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+ - Asteroid risk greatly overestimated by almost everyone

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to risk assessment, there’s one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It’s why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we’re catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes, when we’re far more likely to die from something mundane, like getting hit by a truck. One of the examples where science and this type of fear-based fallacy intersect is the science of asteroid strikes. With all we know about asteroids today, here's the actual risk to humanity, and it's much lower than anyone cares to admit.

Comment: Re:It's the semi's that destroy the roads (Score 1) 803

by R3d M3rcury (#49737765) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

While this is true, frankly I would argue that "Mother Nature" does more damage to the road than semis. And we can't really tax her.

Roads are a community resource that we all use in one way or another. The guy on the bike who says, "I don't damage the road so I shouldn't have to pay" neglects to consider the fact that his fancy super-light carbon-fiber bike showed up at his local bike shop on the back of semi. He whines about how crappy the road is along the right-hand side due to frost heaves but isn't willing to pony-up any money to actually get it fixed because, why should he have to pay? He didn't do the damage.

Comment: Re:What is your goal? (Score 1) 298

I gotta agree.

Way back when in my old mainframe days, I remember one of the most popular things was "chat programs." The people at the computer center thought this was a complete waste of resources. My argument was that it got people to use the computer as a tool to chat with other people. Once you got them thinking in that direction, it was easier to turn them on to other capabilities.

I remember my old girlfriend being surprised that she could use this computer thing to write papers far more conveniently than using the typewriter.

So to me, the answer is "tools." I'm not into the whole "Computer Aided Education" thing--I'm not sure it's any better than a book or film-strip or anything like that. So the idea would be to teach people the tools--it really doesn't matter which ones--that they can use to be more efficient students. Back in the olden days, that would be things like text-processors (anyone else remember RUNOFF?). Today, it would be things like word-processors, maybe some simple spreadsheets and graphics programs, and techniques for searching the web.

Comment: Re:EM drive? (Score 2) 109

by R3d M3rcury (#49723505) Attached to: Robotic Space Plane Launches In Mystery Mission This Week

Well, close...


For example, the space plane is carrying a type of ion engine called a Hall thruster on OTV-4, Air Force officials said. [...] “A more efficient on-orbit thruster capability is huge,” Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, said in a statement. “Less fuel burn lowers the cost to get up there, plus it enhances spacecraft operational flexibility, survivability and longevity.”

I gotta admit, I'm curious why the NASA mission flying on there couldn't have been done on ISS...

Comment: Re:Too Bad For North Carolinians! (Score 1) 289

by R3d M3rcury (#49720129) Attached to: North Carolina Still Wants To Block Municipal Broadband

I'm getting the fastest internet service in the country for $59 a month. [...] Too bad about all these state legislators who seem to feel the need to protect their constituents from super-fast internet speeds at affordable rates that the private companies never seem to feel the need to deliver.

Well, the issue would be is that $59 that you're paying at least "revenue neutral" (i.e., the city government isn't losing money).

The complaint about having the government be an ISP is that they can afford to operate at a loss because they can use your tax dollars to fill in the gaps. I can understand the argument--remember the Space Shuttle and the effect it had on commercial launches in the US? That said, private businesses are not providing service because they claim they can't do it profitably (even with government subsidies to build out infrastructure). So if they're not interested, find someone else who is.

In my opinion, I have no problem with the city owning the wires that connect to my house and go to the central office. I'm a little leery about having them be a full-blown ISP, providing the service, though. I think it's better for them to open up those wires to any company that wants to provide that service on the city owned wires.

Comment: Re:3.5 million truckers (Score 4, Interesting) 611

by R3d M3rcury (#49706879) Attached to: The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks

I wouldn't say it's worse than useless. But it may not be the panacea that we expect.

First, I have my doubts about the whole "A.I. Can Handle Anything" theory. Weather, accidents, and construction can create very creative roadways where you will want a driver behind the wheel who'll be able to figure out and work with human beings on the scene (for example, a cop doing traffic control around an accident).

So you'll still want drivers. The question is, how many drivers will you need?

Consider long-haul trucks, which are the ones that are really ripe for automation. They usually have two drivers so that they can run 24 hours at a stretch. I believe--and I may be off--that the rules for these people require that they drive no more than 12 hours. It might be 10 hours, I don't remember. But in any event, the reason you have two drivers is so that you don't have a truck spending 12-14 hours sitting by the side of the road while the single driver sleeps.

You could get rid of one driver right there. A long haul truck with one driver who can sleep for 12 hours and will only be woken up if something weird is going on that the truck can't handle so it pulled off to the side of the road. That's still saving money versus having two drivers and is certainly not "worse than useless."

It's not an optical illusion, it just looks like one. -- Phil White