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Comment: Where is American Capitalism? (Score 5, Funny) 120

by Roger W Moore (#48034061) Attached to: The Executive Order That Redefines Data Collection

I really feel for the poor Americans.

So do I, they seem to have completely forgotten their old drive for capitalism. Here they are storing everyone's personal phone calls, electronic documents, photos etc. and nobody in the US government has thought of marketing this as the ultimate solution to everyone's backup problem.

Comment: Re:Exploration only first step (Score 1) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48034035) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Did we climb Everest to live there?

No but neither did we climb Everest to explore it - it was done for the challenge. Exploration could have been done far more easily by a flyby of an aircraft in the same way exploration of coasts was done by sailing past it to see whether there was anything worth landing to investigate.

As for the deep ocean the drive to explore is curiosity to see what there is there and, ultimately, whether there is anything useful to us down there. So you do have a point that really the point of exploring, at a basic level, is motivated by trying to find things useful to us (either knowledge or resources). However with space the only realistic way that such remote resources can be used is with colonization whereas with the deep ocean it is far more practical to bring them to the surface. There is also the survival of the species argument which suggests that colonizing another planet and creating a self-sustaining ecosystem there is a good idea.

And just FYI, those two places are orders of magnitude more hospitable than the sucking, killing, arid empty deadly hell of space.

Really? We reached the bottom of the Mariana's Trench in 1960 only one year before the first human in space (1961) and since then only four expeditions have made it to the bottom of the Trench whereas far more have made it into space. The crushing pressure of the deep ocean makes it at least as inhospitable as space.

Comment: Re:Exploration only first step (Score 1) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48033953) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

No we don't. There is a vast difference between the things you want (in the manner of a little girl wanting a unicorn), and the things that humanity needs (food, shelter et. al).

Humanity only needs food and shelter because it wants to survive. In the same way humanity only needs to colonize space because it wants to survive a global catastrophe such as a major asteroid impact. Geological history is littered with major extinction events. We have not had one for 65 million years and some, like the permian mass extinction, wiped out 96% of all known marine species and 70% of all land species. It even caused a mass extinction of insects.

So technically you are correct, we don't need to colonize space in the same way that we do not need to's just something we generally tend to want and, as a result of evolution, most of us want it pretty strongly.

Comment: Less 'stuff' might not mean less ice (Score 2) 210

It is not necessarily as simple as that. For example the gravitation field near mountains is actually less that that further away from them. Mountains are areas of thicker continental crust and this displaces the denser underlying mantle meaning that there is actually less mass near mountains despite appearances to the contrary.

In this case it looks like the hots spots are right on the coast so is it possible that the ice has actually thickened and displaced more of the denser sea water? This might also cause a decrease in the gravitational field there. It would be nice if articles actually discussed some details of the science and some of the effects which researchers have considered.

Comment: Re:Technological Limitations (Score 1) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48016463) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

We have this technology since 1890, minimum. There is no much difference between a submarine and a spacecraft.

There is a huge difference and the spacecraft part is only to get there. The hard part is maintaining an oxygen atmosphere for years and years after you arrive and there is no way that someone in 1890 could do this without several trials first. As for the primitive technology needed for North America it is true that if you don't care about a high survival rate it is easy to colonize: you try an unknown local flora or fauna and if you drop dead the rest of the tribe know not to eat it again.

That approach does not tend to be a popular one unless you are driven by necessity but there is no denying it works. The same applies to crossing the ocean in a primitive boat: you can do it but the odds of survival and arriving anywhere close to where you intend and not large. So it works but, as has been pointed out, technology tends to make everyday life a lot safer and so makes us more risk adverse.

Comment: Re:Not Even True (Score 1) 353

by Roger W Moore (#48013895) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

The government is under no constitutional or legal obligation to inform you of a warrant on you

True and I don't have a problem with that so long as they actually have to go to a court to get that warrant. However that is not the point, its the reverse: there is no legal obligation for you to store data in a way that the government can access it without you being aware of them accessing it.

Given that governments have clearly demonstrated that they are willing to subvert the normal legal process and search and read private information without any warrant whatsoever the only way to prevent this is to ensure that you are in the loop required to read the information. This does not put you above the law it just ensures that the government will need an appropriate warrant to compel you to divulge the decryption key. Since the encrypted data can be seized and protected from erasure without knowledge they still have many of the same protections that secret warrants are designed to provide.

Comment: Exploration only first step (Score 1) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48013781) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

...the irrational notion that we need to send flesh for a mission to be legitimate.

Why are we interested in exploring space at all if the goal is not to eventually have humans living off-planet? We can use robots for lots of things but ultimately the aim of exploration is to find new places to live and new resources to exploit to propagate the species. Hence the interest in manned missions. That's not to say that unmanned missions are not legitimate: they are absolutely essential but we need to develop, and practice, manned technology as well.

Comment: Necessity is the Mother of Invention (Score 1) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48013745) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

It seems that many people - for no apparent good reason - think that a moon or Mars colony will lead to the warp drive.

I'm not sure I would argue that it will lead to "warp drive" given the major scientific hurdles but I expect it will lead to much, much better rocket technology. Once we have human beings on another planet who are producing an important resource we want here on Earth you have all the makings of interplanetary trade which will provide a fantastic incentive to develop cheaper ways to get there.

Sail was the power used for centuries. Initially boats had to hug coasts and only later did we develop the technology needed to take sails across oceans: developments motivated by wanting faster, better ships for trade. Why not the same with rockets?

Comment: Technological Limitations (Score 2) 266

by Roger W Moore (#48013703) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Because space is mostly empty, and extremely hostile.

Given the technology available 500+ years ago so was North America: freezing cold winters, strange plants, new diseases etc. Indeed the available technology was barely able to match the challenge and some early colonies failed. However once there, as our knowledge of the new environment and our technology improved it became easy to survive there.

Isn't space exactly the same? Our technology is barely up to the job of keeping us alive on Mars and I expect some of the early colonies will fail. However given time it is likely that survival will become easier and there is a good chance to discover new resources which Earth lacks and which might be very useful in the future e.g. helium-3 on the moon.

Comment: Not Even True (Score 5, Informative) 353

by Roger W Moore (#47999081) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous
Worse, it is not even true. Encryption places nobody above the law all it does do is ensure that you are aware of any legal attempt to access your encrypted data because they will need to get a court order to compel you to disclose the decryption key. Before electronic documents they used to have to do this in more or less the same way (get a search warrant for physical documents) so why can't they manage to do the same now?

Comment: Re:Not ad hominem (Score 1) 167

by Roger W Moore (#47997895) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

I know that over in England the rules are somewhat different, truth is not an absolute defense.

No, it is more subtle than that: truth is a defence in the UK the problem is that if you are sued for libel it is up to the defendant to prove that what s/he said is true rather than the responsibility of the claimant to prove that it was not true. The result is that you can end up with a large legal bill to defend yourself even if you are speaking the truth hence it can stifle free speech.

Comment: Re:Age of Preceding Supernova (Score 1) 173

by Roger W Moore (#47997865) Attached to: Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

Right, because we've blown ourselves up.

No we have not but the reason for that is that enriching uranium ore to the point where you can make a bomb from it is extremely hard to do. It requires a major facility to perform isotope separation and that typically requires a government with a lot of resources. This is why terrorists do not possess nuclear weapons. If all they had to do was dig uranium ore out of the ground and refine it to pure uranium we would have many nuclear armed terrorist groups and the world would be a very different, and likely highly radioactive, place.

Comment: Age of Preceding Supernova (Score 5, Interesting) 173

by Roger W Moore (#47996263) Attached to: Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

The heavy elements on our planet and in your body were creation via fusion in another star, which has already long since died, exploded, and been recycled.

We can do better than that. Based on the current ratio of Uranium-235 and 238 which are created in roughly equal quantities by a supernova we can date the super nova preceding the solar system to about 6 billion years ago. It's also interesting to note that had intelligent life evolved a billion or more years earlier than it did that the uranium ore we dig out of the ground would be weapon's grade without any complex enrichment process required. So there might be a limit on intelligent life evolving too soon after the formation of a planet.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.