Posts by Rich of Observationz

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  • Hard News: Problems,

    What genre is Iain Banks "Song of Stone" (for those who've ploughed through it?).

    There's nothing science based in it, but unlike his other non-scifi, it isn't set in a recognisable place and era. For that reason, I found it inaccessible and dull (and I love the rest of Bank's non-sci-fi output).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Problems,

    1984 isn't scifi. It's a satire on Britain in the immediate postwar period, grounded in a setting of London under a totalitarian regime. 1984 is 1948 reversed, and the Ministry of Truth is a hyperbolic representation of Broadcasting House.

    Animal Farm isn't a prediction that farmyard animals will adopt societ-style communism, either.

    For me scifi is writing where a self-contained imaginary reality is created, detached from our present and historical experience. I don't like it, but that's entirely a personal opinion - I also don't do quasi-mystical historical novels set in 1850's Waikato (which rules out 95% of NZ published fiction) but that is also a personal thing.

    Works that are often considered scifi, but have that grounding (Dr Who, Quatermass, much of John Wyndham) *are* included in my reading canon.

    This is just my personal attitude, everyone is free to enjoy scifi, 1950's crime novels, tentancle hentai or whatever. I just reserve the right to yawn and change the subject if people go on obsessively about it.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Being a dick about Earth Hour,

    if dimming tungsten bulbs actually reduces the power they use (by clipping the sine wave)?

    Yes. The mean current and voltage applied is reduced, and hence the power. (Diagrams would help here). The only loss factor is the power dissipated in the triac (electronic switch) - which should be small (otherwise smoke would come from your dimmer).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Being a dick about Earth Hour,

    My bad. I read 65,700kWh

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Problems,

    Publish, register or otherwise stand behind your concepts and I'm sure you'll get some credit too when the talking shiny ones take over.

    I guess I just did, at least for the purposes of boring people with 'told you so" in twenty or thrirty years. I could also point to the idea as "prior art" that would negate any future attempt to patent the concept (as opposed to details of the implementation).

    I only really want kudos or money for things I've actually made work.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Onwards and upwards,

    <cynicism>Yeah, well on Phil Goff's recent form, he might just not contest the by-election and announce that, really, we should all be backing that nice Mr Key by voting National.</cynicism>

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Problems,

    ren't you confusing coming up with an idea - which I had always understood was original and well enough developed in this case

    Clarke proposed the idea of communication satellites in 1945. The technology to actually put a satellite in geostationary orbit didn't exist until the early 1960's. I'd argue that once the technology was there, the use would have become obvious (which is clearly unprovable).

    I have *invented* the idea of a system that uses AI to listen to conversations in a call centre, understand them and make appropriate entries in CRM systems. Obviously, this requires strong AI, which doesn't exist. I'd consider my idea to be worthless, as when the likes of Dr Pitt invent general AI, it'll be obvious that that's an application.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Problems,

    Before even the first world war, a 'geek' named Herbert George Wells read a paper by Ernest Rutherford. He deduced that energy from nuclear reactions could release tremendous amounts of energy which could be turned to military purposes. He wrote a novel called The World Set Free which depicted the first nuclear war. That novel was read by the Hungarian Jewish physicist Leo Szilard in the 1930s, who was at that tine a refugee from Nazism in London. Nobody listened to him. Later, he contacted his friend Albert Einstein who signed a letter to Franklin Roosevelt warning of the dangers of such a weapon in the hands of the Nazis. Thus was born the Manhattan Project.

    Th Einstein-Szilard letter wasn't written until 1939, by which time Szilard and Fermi had demonstrated experimentally the feasibility of a chain reaction. Szilard had first conceived of the practical use of nuclear energy in 1933, based, I feel, on his research, not on reading sci-fi. HG Wells also wrote a book describing an attack by invading Martians, which is not a threat we have so far had to deal with. If Wells had written romantic fiction, atomic bombs would still have been invented.

    This is one thing that irritates me about "geek culture" - the conflation of entertaining fiction with actual scientific discovery. Like the claim that Arthur C Clarke invented the communications satellite. He didn't, he predicted it. Scientists in the Soviet Union and at NASA made it happen.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Problems,

    We do have some good beers in this country, they're just not made by DB, or New Zealand Breweries.

    I noticed that the bottle of Steiny that someone else was drinking says on it "New Zealand's Number One Beer" or words to that effect. Are the other products of that organisation New Zealand's #2 - #20 beers?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Being a dick about Earth Hour,

    However, you are right. Having a small number of middle-class, aware people in developed countries make a token gesture isn't going to change anything.

    Systematic energy saving measures will. So will building more wind/water poer and shutting down thermal. NZ could be on 120% renewable electricity (e.g. with zero non-renewable power and some fossil fuel replacement) by 2020. Unfortunately we're going backwards for at least the next three years.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5024 posts Report Reply

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