July 27, 2011

If you can persuade 10% that you’re right, you can win the argument

Filed under: Media, Politics, Science — Tags: — Nicholas @ 07:53

Ten percent of the population may be the tipping point for mass conversion to a new idea:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

“When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”

[. . .]

The researchers are now looking for partners within the social sciences and other fields to compare their computational models to historical examples. They are also looking to study how the percentage might change when input into a model where the society is polarized. Instead of simply holding one traditional view, the society would instead hold two opposing viewpoints. An example of this polarization would be Democrat versus Republican.

Okay, everyone relax: China says aircraft carrier to be used for “research and training”

Filed under: China, Military, Pacific — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:44

That’s the latest story from China, which has finally acknowledged that they are rebuilding the former Soviet aircraft carrier Shi Lang:

China has officially acknowledged that it is rebuilding an aircraft carrier it bought more than a decade ago, but says the refurbished ship will be used only for research and training.

A defence ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, told reporters on Wednesday that work was under way on refitting an old carrier, a reference to the Varyag, whose stripped-down hull was towed from Ukraine in 1998 and has been under reconstruction for the best part of a decade.

“Building an aircraft carrier is extremely complex and at present we are using a scrapped aircraft carrier platform to carry out refurbishment for the purposes of technological research, experiments and training,” Geng said.

US Navy’s (small) death ray/machine gun mounts

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:36

Lewis Page reports on the latest bit of weaponry being added to US Navy ships:

US Navy warships will soon be equipped with fearful combination weapons mounts boasting both heavy machine-guns and high powered laser rayguns, it has been announced.

Manufacturer Boeing says it has inked a teaming agreement with the US operations of arms globo-mammoth BAE Systems to build the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System to naval requirements. We learn that the new raygun installation will be based on the existing Mk 38 Machine Gun System, a robotic gun turret whose primary punch is provided by the fearsome M242 Bushmaster Chain Gun, effectively a light auto-cannon.

[. . .]

We aren’t told the power level offered by the laser, which suggests that it isn’t very high: raygun projects always like to boast of any decent power level. The fact that the laser is small enough to be clipped onto an existing weapon also suggests light weight and limited puissance, as does the suggestion that it is an alternative to the Bushmaster rather than a replacement for it.

MS-DOS at thirty

Filed under: History, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:25

It was indeed, according to The Register, thirty years ago that MS-DOS hit the market:

MS-DOS is 30 years old today. Well, kind of. On 27 July 1981, Microsoft gave the name MS-DOS to the disk operating system it acquired on that day from Seattle Computer Products (SCP), a hardware company owned and run by a fellow called Rod Brock.

SCP developed what it at various times called QDOS and 86-DOS to run on a CPU card it had built based on Intel’s 8086 processor.

Washington trades Donovan McNabb to the Vikings

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:17

I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming: I’d expected the Vikings to either go with Christian Ponder or Joe Webb as the starting quarterback, not to bring in a big name veteran:

The Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins have agreed in principle to a trade sending QB Donovan McNabb to Minnesota.

The deal is contingent upon McNabb taking a significant pay cut, but according to Jay Glazer, “FOXSports.com has learned the Minnesota Vikings have agreed to acquire McNabb in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft and possibly a conditional 2013 draft pick.”

That’s a much lower cost in draft picks than Washington was supposedly asking, so it works well for Minnesota in that dimension. It’ll be interesting to see how McNabb works with the two young quarterbacks in training camp.

Update: Of course, no trade will satisfy everyone, but this particular one has Ryan Boser incensed:

If you’ve read my work here, you’re well aware of my disdain for McNabb. At 10:15 tonight, Jay Glazer tweeted that the Vikings have agreed to send two sixth-round picks (2012, and a conditional 2013) to Washington for the 34-year old.

The deal is contingent on the egotistical vet taking a massive pay cut from the $12.5M he’s owed this season (he’s just one year into a six-year, $89.2M deal).

The optimist in me hopes that the delusional McNabb, who still thinks he’s elite, will put the kibosh on it. Realistically, it’s a lock that the Vikings will head into the season with their third (or fourth) choice under center.

[. . .]

He’ll obviously take a pay cut, but he’ll still cost a sub-.500 team chock-full of holes way too much cap space (in addition to the draft picks). Specifics for the restructured deal are expected tomorrow.

If the coaching staff were really worried about throwing first-rounder Christian Ponder (who’s been preparing like a maniac) to the wolves, then spend pennies on the backup mentor and let Joe Webb take the early-season starts.

Ponder’s the future, so you have nothing to lose by letting a sixth-round wide receiver be the sacrificial lamb. Who knows, you might just discover that you stumbled on to a gem. As it stands, you can stick a fork in Joe Webb, the quarterback.

Update, the second: Dan Zinksi has a bit of advice for McNabb:

The drama this time reportedly revolves around McNabb himself and his apparent hurt feelings over not being shown a level of deference comparable to that which the Vikings showed Brett Favre during their pursuit of him the last two seasons. As ESPN puts it, “McNabb was concerned Tuesday night about how the Vikings’ side of the situation was handled.” Evidently McNabb expected several Viking veterans to fly to his home in Zygi Wilf‘s jet bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh and possibly a six-pack, and was bothered when this did not happen.

[. . .]

Here’s my advice for you Donovan as you embark upon your new career as the quarterback the Vikings had to settle for because they lost out on Tyler Thigpen: Get your hands on that playbook as fast as possible. Also, get hold of Sidney Rice‘s phone number and start working on him to stay with the Vikings. You could have a nice array of weapons in Minnesota — better than you had last year in Washington for sure — but only if Rice stays. Third, try to be humble. Come in and say all the right things and do all the right things. And if your coaches ask you to wear a wristband? Remember that it’s for your own good and just wear the damn wristband.

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