Blabberbox:Random blog-like posts by pftq and his related selves.Share on Twitter

The Average is Not Real

December 4th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
The average is not a real number. If one fish is fresh water and the other salt, optimizing for the average kills both. If one man is poor and the other rich, helping the average helps no one.
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Let Me Tell You a Story

November 27th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Stuck in My Head | #
Let Me Tell You a Story by Blake Robinson
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Three Tiers of Mind

November 11th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Society | #
This is a long piece but one I've been thinking through for a long time.  I've come gradually to see people as being in one of three Tiers when it comes to their motivations, mindset, and ability to make things happen.  Before I begin, I want to make clear that this is not the case of one group of people being better than another.  It is also not a relative scale or spectrum; the conditions for each group are explicit, discrete, and absolute, based solely on whether the person has or does not have the ability to direct not only his own fate but that of others.  There is no in between.  Lastly, it is important to understand that these are mindsets, not people.  It has nothing to do with social status, quality of character, or things like open-mindedness, political leaning, etc.  For sake of discussion, we will assume everyone is well-intentioned, honest, and overall good people.  This topic can be easily misconstrued as judgmental or arrogant,...[More]
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Microsoft Word Now Spellchecks Writing Style

November 6th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Blabberbox | #
I normally run my stuff through spellcheck just to check for quick errors.  The other day I had about 100, all for "readability" and "conciseness" under the pretense of grammatical errors.  What?

Here are some of the examples:
"perhaps as a result of..." => "perhaps because of"
"the only thing they really have is the past" => "the only thing they have is the past"
"it's absolutely essential that..." => "it's essential that..."
"someone who says their ultimate goal is to..." => "someone who says their goal is to..."

The biggest issue here is none of those phrases are actually grammatically incorrect (MS Word just corrected what I said to "actually grammatically incorrect").  It's someone's opinion on how I should write, and it actually changes the meaning of what I'm saying.  That is pretty ridiculous.  Sure, I can strip out every adverb and adjective from my writing, but that would make for some pretty dry and boring - sorry, some pretty dry and boring - literature.  It removes color, emphasis, emotion.  We're not writing for robots here.

The sad part is people learning to write for the first time would likely trust the spellcheck to clean up all "errors" in their writing.  It's not an error to say more than you have to to make a point.
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Shaping Dreams

November 5th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
Some let the world shape their dreams.  Others let their dreams shape the world.
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Unlimited Clean Energy From Solar Winds

October 29th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
It turns out there's enough energy right at the edge of our atmosphere to power the entire planet for free.  The energy comes in the form of charged particles from the sun called solar wind, which is much more energy rich than what makes it past the Earth's magnetic field to our ground-based solar panels.  It is what you see responsible for phenomena like the northern lights (aurora borealis).  Our atmosphere shields us from harmful radiation, likewise reducing a lot of this to just the sunlight you feel on Earth, but if you go outside the atmosphere, it is practically unlimited energy, free for the taking.  This could be collected through a sail, kite, or even just a regular conductor (at the ionosphere just before space, it's pretty close to actual electricity) with no worries of pollution or detriment to the environment.  What I'm surprised about is there hasn't been more interest to reach it, as it seems like such a land grab.

The main problem I read about is the practicality of transporting the energy back to Earth, as much of it can be lost if you try to just beam it or conduct it through a massively long wire.  If we go further out than near space to collect from the solar wind directly, that problem becomes even larger; the distance grows from perhaps just 50 miles to now on the order of thousands of miles.  It seems to me a silly problem though if you really are able to collect that much energy; surely you can spare just a tiny bit of that energy to power whatever it takes to bring the load back to Earth.  According to some articles such as phys.org, every 200 sqft of collection could power a thousand homes, which is more than enough for a city or two if you just send roughly a closet-sized sail into space.  If you stay at near-space to collect the ionized form instead of going all the way into space itself, the collection area can be smaller as it is closer to just raw electricity that you can tap into.  What probably wasn't in consideration before was the means of storing the energy at large enough capacity and transporting the energy in loads, rather than trying to shoot it back to Earth.  What's exciting to me though is that it seems Elon Musk might have similar ideas here with his almost perfectly arranged trio of companies focused on space (SpaceX), battery efficiency (Tesla), and solar energy (SolarCity - not solar wind collection but close enough); you could almost see Musk one day deciding to merge SpaceX and Tesla as well to then build spaceships and space stations powered directly by the sun without ever having to refuel.  The storage and transportation problem almost seems like it'll solve itself over time as clean energy technology gets better on Earth.

An interesting proof of concept might be to set up a weather balloon or lightning rocket to first tap into the charged particles concentrated at near space and send it back to a lightning rod or tower back on the ground.  It's not the full utilization of all the energy up there, but it's still a massive amount of energy that would be useful to power a city or two, especially if it's free.  It's also fun to imagine a city with a super long kite in the sky causing man-made lightning to continuously strike the center to keep it powered.  Perhaps one day we can figure out how to generate lightning without the trailing wire.

What would...[More]
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It Only Takes One

October 22nd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Thought of the Day | #
If you drop a book a thousand times and just one of those times it doesn't fall, then that is the one datapoint worth looking at. (inspired from "I Origins")
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God's Flashlight

September 20th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
I was thinking about light the other day and how we only see a very narrow part of the spectrum (visible light).  A funny thought came to mind that if we were able to see higher energy light like x-rays, we would actually not be able to see most of the world, first because there aren't enough x-rays but second because even if there were a lot of x-rays, it'd go through most things on Earth so we'd only see the densest matter like bone and rock.  In other words, something with x-ray vision wouldn't be able to see our flesh and blood.  They might think creatures like us have telepathy or telekinesis because the parts of us that connect our bones or contain our vital processes are invisible.  And then something with even higher-energy vision, such as gamma rays, wouldn't be able to see us at all.  The whole time we think we are living in the day time, to these creatures, it would be pitch-black night.  Such a creature would likely have...[More]
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