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Posts posted by Prometheus

  1. 2 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    No, I think you're dodging the real question, would you EVER authorise torture? If you are claiming that it would NEVER work, then I think that's plain wrong.

    Until someone shows me actual evidence of its efficacy there is no question to answer.

  2. 6 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    I don't recognise that as a likely situation...

    That sums up this whole thread.  Ethics is an applied art - ignore the real world and all we have are empty words.

    2 minutes ago, zapatos said:

    it seems obvious that torture would be effective in many circumstances.

    What seems obvious is irrelevant. We should look at the evidence. 

  3. 1 minute ago, mistermack said:

    But that's like saying that the paper not torturing the subjects came to the same conclusion. 

    They simulated torture as best they could to gain empirical insights. It's the best they can do, and it accords with observational data. This is similar to many epidemiological studies, so i'm not sure what the problem is regarding methodology given the necessary limitations.


    4 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    But in that case the 'witches' had nothing to tell. So the torture could not have worked. It seems pretty obvious that if they HAD had a secret, they would have spilled the beans. So if they had been the second pedophile, they would have given the location of the child. 

    Not true. The witches were sometimes guilty of the 'crimes' of which they were accused, it's just those crimes (and punishments) were ridiculous: having body deformations, practicing innocuous pagan rituals, killing their neighbour's cat etc... That they also confessed to whatever else their torturers accused them of shows how ineffective a method torture is.

    To bring it into our setting,  if inflicted upon our imaginary paedophile he would have told us the location of every single child we asked about - one true positive among a forest of false positives. Maybe that is sufficient for you, but it raises practical issues of spending limited resources down (self-inflicted) false positives.  Until you show me some evidence, whether empirical, observational or theoretical, i'll remain sceptical of its effectiveness beyond unrealistic practical constraints (i.e ignoring its limited effectiveness and the possibility of innocent people being tortured).

  4. 11 hours ago, mistermack said:

    In other words, it's a highly selected sample.

    That's true of much of the research, but not all. The paper using cold immersion as a surrogate for torture was on ordinary people and came to the same conclusion regarding its ineffectiveness. There was also the theoretical paper that took a game theoretic approach. It's quite an involved paper so i've delved into its rigor, but it bypasses the enriched sample problem.

    There's also a historical perspective that lends credence to the scientific literature: during the witch trials women would confess to anything that they thought their torturers wanted to hear. Truth was the second victim, after the 'witches'.

  5. 7 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    The researchers must be very brave people. And only know brave people. I can absolutely guarantee that if I was that pedo, and was threatened with torture, I would tell everything quicker than you could find a pen to write the address down. 

    The researchers didn't test that by undergoing torture themselves (although one paper did use cold emersion to simulate torture)- it's based primarily on observational data from different agencies that have found information obtained under torture is unreliable. There was a theoretical paper in there too. It's a sparse literature, but what evidence we have seems to suggest torture is an ineffective means of obtaining accurate information.

  6. 3 hours ago, mistermack said:

    Imagine an innocent toddler has been abducted by a couple of pedophiles, and you have one in captivity, and he knows where the other is keeping the child, but he won't tell. Forgetting the legal and practical issues, if you had a free hand, (if you were dictator say) would you use torture to get the location of the child? I would.

    14 minutes ago, zapatos said:

    Yes, I believe it is. That part of the issue is easy for me. I think most people could come up with a situation where the benefits outweigh the downside of torture.

    This assumes torture actually works as a method for getting the truth. It's not an easily researchable topic, but what literature i could find suggests that it is ineffective.

    There is also the possibility that some of the people you torture will be innocent. You could put people through a full court trial to mitigate against this, but that would negate any usefulness if time is a factor and there would still be the occasional innocent person tortured for nothing.

  7. 6 hours ago, SergUpstart said:

    Xi Jinping, Putin, Erdogan, Lukashenko, Aliyev, Kim Jong-un, Maduro... alliance of authoritarian regimes

    Turkey is a NATO member, the only one to have shot down a Russian jet in the last 6 years, opposes Russian actions in Syria, has condemned the Crimean annex and increasingly sells weapons to Ukraine - especially drones proven effective against Russian artillery. True that Turkey also cooperates with Russia on some fronts, even in Syria at times, but to present this situation as binary is an over-simplification.

  8. 9 hours ago, zapatos said:

    The UK has invaded all but 22 countries in the entire world. Does that ring a bell?

    It rings a very loud bell which is why i'm keen to consider geopolitics from as many perspectives as possible. 

    I'm not sure why considering whether the security concerns of Russia are legitimate, or the erosion of trust in international institutions due to past unilateral actions by the global superpower and allies is off topic. 

  9. 12 minutes ago, zapatos said:

    LOL! And you call me ignorant of history. Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Ukraine? Any of those ring a bell?

    And do Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam ring bells? 

    None of which, of course, justify what Russia is doing but just because Putin is a dictator out for himself and his boys, doesn't mean Russia doesn't have its own legitimate security concerns.

    It's also hard to make the (perfectly reasonable) case that Russia should pursue those concerns at the UN, when the USA and UK bypassed international institutions when they 'believed' Iraq was an imminent security threat.

    7 hours ago, mistermack said:

    Like somebody said earlier, I think Putin is just holding back for the winter olympics, to be nice to China. 

    I doubt it. Every day gives the Ukraine more time to prepare, receive equipment and training from the West. Even with Russia's overwhelming forces, Ukraine should give Russia a bloody nose, and coffins coming home doesn't look good, even for dictators. My guess is weather and/or political manoeuvring. 

  10. 8 minutes ago, MigL said:

    That doesn't change the fact that 'thoughts', appropriate or not, are NOT a crime; only inapproriate actions are.

    True (assuming my interpretation correct - i've not seen the details), but it does bring the interpretation much closer to programmes that try to detect and change potential terrorists thinking to something less extreme, like the UK's Prevent programme.

  11. 14 hours ago, TheVat said:

    Uighurs suffered from "inappropriate thoughts."  I am sorry if my post did not make that clear.  IIRC, China's ambassador to the USA speaks English fluently and is apt to choose his words with some care when addressing such hot button issues.  (otherwise, one wonders why he was picked for the job) 


    You'd hope so, but you'd think the same for UK foreign secretaries, but Boris Johnson managed to extend a UK journalist's sentence in an Iranian prison due to his typical bumbling, bungling style.

    As for the the inappropriate thoughts - surprisingly hard to find the full, unedited transcript (do you know of one?), from what i could find he was explicitly referring to Islamist terrorists among the Uyghurs. From here:


    He nonetheless asserted that some Uyghurs were terrorists. "The destination for them is prisons," he said, while asserting that others had inappropriate thoughts that they were being taught to change in "vocational schools."

  12. 9 minutes ago, MigL said:

    Nobody ever seems to 'call out' Chinese officials, and their comments, for fear of 'offending' them.

    That's a Western problem not a Chinese one - mostly, i imagine, because we care about Chinese money coming our way. I'm all for calling out China, just call them out for things they said, not that we imagined. Granted i've not looked into this 'inappropriate thought' comment, but my first thought would be to check it's not a simple mistranslation - as was the case for the crack their heads and spill blood comment.

  13. 25 minutes ago, TheVat said:

    That phrase made my blood run a little colder.  

    Xi Jinping's speech stating any country trying to influence it would "crack their heads and spill blood", was widely reported in Western media as being a threat of violence. The actual words, from an ancient saying (chengyu), are 頭破血流 or 'Tóu pò xiě liú' -  literally 'head break blood flow'. Sounds like a reasonable interpretation unless you understand the chengyu. Running into a brick wall or bashing one's head against a wall would be a closer interpretation - the saying explicitly refers to the futility of your actions - it's not the walls fault you ran into it. It's very clearly (to Chinese speakers) not a threat of aggression.

    Could he have picked more diplomatic words? Maybe, but he was talking to Chinese people in Chinese using a common proverb that is at several centuries years old. Communication is a two way process: the West should also make an effort rather than jump to worst interpretations.

  14. 8 hours ago, Alex_Krycek said:

    Patricia Marquis, from RCN England made that same point...

    It's worth noting that the RCN is a trade union (and in my professional opinion (ex NHS nurse) a poor one - but that's another thread), not a medical body. They do not make decisions based on medical evidence any more than the RMT (transport) union does.

    Which is not to say their points may or may not be valid in regards to workers rights, only that they are not a medical authority.

  15. 3 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

    So we can learn about it. Otherwise, what's the point?

    It's panspermia. The point is reproduction, not praise or blame. Many (most?) species on Earth reproduce by simply spreading their seed as far and wide as possible. Whether it's technically possible or ethical is another question.

  16. We really know nothing about the effect of low gravity on the body. What research we have regards the micro-gravity environments of LEO. It would be folly to interpolate between these 1G and 0G environment data points. 

    Another reason to go to the moon first, and get intermediate data points.

  17. 13 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    That sounds like a heck of a lot. Were they talking about a shield that could completely block out the Sun? To "correct" the climate, it would surely be only necessary to block a small proportion of the total sunlight. At a guess, less than one percent. 

    In any case, it would be a risky thing to do, since in historical terms, we are overdue a major glaciation event. 

    That was from the 2015 study I gave. They didn't get those number themselves but provide these references to justify it:

    1. Seifritz W. Mirrors to halt global warming? Nature. 1989;340(6235):603.
    2. 10.Early JT. Space-based solar shield to offset greenhouse effect. Journal of British Interplanetary Society. 1989;42(567–569).
    3. 11.McInnes CR. Minimum mass solar shield for terrestrial climate control. JBIS. 2002;55(9–10):307–11.
  18. 53 minutes ago, mistermack said:

    That's likely to be a neglible effect. Most of the solar energy would be reflected by the shield back towards the Sun, not absorbed. And the energy it does radiate would be heading in all directions, only a small portion would be heading towards the Earth depending on how far from the Earth the shield is positioned. 

    But it would threaten to knock the structure off the L1 point and so require a significant amount of fuel to keep it in place.

  19. I remember seeing a back of the envelope calculation that estimated the amount of mass needed for such a shade to be effective at cooling would require an orbital infrastructure of epic sci-fi proportions (and didn't even attempt to calculate the warming caused by building a launching all those rockets).

    I think it was a science communicator called Scott Manley if you want to have a google around to find it.

    Can't find it, but i have an envelope handy.

    Found this study that estimated the mass of a sun shield needs to be 10^7–10^8 tonnes. Let's take 10^7. That's 10^10 kg. The current cheapest vehicle per kilo is currently the Falcon 9 at $1400 per kilo. The cost of just launching this structure would be $14 trillion. Pretty expensive but economically possible i guess, if we ignore politics.

    A Falcon 9 can launch 22,800 kg per launch, which would require ~ 440000 launches. Space X have one of the best launch cadences in the world but only managed 31 last year. If we started now we might get it done in 30 years if we can increase the launches to 15000 a year. 

    Apparently a Falcon 9 produces 360,000 kg of C02 per launch. So we'd be adding 10^11 kilos, or 10^8 tonnes, of C02 into the atmosphere by the end of the project. 

    All this is based on costs to launch to LEO. L1, the most feasible place it could sit, would be far more expensive (both $ and C02) - but those numbers aren't so easy to get.

    I conclude that it's not feasible with current tech, and by the time it does become feasible it would be too late to significantly contribute i.e. the damage would be done. But feel free to check these numbers because i haven't.

  20. 5 hours ago, joigus said:

    Based on this, I'm assuming little fuel needs to be spent in order to keep it in orbit. The only thing I'm sure about at this point is that it's not going to be there forever.

    I heard that its lifespan, if all goes well, will be determined by the amount of fuel it has to keep it in its L2 orbit - because the Ariane 5 rocket did such a good job on its infection burn that is anticipated to be 10 years.

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