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Comment Re:hyperloop without the hyper or loop (Score 3, Insightful) 165

"That means operating the hyperloop would require less total energy expenditure than operating an air plane"

Besides the energy needed to ,you know, *build* the entire infrastructure... Which wears out, as opposed to air.

And why do you call it an "air plane" in two words? Are you posting from the 19th century?

The estimated cost of the hyperloop is between $6 and $8 billion.

The cost to build one terminal in a big city airport is in the neighborhood of $2 billion (terminal 4 at JFK, in today's dollars). And the hyperloop would replace two ends, so double that to $4 billion.

So as a quick estimate you could build the hyperloop and replace the functionality of 2 terminals and it would cost roughly twice as much.

It would also use much less land (no runways needed), and could terminate in the middle of a city a'la Grand central station.

You could move twice as many people, lots more freight, and at the same time spend less on energy, use less land, make less pollution, have less noise pollution, and be safer.

It's not quite as cut-and-dried as your out-of-context note would indicate.

Comment Fear not for your batteries! (Score 4, Informative) 165

How much does the battery cost to replace?

Or is the battery non-expendable?

This is what a special-interest framing argument looks like. It puts the question into the reader's mind, and without context (and noting that most readers don't take the time to think about things) it makes it seem like an insurmountable problem.

(Viz: "Ted Cruze's Canadian birth will be a problem for him, I'm just 'sayin".)

Tesla is addressing the battery issue directly, with a buy-back program.

Also note that Lithium batteries have an exponential usage lifetime ('sorta), which means that once you've depleted your battery to 90% of it's capacity, it'll stay at that level for a long time.

Also also note that a battery which is taken out of service will still have 85% of it's charge capacity for a really long time, and there are a lot of uses for such storage. A factory building filled with old Tesla batteries could help smooth out electrical grid demand - supplying power during peak times, and recharging at night.

(Put that building full of batteries next to a wind farm, or inside the industrial area of a large city.)

Again, the batteries will keep 85% of their capacity for a long time, and if the application doesn't care much about space or weight, this makes a good use for older batteries.

Also, no one has even begun thinking about recycling the batteries. Ten years from now we might start thinking about reforming batteries, and making removable/reusable cases with the option to recycle the lithium inside. Like we now do with lead.

And finally, all of this information is just a click away using this neat new service called "Google".

Implanting doubts, uncertainty, and fear in the minds of readers is so much harder nowadays.

Comment Some security observations (Score 4, Interesting) 84

Making some observations from recent events, I've noticed:

1) You can order a computer, and the delivery can be intercepted so that spyware can be installed. Especially laptops, which are difficult for the end user to peek inside.

2) The Intel management engine is essentially an attached microprocessor with complete and total remote control of your system, including access to all peripherals, the network, the disk data, and the ability to wake up and run while the main computer is off.

3) The Intel built-in programmable number generator was built in a way to be unverifiable. Essentially, the system reads physically generated random data and puts it through a hashing algorithm before giving it to the user. If the random number generator section is damaged (say, if someone modified the chip mask films before fab), you will get much less than the advertized 256-bits of entropy, but because the data is hashed there is no way to tell.

Buy American!

Comment Six degrees = 50 acquaintances (Score 1) 88

Six degrees of separation is the, already well established, idea that any individual is connected to any other via six network nodes.

How is it "well established"? As far as I can see "six degrees" was never meant to be taken as much of a concrete fact; it's more of an allegory for our counter-intuitively connected world. There are still plenty of remote or even completely uncontacted tribes in the world, and those are just the extreme examples. At best, six is a very rough average.

PS My Bacon number is 3.

Suppose every person on the planet knows 50 people. This would include all your relatives, the people you meet at work, in your community, at the gym and so on.

If each of those people know 50 people with no overlap, then 2 degrees out is 2500.

Taking this to the 6th order, 50^6 is around 15 billion people.

So although the number "6" seems counter-intuitively small, it's realistic. Even though there are tribes that *might* be 7 or 8 degrees out from you, they are in the tiny minority and don't affect the average much.

Also, there have been experiments where one researcher tried to get a package hand-delivered to another researcher somewhere else on the globe, with instructions of "hand this to someone you know who's physically closer to $SaidPerson.

Surprisingly, it usually took fewer than 6 hops to get there.

Comment Sad in a philosophical sense (Score 4, Insightful) 110

The really sad thing here is that it is likely that all of the original Apollo astronauts will be dead before anyone else goes to any non-Earth body.

While I agree that this is sad in a philosophical sense, we should also consider that while we haven't sent people to a non-Earth body, we *have*:

1) Landed on a comet
2) Got up-close-and-personal images of Pluto
3) Also Charon
4) Discovered over 5000 exoplanets
5) Send a probe out of the solar system (*)
6) Maintained a manned space station for the last 18 years
7) Sent several robots wandering around mars and taking pictures
8) (And occasionally vaporizing the miniature martian town centers with its "heat ray")

And a bunch of other things, such as mapping the CMB, finding strong evidence for dark matter, imaged an exoplanet, gotten spectrometer readings of the atmosphere in an exoplanet, found an asteroid with rings, and many minor things.

I'm not sure what the utility of sending a human into space is at the present time. Unless there's an obvious use case, it *seems* like the extra effort of sending a human isn't worth the risk, except as a political statement.

Oh, and we're seriously considering mining asteroids. How cool is that?

(*) Depending on the definition of the boundary, and the current definition is "cloudy" at that point, so that the probe seems to be going into and out of the boundary that defines the solar system edge.

Comment Is this worth my time? (Score 0) 71

You don't notice them when returns are 12 percent, but when the market is crawling (like today) with 1-2 percent returns, you sure notice the fees that siphon off up to 1/4 of your earnings.


Yeah, it's terrible because the fees are comparatively large when the market isn't doing good.

But, it's really *great* when the returns are 12 percent, ya know?

What's the overall return? Is it really worth my time to figure out the financials?

My Fidelity account manager mentioned that my account had a growth of 7% over its lifetime.

Should I really take the time to figure this stuff out, try to beat that figure, worry about making the wrong move at the wrong time (and losing a lot), and try to compete with millisecond timing, insider trading, and PhD quants who do this as their day job? (And try to do this while reading slanted, biased, and conflicting market analyses that I see long after the insiders do.)

There's like 5 ways to get rich in this country (meaning: 5 categories, depending on how you slice the categories (*)) and stock market investing *isn't* one of them. The chance of success is very low, it falls in the same category as "win the lottery" or "discover a priceless antique at a yard sale".

Add to this the fact that accounting seems to be a mishmash of arbitrary rules with no real social value, and the whole thing seems to hold very little interest for me (viz: American tax code).

I mean, really. We're the smart people in the room - rather than try to siphon money from a rigged system, shouldn't we be discovering new science, building new devices, and having original ideas?

Is doing this worth my time?

(*) The two which are available to regular people are "start a business" and "commission sales", where the sales thing is for high-price commodities such as telecoms equipment or weapons systems.

Submission + - Free state project reaches goal of 20,000 signups. (freestateproject.org)

Okian Warrior writes: As a followup to our recent story,
at 11AM Tuesday, Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced the FSP had reached its goal of recruiting 20,000 participants.
The 20,000 mark is significant, because it ‘triggers the move’ – the mass migration of the Free State Project participants who have all agreed to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state.

Comment Behind the shield (Score 2) 35

On the right hand side of the title text, behind the thing that looks like a shield and the thing that looks like a dashpot connected to a screen door, is a link. It's there.


(On my terminal the link is actually behind those two icons. I'm sure the icons are useful for something, but I'm not exactly sure what. The icons also partially obscure the "from the whatchamacallit dept" text, and I'm not exactly sure what that's good for, either.)

Slashdot is a classy site!

Comment Vertical whitespace (Score 2) 1829

Over the years, Slashdot has changed it's style sheets to introduce lots and lots of whitespace.

The site *used* to present a lot more information in a lot less space, and the signal-to-noise ration was much higher. You could see many more articles on the front page, see many more comments on one page and so on.

Every time the style changed, people complained.

We're now at the point where the information is watered down so much that about half the front page is vertical whitespace.

Get rid of some of it! Make the front page more information dense, so we can quickly see if there is something there of interest without having to mouse around the page.

Comment Primary news source (Score 4, Interesting) 1829

I don't know if you are interested in this but...

During the 2nd war in Iraq, one of the most interesting accounts was a lone blogger in Baghdad who made nightly posts about what was going on and his views on the situation. He wasn't a journalist or anything, just a guy in an apartment watching missiles destroy buildings in his city. Sadly, he wasn't allowed to continue his reporting after the fall of the regime.

Since we're nerds, it should be possible to get interesting views from conflict areas around the globe in an anonymous manner. Perhaps partner with WikiLeaks to get anonymous interviews and points of view from these areas.

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth, but we're now living in an age where the average reader can dig down to find original sources for some of the media bias and spin.

I would love to read the (anonymous) views of a Chinese engineer, or Indian customer support person, or a Cuban hacker, or Ukranian spammer.

I would find it much more interesting than a talking-head video of some software package founder.

If you're interested in being a primary news source, having the occasional "scoop" where the MSM refers to Slashdot as the breaking story, and have the courage for a high-level of journalistic integrity, then you could do this. Let WikiLeaks handle the anonymity and authentication, you just post the interviews.

It's not for the faint of heart, but it's something you could do.

Comment Acceptable advertising and sock puppetry (Score 1) 1829

I understand the need to make revenue, but advertizing portals also serve malware and misleading scams, and use up a ton of bandwidth.

You could lead the way to a workable advertizing policy by allowing ads which are "image and link only".

Only allow advertising which is a clickable image link. Make it their job to count click-through, and don't bother with counting impressions. Or if you do, supply them with the impression count instead of letting them do it through javascript.

Only allow advertising images hosted from your own servers, make a "no flashing, blinking, annoying" policy and stick to it. Set up a directory of images and choose one at every page view.

A lot of advertisers will balk at doing this, but if you hold firm and initially seed your stash with free advertizing to a few open source projects (such as SourceForge or Mozilla or Apache), advertisers will begin to see the light and want in.

(I would totally accept ads under those conditions!)


Slashdot should be a high-class establishment. Try to vet your ads with an eye towards clarity and simplicity, with a theme that doesn't insult the intelligence of the reader.

For low class examples, do a google image search on "go daddy ad". Seeing a beautiful woman in underwear is appealing, but it makes the site look like trash.

For high class examples, look at some of the ads in Scientific American (googling doesn't work for this) or the New Yorker.

Again, you may have to dig your heels in and "lead the way" before advertisers begin to see the light.

But if you can make it work, the rest of the internet might follow suit...


About 2 weeks before the November elections things go to crap on this site. If it's a presidential election, it goes to crap about 6 weeks beforehand, and reaches insanely fevered pitch starting 2 weeks before.

It will *definitely* happen this year, due to the non-typical candidate choices.

Tamp down new accounts registered during these times, so that a hundred paid "candidate XXX" supporters and congressional aides don't waste all of our time.

Maybe if accounts formed during that time only posted at level 0 until after the election, or maybe turn off new accounts (with an informative message) for a couple of weeks, or maybe allow accounts but defer activating them until after the election.

Note that I am referring to NEW accounts, and only those NEW accounts which are registered during the runup weeks! Regular accounts and long-term readers should be unaffected.


On the subject of high class, it would be nice if you limited yourself to ONE April fool's prank on April 1st.

And if you do even that one, note that an "this is obviously absurd" article is NOT an April Fool's prank. A good prank actually fools people, and the best ones fool people for more than a minute. It should be completely believable, and preferably engage the reader emotionally. Like the Piltdown man.

Comment Good point (Score 3, Interesting) 190

Thank you.

That's a well-formed and unassailable argument, I won't be using that study as a reference in the future. If Slashdot had the "delete post" option I would use it.

Your post does not address the core argument (guns good/guns bad), but that's OK.

Let's pick this up again in the next gun control article discussion.

Comment An informed argument (Score 4, Insightful) 190

An informed argument is so refreshing. Bravo!

Firstly, you are citing news articles and not published research, and others might point out the gap in credibility between our arguments. For my part, I know that your sources reflect publish papers so it's all good.

The difference between our arguments is this: I claim that looking at *gun* deaths is misleading, because the vast majority of gun incidents resolve in favor of the gun owner and do not lead to death.

The statistic of measure should be the overall fatality rate (death from all causes), not the "death by gun" rate.

So for a counter example, note that the rate of "death by anaphalactic shock" shoots way up in areas that have lots of vaccinations.

Should we thus avoid vaccinations?

All of your sources are referring to gun deaths. We could ban guns in an attempt to reduce these specific types of death, but if it is at the expense of the overall fatality rate, it's not the prudent move.

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