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Everything posted by kenstauffer

  1. Can Gene's be Patented?

    What kind of property rights should a drug company be allowed when they discover a gene (humans or otherwise)? Can a company patent the gene, or just the process used to manufacture the gene?
  2. More effective form of government?

    I think it would be radical for sure. I was chewing the notion with you. I actually think your idea is possible, but only with an extremely well written constitution. I'll expect your first draft in my inbox monday (double spaced, typed of course).
  3. More effective form of government?

    I was actually playing devil's advocate, and taking Rational_One's proposal to the next logical level. RationalOne proposed the elimination of all elected officials, and the people would vote directly on all issues. RationalOne added the point about beefing up the constitution to remove all ambiquity, so I took this notion to the next level and suggested, why not really, really beef up the constitution so that voting itself is not needed. I hoped to illuminate the fact that although we strive for a government of law and not men, to fully implement this would essentially require a algorithmic like document (like a flow chart) to run society. This is in itself is an interesting idea, but mankind is nowhere near the understanding of human nature, society etc... to ever reach this point. To me, an interesting question is this: Is it in theory possible that mankind at some future point will ever have the knowledge to write such an algorithmic constitution? Or is there some epistemilogical/ethical principle that prevents this possibility.. We need to ask the Borgs what they do. Lying: Lying in legal contexts should perhaps adopt the model that Objectivism uses to make fraud an indirect use of physical force. Lying (or rufusal to answer) to a police officer who wants to know if you curl your toes when you masturbate should be allowed, as it (i assume) is irrelevant to their investigation. But if I lie about something material in the case, then I am indirectly withholding objective evidence from them, and can be penalized accordingly. Direct Democracy: If we vote on all issues without elected officials, who selects the issues? Peikoff critiqued this when discussing Ross Perot (Notes About Tommorow). He said this would make the most powerful position the pollsters who choose the wording for the polling question. "You could get a Yea answer for everything."
  4. More effective form of government?

    Why vote? Just have an even more strictly worded constitution that algorithmically tells the society what to do for every forseeable situation (and of course protect individual rights).
  5. More effective form of government?

    To clarify, I liken your original question to this: Are there radically different squares (which have four straight sides) other than the ones we have now? Since 'four equal sides' is one of the root properties of squares, well, you cannot radically change that and still call it a square I guess. Drop the word radical from your original post, and I would answer: "yes, there are probably better forms of government that protect individual rights, but we have not discovered them yet. If by radical you mean really, really different structures, well that is possible, but I would remind myself that it has taken mankind 2,000 years to get this far, so I doubt any one man could improve too much by sitting in his arm chair and pondering alternatives."
  6. More effective form of government?

    I was going to reply with that kind of answer then I wondered if that would be a 'radically' different form (which is what you were asking). A radical change is a change at the root of the thing itself, which would then make it something other than a government that protects individual rights, no?
  7. In praise of James Dyson, and his vacuum

    I second your praise! I bought the yellow model this christmas, and I love it. Sears sells them with their traditional kenmore line of vacs. I was skeptical at first, because I thought Dyson vacs were an infomercial rip-off product, until the sales person explained the product. The funky colors, can give the wrong first impression (oh, this vac. must be a toy, etc...). It is not. To prove the strength of the molded plastic, they give you poker chip sized sample. It's called liquid metal, and I have never held in my hand a thin piece of plastic (about the thickness of 2 credit cards) and could not bend nor break it. Performance is unbelievable. It picked up half a canister of dirt (okay, okay, I'm somewhat lax in my vacuuming!), but this was AFTER I had just vacuumed with my old kenmore canister vac. The vac uses elementary waves to suck up particles. Haha hee he. Not really. But it does not use bags, instead it accelerates the airflow into a cyclonic pattern, causing heavier than air particles outward, and no bags are required. Dyson sucks!
  8. I am confused about the use of probability in this example: "Last Thursday, Dec. 23, scientists announced that a space rock named 2004 MN4 had about a 1-in-300 chance of striking Earth on April 13, 2029" (Source: ) I can understand the statement, "There's a 50% chance that a coin toss will be heads or tails." because this refers to a repeatable event. In other words, whenever you encounter a coin toss, you have a probability that will tell you the likely outcomes. What does the 1 in 300 mean? This is not a repeatable event. It is a fairly unique situtation, so how can scientists say "a 1 in 300 chance"? And what does it mean? Metaphysically the asteroid is the same as the coin. There's a 100% chance of the entities involved following their nature. We assign probability because we don't measure everthing. But for some reason I don't get how they come up with such numbers. Does this mean they polled 300 scientists? Or did they use 300 computer models with different error margins?
  9. How is probability being used in this case?

    The margin of error explanation seems confusing to me. (which is the reason for my original post) If I measure the height of a mountain with a device that has a margin of error +/- 150 feet and the device reports a value of 12,345 ft. I wouldn't say, "there is a 1 in 300 chance the mountain is 12,345 ft tall". This is a wierd thing to say, and only makes sense if you partition the error region into 1 foot increments (there's a 1 in 600 chance if you divide the error space into .5 foot increments). The normal way such a measurement is reported is, "the mountain is 12,345 ft tall with a margin of error of +/- 150 ft". So in the asteroid example, the astronomers are partitioning the problem into some "error space" and 299 out of 300 do not result in a collision. What "error space" they are using?
  10. How is probability being used in this case?

    Thank you for explaining how the percentages work.
  11. Photography

    Dinosaur Valley State Park, TX (February 5th, 125,000,000 BC)
  12. Vermeer's Camera

    I agree with your NO answer, because we can ignore the camera obscura technique for a moment and consider that most realism in painting still requires a lot of other tools to achieve their look. Such as perspective points, vanishing lines, rulers, compasses, etc.. all aid the artist with his goal. In my opinion the camera obscura is just another tool for the artist to use. The camera obscura is like sitting inside of a camera and tracing out the image, but the artist still must chose the subject matter. Plus the the projected image is very crude and subject to all kinds of distortions (see below) so the artist I suppose is using the camera obscura as a glorified ruler/compass. But what about Ayn Rand's claim that photography is not art? How to reconcile this? By the way, I checked out Stephen's links for Falco and Hockney. They make stronger claims about this techniques prevalence. Very interesting, and it explains why this woman looks gigantic (and celebrities get annoyed because T.V. adds ten lbs!) It also explains (or tries to) the sudden appearance of the photo-realistic style in paintings in such a short time throughout Europe.
  13. Vermeer's Camera

    Since reading the following book, I have wondered what Objectivists with an art history backround think of Philip Steadman's theory? I enjoyed the book, and thought his arguments were well reasoned, but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling he was avoiding discussing alternative explainations for the evidence. This is the link to his home page: Here's a couple quotes from his site:
  14. --- temperature --- I was wondering if the speed of light implies a maximum temperature, and if so what that temperature is? --- velocity --- The maximum velocity 'c' is 3x10e8 m/s. The concept of velocity is defined as the change in distance divided by the change in time. For a particle to travel from point A to point B implies that the particle must occupy every single interveaning location along that line. Could the speed of light be viewed as the MINIMUM time that a particle can occupy a particular location? If space and time were quantatized, there would be a time quantum (tq) and a space quantum (location). So the speed of light could be viewed as 1 tq/location. The next slowest speed would be 2 tq/location, and so on. Terrestial velocities would be large values like 123,456,789 tq/location. I wonder if incorporating this notion into current relativity theory would remove/clean up the lorentz ratio from the equations. This idea requires that we only observe velocities such as c, c/2, c/3, c/4, c/5, etc... So it would never be possible to observe a particle going 90% the speed of light. It also requires that space consists of discrete locations filling space (an Ether-ish concept). This is kind of a rationalistic desire on my part to give the speed of light a more interesting value (like '1 tq/loc') rather than 3x10e8 m/s. But on the other hand physics has always treated velocity as fundamental attribute of nature, perhaps we have been so used to defining velocity as delta distance/delta time, that it muddles our attempts to describe what it really going on in nature. ------- curved space ------ Finally, how can space be curved? For example, Earth is curved, but only when viewed by a flat euclidean mathematical model (which is not curved). So to claim space is curved and then offer a mathematical model that demonstrates this fact implies an undelying "meta-space" which is not curved. So perhaps this meta-space geometry is the real one, and not the curved space which it describes. (I smell a Godel/Turning self-referential issue here, and a little Kant too!) PS. Betsy, Stephen: Thanks for this forum, its one of the best looking web forum's I have ever seen.
  15. Sent Folder

    Is there a way to have my private messages automatically archived? I basically want to default the checkbox for having my sent messages placed into the 'Sent' folder. (I always forget to use this checkbox, and by the time I realize it, I have lost the messag). Thanks, Ken
  16. Sent Folder

    That's okay, I'll just use gmail. :-) hee hee... Kidding...
  17. Gmail

    I now understand why things like qmail succeed, thank you dismuke.
  18. Gmail

    I was wrong to characterize qmail invitations as a marketing ploy, as I didn't understand they were testing this. Anyway, what are the main advantages over Outlook Express or other mail clients that reside on the desktop? I can think of one huge advantage and that is the ability to read your mail when you are away from your computer (although most ISP's provide a web based interface to fill this need). What do you consider the main advantage(s) of gmail? Cheers
  19. Gmail

    Google lacks the disk storage and band-width for an email service? That's hard for me to believe. you just invited all 400 people on this forum to use the service. After about 6 degress of this, everyone on the planet could have a gmail account.
  20. Gmail

    I think I should lessen my objections to gmail a little. After all, Visa, banks etc.. have access to even more critical data and nobody thinks twice about it. I guess it comes down to who watches the watchers. I like google and think they do a great job. My only concern is that security on the internet has not yet reached the level of trust that other industries have earned. So I personally would hold off on gmail (and similar technologies)
  21. Gmail

    They scan for keywords. And they state that "No humans read any email messages ...". But this isn't the same as: "no humans can read any email messages ..." I wouldn't trust it at all. Sound like dumb idea to me, as what PC doesn't have 10-20 gigabytes to spare these days? I have every email message I have sent/recieved since 1996 (and it's free too). Their privacy policy means nothing, absolutely nothing. A dishonest employee doesn't follow googles privacy policy, do they? Imagine what a gold mine all that data would be. It's just asking to be stolen. Just recently an employee of AOL was arrested for selling e-mail addresses to spammers. (And I'm sure AOL had all kinds of privacy policies in place) Another story was related in the book, "hollywood interrupted". A young woman who worked at AOL had access to all the customer/billing data. This allowed her to locate famouse people from their billing records, and determine their online nickname/alias. It turns out that famous people rather enjoy socializing without their fame getting in the way. Anyway, this employee would find out when a famous person was online and chat with them, pretending to be an average clueless user. She had access to lots of famous personalities, as they assumed she was just a random stranger who didn't know who they were. So the 'g' in gmail stands for garbage (in my opinion, of course ) Invitation only? Give me a break. What a clever marketing ploy to make people think this service is "special", "elite", etc...
  22. Epistemology in Action #1

    Loaded words like "Too Much Television" was not being studied. Maybe these couch potateoes (damn Dan Quayle!!!) were viewing the "correct" amount of television, then the conclusion would be, "people watching a healthy amount of television generally view crime as a more threatening than it really is". Before the conclusion in the study could be warranted, the following notions would have to be clarified: * What is too much television? * What constitutes an irrational fear of crime? (this doesn't sound too hard to quantify to me) * What constitutes being happier/less paranoid? Anther problem with the study (a bigger problem in my opinion), is they smuggle in a presciption with the phrase, "would be less paranoid if they watched less TV". This is the critical slight of hand that smuggles in a cause and effect determination that was not measured by the study. A conclusion of "would be less paranoid if they watched less TV" is not warranted by the data. Perhaps paranoid people are more likely to engage in passive information consumption, and thus TV feeds this need (as would newspapers, gun magazines, etc.) The key problem with most correlation studies is that cause and effect can be easily obscured by those who do the studies, those who report on them, and those that read about them without applying some critical thinking to the results.
  23. Limits of property rights

    This is probably why large homes on large lots cost more than duplexes and condos. And why homes next to airports/railroads are not as highly valued as homes on the coast with a private beach. Property that does not inherently isolate their owners sources of interference from neighbors are usually same types of property that comes with rules and regulations on its use (which in itself can be an unacceptable level of interference for some to bother with). I'm thinking of condo associatations etc... It is property rights, not the lack of them, that actually are a solution to conflicts. It was noise laws that prevented Larry Ellison of Oracle from flying his private jet at a local airport near his home. Noise laws are how property rights are implemented for certain types of close quarter living that don't arise out in the country.
  24. Irrelevant Login Requests

    I wonder if your computer's timezone/time is set wrong. Its hard to believe, but it might be a worthy line of investigation. Also check your forum account time zone settings. Again, I think the timestamps in cookies are immune from timezone/time settings. But... you never know.
  25. How about 'unpaid sex worker'?