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Rhys Taylor


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Ya done fucked up, Google

For me, Google+ is the internet. But it's clear that the security concern is a mere pretext for cancellation, so I don't have much hope of a revival.

As a just-in-case move that will take about five seconds of your time and cost you nothing, consider signing the petition :

My plan is to continue using G+ more or less as normal until the bitter end. I don't currently use any other social media but at some point - not anytime soon - I'll switch to something else, possibly multiple services. I haven't decided anything yet. There's a community dedicated to this here :

Feel free to note where you're going (or other ways I can reach you) in the comments on this thread, which I'll pin. Of course, I'll also be manually checking as many people as possible to see where y'all going. I can always be reached via my :
- Website :
- Blog :
- Email :

On the positive side this is an opportunity to start anew and form new bonds in new communities. On the negative side, G+ already had a fantastic community of people I never would have interacted with elsewhere. It was a great service, poorly understood and maintained by its own developers, kept alive by its wonderful users. Yes, even - especially - the crazy ones. Because while many of you antisocial media users have some views which are frankly worrying, not a single damn one of you didn't have at least something useful to say that I wouldn't have heard otherwise. Whatever's next, it won't be the same.
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It's a small world after all

Welcome to the Musée des Plans Reliefs — home to one of France’s most curious historical treasures, a unique collection of miniature fortified cities created in secrecy for French monarchs throughout history to plan their next attacks.
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Nazi Farmyard Iiiiiinnn Spaaaaaace paper accepted !

On which I am third author. I am a space farmer now. Space farmers are cool.

Numerical constraints on the size of generation ships : from total energy expenditure on board, annual food production and space farming techniques

In the first papers of our series on interstellar generation ships we have demonstrated that the numerical code HERITAGE is able to calculate the success rate of multi-generational space missions. Thanks to the social and breeding constraints we examined, a multi-generational crew can safely reach an exoplanet after centuries of deep space travel without risks of consanguinity or genetic disorders. We now turn to addressing an equally important question : how to feed the crew? Dried food stocks are not a viable option due to the deterioration of vitamins with time and the tremendous quantities that would be required for long-term storage. The best option relies on farming aboard the spaceship. Using an updated version of HERITAGE that now accounts for age-dependent biological characteristics such as height and weight, and features related to the varying number of colonists, such as infertility, pregnancy and miscarriage rates, we can estimate the annual caloric requirements aboard using the Harris-Benedict principle. By comparing those numbers with conventional and modern farming techniques we are able to predict the size of artificial land to be allocated in the vessel for agricultural purposes. We find that, for an heterogeneous crew of 500 people living on an omnivorous, balanced diet, 0.45 km2 of artificial land would suffice in order to grow all the necessary food using a combination of aeroponics (for fruits, vegetables, starch, sugar, and oil) and conventional farming (for meat, fish, dairy, and honey).
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You Had One Job tweeted:
Don’t leave your order on the shop answering machine.
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Talent versus luck : now with social security...

Full write-up here (not gonna do a summary every time, sorry) :

Since the exact positions of the events and the agents seem to be quite important, I wondered what would happen if their minimum and maximum wealth was limited. For example, a very talented agent who's unfortunate enough to have a run of bad luck might end up so impoverished that recovery was impossible. Maybe if he had some social security to get him through a rough patch, he'd be able to go on to bigger and better things. Perhaps that would help reduce scatter in the talent-money trend. And maybe if agents were forbidden from becoming dangerously wealthy, it would improve social equality and the underlying talent-money trend would become clearer.

Both of these things are very easy to do in this magical simulation land : I simply set agent's wealth back to the starting value if it ever drops below it, and restrict it to some maximum if it ever exceeds it. The maximum was chosen based on looking at the typical wealth distribution that results.

I also realised that until now I've been concentrating on the richest and most intelligent people in the simulation, and not given much thought to the poorest and stupidest. Time to stop neglecting those who need the most help ! Here, the 20% poorest are shown by faint black line while the 20% least talented are shown with a faint red line.

The first row in the figure uses the standard conditions : talent affects whether lucky events will increase wealth or not, but that's all. Capping the maximum wealth doesn't change very much. Limiting the minimum wealth doesn't help the most talented very much (maybe a little bit) but it does prove useful for the talentless and poorest people. The wealth of those demographics evolves in a very similar way. So even though there's still no (obvious) talent-wealth correlation, it has improved things, in a sense : the poorest people tend to be the stupidest*. Hooray, I guess, if crushing the idiots is your thing.

*I need to check that more rigorously though, I'm just basing this on the similarity of the curves rather than comparing agent numbers.

Oddly, capping both the minimum and maximum wealth splits those two demographics apart again : the most and least talented people basically never get any more or less share of the total wealth than at the start. The poorest people, on the other hand, no longer lose quite as much as they did previously.

The second row shows the case of allowing talent to affect both whether unlucky events will cause harm and whether events are lucky or unlucky to begin with. As previously, this causes a clear talent-wealth correlation whilst maintaining the power-law wealth distribution (not shown here). Under those conditions, regardless of whether we cap wealth at all, the stupidest and poorest people tend to be one and the same. Which made me feel guilty : rewarding the most talented is one thing, but crushing the least talented is quite another... I'm so sorry, agent no. 532, forgive me ! It's better than giving the stupid people all the money, I guess, but actively punishing them for being stupid wasn't what I had in mind. Though, if both upper and lower wealth caps are used, all the demographics plotted are much more equal than in the other cases.

I've also found that sometimes these plots look a lot more chaotic, especially if the simulation is given more timesteps. What I think is happening is that a few agents are able to amass vast amounts of wealth, much more than any others, which skews the statistics. I could try removing these outliers, but a wealth cap - a relatively high one - would probably be an easier solution.
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An Agent-Based Model of Wikipedia Edit Wars : How and When Consensus is Reached

A very strange but interesting paper which tries to model how quickly consensus is established by editors of controversial Wikipedia articles. I can't help feeling that there's an awful lot of complex modelling gone in to producing conclusions which for the most part are obvious and common-sense. At the same time, trying to model consensus-formation is very interesting, even if this particular case is oddly specific. It does have the option of calibrating against well-documented examples though.

The model includes a bunch of different parameters :
- The ability of agents to commit changes or reversions to articles, which can be both positive or negative in favour of a given viewpoint (hence four possible actions they can take)
- The credibility of different agents
- A probability that agents will actually take one of the possible actions
- A "payoff" given to agents for taking actions, which varies in a highly complex way based on the agent's stance and the other agent's actions and credibility
- A desired level of payoff for each agent
- The ability for agents to "learn", in the sense that the probability of the actions they take vary based on their results, though I can't make head nor tail as to how this is actually implemented

All of this results in the rather uninteresting conclusions :
- The more likely an agent is to make a revision, the longer it takes to establish consensus
- Consensus is established more rapidly when credibility of the agents involved is higher, up to a point
- Consensus is established most rapidly when everyone agrees and most slowly when opposing sides are about equal (well, blow me down with a feather (!))

It's still an interesting idea. I'd like to see it applied to more general situations.

Via +Event Horizon, naturally.
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Copying here an FB post about hogback stones in its entirety, because they are absolutely fascinating. They are Christian viking gravemarkers.

Posted by "Find Her in the Highlands"

What an amazing afternoon I had. As most of you know I'm researching to write a novel set in the 9th century when the Picts and the Vikings (and others) were battling for Scotland. I've been visiting lots of Pictish stones, and was dismayed to learn that the Govan Old Parish Church, which houses 5 Viking hogback stones, was closed for the season. I contacted the The Govan Stones Project about a possible visit and today the lovely Emma opened the church for me.

I was not prepared for the amazing stone treasures that the church holds. I spent 2 hours with my jaw on the floor as the winds howled around the church, and the rains lashed the huge stained glass windows. It grew dark while I was inside, creating the perfect atmosphere for tales of medieval kings, mysterious creatures, saints, battles and treachery. Emma made coffee to keep us warm in the cold church, and as we walked around she showed me stone after stone recovered in the cemetery of the church, dating back to the medieval Kingdom of Strathclyde between the 9th and 11th centuries. Some were likely recumbent stones to mark graves. Others were likely "signposts" of the day, marking important places.

And then there were the hogback stones. I have never seen anything like them - they look otherwordly. This style of stones was created by Vikings when they raided and settled across England, Scotland and Ireland. They were likely to mark the graves of important people. They don't even exist in Scandinavia - they are the product of the Vikings embracing Christianity and using Christian burial yards, but putting their own spin on their grave stones. It seems the most widely accepted theories are that they either represent the tiled roofs of Viking longhouses, or upside down boats. (The Vikings were known to bring their boats inland and tip them over to serve as shelter.) Creatures of various sorts are usually holding the ends of the stones. The Govan hogbacks are the biggest in existence, and 5 in one place is incredible. (If you have been to Kelvingrove Art Gallery you will likely have seen replica castings of these stones.)

I asked about Pictish influence in the area. Not only could Emma tell me there was an influence, she brought me to the next jaw dropping artifact - a stone sarcophagus thought to belong to St. Constantine, the son of King Kenneth MacAlpin. The carvings definitely have Pictish influence, and the mounted horseman bears a striking resemblance to the warriors I saw on my recent visit to Sueno's Stone in Forres, which may depict a great victory by Kenneth MacAlpin.

It is astounding that these stones still exist - Govan was completely enveloped in the industrial ship building boom in the 1800s and there is no telling what other treasures lay under the subsequent developments. Please plan the Govan Stones into your next visit to Glasgow - it is absolutely a must see, and I'm excited to do what I can to help them with their efforts to raise awareness and funding for this amazing place. I would write more but the coffee shop is closing!

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Curiously satisfying.
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Very cool illusion. I saw it once in my feed when I checked my phone very early in the morning and it took about a minute before they inverted. The second time (right now) it took a few seconds. A thoroughly strange sensation. So far I can't seem to make them flip back in the same way I can usually do with a little effort for similar illusions (e.g. the rotating statue, the tube train gif). Weird.

Via +Joerg Fliege.
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