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Science

+ - Does all of science really move in "paradigm shifts"?->

Submitted by ATKeiper
ATKeiper (141486) writes "Thomas Kuhn's landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions just turned fifty years old. In that book, Kuhn coined the expression 'paradigm shift' to describe revolutionary changes in scientific fields — such as the replacement of the geocentric understanding of the universe with the heliocentric model of the solar system. The book was hotly debated for claiming that different scientific paradigms were 'incommensurable,' which implied (for example) that Newton was no more right about gravity than Aristotle. A new essay in The New Atlantis revisits the controversy and asks whether the fact that Kuhn based his argument almost exclusively on physics means that it does not apply as well to major developments in biology or, for that matter, to the social sciences."
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Programming

+ - How experienced/novice programmers see code->

Submitted by
Esther Schindler
Esther Schindler writes "We always talk about how programmers improve their skill by reading others' code. But the newbies aren't going to be as good at even doing that, when they start. There's some cool research underway, using eye tracking to compare how an experienced programmer looks at code compared to a novice. Seems to be early days, but worth a nod and a smile."
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Space

+ - Property Rights in Space?

Submitted by ATKeiper
ATKeiper (141486) writes "A spate of companies has announced plans in the last couple of years to undertake private development of space. There are asteroid-mining proposals backed by Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, various moon-mining proposals, and, announced just this month, a proposed moon-tourism venture. But all of these — especially the efforts to mine resources in space — are hampered by the fact that existing treaties, like the Outer Space Treaty, seem to prohibit private ownership of space resources. A new essay in The New Atlantis revisits the debates about property rights in space and examines a proposal that could resolve the stickiest treaty problems and make it possible to stake claims in space."

+ - Santa's Route Is the Biggest "Traveling Salesman Problem" of All Time->

Submitted by
Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster writes "What's the most optimal path for Santa (if he actually, you know, existed) to travel around the world on Christmas Eve? The answer is a variation of the classic "Traveling Salesman Problem." According to a history of the problem compiled by Georgia Tech, the traveling salesman problem (or “TSP”) dates back to the 1800s, when Irish mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton challenged friends to navigate 20 points in the shortest path using only a series of specified connections. But it wasn’t until the first decades of the 20th century when statisticians began to tackle the challenge in a more systematic way. The World TSP Problem involves 1,904,711-city instance of locations throughout the world, with a most-optimized route of 7,515,778.188 kilometers (4,670,090 miles). The "Santa problem" would be even more complex — hope those reindeer are well-fed."
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Space

+ - Need help recovering a solar-powered ballon next week-> 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "We are a small group of high-altitude balloon enthusiasts based in Socorro, New Mexico. Our current endeavor is to launch a solar-powered balloon (one that only uses the sun to generate all lift rather than helium as a weather balloon would) sometime between 12/22 and 12/28. The balloon is estimated to reach 50k-80k feet and will be carrying a payload that includes a full flight profile recorder. The only problem? While we will know where it comes down, we probably won't be able to drive that far. We would like to crowdsource the recovery. Getting the payload back means we can validate our flight models and better design future balloons."
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+ - How Yucca Mountain was Killed->

Submitted by ATKeiper
ATKeiper (141486) writes "The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, which was selected by the U.S. government in the 1980s to be the nation’s permanent facility for storing nuclear waste, is essentially dead. A new article in The New Atlantis explains how the project was killed: 'In the end, the Obama administration succeeded, by a combination of legal authority and bureaucratic will, in blocking Congress’s plan for the Yucca Mountain repository — certainly for the foreseeable future, and perhaps permanently.... The saga of Yucca Mountain’s creation and apparent demise, and of the seeming inability of the courts to prevent the Obama administration from unilaterally nullifying the decades-old statutory framework for Yucca, illustrates how energy infrastructure is uniquely subject to the control of the executive branch, and so to the influence of presidential politics.' A report from the Government Accountability Office notes that the termination 'essentially restarts a time-consuming and costly process [that] has already cost nearly $15 billion through 2009.'"
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Space

+ - Golden Spike Working on Private Moon Flights->

Submitted by medcalf
medcalf (68293) writes "NBC reports that Alan Stern's Golden Spike Company is planning commercial trips to the Moon:

A group of space veterans and big-name backers today took the wraps off the Golden Spike Company, a commercial space venture that aims to send paying passengers to the moon and back at an estimated price of $1.4 billion or more for two.

The venture would rely on private funding, and it's not clear when the first lunar flight would be launched — but the idea reportedly has clearance from NASA, which abandoned its own back-to-the-moon plan three and a half years ago.

Golden Spike's announcement came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last manned moonshot. Backers of the plan, including former NASA executive Alan Stern and former Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, were to discuss the company's strategy at a National Press Club briefing at 2 p.m. ET, but some of the details were laid out in a news release issued before the briefing.

A key element that makes our business achievable and compelling is Golden Spike's team of nationally and internationally known experts in human and robotic spaceflight, planetary and lunar science, exploration, venture capital formation, and public outreach," Stern said in the news release.

"

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+ - How Does GPS Change Us?->

Submitted by ATKeiper
ATKeiper (141486) writes "People have talked for a while about the effects of GPS on our driving ability and our sense of direction; one researcher at McGill has even been
developing an exercise regimen to compensate for our supposedly atrophying navigational ability. But is GPS reshaping our lives in a more fundamental sense? The author of this new essay draws on science, sociology, and literature to argue that GPS is transforming how we think about travel and exploration. How can we discover “the new” in an age when everything around us is mapped?"

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Space

+ - Gas Stations in Space?->

Submitted by
ATKeiper
ATKeiper writes "With the help of yet another committee in a long line of committees studying space, the Obama administration is reconsidering NASA's future in light of new budgetary realities and in the wake of a series of technical problems for the Constellation architecture that the space agency developed as part of the post-Columbia Vision for Space Exploration. In a new essay, aerospace engineer and blogger Rand Simberg reviews NASA's history and argues that the agency should scrap Constellation and instead work toward a space infrastructure — featuring propellant depots in orbit and elsewhere. 'It isn't NASA's job to put humans on Mars,' he writes. 'It's NASA's job to make it possible for the National Geographic Society, or an offshoot of the Latter-Day Saints, or an adventure tourism company, to put humans on Mars.'"
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Comment: 'Progress' is in the eye of the beholder (Score 1) 442

by ATKeiper (#26306973) Attached to: How Do You Stay Upbeat Amidst the Idiocy?

Mr. Masnick's techdirt post is a welcome call for calm and even optimism. It is a reminder of the importance of perspective, the sort of wisdom encapsulated in the expression "This, too, shall pass" -- that is, just as most joy and glory is transient, so will the troubles and woes of today eventually vanish.

That said, his post is revealingly presumptuous. He writes about people trying to "hold back progress" and describes his frustration at not being able to convince them "of just what opportunities moving forward provides." But perhaps the reason he is so frustrated is that he misses a basic truth: that the people he describes aren't actually seeking to "hold back progress" -- they just have a different understanding of what is progress and what isn't, of what counts as "moving forward" and what doesn't. People do not agree on what is in the public interest; they do not agree about what is best for society, for the state, for the family.

Persuading those who disagree with you is not always a matter of marshalling facts or, as Mr. Masnick puts it, "clearly paint[ing] a picture." Often the people who disagree with you already understand the facts full well and already see the picture clearly -- they just disagree about whether what you call progress is indeed progress. This disagreement might well be rooted in a vision of the future that is fundamentally in conflict with your own. (See, for example, Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and Yuval Levin's Imagining the Future .)

This, incidentally, is why the book that Mr. Masnick approvingly cites, Robert Friedel's excellent A Culture of Improvement, deliberately eschews the term "progress". You might think human cloning or nuclear weapons or Windows Vista are all examples of unambiguous progress; your neighbor might well disagree.

Power corrupts. And atomic power corrupts atomically.

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