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Comment: Re:I still think Pluto is a planet (Score 1) 170

by jc42 (#48842381) Attached to: Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

The most likely result will be that astronomers will eventually reject the term "planet" entirely. Sorta like how, a few centuries back, they rejected the older term "astrology", due to all its baggage and mis-use by pseudo-scientists and charlatans.

You realize that you are implying that the astronomers who voted in the current astronomical definition of planet are all either psuedo-scientists or charlatans?

That raises some very serious thought-provoking questions. IMHO, using only common sense and no optical assistance mechanisms, it looks to me like they are probably pseudo-scientists, and not charlatans.

Well, they apparently spent some time in meetings of an international organization discussing the definition of "planet", when they could have been doing actual scientific work. ;-)

Of course, sometimes terminology is important scientifically, and it's worthwhile spending time to get it right. But they were mocked by other actual astronomers pointing out that any term that includes both Mercury and Jupiter but not some objects with intermediate properties must be an absolutely worthless term for any scientific purposes. So, at least during the time they spent in such discussions of the definition of "planet", they weren't functioning as scientists. But they were pretending that the terminology involved had scientific value, so it probably did qualify for the term "pseudo-science", in at least one of its common meanings.

Comment: Re:The pendulum swings too far... (Score 1) 441

by evilviper (#48841189) Attached to: Why We Have To Kiss Off Big Carbon Now

However, internal combustion engined vehicles require fossil fuel to run

Internal combustion engines can run quite well on hydrogen, ethanol, methane, and any number of other non-fossil sourced flammable gases.

In addition, plug-in hybrid vehicles offer a possible path for oil demand to drop drastically, without requiring any more improvements to battery technology. The vast majority of trips can be powered by electricity, while only longer trips need consume any oil. They need only drop in price.

Comment: Re:I still think Pluto is a planet (Score 2) 170

by jc42 (#48840213) Attached to: Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

It has not cleared it's orbit of debris and Eris is in the same boat yet LARGER than Pluto.... how is Pluto a planet then?

Neither has Earth; there's a rather large, bright rock visible in our sky about half the time. ;-)

Seriously, though, it's probably just a matter of time before a rock bigger than Earth is discovered out in the Kuiper belt and/or the Oort Cloud, and chances are pretty slim that its orbit will be "cleared" of rubble. This will either put an end to the current (somewhat bogus) definition of "planet", or it will cause the debate over what's a planet and what's not to bumble on indefinitely.

The most likely result will be that astronomers will eventually reject the term "planet" entirely. Sorta like how, a few centuries back, they rejected the older term "astrology", due to all its baggage and mis-use by pseudo-scientists and charlatans.

In any case, the big rocks in the sky don't really care how we classify them. They just go about their orbiting, occasionally bashing into each other (and occasionally us) at widely-spaced intervals.

Comment: Re:call me skeptical (Score 2) 357

by jc42 (#48835589) Attached to: NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record

Is it monthly averages that they average for the year? Is it daily data that is averaged for the whole year?

Are you really not aware that those are the same number?

If so, well it's good that you seem to realize that you truly do not belong in this discussion.

Actually, it's quite common for local weather data to play fast-and-loose with the concept of "average" in ways that produce such anomalous results.

Thus, it's common to record the "average" temperature for a day by averaging the high and low temperature. It should be fairly obvious how this can produce days that are mostly below (or above) average, like when a front moves through and produces a peak high or low that's very different from most of the day. Similarly, I've seen the "average" monthly highs and lows calculated by taking four numbers (the min/max of the daily highs/lows) and doing similarly misleading averaging.

Actually, meteorologists typically record such things on an hourly basis, and do averaging across all of them. You still run into questions like whether the results are means or medians. But it's not unusual for the politically inclined to ignore such data (which is often only available by grovelling through the databases), using an "average" of only a small set of highs and lows.

Yes, these should average out over the long run. But we've seen so much "cherry picking" in this subject area that one should be skeptical of all the data until you've verified that the writers aren't trying to pull a fast one to support their religious/political/economic theories.

Comment: Re:Interesting to note... (Score 1) 357

by jc42 (#48835231) Attached to: NASA, NOAA: 2014 Was the Warmest Year In the Modern Record

Last winter was the coldest one on record around here, in over 100 years of record keeping... Pipes were freezing everywhere

Well, which was it... "around here", or "everywhere"? You do know there is a difference, right?

You must speak a rather restrictive dialect of English. In my native dialect (US West Coast), the phrase "everywhere around here" is quite normal, and you can figure out its meaning by inserting "that's" in the right place. The first quote above used the two halves of the phrase in a common way, and speakers of such dialects will automatically carry the "around here" over to the second sentence.

So what dialect do you speak, for which this isn't true. Online linguists studying English dialects are curious ...

Comment: Re:Have you ever noticed that ... (Score 3, Interesting) 155

by jc42 (#48779009) Attached to: Google Sees Biggest Search Traffic Drop Since 2009 As Yahoo Gains Ground

... ever since the first search engine (altavista) appeared the search paradigm has essentially remained unchanged? ... and it's getting stale ...

Can't the search engine companies, and I don't care if it's Bing, Google or Yahoo, come up with something new? Something that is disruptively simple and yet extra-ordinarily innovative?

Nah; they can't do that. The reason is simple: They're now big, established companies, and big, established companies never, ever innovate. To them, "innovation" means making a few superficial tweaks to the product's appearance, while loudly proclaiming "New! Improved!". Any true change is a threat to the product that provides their current income.

If you want something that actually works differently, you have to go with the experimental, upstart companies. Most of them will eventually fail, of course, or if they start to succeed, they'll be bought out by one of the big guys, who will quietly shut them down. Or maybe they'll be sued out of existence by all the big guys via their list of vague patents. But a few will become "the next Google" or whatever was the successful upstart 1was called 0 years ago in their field. Then they'll no longer innovate in any meaningful sense.

Comment: Re:Parameter mismatch (Score 1) 83

by jc42 (#48777887) Attached to: Analysis of Spacecraft Data Reveals Most Earth-like Planet To Date

Except, it being a moon informs about the potential properties and behavior of the object. A moon has properties that decreases the likelihood of life forming on it.

That's also hard to take seriously. Extrapolating a sample of one to a universe with billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, is just silly. Not that I'm saying you shouldn't do it, of course. I'd be tempted to answer by arguing that an Earth-size "moon" around a gas giant may be more likely to have life, but of course that would be extrapolating from a sample of zero. (Unless we discover life on one of Jupiter's moons, or on Titan. ;-)

Without a lot more evidence than we have, conjectures about the possibility of life in/on various astronomical objects are just conjectures. This is fun, and a lot of scientific work is based on such conjecture, but there's not a chance that we can accurately calculate the probabilities with what we know now.

Comment: Re:Parameter mismatch (Score 1) 83

by jc42 (#48758473) Attached to: Analysis of Spacecraft Data Reveals Most Earth-like Planet To Date

..., Titan is a moon.

Yeah, yeah; but any classification system that puts Mercury and Jupiter into a single class, while putting Earth and Titan into different classes, is just too silly to take seriously. Lots of astronomers take this sort of attitude, and either avoid using such terms at all, or have a bit of fun trolling the people who take them seriously. Some have also pointed out that it makes a lot more sense, scientifically, to consider the Earth's orbit to contain two planets that exchange positions on a monthly cycle. This might also be considered a sort of trolling, though it does have its serious side, as these two bodies do significantly influence each other through mechanisms like their mutual tides.

In any case, none of these heavenly bodies care at all what we call them, and nothing we say can influence their properties or behavior.

Comment: Re:Parameter mismatch (Score 2) 83

by jc42 (#48757125) Attached to: Analysis of Spacecraft Data Reveals Most Earth-like Planet To Date

On the other hand, there are two planets in our solar system with less mass than Earth, but denser atmospheres: Venus and Titan. Venus is only slightly smaller and less massive than our planet, but has a much denser atmosphere. Titan is a lot smaller as well as less dense, but has an atmosphere roughly 50% denser than ours -- and full of organic molecules.

Our kind of life couldn't exist on either one of them, of course, mostly for temperature reasons. But we don't have many samples of the conditions in which life can exist and evolve, so it's sorta presumptuous to claim that we "know" anything about what's possible.

Comment: What's conceivable? (Score 1, Interesting) 83

by jc42 (#48756769) Attached to: Analysis of Spacecraft Data Reveals Most Earth-like Planet To Date

Most are inhospitable — too big, too hot, or too cold for any conceivable life form.

Whoever wrote this has obviously never read any science fiction. ;-) The term "conceivable" covers a very wide range of planets (and various environments not based on planets) in which intelligent creatures might evolve.

Some years back, I read Robert Forward's Camelot at 30K novel, about a human expedition to an inhabited Pluto-like planet out in the Oort Cloud; the title references the mean temperature of that world. Part of the story was a quite imaginative method that the world's inhabitants used to colonize other large rocks fbig enough to have useful gravity and far enough from any star that their sort of life was possible. That turns out to be most of the galaxy, of course.

Going back even further, to 1957, we find Sir Fred Hoyle's novel about a dense cloud of gas (similar to what's called a Bok Globule) approaches our Solar System, and instead of passing through, settles into a small, dark ring around the sun. As the catastrophic effects on Earth settle down, scientists discover that the cloud itself is an intelligent creature that just stopped by for a meal of photons and assorted small molecules emitted by the sun. It is, of course, surprised to find itself being contacted by intelligent creatures living in such an unlike spot as a planet, since you'd expect true intelligence to evolve only in the rich clouds of interstellar space.

I'm sure that many readers of this forum can list many other literary works that depict life in environments not the least bit like ours. Anyone who can only conceive of life on a planet similar to ours is seriously lacking in imagination. But there are thousands of writers who aren't so mentally crippled, and millions of readers to read their work. ;-)

Comment: Re:fixing modern gadget (Score 1) 840

But it's usually not those things that actually fail. Most of the random failures on electronics I've seen recently are:

* bad memory modules in computers (trivial to fix)
* bad capacitors (easy to fix)
* linear power regulators breaking their solder joints to the PCB due to heating/cooling (easy to fix)

Although we did have some LCD backlights that failed because as the capacitors started to fail, the power transistor in the DC-DC converter would also go (but it was extremely easy to spot due to the melted hole in the power transistor). We just replaced the LCD backlight DC-DC converter rather than doing any soldering.

It's very rare that some BGA chip is the thing that died in your gadget.

Comment: Re: Its a cost decision (Score 1) 840

SMD components are not hard to replace (with the exception of BGA and their ilk). But the usual 0.5mm pitch QFP type stuff, to get the dead one off I use a hot air gun, and to put the new one on, flux, solder, normal soldering iron, solder braid and kapton tape are the tools I use.

Also I design most of my hobby electronics stuff to use SMD. Smaller PCB = lower price for the PCB, and a lot of the interesting chips only come in some SMD package.

Comment: Re:Dupe (Score 1) 840

What requires incredibly fancy machinery to fix?

While it takes some knowledge to fix a lot of things, fixing for example a faulty washing machine most of the time needs nothing more than basic hand tools and the ability to diagnose what is actually broken, then buying the replacement part.

There are some things that will require fancier stuff to fix, for instance replacing a chip in a BGA package on a circuit board requires specialist tools but a huge number of repairs don't require this kind of thing to be done.

Comment: Re:We ARE using ssh and https for everything (Score 2) 203

by Alioth (#48732865) Attached to: Why Aren't We Using SSH For Everything?

Unfortunately ftp has far from died. There are so many other organizations I deal with that haven't been hit with the ssh/sftp clue stick and can't do anything other than ftp. Or worse still, ftps which is a firewall administrator's nightmare.

We even deal with one company who not only refuses to use sftp, but they refuse ftp in passive mode and want us to connect to an ftp server of theirs that only supports active mode. Their admin reckons ftp in passive mode is insecure and won't deal with sftp. Sigh. They are of course a Windows-only shop. Most of the companies who are stuck on ftp are Windows shops.

Heard that the next Space Shuttle is supposed to carry several Guernsey cows? It's gonna be the herd shot 'round the world.