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Comment: That's not how science works (Score 5, Interesting) 141

by AikonMGB (#47769905) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Nothing has been proven. Scientists have long had a theory about how the Sun powers itself. That theory can be used to make predictions, such as the type of neutrinos that we should expect to see emanating from the Sun. An experiment was devised to test such a prediction, the hypothesis being that this type of neutrinos is being produced and thus will be detected. Having performed the experiment, we see that the results match what we expected, validating the hypothesis. This is important and significant, and it provides further evidence suggesting the widely accepted theory is accurate, but it does not -- nor can it -- constitute a proof.

The other interesting result would be if the expected neutrino type was not detected by this experiment, invalidating the hypothesis. This would raise further questions such as: is there some other mechanism powering the Sun? Is there something deficient in our understanding of neutrinos that prevented us from detecting them despite them being there? Was there an error in the test setup (i.e. is it repeatable by other parties)?

Comment: Re:Why the Australians? (Score 2) 92

by AikonMGB (#47605893) Attached to: Australia Rebooting Search For MH370

Using your number of 0.001% probability of this crash being something technical, and my estimated value of MH370 of $2.6B, then $26,000. The 777 has a lot of flight hours; if there's a technical problem with it, its a corner-case quirk, not a fundamental design issue. Maybe it doesn't sit well with you, but it is not reasonable to expect 100% safety from any system -- it would be prohibitively expensive.

Comment: Re:How much have they spent already? (Score 2) 92

by AikonMGB (#47605881) Attached to: Australia Rebooting Search For MH370

You are of course correct for the initial search, but at some point you hit diminishing returns. Even if the failure were a technical one, the value of locating the wreck and determining the cause is likely of limited value. There are only so many systems that can fail, and we already do thorough failure modes analyses when designing aircraft. That's why flying is so safe these days.

The 777 has a pretty good track record with 1,212 units built and five hull losses, only two of which were due to failure of flight systems. If the hull cost $261.5M and you estimate the value of a human life $10M, then the MH370 incident had a base cost of around $2.6B. If you only had one failure out of 1,212 hulls, that suggests you'd be willing to spend 0.08% or ~$2.1M to make sure it doesn't happen again.

This is just one formulation of the cost/benefit and of course excludes some important factors like the public relations cost to MA and airlines in general, but hopefully it illustrates that there's a bound on how much we should reasonably be expected to invest in understanding the events of the incident, and that it is not an absurdly high value.

Comment: It's not a miracle (Score 4, Insightful) 211

by AikonMGB (#47494247) Attached to: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

As Jim Lovell put it:

From now on we'll live in a world where man has walked on the Moon. It's not a miracle, we just decided to go.

There seems to be this perception that space travel is this incredible thing. It is awesome for sure, but it is fully within our grasp to do with as we please. One of my favourite arguments against the conspiracy theorists goes: if NASA were willing to fake the Moon landing, they would have done something else by now.

Let's reach for the stars again!

Comment: Re:Makes a lot of sense (Score 1) 85

by AikonMGB (#47367617) Attached to: India Launches Five Foreign Satellites

It really depends what your target inclination is. In general for a non-polar orbit, you want a launch complex with a latitude close to that inclination to minimize plane changes. This is why the ISS is at 51.65 degrees, to make it "easily" accessible from Baikonur. So yes, Sriharikota's proximity to the equator will be beneficial for low-inclination (near-equatorial) launches.

This particular launch, however, was to a sun-synchronous polar orbit. Your launch complex's latitude is much less important when launching to a polar orbit.

Comment: Re:Bad move (Score 1) 280

Unfortunately, since fusion would be an incredibly revolutionary technology, there is a tremendous amount of money to be gained by being "first to the post". Any investor with money already in one technology will push hard for only that technology to be funded, at the expense of all other lines of research. Fusion research is sadly driven by economic politics.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.