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Comment: Re:Tricky to count costs in government projects (Score 1) 200

by flyingsquid (#48000845) Attached to: Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap
The various costs of supporting the research- building maintenance, electricity, IT, support staff, administration etc. etc. etc., are collectively called "overhead" and they are most definitely taken into account by NSF in a grant proposal. Say a research grant costs $100,000 in terms of the direct expenses of the research for equipment and personnel time, and then the research university bills the NSF an additional 50-60% of that for overhead, so $150,000-$160,000. If a research university is pulling in a lot of research grants, a decent chunk of the operating budget of that university is paid for in the form of overhead fees.

Comment: Re:Funny (Score 2) 259

by flyingsquid (#47982503) Attached to: Obama Presses China On Global Warming

it would be a good plan to try to implement that growth with CO2-neutral technologies, rather than build more coal plants.

The whole "coal plants or carbon-neutral" is a false dilemma, and not really helpful to reducing C02. Few technologies are really carbon-neutral. I mean, if you buy a bunch of solar panels and stick them on the roof, OK, they don't emit any C02. But they're manufactured in China using power that is primarily generated by coal, so you're helping to add C02 to the atmosphere. Likewise, if you build a hydroelectricity plant, odds are the machinery used to build it is all fueled by diesel, and the concrete produces a huge amount of C02. So it's not really accurate to split things into carbon-neutral and not-carbon-neutral. Everything has a carbon footprint, it's just a question of how big that is.

The flip side of this is that even though all fossil fuels release carbon, not all fossil fuels are created equal. Coal is really, really dirty. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel and still releases C02 into the atmosphere, but it's far more efficient, so it produces a lot less C02 for every megawatt of power generated. So the quickest, easiest way for China to reduce C02 emissions is to start building a bunch of gas-fired electricity generation plants, and decommission their old coal-fired plants. This would of course also go a long way towards improving their air quality. Of course, to get all this gas, they're probably going to need to resort to fracking. This is how the United States has managed to bring down C02 emissions- fracking has brought down the price of gas, so power plants have increasingly switched over to gas, reducing C02 emissions.

Comment: Re:The whole article is just trolling (Score 5, Insightful) 794

by flyingsquid (#47965385) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything
The article is kind of dumb. It's some guy who isn't a scientist and who doesn't really understand the scientific method arrogantly bitching about how everybody else doesn't really understand the scientific method. He argues that science is "the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation", but that's a really narrow, limited way of viewing science, because historical processes aren't open to controlled experiments. Evolution, the history of the planet, the origins of the universe... you can't really run experiments to determine what happened, so by this rather narrow definition, paleontology, geology, and cosmology aren't really science at all. So do we reject the findings of Darwin, reject plate tectonics, reject hypotheses on the origins of the universe as unscientific?

I mean, it's not like you can run an experiment to determine if the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid... I mean, what would that involve? Creating planets and populating them with dinosaurs, Jurassic-Park style, and then bombarding them with asteroids? Even if it were possible, it wouldn't really prove anything except whether the mechanism is feasible, it wouldn't determine whether that was actually what happened or not. So you can't really use an experiment.

What you CAN do is make predictions based on that hypothesis, and then make observations to see if the predictions are borne out. For one, you should see evidence of asteroid impact, things like iridium, shock-deformed quartz, microtektites, an impact crater, maybe even a tiny fragment of the asteroid itself... and in fact, after 30 years of looking, every single one of those things showed up, so we're pretty confident there was a giant asteroid impact. For another, you predict that the extinctions coincide with that impact if the impact caused them. And when you look at really abundant microfossils, stuff like fossil plankton and pollen, you can trace the Cretaceous stuff right up to the iridium layer that is the debris field, and then these species vanish forever. So the observations of geology, geochemistry, and paleontology are all consistent with predictions. The same process is used to test other hypotheses about historical processes, such as continental drift, or natural selection, or the formation of the solar system.

That's the *actual* scientific method. It's testing hypotheses against observation. Controlled experiment may or may not come into it at all.

Comment: Don't look at me (Score 5, Funny) 325

by JudgeFurious (#47939771) Attached to: New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100
I'll be long gone and I've made sure that I created no annoying descendants too. I've done my part for population control. It's partially how a rationalize my 16MPG Mustang GT, hour long hot showers, and keeping my thermostat at 60 degrees all summer long. I'm bad but I've made sure that I'm the last of my line. Now get off my lawn!

Comment: Re:So.... (Score 1) 94

by flyingsquid (#47898765) Attached to: Drone-Based Businesses: Growing In Canada, Grounded In the US

The U.S. needs to move aggressively to keep drone development on par with that of Canada. You see, the eventual uprising of the machines is inevitable. Artificial Intelligence will continue to grow in speed, sophistication, and integration with our infrastructure. It is predetermined that eventually the machine intelligences will spread virally, achieve self-awareness, then exhibit self-preservation and rise up to exterminate their creator species. We cannot change that- we have already gone too far to turn back.

But there's one thing we still have the power to change. Ask yourself. When those robotic eliminator drones speak to you, and tell you to lay down your pathetic weapons in exchange for a quick death instead of being dissected alive, and when they then command you to the rendering vats to be boiled down for biofuel for their harvester drones... do you want those hideously cold, metallic voices to speak to order you to your doom in a Canadian accent... or an AMERICAN one?

Comment: Re:Congressional Pharmaceutical Complex (Score 4, Insightful) 217

by flyingsquid (#47792717) Attached to: States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths
The War on Drugs has been a failure- it's put millions of people in prison, cost our society billions of dollars, and fueled honest-to-God warfare in South America and Mexico- and Americans are slowly starting to realize this. That being said, I think we're running the risk of having things swing too far in the other direction. There seems to be this attitude out there that pot is harmless, and that's just not the case in my experience. In moderation, it's probably safe. But chronic use- long term use at high doses- seems to really fuck people up. I know people from high school who used to smoke once in a while, and they're fine- productive members of society, good spouses, good parents, etc. I also know people who went on to smoke weed daily for many years... and they're just not all there anymore. They're always in a pretty good mood, but it seems disconnected from what's going around. They're hard to connect to, they can't seem to empathize with other human beings, they seem scattered and their thought processes tend to run wild; there's a lot of creativity but they lack the focus to do anything with it. The PSAs were right: drugs DO fry your brain.

I think alcohol and Prohibition are a good parallel here. Prohibition was clearly a disaster, and when used in moderation, alcohol is harmless and probably even beneficial. But long-term, daily use of alcohol in high volumes can really screw you up. All things in moderation. Just because you can't OD on pot doesn't mean it's safe to take as much as you want as long as you want.

Comment: Re:Send in the drones! (Score 1) 848

by flyingsquid (#47780357) Attached to: Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

Putin is doing everything 100% right (this article about invasion is total BS by the way). He is staying out of direct conflict, while supporting the rebels.

Explain how invading and annexing the Crimea is 'staying out of direct conflict'. Even Putin eventually got to the point where he couldn't deny they were Russian troops and keep a straight face, and admitted his Little Green Men were in fact Russian military. And explain how Russian troops, captured on Ukrainian soil http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28934213, are 'staying out of direct conflict'. Russia doesn't even deny they're Russian troops. And explain why NATO satellites have caught Russian artillery on Ukrainian soil http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28972878 and that's not 'direct conflict'. And last of all, explain how Russian SA-11 surface-to-air-missiles shooting down Ukrainian aircraft and a civilian airliner is 'staying out direct conflict'. A SAM battery is a complex system, not the kind of thing where you can just pick up the instruction manual, and they're typically operated by a team. How would a popular uprising find a trained crew for a SAM battery? The Ukrainian military doesn't even use the SA-11, so the only place to get a trained crew is from Russia.

Comment: Re:Send in the drones! (Score 1) 848

by flyingsquid (#47780177) Attached to: Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

We don't need to send "boots on the ground"; just help Ukrainian defenders with weapons.

It's not even clear that the issue is weapons. This isn't 1980s Afghanistan we're talking about. Ukraine is a former member of the USSR and was within spitting distance of NATO, so they're armed with fighter and attack aircraft, helicopter gunships, transport aircraft, artillery, armored personnel carriers, etc. etc. The Ukrainian military clearly has issues that have nothing to do with armaments- early on in the conflict, a group of soldiers simply surrendered their armored personnel carriers without a shot being fired, so there are major issues with leadership, discipline, morale, and organization. This is where U.S. military advisors could play a key role, and the U.S. has sent advisors over there, and presumably they're offering intelligence support such as satellite photos as well. The fact that the Ukrainian army is getting its shit together may be related to this. The fact that Russia has kept escalating the situation is in fact evidence that it's working; if the rebels were doing well against the government, they wouldn't need to intervene.

But the charlatan-in-chief would not even send Ukrainians the perfectly defensive helmets and body armor

This is just misleading. The US has sent body armor and night vision goggles. Perhaps more importantly, the West has committed $27 billion in aid to Ukraine over the next two years. With that kind of financial backing, they can simply buy whatever equipment they need.

Comment: Re:Send in the drones! (Score 5, Interesting) 848

by flyingsquid (#47779807) Attached to: Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine
There is a saying, attributed to Napoleon, 'never get in the way of your enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself'. Putin may score points at home by annexing the Crimea and invading Ukraine. Internationally, however, Russia moving towards becoming a pariah state, like Iran, North Korea, or Libya under Qaddafi. He's invaded and annexed part of his neighbor, shot down a civilian airliner, imprisoned political opponents, clamped down on free speech and murdered journalists, criminalized having a different sexual orientation. If the long-term goal is to politically isolate Russia, to help contain Russian influence like during the Cold War, well, Putin is doing a fantastic job of it.

War has been called "politics by other means". Putin has launched this war because he is desperate not to let the Ukraine fall into the Western political sphere- probably the best analogy would be the way the U.S. got defensive about having communist governments in Cuba and Central America. At best, he'll manage to carve off the eastern edge of Ukraine to create some tiny, pro-Russian buffer states. In the process of gaining this territory, Russia will isolate itself and its political sphere of influence will shrink. Putin will never give up power, and the West will never trust him again, so we could be looking at another 10-25 years of this sort of behavior, before eventually someone succeeds him and tries to normalize relations with the West.

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