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Posts posted by metadigital

  1. A lot of the motherboards coming out now/about to come out have some not-yet-implemented features, like DDR3 RAM. This means that you have a choice to buy a slightly cheaper bunch of components that do everything that can possibly be done right now, OR you buy a [limited] future-proof solution containing a lot of very expensive parts that aren't implemented yet and might even be implemented better in six months. I haven't had a moment to look into tech for a while: I was planning to build a new PC about now, but it looks like I'll be waiting on that for a little while.


    PS The Phemon is not given warm encouragement in the runes that I read.

  2. Check out the guide I posted at the top of this forum; it takes one through a reasonably rigorous diagnostic process, and you should know what is broke and what is dangerous and might cause any new bits of kit to die and ignoble death. It does sound pretty bad, but it might just be a corroded integrated circuit in the motherboard.


    /the land of chocolate

  3. I'm kinda reassured. Things have condensed. If statistical variations apply it makes sense that some places should be void. Sp this is further evidence of expected statistical variation and that statistical thermodynamics is still a viable model.

    i think the major point of the article, at least those scientists that contributed to it, is that this void is larger than they expected even considering statistical variation. whether or not this is a valid concern is beyond my understanding of astrophysics, however.

    There was no mention of the void in my (pretty well up-to-date) physics text book, and (without this observation) we are left theorizing how the universe became so uniform ..!


    I have a better concept for you, though!


    *runs around the house looking for long-protected glossy brochure*


    it is a small booklet (almost a pamphlet, if we were back in the dawn of the print age), sent with my last Scientific American subscription, called "Parallel Universes". Not some beardo-weirdo philosobabble, either. Direct observation leads us to the conclusion that, maybe as little as about 10 to the 10^28 meters from where you stand there is an exact doppleganger of you. (We can currently see about 4x10^26 meters, or 42 billion lightyears, of the universe.)


    Let's do a thought experiment (because I like them). :)



    Imagine a two-dimensional universe with space for four particles. Such a universe has 2^4, or 16, possible arrangements of matter. If more than 16 of these universes exist, they must begin to repeat. In this example, the distance to the nearest duplicate is roughly four times the diameter of each universe.


    4 particles = 2^4 arrangements



    The same argument applies to our universe, which has space for about 10^118 subatomic particles. The number of possible arrangements is therefore 2 to the [power of] 10^118, or approximately 10^118. Multiplying by the diameter of the universe gives an average distance to the nearest duplicate of 10^118 meters.


    [some figures to make you go "oooh"]


    10^118 particles [which are approximately] 2x10^-13 meter

    2^10^118 arrangements [in our universe that is] 8x10^26 meters


    This article does use protons for its calculations (which is entirely reasonable, mostly) and therefore assumes that the constituents of hadrons (i.e. quarks and any other sub-subatomic particles that we have not witnessed yet, if they exist) would not make that one proton 2^10^118m away slightly different (flavour, colour charge, SOMETHING!) from its putative double over here in front of us. (Say that one bound up in the Hydrocarbon of the plastic keyboard that your finger is near.)


    Then the article gets a little weirder ... :)

  4. it would become a false hypothesis, actually... just a nit. :teehee:


    i think the mayans also had a cyclical concept of existence. at least, i think they thought after the "end" there would be a new beginning (which was pegged for 2012, right?).

    Doesn't the universe just reboot and start again? (I'm not convinced the Mayans would be able to give a satisfactory answer to that question.)


    Well, this is probably the tequila talking, and I'll regret saying this in the morning, but I wouldn't mind sharing my thoughts on Catholicism with you folks. I'm just not going to share my views when the very question is framed out of animosity. This thread isn't about creationism vs darwinism. It's not even about religion. It's about how people view and interact with the world. Or at least, that what I think it should be.


    At my former work, folks were fairly hostile to religion, at least as far as I can tell. That's fine. I've been around folks who were hostile to me as a Catholic pretty much all my life. That goes not only for atheists and agnostics, but also for other Christians. Folks assume some of the stupidest things about us, though. I'm not trying to offend anyone, and I shy away from berating them about my beliefs. ...But I'm not going to be ashamed of my Catholicism. I'm not going to let someone frame the debate in such a way that I have to act as a defendant on a trial.


    ...But it doesn't even get that far. When folks ask me questions that amount to, "how can you follow such a religion? How can you believe in this stuff?" I just have to wonder why they'd even put the thought in the form of a question in the first place. They might as well just make the statement as an accusation in the first place.


    Pixies is right. These aren't open discussions. These aren't reasonable debates. They're not even an exchange of ideas. They're trials.


    One of these days, I'd like to post my views on my religion, flaws and all, and let folks respond. ...But as long as the question is essentially, "How can you be so stupid as to believe in that religion," I'm afraid I'll just keep approaching these threads, when I approach them at all, as nothing better than petty attacks. You have reason to be embittered by religion. Well. So. Do. I. I have reason to be embittered by all sorts of things. We must live through past slights if we are to go forward. Disagree with religion. Speak out against religion. Just don't crusade against it.

    I'm not hostile to religion, per se, but I AM very short tempered with stupidity. (Nb, I am not calling people of faith stoopid, merely clarifying why I may respond slightly differently to someone arguing about cheese flavours and another arguing about who I should believe in and what I must do to show that I am pious.) (Also, it is pretty annoying to compose a serious response that encompasses several replies, references many other factors and makes an intelligent summary of the research, only to be spammed with something infantile and not talking to the point at hand. And some people I don't expect much from, and others I do. :o")


    To be clear, I was actually interested in why you are so devout. Tell me you're a deist and I'll say "good for you!" because it makes no nevermind to me and I might even be tempted to agree at times. (Not really.)


    I do find it an amazing lottery that you are a Roman Catholic: most of your neighbours in a radius of five thousand miles (apart from South) are NOT Pope apologists (and, for the record, the immigrants from South America are more likely than not to join an Evangelical communion rather than stick with the establishment). A diameter length of the same circle we used to marvel at the remoteness of being born Catholic in the US takes us to the Bosphorus, and there you would more likely than not be a pious Muslim. Because your parents were. Another circle and we're swimming in Hinduism and Buddhism.


    The popularity of a faith speaks more to a measure of cultural mores than a statement of the vitality of a particular religion. Most of my searching for (religious) meaning has taken me on a quest for wisdom, gained (inelegantly and unpredictably) from the OCD accumulation of knowledge (at least I am working on that theory :p ). Religion stands up in the middle of my thinking room, festooned with sheafs upon reams of scribbled observations, and tells me to stop thinking. (And don't get me started on prosetylizing religions.)


    I'd be a lot less critical if the political establishments that call themselves churches would only allow adults to join, rather than encourage the inculcation of young minds before they can think critically.


    God (apparently) made the world. Humans definitely made religion.

  5. It seems like this Dawkins fellow is taking out all his problems with religion on the big guy up in the sky. But I haven't read the book, only what Meta keeps quoting.


    But I separate religion and the belief in God. Religion is man-made, man-run, and suffers from all the problems of man. It's caused great good and great evil. But in the end, it's just a tool used to reach a place of spiritualitiy.


    I don't need to be religious to believe in God. I don't need to buy into a certain ideology in order to live a spiritual life. I try to live the best life that I can and I have faith that it will turn out well in the end.

    Just a quick note: it is na

  6. Cant, I was actually expecting something a little more serious in reply, though I understand how uncomfortable it must be to have cherished beliefs challenged in such a way, so I will continue to expound some thoughts so that you may digest them and perhaps reply in some meaningful way.


    If I repeat myself it is only because what I have said seems to have fallen on deaf ears. You can use any terms of denigration you wish, the fact remains that I refuse to base my life on something that someone else SAYS is true, regardless of the source. Like it or not, science is about predicting accurately and precisely what will happen in our world.


    I have no problem with you quoting and attempting to critique Dawkins; actually I hope you keep doing it ... you're an intelligent guy and I hope that one day you might actually start to question the assumptions you have made (see? I can be an optimist).


    My personal beef with religion is that it is a system that demands faith without critical thinking.


    Why is this bad?


    Why should average people trust authority without question?


    Well, to answer that in full will take a long time. I am only half-way through The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil so I can't give you a full summary of wisdom from the learned behaviouralists who have spent their lives studying how ordinary people are able to completely override their personal belief systems and act in completely evil (but predictable) ways, but I can give you some quick snippets.


    The first problem is that (Western) religion promotes evil (intuitively) as Dispositional rather than Situational. Overwhelming research demonstrates the counter-intuitive and uncomfortable truth that there is no such chasm between "good" and "evil" people.

    Evil Fixed Within or Mutable and Without?

    The idea that an unbridgeable chasm separates good people from bad people is a source of comfort for at least two reasons. First, it creates a binary logic, in which Evil is essentialized. Most of us perceive Evil as an entity, a quality that is inherent in some people and not in others. Bad seeds ultimately produce bad fruits as their destinies unfold. We define evil by pointing to the really bad tyrants in our era, such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, and other political leaders who have orchestrated mass murders. ...


    Upholding the Good-Evil dichotomy also takes "good people" of the responsibility hook. They are freed from even considering their possible role in creating, sustaining, perpetuating, or conceding to the conditions that contribute to delinquency, crime, vandalism, teasing, bullying, rape, torture, terror, and violence. "It's the way of the world, and there's not much that can be done to change it, certainly not by me."


    The second problem with organized religion is that it is a perfect framework to create a "Them-and-Us" scenario. Sure it isn't the only way, but it is one of the most effective, to dehumanize, morally disengage and intellectualize "Others" (heretics, apostates, infidels and unbelievers in this case). In short, the power to create "The Enemy"; to make others into "animals", or "sub-human".


    I'm sure you'll respond with some lame comment about the unreproachable piety of religious folks (or some other myth). I'm sure you will continue to refuse to look critically at something that you profess is very important in your life (which I still find incredible). But this is the point: you refuse (in any meaningful way) to challenge your blind obedience to (divine) authority (completely divorced from reality and scientific methods of evidential verification, and as interpreted by a human agent, who is "infallible"). Need I refer you to Milgram's Obedience Paradigm?


    Again, I hear you try to dissociate you, your family and religion from the evil that men do. "I am a good person, my friends and family are good people of good faith," you retort, reasonably.


    So, I point out, are the Palestinian Suicide Bombers.


    Sensationalism? Possibly.


    True? Undoubtably.


    Don't take my word for it, do some research.

    Suicide Bombers: Mindless Fanatics or Mindful Martyrs?

    Amazingly, what holds true for these violence workers is comparable to the transformation of the young Palestinians from students into suicide bombers intent on killing innocent Israeli civilians. Recent media accounts converge on the findings from more systematic analyses of the process of becoming a suicidal killer.*


    Who adopts this fatalistic role? Is it poor, desperate, socially isolated, illiterate young people with no career and no future? Not at all. According to the results of a recent study of four hundred al-Qaeda members, three quarters of that sample came from the upper or middle class. This study by the forensic psychiatrist Marc Sageman also found other evidence of the normality and even superiority of these youths turned suicide bombers. The majority, 90 percent, came from caring, intact families. Two thirds had gone to college; two thirds were married; and most had children and jobs in science and engineering. "These are the best and brightest of their society in many ways," Sageman concludes.**




    For his new film, Suicide Killers, the French filmmaker Pierre Rehov interviewed many Palestinians in Israeli jails who were caught before detonating bombs or had abetted would-be attacks. His conclusion about them resonates with the analyses presented here: "Every single one of them tried to convince me it was the right thing to do for moralistic reasons. These aren't kids who want to do evil. These are kids who want to do good. ... The result of the brainwashing was kids who were very good people inside (were) believing so much that they were doing something great."***




    * See the body of literature on suicide bombers; among the sources recommended are: Ariel Merari, "Suicide Terrorism in the Context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Institute of Justice Conference, Washington DC, October 2004; Ariel Merari, "Israel Facing Terrorism," Israel Affairs 11 (2005): 223-37; Ariel Melari, "Suicidal Terrorism," in Assessment, Treatment and Prevention of Suicidal Behavior, eds. RI Yufit and D Lester (New york: Wiley, 2005)


    ** M Sageman, "Understanding Terrorist Networks," November 1, 2004; M Shermer, "Murdercide: Science Unravels the Myth of Suicide Bombers," Scientific American, January 2006, p33; AB Krueger, "Poverty Doesn't Create Terrorists," The New York Times, May 29, 2003


    *** Jonathan Curiel, "The Mind of a Suicide Bomber," San Francisco Chronicle (October 22, 2006): p.E1, 6; quote on p. E6.


    Can't happen to me? The recent attempted airport car-bombing in Scotland was perpetrated by a group of medical doctors!


    To be clear (and head off any temptation you might have to make a glib reply that I am insulting you by comparing you to suicide bombers), my main point in raising this is because organizational religion renders individuals more susceptible to the perils of groupthink and the abuse of roles assigned to them in the system.


    It is difficult enough to counter the situational and systemic factors that can override the (otherwise good) ethical dispositions of people.

  7. So which is faster then, gravity or light?

    Same. Interactions carried by massless quanta between objects travel at the fastest possible speed.


    According to Coloumb's Law, electromagnetic forces travel at the fastest speed possible, the speed of light, owing to the fact that the quanta (photons) possess no mass. (At high ambient energies, the em forces "combine" with weak nuclear forces, to produce the "electroweak" force.)


    Gravitational interactions are still so small and remote that they remain much of a mystery. Like electromagnetic interactions, the quanta (tentatively named the "graviton") has no mass (certainly nothing that we have detected so far), so it interacts on every particle according to the product of the masses and inversely of the distance apart.


    We owe the downwards fall of the apple to the fact that matter (specifically the matter of the apple and the Earth) is electrically neutral to an accuracy of far better than 1 part in 10^20 (which is how much stronger the electromagnetic interaction is than gravity). In other words, if only one atom in 10^20 would have to lose an electron for the force of gravity to be balanced out by the electromagnetic force repulsing the bodies.


    Interestingly, the recession speed of distant galaxies (the further they are away, the faster they are receding: Hubble's Law) does not mean that they are travelling faster, as their redshift might indicate as a function of the Doppler Effect; rather this redshift/recession speed indicates how fast SPACE ITSELF is expanding. Wrap your head around that one. :teehee:

  8. "There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like 'God is subtle but he is not malicious' or 'He does not play dice' or 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic. 'God does not play dice' should be translated as 'Randomness does not lie at the heart of all things.' 'Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?' means 'Could the universe have begun in any other way?' Einstein was using 'God' in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense. So is Stephen Hawking, and so are most of those physicists who occasionally slip into the language of religious metaphor. Paul Davies's The Mind of God seems to hover somewhere between Einsteinian pantheism and an obscure form of deism - for which he was rewarded with the Templeton Prize (a very large sum of money given annually by the Templeton Foundation, usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion). . . ."


    Other than being little more than petty diatribe, the main problem with the passage is that Dawkins is prepared to tell us the best way to interpret what someone else has said rather than letting us read and evaluate the passages for ourselves. Of course, the debate over atheism and theism existed during Einstein’s life as it had existed for thousands of years before him. Atheism, the idea itself, has been the topic of debate since ancient times. One would assume that Einstein could have answered the question definitively for himself, but the debate still remains. In the case of evaluating a particular passage, I'm always leery of trusting the meaning when it's handed down by someone with a vested interest. Dawkins is no better than any other religious zealot when he claims himself to be the best interpreter of the text.


    Let's boil this down further. Dawkins shouldn't prove the impossibility of God. In fact, such a proof is pointless. It cannot exist. It cannot, as we have heard, even rise to the status of "almost perfect."


    What Dawkins should have said was, "the onus to disprove God is not my responsibility. It is the onus of religious people to prove the existence of God." That would suffice to take most of us "theist" out of the shouting match. I don't believe the existence of God is provable. For that reason, I'll quit the field and concede the point... a path our more virulent atheist friends have great difficulty following on other matters less felicitous to their point of view.


    That’s not the end of it, though. Nothing is quite so hateful to our more entrenched atheists as religion, but nothing is despised quite so much as a religious person who’s happy to live peaceably with atheists. It’s all or nothing.


    Saying, “we can’t prove it either way” is just another way to paint a target on your chest. The spotlight shines into the heavens in the shape of a large atheist and atheist man jumps at the victim, ready to impart real “wisdom.”


    For the record, I think “we can’t prove it either way” is a poor statement from an argumentative perspective, but it’s a great statement when you’re trying to convey the idea that you’re more than willing to let the matter rest even though you have a different view.


    This thread has a lot of fun potential.

    Actually, as has been said previously, any scientist (atheist by another name in this thread) would purposefully and joyfully adopt WHATEVER hypothesis that answers the questions we ask of it. The problem is that religion doesn't answer questions meaningfully, it just gives a hollow "because God did / said / willed it".


    And the proof is not much more complex than the fact that explaining the universe with something even more complex, like a creator, is just ADDING to the complexity and improbability, not reducing it. (I'm paraphrasing, though I'm sure you'll ask me for more details ... which I will be happy to provide. Or, you could read the book. :teehee:)


    Dawkins is passionate and animated against religion for a completely different reason to the one you have cited (I'm assuming you haven't read The God Delusion and are just reacting to some quoted fragments, like the one you have above, otherwise you would know this); rather he is against religion because of the entrenched mental abuse that it fosters and inflicts -- especially on the young. E.g. telling a seven year old girl, who's school friend has just died from some horrific disease like cancer, that her dear friend will be tormented in Hell forever, simply because she wasn't a Catholic. The resultant real and documented trauma that the little girl suffered is a perfect example of this. (This is an actual letter from a woman of our age, who responded to one of his earlier books.)


    There are good people of faith, I have no doubt, but their faith is placed in the most bizarre of things.

    • In the time of the ancestors, a man was born to a virgin mother with no biological father being involved.
    • The same fatherless man called out to a friend called Lazarus, who had been dead long enough to stink, and Lazarus promptly came back to life.
    • The fatherless man himself came alive after being dead and buried three days.
    • Forty days later, the fatherless man went up to the top of a hill and then disappeared bodily into the sky.
    • If you murmur thoughts privately in your head, the fatherless man, and his 'father' (who is also himself) will hear your thoughts and may act upon them. He is simultaneously able to hear the thoughts of everybody else in the world.
    • If you do something bad, or something good, the same fatherless man sees all, even if nobody else does. You may be rewarded or punished accordingly, including after your death.
    • The fatherless man's virgin mother never died but was 'assumed' bodily into heaven.
    • Bread and wine, if blessed by a priest (who must have testicles), 'become' the body and blood of the fatherless man.


    One might reasonably ask why we have such a complex belief in existence (and some -- I won't say opportunists, let's call them those who are looking for an easy answer -- would see this complexity as some flavour of validity).


    If we treat ideas as capable of some verisimilitude of a life cycle (which is still somewhat controversial, though as a model it has merit), we can see how some of these seemingly unrelated and odd factors might have come about.

    To quote Dawkins again:

    ... Some religious, like some genes, might survive because of absolute merit. These memes would survive in any meme pool, regardless of the other memes that surround them. (I must repeat the vitally important point that 'merit' in this sense means only 'ability to survive in the pool'. It carries no value judgement apart from that.) Some religious ideas survive because they are compatible with other memes that are already numerous in the meme pool -- as part of a memeplex. The following is a partial list of religious of religious memes that might plausibly have survival value in the meme pool, either because of an absolute 'merit' or because of compatibility with an existing memeplex:
    • You will survive your own death.
    • If you die a martyr, you will go to an especially wonderful part of paradise where you will enjoy seventy-two virgins (spare a thought for the unfortunate virgins).
    • Heretics, blasphemers and apostates should be killed (or otherwise punished, for example by ostracism from their families).
    • Belief in God is a supreme virtue. If you find your belief wavering, work hard at restoring it, and beg God to help your unbelief. (In my discussion of Pascal's Wager I mentioned the odd assumption that the one thing God really wants of us is belief. At the time I treated it as an oddity. Now we have an explanation for it.)
    • Faith (belief without evidence) is a virtue. The more your beliefs defy the evidence, the more virtuous you are. Virtuoso believers who can manage to believe something really weird, unsupported and insupportable, in the teeth of evidence and reason, are especially highly rewarded.
    • Everybody, even those who do not hold religious beliefs, must respect them with a higher level of automatic and unquestioned respect than that accorded to other kinds of belief (we met this in Chapter 1).
    • There are some weird things (such as the Trinity, transubstantiation, incarnation) that we are not meant to understand. Don't even try to understand one of these, for the attempt might destroy it. Learn how to gain fulfilment in calling it a mystery. Remember Martin Luther's virulent condemnation of reason ['Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.' and 'Whoever wants to be Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.' and again 'Reason should be destroyed in all Christians.'] and think how protective of the meme survival they would be.

    Some of the above list probably have absolute survival value and would flourish in any memeplex. But, as with genes, some memes survive only against the right background of other memes, leading to the build-up of alternative memeplexes. Two different religions might be seen as two alternative memeplexes. Perhaps Islam is analogous to a carnivorous gene complex, Buddhism to a herbivorous one. The ideas of one religion are not 'better' than those of the other in any absolute sense, any more than carnivorous genes are 'better' than herbivorous ones. ...


    Organized religions are organized by people: by priests and bishops, rabbis, imams and ayatollahs. But, to reiterate the point I made with respect to Martin Luther, that doesn't mean they were conceived and designed by people. Even where religions have been exploited and manipulated by powerful individuals, the strong possibility remains that the detailed form of each religion has been largely shaped by unconscious evolution. Not by genetic natural selection, which is too slow to account for the rapid evolution and divergence of religions. The role of genetic natural selection in the story is to provide the brain, with its predilections and biases -- the hardware platform and low-level system software which form the background to memetic natural selection. Given this background, memetic natural selection of some kind seems to me to offer a plausible account of the detailed evolution of particular religions. In the early stages of a religion's evolution, before it becomes organized, simple memes survive by virtue of their universal appeal to human psychology [e.g. the Golden Rule]. ... The later stages, where a religion becomes organized, elaborate and arbitrarily different from other religions, are quite well handled by the theory of memeplexes -- cartels of mutually compatible memes. This doesn't rule out the the additional role of deliberate manipulation by priests and others. Religions probably are, at least in part, intelligently designed, as are schools and fashions in art.






    Or maybe an all powerful deity, who could divinely inspire any and all beings, requires us to feel guilty about being made imperfect, and compels us to tell everyone else what has only been revealed to us, and kill/ostracise those who disagree.

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