Articles, Page 11 of 208

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14 Dec 12

How to end gun violence?

After the latest gun tragedy in Connecticut, the gun control issue debate has to get another kick start. The current situation is just too revolting for good people to tolerate any longer.

We have been through this many times on ON so my position is well known. I think it is too late to get adequate control over gun ownership to make much difference in this country, and it would be hopelessly divisive to even try.

Nevertheless, I think this tragedy makes it clear that there is an onus on all of us, and particularly those that support the freedom to own guns, to propose ways of reducing gun violence while still assuming that everyone has access to powerful firearms.

25 Nov 12

Apple's Disc-less OS X Installation Sucks

With OS X Lion (10.7), Apple decided to cold turkey phase out the notion of the installation DVD opting instead to utilize recovery partitions on hard drives or upgrades via the App Store. This … really pisses me off.

After patching my system to 10.7.5, I encountered monstrous instability with kernel panics and arbitrary freezes and reboots occurring roughly every other day. Often times, I didn’t even need to be present but would be watching TV from the sofa and hear the computer behind me die and reboot while idling. So I went about attempting to do the usual deed of downgrading by re-installing the system and just patching up to 10.7.4 and waiting for a series of fixes to 10.7.5 or simply the release of 10.7.6.

25 Nov 12

Highest PowerBall Jackpot ... Ever

The PowerBall Lottery is now up to its highest level … ever. The largest previous jackpot was $365 million, but without a winner on Saturday (the 24th), the PowerBall lottery ballooned to $425 million. The nerd in us all knows that a random draw is as random as random can be with no correlation between numbers or mystical “it’s time is due” strategies to winning. But if you’re going to play, it’s hard to not look at statistical patterns in the numbers for making selections. Based on the same analysis previously published here on OmniNerd for MegaMillions, the dynamically updating Pattern Analysis of the PowerBall Lottery site shows trends in most frequent appearance, least frequent appearance, position stratifications, and winning ball combinations to appease anyone’s need for number selection.

21 Nov 12

Whining about Palestinian unguided missiles

If the Israel apologists want to maintain their outrage about unguided Palestinian missiles, then perhaps they should admit that an oppressed people will use any weapons that they can get to attain their freedom. Americans and Jews should appreciate that better than any other people. Americans because they did it to the Indians (and accepted many incoming unguided missiles in the process); and Israelis because the Jews were treated like this for many centuries.

You want them to use more accurate missiles, then give them some.

Look at the human rights for dolphins thread running now, and tell me that the Palestinians have no human rights.

05 Nov 12

Do Dolphins (And Other Cetaceans) Deserve The Same Rights As Humans?

Back in February the BBC reported that,

“Dolphins should be treated as non-human ‘persons’, with their rights to life and liberty respected, scientists meeting in Canada have been told. Experts in philosophy, conservation and animal behaviour want support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. They believe dolphins and whales are sufficiently intelligent to justify the same ethical considerations as humans.”

As far as I can tell, this is still an open proposal. I’m curious what this crowd thinks. Is this going too far, or is it simply a heightened awareness of our planet’s intelligent co-inhabitants?

01 Nov 12

Amazing Radio Control

Are Radio Controlled model airplanes a nerd-worthy hobby?

I have just taken it up, or more correctly, gone back to it after an absence of 40 years. Back in the 1970s I played with 10ft wingspan gliders having a pod fixed to the top of the wing with a small gas motor and just enough fuel to take it up to soaring altitude. This was a lot of fun, but my aircraft gradually grew heavier under the weight of its repairs until it was not much use as a glider. My last memory of it was screaming towards me, low over a cow paddock as I frantically tried to mentally reverse the rudder and aileron controls. Sadly, one wing caught the ground, it cartwheeled, and stampeded the cattle. There were only balsa wood fragments left after that one, and I handed in my wings in order to spend more time with the new baby.

18 Oct 12

Charts: xkcd Style

Ever read xkcd and wish you could whip up a chart like the one in the comic? Now you can. Check out Dan Foreman-Mackey’s XKCD-style plots in Javascript using D3.

11 Oct 12

OmniNerd Version 6

If you’re a regular, you definitely noticed some changes today. We’re trying to simplify the site to ease maintenance, but hopefully also make it a little easier to use. Here are some key changes:


  1. Death of NerdRank – I know, it’s like we killed our first born. Ultimately though the number had become meaningless and the backend to maintain it was just overkill. If it ever comes back, it will certainly be in different form.
  2. Death of Auto-Moderation – It seemed like a good idea, but all it created was a bottleneck. Now the computer isn’t judging your writing as you type, or deciding what is/isn’t front page worthy.
04 Oct 12

Music Purchase Log: 2012 Q3

Music I bought in the third quarter of 2012:

Artist Album Genre Release Recommended if you like… Notes
Bad Books Bad Books Indie rock 2010 Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine I’d like a little more MO and a little less Devine. Luckily, I think they go that way on their next album.
Band of Horses Mirage Rock Indie rock 2012 Fleet Foxes, Rogue Wave A couple songs are too country for me, but otherwise yet another solid album for you (and the wife).
Ben Kweller Go Fly a Kite Indie rock 2012 Ben Folds, Matt Pond PA Not on par with his best work, but worth getting if you’re a fan.
18 Sep 12

New Design Brings Warp Drives Within Reason

As practical science marches on, more and more science fiction technology becomes plausible. A few years ago, a Mexican physicist named Michael Alcubierre postulated a mechanism to make warp drives possible, limited only by an enormous energy requirement. How much energy? According to Baylor University physicists if the entire mass of Jupiter were converted into energy, that would be enough to make the Alcubierre Drive possible. For years, the Alcubierre Drive has entertained researchers with various designs either attempting to reduce the energy requirements or simply to theorize what could be done. Some proposed using metamaterials to attain speeds upwards of 25% faster than light. The main premise of the design is summarized nicely by NASA:

13 Sep 12

Unification of Science and Religion

According to the great Christian theologians, like Augustine and Aquinas, the most difficult to understand issue in the whole Christian story (why we needed Christ’s redemption) was dumbed down so that the people of the day, nomadic Israelites, could understand it.

This is an extremely profound thought. Think about it. We have been convicted of the worst crime ever, and sentenced to a terrible eternal punishment, but it is too difficult to explain to us what it was so we must be satisfied with the Looney Tunes version. How could our all powerful, loving God be put in such a position that he had to subject his only son to terrible agony and death? There was apparently no other option. Who (or What) could impose such a requirement on Him? There must be a powerful exogenous force being exerted on Him? Some say no not an external force, this is simply his nature: He is so fundamentally good that this is the only way that the stain of his creation of humanity can be erased.

11 Sep 12

Containment of China

The cold war with the Soviet Union ended more than one score and three years ago, and since then we have been staggering (largely unsuccessfully) through a number of civil wars and peace keeping missions, none of which directly impacted on the safety of the USA. What will come next? I think we should look not to the Middle East, but to the Western Pacific.

Current policy on the “containment of China” seems to be leading to a new cold or hot war in the Pacific Region. The basic idea is that Chinese economic and military expansion in that region is a threat to the USA that must be stopped.
New bases are being found, and fleets are being deployed to demonstrate that the USA will not stand for China assuming a position as a major power in that hemisphere.

09 Sep 12

Where to draw the torture line

The furor over the torture of terror suspects by USA military and officials has died down, and all the identified perpetrators have escaped punishment, despite the fact that some of the victims were tortured to death. Does this mean that we have crossed the threshold and that these techniques are now routinely acceptable?

I for one am extremely disappointed that our current chief, who is so fond of using the term brought to justice to describe killing, using drones, or special forces, suspects that he cannot arrest, and bystanders, has been unable to bring Americans, who he can arrest because they are serving in his military and civil service, to justice for serious crimes for which there is plenty of evidence. To make things worse he allowed Ali Mussa Daqduq who tortured to death 5 US soldiers to receive justice from an Iraqi court , which freed him

05 Sep 12

Machine Learning

While artificial intelligence has not yet turned out the way science fiction predicted, machine learning systems are definitely working all around us. Many of them aren’t necessarily complex, but they do adapt output based on internal algorithms, learned parameters and external stimulus. Most folks understand a learning system can be corrupted by feeding poor input but the practice of doing so is not so trivial. Some German researchers have developed a proof of concept to ‘poison’ a learning system given some knowledge of the learning vectors (seed data, algorithm, etc.). The impact of their research revealed less about whether poisoning could be done and more about revealing the magnitude by which proper poisoning can sway a system. It wouldn’t be far fetched for a financial institution’s high frequency trading system to become the target of a poisoning attack – one only needs to make it alter its behavior in the slightest of predictable ways to completely cash out on its actions.

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