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Comment What about Warhead re-entry? (Score 1) 211

Have they done re-entry? That was a major stumbling block for the US and Soviet ICBM programmes in the mid 50's. Especially as re-entry needs to be accurate. Unlike the idiotic summary, accuracy is vitally important. A five mile error that results in the obliteration of some countryside and suburbs, rather than a city centre is an outcome no lunatic dictator wants.

And can they make their physics package, re-entry system, and guidance system light enough for their booster to lift. That was something the Soviets couldn't do in the early days so they needed to build giant ICMBs to lift their warheads - the availability of these ironically put them ahead in the earliest days of the space race.

Comment Neighbours might object. (Score 1) 212

You a certainly reducing the land footprint if you build a solar installation as a single tall tower, instead of an array of smaller panels covering a field.

However the pylon is going to create a large shadow. If a company minimizes land costs by buying a small plot of land and building a tall photovoltaic tower on it, then they are capturing sunlight that would otherwise fall on their neighbours' land. If the neighbours needed the sunlight for growing crops or for their own solar power installation, then they might even view this as "theft" of "their" sunlight.

Comment Re:distribution of wealth and (Score 4, Insightful) 729

The real reason for more work today is that most of it is non-productive. As automation has replaced much real work, new non-jobs have been created. It is doing stuff like safety inspections, progress chasing, advertising (half the cost of some stuff today goes to its advertising), making financial cases (that can cost more than the work) and so on ad nauseum.

While you have a point about advertising and so on, don't write off safety inspections as "non productive".

Compare the rate of industrial accidents 70 years ago with the current rate, per person-year in a given industry. Calculate the cost of a person who was formerly a productive part of the economy becoming a lifetime drain on it if, through no fault of their own, they're unable to work thanks to a work-related injury.

Even if a particular safety inspection only reduces the chances of an accident by a trivial amount, it still represents an overall economic gain, given the costs of an accident.

Comment Used books (Score 1) 133

From a conversations with a used bookseller I know. for the last 7 or 8 years at least, many used booksellers in the UK have been kept afloat by ABEBooks, to the extent that many have shut their retail shops and gone to 100% online sales, moving their stock in a cheap-to-rent storage unit.

Comment Peak Aeroplane (Score 4, Interesting) 290

The B-52 first flew in 1952,they only built them for 10 years, the youngest now flying dates from 1962. But this is a one-off. A combination of a robust design that's useful for a niche purpose, and the insane cost of a clean sheet, replacement. Note that the Vickers Valient, a similar British strategic nuclear bomber that dated from the same era, only lasted in service until the mid-60's as they were basically falling to pieces. That could easily have been the B-52, had it's designers made some bad decisions.

It's interesting to compare this with the C-130 which first flew a little later, 1954, and is still being built. The time interval over which they have been building them is longer than the time interval between the Wright Brothers, and the first C-130 flight.

This gives rise to the interesting thought that in certain niche areas (dropping insanely huge numbers of bombs, landing 10 tons of cargo on a remote dirt airstrip) we have reached "peak aeroplane" and did so decades ago. Essentially, spending a huge wodge of money on a clean sheet design to do those jobs will never result in benefits that justify the cost. Far better just to tweak the designs we have with a few incremental improvements.

Civil aircraft don't seem to have reached peak as there are still improvements (in running cost) to be made, which justify new designs. "The average amount of energy consumed per mile, per passenger, fell by 74% on domestic flights in America between 1970 and 2010", according to The Economist. But presumably that will also eventually peak out in the future, eventually making brand-new civil designs pointless.

Comment Apollo was never meant to be automatic (Score 1) 397

The assertion in the article that the Apollo missions were initially intended to be automatic is incorrect. As far as I know, that was never the case.

However, an early objective was to make the missions fully autonomous, able (in theory) land on the moon and return without any contact with Earth. This was because of a concern the Soviet might try to actively jam communications in the event of the Cold War turning very very frosty.

Yuri Gagarin was a passenger on the first space flight in 1961 as his spacecraft was indeed fully automatic. It''s controls were locked out by a three-digit combination lock on the insistence of the doctors, who thought there was a chance spaceflight might make him go psychotic.

The head of the program thought this was BS, and was much more worried about an in-flight emergency that might make the controls necessary, and also kill communications with the ground. Consequently, Gagarin was quietly told what the combination was before the flight, when no doctors were around.

Comment A train was a horribly good choice of target. (Score 4, Informative) 468

The attacker chose his target intelligently. If he hadn't have been stopped, this could have been horrific.

If he had attacked a cinema or a shopping mall with multiple exits, people would disperse and flee very easily and quickly as soon as he started shooting. Armed police would be on the scene in minutes.

On a train, hundreds of people would effectively be trapped in there with him until it could be brought to a halt and the doors opened. He would have walked the length of it, killing at will. This would have been worse than Anders Breivik's attack. The two that stopped him averted a nightmare.

Of course now, there'll be talk about airport security at railway stations. The UK has over 2500, including many small ones used by less than 100 passengers a month. So that's going to be a problem.

Comment Re:This article really changed my opinion (Score 2) 268

I've never even met an Amazon employee or ever been to Seattle, so have no way of knowing of Amazon really is a good or bad place to work.

But I know or suspect the following:

1) This story has become big,
2) Amazon will take a hit if the idea becomes commonplace that it's a slave driving hell-hole. Top talent will be deterred from applying to work there.
3) Amazon's PR spin team are certain to be now working on damage limitation round the clock,
4) Slashdot is a significant tech news site, and so the spin team will closely monitor all Slashdot stories about them.
5) AC comments saying "Amazon is a wonderful place to work" should consequently be regarded in the same light as Jeff Bezos's statement telling us "Amazon is a wonderful place to work".

Comment Can anybody explain how thos works? (Score 4, Interesting) 396

I could easily imagine having this degree of commitment to a job if I was working in a World War 2 fighter-plane factory, and it was a case of "build hundreds of these things every month or the Nazis will win". Or if I was in the team working on a rocket that delivers a giant hydrogen bomb that will deflect an incoming asteroid of dinosaur-killing proportions.

The woman worked four days and nights straight selling gift cards!

Anonymous denunciations and self-criticism have been lifted straight from the playbooks of Chairman Mao and David Koresh. So this management abuse of employees, and their willingness to suck it up comes across as some kind of cult that works on the gullible, desperate and greedy, after the relentless Darwinian firing process has sieved out everybody else.

Is that anywhere close to the truth? I'm sure I would have walked in under a month and I'm genuinely puzzled as to why anybody else wouldn't.

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