Natura non facit saltus
Debunking the Paradigm Shifters
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Friday, Aug 31, 2007
Best crypto methods are patent-free
Three months ago, BetaNews reported:
In a move whose repercussions could seriously impact the future development of the AACS content protection system, and even endanger the production plans of high-definition disc console manufacturers worldwide, cryptography software provider Certicom this morning filed suit in Marshall, Texas, against Sony Corporation.No, Schneier is wrong and Certicom will lose this case. I am a patent agent and I have been doing ECC for years. I was Secretary of the working group that adopted the IEEE 1363 standard for ECC and other public-key cryptography. Certicom has a lot of patents, but it is quite easy to avoid them. The Certicom techniques are not even the best ones, so you can avoid the patents without compromising security or efficiency. If Sony got some decent patent advice, then it should have no trouble defending the lawsuit. Others who want to use ECC just need to take some simple measures to avoid lawsuits.
Congress is considering a patent reform bill next week. I do think that the patent system needs to be reformed, but this bill just tilts the power balance far too much in favor of the big companies. It favors the big companies already. Sony doesn't need any more help.
One argument against the patent reform bill is that the courts have now issued precendent-changing rulings on obviousness and willfulness that address some of the supposed problems that the new bill is addressing. Maybe the bill is unnecessary, even if what the proponents say is correct.
Here is the Certicom v Sony complaint.
Thursday, Aug 30, 2007
String Theory research is a waste of time
The Cosmic Variance blog considers whether String Theory research is a waste of time, and got this exchange:
[CV] understanding particle physics beyond the Standard Model was never the primary motivation of most string theorists anywayWoit got the better of that argument. String Theory has no bearing on reality, and research in it is more like Astrology than Physics.
Courts run California prisons
The NY Times describes a supremacist federal receiver micromanaging state prisons:
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Last year, shortly after receiving extraordinary powers to overhaul the medical system in California's prisons, Robert Sillen, armed with a stack of court papers, issued a blunt warning to cabinet officials at the governor’s office in Sacramento.If this is really such a good way to run important govt functions, why don't we just shut down the legislature and appoint petty dictators to run everything else? This makes us sound like a Third World country.
Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007
Killing patients for their organs
Jane E. Brody writes:
Although willingness to donate has risen in recent years, major hurdles remain. Some people, for example, believe incorrectly that patients who might otherwise be saved are sometimes “killed” for their organs. Strict regulations are in place to prevent this. ...This omits the obvious:
Thousands of people die every year waiting for organ transplants that never come, and some of these deaths come at the end of months or years of debilitation and suffering.I think that the whole organ donation business in unethical, and it would be better if no one ever filled out those organ donor cards.
Science does not resolve political disputes
Science editor Alun Anderson writes:
For better or worse, the Arctic is going to see some exciting times. With a bit of luck, and if the US signs up to the Law of the Sea, the claims to different bits of the Arctic may be resolved scientifically, rather than militarily, through surveys of the sea bed to determine whose continental shelf extends where and how far.I am all for using science instead of the military, but what he says is just impossible. There is scientific resolution to political claims on the Arctic Ocean.
Monday, Aug 27, 2007
Vaccines Are Roaring Back
The NY Times reports:
By the mid-1990s, however, innovation in vaccines had virtually come to a halt. Only a handful of companies even tried to develop new ones, compared with 25 in 1955.The govt started aggressively mandating new vaccines in about 1990, so that kids now have to get a couple of dozen shots. The govt has also been paying for vaccinating poor kids for decades. So I don't know what those "years of neglect" were.
Saying that the public fears that are now largely discounted by medical experts is misleading. It would be more accurate to say that many of those public fears were proved valid, and the honest medical experts now agree that they were correct. In the last ten years, the following childhood vaccines were taken off the market as a result of the medical experts conceding that the public fears were correct:
Sunday, Aug 26, 2007
Another dubious missing link
Ten million-year-old fossils discovered in Ethiopia show that humans and apes probably split six or seven million years earlier than widely thought, according to landmark study released Wednesday.So they found nine tooth fossils that vaguely resemble gorilla teeth. There aren't any other gorilla fossils, but they could be the teeth of a ape from 10M years ago. Maybe even a gorilla ancestor. That much seems possible. But from there the paleontologists conclude that humans split from apes in Africa 10-20M years ago.
This all sounds bogus to me. I wonder whether these folks really believe in evolution. If apes were evolving back then, I would expect many fossils to be from dead-end species that are not ancestors to any species alive today. These teeth say nothing about the human-ape split.
Modern Cosmology is a folktale with negative significance
Michael J. Disney writes in American Scientist magazine:
The currently fashionable concordance model of cosmology (also known to the cognoscenti as "Lambda-Cold Dark Matter," or ΛCDM) has 18 parameters, 17 of which are independent. Thirteen of these parameters are well fitted to the observational data; the other four remain floating. This situation is very far from healthy. Any theory with more free parameters than relevant observations has little to recommend it. Cosmology has always had such a negative significance, in the sense that it has always had fewer observations than free parameters (as is illustrated at left), though cosmologists are strangely reluctant to admit it. While it is true that we presently have no alternative to the Big Bang in sight, that is no reason to accept it. Thus it was that witchcraft took hold. ...This is a curiously pessimistic view. The cosmologists all brag about how much progress has been made in just the last ten years, and how the big problems have been solved.
As he says, the expansion is well-supported, but inflation seems dubious to me. The evidence is weak, and no one knows how long the inflation era lasted, if it existed at all. I wouldn't be surprised if the inflation models were completely wrong.
Congress Withdraws Jurisdiction
Yes, it can be done. The Democratic controlled 110th Congress has just passed a law withdrawing jurisdiction over a certain type of lawsuit.Withdrawal of jurisdiction is the obvious solution to a variety of problems involving overreaching opinions from supremacist federal judges. Judicial supremacists often doubt that it can be done, but in fact there is a long history of it being done effectively.
Saturday, Aug 25, 2007
The Electoral College cure is worse than the disease
Jamin Raskin writes in Slate:
Deformed ReformNo, Raskin is using dishonesty and subterfuge to try to manipulate the presidential election. The NPV plan is anti-democracy because it allows and encourages someone to win the presidency with a minority of the votes. The NPV plan does not require the president to win a majority of the votes.
Lack of any substantive war criticism
Is there even one Democrat leader who is willing or able to say how he could have handled the Iraq War any better than the Bush administration?
All wars involve huge mistakes, so it seems obvious that the Iraq War could have been handled better with benefit of hindsight. And yet I have not heard anyone with a convincing explanation of how the war could have been handled better. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, John Edwards, and the others all complain about G.W. Bush, but none has offered any credible alternative.
Everyone in the media assumes that the Democrats will win in 2008, but I think that the traditional big issues -- the economy and world peace -- will both be net positives for the Republicans. The economy has done very well throughout the Bush administration. Against all predictions, there have been no successful terrorist attacks on USA soil since 9/11/2001. The Iraq War is unpopular, but Bush will not be on the ballot, and Democrat who is on the presidential ballot will likely be a war supporter like Hillary Clinton.
There are those who say that Bush lied, but then they cannot point to an actual lie in quotes. There are those who say that Bush didn't tell the whole story, but then those in the US Senate have to admit that they got the National Intelligence Estimate with all the info, and they didn't even read it. There are those who argue that the Congress should not have authorized the war, but then they have to admit that the major Democrat leaders voted for it. There are those who say we invaded the wrong country, and should have invaded Iran or Pakistan instead, but that approach won't win any votes.
There are those who point out that the economy was good during the Clinton administration, but they neglect to mention that it crashed at the end of his presidency.
There is certainly plenty of room for substantive criticism of the Bush presidency. But very little comes from the Democrats.
Thursday, Aug 16, 2007
Relativity came from critical opalescence
I just ran across this 2004 book review by Robert M. Wald in Physics Today:
Galison's main thesis is that, rather than being the product of one man's isolated attempt to resolve deep problems in physics by pure thought, the discovery of special relativity should be viewed as arising naturally from a convergence of ideas in physics, philosophy, and practical engineering that, in the author's words, had produced a "critical opalescence" by the turn of the 20th century. ...(Opalescence is a kind of reflected light.)
It is funny how the Einstein worshipers refuse to look at actual facts. Poincare did discover special relativity, and published it before Einstein. It was Poincare who even coined the term "principle of relativity" and applied it to all the laws of physics. Einstein just copied it without crediting Poincare.
Saying that Poincare failed to embrace special relativity is just nonsense. Poincare did suggest experimentally testing the theory, and some Einstein-lovers have argued that this showed that Poincare lacked confidence in the theory, or that he didn't really believe. But it shows the opposite. Poincare was ahead of Einstein on the ether, simultaneity, constancy of the speed of light, mass-energy equivalence, four-dimensional spacetime, and gravity.
If anything, it was Einstein who failed to fully embrace special relativity. American Scientist magazine says:
He [Einstein] also initially rejected Hermann Minkowski's wedding of space and time (anticipated again by Poincaré) as "superfluous erudition."Here are the original papers. More references may be found here.
Martin Ouwehand argues that the proof that Poincare didn't understand special relativity is that he made an obscure technical error in his 1908 paper. But see also the rebuttal by Harry below it, explaining that Ouwehand misunderstood one of Poincare's terms.
Even if Poincare did make a mistake, Einstein also made his share. The canonicalscience blogger says:
Relativistic theory was mainly an achievement of Lorentz, Poincaré, and others. Now historians agree that all basic ideas of relativity theory, including constancy of c and existence of a maximum velocity for transmission of signals, were previously known in literature.This isn't news either, as he explains:
Einstein copied the work of others without cite them, how even Max Born or S. Hawking have recognized.Poincare was dead at the time, and hence ineligible. Max Born was one of the creators of quantum mechanics, and is credited with discovering how to get probabilities from wave functions. (Schroedinger and Heisenberg had no way to get probabilities.)
Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007
Argument against parental rights in family court
Whenever two parents walk into a courtroom to determine who gets the kids, one or both is walking away with their constitutional rights having been limited in some way. The court could not issue an order allowing one parent to fully exercise her fundamental right to raise her child in a manner that does not abridge the other's equally fundamental right to raise his child. For this reason, a parent's rights are almost entirely irrelevant in a child custody case. Everything that might relate to the best interest of the child is fair game, including the parents' religious and political opinions, sexual behavior, dietary habits, health, etc.This argument is wrong from beginning to end. Family court judges do not necessarily take away any rights; they can merely divide the parental rights.
In the typical case, where both parents are legally fit, there is rarely any neutral basis for saying that one parent is a better parent than the other. Many custody decisions are based on nothing more than the prejudices of the judge.
Yes, there is a better way. Judges can simply respect parental rights, and allow parents to maintain the joint custody that they had before divorce, unless one parent is proved unfit. Some courts do this today, and it works a lot better than the judge inquiring into the parents personal, political, and religious beliefs, as was done in the above Minnesota case that promted Ella's comment.
Update: Ella responds to me by saying:
If you want to argue that flipping a coin would lead to equally good decisions in most cases, you're probably right, but for some reason our legal system is reluctant to officially implement this scheme.Normally I would disregard such views as too kooky to bother with, but I am afraid that they are common in the legal system.
I do think that the family court decisions are often no better than tossing a coin, but I am not arguing for coin tossing. I am arguing for something better!
The family court could simply respect parental rights, and not attempt the sort of analysis that would cause judges to take kids away from fit parents based on some subjective and theological argument that is no better than coin tossing.
Tuesday, Aug 14, 2007
Don Imus settles one suit, faces another
A member of the Rutgers women's basketball team sued Don Imus and CBS on Tuesday, claiming the radio personality's sexist and racist comments about the team damaged her reputation.The article has a picture of Vaughn.
Truth is a defense to a defamation suit. Imus's right to express his opinion is also a defense. The gist of his remarks was that the Tennessee Lady Vols were cuter than the Rutgers basketball team, based on his watching the championship game. Check out the pictures yourself. The case will be dismissed.
Imus didn't just say that the Rutgers girls had tatoos. He said that they were hos. It is libel per se to say that a woman is unchaste.No, Imus only said that they looked like "nappy-headed hos" on TV. The new media quoted him out of context, but Imus is not responsible for that. Now that Vaughn has sued, Imus is free to say that she is a greedy publicity-seeking extortionist.
Sunday, Aug 12, 2007
Today's evolution research
The theory of evolution explains modern prosperity:
Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution -- the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 -- occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues. ...The English upper classes had the right genes for wealth production, and spread them to the whole population. The Third World remains poor because they are insufficiently evolved.
Wow. Rarely do we see such a racist theory in the NY Times.
Meanwhile, another missing link has been shot down:
The discovery by Meave Leakey, a member of a famous family of paleontologists, shows that two species of early human ancestors lived at the same time in Kenya. That pokes holes in the chief theory of man's early evolution - that one of those species evolved from the other.The evolution textbooks say that homo habilis was a human ancestor. Maybe not.
Friday, Aug 10, 2007
Novell owns Unix copyrights
I posted this in May 2003:
The Unix copyright dispute took an odd twist, as Novell denied that it sold Unix to SCO! SCO was sure enough of its ownership that it sued IBM for shipping Linux that infringes Unix. Strange. Something is fishy here. IBM and Microsoft are paying SCO a lot of money for Unix licenses, and I am sure they wouldn't do it unless they had to.Four years later, the judge has finally ruled:
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 10 — In a decision that may finally settle one of the most bitter legal battles surrounding software widely used in corporate data centers, a federal district court judge in Utah ruled Friday afternoon that Novell, not the SCO Group, is the rightful owner of the copyrights covering the Unix operating system.If you ever want proof that high-priced corporate lawyers are worthless, this is it. Novell and SCO negotiated a Unix deal that was worth 100s of millions of dollars. They paid lawyers 100s of thousands of dollars to draw up contracts that were 100s of pages long. The core of the deal was the sale of the Unix business. The most central issue in the whole deal was who was going to own Unix.
Somehow that central part of the deal was lost in the legal paperwork. It took four years of litigation to determine who was to own Unix under that contract. If appealed, the litigation could continue.
Novell and SCO would have been much better off if they did not use lawyers at all, and just had a one-paragraph summary of the deal. That way, at least the parties would know what the deal was.
Here is a good summary of the contract dispute:
CO's basic argument is that the transfer of copyright ownership is implied in Schedule 1.1(a) of the APA which conveys to SCO "all rights and ownership of UNIX and UnixWare, including but not limited to all versions of UNIX and UnixWare and all copies of UNIX and UnixWare."
1998 not the hottest year
NASA has quietly admitted that 1998 was not the hottest year in history after all. Controversial scientist James Hansen had covered up the error. See Malkin or Slashdot for more. 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II.
Hansen complains about being censored by the Bush administration, but no one stopped him from releasing the data underlying his published graphs.
Flock of Dodos
I just watched Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, film by Randy Olson. Olson says that his idol was Stephen Jay Gould, and he makes fun of evolution critics. It is largely an attempt to "teach the controversy" between Darwinism and critics.
At one point, the film says that Galileo was threatened with being burned at the stake for merely suggesting the possibility that the Earth might revolve around the Sun. That's wrong. Bruno was burned at the stake for heresies like denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Galileo never would have had any problems for just suggesting a possibility.
This movie was just like most of the other evolutionist propaganda. It claims to be promoting science to the general public, and yet there is no real science in it. Instead of addressing what people really say, it invokes conspiracy theories and questions motives. And they bring up Galileo, as if his story helps their case.
One argument the movie made was that the anti-evolution forces spend more money than the pro-evolution forces. As evidence of how powerful and influential the anti-evolution forces are, it says that the Discover Institute once helped get an op-ed article published in the NY Times!
That is just crazy. Evolution is part of the curriculum in every school district in the USA. There is no school that teaches intelligent design or any other alternative. The NY Times publishes about one pro-evolution article a week. That one NY Times op-ed was by a Catholic Cardinal who accepted that human and other organisms have a common ancestry. The amount of money being spent to promote evolution exceeds the amount of money against by many orders of magnitude, no matter how you measure it.
Tuesday, Aug 07, 2007
Defending the constitutional rights of parents
Unlike most conservatives, Justice Scalia opposes the principle that parents have a constitutional right to the upbringing and education of their children. Specifically, Justice Scalia has indicated his disagreement with the leading precedent in favor of parental rights to control the education of their children, Pierce v. Society of Sisters. Specifically:Yes, Scalia said that. But note that at least he says that parents have an inalienable 9A right to direct the upbringing of their kids. A distressing number of conservatives and others apparently believe that there are no such rights at all in family court.
It only takes one parent to bring a motion in family court. Then the judge has free reign to consider whatever he regards to be in the best interest of the child, an undefined concept. If you agree with that, then you are essentially saying that parents have no individual rights to even make the most basic parenting decisions.
Here is a recent Iowa appellate decision where the judge raised all sorts of seemingly irrelevant matters. One parent lost custody, in part, because the other parent enrolled the quarter-Korean seven-year-old in a martial arts class.
I think that it is a little strange for Andy to complain about Scalia's position. Roe will be overturned before Pierce is. It is very rare that Pierce is applied to the benefit of parents anyway. Meanwhile, millions of parents are subject to judges telling them how to rear their kids, and Andy says nothing.
I say that divorced parents should also enjoy that fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their kids.
In line with Andy's comments on Scalia, see Justice Thomas's opinion in the recent Bong Hits case, which I just read.
Monday, Aug 06, 2007
E.O. Wilson says Darwin was the greatest
From last year:
A few weeks ago James Watson and [Edward O.] Wilson, two of the most eminent living evolutionists, appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to talk about Charles Darwin. Watson said that Darwin was the greatest man in history, because he was the first to "see it." The "it" that he saw was a godless vision of the history of life. Darwin explained how we could have gotten here without supernatural intervention, and to Watson that makes him the greatest man who ever lived.Wilson was on C-SPAN2 In Depth yesterday, and a caller asked him about this. He reiterated that he agreed with Watson, altho he refused to compare Darwin to Jesus Christ.
Evolutionists are always attacking Phillip E. Johnson for writing
The objective (of the wedge strategy) is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic.Wikipedia evolutionists are always trashing intelligent design (ID) supporters, and their justification always ends up being that Johnson's Wedge Document proves that all ID supporters are unscientific, disingenuous, and dishonest.
I don't know about the ID supporters, but it sure appears to me that all the major evolutionists have accepted Johnson's premise that Darwinism is inherently atheistic. Richard Dawkins just wrote a whole book on the subject, and promotes the idea at every opportunity.
It is kooky the way the evolutionists idolize Darwin. He had a few good ideas, but his scientific contributions are relatively minor compared to other great scientists. The theory of evolution would have developed just as well without him. They seem to want to cite Darwin more for being an inspiration to modern atheists, than for any actual scientific results.
It appears that Dawkins, Watson, and Wilson have their own wedge strategy, and it is the mirror image of Johnson's.
Sunday, Aug 05, 2007
Penrose's Road to Reality
I just got Roger Penrose's excellent The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. He is only of the leading authorities on Mathematical Physics in the world. Penrose has whole chapters on Einsteinian spacetime and Minkowskian geometry, but says:
We must ask why 'spacetime'? What is wrong with thinking of space and time separately, rather than attempting to unify these two seemingly different notions together into one? Despite what appears to be the common perception on this matter, and despite Einstein's quite superb use of this idea in his framing of the general theory of relativity, Einstein's original idea nor, it appears, was he particularly enthusiastic about it when he first heard of it. Moreover, if we look t to the magnificent older relativistic insights of Galileo find that they, too, could in principle have gained great spacetime perspective. [sec. 17.1, p.383]That is correct. I'm not sure who should get most of the credit, but Poincare and Minkowski were way ahead of Einstein on this point.
It may seem like a trivial point, but the idea of combining 3D space and 1D time into a four-dimensional spacetime is largely when Einstein is considered such a genius today. But it just was not Einstein's idea.
Penrose also has a discussion of String Theory. He explains how it has failed to explain gravity or particle physics, and why it is unlikely to do so in the future.
Thursday, Aug 02, 2007
Family court uses religion to deny child custody
Law prof E. Volokh's blog usually attracts libertarian legal comments, but when he writes on a mom losing child custody partially because of her outspoken religious beliefs, he gets this:
There is no infringement of this lady's freedom to exercise whatever religion she likes (nor to seek sexual gratification with whomever she likes). It is rightly the court's province to say that the father is the preferable party to take custody of the child.and this:
The reason I give little weight to Free Exercise issues is that the case inevitably involves two parents, ... Best Interest must control.Lawyers discussing child custody can be truly evil.
As an example of judicial supremacist thinking, Loki13 argues:
It only takes one party to bring a motion, and then the court intervenes.I am not opposing divorce. Even if there were no divorce, parents could disagree about religious upbringings for their kids.
Loki13 says that one party can bring a motion, and "A decision must be made." But it is just not true that the court must decide on a religious preference for a child. It is wrong, harmful, and unconstitutional for a court to make such as decision, as the law prof blogger Eugene Volokh argues persuasively. The court can refuse to intervene by simply dismissing the motion.
If it is true that family courts have authority over such personal matters as how we teach religion to our kids just because someone brings a motion, then no one has any individual rights. Anyone can bring a motion to court.
Sometimes people think that just because a case is in family court, then the parents must have failed to properly raise their kids and need help. But we have unilateral (aka no-fault) divorce in the USA, and the rules of the court are that anyone can bring a motion asking the court to take some action for the best interest of the children. It doesn't even mean necessarily that the parents have any child-rearing disagreements. It only means that one parent may have something to gain by bringing the motion.
Copyright claims exaggerated
Copyright holders routine exaggerate their claims. For example:
Any fan of the NFL can almost recite the warning by memory: "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited." The legitimacy of that broad claim may be determined by the Federal Trade Commission after the Computer & Communications Industry Association filed a lengthy complaint with the FTC this morning.It is a lie. You can certainly describe a football game without the NFL's consent. Here is a story about "Captain Copyright" having to retract exaggerated claims. You still have fair use, no matter what they say.