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Comment: Re:I'm sure it will suck (Score 1) 242

by Narrowband (#48365513) Attached to: HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show
This is partly because Foundation was kind of an experimental attempt to write a story where the story line was carried in the dialog and the action took place off camera. That might make it a bit challenging to make into a script, since key action scenes don't actually occur and would have to be created from whole cloth.

Comment: Re:Mimicking a theory, not a phenomenon (Score 1) 66

by Narrowband (#48134969) Attached to: Hawking Radiation Mimicked In the Lab doesn't prove a single thing about how black holes behave - because he did not create one.

Um, good?

The research value may be lower, but discouraging physicists from creating actual black holes on the surface of the earth (or really anywhere near the solar system) seems like a sound idea.

Comment: Re:Still being made... (Score 1) 304

by Narrowband (#48097937) Attached to: The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made
Corsairs are good too, but they have a shorter than average key throw that doesn't sit quite as well with my typing habits; my fingers always want to keep pressing even when the key is already all the way down. (I learned on the old Model M's we had in my high school AP Comp Sci class, back in the 80s when the IBM PS/2s were a new thing). Otherwise I agree it's a solid product, and we have one attached to an old iMac our son uses.

I didn't know about the Razer driver issue; the last Razer mouse and keyboard I had didn't need a driver installed at all; they seemed to work out fine of the box.

Das Keyboard is another option, with a good typing feel, and I use one of these at work, but I tend to rate it just a step down from the Decks, because the keycaps are printed on instead of two-color molded plastic.

Comment: Re:Small Orion reflector (Score 1) 187

by Narrowband (#47739939) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?
From personal experience, our son was able to learn and use a Starblast 4.5" pretty easily in 4th grade. My wife and I are both members of our local astronomy club, and have been into astronomy a long time, so we were able to give him help when needed, but also we took him to some of the public events for the club, and let him go to it. He enjoyed one project in particular where he tracked the galilean moons of Jupiter over several nights, sketching out their positions in a notebook, and he still likes using it to show planets to other kids at these sorts of events a couple of years later.

Binoculars are a good starting place for adults, but harder to work with kids with, in my opinion, because you can't point them at something and then show it to the child, nor can they really get your help interpreting what they're seeing.

Comment: Time and progress more than gullibility (Score 1) 469

I remember this discussion when I was playing violin in high school and college (quite a while back), but it seemed like professors and violin teachers talked about surpassing Strads as a goal that might be reached someday, and that people were working toward. It never seemed to me like something the music community thought could never be achieved, like there was something mystical about it. So I'd chalk it up to time, not gullibility.

Since at least the 80s, modern instrument makers have been trying to duplicate and reverse engineer the Strads and try and make a modern instrument that's equally good. And there were tests like this, but when they were performed, the Strads would win out consistently. But now it looks like they finally succeeded. And we're entering the age where even outside blind tests, performers are starting to recognize this, like Yo Yo Ma and his professed affinity for carbon fiber cellos (I think he appeared on "How it's Made" a couple of years ago when they were demonstrating their construction).

I think you're right that it's not amazing that we'd get here eventually. In any theoretically achievable goal, where you're not trying to break fundamental physical laws, time, effort, and innovation win out. It's just like building better computers and programming them to beat chessmasters. At first, the technology and the programming just wasn't there, and computers lost. Now it is, and they win.

What this test doesn't say, however, is that the best of the modern violins are cheap. They aren't. They may not be the historical artifacts that Strads are, but they aren't something your average highly ranked college student performer could afford to perform on. I remember how prices ran, even for decently good modern instruments. This may bring the cost down from the tens of millions to the tens or hundreds of thousands, but the instruments they're comparing with are still astronomically priced, from most people's perspectives. They're the product of decades of research and mastery of the craft by modern luthiers, where the work is one part art and one part science. Good progress, and a big milestone, but they're still probably decades from making the same kind of qualities common and affordable.

Comment: NASA's attempt at Case Modding (Score 1) 127

by Narrowband (#46581345) Attached to: NASA Puts Its New Spacesuit Design To a Public Vote
Kind of sad that NASA's suit R&D rollout to the public seems to be focused on case modding the exterior.

That said, they clearly need a "retro" cover. First look at the NASA design reminded me of a book I read as a kid, "Tom Swift and his Jetmarine," where he built escape suits for his submarine in the shape of giant eggs, like Humpty-Dumpty.

Comment: Battery chemistry and safety (Score 1) 476

by Narrowband (#46096637) Attached to: Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold
Depends on battery chemistry. Most electric/hybrid cars seem to be congregating around Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries, which generally shouldn't be charged in the cold... it can cause lithium plating to accumulate on the anodes and if done repeatedly can eventually compromise the safety of the battery packs. Discharging (using) them below freezing is OK, but charging is not.

Comment: Like HST (but not in a good way) (Score 1) 101

by Narrowband (#45342487) Attached to: Cold War Spoils: Amateur Builds Telescope With 70-Inch Lens
It's an impressive amateur engineering feat, but its performance as a telescope might not be anything to write home about. It probably shares one quality with the hubble that you wouldn't want: a problem with gravity.

Remember how when it first went up, the hubble had problems focusing clearly? The designers forgot that its mirrors would be deformed/reshaped by the lack of gravity. Essentially, the hubble's primary mirror was optically designed to work as a telescope mirror on earth, not in space. It wasn't until the later mission to fix it with some corrective optics that it really achieved its best capabilities.

Now, since the surplus 70" mirror this guy used was designed to work on a satellite, it would very likely have the same problem but in reverse. If the mirror was designed to be shaped properly in a microgravity environment, it would also be deformed when on earth (as it is when used in the amateur telescope.) That might make the images from it quite a bit worse than one might hope for from a 70" instrument.

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton