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Comment: Re:Fine, if (Score 5, Interesting) 286

by Ford Prefect (#48248303) Attached to: The Airplane of the Future May Not Have Windows

I've seen so many incredible things looking out of aircraft windows. One vaguely recent example - a crescent moon during a sunrise causing rapidly changing light on the clouds below. And then there's a wintry Iceland with geothermal power stations venting steam, and ice on Lake Michigan reflecting sunlight in abstract ways...

Not sitting next to a window is awful.
 

Comment: Re:Low power CPU meet bloated pOS (Score 1) 86

by Ford Prefect (#48248189) Attached to: Firefox OS Coming To Raspberry Pi

GREAT IDEA GUYS. Android has been 'coming' for over 2 years now and pretty much nothing changed when BroadCom open sourced ... A SMALL PART of the video driver code ... I hope no one holds their breath on this one ...

They open sourced a small part of the video drivers a few years ago - and more recently released full documentation and drivers for the VideoCore IV 3D whatsits. (I gather this version has all the OpenGL gubbins running on the ARM side rather than doing the message-passing stuff of the previous driver, but you can run Quake III at a decent framerate using these open drivers.)

Comment: Re:Manual control (Score 1) 470

by Ford Prefect (#48017083) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

The most unrealistic thing in space operas is the notion that the human crew could do anything in terms of gunnery or navigation better than a computer.

While definitely not using realistic physics in any way, I liked a space battle in one of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels. A horribly beweaponed Culture ship is describing to its human passenger precisely how it is outwitting and annihilating its alien foes, mentioning that there's a particularly good moment coming up - eventually admitting that it's merely running through a slow-motion replay, the real battle having been over in a matter of milliseconds.

Comment: Re:They're not astronauts, they're ballast. (Score 2) 77

For space tourism flights to the International Space Station, they're regarded as spaceflight participants rather than 'proper' astronauts (or cosmonauts).

Having seen quite how much training fully qualified astronauts and cosmonauts have to go through, I wouldn't be surprised if they become some vaguely protected terms in the not-so-far future...

Comment: Re:The Parachute Will Work (Score 4, Interesting) 55

The parachute that brought the latest rover to Mars also disintegrated during testing. However NASA proceeded with the design knowing that the atmosphere on Mars is not nearly as dense as it is on Earth.

They got it working in testing after that initial failure - and even that failure provided extremely useful high-speed video of its deployment.

Note the colossal wind tunnel. This latest, flying saucer tested parachute is way larger than that Curiosity parachute - so they've figured out a whole new testing regime. One that helpfully more closely matches conditions in the Martian atmosphere, too.

Comment: Re:Is this new? (Score 1) 702

I travelled with a large external hard disk as well, once - which also got taken to one side and swabbed for stuff. Internal monologue: OH NO MY PRECIOUS DATA ... Oh, it's just the possibility of it being a bomb they're worried about.

On another occasion, I had fun with my home-made, Arduino-powered dSLR timelapse gadget - it got thoroughly inspected by the TSA. I'd already opted out of the backscatter X-ray whatsit, only for a swab-for-explosives test to give a (false-)positive. Eek. Cue being taken to one side, where they looked in my bag and found the timelapse-o-tron...

To give the screeners their due, they let me go after a few minutes - after I'd heard their complaints about the potential radiation doses they and the passengers were receiving from the backscatter X-ray thingers, and after I'd provided advice on what sort of camera to look into buying for a budding photographer.

Security fun elsewhere: carrying a plastic bag of loose change through the Eurostar security in Brussels (it basically looked like an amorphous, completely opaque lump on the X-ray) - and a random customs check at a UK airport giving a (false-)positive swab for some sort of illicit drugs. Eek.

Comment: Re:The worlds largest optical/near-IR telescope (Score 2) 76

The worlds largest single dish telescope is still the Green Bank Telescope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bank_Telescope), which at 100m is ~6x the size.

World's largest fully-steerable single-dish telescope - the Arecibo Observatory is larger still at a diameter of 300m! (Impressive Arecibo exploration video here. The thing's sodding enormous.)

I went looking for the largest diameter multi-dish radio telescope. It looks like the biggest terrestrial 'telescope' is the Global VLBI system created by combining the European VLBI Network with the US Very Long Baseline Array - it's like some massive team of superheroes combining to save the Earth from some terrible secret of space. Or whatever. Apparently they can also add space-based telescopes when that just isn't enough. Which, quite frankly, is showing off...

My thoughts when seeing one of the beautiful, 10m diameter Keck optical telescopes up close a few years ago? I've had full control of a telescope bigger than that.

Radio Astronomers: Compensating For Something.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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