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Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 74

Things don't always come down to that. Look at the Cod Wars between Iceland and the UK. Three times Iceland pushed the UK - a nuclear power with hundreds of times its population - back further and further out its shores. The UK had the military ability to crush Iceland like an ant. But Iceland succeeded by combination of making it economically unfeasible for the British to fish Icelandic waters (net cutters, for example) and well-played international geopolitical maneuvering (for example, threatening to give the NATO base at Keflavík to the Soviets if the US didn't exert pressure on the UK, while also successfully positioning itself as a small weak state being bullied by a large powerful one)

Anyway, the Outer Space Treaty was well meaning. Think of the context of the Cold War and how that was all playing out. It seemed logical to think that both nations would begin laying claim to various bodies (or parts thereof), say by landing as many landers as they could to them... which would inherently lead to disputes, just like happens with worthless pieces of land on Earth - with the each side supporting their claim by military means, just like happens on Earth. It was seen as a ripe grounds for an unchecked military escalation, and while it would start out on other celestial bodies, it would progress to LEO and GEO, and then to Earth.

They were probably way overly optimistic about the space of advancement in space technology (remember, this was 1967) and overly pessimistic about everything else. They certainly weren't trying to "block commercial mining"; the goal was simply to prevent a space arms race between rival powers. Quite to the contrary, the treaty talks frequently about encouraging the peaceful use of space for the benefit of humanity. There's just one detail missing, which is to make explicit that corporations or individuals own what they mine. Without that, there won't be much of any "use of space" beyond exploration.

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 74

Getting things *to* locations in space is inherently expensive. The cost of getting them *back* is not inherently so, if you don't insist on each return having a custom reentry vehicle and instead just shape it as its own reentry vehicle, with full expectation that it'll suffer some ablation during atmospheric entry. Some NEOs have only dozens of meters per second delta-V to reach earth intercept with an optimal trajectory and timing - a good baseball pitcher could do that unaided ;)

Comment Re:What else is there left to do on smartphones? (Score 1) 239

When a technology is rapidly evolving, and innovation occurs on a yearly basis, all that means is that the technology is still very immature.

I, for one, will be glad to see the end of smartphone "innovation". That means smartphones will stop becoming a trendy fad you "need" to purchase everyone one to two years, and instead will become a commodity, a tool, that you instead purchase once every four to seven years, or as desired - sort of like with PCs now. It will mean that designs and form will have settled down into what is universally agreed to be the best form-factor and feature sets, and the "innovation" will occur with incremental improvements that simply refine already good functionality into slightly better.

*Gasp* Our trendy smartphones becoming as boring as a tired old *PC*? Say it ain't so!

Comment Re:Problem with the definition of a planet (Score 3, Interesting) 55

They'll say, "oh, it's okay, there's enough of a size difference between those bodies that they don't count". But the thing is that there's no way that most of the current "8 planets" would have cleared their orbits without help from the giants. It's pretty much accepted science in astronomy that Jupiter, and to a lesser extent Saturn, scattered most of the bodies in our solar system. Mars has a Stern-Levison parameter (rating of the ability of a body to scatter small bodies) two orders of magnitude less than Neptune, and Neptune has multiple Pluto-scale bodies in its orbit. Pluto may be small compared to Neptune, but it's not so small in comparison to Mars, yet Mars has two orders magnitude less ability to scatter them. Mars didn't scatter these things away - Jupiter did. Heck, a number of the models show that the planets didn't even form in their current locations.

There's all this misuse of the Stern-Levison parameter out there to say things that it doesn't. The parameter is based around a probabilistic simulation of the body and a bunch of "small bodies" with a mass distribution and orbital distribution similar to our asteroid belt. But of course, that tells you very little - our asteroid belt only has the size and mass distribution that it does today because of the influence of other planets - and when I say "other planets", I really mean overwhelmingly Jupiter (only a tiny fraction of asteroids are in Mars resonances). Jupiter has stopped these bodies from coalescing into larger bodies and scattered the vast majority of its mass elsewhere. That's not the situation that the solar system was in during formation. There were numerous large "planetissimals" scattered around. The Stern-Levison parameter says absolutely nothing about the ability of a body to scatter large planetissimals. And even concerning scattering asteroids, it doesn't state that the scatters are enough to "clear the orbit", only that their angle changes on a pass by more than a given number of degrees.

Basic point: a standard based around the "8 planets" having cleared their orbit is a lie. The science says that most of them aren't responsible for clearing their own orbits.

And while we're at it: what sort of stupid standard puts Mars and Jupiter in the same group but in a different group than Pluto and Ceres? There was a perfectly reasonable standard under discussion at the IAU conference shortly before they switched what they were voting on: a definition built around hydrostatic equlibrium. A lot of the planetary scientists left thinking that this was the version that was going to be voted on, and being happy with either "no definition" or an "equilibrium definition", saw no need to stick around for the final vote. Hydrostatic equilibrium actually is valid science, and it's very meaningful. A body not in hydrostatic equilibrium is generally made of primordial minerals. It's the sort of place you'd go to research, for example, properties of how the solar system formed. A body in hydrostatic equilibrium has undergone mass conversion of its primordial minerals to new forms. It's undergone massive releases of energy (which may still be present, depending), associated action of fluids, etc, and are the sorts of places you would go to study mineralization processes, internal processes or search for life. They're very different bodies, and there's a very simple dividing line - one that's much easier to calculate/measure than a pseudoscience "cleared the neighborhood" standard.

Comment Re:This is *SO* unethical ! (Score 1) 242

Butte is a union town where the union's demands killed the economy. There's probably more to this than meets the eye... I haven't kept track of Butte politics in a long time, but would guess there's been anonymous pressure in directions that didn't suit whatever's left of TPTB.

But yeah, it does break the implied contract with existing commenters, and which of my real names would you prefer?? there's no law that I have to use the one on my birth certificate; so long as I have no intent to defraud I can call myself anything I like. I'd suggest a spate of posts by ... oh, say, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Comment Re:It's a Criminal Organisation (Score 1) 145

What a crock. Everyone has their own reasons for doing whatever they do. Some people do good things to please another person, some do them because they believe in an afterlife, some do them for their own egos, some do them to look good. Who the fuck cares what the motivation is? Important things are being done, and people's lives are better for it.

Then there are people like the author, and you, who try to build up their own pitiful egos by tearing down others. The only difference in the two approaches is that the philanthropist actually accomplishes something positive for others, and you don't.

Comment Re:It's their money... (Score 2, Insightful) 145

A favorite target of the 'inequity' crowd seems to be Walmart. And why not, after all their average employee makes about $15K/year, while the CEO makes $26M. Until you do math, that is. There are 2.2M employees. Paying the CEO the same as everyone else, assuming you could find someone to do the job, would result in an extra $10 PER YEAR for each employee. Man, that is sure going to make their lives better.

Everybody needs a little love sometime; stop hacking and fall in love!