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Comment: Re:Funny Timing (Score 1) 59

by Dan East (#48431349) Attached to: The Nintendo DS Turns 10

I just fired up an old beat up micro I had laying around last week. At the time it was released, the micro had one of the highest DPI color screens I'd ever seen. Still the SP is my favorite. It was the first Gameboy of any kind with an actual backlit screen, and it was beautiful to behold. Games looked so vibrant and clear compared to the Gameboy Advanced, that they almost didn't event seem like they were the same games. The clamshell design was also new and suited to the device perfectly. When closed it wasn't much larger than the screen, and the cartridge fit flush into the device - it was nice and compact when closed. It was also the first gameboy with an integrated rechargeable battery, and it seemed to last for ages. Really, the SP was the most revolutionary single portable gaming device produced by Nintendo. The one and only thing the SP lacked, which was due to the CPU / cartridge hardware being designed well before the SP came out, was a hibernate / suspend type capability when closed (it still seems to me they could have managed that somehow).

Comment: Owning stock (Score 2) 200

by Dan East (#48431299) Attached to: Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

Is it common stock or non-voting? If common stock then I would think they would want the school to have a vote in what the energy companies do. Regardless, if it's a wise investment that is generating profit, then it really doesn't matter. It's not like selling the stock is going to hurt the company or the stock value. I guess some people just can't sleep at night over these kinds of things.

Comment: Re:With a RTG, it couldn't have got to the comet. (Score 5, Interesting) 493

by Dan East (#48423627) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

No matter how you build them, nuclear Radioisotope Thermal Generators are heavy.

That's totally inaccurate. I went into details about this a couple days ago when Philae was discussed here. In that case someone said that because it took 10 years to arrive at the comet, an RTG couldn't have been used. I'll just copy/paste my other post since it already covers your statement.

The lander only uses 32 watts of power. The MMRTG used in Curiosity provides 125 watts of power initially, and 100 watts after 14 years. The mass of that specific RTG (the MMRTG, 45kg) would be too great for use in Philae, but then it also produces 3 times more energy than needed (even after 14 years). RTGs have been made in many sizes for many different applications, so it would simply have been a matter of designing an RTG that produces 40-45 watts of power after 10 years.

However, one of the main uses of the 32 watts of power required by Philae is just to keep the batteries warm so they don't fail. RTGs produce more "waste" heat than they do electricity. For example, the MMRTG used in the Curiosity rover produces 2 kW of heat, of which 125 W is converted to electricity. The extra heat is used to keep the various temperature-sensitive parts of the rover nice and warm so they don't fail. With Philae, a good portion of the 32 watts of the solar power it requires is just to keep the battery warm. So if an RTG were used, it wouldn't even need to produce 32 watts of electricity since it can keep the lander warm directly.

Looking at the mass and wattage produced, the RTGs ("SNAP-19") in the Pioneer probes would have been just about perfect for Philae. They produce 40 watts of power and weigh 13.6 kg. Philae's current electrical system weighs 12.2 kg, so that's at least in the ballpark. The RTGs on the surface of the moon, as manually placed by Apollo astronauts's would have been a bit heavy at 20 kg. One of those RTGs was still producing 90% of its power after 10 years.

The SNAP-9A used in the Transit 5B-2 navigation satellite launched in 1963 weighed 12.3 kg and produced 25 watts of power. That looks about like a perfect fit for Philae, and I'm sure more efficient thermocouplers are available today that could further reduce the weight.

Comment: Physical constraints (Score 1) 317

I know they were looking at this in a very theoretical way, but in the real world there are of course physical constraints. We already have "robots" that kill people autonomously, in the form of guided missiles, cruise missiles and smart bombs. However, I think in this case we're talking about identifying an object as a human, and then killing that human. The most simple form of this, which is what we're likely to see in use next, is an autonomous gun turret. However, with any sort of weapon of this kind, it is very easy to apply physical constraints. For example, a gun turret could be mounted to protect the no-man's-land in a specific perimeter of a military base. It would be designed and mounted so that it cannot physically rotate 360 degrees, for example, and thus could not target friendly soldiers inside the base. Whenever a person needed to go out into the zone the weapon patrols, the weapon would be physically deactivated - removing power, a physical block preventing it from moving, the removal of ammunition, etc.

Now if we're talking about free-ranging robots than go out and kill, then that's a bit more complex, although as long as humans are the ones creating the robots, we can always build in physical constraints. For example the ability to disable power to the robot using a circuit that is totally external to and in no way connected to the robot's actual logic or control.

Comment: Re:RTG (Score 4, Informative) 88

by Dan East (#48399179) Attached to: After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

It took ten years to get the Rosetta mission to the comet. By then a RTG would be fairly depleted too.

That isn't a legitimate reason to not use RTG for Philae. The lander only uses 32 watts of power. The MMRTG used in Curiosity provides 125 watts of power initially, and 100 watts after 14 years. The mass of that specific RTG (the MMRTG) would be too great for use in Philae, but then it also produces 3 times more energy than needed (even after 14 years). RTGs have been made in many sizes for many different applications, so it would simply have been a matter of designing an RTG that produces 40-45 watts of power after 10 years.

However, one of the main uses of the 32 watts of power required by Philae is just to keep the batteries warm so they don't fail. RTGs produce more "waste" heat than they do electricity. For example, the MMRTG used in the Curiosity rover produces 2 kW of heat, of which 125 W is converted to electricity. The extra heat is used to keep the various temperature-sensitive parts of the rover nice and warm so they don't fail. With Philae, a good portion of the 32 watts of the solar power it requires is just to keep the battery warm. So if an RTG were used, it wouldn't even need to produce 32 watts of electricity since it can keep the lander warm directly.

Looking at the mass and wattage produced, the RTGs ("SNAP-19") in the Pioneer probes would have been just about perfect for Philae. They produce 40 watts of power and weigh 13.6 kg. Philae's current electrical system weighs 12.2 kg, so that's at least in the ballpark. The RTGs on the surface of the moon, as manually placed by Apollo astronauts's would have been a bit heavy at 20 kg. One of those RTGs was still producing 90% of its power after 10 years.

Regardless, the fact that the Philae mission would last more than 10 years is not a reason to not have used RTG. Other issues (obtaining the radioactive material, environmentalists throwing a fit, inexperience of the ESA with that kind of power source, delays in production, etc) certainly dictated that an RTG wasn't used, but it was most certainly not due to any technical limitation.

Comment: Good news? (Score 3, Interesting) 127

by Dan East (#48365009) Attached to: FCC Confirms Delay of New Net Neutrality Rules Until 2015

This is probably good news. Obama makes a public statement urging the FCC to step in and enforce net neutrality, and the FCC suddenly delays a decision they were about to make. That means the decision had already been made and it was that the FCC was not going to intervene. Now they are reconsidering and thus they want more time to figure out what all Obama's request entails.

Comment: Videophones (Score 1, Insightful) 206

by Dan East (#48336333) Attached to: Zuckerberg: Most of Facebook Will Be Video Within Five Years

Yeah, just like how everyone now communicates via "video phone" (aka Facetime (TM), etc, etc) instead of just talking on the phone. Oh wait, we don't even use the phone any more, we use mostly written text. How many prognosticators of future technology utterly failed on that one too? Video is not the logical culmination of still images. It is something totally different. Nor was the music video the logical culmination of merely listening to music. He's looking too closely at things like technology and infrastructure and ignoring the higher level constructs and why people prefer one over the other.

Comment: Huh? (Score 2) 140

by Dan East (#48333651) Attached to: Robot Makes People Feel Like a Ghost Is Nearby

This doesn't make much sense to me. First off, the test subject knows something else is behind them touching their back. They know there IS a "ghost" there (IE something external from themselves) that is touching their back. The test subject knows from experience that even though they are moving their hand, that motion on their back can't be because their hand is actually back there.

When the touches are synchronized, and the motion they make with their finger results in the robot touching their back at the same time, the brain coordinates the events and automatically realizes "I just triggered this touch on my back by doing something" and they don't have that sense that something external is behind them.

When the touch is delayed, the brain does not automatically correlate their action with the sensation on their back, and thus the robot's motions are interpreted as something external (ie a "ghost").

What doesn't make sense to me is the synchronized motion part is really the trick here - that our brain will automatically figure out we're causing a sensation, even though the mechanics don't make sense or it's something we haven't experienced before. The fact that that or subconscious does not automatically assimilate those motions that are no longer synchronized is to be expected. There IS a ghost behind the person touching them, in the form of a robot, and if the actions are not synchronized, then our mind may not correlate those delayed motions as a result of something we did.

As soon as those motions are no longer synchronized it gets silly to make the test subject guess how many people are behind them or whatever. Something is poking them in the back, and they don't notice that it's a delayed result of their own motions - it's quite obvious that a robot or person or something is responsible for that sensation. And so different people will make different guesses about what kind of trickery is going on behind their back based on their mental state or perception or whatever.

Or maybe something about this experiment went WOOSH right over my head.

Comment: Indirect measurement (Score 4, Insightful) 31

by Dan East (#48295493) Attached to: How Google Can Get the Flu Right

This is a very indirect way to measure and thus predict flu outbreaks. There are many things that could prompt people to search for and otherwise discuss the flu, beyond a person or their family actually having the flu. All it would take is a few major news sources to make mention of the flu, and there's a good chance there would be a surge in people searching for terms related to the flu. Further, other illnesses could be going around that have some flu-like symptoms which would also increase search results for the flu. Can't we just get this information from healthcare providers or insurance companies directly? (although the latter is probably charging an arm and leg for that information)

Comment: Re:TopSlot (Score 1) 219

by Dan East (#48278839) Attached to: Most Planets In the Universe Are Homeless

FTA:

But if you do the math, that means for every star-orbiting planet like ours in the galaxy, there may be up to 100,000 planets that not only don’t orbit one now, but most likely never did.

The sun is around 330,000 times more massive than the Earth. Thus those 100,000 other Earths out there have a mass of 1/3 our sun. But, there are of course several other planets in our solar system. So the mass of all those rogue planets (100,000 : 1 ratio of rogue planets to planets in the solar system) would be several times greater than the sun. Not exactly a trivial amount of mass there. That could explain a big part of dark matter, but of course people a lot smarter than me have already considered and dismissed that already for whatever reason. Maybe they've already accounted for that much extra mass and there's still the "dark matter" that's missing.

Comment: Re:Hard to base decisions on this (Score 1) 294

by Dan East (#48269115) Attached to: Ebola Forecast: Scientists Release Updated Projections and Tracking Maps

Yes, exactly. I visited them all looking for some new insight into the factual state of what's going on with Ebola, and ended up just wasting my time. One of the sites has predictions that are over two weeks old. Useless. Another is tracking the social media discussion of Ebola by region (which regions are tweeting the most about Ebola). Useless. Another is a page regarding some statistical software package. Useless. The only real data is a paper modeling what impact flight restrictions might have, expressed in the number of extra weeks of delay before Ebola is transmitted. The entire thing was a waste of time.

Comment: Re:Why is he worried (Score 5, Interesting) 583

by Dan East (#48240929) Attached to: Elon Musk Warns Against Unleashing Artificial Intelligence "Demon"

He obviously must see and be directly involved in some aspects of AI that are causing him to be concerned. Telsa is working on self driving cars. Part of that AI must involve the computer making a decision about who may live or die in certain accident scenarios. For example, a child walks out in front of the vehicle. Does the AI direct the car into inanimate objects (with the assumption that the car will protect the occupants) or does it try to stop as fast as possible even if the AI knows it cannot stop in time and will hit the child? If the car is travelling at high rate of speed and has 5 occupants, does the AI then decide that multiple people may die from driving into a telephone pole at a high speed, so it decides to hit the child?

It might be those kinds of things that are making Musk think about what kinds of control we're already starting to turn over to AI.

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