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Comment A different way to use a comet (Score 1) 93

I think that NASA's idea is interesting...very challeging, as other have noted, but worth it if it could be done.

I have been toying with the idea for an SF story using comets. Spaceships would wait for a comet to come by, then embed themselves into the tail of the comet, and use some kind of ramjet propulsion to accelerate out of the inner solar system. Obviously comet tails are not dense at all (a less dense vacuum than what can be made on earth) but the ion tail should be manipulatable.

Anyway, in the story, people in their spaceships end up flying out in more-or-less random directions, and hoping to find something interesting in the process.

Comment Re:123D Catch? Autodesk already has an app doing t (Score 4, Informative) 48

The differences are significant:

1) The Microsoft app works in real-time on the phone, rather than 123D Catch processing in the cloud
2) The Microsoft app shows real-time results, so you can see where there are issues, and continue to photograph until they are resolved. With 123D Catch you patch errors in post.
3) The Autodesk 123D Catch app actually exists, and the earlier web-based version has been around for about four years.

I'm kind of surprised that Microsoft isn't using the acceleration and magnetic sensors in the phone to help determine the camera position. It's one of the features that phone cameras have that DSLR's don't.

Comment Wish we'd built the F-20 (Score 2) 732

Northrop built the F-20 back in the late 70's. It had better dogfighting performance than the F-16, and was cheaper and simpler. To some extent, it's dogfighting performance was too good; of the three that were built two were lost due to the pilots losing consciousness during high-G maneuvers.

They built it because the US government had said that they wouldn't sell F-16's to the rest of the world, as it was too good. Unfortunately for Northrop, they changed their mind -- and as the F-16 was so well known it won out.

The remaining F-20 is hanging in the California Science Center in LA, it's a beautiful plane.

Comment Are we in Norstrilia? (Score 1) 234

In the Cordwainer Smith book Norstrilia , the protagonist buys Earth, and is astonished when he comes to visit that the rivers are not covered, that evaporation runs rampant -- unlike back on his home world of Norstilia. Over the three decades I've lived in California, and especially over the last few years, that part of the book seems more and more like reality.

Comment Partners told me not to come back (Score 1) 179

I entered the last entry "Does being fired count?" as that's the best fit.

At Hammerhead Productions, I was one of four partners. We had some disagreements, and while I was taking a leave and working for Universal on Fast and Furious , the other partners told me that I could no longer work there when that movie was over. C'est la vie.

Thad

Comment How does growth help? (Score 2) 206

There are two ways that I can see growth helping Uber:

1) They are expanding their locations; and using the profits of their existing locations to develop the new ones. At some point, they will stop growing, and the profits should increase.
2) If they are losing money in cities where they are well established, then by growing they will destroy the existing taxi industry; then they can raise rates dramatically and increase profits

The thing is, it's hard to see where Uber's costs are. They develop software, but that's a pretty small investment considering the hundreds of thousands of rides a day people take.

Comment Sadly, gas is cheaper than electricity in CA (Score 3, Interesting) 688

I just bought a Ford C-Max Energi; but I bought it strictly for the green carpool-lane sticker.

In California, if you live in a big house, your marginal cost of electricity is shockingly high. For me, it's $0.33/kilowatt-hour.

My Energi goes 20 miles with a 8 kWh charge. That's $2.64 On gas, it gets about 35 mpg. If gas is $3.50 (current price) that's $2.20.

Now, during mid-day on a sunny day, I can charge it much cheaper on our solar panels (currently we are selling power back to PG&E, but at $0.11/kWh) and I do that. I also charge it at work, where it's 'free'; but I live 50 miles from work so I can't keep the car charged just at work. The 'free' power at work won't last forever, either.

You may ask "why not get a Tesla?" Good question. It turns out that there are (at my company) 3x the number of electric-ish cars as there are charging stations, so we have to swap them out after just a few hours. The Tesla would take all day to charge. Also, the Tesla is such a lumbering overpowered beast that it gets substantially less miles-per-kilowatt-hour.

Thad

Comment Reading her mind... (Score 1) 132

Somebody I know started taking antidepressants some time ago, and they helped the depression quite a bit. One curious thing, though, is that once she is taking them, she assumes that I can read her mind; that I obviously know what she is thinking. She stopped taking them for a while, and it was immediately apparent that she no longer felt that way, then when she started taking them again, it was back.

Comment Re:$30 (Score 4, Informative) 515

DreadPirate, you are really not calculating correctly. I know it sounds cheap, but it isn't. If you can get there for $30 in gas, that's 40 miles per gallon -- not bad. Still, that's 7.5 cents/mile.

Say you bought a used car for $10,000, and can drive it for 100,000 miles. That's 10 cents a mile. More than gas.

Oil changes every 5,000 miles at $40? That's another penny a mile.

Tires at $300 every 30,000 miles? Another penny a mile.

Let's not talk about what your time is worth (you might really enjoy the drive), or insurance (not too dependent on miles driven) -- but still, that's about 20 cents a mile, or $80.

Most people don't really like to think how expensive driving is, but it isn't cheap. We have been taught that it's all about the gas, but it just isn't.

Comment Re:why so long (Score 3, Interesting) 136

It's kind of interesting.

One of the big reasons that they thought it would be limited to 90 days is that the solar panels get covered in dust, and as that happens the amount of energy collected diminishes. They figured in about 90 days, based on previous missions to Mars, they'd be out of juice.

And...for the first 50 days or so, it was going that way. And then, a whirlwind came by, and scrubbed the rover clean. This has happened many many times since. An unexpected good fortune.

Comment Re:cryptobracelet (Score 2) 116

We'll see.

It's absolutely wrong that I am proposing a 'stealable' ID. No, it's not that at all. Like NFC (ApplePay and others) you don't send out your ID, your bracelet will engage in a two-way conversation that uses generates unique identifiers every time that prove that it's you without giving the system communicating with you the ability to impersonate you. It's not hard at all; we should have been doing this years ago. This is described in Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography twenty-fucking-years ago. Chapter 21(Identification Schemes) describes "zero-knowledge proof of identity". Curiously, researchers Feige, Fiat, and Shamir submitted a patent application in 1986 for this, but the Patent Office responded "the disclosure or publication of the subject matter ... would be detrimental to the national security..." The authors were ordered to notify all Americans to whom the research had been disclosed that unauthorized disclosure could lead to two years' imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both. Somewhat hilarious, as the work was all done at Weizmann Institute in Israel.

That said, I do think that groups like the NSA and FBI have been quite successful in keeping people (like Jeff4747) remarkably uneducated. Banks, credit card companies, and groups like Google that make gigabucks tracking people have held back from doing things right as well -- and they're paying for it today.

To say again. It is easy to build a system that would securely verify that you have authority to do something, without giving the ability for somebody else to impersonate you. It's somewhat more challenging than printing number in plastic on a credit card, but only a tiny bit more challenging.

This will happen. Once it does people will wonder why it took so long.

panic: kernel trap (ignored)

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