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Comment Re:I hate to be THAT GUY... (Score 1) 238

I just read the book. Basic biology is somewhat lacking throughout. But potatoes are one of the few foods you can survive on indefinitely. They contain quite sufficient vitamin C to prevent scurvy.

Sufficient light to grow 'em would have been a problem, but if they can get by well enough to feed a nation even with Ireland's average cloud cover, perhaps a better choice than most crops. Might get one somewhat scanty crop, anyway. (I've seen 'em produce even when all the light they got was what leaked through broken boards into a closed shed.)

The bacteria issue was overblown; Watney could repopulate the whole place from his own colon, even if a large proportion didn't encapsulate as many bacteria do when stressed. And potatoes themselves are hardly sterile.

I did gather the author has never used freeze-dried food, including instant mashed potatoes.

Comment Re:I hate to be THAT GUY... (Score 1) 238

I just got done reading the book about two minutes ago. I have not yet seen the film.

Lots of interesting points about what's scientifically accurate or not... I had complaints every time it touched on biology or food (freeze-dried potatoes are a whole different beast than fresh potatoes.) Having driven in the desert, where dust pits are a hazard, I muttered about that too. Some I could chalk up to "Not Watney's area of expertise" but some was pretty evidently "author just didn't think to check beyond his own lack of experience".

But what I noticed more than anything is that this is a book written for the masses. It is NOT written for an experienced SF audience, and is barely SF -- and then only because it's set on Mars rather than Antarctica. Mars is more dramatic. Good choice. But when I realised this, I stopped expecting ordinary hard-SF rigor from it.

Comment Re:Won't stop the moral hysteria (Score 1) 175

A point that might need to be examined is -- how do the various ingredients interact when heated? Do they combine to make some less healthful chemical? Is it significantly more harmful than what you might fry up for dinner?

Tho even if not quite harmless, it still doubtless compares quite favorably to the array of ring carbon compounds etc. in cig smoke.

Comment Re:Manipulate people opinions (Score 1) 133

I don't have studies immediately to hand (and am too lazy to go hunt 'em down this instant) but the reason "diet soda makes you fatter" is because aspartame is a thyroid inhibitor, so slows down your metabolism, and considering that being overweight is frequently caused by being borderline hypothyroid in the first place... it's likely to add to the problem more than would just consuming a sugared drink (which at least would temporarily satisfy the sugar craving that's also caused by low thyroid, so you don't go raid the cookie bin as well as drinking that diet soda).

That's interesting about the ecigs tests, but yeah, just about anything can be made to fail interestingly if you run it far enough outside its normal parameters. What they did sound like someone testing home heating systems by disabling the thermostat so it never shuts off, then declaring that central heating causes house fires.

Comment Re:1962 (Score 1) 194

We've become so risk-averse that nothing gets done unless it can be done *perfectly* safely. There's no such thing as perfectly safe exploration. You can see the problem...

Also, there's no immediate threat on the horizon to give us a kick in the pants. Back in the early era of space launches, the threat was the USSR getting there first. I don't think it's coincidence that the USSR and the space program fell apart in tandem.

Comment Re:Common sense = none (Score 1) 283

When I was vetting hardware for the local PC club, a lot of the donations were PCs junked by the local (SoCal) school system. So I tried out a bunch of this "learning software" meant for gradeschooler and middle-schoolers. And what I noted across the board is that the software encourages not learning the subject, but learning how to make the software spit up the desired response. BIG difference.

Comment Re: Glad to have it (Score 1) 451

Certainly (sometimes I wonder if Russia has any other industry!), but does not my eyes-on experience, much of it in a crowded driving environment, reveal something too? Call me a dashcam of one -- I've been driving since 1972 and have never seen anyone in America drive like I can see any day on Youtube. The rare idiot, but not like that.

And remember, the average dashcam doesn't just show one driver. It puts a pretty good window on everyone on that road. I've watched enough of 'em to see definite regional trends. Frex, drivers in Germany and Japan aren't so oblivious as the Russians, but they make up for it by being more aggressive. Chinese drivers seem to be lemmings; if one goes over a cliff, all the rest will follow. But what's definitely different from American drivers across the board, is that everywhere else seems to have a "me first, screw you" attitude about traffic controls and lane use (common to see someone drive in any damn lane that's vacant, including the oncoming lane). Conversely, traffic in America tends to be relatively anal about respecting the rules of the road. Here, four-way stops work; they evidently don't for the rest of the driving world.

Comment Re: Glad to have it (Score 1) 451

Generally the thought is if a driver lacks moving violations, retesting them is a waste of resources as they've demonstrated their everyday competence by not screwing up. If you've driven tens or hundreds of thousands of miles (as has the average American) with no accidents and no serious violations, why should there be an assumption that you're suddenly incompetent just because you haven't been retested lately??

Some states do mandatory road testing of people over a certain age. Some require a driver training course, either through high school or independent. Basically, they test outliers (novices and those with potential for impaired reflexes).

But all this aside, our relative lack of carnage on the road indicates that we're doing all right, despite some people's perceptions... truth is, per capita risk of fatality per mile falls under "uncommon risks" and is therefore perceived as worse than it really is.

Comment Re: Glad to have it (Score 1) 451

I watch a lot of these vids, and being bored with Russian dashcams I've looked for others. There are a few from anywhere but damn few from the U.S. And of course I drive in the U.S. -- and I've never seen that level of idiocy, not even with 28 years driving in Los Angeles.

One thing I particularly note, here in the U.S. we're overwhelmingly respectful of signs and lanes and traffic signals, whereas in much of the world they're roundly ignored.

I've noted a close correlation between ignoring such traffic controls as well as stuff like not bothering to signal, and an "entitlement mentality".

Comment Re:Here's an Idea... (Score 1) 451

Proof that you trust your fellow man -- with your very life:

You drive on two-lane roads, don't you??

Someone linked the Wiki fatality stats page, and ... looks to me like for most of the first world, fatalities amount to statistical noise. Factor in miles driven per death and suddenly the hazard level amounts to... well, nothing. Especially in America, where we drive a whole long longer distances than does most of the world.

Driving is basically the same skill, albeit extended, as running through the woods withing banging into either trees or your fellow hunters or the occasional bear, or running across the prairie without breaking a leg in a gopher hole or stepping on a cactus or rattlesnake. If there is one trait that sets humans above other animals, it's the ability to extend a skill to a new activity. So... I'm really not very surprised that as a species, we're pretty durn good at this driving thing (even allowing for the entertainment provided by Russian dashcams).

Comment Re: Glad to have it (Score 1) 451

One might consider that a signficant percentage of rear-end crashes are a byproduct of redlight-enforcement cameras, which cause people to slam on the brakes (unexpectedly to the person behind them) for fear of getting a ticket, rather than exercising judgment. This problem goes away when yellow light times are lengthened -- even one second is enough to almost entirely eliminate rear-end crashes at controlled intersections -- but that makes redlight cameras unprofitable, since they rely on not giving drivers enough time to exercise good judgment, typically by shortening yellow light times to the legal minimum (and occasionally even shorter).

Assloads of studies can be found here:

Be careful when a loop exits to the same place from side and bottom.