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Comment: Going to space is not a question of entrepreneurs (Score 1) 594

by HuguesT (#48316053) Attached to: Space Tourism Isn't Worth Dying For

Many people on this thread mention the parallel between aviation progress in the first half of the 20th century and what is happening now with SpaceX, Virgin galactic, and so on.

The difference is essential though. In the beginning of the 20th century we simply did not know enough about fluid dynamics to make aerodynamic flight happen easily. This is still a tough field (turbulence, etc) however we have made huge progress. We can model it relatively well, we essentially know now how to simulate it, etc. The basic equations (Navier Stokes) have been known for a long time, and thank to a huge theoretical, computational and practical effort, we now have cheap, save, available, commercial flight for everyone.

In the case of space dynamics, things are actually fairly simple. We have known about minimum orbital speed, escape velocity, and so on since Newton. We've made measurable progress with chemical rocket engines since then 1950s, but the principles were known at the time. We know how much energy we need to expend to reach space. We know how to navigate space, We know how to do it.

We actually know that we *cannot* do it cheaply at present. What we need to reach a new level is a lot of basic research in materials to build space elevators, better ion drives, perhaps nuclear engines in the future. At the moment we cannot send humans effectively beyond low Earth orbit, and again, this is not cheap. It is not so much a question of entrepreneurship, it is a question of long-term, constant investments. As in several decades.

Comment: Re:Nether is your weekend in Las Vegas (Score 1) 594

by HuguesT (#48315923) Attached to: Space Tourism Isn't Worth Dying For

This is hugely misinformed. In the 19th century people built flying gliders and even a few prototype planes in their backyard. They did not need equivalent 19th century billionaire to bail them out, and very few of them died. This is because the physics of flying is easy and safe, once understood.

Now we already know that the physics of space travel is difficult and dangerous. We've been there. People have died. We have no easy solution. No amount of starry-eyed entrepreneurship is going to change that.

Comment: Re:Fuck you Wired (Score 1) 594

by HuguesT (#48315909) Attached to: Space Tourism Isn't Worth Dying For

Known physics, the actual economy, and dwindling resources are not on our side.

Actually, the price of travelling by boat has basically increased over time. This is due to the fact that boating is mostly for pleasure. Who crosses the Atlantic by boat nowadays ? Not the poor.

In the case of Virgin Galactic, starry-eyed people believe that some day everyone will get to travel in one of these hypersonic planes, but I don't see that happening. The reason is that it is much much cheaper and immensely less dangerous to fly economy with any carrier. Basically the longest flight is something like London-UK to Auckland-NZ. That currently takes about 30h. Of course it would be nice to do it in 2h but this is not essential. The Concorde did not make supersonic flight happen for the masses. It was only for the very rich / super busy and would have stayed that way forever had the Concorde continued to be exploited.

Concurrently, really going to space (i.e. > 100km altitude, reaching orbital velocity) is going to stay hugely expensive using chemical rockets. There is basically no known technique that can make that cheap and safe, until we build a space elevator. Going to the Moon is essentially pointless: nothing of value to do there, and I'm not sure we will manage to send people to Mars within this century. This is hugely hard, barring some unexpected advances in thrust technology.

Comment: Re:Obvious (Score 3, Insightful) 51

by HuguesT (#48259059) Attached to: Getting Lost In the Scientific Woods Is Good For You

Most people think that scientist are strange people who have amassed a huge amount of very precise facts about an extremely specific field, some of which might be useful (facts or fields), but most of which are useless to the common people. The prototype is the scientist lady in the TV series "Bones". Scientists are assimilated to dorks who have not only not an ounce of creativity in them but also no social skills.

In reality scientists need to be extremely creative in their work, and need to have the humility to accept that they know or understand only a tiny amount of the world that is around us. It is very easy and quick to tread into the complete unknown. We cannot at present even reconcile the most established theories we have about the way the world works (relativity and quantum mechanics).

Comment: Re:The hardest part.. (Score 1) 51

by HuguesT (#48259033) Attached to: Getting Lost In the Scientific Woods Is Good For You

No, that is easy. Most paths in science have never even been tried.

What is hard is to find a path that leads to somewhere. Then just as hard it getting the somewhere you discovered to be accepted by the scientific community. Think plaque tectonics, relativity, quantum mechanics, even something as fundamental as cosmology, and so on.

Comment: Re:Time to "stock up" from NewEgg ... (Score 1) 242

by HuguesT (#48258379) Attached to: OEM Windows 7 License Sales End This Friday

First you need a friend with an Apple computer and OSX 10.6.8 or later installed. Then you can download the 10.8, 10.9 and 10.10 version of OSX for free on the Mac App Store. If you do not own Apple hardware but want to try these OSes anyway in a VM for instance, it can get a little involved but is generally doable.

Comment: Re:Driverless Trains are Here (Score 1) 320

by HuguesT (#48248821) Attached to: What Will It Take To Make Automated Vehicles Legal In the US?

Underground/Subway/Metro or some other specific lines with zero interconnection running as a loop, yes. They are all akin to a long, horizontal elevator, with lots and lots of sensors and other feedback systems built into the track. They make a lot of sense because they carry a lot of passengers over short to medium length lines over the very same tracks all the time. The longest automated network is the Vancouver skytrain, which is about 70km long.

General-purpose train lines, with something unlike single-purpose engines running on open tracks with interconnection ? The page does not list any. It is still too difficult for automated systems.

Comment: Re:It helps to actually use the thing. (Score 3, Insightful) 296

by HuguesT (#48218013) Attached to: How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor

Nearly all of the development tools of Linux are available on OSX via ports, brew or simply compiling oneself. Even fairly advanced stuff like valgrind. There is no shortage of cross platform GUI toolkit like Qt.

In what way is OSX crippled as a dev box ?

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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