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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.

Comment Audio detection (Score 2) 227

Audio detection does NOT work

I'd be inclined to modify that statement, and say. "Audio detection does NOT work, now".

Each rotor of a quadcopter is going to emit sound that depends on the number of prop blades and the prop speed. The four rotors will emit at frequencies that are almost but not quite the same, The four frequencies continuously shift by minute amounts as the control system adjusts power to stay stable in the air.

The quadcopter therefore has a very distinctive sound signature. This signature is out there, waiting to be detected, if the money can be found to develop the technology to do it.

Presumably if that happened, there would be a push for stealth quadcopters. But that's another kettle of fish.

Comment Real porpose of the road (Score 3, Informative) 226

The Russian's don't give a damn about connecting London to North America.

What would be of more importance to them is better transport infrastructure between European Russia and the Russian Far East. Across much of thet route, roads are simply non-existant even today. If you drive from Moscow to Vladivostok then you're not taking a journey, you're mounting an expedition

Why would they want this infrastructure? Well large numbers of Chinese are moving north to settle in Russia. There's speculation that Chinese will be a majority in the Russian Far East few decades. See:

http://abcnews.go.com/Internat... http://newobserveronline.com/r...

Better commincations across Russia will help them counter this and help tie the country together.

Comment This is very Interesting (Score 1) 187

It was always an assumption that when the automation became good enough and cheap enough compete with low-paid Chinese workers, then manufacturing would come back, it would be onshored, After all, removing labour costs removes China's compelling cost advantage. Doesn't it?

Now this announcement is an indication that this may not happen. China has built up such a massive web of suppliers, often in close proximity, that it now has a compelling logistic advantage. Even if you wanted to build a completely automated laptop factory, with only a handful of maintenance workers and labour costs so low they're lost in the noise, then putting it in China might make more sense than putting it in Europe or the US.

"Free markets select for winning solutions." -- Eric S. Raymond