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I loved Dr Dobbs Journal. Used to buy it every month when I was in college and barely understood any of it.

I eagerly awaited every issue. It taught me a lot, in an era where finding information about computers was pretty difficult. I was in junior high school, and none of the books in the school or public libraries covered any of this fancy new "microcomputer" stuff.

Inspired by DDJ, I remember writing my own versions of PILOT and a "Tiny BASIC" with floating point, in Z-80 assembly, a couple years before I got my first computer. Probably still have those notebooks somewhere, I'm sure that code is terrible :-)

I'm grateful to DDJ for its liveliness, breadth of subject matter (okay, "randomness"), and simple enthusiasm for teaching people about personal computing.

I used to read it in the city library, and once I even borrowed a whole year's journals to binge-read. I learned a lot of coding techniques from articles in it back in the day.

Only problem is that the Miller Urey experiment never told us anything about the origin of life.

Inorganic to organic compounds, sure. But nobody has ever been able to get from there to cells and DNA.

> never told us anything about the origin of life

There are several steps to go from no life to life as we know it. This experiment illuminates one of those steps. How is that "nothing"?

this experiment only reduces the uncertaintly that the building blocks are widely available. The big problem wiht this experiment is that it misestimated the nature of the early atmosphere and os they basically simulated another planet. We don't know if any other planets have life, so simulating another planet isn't useful to illuminate anything about life on earth.

Huh? We know whatever the early conditions of earth were they were clearly amenable to the formation of these organic compounds since life arose here. It's absolutely also interesting to know that in certain known conditions this can also arise, even if those conditions are not the only conditions capable of creating the phenomenon.

That's circular reasoning. We're here so it must have happened in this specific way therefore it happened.

Sure, an expertly guided experiment in a glass tube can make some basic amino acids but they had to be removed from the experiment immediately before the the product was ruined by further reactions. It was a guided process which we've got no further in accounting for in the wild.

We've made no progress since these experiments to answering the questions posted by the theory of abiogenesis.

We've got no concrete answers, only suppositions.

This is not a popular thing to talk about but the fact remains that we are absolutely nowhere close to solving this in the manner in which we are proceeding in OoL studies. The track record for uncondendable conjecture is abysmal.

It's kind of like saying learning to jump really high is the first step to getting to the moon.

This is an example of why analogies and metaphors make clear thinking difficult. They're easy to think up - anyone can find some abstract similarity between X and absurd thing Y - but there is no substance there since the two things being compared are actually very different beyond that abstraction.

Certainly. It would help to understand gravity, which is absolutely crucial to flying to the Moon.

Also helps with an immediate understanding of ballistics and escape velocity

Or like saying "look, the monkey can sometimes make small words appear when it bangs on the keys of this typewriter. This tells us something about the origins of novels."

Learning how writing was invented is certainly a step towards understanding the origin of novels.

studying the behaviour of a monkey when introduced to a typewriter doesn't. Studying the formation of a few molecules in a controlled environment hardly explains how living forms came to exist.

If you never learn where a few molecules came from, how could you possibly make progress on the problem?

we made substantial progress in biology before we understood molecules. this is because it's not necessary to be entirely reductive to understand larger systems.

Yes, but we're talking origin of life.

A better analogy, but it still can be steered toward, "...without a Writer. This is why there is a Writer." Capital intentional.

It doesn't tell us nothing, it's just not the whole story. And why should one expect a single experiment to tell the whole story?

It would seem that the next logical experiment is to take Miller-Urey as a given, throw a perfect blend of polymer chains into the "soup," and see if they can start forming RNA chains. I thought I had read about such an experiment, but I can't find a reference to it now. Anything coming up in Google for me is being obfuscated by this recent study, and mRNA COVID vaccine stuff.

The term you’re looking for is the RNA world hypothesis.

I think what the naysayers are missing is that if this experiment had failed to generate any of the sort of organic molecules strongly associated with life, that would have shaken things up - or would you have been just as eager to dismiss this experiment in that case?

I think this is the fallacy of arguing the middle usually deployed against science.

There's a great example of Futurama, where the evolutionary naysayer demands an intermediate form, and Farnsworth shows him one... then he demands another, and Farnsworth shows THAT form... and this cycle repeats hundreds of times until Farnsworth has no intermediate form and the naysayer declares victory.


There is just enormous amounts of shoddy thinking out there from people on the subject of Origin of Life. I'm particularly annoyed by the non sequitur "the universe is large, so there must (with high probability) be life elsewhere." (If anyone reading this thinks that's a valid argument, go look in a mirror and slap yourself.)

Would you like to say a bit more about why that's not a valid argument. To be clear, I'm not saying it is (I don't know enough about the subject to do so) but it doesn't seem that far-fetched to me. Isn't similar probabilistic reasoning used to explain why evolution by natural selection gives rise to various complex life forms? If so, do you also think that that reasoning is shoddy?

Let N be the number of places life could arise, and p the probability that life arises in one of those places.

That argument is basically "there is a value of N such that for any p > 0, N p is much greater than 1."

But that's obviously wrong. For any N, there are values of p > 0 that make the product N p arbitrarily close to 0.

The dim intution behind the argument was that p can't be "too small". But given our current understanding of OoL, that's not a justified assumption. p could be exponentially small, if OoL requires some extremely unlikely step.

Natural selection is great once the system's reproductive fidelity is good enough to support it. The problem is bridging the gap from small molecules to that system. The smallest system we know of that can independently support Darwinian evolution has billions of atoms.

In this formulation, isn't p^N the probability that ALL places where life is possible, actually has life? It makes sense for that to approach zero.

What we want is the probability for at least one other place other than ours to have life. This would be 1 - (1-p)^N, which does tend to 1 as N gets arbitrarily large.

To get that formula: (1-p) is the probability that life does not exist in a place, so (1-p)^N is the probability that ALL places where life is possible, has no life. Therefore, 1-(1-p)^N is the probability of the opposite of that (where at least one place has life).

For a random variable X taking on non-negative integer values (here, the number of occurrences of life elsewhere in the universe), by Markov's inequality the probability that X = 0 is >= 1 - E[X]. Here, E[X] = Np, so if Np is very close to 0, the probability that X = 0 will be very close to 1.

That the probability goes to 1 as N goes to infinity FOR FIXED p is just another example of assuming p can't be "too small". The probability also goes to zero as p goes to zero. Why are you fixing p and not N? Why are you assuming p is large enough that N is in that asymptotic range where the probability has approached 1?

That seems right, but from a scientific point of view (as opposed to, say, a certain sort of theological view), two occurrences is not much more than one (even though one is so much more than zero.)

Two occurrences would actually be much more than one! Our own existence is useless due to observer selection, but discovery of even a single other independent OoL event nearby would allow us to infer OoL cannot be too uncommon.

Observer selection does not eliminate us as evidence for the proposition that life can exist. As for whether it is rare, you added the qualification 'nearby', and while it is true that it is most likely that any extraterrestrial life we detect will be nearby, the post I was replying to was arguing about the universal probability of life coming into existence, not about whether it will be discovered by us.

Furthermore, proponents of an extraterrestrial origin of life on Earth will doubtless argue that nearby life may have had a common origin.

Observer selection means p > 0 (ie the inequality is strict) but it can't tell us any more. Bayesian reasoning from our own solar system can put a reasonable upper limit on p but that isn't very helpful.

However, if we found life on Mars that same Bayesian reasoning would imply a meaningful lower limit on p as well, since life on Mars is independent of our existence to observe it.

If we found life on Mars that was independent of life on Earth it would imply a meaningful lower bound. Even finding a fundamentally different biosystem on Earth (life that didn't use nucleic acids, say) would be informative.

Just finding life on Mars that's the same kind of life as on Earth would not tell us much, as it could be explained by panspermia. There are Mars rocks on Earth, so transfer of life in those rocks should have happened constantly. If early Mars were habitable it almost certainly had life, due to this transfer.

> However, if we found life on Mars that same Bayesian reasoning would imply a meaningful lower limit on p as well.

If we found life on Mars tomorrow, how well-defined would that lower limit become?

This explains why it may not be a sound argument, not a demonstration of its invalidity. The distinction matters, because while invalid hypotheses can be summarily rejected, valid ones might turn out to be right.

Of course, if some people don't understand that this one is not an established fact, and that annoys you, I can't say you are wrong.

Yes. Of course, I was not arguing that life must be rare, I was arguing that the evidence we have does not compel one to believe life must exist elsewhere in the universe. The opposite of belief is not belief in the opposite.

There are rare instances where people say that life exists elsewhere, other just state that there is a possibility > 0.

I agree that it is arbitrary that the dimension of the exponent of n has to be larger than the negative one of p. That probably stems from the assumption that the universe is endless.

> p could be exponentially small, if OoL requires some extremely unlikely step.

"exponentially" is not a measure of size, nor is it a measure of relative size. If you think this anything base on "exponentially small" is a valid argument, go look in a mirror and slap yourself.

The meaning is clear in context. Try reading what I wrote in good faith rather than searching for a gotcha.

If you don't like me repeating your words to you, maybe you should look in a mirror and slap yourself?

Ok, I will spell it out.

"Exponentially small" here means "the probability could be ~ e^-n" where n is a number proportional to the complexity of the minimal evolving system. This would happen if there's some gap that has to be bridged by random chance before we get a system capable of sustaining natural selection.

The point here is that this could easily be vastly smaller than 1/N, where N is (say) the number of atoms in the universe x age of the universe x rate at which atoms might interact to form such systems.

I think you could have easily understood this point if you had made an effort to do so, without me having to spoonfeed it to you here.

If you think my point has anything to do with math, maybe you should go look in a mirror and slap yourself.

What about the argument that our existence is some evidence that a Bayesian estimates of p can't be so small that N p is less than one?

You're focusing on (lack of) evidence for a mechanistic explanation but that's not exhaustive.

The problem there is we don't know the "world" of possibilities from which our existence was drawn. It might be the universe (which I read "observable universe"), or it might be out of a large number of causally disconnected universes, or even other branches of a universal wave function (in a Many Worlds interpretation). The "N" there is not the same as the "N" of "our universe".

We know approximately the lower bound of N, which is the approximate number of stars in the observable universe multiplied by an informed estimate of the expected number of planets within the goldilocks zone. That's usually what people mean when they discuss N. N could be that, or it could be much much larger, but I think it's fine to limit the discussion to the lower bound, we still have a huge N to work with.

Also I think you missed my point which is about Bayesian estimation of p, not of N.

I ignored the comment about Bayesian estimation because I couldn't turn that comment into something that made any sense. Perhaps you could explain in detail what you meant?

Your statements in this thread have assumed we have no info to work with (as far as estimating p goes) because we have no understanding of the mechanisms behind how life came to be. But this ignores the evidence that we are here, which is info that can be used in a Bayesian framework to estimate p. The fact we exist, as well as information about how many billions of years it took for us to evolve, contains significant information about p.

I still don't understand. We have no useful lower bound on the probability that life arises, so how does Bayesian reasoning bootstrap to any meaningful lower bound?

Who said anything about a lower bound of p? I was talking about a lower bound on N, not a lower bound on p.

Bayesian reasoning (by using the fact that we exist rather than don't exist, as well as other info about our existence, such as how long it took us to evolve) helps us estimate a probability distribution of p, as well as a central tendency estimate.

See e.g. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/ast.2019.2149

But selection can happen with autocatalysts as well. I agree that you can't say life /has/ to exist elsewhere, but I think the trend in research has shown that life seems likelier and likelier to arise the more it is studied.

"Trend in research"? How could that possibly work? Research will tend to clear the low hanging fruit early, which means the easy steps. This tells us nothing about how difficult the difficult steps (if any) might be.

The analogy I like here is those "collect the letters" games you see at fast food outlets and grocery stores. Buy a Happy Meal, get a scratch off ticket. If you collect all the letters in some phrase you win $N million. When you start the game, the trend is great. Letters are arriving and the phrase is filling in. But try as you might, that last letter never shows up. The game ends and you've won nothing. Of course, the way the game was designed was that last letter controls how many winners there could be. All the rest were distractions.

It does however tell us that the "easy" steps are easy, which was never a foregone conclusion. The other steps will remain what they are. It doesn't mean the trend will continue.

I find it weird to use a deliberately rigged game as an example. If one of the previous letters was wrong, the last letter being right means you don't win either. It's like saying the difficult steps are going to be extra difficult because other steps were found easier than expected.

The point is that if you have N independent boolean random variables X1 ... Xn, establishing a lower bound on the probability that some proper subset of the Xi are true doesn't provide any useful lower bound on the probability they all are true.

Sure, my point was only that if the lower bound on the subset is higher than anyone expected, that will increase the probability of them all being true compared to your prior belief. And it will also increase the probability that life is more common.

You could argue that the priors were garbage I suppose. I'm not arguing for any particular probability.

The McDonalds example does not have independent variables as X1..Xn-1 are deliberately increased as Xn is decreased. I'd also argue that origin of life doesn't have independent variables. If chemistry turns out to be more or less powerful in one setting, it should do something for our assessment of other settings, especially when it's similar processes.

The prior belief must have been based on something. Where does a prior belief that ET life must exist with at least a certain probability come from?

The question becomes what do you think the hard step is?

It's not up to me to show that, since I'm not claiming life is rare. It's up to the person making the strong statement that life is (not just could be) common to convince me that there is no sufficiently difficult step. All I need to do is plausibly argue there could be a difficult step. Pointing out the complexity of all known self contained systems capable of Darwinian evolution is sufficient for that.

Another materialist who has it exactly backwards.

Consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of the brain. It is the base layer of reality.

You have to admire the repeatability with which they get it wrong. It's almost like they copied their homework.

Of subjective reality yes.

Which is all any of us have access to, and which all science is couched within

Objective reality is just consensus reality

I don’t know.. consensus reality is what I would call the reality that is portrayed in media or mabye the reality that fits the most nr of people.

Objective reality is best described with particle physics but that stuff can’t be understood by the human mind. The human mind can’t keep track of so much complexity at once.

This is very simple: consciousness is not an epiphenomenon of the brain. It's a universal force. We don't emit consciousness, we tap into it and experience it as individuations.

This why AI will never happen in the generalized sense. Because as long as we keep thinking we can engineer a mind out of matter, we'll keep chasing our tails.

Matter is a by-product of the universal mind. And we all experience our lives as singular nodes of that mind.

This has been known for millennia and is the basis for the world religions (which are mostly dumbed down co-optings of this).

Also, Bitcoin fixes this.

You just rediscovered dualism, consciousness is the new spirit, immaterial and beyond scientific investigation. Dualism is a dead end, it took a lot of time for people to understand that.

Why not come to the concrete level and realise that without consciousness you would not get something to eat and quickly die. So it has to do with life. We're complex self-replicators in an environment with scarce resources. We rely on consciousness to continue to exist. It feels like something to be you because you got a lot to win or lose, you're in a game of life and need to choose your actions.

Joplin is a nice find. I used to use WikiPad religiously until it seemed to go defunct.

I like the idea of Kinopio a lot because I use mindmaps heavily but find the hierarchical structure to be a limitation, this seems more lateral. Only problem is it's hosted, would love something like this in an app, like the aforementioned Joplin.

Where is the anti-vax material in that post?

The part where he says that being snarky to vaccine deniers is literally just as bad as racism.

> “Covidiots”, “Deniers” these are not rational counter-arguments, they’re slurs. Anybody employing them is not engaging in discourse but rather bigotry and prejudice. This is as inexcusable as racism. Over the past few years many have been challenged to examine their own biases and privilege, in certain contexts for perfectly valid reasons. Anybody engaging in this type of othering toward skeptics and contrarians lacks self-awareness and empathy to the same degree as a racist.

He didn't say they're as bad as racism. Inexcusable is not a synonym for bad.

He uses the words "slur", "bigotry and prejudice", "as inexcusable as racism", and "lacks self-awareness and empathy to the same degree as a racist".

Does that seem any more reasonable and rational than "as bad as racism"?

I could even get behind the basic idea that ad hominem attacks are always bad, except that he's already launched an ad hominem attack against what he assumes are "purple-haired Millennials with nose hoops and personal pronoun mood-rings" in the same article! I don't see how to read this as anything but "snarky insults are reprehensible when they happen to me and totally justified when I throw them at someone else."

Heh yeah fair point :-) Although even that is to some extent ad hominem; he might be being hypocritical, but that doesn't make the point itself wrong.

If the guy you responded to is not the author of that piece, he's connected to the site in some way.

I do not believe his question is in good faith, but is an attempt to deflect any criticism by instead forcing his critic to defend and explain in detail any such criticism before he even attempts to defend his half-baked ideas.

Yeah, there's definitely someone mass-downvoting anyone who criticizes the piece in any way. Dunno if it's that guy or not. But it doesn't hurt to have clear, concise answers to deflecting questions in the comments for skim-readers to see.

Eh. Maybe not. As of late, in the past year or so, I forget the actual timeline, I've noticed a certain direction the overall tone of the comments and voting have taken.

It's been a little frustrating (I guess that's the word closest to what I'm feeling) as I've typically viewed HN as a place that went more for technology and science rather than... other things.

> As of late, in the past year or so, I forget the actual timeline, I've noticed a certain direction the overall tone of the comments and voting have taken.

I've noticed the same thing. It's unsettling.

I haven't always agreed with the HN consensus on things, but until quite recently that consensus seemed to be honest and well-intentioned.

I'm still waiting for my Librem phone that I pre-ordered and paid for, over four years ago.

So, no, I think I'll pass.

And you haven't received refund?

I ordered and paid right at the beginning, and asked for refund about 6 months ago. Still haven't got refund. I consider it a post-tax donation at this point.

seriously? 4 years? I was going to order one. Forget it.

Four years ago it did not exist at all - the crowdfunding campaign to develop it started Aug 2017.

The final revision only started shipping in December 2020 (the first early batches in Nov 2019), but not all orders have been fulfilled yet because of supply chain issues. Shipping is supposed to resume soon though: https://puri.sm/posts/the-ball-and-supply-chain/

Silly him. It wasn't 4 years ago, it was 3 years and 11 months ago!

"the crowdfunding campaign to develop it" is the important part.

It's worth the wait. A full Linux phone that plugs in as a computer with USBC. A bit buggy right now without camera+gps and too many apps, but when software is ready this should be the future of mobile!

> And for the foreseeable future, governments have complete control over that

Actually.... governments are demonstrably losing control over that.

Governments worldwide are in process of destroying their currencies.

CBDBs will be social credit mechanisms of control.

Cryptos protect you from government. This year's run is because institutions are figuring out that bonds are dead and fiats are headed for hyperinflation, and CBDBs will be constructed in a way to preclude savings and capital formation.

Don't use Bitpay, they use some proprietary method that makes it impossible to use from most crypto wallets and I think they just settle into fiat so you can't HODL (could be wrong on the latter point, but not the former).

BTCPayserver.org is an open source stack that any reasonably technical team can use.

1. The invoice system is not proprietary and it has good client support. I have had no issues with it.

2. Settling into fiat is the best option for businesses that pay their expenses and/or taxes in fiat.

Also simplifies accounting a lot. For the same reason you normally get the card processor to receive the local currency, not separate one for every customer's country.

easyDNS used to take BCH but dropped it. https://easydns.com/blog/2019/01/29/bitcoin-cash-is-out-lite...

Dropped at the same time they added LTC.

Market caps according to CoinMarketCap: LTC $21,459,619,181, BCH $21,143,204,898, DOGE $36,149,070,463

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