Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fermi: What Paradox?

The Fermi paradox has been getting a lot of attention over the last year, with increasing amounts of doomsday to actually finding life. The Paradox is that if we are statistically average and we're not that old, than we should have found life by now, but we haven't. The supposed answer is that there are great filters that come along and crush potential civilizations, which is why we don't see them, with the other alternative being that we're just special. Finding life means we're not special, so hold on for that filter coming to wipe us out, or maybe we passed it?

So lets start by looking at the assumptions the paradox makes. They are: We've got 13 Billion years of history, and our system is only 4 Billion years old, so everyone else has a head start. There are not only lots of planets, there are lots of habitable planets. We'd see the signs of civilizations that are more advanced than us. 

So let's tackle the head start one. At the start of the universe there was just hydrogen. Heavier elements are made in the center of stars, and get included in planets when those stars explode and their remnants eventually make it into new systems. As a result the chemistry of the universe is constantly changing. Solar Systems formed significantly before ours won't have the same proportion of elements. Yes in the planets we can see, we see complicated elements, but a lot of the time we're just seeing things on the lower part of the periodic table. Being sure that there is a head start for planets like ours is a stretch. So at worst we passed a filter, but I think it's more accurate to say that we don't know when life should have started to start, yet. 

What about all the habitable planets? Well as noted above a lot of them may not have our complicated chemistry, and might be ok to colonize if we can bring the trace elements we need, but may not be complicated enough to give rise to life. Beyond that, let's look at our solar system. Mars is in the habitable range, but if it's home to anything now it's only extremophiles. What went wrong for Mars?
It's magnetic field went belly up. That cost it most of it's atmosphere as well as protection from radiation. It's speculated that our magnetic field is the result of the motion of our planets ferrous liquid core. We think that martian vulcanism is dead. So maybe is the mojo in the core that once generated the field. So some would be habitable planets just haver a limited lifetime, after which only extremophiles can hang on. Then there's Venus. Venus has a very slow rotation and no magnetic field. Why is the rotation so slow did it ever have a magnetic field? Venus also has another problem. A runaway greenhouse effect. What did this, the lack of a magnetic field, the long days leading to less localized thermal regulation to begin with. There's so much wrong with Venus, that we don't know where to begin. But of our 3 planet sample, one has life, one could have had life but not anymore, and one had at best a much shorter period of habitability. Again planets like these might be useful to us in the long run but don't serve as sources for the civilizations that we think that we should see. And that's not counting other benefits we have like our moon to give us tides and wind, or the moon and Jupiter to reduce the number of strikes our planet takes. We don't know what portion of planets out there have all these favorable factors but it's far fewer than 100% It would be weird if the majority of potentially habitable planets in our solar system weren't habitable but nearly all others were. So compared to others in our own system we passed the filters. But finding life on Mars doesn't tell us more than we already know, that Mars isn't habitable. But in the big picture it's just that we need to refine our estimates of habitable worlds. To produce civilization they probably need magnetic fields, and maybe a few other things. 

Finally there is the notion that we'd see signs of civilizations more advanced than us. Our use of radio waves has been a blip. Who knows what our future holds, but if we abandon broad spectrum radio waves within a hundred years than that it's just a blip and the notion that we'd be where we are and be at the perfect distance to catch another civilizations radio blip is highly unlikely. And it's really arrogant to project on what we'll be capable of in the future, and thus what another civilization would be capable of. This is the most baseless of the assumptions. We have reason to believe the universe is much older than us, we have reason to believe that there are lots of planets, but until we spot one we have no reason to believe that a remote civilization would be detectable by us for all but a brief window. Finding the ruins of one of these civilizations wouldn't necessarily be ominous. We keep finding remnants of pockets of our own civilization that have been lost and forgotten. If we never quite terraform Mars or the moon, it would be logical for us to abandon them if we end up with easier access to terraformed worlds. So this isn't a sign of a greater doom for us. 

So where does this leave us? With shrinking the time and the candidates for habitable planets, I think we've taken the advanced civilizations should be out there to advanced civilizations may be out there. And by being honest with notion that we would see them, I think we've taken the sails out of it completely. And without there Paradox where is the doomsday of finding alien life? It's potentially largely gone too. If we find extremophile primitive life, it's a good sign that even on inhabitable worlds we may find important compounds for a colony (also potentially dangerous ones). If we find life on a scale relatable to the progress of life on earth, we can tweak our sense of where we are on the timeframe of life. And if we find a thriving inter-sellar society than hooray no filter. And if we find ruins, until we find that they really are all gone it doesn't necessarily mean anything in particular because it could pretty much mean anything. Plus if we do find that they were done in by a filter, we can learn from that (what humans are good at) and maybe avoid it.

In conclusion I would say the Fermi paradox can be ignored, for being perhaps too baseless. The doomsday of finding life in light of the Fermi paradox, more so. Don't be afraid. The universe is beautiful, and it's mysteries, no matter what they are, are worth exploring. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Statistical wellness: the current face of eugenics

Eugenics are back! And in some cases being enforced by governments!

Ok, so that bears some explanation. But I’m going to have to start with some basics.

The first thing to understand is that we don’t know how our bodies work. We see what they do and have some really good ideas about what’s going on, but we’re not really sure. This is why drugs still have to go through trials cause it’s all guessing. Where we differ from the age of leeches, is statistics. We started using data across populations to figure out what worked and what didn’t and we started to correlate different metrics for quantifying a person. Doing this made a leaps and bounds improvement to medicine.The problem is that the low hanging fruit of obvious and useful correlations have all been  identified. Now all the correlations are part of more complicated systems so they are much harder to figure out. The other thing to understand is that most of the work has been targeted and dealing with illness. All the metrics we use are targeted for use when the patient has a problem, as part of a process to guess what the problem is. It’s not a process that thinks it’s definitely going to get it right on the first try, so it isn’t optimized for that. It’s optimized for the statistically best outcome.

The second thing to understand is that we’re not all the same. A person whose growth has been stunted might be taller than a different person in perfect health. We vary. There are members of our population that stand out. Sometimes when we identify these people we learn something. Most of the time we just don’t understand. Averageness and healthiness are disconnected.

With our wellness programs we’ve decided to use our diagnostic tools to evaluate people. Which with my setup leads to, What happens when someone that’s not average goes in for one of these checkups?   They get identified as potentially having a problem and start to get treated for it. In all likelihood they’ll either continue to be treated to cure their healthiness for the rest of their lives, though instead of being treated for one non-problem, they may have a doctor that wants to aggressive track down the non-problem, and keeps changing up their mistreatment. What happens when you keep trying to fix something that isn’t broken? It’s going to break! Wellness programs are by design going to harm the atypical. Then why do we do it? Because it’s statistically “better”. Where better is a metric that includes lifetime cost of care. “Better” might also consider some other factors like life expectancy, but a treatment that kills half the people that take it instantly but slightly more than doubles the life expectancy of the rest is also “better”. Not to mention that some atypical people who would benefit from being checked, won’t because they’re unhealthily (for them) average. The is a system that helps the “average” at the cost of the atypical.

Which leaves us with, the question, if we keep coming back to eugenics, is it really wrong? Objectively, Yes! Favoring an ideal leads to a monoculture. Monocultures are susceptible to extinction level pandemics. We’re in the middle of the 2nd one for commercial bananas. Also for sexually reproducing populations you have the genetic bottle neck which leds to all the genetic problems from inbreeding. Beyond that, you have to remember that we don’t really understand how our bodies work. What ever statistical ideal we pursue, could be tragically flawed. We’re more likely to make a bad choice than a good one. Also having atypical people let’s us learn from their advantages.

Unfortunately, in our world, wellness programs are likely here to stay. But there is a light of hope on the horizon. Big data medicine. With access to comprehensive records of your vital stats, doctors will know how you are doing against your own baseline. And with much much larger populations of People for which there is data, docotors will be able to come up with multiple models and find one that actually fits you instead of basing your prognosis on a bogus one size fits all model.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Metric system silliness.

I'm not sure even where to begin with the metric system. It was a great idea in principle, but doesn't actually work out in the real world. And the acrobatics that its advocates so through to keep it alive just make things worse, and are rather silly.

So the idea behind the metric system was to have one system that unified measures of distance, volume, mass, temperature, and more based on the natural constants of water. So that any unit can be derived from others based on water. And further to have ranges based on multiples of 10, with set prefixes so that addressing things at different scales need not see inflation of digits. This definition didn't last but you'll still see memes lauding the metric system's superiority because of these relations. 

The water based definitions for the metric system didn't last because they were too naive. The idea was that one or two measures plus water would let you derive any third measure, but it turns out that in the real world, it's not that simple and you really need pretty much all the other measures to derive a missing measure. Not to mention that water is seldom as pure as we'd like.  So the water definitions were dropped. From official adoption in 1795 this idea didn't make it 4 years before being replaced.

But before the metric system was even out of the gates it already started to be crippled. Maybe it's always struck you as odd that the default mass unit has the kilo prefix. It is odd. The original mass unit was the grav. Unfortunately grav sounds like graff, and graff was a title of minor nobility at the time, when nobility was not in favor. However the milligrav has already taken on a more colloquial name of gram. So they went with that instead, skewing the alignment of the base units and their prefixes. 

The system that replaced the water system was prototypes. That is to say they made specific objects and set them aside somewhere to be the definition. Of course they didn't make just one of these, they made many as identical as possible, though a specific one was named to be the actual factual definition. Obviously switching to this system removes the smug superiority from the metric system. It also means that the system is based on items that can get lost or destroyed, which isn't great. It also, as it turns out, was still too naive. These prototypes were replaced at least once, to improve the material science, but that's still too naive, because our technology just wasn't in place. As the duplicates of the prototype when returned and compared to the prototype, were no longer the same. Which really undercuts any faith in the system.

As a next step for the metric system they want to turn them back into natural constants. This has already happened for the meter. They have chosen to define in terms of the speed of light in a vacuum. The consequence of this that I think is the silliest, is that this means you can't measure the speed of light in a vacuum with the metric system. What ever result you get the answer is by definition, not by measurement. This seems like a silly thing to do with such an important constant. Additionally there are just the basic questions about this constant and our knowledge of it. Have we ever has access to a perfect vacuum? Have we had sufficiently fixed endpoints in any sort of vacuum to get a good measure of this? Don't we measure everything else with light, so how can we calculate margins of errors for calculating the speed of light, when those margins depend on the speed of light? And I'm not enough of a physics guy to get deeply into relativity, which fixes it, and makes it so that it the wavelength of light from moving things that change and not the speed, but also has time and space deform. Which when you go from pure mathematics of theoretical physics to the real world still has perhaps some degree of hand waving going on.

For the Kilogram, one idea at least, is to make a prototype in the shape of a sphere out of an atomic molecule, measure it's diameter, calculate the number of atoms in it, and then base the definition of the kilogram based on that. So here material purity rears it's head, and in this case not even ions are allowed. Next you have that they will calculate the number of atoms in a sphere. based on it's diameter, cause nothing says imprecision like including an irrational number. But then you have a similar problem to light, determining the mass of electrons, protons, and neutrons. The mass unit will be defined in terms of the combination of all three of them. So really you can only measure their proportionality. And once you have their proportionality, you can never measure the mass of anything again. All you can do is count it. The only free variables when considering the mass of something will be what it is and how much of it is there. If you have those answers then the mass is by definition, and the proportionality of those 3 particles. Even the mass of other subatomic particles might be in fixed if quarks have fixed masses. This seems monumentally foolish and roundabout to me. 

There is probably more silliness in the history of the metric system. However the question that's been avoided is why is the imperial (or any other) measurement system better? Simply stated because they don't try so hard to be perfect, and certainly no one one goes on about why the imperial system is better based on it's vast and constant technical superiority. The smug adherents to the imperial system normally put forth it's cultural superiority, which is an argument that defeats itself. 

I think really the thing that irritates many (including myself) is that it speaks to the hubris of people ready to declare themselves in nearly full understanding of the universe. Time and time again such people have been found to have been lacking. And even worse sometimes their well intentioned ideas survive and are used as ammunition against improved understanding, despite having been originally put forth to promote understanding. The math used by theorists is precise and perfect, the real world is not, and only fits approximately within precise models. As we learn those approximations improve. They may never be perfect, but that's good since it pushes us to look deeper. The ethos of the metric system is opposed to that, and I guess that it why it irritates me so much and find humor in the foibles of the supposedly perfect system. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Why Pluto is still a Planet.

In the early 2000's as we started discovering additional large objects in the outer solar system, astronomical displays started to clump these objects in with Pluto. The rate at which we were discovering them made it seem likely that there would be many. And who wants to memorize 30 different planets? Which if you're lazy and don't want to be embarrassed when little kids know all the planet names but you, who are the actual astronomy professional, don't, means that Pluto has to go. That's it. Don't be fooled everything else is just a smoke screen. Pluto had to go so that a bunch of people who were full of themselves wouldn't have to keep memorizing new lists of planets that might subtly change order. Think about how often these same people, who should know very well that Pluto has a trans neptunian orbit, refer to Pluto as being beyond Neptune.

There is a case for Pluto's demotion. We didn't know how big it was when we discovered it. We thought it was bigger. We didn't know it was in a belt of objects, some of which were big. After it was discovered Ceres was briefly considered a planet, until we realized that it was part of a belt. And while it remains the largest and the only one large enough to pull itself into a sphere, it remained demoted to the rank of asteroid, until this whole kerfuffle, so again there was a reason to be considering these things.

But at the same time as we were finding new things in our solar system we were finding "Planets" in other solar systems, and even looking for ones that weren't captured by a star, that are called rogue planets. This is the back drop of the state of the art science at the time. We were looking for bodies outside of our solar system that didn't orbit stars that we were calling rogue planets. Remember that cause I'm going to come back to it. Also it's very possible that in other start systems we will find bodies in all sorts of exciting and strange orbital configurations.

So with a reason to consider the designation of things in our solar system, and the desire to limit how often school children embarrass them, the IAU set out. The definition that they cam up with is "(1) A planet is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit".

Of the planet definition criteria b is a reasonable criteria. It is a clear dividing line that objects throughout the universe will be on one side of or another, and as such will be useful with all the extra-solar astronomy that is going on as well as with what's going on in the Solar system. This criteria is very broad though and in addition to what had been considered planets before it also captures stars and many (but not all) of the moons in the solar system. 

Criteria a defines planets as being only in orbit around the Sun, and as a consequence there are only planets in our solar system. No extra solar planets, no rogue planets. Planets are just something we have. This is rubbish of course. Further it is complicated by just what that means. In orbital dynamics there is something called the Hill sphere, which is used when looking at two bodies to see if objects nearer the smaller one are orbiting it or the larger one. Right now the moon is orbiting the Earth, and the Earth the Sun. As little as ~1.27 million years ago when the moon was closer, the earth orbited the moon not the sun. Without wanting to do the math I would guess that for Pluto and Charon it is the case that they orbit each other and it's only their system that is in orbit around the sun. So this is the sort of things we should expect to see out there, so if we apply this definition to other systems and other suns it still will eventually break. This criteria wasn't forward thinking towards improving a definition for science. It's stated really naively so you have to guess that they are talking about Hill sphere's for the criteria, otherwise everything in the system orbits the sun. Also this criteria is part of the dwarf planet definition, so if Pluto and Charon are in orbit around each other then they are not even Dwarf Planets, or the framers we being even more naive and less scientific than that. 

After what I did to criteria a, I'm sure that you are expecting that I think criteria c is a pure mess. It is. It's so bad and so naive that people keep coming out with "interpretations" of it, to fix the problems. So let's begin with the big one. Pluto and Neptune. Pluto crosses Neptune's orbit. How can you have cleared your orbit when there is something that big that crosses it? Then you have things like Earth and Cruithne, an asteroid in a 1:1 orbital resonance with the earth that crosses our orbit but isn't technically in orbit around us. And add on to that trojans. The original trojans were in Jupiter's orbit, but it's such a thing that we've generalized the term for all the planets, and they are objects in the same orbit, at the same orbital period, that are in the right spot to roughly never get cleared out of an orbit by a planet. That's right we know, and knew when the definition was made, that no planet could completely clear it's orbit. This definition is a lie. It's a lie that was put in place to kill Pluto and keep the rest of them out. And beyond the problems in our solar system there are lots of possible interesting orbital dynamics that we might find out there, that won't fly with this either. Sure a lot of them won't be super stable, but what's the threshold of stability? Nothing in our solar system is actually stable, so it can't be forever, and then after that you let in a lot of interesting things that we are going to find out there.

So the current definition is unscientific and garbage. As such I refuse to accept it. And revert to the previous state in which Pluto was a planet. If some one tries to argue for the demotion of Pluto, there is a simple question you can use to break them, "What is the difference between a rogue planet and a rogue dwarf planet?". You don't have to give them anything harder to think about than that question which the framers of the new definition, left unanswerable, which counter to the mandate for even considering the definition. In response to searching for and finding lots of new things they revised the definition to not be applicable or otherwise be nonsense to the new? No. Just No. If a future definition gets put forth that's good and demotes Pluto, I'll accept it. But I refuse to accept that trash just like I refuse to accept other garbage that wants to claim to be science.

What is required for a good definition? It has to consider all the types of things we're looking for, so it should consider objects in other sun systems as well as those in between them. It should be based on the intrinsic properties of a body not extrinsic ones. We're not going to have perfect knowledge of everything in a solar system when we first see a body, so it's designation shouldn't rely on other bodies that aren't clearly playing a major role in what's happening with that body. Also the definition should be very specific. It should start as a hard computable thing that is technically precise that can be summarized for humans, rather then something naively high level that might melt down when you actually get into the details. 

I don't know if a body will ever put out a good definition that takes off. But I have some predictions. I predict that we'll define some new term like planetoid to account for objects between solar systems. Of objects that pull them selves into spheres, I think the divisions are more like to keep Pluto with Earth, than Earth with Jupiter. I think that after we define terms like planetoid (potentially with sub groupings) we will then define planet and moon based on orbital relations so that the Earth and the Moon can be the same type of object but will also have terms to describe them in terms of a start system. (I think moon and satellite will be split in this situation). And I think that in systems of mutuality like Pluto and Charon, the two are likely to hold the same status. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Leap seconds clever but stupid.

For a variety of reasons the Earth isn't always perfect about making it around it's access in the expected amount of time. The implemented answer to this is Leap seconds. Periodically we add a second to our time keeping systems. Since 1970 we've added 26, and we're slated to add the next at the end of the year. I think that this system is stupid for a variety of reasons. (also let's just state off the bat that all numbers in this post will be approximate)

The first thing is the question of why adjust. Why do we need astronomical noon to be perfect noon in part of London? Not all of London mind you, just part of it. At a latitude of 51 degrees 30 minutes, a second's worth of the earth's rotation is only .179 miles. London is over 600 square miles, which is equivalent to circle with diameter 27.6 miles. which at that latitude would take 154 seconds to rotate through. At the current rate of leap seconds it would take over 200 years for the perfect moment of noon to make it all the way from one side of London to another! And it's not even perfect noon since the sun is always slightly to the south. And with s system that takes so long to pay off London might be growing faster than the need for leap seconds to keep noon in London. Will it matter when we've got colonies all over the solar system where in the sky the sun is at noon in London?

Another big problem with this is the effort it takes to actually implement this for all our time keeping systems. Human's don't notice that big a change but computers sure do. So in all our computer systems we keep having to code in and fix weird edge cases like adding a second. Adding this leap second is hard and it's buggy. A stupid amount of human effort goes into pulling this trick off. And probably more effort goes into fixing the things that break when it fails. And this time Google's solution is real time to not implement the extra second but to slowly stretch the seconds on other side.  Hopefully nothing high precision will be using googles clocks that day. Plus there is the question about what they do going forward. Normally things keep track of all the time unit seconds since the beginning of 1970, and have a table to look up when there have been extra seconds, but if google computers don't ever live that extra second then how are they eventually going to take care of it. Are the all the computers just eventually going to register an error of a second and skip ahead? The effort that is involved just doesn't seem worth it.

This also has the gross effect of eliminating all other units of time. If the span between 11:59:30 and 12:00:30 is a minute, then how long is a minute? It depends on which one. If it's one of the ones that has had a second added then it's 61 seconds. And so on for larger units. This already impacted years with leap years, and moths weren't regular anyway, but now everything above a second is not just a calendar indicator instead of an actual unit. And because of weird implementations like google's, a second isn't even really that any more.

One potential solution for this is to do it in time zones. Right now to tell you your local time. your computer has to look up the time zone and modify the time based on that and then look up the leap second chart and modify the time based on that. Why modify the time twice? Why not just make leap seconds or any other minor adjustments for local pride part of the time zone? That way locale's that want noon to be special can finally have it that way, and then they can keep it that way for as long as they desire.

But what we're really going to eventually drive at is global / universal time. The inefficiency of having so much space/stuff dedicated to one person is eventually going to falter and we'll end of with round the clock people trading off space/stuff throughout the day. Not to mention globalization which increasingly creates communities in many time zones that all are on one schedule. All the effort that has gone into local time, and keeps going into maintaining local time is eventually going to be set aside. And then we'll look at the legacy of the leap second look up table and ditch it. Hopefully by then it won't be so late that making that change in and of itself won't be a major headache of an undertaking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Flying Cars.

Back to the future day was over a year ago, so where are our flying cars?

One of the biggest things holding back flying cars is the human element. We're not that great. And air traffic control for humans would suck. Transition to a future without human drivers. Then that problem goes away and we can have flying cars. We're already doing extensive work in automated drone piloting. Is it really that hard to imagine flying cars as a next step?

Self-driving cars, have a lot of perks in terms of infrastructure. They reduce traffic, so road expansion to mitigate traffic is reduced. They can park on their own, so there doesn't have to be parking everywhere, since your car can drop you off then go find parking. Flying cars increase those perks. At the point where we have flying cars roads are only need for long haul transportation, and so we can spend a lot less money on them. And if you reasonably assume vtol, parking lots can be extra dense. 

And if we want to cast our gaze further forward. Once we have ubiquitous flying cars why would ground level even still be an important thing. we can all have aerial egress. no more going to a central shaft to go up and down. At that point cities might end up looking more and more like the worlds of the Jetsons, or the 5th element. 

Perhaps we'll even moving to ocean based habitats, either floating or in platforms high above the sea, leaving the land to be a nature preserve with only small groups of luddites left. But, of course this magical future has the pitfall that as technology becomes like magic, a crash in society takes us back to square one. In which case our ocean based super-society will be just a legend to the luddite remnants of civilization left on the mainland. But that particular scenario was deliberately picked to sound like the legend of Atlantis.

Getting back to reality: As flying cars kept failing to materialize we kept thinking of them as an increasingly distant prospect. But if fully self driving cars are mainstream by 2020, it's not improbable that we might have flying cars mainstream by 2030. We've gotten so used to predictions of a dull future that an exciting one might just sneak up on us, and that is pretty wonderful to think about.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Apple's Laptop Event

I've seen a lot of circular and confused comments about Apple's laptop event last week, and I thought I would chime in with some of my own thoughts as well clarifications of some of the things I see confused.

To me the biggest question, is what about desktops. There were reports that the iMac has been delayed, but we've heard nothing about the Mac Pro or Mac mini. So we still need answers and it doesn't seem that likely that we'll be getting them this year. If the desktops were addressed, then with a straight face you could tell all the people claiming to be ultra-pro, but demanding in a laptop that they are being silly. With the MacBook Pros still not stepping up to fill all the desktop roles they really have a hole at the top of their computer lineup.

So from a line-up perspective what happened? Apple got rid of the 11-inch MacBook air, and the old thick 13-inch MacBook pro. They left the entry level 13-inch MacBook pro in place but limited it's customizability. Replaced mid-line 13-inch models with the 13-inch without the touch bar, and the high end 13-inch models with the 13-inch with touch bar. They left the entry 15-inch without discrete GPU in place, and replaced the versions with discrete GPUs with the new 15-inch with touch bar. And it looks like they left the 13-inch MacBook air and MacBook alone. If you weren't familiar with the specs of the old laptop lineup or that they left those old MacBook Pros in the line up. It can look like the prices shot up, instead off it being the case that they just didn't make new entry level machines.

As to whether or not they are falling behind Microsoft, with their announcements. I can imagine that for those that draw all the time the Surface Studio is great. And for a company that has been doing a full court press on the laptop front about touch it's great to see them stay true to that message and finally deliver it on the desktop. I hear that they drawing isn't as good as on an iPad, but they are sticking with their gimmick. I don't know that I've bought into the whole touch thing and I'm not sure everyone has, so I think it's ok that Microsoft is better at their gimmick then Apple. But for Microsoft they are a one platform company, where Apple is not so I think it makes sense for them to find a way to unify their platform when Apple is not.

I haven't played with one of the new macs yet, so I can't speak about the touch bar first hand. In the presentation it seemed way better than the pre-announcement rumors I had heard, which made it sound like it would just have buttons with changeable labels. I think that it's all going to depend on the apps, as to whether or not it takes off. I think it will be a bump in the road for the people that do still use keys in the top row with any frequency, which I do because of my correct editor choice of vi, but I hope it will just be an adjustment, and that what there is to be gained is more than the lose.

For the ports, I think that it's great that they went with Thunderbolt-3 / USB-C. I think that thunderbolt-3 offers more than just straight USB-C, and it's good that it's there, and the ports can all be used for whatever. And I think that the industry has spoken and USB-C and/or Thunderbolt-3 are the way of the future. It's annoying that it's everything all at once, and before we've even finished off the last of the magsafe-1 devices. But I don't think that these ports will become "mac" ports the way firewire or the first two thunderbolt versions were, which is great.

As for the memory limit of 16GB. I am constantly amazed at what can be done by tablets and phones with less than a quarter of that. And one of the reasons to use more memory is to make up for other bottle necks, which have all gotten faster. I do think that there is a place for a mac with more memory, but it probably shouldn't be a laptop anyway.

And doubling back to the complainers. I saw people both complain about the "price change", and that the high end wasn't high enough. Their high end prices didn't really change, so you if you're making both those complaints you probably weren't in the high end before. And if it really is a big limit on you, why are you trying to do all that much on a laptop anyway. It should probably be a minor annoyance unless you're trying to do way too much on a laptop.

I also think it's funny to see so many people talking about how Apple is alienating their core customers. They are the most profitable company ever and their market share in the industry had been growing until they got to the heart of this drought. I imagine that they know exactly who their core customers are, it's probably not who it was 15 years ago. There are also a lot of internal equations that could see someone leaving the mac platform, and I think that those people who have already made that decision will use a new release to re-affirm it to themselves, when nothing could have kept them on the platform anyway.

In general, I think that there is a lot of unnecessary doom and gloom (as long as they do something about the desktops). I think that the size and efficiency improvements will be a big plus to a lot of people. The new task bar provides an interesting opportunity. Finally have a secure enclave in the mac is interesting (and from the point of view of someone that supports them scary). It is disappointing that apple is moving to the model of having the old model as the low-end/entry model at the end of a drought.