Thursday, August 21, 2014

[trwjzwod] Burn the witch!

The ease by which a person can be convinced a certain other person must be destroyed is interesting.  Somewhat resembles of a superconductor: the amount of pity drops abruptly to zero.  This instinct results in a variety of social effects, e.g., genocide.

Why, evolutionarily, do we have this instinct?  How does it work?  I suspect it is powerfully effective to manipulate people.

Is it similar to the Lucifer effect?

[cjjafvmy] Naming ideas in Latin or Greek

In English, when we want a name for a new concept, we turn to Latin or Greek.  Make this ability to create words more accessible, perhaps by having a word coinage organization well versed in Latin and Greek?  Naming things is important to be able to talk about them.

Failing those two languages, German is good for generating single words to describe a complicated concept.

Inspired by Japanese, which can use on-yomi instead of kun-yomi.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

[sdfchxmq] Nonexistent

The A branch of the Green Line offers direct service to Logan Terminal D only.  It currently picks up at the platform opposite Lechmere-bound trains at Government Center.

[szgcyaiv] Obsolete symphony orchestras

Symphony orchestras exist because back in the day, there was no other way to produce such rich and complex sound.  Nowadays, with recording and electronic tools, not so much.  What would we miss out if orchestras disappeared?

Many musical instruments have been designed over centuries to be incredibly expressive.  (But not so much the harpsichord.)  An orchestra effectively spreads the mental task of deciding expression over many people each with specific expert knowledge of his of her instrument, rather than, say, a single electronic musician.  A famous example is the clarinet glissando opening Rhapsody In Blue: the idea had not even occurred to Gershwin.

We also miss out on the fun, the bonding experience, of participating in a musical ensemble. That experience often inspires additional creativity.

But I think the future is bright: as great as classical music has been, they were composing for very constrained ensembles compared to what electronic music can theoretically do.

Similar arguments and counterarguments could be made about the obsolescence of theater.

[buqwtpgh] Space balloon bullet

Lift a rifle to the edge of space with a balloon.  Fire it.  How far will the bullet travel, most notably not encountering much initial air resistance?  Will it be dangerous when it hits the ground? Could be a terrorist weapon.

[rqcydduz] Transcribing ideas into Creative Commons

Take copyrighted text (or other media) and transcribe the ideas into a new text that has weaker copyright.  This will work well for content for which the ideas or facts in them are important, not how they are expressed: e.g., journalism and academic articles, not entertainment.

Crowdsource this.

[thovjinx] Creative Commons scientific publishing

There has yet to be a strong movement embracing Creative Commons or similar weaker copyright for scientific and academic publishing.

What would the world be like?  On one hand, it is the ideas and not the text of an article that is important, and pure ideas are less impeded by copyright.  However, it still requires transcribing the idea into another form to allow it to spread.

On the other hand, we could imagine follow-up research of an original article simply modifying the original article, decreasing the effort required to publish.  Or, difficult-to-understand sections could be rewritten by other experts in the field.

What would journalism be like?

[yxjcihgl] Cuddly infected people

I cannot help but hypothesize that touchy feely people are infected with something that makes them act that way: it is a perfect disease propagation vector.

Toxoplasmosis exists, but I think it is a dead end when it infects a human.

Yet the opposite hypothesis also seems to make some sense: touch is simply part of human bonding and mating rituals.

Friday, August 15, 2014

[leuzkdqp] Units

Some notes on dimensional quantities and type systems:

Addition, subtraction, assignment, and comparison should fail if the units are incompatible.

Multiplication, division, and exponentiation by a rational dimensionless power always work.  These operations assume commutativity.

Distinguishing addition from multiplication vaguely reminds me of the difference between floating point and fixed point.

Unit conversion: a quantity can be read in one set of units then shown in another set.  Abstractly it does not exist as a real number in either.

Converting between different families of units requires exact linear algebra on rational numbers.

In some functions, units pass through just fine.  Others, e.g., trigonometric, require dimensionless numbers.

Not all dimensionless numbers are the same unit: adding an angle to the fine structure constant seems as meaningless as adding a foot to a volt.  But multiplying them could be reasonable.

One can take any compound type with a dimensionless internal type and turn it into a new compound type with that internal type having units.  But should this be considered a "new" type?  Of course, this is useless unless the internal type defined arithmetic operations: "True" miles per hour seems meaningless.

Creating such compound types is analogous to the "function" idea above by viewing a compound type as a data constructor function of a base type.  Constructors do not do operations which can fail, like addition, so the function always succeeds.

Creating a list populated by successive time derivatives of position seems like a useful thing to be able do.  But every element of the list will have different dimensions, which violates the naive idea of a list being items all of the same type.

We would like to catch all dimensionality errors at compile time, but this may not be possible.  The extreme example would be implementing the "units" program.  Is that an anomaly?

It is OK to add a vector to a coordinate (which has an origin) but not a coordinate to a coordinate.  There seems to be a concept of units and "delta" units.

It is OK to subtract coordinates to get a delta.

Maybe multiplying coordinates is also illegal.

Coordinates versus vectors, units versus delta units, seems like an orthogonal problem to "regular" units.  Separate them in software so one can use either concept independently, for example, distinguishing dimensionless from delta dimensionless.

Go further than just "delta" to distinguish first, second, etc., differences.

An X component and Y component of a vector might have the same units, say, length, but one wants to avoid adding them, as this is typically a typo.  But sometimes, for rotations, one does add them.

A Haskell Wiki page: http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/Physical_units. The units package seems promising.

[zaugktso] Volcano as plot generator

The earth has had various extremely violent volcanic events about which we have a great deal of geologic evidence what they were like, e.g., Siberian Traps.

Volcanoes last a while, so could be a plot generator for an ongoing TV series, as opposed to an asteroid impact, which is a one-time event.

[vratcswg] Binary diffs in /boot

Store multiple versions of Linux kernels in /boot as binary diffs from, say, the most recent one.  The purpose is to save space.  While seemingly sophisticated for a boot loader to do, is it really that much more sophisticated than uncompressing gzip which is already being done?

[mxjtvlyx] The news... Aristocrats!

Design a news program which tells of each of the horrible things going on in the world in the format of an Aristocrats joke.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

[qhchlqyp] English programming with error messages

The key to using a natural language as a computer programming language will be precise and useful error messages, showing exactly how the computer interpreted the input to mean, why it was interpreted that way, and exactly what went wrong in that interpretation.

[zlrnwetl] Better incentives for nuclear nonproliferation

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provides as a "carrot" to induce countries not to pursue nuclear weapons a promise to assist in developing and deploying civilian uses for nuclear technology, e.g., nuclear power.

Such an incentive is obviously not going to be effective. (Why did anyone ever think it would be a good idea?)  If a country wants nuclear weapons for some military purpose, e.g., defend themselves from a nuclear-armed enemy, then the carrot needs to be something else that fits that military purpose, or else they are not going to give up their nuclear weapons program.  Perhaps the carrot should be access to or assistance in development of very powerful conventional weapons, e.g., drones.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

[hlxcvbaq] Not the Chosen One

Rework Harry Potter so that Voldemort kills Voldemort, done in by one of the many standard ways someone with Too Much Power can accidentally kill themselves.

The interesting part is the subsequent tragic psychological self-destruction of Harry Potter.  He had based his entire existence around being The Chosen One, only now to discover there is nothing at all special about himself.  With substantial reworking of the plot, he could reminisce about how every indicator that he was special was actually part of an egotistical self-delusion that only he noticed or believed.

Inspired by the criticism that the Chosen One archetype is not a good role model.

[zadntdhu] Backup wand

After learning from Harry Potter that the Elder Wand will not obey him, and having already been thwarted before by unexpected wand behavior, Voldemort quickly takes out one of the several backup wands he now always carries and quickly defeats Harry.

[ouzvredz] It's just surprise sex

A feminist scholar whose name I've forgotten presents a radical notion: the very concept of rape is demeaning toward women.  (We write using stereotypical genders for conciseness only.)  That is, the characterization of a sexual event as an act of violation exactly plays into the gender roles that feminism is trying to erase.

Sex is biologically designed to at least be tolerable, at best, be the most pleasurable thing in existence.  Any reason a woman would not consent to sex is oppression in action: this is the oppression feminism seeks to eliminate. Especially notable are reasons a woman would not consent for fear of social punishment, but for which a man in an equivalent situation could consent with less or no social penalty. These reasons are identically the "gender roles" regarding sex. A great many men make it through life with the attitude of never turning down sex, always consenting, when offered; far fewer women do.  That is the oppression; focusing on the rapist misses the forest for the trees.

Those who seek to make a big deal about rape as a violation, who seek to present the act itself as something bad, are in fact hurting the cause.  The tremendously bad thing has already happened by the time someone chose not to consent.  Presenting as bad the act of overriding the lack of consent legitimizes the reasons, the gender roles, for not consenting: it legitimizes the oppression. Promoting the need to "respect" someone else's reasons for not consenting legitimizes those reasons: it legitimizes the oppression.

"It's not rape: it's just surprise sex", a saying normally presented as a bad joke, is actually an ideal that we should strive for.  But we have a long way to go. What are the impediments in the way?

What do we do about those so deeply indoctrinated in oppression that rape causes them psychological harm?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[vzputvno] Convenient common enemy

Israel is uniquely a country of recent immigrants from many cultures, with many traditions of Judaism often at odds with each other, most famously the special privileges of Orthodox Jews.  Without a unifying force, Israel could easily Balkanize into civil war.

Nothing unites a disparate group of people like a common enemy, e.g., colonial India versus the British.

Is it purely coincidence that the country that most needs such a common enemy is the one that most obviously has one?  If it is not a coincidence, then it seems it would require a powerful, sophisticated, long-term secret conspiracy doing fairly nefarious deeds:

Study whether the intensity of internal political disputes correlates with wars to distract people away from such disputes.

Wag the dog.

[rvzxpsxi] Hand rails

Holding the handrails while going up or down the stairs decreases the chance of falling but increases the chance of catching diseases like the common cold.  Is it worth it?

There is a game theoretic component: if fewer people touch the handrail, perhaps to avoid infection, the relative safety benefit increases for you to use it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

[fjsciigl] Lower classes get sent to war

A country goes to war, and inevitably the lower classes get sent to fight the war.  This provides a practical way of defining class divisions in a society that might not explicitly have them.

Does this method of defining class divisions yield the same divisions as those defined by barriers to sex and marriage?  If so, what keeps them in sync?