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Comment: . . . turbines to speed, ready to roll . . . Roger (Score 1) 700

by Latent Heat (#47504093) Attached to: Favorite "Go!" Phrase?
I voted for atomic batteries to power, but I guess that shows my age.

How about the "real life" launch sequence that the "shooters" on the carrier deck crews use?

(5 fingers out stretched) Release brakes.

(circle one finger in the air) Miltary power (i.e. full non-afterburner setting).

(wag two fingers in the air) Combat power (advance throttle to afterburner).

(put a knee to ground Tebow style, duck, and point with an outstretched arm, pilot acknowledges with a Navy salute) Go!

Comment: Hand wringing of the BAS (Score 3, Interesting) 368

by Latent Heat (#47442351) Attached to: A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System
The BAS has always been on this tear "oh, noes, missile defense" because they have always been ideologically against any side breaking out of the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction stand-off. There are always engineering trades in what these defense systems or what defensive systems could do or couldn't do back to the days of walled cities in Mesopotamia (Iraq).

I remember in the "run up" to the First Iraq War (the "Gulf War') about an interview with some high-ranking Saudi dude being concern-trolled "what about Iraq attacking the oil fields (with Scuds)?" The Saudi official smiled somewhat patronizingly at the news dude and responded, "We are equipped with the Patriot" at the time when the US public didn't know a Patriot from a Tory or that anyone was mad enough to use an ack-ack missile against a Scud rocket.

War is always about PR (i.e. deception). Everyone knew the Scud couldn't hit anything (except in some lucky for the enemy, unlucky for us shots). The Saudi leaders were just too happy to go along with "the Patriot is a Scud defense shield" because they knew that strategically, the Scud was of no consequence and this way they could tell their people to "just chill, bro, the Americans shared with us the Patriot" as the Scuds rained down. The US hurredly gave the Israelis the Patriot to get them to "just chill, bro", but everyone was coming out of the woodwork about how the Patriot was just a sham defense against an incoming missile not aimed at anything.

The "Patriot works" fit Saudi propaganda interests, but went against the Israeli propaganda at the time because they Israelis were itchy to get into the fight of "Scud hunting", where air attacks against this mobile platform that couldn't hit anything in the first place were regarded as futile by the U.S.. The Israelis argued that their pilots would press futile attacks against the Scud more aggressively because they were defending their women and children against the largely ineffective Scud attacks, but the US argued this was Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti's war aim, to lob Scuds to draw the Israelis in to fracture the coalition.

As for Palestinians and the war fighting power they have, suicide bombing are perhaps the most effective thing they have to inflict Israeli casualties, but it really works against them propaganda wise. The singularly most effective thing they had going was the First Intifida, where they were using rock-throwing young people as rubber-bullet sponges. From a propaganda standpoint, that was devastating in its effectiveness of portraying the Israeli troops as hateful goons, whether this was true or not, but the optics on TV were rapidly undermining Israel as a just cause. Why the PLO gave up on a tactic that was working I have no idea, but this may speak to why the conflict has dragged on so long when the Palestinians have demographics and world sympathy in their corner. The Palestinians may simply have bad leaders.

The rocket attacks are a kind of middle ground tactic in sacrificing your own guys. It is not the casualties inflicted by the rocket attacks, it is the 100:1 casualties of your own people that is a feature-not-a-bug, of rallying your own people and of getting Americans to pray in their Christian churches "for an end to the violence."

As to why the Israelis are playing along be inflicting so many casualties, maybe that is a feature-not-a-bug. For one thing, they are targeting "the leaders" and trying to be creative in a tactical sense with their tech for giving telephone warnings. Maybe the Israeli calculus is "the leaders talk tough but they are not that keen on being blown up themselves."

Also, on one hand, Israel is a "Western" country where people get all hand-wringy about the "violence" (I use scare quotes because what is taking place is a war between two sides with irreconcilable national interests and not some unexplained "violence"). On the other hand, Israel is a Middle Eastern country with a substantial Oriental Jewish population displaced from Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran, etc., where the heavy hand of a punative military campaign, responding with a sledgehammer blow to a slap from a fly swatter, is standard procedure in Middle Eastern governance.

If one's sympathies are with the Palestinian side and against the Israeli side, those are your beliefs, but I don't have much respect for the intellectual honesty of the BAS. As for the Palestinians, my advice is "there are people like you among the German-speaking peoples of Eastern Europe. I know of this because these were my parents and grandparents. Whether it is just or unjust, there are consequences to losing a war. My mom's legacy is the most productive farmland on the planet, but there is no getting that back or ever resettling there. There are times when one has to make peace and move on."

Comment: And Jeff Goldblum uploaded a computer virus . . . (Score 1) 368

by Latent Heat (#47442051) Attached to: A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System
into the alien net from a Mac Book.

What you have to realize is that Brent Spiner (the "mad scientist" in Area 51 who related "we don't get out much") had been hacking the alien tech since the early 1950s so Goldblum didn't have to do that much.

Getting back on topic, the Rebels in St/ar Wars smuggled the plans to the Death Star, which the Grand Moff/Toff/Dufus thought would do the rebels no good because the Death Star was properly engineered.

The Rebel engineers studied those plans and found a weakness in that reactor exhaust port thingy. Maybe there were her flaws, but this is what they were able to find.

As to the WW-II style anti-aircraft, the whole attack on the Death Star was supposed to be the Battle of Midway and Waldron's Lost Squadron running their suicidal torpedo attack down to the last man with the tide of the battle reversing at the last minute (the dive bombers sinking the carriers of Kido Butai at Midway, Luke using The Force to guide his last blaster shot to the exhaust port after Han Solo drove off his pursuers in "Star Wars").

This telling of the tale resonanted with the audience in the late 70's, whose parents of The Greatest Generation told the stories of the WW-II battles. When I first told a friend at work "The whole Star Wars ending scene is just the Battle of Midway", there was this recognition on his part, where he related his father being a Navy submarine combat veteran. Stories of how WW-II was fought from different vantage points was what our generation grew up with.

Comment: I was there at the EE Communications Group seminar (Score 1) 686

by Latent Heat (#47223693) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox
where this radio search proposal was presented.

A lot is made about how hard it is to detect radio signals and how SETI is pseudoscience because all of the terms in the Drake Equation are wild guesses.

The meat of this proposal was answering the question whether anything like a terrestrial (analog) UHF TV station was "out there" anywhere up to about 400 light years. The search was "all sky" and didn't even involve highly directional (and hence high gain) antennas -- the plan was to use the feed horns, only, from the Big Dish at Goldstone, California.

The detection probability is a concrete formula in terms of factors such as the transmitting antenna gain (omni-directional), receiving antenna gain (low as they were going to use the feed horn), receiver noise figure (low -- at liquid helium temperature), data rate (one bit per observations -- you were trying to detect a beacon in the form of a pilot tone), and source entropy (very, very favorably low -- a crystal controlled carrier wave is a very stable, predictable signat that the JPL people had experience "picking out" from the background, even when needing to correct for Doppler, in "recovering" spacecraft that had lost their high-gain dish antenna).

If this project was ever conducted, they would have been able to rule out the presence of a UHF TV station out to 400 light years. Yeah, yeah, over what portion of life on another planet is there a civilization with UHF analog TV stations, and that question was asked during that seminar with a lot of wisecrack comments that the ET's have switched to fiber optic cable. But Fermi Paradox wise, were there an advanced Asimov-style intergalactic civilization, and were the civilization trying to get our attention, if they had a beacon anywhere near us, we would have found it by now.

That is, if this plan ever got funded. A quick look at Wikipedia suggests that owing to the spotty funding of SETI on account of anti-ET skepticism, maybe this simple search, which just needed some antenna time on the DSN and a digital FFT analyser, never took place.

Comment: Pilot carrier of UHF TV stations (Score 1) 686

by Latent Heat (#47219109) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox
Gosh, this is already 30 years ago, but the SETI project at JPL had the idea of an all-sky search for the pilot carriers of (alien) UHF TV stations out to a couple hundred light years. The search would cover large swaths of sky using just the wide aperture feed horns on the Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas.

JPL's DSN was in the business of tracking spacecraft in interplanetary space emitting very low levels of power in crystal-controlled "pilot tones" that could be detected at great distances, doing this front ends with noise temperatures at liquid helium values. The idea is that a terrestrial TV station carrier would be emitting enough narrow-band power to be detected at interstellar distances, even with wide aperture low-gain antennas. If a tone is crystal controlled, it is sufficiently narrow band to be picked out of the background with a FFT filter bank of millions and then later billions of channels.

Does a digital TV station even emit a carrier or a pilot tone signal anymore? 30 years ago when a Caltech seminar speaker was a JPL engineer who had received a Senator Proxmire "Golden Fleece" award for doing SETI, which the Senator from Wisconsin thought was a misuse of public money, his colleague joked about "the aliens switching everything to fiber optic cable", but digital TV was a distant dream then.

Since then, haven't we pretty much ruled out aliens announcing their presence with narrow-band radio emissions at the level of our technology out to a few hundred light years?

Comment: The Golden Age of Programming (Score 5, Interesting) 294

by Latent Heat (#47031007) Attached to: Fixing the Pain of Programming
There is this, what should we call it, a mythology of a Golden Age of Programming?

I don't use mythology in a perjorative sense that this is all pretend or wishful nonsense. I use it in the best Joseph Campbell-Hero-With-Many-Faces sense, of a dim recollection of The Way Stuff Used to Be. This is a way of communicating an Underlying Truth about the Human Condition.

Apparently there was this era of things such as this Smalltalk that you allude to. Another version of this I hear from tales is Common Lisp. And Lisp Machines, specialized hardware and expensive workstations on which these "live images" would reside. So maybe these tales of direct, personal communication with the gods taking place with the Bronze Age Greek heros was not made up?

I guess there was this Barbarian Invasion of Bearded Men from the land called "New Jersey", especially a high place among the rolling plains they called "Murray Hill"? There is this piece of non-canonical scripture that our elders have been trying to supress known as the Unix Hater's Handbook explaining how we came to our present age and how this Golden Age entered into myth. Our elders warn against reading this heretical tract as dangerous to our souls.

As Jerry Pournelle describes the intervening Dark Age between now and that heroic or Golden Age, it isn't so much that people forgot how to develop and maintain a live image programming system such as Smalltalk or Common Lisp, it was that people forgot that such a thing could exist, and we attribute such things to gods or space aliens.

But then again, just as there is talk of ancient creatures in deep lakes in Scotland or in the remote sections of Zaire or Southeast Asia, there are accounts that Smalltalk or Common Lisp are still in use . . .

You can bring any calculator you like to the midterm, as long as it doesn't dim the lights when you turn it on. -- Hepler, Systems Design 182