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Comment: Re:radar, backscatter , sometimes ultrasound (Score 1) 56

We're getting some good answers here. Since it has a screen like a phone, the "mode" button could change which program controlled how the input graphs were rendered, like OpenGL display lists in a game. The x-ray/backscatter method could have a red button and audibly beep when it's on to warn people. Maybe a mass spectrometer to sniff the air in front of it (and compare the results to a database of known sample patterns) would make it truly boss. If someone farted, the tricorder would have the answer.

Comment: Re:My take (Score 1) 447

by Kevin Fishburne (#48032135) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles
Well we're using laser weaponry now for missile defense, and I think they've even burned up artillery with it but I could be imagining things. So in another 100 years, laser weaponry's probably going to be rather insane compared to what we have now. Energy weapons could conceivably be created to fire high frequency electromagnetic radiation like gamma rays, perhaps being able to simulate something like a focused solar flare. That would fry any electronics in the target. The waste heat issue would be a function of the weapon's efficiency, and presumably lesser than chemically-propelled bullets. Missiles would be best were heat dissipation a problem. On that subject, how do you dissipate heat in space? I can't figure that one out.

Comment: The killer feature (Score 2) 56

Is there currently technology that senses the distance and density of matter and requires nothing be behind the object? If this device had the capability to graphically display this information I think that would impress more than anything else. You could scan for a broken bone, find lost objects in the grass (assuming they were more dense than the grass/dirt), or find studs or electrical wiring behind drywall in buildings.

Comment: My take (Score 2) 447

by Kevin Fishburne (#48016773) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles
Where there are people, particularly in large groups separated by distance (and by proxy culture), there will be war. The harshness of the environment or emotional and physical costs to the soldiers, history has proven, is irrelevant.

Combat ships will be largely unmanned, with several (for redundancy) manned "overseers" nearby to give the drones a sentient strategic advantage. Remote oversight wouldn't be able to respond quickly enough due to communications lag, although the overseers would be in two-way communication with more distant officers coordinating the combat groups general strategy.

Assuming the technology to efficiently and compactly generate incredible amounts of power has progressed equally with all other fields relevant to space colonization, energy weapons would be favored over more conventional chemically-propelled/detonated ordinance like bullets, missiles and bombs. Conventional ordinance requires mechanical fidelity and precision to fire, is limited in quantity to due to the mass required to be effective, travels slowly over great distances, may be easily impeded by other ordinance or energy weapons, suffers from intertia and can result in friendly fire if it is disabled, misses its target, or is fragmented by defensive countermeasure. Energy weapons reach their target nearly instantaneously, may track their target for sustained, precision delivery, and use only enough energy to obtain the desired effect. Their vector can be controlled non-mechanically, allowing sensors to maintain a lock on a rapidly and unpredictably moving target. They may not be impeded by other energy weapons and travel too quickly to be countered by dynamically-deployed mass-based countermeasures.

The precision and accuracy of combat drones' movement and energy weaponry combined with the tiered progression from automated drone to human overseer would, with the exception of any extreme tactical choices by central command, product a general lack of chaos that is atypical of conventional battles. The primary focus would be to edge out the opponent by obtaining slight defensive advantages through technological superiority, use of unique environmental factors (planets, moons, stars, gravitational or radiological fields, asteroids), the purposeful introduction of unpredictable or chaotic elements (literally gambling that the increase in chaos will be favorable), or psychological tactics such as deliberate attacks on civilians, propaganda and public (broadcast) executions and torture.

The bottom line is that less people would die. Once the enemy drones have been decimated there's really no reason to go on slaughtering the general public. Once that happens the first few times, history will keep the losers of the future in line outside of the inevitable (but manageable through surveillance and information control) insurgencies.

Comment: Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (Score 1) 937

by Kevin Fishburne (#47903799) Attached to: Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

I maintain that our puny little brains aren't even close to capable of "reasoning out" the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

The problem isn't our brain's inability to discover the meaning of the universe. The problem is too many people think there could be meaning to the universe. It is difficult for humans to turn off their deep desire to anthropomorphize everything around them. Just because a human can have intent does not mean that a rock, an apple, or a universe can. When you can tell me why my shirt wants to be blue (convincingly), I will concede it is possible for there to be meaning to the universe.

Asking "why does the universe exist" is no different than asking "what color is 1+6?" Just because a set of words makes up a syntactically correct question does not make it a valid question.

You nailed it there. The act of letting go the belief that people, things and the world have an "official purpose" is a difficult one. I've heard first hand numerous times from religious people when confronted with the idea, and the response is always disturbing. It goes something like this: "Then it doesn't matter what I do. I can break the rules of man and God. There is no reason to be moral or ethical." I can only guess that response is born of the fear and hopelessness felt in that brief moment when they imagine there is no purpose. The concept of purpose is purely human. We as sentient beings ascribe purpose to things (this bed is for sleeping because we built it that way); it's not an innate, natural property.

Comment: Re:Sounds familiar (Score 1) 129

by Kevin Fishburne (#47887445) Attached to: Researchers Working On Crystallizing Light
That is an excellent solution to the proximity problem. They'd also have to use inertial dampeners to simulate the effect of movement when not actually moving (the opposite of what they normally do) and variable gravity plating. I wonder if the holodeck can localize pressure and humidity, or if it's just the entire room. If the safeties were turned off and there was a serious hull breach in one of two shuttlepods how would the holoprojection or deck mechanics depressurize only one of the participants? Perhaps the safeties only pertain to force field injuries and more difficult properties are performed globally. Localizing scent, for example, would be difficult without hiding little scent dispensers. There was a Voyager episode (the one where the holodecks were expanded to encompass multiple decks) where a holodeck-generated explosion actually blew out other parts of the ship. The holodeck concept is awesome and fun to talk about.

Comment: Re:Sounds familiar (Score 1) 129

by Kevin Fishburne (#47886639) Attached to: Researchers Working On Crystallizing Light
I'm guessing the force fields are what allow a hologram to punch you in the face and the photons are what allow you to see the fist coming at you. They're probably generated separately and synchronized for realism. They never really explain in detail how holographic projections work in Star Trek, other than "photons and force fields" and "holoprojectors", which have a limited range and need to be placed strategically (the strategy isn't explained, either). The worst sin of course is how they fail to adequately explain how two people can get farther apart from each other than the diameter of the holodeck/suite, and yet in Voyager talk about expanding the size of the holodeck to accommodate larger simulations. I suppose it's no surprise that the most "holy shit this is awesome" piece of technology in Star Trek is the most difficult to rationally explain.

Comment: Modular seating (Score 1) 819

I don't fly often, but when I do, there are often a fuck ton of empty seats. Why not make the seat rows modular and on rails so individual rows may be removed and the remaining rows adjusted along the rail to fill the free space? If the plane is packed then you're SOL, but for non-capacity flights everyone would feel like they were flying first class.

Comment: Re:The important thing (Score 1) 167

by Kevin Fishburne (#47837015) Attached to: Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification
I read a story once about some idiot buying a bag of caffeine online and passing it around in a club. I believe he took too much and overdosed, dying in a way you wouldn't want to imagine. Other than the obvious, the lesson here is that apparently you can put caffeine on just about anything you like.

Comment: Re:Can we have a [credible] MS Access equivalent? (Score 2) 185

by Kevin Fishburne (#47836921) Attached to: Why Munich Will Stick With Linux
Check out GAMBAS:

It's a VB6 programmer's wet dream, done the right way. The ease with which you could make a GTK or QT app with database I/O would shock you. I'd install from the daily or stable PPA if you use an Ubuntu-based distro. The repo builds are outdated.

Comment: Desegregation? (Score 1) 868

by Kevin Fishburne (#47570349) Attached to: Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline
What, O wise ./ readers, do you think would happen if Israel simply tore down the walls, removed all checkpoints, and allowed any Palestinian who wanted into Israel to just walk, drive, or ride on in, followed by an apology for their use of force and a promise that future violence would be handled by the police and not the military? I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that what they've been doing so far hasn't worked (on both sides). Maybe something flat out crazy should be tried instead; take a few hits to the jaw to show they're serious about peace. I don't think most people in Palestine would think it a sign of weakness and begin their own genocide, despite any charters or lunatic fringe snippets about "killing every Jew", etc. The vast majority of Palestinians aren't savages, and the real terrorists would lose any reason for further support by the Palestinians. Yes, there would be more terrorist attacks in the short-term inside Israel, but those deaths could be the price for an end to a cycle of perpetual violence.

Comment: I live in Atlanta and... (Score 2) 55

by Kevin Fishburne (#47478387) Attached to: More Forgotten Vials of Deadly Diseases Discovered
Just about everything works like this, as in, fails to work. The Postal Service employee who delivers my mail often wears pajamas and nearly ran me off the road a couple of weeks ago with my two year old in the car. Hell, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of the city in a few years. Perhaps it's no coincidence that The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia. All those zombie movies may have been more realistic than we imagined.

Assembly language experience is [important] for the maturity and understanding of how computers work that it provides. -- D. Gries