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Comment For all x, the military wastes millions on x. (Score 1) 154

The military has a huge budget that has to feed and entire ecosystem of contractors and subcontractors. Of course such a system is wasteful, and the scale of military spending is such that it's almost certainly true that the military wastes millions on peanut butter, on underpants, on shampoo, on frying pans and on snake bite kits. Name all the items in your junk drawer, and I bet that the military wastes millions on each of those kinds of things. Wasting millions on satellite capacity doesn't even sound that stupid in comparison. The real shocker would be to find something on which the military actually gets a good deal.

Comment Re:don't look now (Score 1) 35

I take it the point is to use the materials in space to first build something. Only once it's built will people actually come. The reason why our space programs are stuck in first gear is that we don't know how to build things in space from materials that are there. This will change soon, because many of the lessons of automated production techniques on Earth can be applied (with modifications) in space. The problem will be one of sourcing the raw materials from which to manufacture something useful. So that demand is perfectly predictable, and asteroid mining companies are now taking the baby steps they need to take to eventually satisfy that demand.

If you're wondering about what's worth making in space, there are many great ideas. Here is just one: A truly gigantic telescope mirror. It might actually be easy to do, because the factors that make mirror production on Earth so hard are not a problem in space. There is no need to worry about sagging, stress and all these other gravity-related issues. Space-built telescopes could get pretty darn big, The question is: what will they be made of? And the most plausible answer is: materials from asteroids. Like I said, that's just one example.

Comment Small difference between 28 hours and many weeks (Score 1) 20

If the current generation of solar powered drone stays up for more than a day, the next generation might stay up for weeks. Basically, what this shows is that we're pretty close to the threshhold where incoming photovoltaic energy over 24 hours matches the energy needs to keep the thing flying. Just a bit more optimization could mean that the thing takes in more energy than it uses, and then it can basically fly until something wears out. All kinds of interesting things then become possible.

Comment Re:absolute BS (Score 1) 242

I actually think this is great. After all, the patent expires in what, 25 years? I doubt a single engine will be built in that time, but forever afterwards, this idea in the public domain. Consider the alternative, if someone waited to patent this thing until applications were actually ready. Then the patent would prevent competitors from entering the market. But because Boeing hasn't waited, it has basically ensured that nobody will use patent law to put the brakes on innovation when we get around to actually making serious spaceships - which is what this propulsion system is obviously for.

Comment How much infrastructure needs to be there first? (Score 1) 99

Some people think that we should send someone to Mars as soon as possible, even if they can't do much before they return home. Simply leaving a human bootprint would be worth it. Others think that unmanned missions should first build up enough Martian infrastructure to support human "colonists" with a reasonable level of comfort. Only then should people be sent. Where would you put yourself on this continuum? What sort of activities should Martian astronauts be able to do before you would think the expensive trip there was worth it?

Comment Re:if that's true, (Score 2) 487

Agreed. As an opt-in feature, it's actually a good idea. I've written down passwords on stick-it notes for visiting friends, and that sort of opt-in password sharing is also not without security issues. My stick-it notes don't self-destruct. I think it also makes it more concrete who really is a friend - a person with whom you're willing to share your wifi password. I think that's actually a pretty good minimum standard for friendship.

Comment Other indicators of voting preference? (Score 1) 292

It's ironic that we share more of ourselves than ever, pollsters should be having a hard time guessing what we think. From the millions of tweets and Facebook updates and Google searches we collectively make each day, plus modern text parsing and data mining techniques, we should be able to approximate something like the political pulse of the population. I have a feeling that we reveal a lot more with our online behavior than what we ever reveal to pollsters, it's just a matter of someone scooping up and processing the data.

Comment Re:carsickness (Score 1) 435

How about an Occulus Rift for everyone, which shows you "acceleration-appropriate" visuals to prevent carsickness, but makes it look like you're in a completely transparent bubble canopy driving through someplace that's a lot more interesting than where you actually are? If you get bored, you can add things for you to shoot at with your "laser pistol".

Comment Claudico is actually beating one of the pros! (Score 5, Interesting) 93

First of all, this is the link that the story should have included. It includes updates of the scoreboard, etc. On it you will see that even though the brains are collectively beating Claudico, the computer is actually over $100,000 ahead against Jason Les, a feat that almost no human could match. Yes, Claudico is down against the other three, but these are the top players in the world, and most human pros would get clobbered much worse by these guys. Are we really so hard to impress? This is the first time that something like this has been tried, and already, the computer is performing on a level that most poker pros would love to reach.

Comment Re:Geo-engineering will be part of the solution (Score 2) 105

"Geoengineering is a bad idea." "Why?"
"Because it hasn't been tested and could have unpredictable consequences."
"So let's do some testing and improve our models of how it works."
"No way, we can't be doing research on geoengineering!" "Why not?"
"Because geoengineering is such a bad idea!" "Why?"
"Because it hasn't been tested and could have unpredictable consequences."

Comment Re:Common sense here folks (Score 2) 118

Nobody said that the nerves are going to work. Post transplant, the person will certainly be paralyzed from the neck down. That's why this kind of surgery is only appropriate for a paraplegic whose body is about to fail. He or she is not going to stop being a paraplegic, but might get many extra years of life by acquiring a robust new body.

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion