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Everything posted by Arien

  1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali with Bill Maher

    If she got exposed to the word "liberalism" in Europe there is a very good chance she means what we here mean by "classical liberal" (someone who would get along relatively well with our founding fathers and might be called "libertarian" here) rather than the modern day semi- or even pure socialist liberal.
  2. Apophis May Destroy West Coast

    Actually that's news to me--I need to look into that. The first birds (Archaeopteryx, e.g., 150-155 million years ago) actually appeared on the scene long before the dinosaurs went extinct (65Mya).
  3. The study of ancient languages

    Yes and no. Latin is the direct ancestor of the "Romance Languages" (Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, plus less common languages that don't come with a country), but it is not an ancestor of English, which is a "Germanic Language". What we did get from Latin and medieval French was a LOT of vocabulary. Our grammar on the other hand is still derived from the Germanic model, much simplified of course. Nonetheless grammarians have tried to impose a more Latin grammar on us. The injunction to not split an infinitive comes to us from Latin grammarians (I am not sure but I think in Latin and the Romance languages it is impossible to split an infinitive as it is one word, but such a restriction is arbitrary in a language like ours where it is two words). I nevertheless find it useful to study a foreign language (it doesn't really matter which one for this; even a language as close to ours as German will work) since it does cause you to compare/contrast grammars and you perforce end up with a deeper understanding of our grammar. As for Latin and Greek, the vocabularies--which we have borrowed so much of--can't hurt!
  4. The right limb of Mars--particularly the upper right--looks a little "lumpy." It's a sharp line so it's not the terminator (which is on the left), but rather the true "horizon" Could this be the Tharsis bulge?
  5. The man in charge of Israel's defense

    Or to quote Churchill (I believe): in a battle of wits he is unarmed.
  6. The stereotype of mac users I formed way back when, was people who liked to look clever and non-conformist. The arguments over which machine was better would rage between different people in my college crowd, and seemed at the time (mid-late 80s) to focus on the hardware. Then it was MacOS vs. Windows, and at THAT time the Macs we had at work would routinely lock up so hard you'd have to flip the power switch so I had little patience for smug Mac people. Now of course the Macs run a version of Unix so I have to remind myself that all of that is in the past, and they may be an option in the future. (I'd love nothing better than to see Unix triumph over Windows; I use both regularly. I should point out that this is a technical judgement on my part and not born of some whacko belief that Microsoft is evil.)
  7. What I am getting out of all of this (plus what I read in Wikipedia) is: The five middle stars of the Big Dipper are about the same age (~500 Ma) and are travelling in about the same direction (the two end stars are moving in different directions, which will alter the shape of the Big Dipper over the next several tens of thousands of years). There are many other stars in our night sky, by no means all in that general direction as seen from here, that could be "lumped into" this group of fellow-travellers. (Our sun is NOT part of this group but is currently crossing through it.) This indicates that they may have been "born" in the same place at the same time. However at present they are not gravitationally bound to each other. The group of stars is apparently slowly dispersing. The galaxies beyond the Big Dipper stars are so far away as to be irrelevant to the issue. (And yes, M-51 (the Whirlpool galaxy) is a beaut!)
  8. At the risk of being a diletante I wikipedia'ed Big Dipper and apparently the two stars on the ends are not considered part of the cluster--but the other five stars are members of something called the Ursa Major Moving Group, and it is theorized they all had a common origin.
  9. My understanding is that the Big Dipper is actually considered an open cluster of stars--relatively near us or it would not look so large. If that is the case, then wouldn't it be gravitationally tied together? (If not, then you are correct that it would be a bad example for Peikoff to use.)
  10. Value of gold?

    Good source. But now I have to figure out how to get to New York City before August! One minor error on that page--they claim an ounce of gold is about the size of a quarter--it is in fact a good deal larger than a half dollar. Nonetheless gold is very dense--a cubic meter would weigh 19,300 kilograms, 19.3 metric tonnes or over 20 US tons. A similar amount of water would only weigh one metric tonne, and the same volume of lead would weigh a bit less than 12 tonnes.
  11. Value of gold?

    They have tried though. When platinum was found in South America in the early 1700s, it was regarded as a nuisance of, if anything, negative value since it had to be painstakingly separated, grain by grain, from the gold pannings. (I can imagine the discoverer saying something like "what is this white crud and what is it doing in my gold?!?!?!") However, it was discovered that even though they couldn't make a fire hot enough to melt the stuff, it could be dumped into a vat of molten gold and go into solution. Since platinum is actually denser than gold and just as non-reactive, it paid to slip some in--none of the tests done by the assayers would notice the difference. Spanish colonial mint workers would buy platinum and swap it for gold, pocketing the gold and adulterating the currency. The Spanish government had to ban platinum and buy it up themselves. At some later time the Spanish government used those stocks to adulterate its coinage on its own. Of course with platinum now worth about twice as much as gold (thanks to the fact that it has plenty of industrial uses and therefore "intrinsic" value in the sense Joss Delage's sources used the term), those counterfeits, either unofficial or official, now have a higher melt value than the genuine coins. Ironically, once platinum became more expensive than gold thanks to its industrial uses, people took an interest in it for jewelry, boosting the price some more.
  12. A breakthrough: Materializing UFOs

    Does this make you a Vegan in normal sense, or the sense of being from the star Vega?
  13. Starship Troopers

    IIRC Starship Troopers was intended to be one of the "juveniles" but the publisher who had been publishing the juveniles--one per year--rejected it. Heinlein took it to another publisher and that was the end of the series of "juveniles". Many years later Heinlein wrote an essay going through many of the complaints people raised about Starship Troopers. The only one he did not demolish (usually by pointing out that the complainer could not read and comprehend simple declarative sentences) was the one he proudly accepted--that it "glorified the military." He said of that one something along the lines of "damned right it does!"
  14. New US Dollar Coins Hit the Market

    Or you could look at it as the eagles doing something productive (building a nest, feeding their family).... But no doubt you are right about the psychology of the establishment you refer to. My personal favorite US coin design is the Walking Liberty half dollar--mainly because of the eagle on the reverse.
  15. New US Dollar Coins Hit the Market

    The only problem with that note is it was used only for inter-bank transfers. Never fear though because the $10,000 note was issued to the public. No note larger than $100 has been issued since the 1960s.
  16. New US Dollar Coins Hit the Market

    My understanding is that mass transit systems in the big cities take and dispense dollar coins--the Susan B. Anthonys, Sacajaweas, and presumably these as well. Also post office stamp machines give them out in change. The SBA dollar was minted in 1979-81 then again in 1999 as existing stocks had finally run out and the legislation providing for the Sac dollar specificed it could not be minted until 2000. The effort to push a dollar coin seems in part at least to be due to a misguided effort to have the US be like all those progressive countries in Europe where the smallest bills are for denominations roughly equivalent to 5 or 10 dollars. Since we didn't change and they did, we must somehow be "behind". Another way to be a second-hander! Another aspect of it is that coins are more expensive to produce but last longer--this is sometimes billed as a way for the federal government to save money.
  17. Interestingly, one of my coworkers (correctly) condemns politically correct "science" in regards to "global warming." He then claims that they are mistaken on the age of the earth and evolution. It's kind of hard for me to defend those on the basis of being established fact when science has become so politicized these days. (I *could* try to walk him through the whole inductive process involved in these discoveries but that would take literally hours, and I don't have all of the history in my head anyway.) Perhaps biologists and earth scientists would have an easier time persuading people that evolution actually happened and the earth is more than 6-10 thousand years old if they (and I am sure in many cases it is the same individuals) would quit pushing the very dubious global warming "theory." It is a certainty that the credibility of "science" as an institution is suffering from the "global warming" crusade.
  18. Bye Bye Fundamentalists

    Good idea except that I think currently Ramadan falls from late September to late October. Only the south pole will have continuous daylight during that time. Send them to Scott-Amundsen base at the south pole. Six continuous months of daylight from late September to late March. This solution will only work for the next couple of years. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, their year is 354 days long or thereabouts, and every year Ramadan will start ten days earlier. Three years from now Ramadan will end in mid september and you will have to put these people at the north pole for this to work--just going a bit north of the arctic circle will not work this close to the equinoxes; it would have to be the poles. Nine years after that Ramadan will fall in June/July and any arctic region will do.
  19. Will the War with Iran Finally Begin?

    Alas, yesterday the news was full of a poll that says only 22% of Americans think Iran is a threat. That SHOULD be irrelevant but I am 95% confident the administration will allow itself to be guided by this sentiment. Sentiment will change when the mushroom cloud sprouts.
  20. Don't tread on Allah!

    They might. But I wouldn't!
  21. Windows Vista and a new computer

    Well, that pic is enough to tell me one thing--it looks a heck of a lot nicer than XP, which always made me think of Toon Town (bleeccccch). The Very First Thing I do with an XP installation is convert it over to looking like Windows 2000. Though I discovered recently there are a couple of pre-canned XP color schemes that aren't nearly as obnoxious.
  22. External drive for PC

    Just in case you didn't spot it--apparently you do not have to use the RAID on the Terabyte drive--you can have one trillion bytes of storage. (Disk manufacturers use Tera to mean trillion rather than 1024^4.)
  23. Happy Birthday to AYN RAND!

    ...Then it is 2 February by the Gregorian calendar, and this is the correct day. Thanks, Stephen!
  24. Happy Birthday to AYN RAND!

    I looked into this, and can't remember whether that's by the old Julian calendar used in Russia before the Commies took over, or by our Gregorian calendar. If it was by the Julian calendar we have to wait another 13 days. I do recall finding out that only a couple of weeks after she was born, the 1905 revolution (which did not overthrow the monarchy in Russia but did result in Nicholas II making some concessions towards constitutional monarcy) began. These days the 1905 revolution is generally considered a far more significant event. I hope to live long enough to see that perception reversed.
  25. The new USS New York

    My concrete-bound reaction: It almost doesn't look real--like a simplified model. Then I realized it's because this ship has very few protuberances, masts, spars, cables, etc. exposed. I think they are trying to keep the radar signature down. My not so concrete-bound reaction: What an absolutely awesome symbol it makes. It would be truly awesome if this ship ended up scoring a major victory against the Islamo-theocrats.