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‮Zack Weinberg @zwol@mastodon.social

the trick with trying to come up with some kind of terrible crossover pun is getting the two references precisely balanced at 50%

It has been pointed out to me (on birdsite) that I should have been more specific about the observable behavior of the black boxes. When both boxes are hooked up to the specified power supply and turned on, and you feed one box a signal, it comes out of the other box order of 10μs later. That delay is a constant, independent of distance, at least up to separations on the order of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Either box can send.

oh, one more thing: the power jacks are also labeled MAX LOAD 5 AMPS.

You can get as fancy as you want with "equipment available today". Put the boxes on custom satellites in solar orbit if you have to. It's just got to be stuff that we already understand how to build.

The puzzle is: Using these boxes plus equipment available today, could you build an experiment that would set up a full-on time paradox (the signal goes into box A if and only if the signal does not go into box A)? What would that setup look like?

Failing that, could you at least build an experiment that would observe the signal go backward in time in somebody's reference frame, and what would _that_ setup look like?

But here is this pair of black boxes, and it is easy to confirm that they do what the note says they do. You put 300 km between the boxes, you synchronize two clocks, you observe a signal go into one box and come out the other in less than a millisecond.

There is also a note. It just says "These are an ansible." There is no return address or further explanation.

Now. Technically, relativity only says that whenever a signal goes from A to B faster than light in one reference frame, there is another frame in which it goes backward in time. We assume this means FTL signaling is impossible, because we assume time travel is impossible.

I have a puzzle for the experimental physicists in the room, which occurred to me this morning in the shower.

Suppose you are the sort of experimental physicist who works on relativity -- stuff like Gravity Probe B. One morning you get to your office and there's a package on your desk containing two black boxes. Each has a switch labeled ON/OFF, a standard UHF coax jack labeled SIGNAL, and a pair of banana jacks labeled +12V and GND.

in case anyone is curious about the status of the thing I was kvetching about last week, five minutes before the submission deadline we finally got past weeks of miscommunication and determined that I had written the wrong paper :headdesk:

@bob @cwebber @nightpool *postmodernist voice* the problem with the semantic web is the underlying assumption that knowledge can be structured

@shel @bob @cwebber @bruno unfortunately the counterpoint here (not sure if you saw my argument with spencer) is that computers can ONLY work with things that are structured. that is their triumph and that is their tragedy.

and above and beyond that, how long have we been keeping card catalogs, taxonomies, categories of all objects? fucking john wilkins even! this is obviously something that's deeply embedded in our culture and yet we time and time again fail to recognize the limitations of it.

So FreeBSD added a line prohibiting unsolicited virtual hugs/backrubs/etc. to its Code of Conduct: freebsd.org/internal/code-of-c

A few people I followed up till now don't seem to understand why this would be necessary, which is exactly why it is necessary. This is what you have to do when people are obtuse (intentionally or not) about what constitutes "creepy" behaviour.

Yes, it seems silly to "ban virtual hugs" as @BryanLunduke puts it. But it's a genuinely tricky part of online etiquette. Sometimes I say "e-hugs if wanted", but it is probably preferable to find a way to express sympathy without inadvertently acting too familiar with someone.

It's really about creating a culture where no one has to worry about being touched without their consent, even in seemingly small, inconsequential ways. From the ground up.

I have many questions, but perhaps strongest of all is who let UI developers get away with calling three lines stacked on top of each other a "hamburger menu"

update: because I had one lousy firewall rule wrong AND multiple latent bugs in the data collection process are now manifesting AND dammit the deadline is Monday I don't have time for this shit

all of this data is garbage because I had one lousy firewall rule set wrong
no, i'm not having a good day at work, why do you ask

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