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Comment: Re:Government fails again (Score 2) 267

by Whiternoise (#47178013) Attached to: Why NASA's Budget "Victory" Is Anything But

And you can listen to your favorite radio station only because the Federal Communications Commission brings organization and coherence to our vast telecommunications system.

Time standards that were adequate to their day were around before NIST. NIST has done an awful lot of bad things, too. (Or tried to... remember the Clipper Chip?... oh, and there was that recent thing about encryption standards...)

AM and FM radio haven't been a significant part of our actual "telecommunication system" since maybe 1960. Other than the occasional storm warning.

I think you misunderstand the post. Radio is definitely a government thing and the most important thing the government does in this field is frequency allocation. It's vital for modern society.

Without frequency allocation anyone could broadcast at any power at any frequency. Just think about that and how much is still controlled via radio/microwave signals. The following things rely on there being set frequency bands with no outside interference:

Mobile phones
Public radio and television
Air traffic control and air-air communication: only one person can talk at a time, one idiot transmitting by mistake can jam the channel.
Anything at 2.4GHz
900MHz short/mid range signals e.g. Zigbee
GPS and other satellite uplinks
Radio time signals
Astronomical bands of interest (e.g. 21cm)
Military, police and emergency service bands

There is no way this would happen without a government, you need someone to put their foot down and organise the spectrum so that everyone can operate without contention.

Comment: Re:But... (Score 1) 490

Unfortunately, your source is the Daily Mail. A rag which serves the simple purpose of scaring the populace into thinking that Eastern Europe is dying to hop over our borders, that everything both causes and prevents cancer and that while Pedos Are Bad, it's OK to judge celebrities' daughters on the skimpiness of their bikinis.

Your first article is better, and it actually goes against your argument if you read it. The conclusion is:

The meme said "there are over 2,000 crimes recorded per 100,000 population in the U.K.," compared to "466 violent crimes per 100,000" in the United States. Our preliminary attempt to make an apples-to-apples comparison shows a much smaller difference in violent crime rates between the two countries, but criminologists say differences in how the statistics are collected make it impossible to produce a truly valid comparison. We rate the claim False.

Basically, as you might expect, it's impossible to tell. Violent crime includes incidents where no one was hurt which muddies things further. The first article mentions that most violent crime is aggravated assault, which most often doesn't end in injury. Note that US aggravated assault is called battery in the UK. America also has a habit of locking people away - almost half of the worlds' imprisoned people are in America. It's such a high number that it's almost equal to Russia and China combined, 0.7% or about 2 million people. The UK isn't much better, at around 0.4%, but in absolute numbers it's not many Source is the ICPS (

On the upside, both violent crime and homicides have decreased by almost a third in the UK since that story was released. Not sure about the US figures, but they've probably decreased too.

Your point stands - if you're gonna die, you're gonna die and most would rather it was a quick death. However I don't think that's necessarily true unless you're shot in the head. If you're bludgeoned to death, odds are you'll be unconscious for most of it. I would wager that you're more likely to get accidentally killed in the US, from firearm misuse, than you are in the UK from any other cause except being run over.

In either case, it's unlikely that anyone reading this will be the victim of violent assault, particularly once you've corrected for personal wealth and location. Where I live, violent crime is so low that recently someone was mugged (i.e. their phone was stolen) and it made local headlines. Similarly where I work, in a different country, crime is so low that a few years ago the burglary rate increased massively: one person had their house broken into. These aren't low population regions (Surrey/Kent respectively), they're just among the most affluent; the majority are retired or commute to London to work in the City.

People need to watch Bowling for Columbine, methinks. Both America and the UK are deeply paranoid countries, it's interesting that the UK dealt with the problem by spying on them and the US dealt with it by arming everyone and then spying on them.

Comment: Re:Flight time 1 hour (Score 1) 160

by Whiternoise (#47014305) Attached to: Airbus E-Fan Electric Aircraft Makes First Flight

What's the cost of jet fuel vs the cost of a recharge? Aircraft are most inefficient in the take off/landing phase where there's a lot of speed adjustments, denser air and so on. This means that a big chunk of emissions comes from short hops e.g. London to Edinburgh, London to Paris - flights that only take an hour, or even less in some cases. Of course the law of diminishing returns bites you for long haul as you need substantially more fuel onboard.

Jet fuel will remain king for long haul, but if you could replace short haul aircraft with swappable batteries that cost virtually nothing to recharge then maybe that's one solution?

This thing carries what looks like a 6kWh battery pack (6kW, runtime is an hour - simple stuff). Electricity is cheap: 6kWh is a pound or two at domestic rates; I pay around 18p per kWh. A Cessna 172 burns something like 30 litres per hour according to The Internet. AVGAS is around ã1.50/litre so we're looking at around ã30 an hour if you find a cheap airfield. That's a mostly apples to apples comparison, scaling to Jets is much more complex, but I think the point stands.

Comment: Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (Score 1) 166

Lectures aren't the problem. Exams are the problem.

I found it much easier to engage with lectures after I finished my degree and had the freedom to learn things without the pressure of being asked arbitrary questions later in the year. Not just random subjects outside my field which suddenly became interesting, but I found I wanted to learn more about things that I touched on in the degree, but couldn't go deeper. As a physicist this is pretty much every subject I was taught.

It also depends a lot on the lecturer, of course we know that if the guy reads off the slides there's no point turning up. We weren't registered in our university (how archaic) so no problem ducking a lecture and still taking (and indeed aceing) the exam.

Finally what's the chance of failing? Is it 1/1000? So does a 1/1500 chance make much difference? If it was 1/2 then maybe I'd start worrying, but frankly the failure grade is so low these days (around 30-40%) that virtually no one fails. On my course, physics so not a 'soft' course, only one person actually failed. A few people had to drop off the Masters program, but they still left with degrees. There's going to be bias: physics has high entry requirements so you'd expect less to drop out and by the time you get to fourth year the average grade is around 67.5% where 70% is a 1st class degree.

Comment: Re:This is a problem now? (Score 4, Informative) 128

by Whiternoise (#46912935) Attached to: U-2 Caused Widespread Shutdown of US Flights Out of LAX
The 'true' version can be found in Sled Driver which is phenomenally hard to get hold of in dead tree form:

Our training flights took us over much of the western half of the United States. A typical sortie out of Beale included a rendezvous with a tanker over Nevada, accelerating to Mach 3 across Wyoming and leveling above 75,000 feet over Montana. We'd turn right approaching South Dakota, roll out in Colorado, and zip south to New Mexico. There we'd begin another right turn that would carry us through Arizona and straight to southern California, then out over the ocean and finally up to the Seattle area where we'd prepare to descend back to Marysville, California. This was a nice tour in two and a half hours.

To more fully understand the concept of Mach 3, imagine the speed of a bullet coming from a high powered hunting rifle. It is travelling at 3100 feet per second as it leaves the muzzle. The Sled would cruise easily at 3200 feet per second, with power to spare. There was a lot we couldn't do in the airplane, but we were the fastest guys on the block and frequently mentioned this fact to fellow aviators. I'll always remember a certain radio exchange that occurred one day as Walt and I were screaming across southern California 13 miles high. We were monitoring various radio transmissions from other aircraft as we entered Los Angeles Center's airspace. Though they didn't really control us, they did monitor our movement across their scope. I heard a Cessna ask for a readout of its groundspeed. "90 knots," Center replied. Moments later a Twin Beech required the same. "120 knots," Center answered. We weren't the only one proud of our speed that day as almost instantly an F-18 smugly transmitted, "Ah, Center, Dusty 52 requests groundspeed readout." There was a slight pause. "525 knots on the ground, Dusty." Another silent pause. As I was thinking to myself how ripe a situation this was, I heard the familiar click of a radio transmission coming from my back-seater. It was at that precise moment I realized Walt and I had become a real crew, for we were both thinking in unison. "Center, Aspen 20, you got a ground speed readout for us?" There was a longer than normal pause. "Aspen, I show one thousand seven hundred and forty-two knots." No further inquiries were heard on that frequency.

Found at the beginning of the chapter "Deep Blue". Walt refers to Maj Walter Watson. There seems to be a variety of versions floating around, presumably Shul changes the speed each time he tells the story.

Comment: Re:Really guys? Think outside the box for once. (Score 1) 227

by Whiternoise (#38740782) Attached to: Samsung Reinvents Windows (Not the OS) With Touchscreen Display
And yes, ambient light may be a issue, but it would still work where you just needed some differentiation between background and stuff on top. Remember that to see your walls they have to reflect light - you're just blocking it. Same goes for mirrors.

Comment: Really guys? Think outside the box for once. (Score 1) 227

by Whiternoise (#38740756) Attached to: Samsung Reinvents Windows (Not the OS) With Touchscreen Display

People seem to be missing the fact that this is damn cool and instead are posting inane offtopic rants about Apple vs Samsung, the widget design (is it really relevant compared to the tech?) and even SOPA.

I think this would be really cool somewhere like the shower if it could be made waterproof. I do a lot of my thinking there, solving programming problems, etc. Having a screen that I could touch and draw on would be really useful.

Essentially this is getting into the realm of smart glass everywhere. It could be put on mirrors to let you 'try on' outfits before you wear them, it could be on oven/microwave doors to display cooking information (I'm a metrics geek) and the list goes on. You could also just have a pane of glass stuck onto a wall - a truly invisible. When you turn it off, it just looks like the wallpaper. Just because it's on a window doesn't mean it *has* to be on a window outside - the technology, to me, is a transparent display which is much more interesting.

PS - the whole point of a weather forecast is that it's a forecast. You look out of your kitchen window and the display tells you what it'll be like in 6 hours including the temperature. Weather widgets are no more pointless on a window than they are in every single smartphone that seems to tout them.

Comment: Re:Dangerous (Score 1) 350

by Whiternoise (#37586342) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How to Exploit Post-Cataract Ultraviolet Vision?
If he can now see UV light surely it means his eyes will respond to the perceived brightness and contract? Conversely us mortals who can't see in UV should have the opposite effect and our pupils will stay dilated. And presumably in sunlight the brightness should be high enough that your pupils will constrict massively anyway - the danger would be in a dark place with a strong UV source.

Comment: Re:Unsurprising (Score 1) 409

by Whiternoise (#37491348) Attached to: Neil Armstrong To NASA: You're Embarrassing

Indeed, I think it's a very sensible idea to put a lot of focus on unmanned exploration (comparatively cheap) while we simply don't have the money for big bucks manned missions. Don't forget that while we did some bloody amazing things in the 70's, we did it on the back of frankly obscene levels of government funding. The US, as one economist recently put it, is currently so much in denial about its debt that it's akin to hiding the dead body in the closet.

Bear in mind that in the heydey, the NASA budget was around 4.5% of the federal budget and it's now 0.6% - that works out to be about half the money in constant dollars. Double the money and almost all of it was being poured into the Apollo program. Now NASA has less money, is a larger organisation and has more projects on the go.

This is a golden opportunity to focus our attention on enhancing robotic exploration and unmanned experiments. Thus when we do have another golden age, we'll be a lot more ready for it. There is no point at all throwing small amounts of money at human spaceflight, it is and always will be expensive and cutting corners leads to wasted research hours and costs lives.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.