Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Ignore the "humans almost went extinct" bit (Score 1) 53

That's not from the Nature letter; apparently that's some off-the-wall addition from the submitter.

There is a coincidence of timing. However, given that previous estimates for this particular sector collapse (see my comment elsewhere for the dozens of other "recent, geologically" Atlantic sector collapses) were between 50 and 150 thousand years ago, it is little more than coincidence.

If there were a tight human population bottleneck (as opposed to a more drawn out but less severe one, with comparable cumulative genetic effects) of a few dozen generations (a thousand years, for a round number), you could fit this localised problem, the global Toba problem, and a Yellowstone super volcano all into a mere ten thousand years and still have several thousand years left over for humanity to continue expanding at 5% per generation (1 extra child per 20 families per generation), giving easily a 10-fold population increase to offset a 9-fold decimation.

Comment Re:Are and storms that fierce on Mars? (Score 1) 105

That's an effect, but unless you increase the viscosity of the (saltus, 'a leap') grains don't stay suspended for more than a couple of seconds once the turbulence drops even for a small amount.

If you look at rock pedestals, then their most severe erosion is strongly at the base. Compare the images with a more typical pyramidal hill to get the difference in erosive force between base and top.

Preventing landed craft from over-tipping with such a strongly concentrated low-level force is a job for outriggers. As the images show, the basic problem is hardly rocket science. You can make the engineering as fancy as you want to cut down weight (e.g. - two only outriggers, which can be re-positioned at ~120 degrees to the wind direction ; the weight of the re-positioning equipment being less than a third outrigger?)

I'm perfectly willing to accept the "stranded on Mars" as a MacGuffin. But that doesn't make it any the less of a hazard that would be addressed and managed. Hey, I could even take it fi there were an inconveniently situated Marsquake in the middle of a dust storm. Or a tube cave opening up under the lander because of the stresses of the lander. But it's still a MacGuffin that flies as well as the Maltese Falcon.

Comment Just for some context ... (Score 1) 53

When I was taking a volcanology holiday a couple of years ago on the Canary Islands, the count of recognised deposits from mega-landslips around the island group was 23. Many more were unrecognised, probably, due to having been overlaid by more recent landslips. The period during which these were deposited was probably only 10 million years, for an event every half million or so years, and each would probably have had significant effects between Brazil, Newfoundland, Britain and Morocco.

The Cape Verde islands are a broadly similar island group, a thousand miles to the south. So a broadly similar history can be inferred - maybe Brazil would get hit a bit more, and Newfoundland a bit less. So you're now looking at events every quarter million years.

Don't forget the Azores, on the Gibralter-to-Mid-Atlantic transform fault. There;s sector collapse risk there too. And no small risk of sector collapses in the volcanic Carribean islands too, some of which could reasonably be expected to propagate out into the Atlantic too. Say a cumulative risk in the order of once every 100,000 years.

It is not news that these risks exist, and have existed for longer than humanity has existed. And there is nothing realistic that we can do about them. Except not live too close to coastlines.

Comment Real World? (Score 1) 105

how a real world interplanetary spacecraft would pull off a rescue maneuver

Well, for starters, they wouldn't leave someone behind who wasn't dead and buried. "Dead" in the sense of "injuries incompatible with life" and/ or "failure to revive" and/ or "decomposing". This has been established by long history of mountain, cave and other remote area search and rescue incidents. If you want a ball-shrivelling account of how hard it can be to tell, read Joe Simpson's "Touching the Void" (the film wasn't too bad either; but remember that despite having been filmed by Hollywood, the events were reality. Including the crawling through the shit garden).

I suppose I'd better go and RTFA, but having just come back from a 2-million dollar/day operational planning meeting, the plan of "don't get into that situation" plays a really important role here.

Comment Re:No new components needed (Score 1) 152

Yes, I couldn't see a demonstrated need for new hardware or sensors in TFA either.

The last time I cared about what went on under the bonnet of a car (beyond "why doesn't this run?") was for my second car, in the late 1980s, made with 1970s technology. That had EGR. which I had to get an understanding of, because the line between the EGR valve and the inlet manifold, which used inlet suction to provide the force to allow the recirculation valve to be opened against it's spring had leaked, resulting in a failed emissions test when they were introduced. That was an analogue system, playing throttle position against exhaust and inlet pressures to sense when to open change state of the EGR valve. It worked.

I would expect that digitally controlled cars have much the same hardware, but with valves under solenoid and computer control, not pressure switches. So, no need for new actuating hardware here.

The author also didn't say what new sensors were needed. Every VW I've driven in 20+ years has had a sensor that would tell if it were on a dynamometer or not. It's the driver's seat load sensor. The one that turns on the seatbelt warnign light if the engine is turned on when someone is in the driver (or passenger, or rear - varies by model) seat. No driver AND engine running? On a test track.

I'm sure there are more subtle ways it could be looked for too.

Comment Re:America (Score 1) 383

I pray that the US gets a Churchill next election and not another Chamberlain.

In a testament to the efficacy of prayer, you're being given a choice of Donald Trump's wig, a deranged god-squad surgeon, and a number of non-entities. Oh, and the third round of a dynasty of hereditary presidents.

Well done, Bin Laden!

Comment Re:I've always said (Score 1) 241

I recant my position, man is inherently peaceful, and non-violent. Howzat?

Which fictional universe do you live in?

Definitely there is violence in the make up of humanity. Whether that violence is the dominant component of human psychology is something you haven't established. Whether humans are substantially different in this respect from any other organism on the planet is also yet to be established.

Some of the basic factors of human physiology - for example the very limited male-female differences within the species - actually argue the humans are less selected for intra-specific violent conflict than other primates. Look, for example, at the canines of most of our fellow primates and you'd see evidence that violent intra-specific conflict is a stronger selection force in most primates than it is in humans. And by contrast, the cooperative behaviour is a more significant factor in human evolution than it has been in most other primates.

Which is not to accept the straw man you're also propping up to have another tilt at. The reality is almost certainly that the situation is more complex than either straw man that you've presented. Which doesn't make for for attractive sound bites.

I bet you're thinking about bringing technology into the discussion. I rather doubt that the few thousand generations since human technological progress started to rise has fundamentally re-shaped our biology. (And the anthropological record is with me on that. Go back tens of thousands of generations into the Homo erectus and/ or habilis lineages and you'll still see lower levels of sexual dimorphism than in most primates. Securing the calorie resources to raise that infant through it's extended infancy is a long drawn out process that has been essential to every single generation of our ancestors whereas violent conflict is a much more sporadic influence. And the depressing fact (for people with a "Flintstones and Raquel Welch in a fur bikini" view of human evolution) is that it is more efficient to collect those calories by gathering than to chase mastodons across the landscape. That is how most humans acquired most of their their calories throughout history, and still is recently with the development of agriculture over the last thousand or so generations. Those techniques are mostly (today ; it's harder to tell in the archaeological record) a female-led activity rather than a male-led activity.

Just as a matter of interest, does your testosterone-fueled view of humanity represent your personal biochemistry? That's not a given, you know - it is (remarkable, I know) possible to harbour thoughts in conflict with your hormones.

Comment Re:GPLv3 - the kiss of death (Score 1) 304

Windows can in fact bundle binary blobs if it so wishes. As long as the source is also available as well. And no the binary blob does not need to have the source with it, it just has to be available, like on a separate DVD like many linux distros do. Or even on a website where it can be downloaded from.

Comment Re:what's the problem? (Score 1) 142

all of your ebooks will be stored in amazon's cloud.

NONE of my books (not that I have more than a couple of e-books, including the Kindle manual. Hundreds of thousands of PDFs of books, papers, etc ; but ... actually, that Kindle manual may be the only eBook I've ever owned that was designed as such rather than as a press-ready PDF.

But still, here I am, at work. an hour's flight from the nearest cellphone service. And our satellite link has deteriorated to the point that the wired network (of business computers, IP telephone handsets, and a couple of social computers in the recreation room) is the only one that works. So, no wi-fi.

I see absolutely no point to cloud storage.

Comment Re:That was then, this is now (Score 1) 123

I think it's probably worth having some kind of legislation that every company that sells a consumer product that is network connected must provide free security updates for a minimum of 5 years after the device's end of manufacture date

People will stop introducing new models. Or, to be more precise, companies exposed to this legislation (e.g. ones with an official import channel to the (checks, yes, that's your country) USA, or which manufacture or sell there, will stop releasing new models where they are exposed to this liability.

If you grey-import, you'll get no support.

Law of unintended consequences - if your consequences were unintended.

Comment Re:I've always said (Score 1) 241

Your specific claim is that we perform killing BETTER than we do anything else. "Anything" is a pretty broad spectrum of possibilities ;

Wait - what?

Your idea that I said we do it "BETTER" than anything else just isn't correct.

I never said that.

In message ID " on 2015-09-22 3:10 (#50571749)" You said:

Plus you seem to be arguing that humans don't enjoy killing each other? It's what we do best.

Killing each other is simply part of being human. Probably a part of "us versus them", aggression and ability to kill others possibly making for a better chance of survival, and the qualities that might fuel that aggression, like robustness, and high testosterone levels, just aid in the process.

There is also a significant contribution from the archaeology that strongly suggests that cooperation has been an essential part of human survival and success over the millenia of millennia. I suspect that both have been important, probably at different times, and that the evidence isn't sufficient to unambiguously decide the question in favour of one opinion or the other. Whether you look on the generation, ten generations or a hundred generations (which would take us back to Ancient Greece and the first unification of China) is likely to elicit different results.

All I'm saying is that humans have a genetically based component that predisposes us to life ending violence.

If that is true - I'm not ceding that point, is that something that is due to us being humans, or due to us being primates, or due to us being mammals, amniotes, vertebrates, or metazoans. In fact, isn't intra-specific and inter-specific competition a characteristic of life in general? As Darwin pointed out, our most intense competition is with our closest relatives, because their demands for resources are most similar to one's own species. But if that is a general characteristic of life, not a specificcharacteristic of humans.

You might differ, but now you need to show me the research saying we are not inherently violent.

Go back to your claim quoted above : do we (well, humans) do violence better than anything else. Sure we do violence ; I've never claimed otherwise. I've done it myself. And we do other things. But your claim was that violence (more specifically, killing) is "what we do best." So you are comparing violence with all other human activities, and asserting that it is what we do best. So, you have some grounds for comparing violence with, for example, calligraphy or the mythology of the constellations. How do you do that?

Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine. -- Andy Warhol