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Comment: Exploded over Americas, Cooling Failure? (Score 5, Interesting) 243

by Irate Engineer (#49159955) Attached to: 20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes In Orbit
This satellite blew up at 1715 UTC, and since it was in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, local noon would have put that over the Americas (North, Central, or South). This satellite was sitting under the direct sun for 20 years. If the radiator cooling system failed, things could heat up and fail very quickly (there is no wind up there, remember).

Comment: Re:But... (Score 4, Insightful) 257

Having the ability to touch any word on the screen and have definitions, translations, and wikipedia entries pop up as you read (which is great for many of the older books) is a fantastic benefit over and beyond the simple fact that so many of the world's classics are available free of charge wherever you have internet access is a bonus that can't be overlooked. Honestly, in terms of studying books such as Gibbon's Fall of the Roman Empire, I find myself eternally grateful for such capabilities.

Maybe. For certain books, perhaps ones with lots of foreign words or jargon, this could be an advantage, but sometimes there is such a thing as too much information. Maybe a literature student reads a word with which they are unfamiliar in a text. They *could* get the definition instantaneously through a link and move on, but is that actually learning? Did they lose track of the narrative by this distraction? What if the student struggled a bit but worked out the meaning from the context instead, and then later verified the definition?

Instant web access can supplement, but it also can be an overused crutch that inhibits critical thinking and learning skills. I'd be interested to know the breakdown by degree for the data presented.

Comment: The suspect has been located in Uncanny Valley... (Score 1) 100

by Irate Engineer (#49122775) Attached to: Police Use DNA To Generate a Suspect's Face
Looking at the images, it seems that the discrepancies are mostly related to lack of skin complexion details (exact color, texture, sheen), all the sorts of "minor" details that kick many CGI rendered human images into Uncanny Valley. The object rendered looks human-like but our minds scream NOT HUMAN when we don't detect these minor details and cues.

Comment: Re:Good Luck (Score 1) 319

by Irate Engineer (#48770281) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

Well, that's because no one knows what constitutes a "massive perturbation". Some think dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate mutliple times faster than the environment's ability to absorb it is not a big deal, no action required. On the other end, some folks think we should all stop exhaling, now. Intermediate remedies include expensive technologies to mitigate the perturbation. Any solution within that broad spectrum of "solutions" is going to cost dearly, and there is no way to know if they would even work.

We don't know for certain that doing anything is better, worse, or neither as compared to the immediately inexpensive option of doing nothing.

My opinion is that since the perturbations being produced by humankind (e.g. CO2) are on the order of the natural inputs, so that it seems likely to me that we are affecting the climate in some manner. However, there is no concrete proof one way or the other, so my opinion may be quite wrong. All there is is a large number of climate model results, many poorly reported as being accurate without qualification, all swirling in a shitstorm of money and politics, with cherry-picked results being used to support chosen agendas. I really don't see a scientific / technical means to cut through this Gordian knot.

Comment: Re:Good Luck (Score 2) 319

by Irate Engineer (#48770053) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?

Climate 'scientists' might confidently state that the world will warm by X.YZ degrees in the next 20 years. What they don't ever tell you is the uncertainty in their prediction, basically because it is nearly impossible to quantify.

Take a look at these climate model results:

Which model is closest to correct? Each model makes large numbers of different assumptions about how to mimic radiation, atmospheric turbulence, adequate atmospheric and terrain resolution, and any number of other phenomena. As the actual system is highly nonlinear, even a small uncertainty in the initial conditions can lead to wildly different results even if we had all of the equations exactly correct (which we don't, most are modeling approximations to make the problem tractable).

The best that can be said is that it seems probable that the Earth will be getting warmer. The questions are how much and how quickly? Having a number of predicted outcomes means that there is a range of policy decisions, and politicians can cherry pick the outcomes that resonate with their ideology. If a politician seizes on a prediction that indicates that warming isn't a big deal, they will push for the status quo, especially if the are already benefiting from the status quo. Or maybe they will seize the worst case outcome which suggests major societal upheaval is required to remedy it.

Also, as it is a chaotic system, there really is no way to determine if your attempts to control it were even meaningful, even in hindsight, as chaotic systems change non-linearly without human input. That is the argument of the folks who believe that AGW isn't occurring because the world was warming before humans came along. Others think it's all our fault. Without the ability to spin up a human-free Earth 2.0 as a control, it is very difficult to tease apart what is what.

Comment: Good Luck (Score 5, Insightful) 319

by Irate Engineer (#48768677) Attached to: How Close Are We To Engineering the Climate?
Trying to actively control a massive, chaotic system is not going to end well. The only stable configurations that pop out of computer models of the climate are the snowball Earth and the Venus 2.0 scenario. The only right way to play is to stop applying massive perturbations to the system and realize that even then the climate will change.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.