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Comment vote it down (Score 5, Interesting) 313

This treaty is an outright declaration of class warfare, with lots of surveillance goodies thrown in to get the enforcement part of government on board.

The thing to do now in the US is simply vote it down. If it is fast tracked so that Congress can only vote yes or no, then "no" it is. Just in case there's a chance of passage, we should make a lot of noise, make sure our representatives know our will and that it won't be safe to ignore us.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 1) 385

It's even more important for a test to be honest.

Testing has been frequently gamed. Incredibly, the tested parties are often allowed to design the tests. And as one might expect, such industry designed tests are usually too easy, sometimes laughably so. For example, the plumbing industry got away with claiming "lead free" on faucets that were manufactured with brass that was 5% lead, on the untested notion that as long as the lead does not leach out, that's as good as lead free. That idea is wrong, and their tests were ridiculously inadequate. Another dishonest rigging of testing is in the oil pipeline business. They use these devices that they call "pigs" to inspect the inside of a pipeline. As long as the pig hasn't been tampered with, it's pretty good at spotting weaknesses. But some in the business modified the pig, greatly reduced its sensitivity and increased its threshold for sounding the alert. Saved lots of money on pipeline repairs-- until the pipe broke.

Comment Re:core point (Score 1) 184

Such a lifeform could easily engage in interstellar travel, even with the hundreds and thousands of years it takes.

Most sci-fi fans vastly underestimate the difficulty of even getting remotely close to the speed of light. The last, optimized, peer-reviewed design for a pure antimatter-driven ship that I saw - the highest performance you're going to get without beamed power, and beamed power suffers from range problems among others - was to reach about 0,4c. That's pure anitmatter, which vastly outperforms fusion and fission. Making antimatter inherently means turning mass to energy, wherein a very tiny fraction will condense out as antiprotons, which you can then trap. So you're taking E=mc^2, reversing it, and then taking only a tiny fraction of even that. Actually mass producing the vast amounts of antimatter needed for such starships would take a civilization advanced to Type 2 scale. It's nice to fantasize that the universe is full of Type 2 and Type 3 civilizations, but that's a huge thing to posit.

It's also easy to posit generation ships. But as the saying goes, shit happens. The longer you're in transit, the more likely that is to happen. Which means you have to make your ship vastly larger, to be increasingly redundant, parts in one part increasingly isolated from others, much larger crews than just the minimum skeleton crew needed to populate a planet, etc. Unless all you're sending are artificial wombs and eggs. But then you're back to my initial posit, that such information could be transmitted to an alien species directly at the speed of light.

Comment Re:Maybe (Score 4, Insightful) 385

Indeed. VW did very egregious cheating, deliberately detecting tests and then optimizing for them. It sounds like these others are not engaging a "test mode"; but have optimized themselves for conditions that are tested for (at the expense of power and fuel efficiency) while optimized themselves for power and fuel efficiency in conditions that aren't tested for. Not as egregious, but still clearly problematic. There's clearly gaping holes in the system.

It also puts to lie this massive increase in diesel cleanliness over the years. It's improved, no question, but not nearly as much as has been marketed, particularly in smaller, cheaper vehicles. The same old choice remains: you can get a ~15% increase in fuel efficiency by mass (~30% by volume), and thus ~15% reduction in CO2 emissions, by going with a diesel, but it'll come at the cost of a more expensive engine (has to be built stronger to handle the higher compression, all issues of additional pollution control systems aside) and will kick out more health-impacting pollutants. And it just comes down to chemistry: if you burn fuel in air at hotter temperatures and/or higher pressures, you favor the production of chemicals like NOx - high temperatures and pressures make nitrogen more reactive. And you're going to kick out more PM for similar reasons. The higher temperatures and pressures help with CO and unburned hydrocarbons (they favor more complete combustion), but the scale of the added NOx and PM problems are much greater.

Contrary to what they've been pretending, a major way that car manufacturers appear to have been reducing NOx emissions in diesels is simply by burning their fuel cooler / less efficiently in conditions that are being tested for, and hotter the rest of the time to keep their performance and efficiency numbers up.

Comment Re:Cultural? (Score 2) 473

This. Also make sure the e-paper trail can't be easily erased. It may not be enough to send one email to one person, send a few CCs to fellow team members, maybe a BCC to your own private outside email account, though that last can also get you in trouble for divulging company secrets. So, maybe sneakernet the emails out. If they'd demand that you break the law, they'd also lean on the system administrators to "clean" the company's servers, and never mind Sarbanes-Oxley. You'd hope system administrators can resist that kind of pressure, and most of the time they can, but be ready just in case they can't or are sidelined.

And don't worry about being fired, don't let that possibility scare you out of covering your butt. It's better to be fired than sued. If it comes to that, call them on their threats to fire you. If they weren't bluffing, fine, let them fire you and try to find someone else they can intimidate.

Comment Re:Isn't it widely accepted... (Score 2) 139

It's not that simple. Mercury also has a magnetic field. Which is a real head-scratcher, as it's even smaller than Mars.

Internal planetary dynamics are complicated. To get a dynamo you need fluid flow. But whether something is liquid or solid depends on both temperature and pressure - temperature increasing melt, pressure decreasing it. So there's a very complicated interplay.

Comment Re:Isn't it widely accepted... (Score 4, Informative) 139

Very little energy reaches the Venusian surface - Venus's albedo is twice that of Earth's, so most light gets reflected from the cloud deck, and what does enter gets quickly absorbed in the clouds and thick atmosphere. Also, the crust is not what drives a dynamo, the core does. Nuclear decay is what drives terrestrial planet cores, not solar input.

Also I don't know what you mean by "rapid crust recycling", unless you mean Venus's global resurfacing events. But those only happen once every several hundred million years. And they take about 100 million years to complete, they're not rapid.

Comment Isn't it widely accepted... (Score 4, Interesting) 139

... that because of Mars' small size, it cooled faster, thus freezing its outer core and shutting down its dynamo? Isn't Venus the far greater mystery? Nearly the same size as Earth, yet no magnetic field and what appears to be occasional whole-crust overturn rather than plate tectonics? Isn't that the one we need to solve?

Comment Re:core point (Score 1) 184

I agree. The field of extraterrestrial linguistics has seriously advanced beyond then, thankfully, with communications systems based on logic system, and even a transmittable operating system that explains how it should be run (inputs, outputs, etc), enabling one to send interactive programs along with it.

It's funny, but there's a concept I've never seen before in science fiction: that of multiple alien species living amongst each other, but whose homeworlds are vast cosmic distances apart and who have never gotten anywhere close to each other due to the difficulties of approaching relativistic velocities in spacetravel. How? Bit by bit we understand more of "what makes us tick". Not just how DNA codes for proteins, but the whole complex interplay of these proteins in keeping a cell operating. We now understand how to turn skin cells to pluripotent stem cells, stem cells to primordial germ cells, and are approaching being able to turn them into eggs and sperm without having to implant them in testes or ovaries. Some day, probably somewhere between several decades to a century or so from now, we may well have developed the ability to create a fertilized egg completely from scratch - including all of the organelles necessary to keep it alive - and an artificial womb to carry it in. Once one has transmitted the means to convey information and technology, plans can be transmitted (ala Contact, but with technology for biological creation, not communication). One could send to another world every last step needed to create and nurture a human being in-situ, along with a interactive computerized childrearing "system" for the child's early years, along with a discussion of exactly what is being done at each stage. And other species could do this as well in their transmissions to us.

Of course, if the "singularity" people are right, one could just transmit a sentient program to other worlds and be done with it far simpler. Either way, whether anything gets done with a signal depends on whether they're 1) actually out there, 2) close enough, 3) receive the message, 4) detect it, 5) recognize it as carrying information from sentient beings, 6) decipher it, 7) and perhaps most importantly, decide whether they want to actually risk trusting this transmission from an alien world. Lots of "ifs", to say the least.

Comment Re:core point (Score 1) 184

To be able to hold a pointing orientation in space, one has to be able to understand 2D. To be able to understand changing positions in space, one has to be able to understand 3D. To interact with physical objects, they must have some method to perceive their shape. If they're interacting with spacecraft, they have to be able to do some pretty damned precise things in regards to all three of these things The methods used to be able to do these things may be alien to us, but they have to be able to understand them in some sort of form. They essentially have to be able to perceive the voyager plates, perceive that there's information of some form on there, and have the mental wherewithal to convert it into whatever coordinate space / representation system their minds use, and to begin to make deductions about its meaning.

They could reach the wrong conclusions. But if they're spacefaring, they have to at least be capable of advanced reasoning, so they're going to have a shot at it.

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison