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Comment Re: America (Score 1) 263

> IMHO I think "Star Wars" was actually more for defense from an invasion than to knock down missiles. I doubt it would have worked to do either goal; it's only now that we are developing lasers powerful enough to do anything to a distant flying object.

I worked on the Strategic Defense Initiative (the proper name for the project) in the 1980's. It was most certainly for knocking down missiles, all the math depended on it. As far as working or not, very few people understand the concept of "layered defense". SDI had 7 layers: two Boost Phase intercepts, three Midcourse intercepts, and High and Low terminal intercepts. Each layer only has to deal with what the previous layer missed. Assume, because the actual numbers were classified and I don't remember them after 30 years, that each layer is 60% effective, meaning 40% of warheads get through to the next layer. With 7 layers, only one in 610 warheads hits their targets. That kind of number is "survivable". Japan survived two warheads, and the US could survive about 15 or 20, due to being a larger country. This breaks the "Mutually Assured Destruction" concept, because the US would have plenty of undamaged assets to shoot back with.

But you don't need a fully functioning missile defense to apply leverage to the Russians. If you have only two functioning layers, and they are only 40% effective each, only 36% of Russian warheads get through. They have to build 2.78 times as many warheads to destroy their priority target list. The more functioning layers, and the higher their effectiveness, the worse their targeting problem gets, rapidly. The Russians may be deficient in some ways, but they had plenty of good mathematicians. They could see the threat of a layered defense, and they could not afford to build enough missiles to counter it. They could also not build their own SDI system, because Western technology was generally more advanced. So coming to the negotiating table to reduce missile counts was the only viable option, which is exactly what they did in 1991. In that sense, the SDI program helped win the Cold War.

Whether Reagan himself had a technical understanding of the project was irrelevant. That was between DARPA, Congress, and the defense contractors. As a former actor who did westerns, his job was making speeches other people wrote, and looking tough to the Russians. He was a figurehead for the nation. Tons of smart people did the real work.

Getting back to your lasers, we had two kinds as *advanced options* in SDI, airborne and space-based. Airborne were a boost phase system, designed to shoot at ICBMs while the rocket was still firing. That makes them an easy target, rockets have huge thermal signatures for targeting. But also they are fragile. Heat the nozzle of a rocket a few hundred degrees while operating, and it can easily fail, same for shock heating part of the fuel tanks. You don't have to melt them, just cause a gas explosion as the fuel boils, it does the rest. Space-based lasers were upper boost phase or early midcourse. They could get a clearer shot when the rocket was in the upper atmosphere, or starting on the ballistic trajectory. Physically the rocket was approaching the same altitude as the laser, so the distance was smaller. Both involved megawatt class lasers based on chemical combustion energy.

But remember, these were not the baseline, they were advanced options. And the US was making credible progress in laser technology. So it was not a matter of having them ready to use. It was a matter of the Russians believing the nation that beat them to the Moon could develop high powered laser weapons if they put their minds to it. After the Strategic Arms treaties were signed, the push to develop SDI technologies ended, so they have piddled along for the last few decades, and battlefield lasers and railguns are now entering field use. There was no rush because there was no enemy threatening enough.

Comment Re:Socalim is organized psychopathy (Score 1) 263

You're supposed to outgrow "fair" by age 8 or so, you know. The world's not supposed to be fair, it's supposed to be righteous, or failing that, just. Fair is pretty lame: imagine a court system in which guilt or innocence was judged by a perfectly fair coin flip. Totally impartial, unbiased, fair, and stupid.

CEOs, movie actors, and professional athletes all get paid a lot, and for the same reason, but there are so few of each we're not getting less because of it. Is it just? Hard to say: they have a large audience, and when they do well at their jobs they do make a lot of people happy. The idiots get paid well too, but that's life for you.

But if you keep obsessing on targets of envy or outrage, you'll always be unhappy, as there will always be guys like that. Get over it, if you want to be happy. Better to focus on a system that makes your life better, most people's life better, than to focus on taking away from people. The more you learn to feel joy in the success of others, and the more you do to help others be successful (even those who don't deserve it), the happier you'll be.

Comment Re:Decline of Soda?, Two words.. (Score 1) 212

Shudders why? Unless you have phenylketonuria, it's not relevant, and if you do, then it's just one entry in a long list of things you should probably avoid. Aspartame decomposes in the digestive system to aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The amount of methanol is comparable to that in wines and fruit juices, the aspartic acid is far lower than is found in most dietary sources, and the phenylalanine is comparable to common dietary sources and less than many phenylalanine-rich dietary sources.

Comment Re:Better to drink from a leaking garbage bag (Score 3, Interesting) 212

Weird to see people complaining about sugar but switching to fruit juice, though. Many if not most fruit juices have a higher sugar concentration than coke.

Now, that's only from the sugar perspective. Caffeine has its good and bad sides, so if one wants to cut down, there's that. Phosphoric acid may or may not have a negative effect on bone density (lower bone density is associated with soda consumption but there's dispute over whether it's the phosphoric acid or just the aforementioned caffeine). Fruit juices have vitamins and minerals that most colas won't. But really, the biggest health issue with colas is the sugar, and one may actually increase their sugar intake by switching to juice.

Comment Re:They're the same.. (Score 1) 167

They are NOT the same thing.

With do the right thing, you're supposed to seek out 'goodness', but with 'don't be evil' you're supposed to avoid badness.

Although avoiding badness sounds weak, it's more in compatible with western values; western societies have a list of things you're not supposed to do.

To do the 'right' thing, is more of a totalitarian position.

Comment Re:Airstrikes on population centers (Score 1) 288

You must be referring to the groups that exist only in US propaganda fantasy land.

PKK, FSA, al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, and tons of other militias are opposed to and regularly fight Daesh. They control large swaths of Syria, and have recently been making major progress in the northwest, taking over Idleb - which was almost certainly the trigger for Russia to step up its game, as they're nearing Latakia.

Check a map.

Comment Re:Airstrikes on population centers (Score 1) 288

It's not that simple of an arrangement. The Kurds are indeed in the north, mainly the northeast. Assad's strongholds are in/around Damascus and among the Alawi populations on the coast (that is to say, west of the Alawiyin mountains), although he also controls many scattered pockets elsewhere, even ones touching Kurdish territory. The FSA and Al-Nusra control large chunks from the western Turkish border down to Idleb, just on the east side of the mountains, as well as many pockets elsewhere. As for Daesh.... they're bloody everywhere. Their territory is shaped like a porous sponge, following rivers and roads. They reach up to part of the Turkish border in the north, east into large chunks of Iraq, south into the southeastern deserts, southwest to towns near Damascus, and west to the FSA / al-Nusra areas. Pretty much everywhere in the country borders them... except where the Russians are. Latakia is only under threat from the FSA, al-Nusra, and related allied militias. And that's who they're bombing.

Comment Re:Airstrikes on population centers (Score 1) 288

ISIS, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State... these are all "respectful" terms. They want to be referred to as the "Islamic State", as their goal is to reestablish a new caliphate.

Daesh is an acronym of their Islamic name. Acronyms are rarely used in Arabic, which has led to confusion and anger on Daesh's part. It removes the "Islamic State" part that's so important to them. And it sounds similar to a word meaning "one who crushes underfoot". Daesh threatens to kill anyone caught using that term for them, which to me is reason enough alone to use it. It's also what the local opposition to them calls them, not wanting to dignify them as a legitimate caliphate.

Comment Re:Ignore the "humans almost went extinct" bit (Score 1) 47

From the article:

Such tsunamis may not have the same long-distance range as those that originate from underwater earthquakes, such as the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia that travelled thousands of kilometres from where the seafloor ruptured.

The article does not say that a volcano in Indonesia caused a tsunami in West Africa. Please read it.

Dinosaurs aren't extinct. They've just learned to hide in the trees.