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Comment: Re:Big Whoop. (Score 2) 87

by the gnat (#46803271) Attached to: SpaceX Successfully Delivers Supplies To ISS

Or, convince me that without the initial public investment, any private company would have done the basic research required to send the first satellite into space.

It's not my job to convince you that the private sector would have magically brought about the space age without government intervention, because that isn't what I'm arguing in the first place. Sure, there are lots of examples of technology invented (or aggressively developed) by governments - pretty much anything with military utility, in particular, which includes computers, the Internet, radar, jet engines, and especially anything to do with space. The key detail here is that most of these eventually developed independently and became consumer technologies, rather that continuing to be government programs indefinitely. Yes, this means that private companies eventually get rich because of public sector investment; it's also what makes it possible for us to be having this argument right now. Without Colossus or ENIAC, there would be no iPhone, but if computers and the Internet had been managed like manned spaceflight was, there wouldn't be an iPhone either.

The other important and essential outcome is that it needs to be not just profitable but sustainable; continuing to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into something that never gets cheaper is anything but. SpaceX has already made unmanned launches cheaper; the shuttle program lasted for three decades and it was still hideously expensive when it ended.

The reason this is exciting news is that it's real progress towards making manned space travel yet another consumer technology. Maybe it won't work, or maybe it will only ever be affordable by large companies and the rich; I don't expect to be personally taking any rocket trips before I die. But the same could have been (and probably was) said about airplanes a century ago, and I was never going to be able to ride on the space shuttle either. At least someone is trying to change the way things are done, and doing a decent job of it so far. So what if SpaceX piggybacking off years of government investment? If their business model works, at least we won't have to continue wasting money on something that should have been commodified decades ago, and NASA will be able to focus on science and basic research (and stretch their budget further). Everyone wins.

Comment: Re:I just can't get excited about SpaceX (Score 2) 87

by the gnat (#46802329) Attached to: SpaceX Successfully Delivers Supplies To ISS

Some private company with a shitload of government backing does what we used to be able to do 40 years ago on our own

This is missing the point entirely. All of the past NASA rockets were also built by private companies with a shitload of government backing. Unlike those companies, SpaceX does not have a blank check; Musk's goal is to be both inexpensive and profitable. Maybe it won't work, but at least someone is trying for a change.

Comment: Re:Big Whoop. (Score 5, Interesting) 87

by the gnat (#46802309) Attached to: SpaceX Successfully Delivers Supplies To ISS

Forty-three years later, private industry figures out how to send a rocket up there. With taxpayers footing the bill.

Unlike every previous launch, however, we the taxpayers are paying a fixed price to SpaceX, instead of the bloated cost-plus contracts that are large part of the reason why there hasn't been much progress in manned spaceflight in the last four decades. Not all of the free-market claims about government inefficiency are nonsense - the previous contractors (all "private industry", loosely defined) had no incentive to develop reusable rockets, because the government just kept paying for new ones.

Comment: Re:The Harsh Light of Day (Score 1) 185

by turgid (#46800951) Attached to: Google Aids Scientology-Linked Group CCHR With Pay-Per-Click Ads

It's no more or less believable than any other religion. Do you think people really believe that a dead guy came back to life? How about an entire ocean was suddenly parted so the good guys could get away and then collapsed again on the bad guys? Or that the earth is 6000 years old? Or that the guy who created the entire universe 12 billion years ago and billions of light years large is really really concerned about if human penises wind up in human vaginas before the correct ritual is performed?

You can sort-of understand why ancient religions came about and stuck. People in general, without education, before the formulation of the Scientific Method, living in a very uncertain world where starvation and disease were all about (and life was short and harsh) would invent supernatural explanations for things and perhaps like to believe that there was someone looking over them in judgement all the time.

However, there is absolutely no excuse for Scientology to be as big as it is. It was conceived as a cynical exercise in demonstrating that gullibility, ignorance and superstition, which are fundamental parts of human nature, are every present and easily exploitable (for money) and that society has not advanced to the point that the human race has outgrown its primitive cultural roots.

You have to hand it to L Ron, it was a dastardly,cynical plan to make money out of the stupid, and it has been a soaring success.

As they say, a fool and his money are easily parted. There are a lot of Hollywood actors involved...

Comment: Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (Score 1) 135

by the gnat (#46770379) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

This is the thing. Its like the abortion debate. MY body.

Again, you're not understanding my point. I'm not arguing with patient choice, I'm against companies marketing snake oil, which is one of the specific reasons that the FDA exists. The difference between these drugs and most other phony cures is that the drugs can actually kill you. I feel the same way about tobacco - I think people should be allowed to do anything they want as long as they don't harm anyone else, but I'm totally in favor of bans on cigarette ads. The distinction is between allowing potentially unsafe behavior, versus encouraging it.

Comment: Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (Score 1) 135

by the gnat (#46759503) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

I am a HUGE believer in individual choice. If the consumer chooses to buy or use something that isn't government approved... that is their choice. Obviously make it clear to them so they don't do it by accident... but that's about it.

I don't disagree with this, but a key issue is marketing and insurance coverage, not availability. Drugs that are legally available to consumers can't be marketed for purposes other than the conditions they were approved to treat, and companies have paid billions of dollars in fines for violating these rules. That doesn't prevent doctors from prescribing the drugs off-label, but insurance companies usually won't cover this (I know, I've tried), and because these uses can't be marketed, the revenues are vastly lower. I am 100% in favor of experimentation and consumer choice, but I don't like seeing companies push drugs with potentially debilitating side effects on people without actual evidence that they work.

Comment: Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (Score 1) 135

by the gnat (#46757463) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

consider that we might do well to push a lot of these bio medical researchers at the private sector

Many of us would love to move to the private sector. There's just aren't a lot of jobs there either. In my current specialty, there are hundreds of postdoctoral fellowships (and maybe a dozen faculty openings) for every industry position. I have much broader expertise than that, but employers typically aren't interested in anyone who doesn't fit the exact list of criteria that HR prepared. I've basically spent the last 6 years working as a full-time software developer but I can't even get responses to job applications because I'm still in academia, and competing with CS graduates with the right buzzwords on their resumes.

Obviously my choice of career path was poor, but there isn't some magic solution that can retroactively fix that problem.

Comment: Re:The problem is that too much of it is state bas (Score 1) 135

by the gnat (#46757383) Attached to: U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

They say that they spend so much money complying with the FDA that they have very little for anything else.

That's because the FDA requires actual proof that a drug does what it's claimed to do before they'll let it be marketed as such - oh, and it has to not have debilitating side effects. If we got rid of the FDA, the barriers to market would be vastly lower, but we'd be flooded with a huge number of placebos with deadly side effects. Really, it's shocking how often drug candidates make it to Phase III trials only to discover that they're effectively useless. Do you really want to get rid of that filter?

% APL is a natural extension of assembler language programming; ...and is best for educational purposes. -- A. Perlis