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    Zoology, Linguistics, Astronomy, Music, Digital Audio Recording & Production, Mapping (Unreal Engine based games so far) , Texture Artistry, Computer Modding, Despising Fools and Using Power Tools Inappropriately.

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  1. Don't be too sure - in Scandinavia, fewer than 15% of the population profess to hold any religious beliefs, likewise Japan, China and France have very similar levels of secularism. True - the human ability to develop a theory of mind (that is, imagine what someone else is thinking and predict/influence their behaviour - a very useful ability, and one that was critical to our evolution) leads to an all to common error of assuming that a theory of mind can be applied to things that do not have a mind, like the weather, the sun, & the Universe in general. People operating under this fundamental error of thought invent gods as proxies for mindless things beyond their control, projecting anthropomorphic personalities on them and then trying to influence their behaviour through prayer, sacrifice and so on. People living in heavily hierarchical societies also run into a problem of ultimate authority - they realise that a king or president or whatever is ultimately a human being just like them, so they then invent an even higher authority (God) so that the king etc. can become an agent of this deity and therefore more than just a mere human. The monarch's power then becomes absolute, divine and unquestionable. While this arrangement creates a society with a tight degree of control and cohesion, it fails when people actually start thinking for themselves and start to wonder if maybe there is a better way of organising society than in a rigid hierarchy propped up by fantasies of deities and divine blessings. In genuinely democratic societies that encourage freedom of thought, religion will always die a slow death, because religion requires total indoctrination and enforcement from childhood to death to maintain its grip.
  2. obscurus

    What Car?

    Scratch those crappy cars, get a Toyota Camry hybrid, or just about any other hybrid electric car for that matter. Toyotas are the most reliable cars you can get (in my experience). Don't get a Prius though, as they are poorly designed in terms of rear window visibility. If you have loads (and I mean loads) of money to splash out, get one of these: http://www.venturi.fr/us/fetish/specs/specs.php3
  3. Fuck, that beats some of my efforts, and I thought I had Long-Poster's Syndrome (LPS)!
  4. Along the lines of Gildoran's comments, the only reason you can say that the physical does not account for the mental is because of the complexity of analysing the system. But this leads to a false line of thought. There is no separation between your consciousness and the underlying neural activity that drives it. You only think there is becasue you are able to think about your own thoughts in an abstract way. In fact, it can be very easily shown that your consciousness is determined by your brain. For example, if a particular area of the optic lobe of the brain is destroyed, that person will not only lose their sight, but their ability to remember things they have seen, and even their ability to conceive of what sight is, or was like. It becomes like sight never existed for that person. Clearly, the consciousness of vision arises from this part of the brain. Similarly, with blindsight, a person can see without being conscious of seeing, due to brain damage. And many other mental functions have been linked not only to particular areas of the brain, but particular neurones in the brain. Things like memories are not the absolute, factual things we perceive them to be, bt rather, the brain takes vague bits and pieces of information we receive through our senses and thoughts, and then reconstructs them each time we recall them. Not only that, but every time you remember something, that memory changes slightly. You can alter the way a person thinks and feels by altering their brain. You can turn a mild mannered reserved person into a sociopath by disabling the areas of the brain that handles inhibions and empathy. This permanently changes that person's personality. Everything you think is you is defined by a particular configuration of atoms in a watery sac, and as soon as that configuration changes, you change. When you die, that sac of chemicals changes into a form that can no longer support any of the things we perceive as consciousness. here is a link for you to consider: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=...line-news_rss20 There is no reason at all to think your consciousness is anything more than the temporary activity of neurones in your brain.
  5. Indeed, Buddhism is an interesting case, as it is both atheistic and denounces the concept of immortality of the personality. Buddhism is more a philosphy that has become a religion due to zealotry and misinterpretation. Buddha was not a god, rather someone who had acheieved enlightenment. In Buddhist philosophy, enlightenment means the complete destruction of the self as distinct from the rest of the universe. Then there are the animistic religions (the most primitive of all religions), which do not recognise personal immortality or gods. Animists regard everything in the universe as parts of the same thing that change over time. Everything is said to be alive, even things like rocks or dried up skeletons, so in that sense, you are "immortal" in animist eyes, as you don't die, you just change state, and merge with the universe. In terms of what is currently understood by science, everything is just a temporary configuration of space-time, there is no discrete "self", it is just an illusion. and the universe itself appears to be finite and mortal. All religions have pretty much the same thing to say when it comes to how you live your life and treat others, and it is all self-evident to anyone who bothers to think about it. Jesus had nothing really profound to say about anything that none of a thousand "prophets" and self-help gurus before and after him all over the world hadn't figured out. Jesus was no different to Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra - someone who could spin the bleeding obvious, infuse it with some mystical bullshit about God or angels or chakras or some similar rubbish, and milk thousands of gullible dimwits out of their ability to think for themselves, if not their money. And then people use these religions, tack on their own bits to advance their own agendas, and it becomes a hodgepodge that can be used to justify any kind of behaviour you like.
  6. In terms of natural landscape generation, no it won't. I'm only referring to the forests in Oblivion, which uses the SpeedTreeRT middleware http://www.speedtree.com/ to generate thousands of completely unique, animated trees at run time, which is far less time consuming than modelling and animating thousands of different tree models by hand. Obviously, some things cannot be generated procedurally in any convincing way, such as buildings and artificial structures, which will need to be modelled by hand for the most part. But hand modelled objects can be textured procedurally very effectively - you can apply all kinds of weathering and grime algorithms to generate grime maps for models, and there are a number of tools out there that greatly automate character modelling, so that you can start off with a basic humanoid prototype and apply all kinds of procedural deformations to generate thousands of unique characters. The obvious downside to all this is that games will become less distinct from each other unless the game designers really put their efforts into tweaking the procedurally generated content with their own stamp. But then regardless of how you do it, the more detailed and realistic games become, the less visually distinct they will become, and the more the authors will have to focus on gameplay dynamics, plot and story development to distinguish their games. Compare Crysis and Haze ( http://hazegame.uk.ubi.com/ ) - two completely different game engines, two different games that look almost identical in a number of screenshots. They both have a high level of visual detail and realism, and the more of that you have, the harder it is to make your game look distinct from any other from a few screenshots. Personally, I think this is great, becasue once the eye candy has reached a point where it can't get much more realistic than it is, the only way game designers can distinguish their products will be through gameplay and story, meaning these elements will be likely a lot better than they have been of late. It is the stories and gameplay that makes a game great, not so much the quality of the graphics, though that certainly helps.
  7. I am not whining because Pluto was reclassified, I am whining because of the dubious grounds on which it was reclassified. If the IAU comes up with a scientifically defensible defintion of a Planet that excludes Pluto or any other object from planetary status, that is fine. But at the moment, I and a very large number of other scientists, regard the currrent definition as unscientific bunk. It isn't the semantics that bothers me, it is the lack of scientific rigour and lack of consistency and clarity that causes me such consternation. At the moment, there are potentially a number of objects that are bigger than Mercury that would now classified as "Dwarf Planets", yet somehow Mercury retains its status as a planet. There are now a huge number of extrasolar planets that are no longer planets becasue of sloppy wording by the IAU. Most of the planets in the Solar System do not pass the criterion of "clearing their neighbourhood", and vague as it is, there is no way you can say Pluto isn't a planet without also demoting Neptune. And arguably any planet with moons has failed to clear it's neighbourhood, and thus isn't a planet. Sloppy wording and inconsistent reasoning are where my issues lie, not with semantics as such. Redefine your terminology if you will, but at least be consistent and clear. And you are the one who needs to grow up if you think that by expressing a perfectly valid opinion I am somehow comparable to Hitler. I find that rather offensive, frankly. Instead of arguing your case coherently (which you normally at least attempt to do), you simply back out without even trying to counter my arguments, (which incidentally, are shared by a very large number of my fellow scientists, so it is not as though I am alone in my opinions) and launch dubious ad hominem insults at me. Real mature, oDD. @Dram: "Uranus DOES rotate around a single axis, though it is a wierd one. Or are you referring to that it also orbits the sun and thus means it has 2 axes?" Well, like all planets, Uranus has precessional motion, meaning it's axis of rotation moves around a bit, however, Uranus' axis of rotation was highly altered by a passing planet sized object at some point, and it is still not really stable. Since a planet's axis of rotation can potentially be easily changed by a passing mass, it is a very poor criterion on which to define something. @Ishtvan: "I'm pretty sure the tendancy to form a sphere shape depends heavily on the materials making up the object. It's not just self gravity that nudges things in the direction of sticking together and minimizing surface area for a given volume with a sphere shape. There are also contact forces, hydrogen bonding, interface energies between different materials, etc." Material density is really the only major factor in determining the size at which self gravity will collapse an object into a spherical shape. A low density cloud of gas will need to be much bigger than a lump of rock to collapse into a spherical shape under it's own weight. The material on object is made of will of course affect this behaviour, but if you are going to use material as a criterion, then you need to create a new set of classifications. Gaseous objects will need a different name to rocky objects, which will need a different name to liquid objects etc. You can't just say everything that is made mostly of water in a solid state isn't a planet, everything else is - there is no consistency there at all. @Gildoran: "My point is that you're arbitrarily assuming that having "planet" describe the size/shape of something is superior to describing its behavior. There's nothing inherently wrong with choosing a definition of "planet" such that Earth would no longer be a planet if it were ejected from the solar system..." Good point. See oDDity, these are the sort of arguments you could have used, as an alternative to childish personal attacks. However, to be scientifically useful, a classification scheme that defines the fundametal class of an object needs to be able to do so in the context of the object in isiolation, without reference to other objects where possible. I suppose you could have a scheme where the base category is simply "object", and "planet" is an object with certain properties, such as above a certain size, orbiting a star etc. I wouldn't have a problem with that per se, except that it creates issues of clarity of its own, and measn that if you come across an Earth-like object deep in interstellar space, you need to invent yet another term to describe it. My preferred option is to minimise the number of definitions and classes by using a hierarchical system, rather than coming up with a special name for every possible object in every possible situation.
  8. Your definition is way, way too complicated, and has several problems with it. First, using absolute units, such as suggesting that the object have a volume of 27,832,317mi^3, is totally out of the question. Such a measure is arbitrary in the extreme, and relies on too meany other things being defined. You need to be able to frame it in the context of a unit independent measure, such as the ratio of the polar to equatorial diameter, corrected for distiortions caused by orbiting masses and axial rotation. Second, rotation is irrelevent. your definition would exclude Uranus, whuch has a somewhat complex rotation, and it doesn't account for objects that barely rotate at all. I don't know why you even thought that was worth mentioning, it seems like a pretty bizarre criterion, frankly. Third, it doesn't take into account objects ejected from the orbit of a star, and are located in interstellar space. A simple definition is all that is required: Object is large enough to form a spheroid (as measured by the above test - a polar to equatorial ratio corrected for distortion of approximately 1:1) by self gravity is all you need. If you want to make a distinction between stars and planets, you can add the clause that it is not so large that it spontaneously initiates a fusion reaction. Of course, you will have to arrive at a somehat arbitrary decision as to how much of a deviation from spheroidal is acceptable, but that is kind of moot when you have corrected for things that will distort a planet's shape. If your definition is more complex than that, you are barking up the wrong tree. There are billions upon billions of planets in the universe, I don't know why people want to keep coming up with contrived reasons to limit the number to 8 or less.
  9. Rubbish. You just have to ditch your preconceptions about what a computer game can or should be. If all people thought the way you do, there would never be any innovation and we'd all still be chasing antelopes with rocks and digging for tubers. The easy way is the boring way - it has been done before. Take the hard path, it is infinately more rewarding in the end. I am all for adding unpredictability to AI, and I can't think of any technical reason why it can't be done. It would create a completely new gameplay dynamic, one that I look forward to eventually experienceing, though I don't expect it from TDM. But then I'm not an AI coder, so I guess I'll just have to take what I can get...
  10. The thing you have to remember is that next gen game engines will make much more use of procedural content generation. This will mean that games 1. take less time to make and 2. will have richer and more detailed content than ever before. Tools like SpeedTree allow a mapper to proceduraly generate an entire forest of fairly realistic, unique animated trees (used to good effect in Oblivion). There are a number of game engines that include a range of tools to generate all kinds of content automatically, and all the mapper has to do is refine and tweak things, rather than worry about lots of little details everywhere. The upshot of all this? Two or Three years from now, game engines will be tools that very small dev teams (maybe even single individuals) can use to create an entire game using procedural content generation. The mod scene will flourish once again...
  11. The word "moon" is just a redundant equivalent of the word "satellite". They really mean the same thing AFAIAC. Which is all the more reason to avoid vague terms like "clearing the neighbourhood", and also why you should avoid definitions that make reference to other objects, or particular temperatures as much as possible. It needs to definable without using arbitrary units of measurment. And it needs to work regardless of where something is. It is difficult though, because there will always be things that are borderline between one class and another.
  12. The reason it is wrong is that it is fairly likely that there are numerous planets that have been ejected from their original orbit around a star, and are drifiting in interstellar space. It would be silly to call an object similar to Mars a planet when it is orbiting a star, and something else when it isn't. Planets are wanderers of the heavens - whether or not they are wandering near a star is not relevant to their base level object class. Defining something as a satellite when it is orbiting somehting is appropriate, becasue the definition describes a behaviour that is particular to that circumstance. Earth is a satellite of the Sun, so calling something a planet and a satellite is fine as they are not mutually exclusive. Planet descibes what the object is satellite describes what it does. So the reasons it would be wrong to use some kind of orbital information when describing a planet are: *Redundant terminology - the word satellite already describes one object orbiting another. *Needless exclusivity - the same object becomes different things depending on where it is if you use orbital information to define it. A planet is the same thing wether it is a billion light years form any other object or it is in a complex orbit around several other bodies, or something in between. *Things need to be classifyable without reference to other things (as much as is possible), before you start layering other categories on them. You should be able to define a planet without referring to orbits, stars, neighbourhoods etc, and you should be able to do it in a way that does not involve the use of arbitrary units of distance etc. You can then layer information on top of the base category when and where it is relevent. E.g Europa is a planet (as far as I am concerned), that is also a satellite of Jupiter which happens to be a satellite of Sol. Calling one type of object a planet becasue it primarily orbits the Sun and another a moon because it primarily orbits a planet is silly IMO. There are moons of Jupiter and Saturn which are clearly the same class of object as Mars or Mercury (or Pluto).
  13. Apparently quite a few professional astronomers (and quite probably a majority - the IAU vote was cast by a small majority of 400 or so astronomers, which is hardly representative of the wider opinion of astronomers) - see the link in one of my previous posts. oDDity: "interesting that you think shape is relevant but nothing else is, just because that's how you happen to want it to be." Shape as a result of self-gravity is relevant becasue it is a consistent and scientifically definable way of classifying something. Since an object's temperature will vary immensly depending on its location, age and other variable which are highly mutable, it is a poor choice for classifying an object. Stellar objects can move around a lot. You don't like things made of ice being called planets, but what about liquid water? A gaseous planet of water vapour? You could use material to classify something as being a planet, but again, you run into problems if you are not careful. Jupiter is made primarily of hydrogen gas, and we call it a planet. Venus is made of rock with a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide. And most planets are made of a number of materials in layers, so your definition could end up being quite complicated if you base it on material. And you would have to be careful not to be too arbitrary here - excluding water ice out of all the materials planets can be made of makes no sense at all. I could just as arbitrarily say that becasue Jupiter is not made primarily of rock, it isn't a planet. As you may have gathered, I am not too impressed with the way the IAU has been officially defining things, as they are using highly arbitrary and unscientific definitions for things, which as a scientist, irritates me no end. You would never get away with that in any other scientific field. And there are a substatial number of professional astronomers who would agree with me (the IAU vote on the definition of planets was very close, and was not really representative of the wider astronomical community). oDDity: "Hang on though, any drop of liquid becomes spherical in space, regardless of its mass, so obviously the material is relevant." No, a drop of liquid can assume a spherical shape due to surface tension, not self-gravity. Actually, any drop of liquid will do this to one degree or another, and they form a blob that wobbles around, and is not consistently spherical. So should we exclude all planets in a liquid state? Gildoran: "While I agree with the idea of calling anything with enough mass to be spheroid a planet, I don't see why orbits and behavior and such can't be taken into account for scientific terminology; how else do you define a "moon" or "satellite"? (surely those are useful scientific terms) And I don't see anything wrong with taking into account the material something is made of, the way terms like "gas giant" do." Sure, but the term "planet" should be the base category, upon which things can be subcategorised. "planet" means "wanderer" in Greek, and is quite appropriate for things floating around in space. Personally, I would classify moons as planets where they fit my definition, and calling them moons or satellites would simply be a descriptor of their current location. If say, Ganymede or Titan happened to be orbiting on their own, they would be called planets, unequivocally. In fact, a large number of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter are considerably larger than Mercury. They are planets that just happen to be orbiting bigger planets, and this is why an object's position or orbit should not be a consideration for the base classification. If I were to use oDDity's "logic", I could arbitrarily say Mercury isn't a planet becasue it is too small and too close to the Sun, Jupiter isn't a planet becasue it is made of gas and is too big, Neptune isn't a planet becasue it hasn't "cleared its neighbourhood", Uranus isn't a planet becasue its axis of rotation is at a wildly different angle to the rest of the other planets, Venus isn't a planet becasue it is too hot and rotates the wrong way on its axis, etc. Now that would be pathetic, oDDity. You need to get over your ice phobia. You need a scientifically based classification that avoids arbitrary and sloppy definitions as much as possible, that can be applied to any object, anywhere.
  14. It all has to do with evolutionary history. Reptiles and birds have 3-4 visual pigments, and can see red very well. Mammals started out as nocturnal critters that had no need to see red light, since there is not much around at night, and lost the visual pigment that is sensitive to red light (a red flag appears black to a bull). However, some groups of mammal, notably the primates (we are primates), re-evolved a visual pigment that is sensitive to red light, however, it is far less sensitive than the one that reptiles and birds still posess, so we don't really se reds as well as we think. Pretty much all other mammals bar primates have dichromatic vision (humans, apes and monkeys have trichromatic vision): their cones detect light in the ultraviolet-blue range and in the yellow-green range, and most nocturnal mammals have far more rods than cones, further limiting their colour perception and ability to resolve detail. Nocturnal animals also tend to be very short-sighted. Diurnal animals (including us) have corneas and lenses that block UV light, even though their cones can detect it, to prevent damage to the retina during the day. If you have cataract surgery, you will theoretically be able to see UV for the first time. Most night-time wildlife photography is shot using red filtered lights, and sometimes with red filters on the camera lens - nocturnal animals are oblivious to it, and are unaware that there is any light source.
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