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Comment: Re:Technological Limitations (Score 1) 251

by Roger W Moore (#48016463) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

We have this technology since 1890, minimum. There is no much difference between a submarine and a spacecraft.

There is a huge difference and the spacecraft part is only to get there. The hard part is maintaining an oxygen atmosphere for years and years after you arrive and there is no way that someone in 1890 could do this without several trials first. As for the primitive technology needed for North America it is true that if you don't care about a high survival rate it is easy to colonize: you try an unknown local flora or fauna and if you drop dead the rest of the tribe know not to eat it again.

That approach does not tend to be a popular one unless you are driven by necessity but there is no denying it works. The same applies to crossing the ocean in a primitive boat: you can do it but the odds of survival and arriving anywhere close to where you intend and not large. So it works but, as has been pointed out, technology tends to make everyday life a lot safer and so makes us more risk adverse.

Comment: Re:Not Even True (Score 1) 353

by Roger W Moore (#48013895) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous

The government is under no constitutional or legal obligation to inform you of a warrant on you

True and I don't have a problem with that so long as they actually have to go to a court to get that warrant. However that is not the point, its the reverse: there is no legal obligation for you to store data in a way that the government can access it without you being aware of them accessing it.

Given that governments have clearly demonstrated that they are willing to subvert the normal legal process and search and read private information without any warrant whatsoever the only way to prevent this is to ensure that you are in the loop required to read the information. This does not put you above the law it just ensures that the government will need an appropriate warrant to compel you to divulge the decryption key. Since the encrypted data can be seized and protected from erasure without knowledge they still have many of the same protections that secret warrants are designed to provide.

Comment: Exploration only first step (Score 1) 251

by Roger W Moore (#48013781) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

...the irrational notion that we need to send flesh for a mission to be legitimate.

Why are we interested in exploring space at all if the goal is not to eventually have humans living off-planet? We can use robots for lots of things but ultimately the aim of exploration is to find new places to live and new resources to exploit to propagate the species. Hence the interest in manned missions. That's not to say that unmanned missions are not legitimate: they are absolutely essential but we need to develop, and practice, manned technology as well.

Comment: Necessity is the Mother of Invention (Score 1) 251

by Roger W Moore (#48013745) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

It seems that many people - for no apparent good reason - think that a moon or Mars colony will lead to the warp drive.

I'm not sure I would argue that it will lead to "warp drive" given the major scientific hurdles but I expect it will lead to much, much better rocket technology. Once we have human beings on another planet who are producing an important resource we want here on Earth you have all the makings of interplanetary trade which will provide a fantastic incentive to develop cheaper ways to get there.

Sail was the power used for centuries. Initially boats had to hug coasts and only later did we develop the technology needed to take sails across oceans: developments motivated by wanting faster, better ships for trade. Why not the same with rockets?

Comment: Technological Limitations (Score 2) 251

by Roger W Moore (#48013703) Attached to: Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Because space is mostly empty, and extremely hostile.

Given the technology available 500+ years ago so was North America: freezing cold winters, strange plants, new diseases etc. Indeed the available technology was barely able to match the challenge and some early colonies failed. However once there, as our knowledge of the new environment and our technology improved it became easy to survive there.

Isn't space exactly the same? Our technology is barely up to the job of keeping us alive on Mars and I expect some of the early colonies will fail. However given time it is likely that survival will become easier and there is a good chance to discover new resources which Earth lacks and which might be very useful in the future e.g. helium-3 on the moon.

Comment: Not Even True (Score 5, Informative) 353

by Roger W Moore (#47999081) Attached to: FBI Chief: Apple, Google Phone Encryption Perilous
Worse, it is not even true. Encryption places nobody above the law all it does do is ensure that you are aware of any legal attempt to access your encrypted data because they will need to get a court order to compel you to disclose the decryption key. Before electronic documents they used to have to do this in more or less the same way (get a search warrant for physical documents) so why can't they manage to do the same now?

Comment: Re:Not ad hominem (Score 1) 167

by Roger W Moore (#47997895) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

I know that over in England the rules are somewhat different, truth is not an absolute defense.

No, it is more subtle than that: truth is a defence in the UK the problem is that if you are sued for libel it is up to the defendant to prove that what s/he said is true rather than the responsibility of the claimant to prove that it was not true. The result is that you can end up with a large legal bill to defend yourself even if you are speaking the truth hence it can stifle free speech.

Comment: Re:Age of Preceding Supernova (Score 1) 173

by Roger W Moore (#47997865) Attached to: Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

Right, because we've blown ourselves up.

No we have not but the reason for that is that enriching uranium ore to the point where you can make a bomb from it is extremely hard to do. It requires a major facility to perform isotope separation and that typically requires a government with a lot of resources. This is why terrorists do not possess nuclear weapons. If all they had to do was dig uranium ore out of the ground and refine it to pure uranium we would have many nuclear armed terrorist groups and the world would be a very different, and likely highly radioactive, place.

Comment: Age of Preceding Supernova (Score 5, Interesting) 173

by Roger W Moore (#47996263) Attached to: Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

The heavy elements on our planet and in your body were creation via fusion in another star, which has already long since died, exploded, and been recycled.

We can do better than that. Based on the current ratio of Uranium-235 and 238 which are created in roughly equal quantities by a supernova we can date the super nova preceding the solar system to about 6 billion years ago. It's also interesting to note that had intelligent life evolved a billion or more years earlier than it did that the uranium ore we dig out of the ground would be weapon's grade without any complex enrichment process required. So there might be a limit on intelligent life evolving too soon after the formation of a planet.

Comment: Water Molecules (Score 4, Informative) 173

by Roger W Moore (#47996183) Attached to: Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun
I believe that they are only considering the water molecules: the hydrogen atoms which make up water will be as old as the Big Bang. However since there are ice-based comets out there I hardly find it surprising that there was water in the solar system before the sun formed. Aren't the comets supposed to be the left over debris from the formation of the sun and planets? So this result seems to be just confirmation what we already knew.

Comment: Not ad hominem (Score 3, Insightful) 167

by Roger W Moore (#47973263) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle

Not being familiar with the subject, does his work hold up?

I'm not an expert in the field but what I saw of the comments were very specific about reuse of figures and data without citation. They did not appear to be ad hominem at all but evidence based with image comparisons of figures from different papers. I expect that this is why he got into trouble - a relevant expert from the hiring university would be able to easily evaluate the merits of the comments.

Comment: DLR (Score 1) 179

by Roger W Moore (#47958201) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

The drivers are needed in case there are unexpected obstructions on the line.

If that were correct how would the Docklands Light Railway operate above ground without any drivers at all? The sad reason that drivers are needed is because of the unions. They automated the Victoria line years ago (1960s) but the unions threatened action and the resulting chaos that a drivers strike would have caused on the lines which were not automated forced them to keep drivers on each train even though they are completed unnecessary.

Comment: No vote likely best long term result (Score 4, Insightful) 192

by Roger W Moore (#47937295) Attached to: On Independence for Scotland:
As a british ex-pat I no longer have a strong stake in it going either way but I believe that a 'no' result would be the best for both Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) in the long term. The UK parties have promised considerable additional powers for Scotland in the event of a 'no' vote and the only way they have any hope of delivering that is to also to setup strong, regional government in the UK and provide those same powers to each region. Without that there will be a strong resentment against Scotland in rUK since it will be getting very special treatment - and given the coalition government I doubt they would get the votes they need without something for everyone else.

So the end result of a 'no' vote would the UK establishing strong regional governments just like every other modern, western democracy. This is something that is sorely lacking at the moment and, I believe, one of the reasons Westminster is so out of control: they lack any strong regional governments to hold them to account and force them to consider what is best for the whole country and not just the south of England.

If Scotland vote yes then expect Wales and northern England to start considering their options while Scotland will run into real trouble with the EU because certain members, like Spain, with their own regional independence concerns, are not going to look happily on admitting Scotland. This is not going to lead to much happiness and stability.

He's dead, Jim.