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Comment Re:Bittersweet (Score 2) 184

DARPA is by no means the only defense-related scientific funding agency. Off the top of my head, there's the Naval Research Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory, and I'm pretty sure there's an Army lab too. That's leaving aside funding agencies which aren't in defense but are funding defense-related research, like the Department of Energy, the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and so on and so forth. DARPA is a small piece of a much larger puzzle.

Comment Re:Looking forward to this one. (Score 4, Informative) 68

Not that new...this experiment is derived from one flown on the Shuttle a few times already. This is mostly an extension of the previous research. What I am really interested in is the egg-to-egg possibility--the system is designed to support up to three generations of fish, so they will be able to observe whether zero-gravity causes intergenerational changes (eg., whether the children of those born in zero-g are as fit as those born of one-g fish, or as one-g fish themselves). This is a significant challenge for any possibility of space colonization, so experimentation in it is quite welcome.

Comment Re:Not just field strength (Score 1) 166 1 T is a very powerful field (100 T is just incredibly powerful). The Earth's magnetic field is measured in gauss, which are 1/10,000th of a Tesla. Many magnets in common use have much more intense fields nearby (although of course their fields aren't as extended as Earth's). The question of deflecting particles is considerably more complicated than just "how strong" the magnet is.

Comment Re:Thanks, Space Shuttle (Score 2) 227

The truth is much more complicated. There were literally dozens of variations of shuttle design, and most (even from the very very beginning of the design program, way back in '67 or so) involved the final orbiter hanging off the side of something. Initially, it was because it is hard to design an airplane which doesn't have an aerodynamic nose (the original booster designs were generally airplane-like). Later, it was because the needed tankage for the hydrogen and oxygen to be used by the orbiter was very bulky and would be too difficult to house in the orbiter itself, so they decided to make it external. Obviously, it's hard to fire your engines sitting on top of something, so that meant it had to be on the side.

This, by the way, means that tmosley is wrong. There were always good engineering reasons to put the Orbiter on the side of the ET, which is why that design was adopted. And if he thinks that private industry would have less reason to cost-cut (especially if there probably wouldn't be much risk until you had already made it golden)...

Comment Re:There was a US economy/world simulator (Score 1) 149

There are actually quite a few games of that sort. Superpower 1 and 2, Supreme Ruler (2010, 2020, and Cold War), Victoria (1 and 2, although not surprisingly this of the Victorian Age than the modern world), and probably many others I've never heard of. It's a niche, but not exactly an empty one.

Comment Re:Leaving ISS Uninhabited (Score 1) 62

Actually, gigantic chunks of debris could survive reentry--it's actually surprisingly bad at destroying things completely. Look up how much survived on Skylab's reentry, for instance, or how much survived of Columbia.

However, there's no real risk of some dictator flying up and occupying the place, since (given that the Russian fleet is currently grounded) there is exactly one other country currently capable of flying to the ISS: China. And there's obviously no reason for them to use the ISS as a colony drop weapon, since they possess a number of cheaper and more effective nuclear weapons, and in any event would mostly just lose from a major war (imagine both the Russian and American stockpiles being targeted at them...ouch).

Comment Re:in a counter move, the global IT union said (Score 1) 250

You do know about the American Medical Association, American Dental Association, bar associations, and other "professional" organizations which (as it happens) are often partially empowered with determining who gets to practice their profession where, right? These significantly resemble unions for professionals, which by definition are skilled (very skilled) labor. Bar associations in particular, especially in states where you have to be a member of the bar to practice law, very much resemble unions running a union shop.

Comment Re:AAA games? (Score 1) 342

The term comes from the credit rating. The idea is that a AAA game will, like the AAA credit rating, be "safe," both in financial terms (it will most likely make a lot of money) and in player terms (it will most likely be fun), as it has a big budget and one of the big studios behind it. In practice, of course, plenty of AAA games would be better rated F.

Comment Re:One Era Ends To Make Way For Another (Score 3, Informative) 365

There are a few reasons for that. First, the entire Shuttle paradigm--a big vehicle that carries humans and a pretty good amount of cargo, and is reusable--has been pretty well discredited by Shuttle's poor performance. Carrying cargo and humans together has been shown to be inefficient, since the safety standards for each are so different, and cargo just doesn't need people around to manage it, high-profile failures like Skylab, Hubble, or Palapa 2/Westar 6 notwithstanding. People would be (rightly) very skeptical that a follow-on vehicle with the same design could perform much better, even with better technology. That means that any follow-on would probably be much smaller, just a crew transport, IOW similar to the vehicles proposed during the Orbital Space Plane project back before Columbia, or Orion and the other proposed crew transport vehicles.

Second, many of the details of the Shuttle design have proven unsafe. Any follow-on vehicle, for example, would have to be a series-staged vehicle, like most rockets, as opposed to the Shuttle's parallel-staged design in order to avoid damage from foam shedding, as with the Columbia accident, or booster failure, as with the Challenger disaster. Along with the above point, this means that any new vehicle would basically be a completely new design, rather than just a copy of the Shuttle aeroframe.

Third, we've had advances in materials science and aerospace engineering that mean we could do better now in terms of the details of the Shuttle's design that they could back then, many of them gained due to Shuttle experience. We've flown a winged vehicle through high-Mach regimes at very high altitudes in the Shuttle program, something that hadn't been done before. So, by using a new design, we could produce a vehicle that did better than Shuttle. Again, a reason to simply not copy Shuttle with better internals.

Fourth, doing so would be very expensive. Since, as noted above, the Shuttles have not been particularly successful, there's no reason to spend a lot of money copying them. Instead, people are spending money on copying Shuttle's big unique capability--ie., crew transport--while cutting out all the irrelevancies that cost a lot of money. Even then it's expensive, but you skip the need to design a lot of stuff and it works out to be cheaper than trying to also build the carrier rocket, a big payload bay, etc.

Comment Re:Denial-of-Space Weapons? (Score 1) 185

Easily. The Chinese ASM test a few years back created a huge amount of debris (and I'm sure earlier US and Russian tests did too). You don't actually have to build something specifically for that purpose, just launch enough ASMs without much caring about where the debris ends up and Kessler's Syndrome will kick in.