but only the narrow kind of analytical skills which they themselves already prize, the "Googley" ones.

A recipe for monoculture to be sure. Glad I didn't get the jobs after all; I would have probably been indulged, barely, as a dull old fogey.

Electrosticky droid boffin in spider-gecko tech bitchslap


"Normal force" stronger than oblique

Remember those super-glue ads, "one drop holds a ton?" They did that by squeezing the drop between two very flat plates, and pulling on them completely evenly, exactly perpendicular to the plates...that way no part of the area is stressed any more than another.

I'd bet that's how they're measuring this force...and I'd also bet that if you pull on their stuff sideways, pulling out one side of the plate unevenly (as you would climbing a wall) that their strength goes down significantly.

I'm pretty sure ordinary stick-tape can hold more than 2 pounds per square inch if you pull perpendicularly instead of "peeling" it. So I'm not too impressed yet

Brain-plug weapons could provide war crime immunity


He who deploys a booby-trap is culpable

I believe that in the US, if you deploy an automatically-triggered gun or bomb, you carry the blame just as if you pulled the trigger or pushed the switch. In this new case the soldier is the 'trigger,' so the higher-up who decided to install the weapon and cock it bears responsibility.

Presumably existing robo-kill gadgets don't evade war crimes either, do they? Seems like the same sort of concept.

IPCC's 'evil twin' launches climate change sceptic's creed


C'mon, folks, talk about DATA

Facts are clearly harder to gather and vet than opinions. Look at the comments above: one beautiful set of facts ("I fail to see the link"), and a couple dozen fact-free comments about method and bias.

People who deny climate change is occurring are just in-credible, because of many undeniable global effects which can only occur in the presence of long-term, large-scale warming:

1) Ice sheets and glaciers receding

2) Polar ice melting

3) A temperature minimum below the surface of old boreholes

4) Springtime advancing

Granted, "proving" that this warming is caused primarily by CO2 is harder, but to deny the warming itself in the face of these effects is plain silly.

Vote now for your fave sci-fi movie quote


"No matter where you go, there you are."

--Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

NASA weather error sparks global warming debate


trustworthy indicators unchanged

So what if the jittery atmospheric record is rearranged? I think the more geophysically robust measurements still indicate widespread, decades-long warming: sea-ice is thinning, glaciers are retreating, boreholes are warming, permafrost is thawing.

Are those data suspect too?

Don't be evil


Host your own Google-ish apps?

I love the convenience of Google apps, but maybe it would work better to host such things on my own home server. Does anyone out there have such software, or are they developing it?