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Comment: Re:See what you did Slashdot? (Score 1) 313

by RockDoctor (#48463431) Attached to: LinkedIn Study: US Attracting Fewer Educated, Highly Skilled Migrants

the visa numbers wil probably go down, hurting US business.

And the problem is?

In my experience (as a dev team lead and interviewer) foreign workers are generally more educated, more productive and more willing to got the extra mile than the local self-entitled bunch

Sounds like you've got the skill set to be a significant player in, say, the Indian IT business. So, move there where your skills are desired, and your pay check will probably go considerably further.

OK, you'd have to learn several more languages, but that's not exactly a problem. The reduced taxes from getting out of the clutches of the US tax people may be welcome too.

Comment: Re:Let's do the math (Score 1) 287

by RockDoctor (#48463347) Attached to: Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

This is exactly why it is impossible to predict the finding of "life" in non-earth environments


I don't automatically assume that "hard" = "impossible".

We may not have many data points, and acquiring in situ measurements may be a long way off in the future (not less than decades, maybe not less than millennia). But that's still not "impossible". Just "harder than we can do at the moment".

Comment: Re:For the novelty! (Score 1) 152

by RockDoctor (#48463255) Attached to: NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

they tend to form in useful deposits only old vocanic areas, which have very hard stone matricies that need to be mined

Most often as cumulate texture mineral grains in large gabbroic to ultrabasic intrusions. These MAY be associated with surface volcanism, but mostly very indirectly.

It is pretty tough mining though. But that's what machines are for - unless you're South African, in which case you kill poor people.

Comment: Re: Economics (Score 1) 152

by RockDoctor (#48463221) Attached to: NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

Iron is the 4th most abundant element in the Earth's crust with 5% concentration.

Iron is the commonest element in the core of the Earth at around 70% v/v or w/w, with some 10+% of nickel (much, much rarer on the surface), around 10% of oxygen and sulphur combined (the exact proportions are unsure), several percent of potassium (several times it's concentration on average on the surface, but concentration varies considerably between rock types ; responsible for about a half of the radiogenic heat budget) and traces of others. Gold, for example may be as high as a ppm, some thousands of times it's concentration at the surface.

Comment: Re:Funny as hell (Score 1) 152

by RockDoctor (#48463181) Attached to: NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

This means that you also need to get rid of a lot of kinetic energy very quickly, which makes things very hot.

Meteorites of more than a few kilogrammes that have been observed to fall and recovered within seconds or minutes are cold to the touch - sometimes very cold. The surface can get very hot - incandescent - but that is because most rocks are pretty poor conductors of heat. As the heating rate increases, even solid metals can't keep up, as study of the flow patterns on impactors and tektites have shown for as long as meteorites have been a topic of serious study.

Comment: DP-landing pad - new ??? (Score 1) 95

The tweets describing how it would work, also include an autonomous seafaring platform, which can hold its position within three meters even in a heavy storm, that would act as a landing pad.

I'm sure that Musk is aware of it, but there is a DP (Dynamic Positioning) spacecraft launch system which has been operating with reasonable success (~90%) for 15 years now. The DP systems (which are pretty routine in deep-water oil exploration equipment these days - anchors don't work well below about a half-kilometre of water depth) were bolted onto the burned out husk of the Ocean Odyssey drilling rig (after the body of the radio operator, Tim Williams, had been removed, of course) during the conversion, and the drilling mast replaced with support structures for the rocket launch. During launch, the crew watch the fireworks from a location over the horizon from the launch platform, which has self-evident safety benefits.

Or, to put it another way, Musk's landing platform is something that he can phone a Korean shipyard and get a delivery date for ... in about 2-3 years time, I'd guess. There would be some novel features in handling the landed spacecraft, but the basic equipment is an established technology.

Comment: Re:Police legal authority (Score 1) 161

by RockDoctor (#48452467) Attached to: Judge Unseals 500+ Stingray Records
If technical standards (in this case, for GSM) mean anything, then you should be able to design and implement such a pseudo-tower from the documentation. GETTING the documentation, on the other hand, may be expensive : many standards are actually quite expensive to purchase, and many are also particularly encumbered with patent rights too. But these [should be | are] implementation issues which should be resolvable.

So in theory, you ought to be able to work out the maximal capabilities of such a device from the documentation. But then deciding what features are actually of interest to $ThreeLetterAgency$ is a separate question. I would be entirely un-surprised to find that the manufacturers of such equipment have a modular design to allow implementation of different capabilities at different price points, and also to allow the implementation of capabilities which are illegal in some countries, in equipment destined for other countries. Since GSM is used in both Sweden and Saudi Arabia, a company manufacturing this interception equipment in Sweden may not be able to sell equipment for some functions in Sweden, but shouldn't face any significant encumbrance selling much more invasive capabilities to a Saudi $ThreeLetterAgency$.

Indeed, it seems that the OpenBTS project is getting a long way down the line towards doing this sort of work. The tricky thing would seem to be getting the permission to run the radio transmitters. And if you're willing to break the law, or you "Am The Law" (quoth Judge Dredd, but please, not the Stallone pooftah). that's not much of a technical problem.

Comment: Re:"Two" times, not ten times (Score 1) 198

by RockDoctor (#48452291) Attached to: Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

I wonder what a "plastically deformed, but not fractured" phone screen would look like?


I was having to clarify with a drilling engineer just a few hours ago whether he was talking about a material that is tough to drill, when he said that it was hard to drill. Because I knew perfectly well that the material he was talking about isn't particularly hard, but is tough. Even professionals get slippery about using the terms in their fields of professional competence.

Comment: This isn't an autonomous-vehicle future yet ... (Score 1) 453

by RockDoctor (#48452255) Attached to: In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars
... but I still don't want to own the car that I already own. The wife needs it for driving to work (I take a helicopter to my work) because the 40-50 minute commute by car beats the 70 minute commute by bus, but I still question whether that is worth the (approx) £5000/year cost of the vehicle (including fuel, tax, etc) compared to the ~ £500/year cost of the bus pass.

I'll have to investigate better the question of the local "community car" scheme for those once-a-month situations when I need to do shopping or delivery that is larger than I can comfortably do on the bicycle.

Comment: Re: In Reverse (Score 1) 75

by RockDoctor (#48446269) Attached to: Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues To Alien Life On Europa

If that really is how life got started then it's likely that primitive cells are still being spontaneously created near these vents today

Modern conditions are very considerably different to those in which life developed on earth.

For a start, there is oxygen. Now, it may be true that oxygen is essential for large organisms to develop (we only have a sample of one ecosystem, in which oxygen is almost ubiquitously associated with large organisms ; but that's an "almost ubiquitously", not an "always" ; the case may be suggestive, but it is certainly not proven.), but we're not talking about large organisms, we're talking about the formation of the first very small organisms. For certain, life evolved on Earth for a very long time before there was any significant amount of free oxygen in the ecosystem. Life and significant concentrations of oxygen have coexisted at best for a half of the duration of life on Earth.

For a second thing, the modern world is full of organisms that breakdown ad re-use organic molecules. While there is a lot of debate about what particular compounds were common in the pre-biotic/ peri-biogenetic environment, it is sure that the modern environment has been stripped of many of the more complex molecules. Some of that stripping is due to the molecules being broken up by reaction with oxygen (see above), but much of it is simply going to be eaten.

The likelihood of life spontaneously developing around modern deep-sea vents (or shallow-sea vents, for that matter) is considered pretty low, even though their ancient analogues are certainly sites of interest for biogenetic models.

Radical re-thinking about the possible environments for biogenesis happens almost every time there is a new student writing a paper on the subject. There is not a scientific consensus on the question (though there are certainly ideas that are more popular than others). If this clashes with what you've heard on Discovery Channel, then I'd advise you to swap their (pretty shoddy) "journalism" for actually reading the relevant science. Much of it is available open access.

Comment: Re:We've been doing it for a long time (Score 1) 361

You're making the common error of expecting that your opponents are stupid. That has killed a lot of people.

Your opponents may be wrong - or they may be right and you're wrong. They disagree with you, that is what "opponent" means. But it doesn't mean that they're stupid.

Comment: Re:We've been doing it for a long time (Score 1) 361

There are geoengineering schemes that you could build on a "fire and forget" basis. For example, you might place a fleet of solar sails near the Lagrange-1 point in the Earth-Sun-Solar system point, with electron/ magnetism thrusters for station keeping, and a telescopic monitoring system aimed at the Earth. Set the control logic up so that if the polar ice caps vary by more than 10% from present (pre-industrial norms), then the solar sail fleet re-configures to increase or decrease the insolation on the Earth by a couple of percent.

OK - it needs engineering on a multi-millennial reliability scale, and a control loop that thinks for a decade or so before taking any action, which are substantial pieces of engineering beyond present capabilities. But they don't violate the laws of physics.

The difficult we do today; the impossible takes a little longer.