Signal-Noise

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By Jacob Kastrenakes

It’s passed the Senate. It’s going to the House.

IF YOU ARE AMERICAN: Please call your House representatives! Call your Senate representatives too, if you want to give ‘em a piece of your mind.

IF YOU ARE NOT AMERICAN: Please spread the word. Reblog. Tell your internet friends.

anonymous asked:

Social Competence: How do increase the density of insightful things I say in conversation? I want people to like talking to me, but I think I have a low signal-to-noise ratio. This mostly comes up at parties/social gatherings. I don't say anything because nothing I think of is interesting. Is there a way to improve SNR?

I hope you don’t mind if I don’t answer the object-level question (how to increase insight-density in a conversation) in favour of answering what I think is the meta-level question (how to be a pleasant conversationalist). [Also, all advice given here is aimed at the readership in general.]

I want to focus on the latter because signal-to-noise ratio is a terrible way to think about conversations.


This is because conversations have basically no “noise”. A lot of people with the not-geek not-autism thing hate when conversations go over things that don’t feel deep or insightful. Similarly, a lot of people who like clear systems would like to purge all the irregular verbs from their language. However, natural communication doesn’t work that way. Just as fully-regular constructed languages are hard to speak, conversations purged of “noise” are hard to have.

Firstly, because the “noise” serves an important purpose. It’s the bit of the conversation where people display the pattern of their own thoughts. When you’re aiming to be insightful, you give the other person what you think they want to hear, which tells them little about the kind of person you are. However, when you freely meander through conversation space, it lets people trace what pattern your thoughts generally follow.

Furthermore, the “noisy” parts of the conversation are generally the ones where personal information is shared. It’s where you talk about your weekend, your family, your hobbies, and all the other things that make you uniquely you. As I’ve said before, letting people see into you is what allows you to make close friends.

I think I’ll just quote HPMOR!Draco on it over and over again forever, because this is the first law of friendmaking:

Harry glanced away uncomfortably, then, with an effort, forced himself to look back at Draco. “Why are you telling me that? It seems sort of… private…”

Draco gave Harry a serious look. “One of my tutors once said that people form close friendships by knowing private things about each other, and the reason most people don’t make close friends is because they’re too embarrassed to share anything really important about themselves.” Draco turned his palms out invitingly. “Your turn?”

It doesn’t actually matter whether or not it’s embarrassment causing it. It could also be an unwillingness to seem inane. Whatever causes you to not show others who you are, that is an obstacle to becoming close to them. It’s not the signal-to-noise ratio that makes people feel connected to you, but actually feeling like they know you. 

Seeming insightful can get people to listen to you, but it won’t form a friendship on its own. It’ll be more like being a lecturer. People may seek you out to hear you speak about that particular topic, but they will only care a little about you-as-a-person. They may remember what you said on the philosophy of identity, but they won’t remember your birthday (which’ll be your fault for never telling them).


The second thing is that artificial attempts to increase the signal-to-noise ratio are generally self-defeating. If you’re trying to filter out all the uninteresting things you might say, you’ll often end up saying nothing at all. Far too many times, I’ve seen two nerds have a brief interaction, followed by both of them staring at each other trying to come up with things to say, and then drifting away from each other for the rest of the evening. Almost invariably, they wonder why the conversation died.

Conversations die when you hold yourself back from speaking. In my opinion, not wanting to seem boring is a particularly bad reason to have that hesitation. In the worst case scenario of being boring, the other person stops talking to you and drifts away. In all scenarios where you let a conversation die, the other person stops talking to you and drifts away.

However, even if you can keep the conversation by throwing out random bits of insight-porn, you will usually end up talking about the least insightful things out of the set of insightful things you could talk about. You’ll talk about the few things you manage to throw out as non-sequitur, which are generally not where the most stimulating interactions lie.

Most of the really interesting conversations I’ve had have been ones that evolved organically. The conversations you can have when both sides have a general feeling of understanding and common knowledge are usually far superior when to the ones where each person is trying to see how many layers of signalling they can be on.

So, in conclusion: Don’t hesitate to be inane. Say the things that are on your mind! Explore conversation-space! Avoid being frustrated by a conversation not being 10 lightbulbs a minute. The best conversations - and all close friendships - are built on background knowledge.


People who asked to be tagged/alerted in posts like this include: @cai10, @rhainelovespeople@whyarealltheuseramestaken​, @curlyhumility​, @amakthel, @lilithmeetsprometheus​, @dhominis​, @overlordtulip​, @bannableoffense​, @78nanosieverts​, @onthecareandfeedingofcatgirls​, @tempestwindblown​, @robustcornhusk​, @cafemachiavelli​, @apprenticebard​, @andhishorse​, @h3lldalg0​, and several others who were untaggable for some reason.

If you also want to be tagged in future social skills post, like this post [link] to let me know. If you don’t know about this series or this blogger, you can learn more here [other link].

Trolls keep outsmarting anti-harassment tools. Will Twitter’s new system actually work?

  • Mic asked Leslie Miley, a former engineer at Twitter who started the product safety and security team that handled abuse, if Twitter is capable of handling the complex mechanisms of creative and dedicated abusers.
  • The answer: It’s complicated but possible. Miley said that trolls can use code words and misspelled words, but that the tooling Twitter had in 2015 would be able to handle those.
  • “If you start using ‘bob’ as a code word for some racist term, then it gets really difficult,” Miley said. “You can try to do a signal-to-noise ratio” so if accounts are flagged that are part of “affinity groups known for abusive behavior or racist views, the tooling is really easily modified to handle that.”
  • If these algorithms don’t prove effective, however, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Read more

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7

Could No New Particles At The LHC Be Exactly What Physics Needs?

“That’s why I’d love it if the bump goes away. Because it would be a clear signal that we’ve been doing something seriously wrong, that our experience from constructing the standard model is no longer a promising direction to continue.

We already know we’ve been doing something wrong – bump or no bump – because naturalness has gone out the window. But if the bump stays, chances are we’d try to absorb it into the mathematics we already have rather than look for something really new. Sometimes things have to get really bad before they can get better. That’s why for me no-bump is the most hopeful outcome.”

At the end of its second, high-energy run, the Large Hadron Collider appeared to display evidence that perhaps a new particle existed at an energy of 750 GeV. The excess of twin photons produced at that energy appeared in both the ATLAS and CMS detectors, and might indicate the first particle beyond the standard model. It might also be a little-understood feature of the standard model itself, or — perhaps most likely — it may be merely statistical noise. But perhaps the ‘nightmare scenario’ of no new particles is exactly what physics needs, to divert us away from the dead ends of naturalness, elegance, unification and greater and greater symmetries, which have borne no experimental fruits in more than 40 years.

Old Married Couple Syndrome (Lafayette x Reader)

@marquis-de-labaguette asked: “the “so what are we now?” prompt !!! also i love your fics and you’re great ok byeeeee -marquis-de-labaguette (from my main blog)”

A/N: Sorry this took so long but school is kicking my ass and so is work and life in general tbh. I’ll try to be posting at least one fic a week though because all you lovely angels deserve it. I really hope you like this!

Word Count: 1,575

Masterlist


As you opened the door to your apartment, you could hear the sound of someone cooking in the kitchen. Thank god, you thought to yourself. It had been a long day and you were definitely not in the mood to cook. Your smile widened as you saw your best friend and roommate Lafayette making what appeared to be some sort of French dish. You set your bag down on the floor, the small noise signalling Lafayette to your presence.

“Well hello there, ma cherie, how was your day?” he asked with a smile.

You loved that he always called you cute pet names, even though your relationship had been completely platonic since you had met back in high school. Now you were both juniors in university, but you had lived together since freshman year. Both of you had been accepted into the programs of your choice at NYU, which was far from your hometown in Virginia. It was all very overwhelming for you at first, but you knew you would have your best friend by your side to live with and help you through this. Flash forward to now, and you didn’t know what you would do without him. He had helped you through the most stressful days, and he was there for your happiest and proudest moments. You knew that no matter what the situation, if you needed him, he would be there for you, even if it meant dropping his plans. You of course had done the same for him multiple times. You two took care of each other, and you were incredibly grateful to be able to call him your best friend.

You only wished you could call him your boyfriend.

But that was beside the point. Saying anything about your feelings toward him would only ruin the close friendship you had, and there was no way in hell you were doing that. He was everything to you, and you wouldn’t dare do something that would ruin your friendship.

Things were good enough as they were, as long as he remained in your life.

“Well I think my quiz went well. Wednesday’s are just the worst. That 8 am class will be the death of me.”

You hopped up to sit on the counter as you usually did whenever he cooked dinner.

“I told you not to take it.”

You rolled your eyes at him.

“I know I know but-”

“But it was the only thing that could fit into your schedule,” Lafayette said with a grin as he finished your sentence.

You couldn’t help but grin.

“This is exactly the reason why people say we’re like an old married couple.”

“Me finishing your sentences?” he asked while furrowing his eyebrows slightly.

“And me always being the one who is right in this relationship.”

Your heart leapt of its own accord as Lafayette laughed.

“I will let you keep thinking that, ma cherie. Besides, only Alexander and John say that,” he reasoned.

“And Hercules,” you added.

“Oh. Right. But I do not think-”

“Let’s not forget about Angelica, Eliza-”

“And Peggy!” He added with an excited voice as he once again finished your sentence, causing you to smile.

“You see, it’s not just a few people! Though that can’t be everyone… I mean who else do we know that we hang out with often that would also be insufferable enough to…”

Both of your eyes widened in realization and you both spoke at the same time.

“Burr!”

You both burst into laughter and Lafayette smiled at you.

“He really is the worst sometimes,” Lafayette thought out loud.

“At least you have me to balance it out, since I’m clearly the best,” you teased.

Lafayette let out a small chuckle.

“You most certainly are,” he said before giving your cheek a quick kiss as he did occasionally.

You gave him a pointed look and realization seemed to finally dawn on him

“Perhaps we do act like an old married couple, ma cherie,” Lafayette admitted sheepishly, though he couldn’t contain his smile.

“But my good sir, are we not the best old married couple?” You teased again.

Lafayette gave you one of his regular fond looks.

“If you ask me, ma cherie, I believe we are,” he said softly.

There was something behind his eyes that made your stomach erupt in butterflies, but you could not quite place the meaning.

“Me too,” you admitted quietly.

You held each other’s gazes for a few moments before you both turned away shyly.

That was… different.

Lafayette continued to cook while you regained the courage to look at him. As you watched him, you couldn’t help but feel a stronger pull toward him. It was taking everything you had to not jump off the counter and kiss him, but you knew you had to restrain yourself for good reason. You both remained in a comfortable silence for the next few minutes.

When Lafayette finished dinner, you hopped down from the counter to join him in eating. He began telling you about his day and you listened intently. After dinner you sat down on your couch in the living room. You kept busy by doing the reading for tomorrow’s class, and Lafayette did research for his essay. It was a regular weekday night.

Except for that look you two shared earlier. There was something about that moment that kept you from being able to focus completely on your reading.

But it was probably nothing.


“I will be seeing you at home tonight then?” Lafayette asked as he put on his shoes.

On Friday’s Lafayette always left for his classes before you left for yours. While it would be a prime opportunity to sleep, Lafayette was the clumsiest man you knew, and though he was skilful in the kitchen, he couldn’t help but make a lot of noise while he got ready in the mornings. You had resigned yourself to this long ago, and instead would wake up to make you both breakfast before he left. At least it gave you a lot of time to get work done before heading to your first class.

“Duh. What other plans would I have on a Friday with midterms just around the corner?” You grinned as Lafayette fondly rolled his eyes.

“Well you never know, ma cherie. A beautiful woman such as yourself is probably bound to have many offers.”

You rolled your eyes at his usual flirting, ignoring how warm it made you feel.

“Sure, Laffy Taffy,” you responded sarcastically.

“I mean it.”

The sincerity in his tone surprised you. You took a moment and looked at him, choosing your next words carefully.

“But if the offers don’t come from the right person, then what’s the point?”

After the look you had shared two days ago, you couldn’t help but put more thought into the idea of you two as an actual couple, not just a jokingly old married one. You knew that you weren’t unattractive, and you weren’t unwanted. The ones giving you attention, however, were not the ones you wanted it to come from. You wanted to be Lafayette’s girlfriend. You wanted everything with him, really, but you knew that it was a sensitive thing to try and approach since you were unsure if he harboured any feelings for you as well.

Lafayette seemed to hesitate as well before replying. You both had a sense that you were now treading on dangerous waters.

“Then you pray that one day, the person who you have feelings for will return them. In the meantime you hold onto them, because they brighten your day with just a smile, or a text, or even just the thought of them. Because it does not matter in what capacity they are in your life, what matters is that you keep them in your life.”

His voice was soft as he spoke, never breaking eye contact with you. You were more torn than ever. You wished you could kiss him so badly, and there was something in his eyes and voice that were compelling you to take the next step, but your insecurities were holding you back.

“But if you mean half as much to them as they mean to you… they wouldn’t abandon you for feeling a certain way about them… right?”

Your tone was filled with uncertainty, but it was also laced with hope. It wasn’t until then that you had noticed how close you two were standing. As the seconds passed, your stomach became more and more knotted. How you wished that Lafayette would say something so that you didn’t feel like an idiot just standing there staring at him all doe-eyed.

His eventual response was to kiss you.

You only hesitated a fraction of a second before reciprocating. You wrapped your arms around his neck as his wound themselves around your waist. After you pulled away, you both were grinning widely.

“So… what are we now?” Lafayette asked in a shy voice.”Because while I respect whatever decision you make mademoiselle, I believe we are one step closer to truly becoming that old married couple that everyone believes we are.”

You smiled at him and pecked his lips, giggling a bit when he chased after yours when you pulled away quickly.

“I would have to agree with you,” you assured him.

He grinned and nuzzled your noses together.

“That doesn’t mean you’re getting out of washing the dishes tonight, Laffy Taffy.”

who first thought of doorbells? not someone with anxiety. who thinks “here’s a Loud Noise to signal that it’s time for human interaction!” is a good idea like seriously

Rosetta’s comet emitting mysterious signals.

The Rosetta mission has detected a mysterious signal coming from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission has five instruments in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) that measure the plasma environment surrounding the comet. Plasma is a charged gas and the RPC is tasked with understanding variations in the comet’s activity, how 67P’s jets of vapour and dust interacts with the solar wind and the dynamic structure of the comet’s nucleus and coma. But when recording signals in the 40-50 millihertz frequency range, the RPC scientists stumbled on a surprise - the comet was singing, they report. Through some kind of interaction in the comet’s environment, 67P’s weak magnetic field seems to be oscillating at low frequencies.

In an effort to better understand this unique signal, mission scientists have increased the frequency 10,000 times to make it audible to the human ear. First detected in August as Rosetta approached the comet from 100 kilometres, this magnetic oscillation has continued. Rosetta scientists speculate that the oscillations may be driven by the ionisation of neutral particles from the comet’s jets. As they are released into space, they collide with high-energy particles from interplanetary space and become ionised. Because it is electrically charged, the plasma then interacts with the cometary magnetic field, causing oscillations. But to draw any conclusions about this, further work is needed.

You can listen to it here:
https://soundcloud.com/esaops

The results are what you have with you now: the sound of a long-broken machine deciding, on its own and without the interference of repairmen or excessive prayer vigils, to function again. It is a painfully raw sound that can legitimately be thought of as a second performer on these otherwise unaccompanied recordings. Its inexplicable self-originating will to go on echoes some of the boneheaded ideas that motivate the people who populate these little songs. Some of us, when we’re really sleepy or facing an unacceptable loss, imagine the hand of a person behind all this: an ornery little fellow who will have no sound without a second sound to obscure and pollute it, who is deeply mistrusting of singers in general, and who believes that whatever “signal-to-noise ratio” might mean, it can’t be any good unless more value is placed on the latter of the two hyphenated terms. Of course the original signal is never actually anywhere near any recordings anywhere, but you all already knew that. You have been sure of it for quite some time now. You see the proof everywhere. It is the reason you started reading these lines in the first place.
—  John Darnielle, All Hail West Texas liner notes
2

Why can we find geometric shapes in the night sky? How can we know that at least two people in London have exactly the same number of hairs on their head? And why can patterns be found in just about any text — even Vanilla Ice lyrics? Is there a deeper meaning? 

The answer is no, and we know that thanks to a mathematical principle called Ramsey theory. So what is Ramsey theory? Simply put, it states that given enough elements in a set or structure, some particular interesting pattern among them is guaranteed to emerge.

The mathematician T.S. Motzkin once remarked that, “while disorder is more probable in general, complete disorder is impossible.” The sheer size of the Universe guarantees that some of its random elements will fall into specific arrangements, and because we evolved to notice patterns and pick out signals among the noise, we are often tempted to find intentional meaning where there may not be any. So while we may be awed by hidden messages in everything from books, to pieces of toast, to the night sky, their real origin is usually our own minds.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The origin of countless conspiracy theories - PatrickJMT

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