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Comment Re:so the guvmint has no one to answer to (Score 1) 221

That word, tax, is nowhere to be found. Therefore, it is not a tax,

Or maybe he cut through the crap. It was a tax, but those in the legislative and executive branches were too chicken to say it. Just because the President and Congress want to call taxes "ponies" does not mean that taxes are ponies.

Comment Rockets not a "random pick" (Score 2) 229

This is the crux of it, I think:

To employ a commonly used metaphor, our current proficiency in rocket-building is the result of a hill-climbing approach; we started at one place on the technological landscape—which must be considered a random pick, given that it was chosen for dubious reasons by a maniac

I don't agree that Hitler choice of rocketry for the V2 was random. I think he went to his not-yet-rocket scientists and said, "How do I deliver X kilograms of payload to England with such and such circular error probability, and oh yeah, it can't be intercepted?" And rockets were the answer. And for good reasons. I'm not sure what other technologies of the 1930s and 1940s could have performed the task: submarines with huge artillery built-in (susceptible to torpedo planes unless you could do some kind of shoot and scoot); they did try the bomber thing but that wasn't a winner; balloons don't seem like a possibility. We *still* don't have something better than rockets and missiles for mass producing corpses (whether you agree its a good idea or not): perhaps the Navy's upcoming railguns are different enough to be considered a "change".

Comment Re:More Info & Dashboard (Score 1) 1657

Irreversible damage, to me, from a systems engineering perspective, means an unstable system or a system that trends according to a power law. No system that I can think of that involves climate or the earth behaves in that manner - rather, they all follow logarithmic or inverse power laws to trend to a steady state. And yet, somehow, you're telling me that all of the sudden we're going to see e^x where something like that hasn't existed for millions of years? Maybe there's a good reason I'm still skeptical.

Please read up on the potential for positive feedback of carbon release through the melting of permafrost and the reduction in albedo through the melting of polar ice.

1) Permafrost contains a lot of sunk carbon. As the arctic warms, the potential exists for this permafrost to melt and release this carbon. This will create a positive feedback that further warms the arctic, etc.

2) As polar ice melts, the albedo (inverse of reflectiveness) of the polar seas decreases, leading to more heat being trapped (less heat being reflected into space due to lower albedo) thus warming the ocean such that polar ice melting increases. A second positive feedback cycle.

I would describe these systems as unstable: once pushed (past some stable zone, perhaps) the effect grows: see "reverse pendulums" (regular pendulums are stable). This damage (damage defined as climate change antithetical to comfortable human existence) to is likely to be irreversible on human timescales absent some pretty awesome technology.

I believe that I'm going to get to experience these effects first-hand. China will not get clean in time and the United States lacks the will. I don't expect to die (given current trends) until the 2060s at least. As an upper-middle class white male in the United States, the impacts on me will be more survivable than for almost anyone else on the planet, but I believe that things will get "interesting", in the Chinese sense of the word.

Comment Re:Two things come to mind (Score 1) 706

I worked in defense for a number of years right out of school. As with a lot of technology companies, it is male dominated. However, the person I worked most closely with is among the first (or perhaps second) generation of female electrical engineers (in her early 50s now). She is pretty used to a male-dominated technology program. For awhile we worked on different contracts, and when she came back she said she'd hated it because there were too many women and "too much estrogen". I guess there was too much discussion and general moaning and not enough curt decision making. Or something along those lines. I guess with men there would be more yelling and anger, but ultimately progress would be made in a more timely fashion. Or so I understand her complaint.

Comment Re:Who even understands the Post Office any more? (Score 1) 504

The ability for citizens to mail letters and rely on their ability to reach the destination is still hugely important, and one that *should* be subsidized by our tax dollars.

I disagree. The function is important: the need to subsidize them by tax dollars is separate. I believe opening things to competition under the oversight of a rabid inspection service would lead to the same or better service for the same money: I think it likely there's a lot of waste that can be cut.

Fedex and UPS are my precedents here, though they of course are not exactly analogous.

Comment Re:Studies can prove things (Score 1) 234

The only way this would not be proof is if the mechanism by which a chemical like BPA can cross the placental boundary is different in rats vs humans. Is that your contention? Because unless rat fetuses can internally generate BPA (in which case where is my rat fetus water bottle?), then BPA being found in rat fetuses is *absolute* proof that BPA was transferred from mother to fetus.

Comment Re:all it has to do is damage a warhead (Score 1) 312

Closing velocities on these impacts are in the kilometers per second range. The impulses must be tens of thousands of gees: no rocket motor imparts these velocities, nor can I imagine does reentry (otherwise the thing would decelerate to 0 within the first few feet of reentry: maybe the sideways jolting is severe...). So it seems unlikely to me that warhead designers would have incorporated sufficient ruggedness in the warhead to survive these kinds of hits. Maybe they are now.

And of course now whatever didn't vaporize is spinning.

And I'm sure the work to refine aimpoints hasn't ended. But with Postol it's like, "Oh my God, you missed the warhead by 1cm and only turned the missile body into plasma: what a piece of shit!". As if the work has stopped or people are resting on their laurels. Welcome to technology development and gradual refinement, Doctor. You should try creating something rather than just being a critic.

Comment Re:Military-Industrial Complex (Score 1) 449

I think you are confused. What the grandparent comment said was correct: the budget deficit was $1.7 trillion: cutting out the roughly $700 Billion spent on defense leaves a $1 Trillion dollar deficit. That means the budget doesn't balance. Subtraction, okay? I don't understand how you think you can reduce $700 billion dollars to $350 billion (from 6x to 3x the next-biggest country's spending) and that somehow balances the budget. $1.7 trillion - $350 billion is not $0.

Comment Re:About time (Score 1) 449

You are wrong.

Military spending has not "been increasing at an unsustainable rate for at least the last 30 years". In inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, it began rising in the late 70s and peaked around '86 or so and then fell until 9/11. It's been going up since then. A slightly older web page shows a fairly similar picture as a percentage of GDP. It's just that the headline dollar number gets more and more impressive as the U.S. economy as a whole gets bigger. Compared to the rest of the world by percentage of GDP, the U.S. is 27th.

And remember, the biggest components of the defense budget are operations, maintenance, and pay: roughly 2/3rds. About a third is procurement and R&D.

Also remember that military spending in Europe is lower than would otherwise be the case because they offload that expense onto the citizens of the United States. The benefits associated with being the world's only military hyperpower likely makes this a worthwhile trade. Apparently the political powers of the country think so.

Comment Re:Do you work on weapons? (Score 1) 409

Not anymore, but I did. I would do it again. I worked on both purely defensive weapons and on the tank-and-people-evaporating kind.

My position was/is this: I created capabilities. My work helped make is such that when a situation arrives where it is "Us vs. Them", that the outcome is *always* "Us".

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems from a number of the documentaries and such that I've seen (less so from my personal experience) that a lot of the enlisted army is poorer, lesser educated folks trying to escape from a trying life: trying to find something better. I felt it was my duty to ensure that they always come home, that our obligation is to provide them with the tools it takes to properly execute the missions with which the American people have tasked them. I refuse to accept that we would rely on an Army in which many of us wouldn't even consider serving and then not provide them with the best that we can.

So yeah, I'm down with burning every other country to the ground if it brings back the boys and girls of my country. Even if I would never associate with them while they're home.

Comment Re:Billing and Payments (Score 1) 651

It led me to wonder whom, actually, pays the full amount? Then it struck me. The uninsured do.

I don't know that that's true. I worked with someone who told me that, when she was uninsured, she could get huge discounts by paying cash at the time of the appointment: doctors were very happy not to have to go through an insurance company, etc. etc. I think the discounts she quoted were 50-60%. So presumably doctors inflate everything knowing they're going to discount.

Comment A limited robot scientist already exists (Score 1) 269

There's a robotic scientist called ADAM that investigates yeast genetics (http://www.aber.ac.uk/~dcswww/Research/bio/robotsci/). There was a pretty cool paper in Computer a few months ago. The robot actively tried to devise new theories and produce experiments (it's hooked up to a bunch of yeast-genetics-investigatory stuff) to investigate those theories. As I remember, most of the theories turned out to be true and were pretty novel (function of various genes). The researchers double checked several (or all?) of them.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. - Alan Turing