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Comment Re:Caps Lock used to power a huge lever. (Score 5, Interesting) 683 683

I wish it still behaved as shift-lock: affecting all characters, not just letters. When I use caps lock, it's almost always because I'm typing an environment variable or #defined constant. And that means I'm going to be typing lots of _ characters. If caps lock behaved like shift lock, I wouldn't have to press shift for every one of them.

Comment Oh no it's theodp!!! (Score 3, Insightful) 132 132

For goodness sake, not another of theodp's anti-CS education posts! Please Slashdot, end the madness and stop posting this drivel. We seem to be getting a few of them per week, and most of them are nothing but snide insinuations and misrepresentations.

Comment Mars still doesn't make sense (Score 3, Interesting) 48 48

I don't buy the arguments for why Mars is better than building space colonies. For example:

Mars is really not far away; a quick look at a map of the Solar System shows how close it really is.

Maybe compared to Pluto it's "not far away", but that's an irrelevant comparison! You might as well say the Andromeda galaxy is "not far away" if you look at a map of the universe. What matters is how far away it is compared to human length scales. How long will it take to get there, and how much energy will it take to do it? The closest Mars comes to Earth is about 56 million kilometers, and it only comes that close about once every two years. That's an incredibly long way! Even if you assume miraculous new propulsion technologies will allow us to travel several times faster than is currently possible, and do it with using ridiculous amounts of energy, it will still take months to get there.

Besides, that miraculous new propulsion technology would work just as well for other purposes, like asteroid mining. So if you want to assume travel to Mars can be made fast and inexpensive, you also have to assume asteroid mining will be fast and inexpensive. You can't use optimistic assumptions for one and pessimistic assumptions for the other! Furthermore, the requirements for asteroid mining are a lot lower than for Mars colonization. If it takes a few years for a robot to tow an asteroid into position, no one will care much. If you have to spend six months in a cramped ship en route to Mars, you will care very much.

Mars provides a land area equivalent to the land area of Earth, which is a huge platform on which to build. In free space you have to build the platform first, using resources that need to come from somewhere else. Until we have mining facilities on the Moon and asteroids, this place will be Earth, which is a much deeper gravity well.

That hardly seems like a big deal. In either case the colony needs to be fully enclosed. On Mars you only need to build the upper half of the enclosure, while in space you need to build all of it. Either way, the cost of building the enclosure is likely to be small compared to building everything inside it. And of course you would mine the materials from the moon or asteroids. Getting them from Earth would make no sense at all, so why even bring that up? It's a straw man.

It's true that we don't know if living in 38% gravity long term is healthful, but since we know living in microgravity is certainly not fatal, it's reasonable to imagine that people will adapt.

That's a huge assumption, and completely unjustified. Six months in microgravity doesn't kill you, but it does cause all sorts of health problems, from bone loss to vision problems to (as we just heard today) skin becoming thinner. Is 38% Earth gravity enough for people to be healthy long term? At present, we just don't know. All claims to the contrary are wishful thinking. And if the answer turns out to be no, then all plans for Mars colonization are dead on arrival. So maybe we should try to find out before spending too much money on those plans?

Here are some other serious problems with Mars:

It has no magnetic field, which means no protection from cosmic rays. As far as I can tell, there is no possibility of ever changing this, which means no possibility of people ever living out in the open there. Even if you terraformed an Earth-like atmosphere, the radiation at the surface would still be too high to live there safely. So people on Mars will always have to spend their lives in sealed habitats behind thick shielding. All claims to the contrary are simply unrealistic.

There is very little energy available on Mars. The only mostly reliable source of energy is solar, and not so much even of that. Sunlight on Mars is only about half as intense as on Earth... except during dust storms (which can last for weeks), when it goes down to much less. And it's only as high as that because Mars has no atmosphere to speak of. Terraform an Earth-like atmosphere, and it will go down by half again.

In contrast, put a solar panel on a space colony near Earth, and it will produce 6x as much energy as on Earth. 2x because it's above the atmosphere, and another 3x because it can be pointed directly at the sun 24 hours a day.

Comment The real story is even worse (Score 5, Informative) 178 178

This article isn't very accurate. The real story make the copyright claims even more absurd. See The melody and general idea of the lyrics date back at least to the mid-1800s. The song "Good Morning to All" was published in a song book in 1893, but the authors of that book had been singing it with their kindergarten class for many years, and it's not clear they were the original authors of it. The same melody with the words "Happy Birthday to You" was, it appears, an innovation of children who had been in their class, who started singing it at birthday parties. The tradition spread, and it appeared in print at least as early as 1912.

So what do they actually have a copyright on? Well, a piano arrangement was published in 1935. And years later someone came across that piano arrangement, found that a copyright had been registered on it, and (presumably being ignorant of the actual history of the song), thought they owned a copyright on the song and started trying to enforce it.

Comment Getting sick of anti-CS education stories (Score 1) 69 69

WTF is up with the constant stream of stories from theodp opposing CS education? Please, Slashdot editors, stop posting them!. Yes, I know it's somehow supposed to be a conspiracy by big companies to reshape our educational system (so it's evil!), and supposedly they don't really care about education at all (wait, didn't I just contradict myself?), only immigration policy, and so on. But really, most of these posts contain nothing but insinuations meant to make people think (without giving a good reason for them to think it) that increasing CS education is a bad thing.

Comment Why Mars instead of building in space? (Score 2) 99 99

Why colonize Mars instead of just building colonies in space? It seems to have many disadvantages and hardly any advantages. It's incredibly far away. You still have to deal with a large gravity well every time you want to come or go. You can't create artificial gravity on Mars, so you're stuck with 38% Earth gravity. We don't even know if humans can be healthy long term living in such low gravity. Colonies in space seem as good or better in nearly every respect. About the only advantage Mars has is access to raw materials, but space colonies could mine those from asteroids or the moon.

Comment Yes, and it's great (Score 1) 340 340

I have a motorized sit/stand desk, and I love it. I switch off between sitting and standing about every 30-60 minutes, with longer periods of standing in the morning and longer periods of sitting in the afternoon as I get tired. Among other benefits, my back is less sore at the end of the day.

Comment Why not just put it in space? (Score 1) 256 256

Sure, you could float your colony in the atmosphere of Venus. But since you're basically creating a fully sealed, self contained system, why not just put it in space? Why bother with Venus at all?

Ok, it does have a few advantages over that. You get gravity for free (91% of Earth gravity). You get radiation shielding. You have access to some raw materials - but only what you can get from the upper atmosphere. You're not heading down to the surface to mine anything there! But all of those things are easily achieved in space. Rotate the colony to get gravity. Mine raw materials from asteroids or the moon. Use a physical barrier or a magnetic field to block radiation. And you have two huge advantages:

1. You don't have to worry about the outside of your colony frequently being exposed to clouds of sulfuric acid.

2. Venus is a really long way away! Having your colony much closer to Earth will make building it much cheaper and easier, and also make transportation a lot easier once it's built.

Comment Time for the GPL! (Score 2) 134 134

Really, the GPL is perfect for solving problems like this. Stick a GPL notice in the source of one of your webpages. Download it from their network. They've just created a derived product by modifying your source, and all their additions are now GPL licensed themselves.

Comment Harvard is NOT evil! (Score 1) 348 348

When Harvard scientists do something cool, everyone thinks that's great. When someone gives them money so they can keep doing cool things, that's evil? Come on people! Harvard is mainly a research university. That's doubly true for the engineering school. This money will be used to hire world class researchers and give them world class facilities so they can do great work. I'd think Slashdotters would appreciate that.

If you think Paulson is evil, fine. I won't argue it. But giving money to Harvard is not one of his evil acts.

Comment Re:But dude, there was a snowball (Score 1) 639 639

If that's how you read it, then you read it incorrectly.

The goal here is to take data from a variety of measurement types and make them comparable to each other, so trends can accurately be determined. Different measurement types produce different results. Water in engine intake pipes is slightly warmer than water surrounding buoys. To compare the two types of measurements, you need to account for that. You can do that by increasing the temperature of the buoy data, or decreasing the temperature of the engine room data. But for their purpose—accurately determining trends—it makes absolutely no difference which one you do. They chose to adjust the buoy data, but if they had adjusted the ship data instead, absolutely nothing in their conclusions would have changed. The temperature trend is identical either way. You're quibbling about something that has absolutely no effect on their conclusions, then claiming that makes the conclusions "a statistical shell game and not science".

Comment Re:20-40% overblown (Score 1) 597 597

I think you're misunderstanding the author. From the article:

Sun generates 12VDC via the solar panel

Solar panels push power to a battery

The battery or the solar panel push 12VDC to a DC to AC converter (20% loss of power).

AC is distributed throughout the house

Many devices then convert the power BACK to DC (20% loss of power)

He doesn't claim there's an energy loss between the solar panel and the battery. The conversion happens when the power comes out of the battery and gets distributed to all your appliances, many of which promptly convert it back to DC.

However, if the loss from each conversion is only 5% instead of 20%, the whole issue becomes a lot less important.

Comment Re:Why is this dribble on the front page? (Score 1) 445 445


I'm honestly not certain whether you're being serious or sarcastic. I hope the latter, because as a parody of religious thinking that was hilarious. "I saw a sexy underage girl, therefore God must exist," is not what I would call a good example of logical reasoning.

But in case you really were being serious, what other explanations have you considered? You've made an observation: there are things in the world that appear beautiful to you. You have suggested one explanation for that observation: they were all created by a supreme being who is an artist and "could not help but show a glimpse of His artistic skills." That is, I suppose, one possible explanation. But it certainly isn't the only one. So what other explanations have you considered? And then, how can you determine which of the possible explanations is correct?

To give just one example: perhaps beauty is not an intrinsic quality of an object. Perhaps, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whether you find something beautiful is strictly a property of you, not of the thing itself. That's easy to test. If true, there should be lots of disagreement about what is beautiful. There should be things that you find beautiful but many other people don't; and likewise, things that some people find beautiful but you don't.

Care to conduct that experiment?

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. -- John Kenneth Galbraith