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Comment: Re:As with all space missions: (Score 1) 198

by butalearner (#48617299) Attached to: NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration

That single point of failure isn't as bad as you might think, because the pressure could be the same on the inside and outside. Cloud-top Venusians wouldn't even need pressurized suits, just breathable air...and protection from the sulfuric acid. And some way to deal with the 200+ mile per hour winds, perhaps by sort of riding them around the planet. I imagine many unmanned missions would precede a manned one, to set up some infrastructure (power generation, oxygen extraction, food crops, etc.) and provide some back up systems.

I'm not sure how they would be able to leave, though. Rocket launches are difficult enough with solid ground and a non-corrosive atmosphere.

Comment: Re: Please don't (Score 1) 279

by butalearner (#48616439) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

From what I've researched, taking undergraduate research classes and doing internships will dramatically increase your starting salary.

I'm not sure this is true. What internships do is allow you to make decent money while going to school. I know several former interns that made a good enough impression on their employer that they continued to work part time during school, if the work location was close enough to school. That's the biggest benefit: avoiding more debt.

Comment: Re:I'd expect Fawkes masks to start making stateme (Score 1) 193

Energy companies - privatized. Prices have gone up, service is still good mostly because of government regulations, the market is now largely dominated by less than 5 big energy companies. Only recently thanks to renewable energy have smaller, local players re-emerged.

Freaking out over Fukushima couldn't have helped with your energy prices, I imagine. I (also) very highly doubt that privatization is beneficial to energy/utilities and telecom, but I admit there are always other factors to consider. For example, in the Greater Phoenix area in Arizona, my water, sewer, trash, and electricity were served by private companies, and bills were sky high and rising. In Alabama, despite being an equally conservative state, I have public utilities and pay way less, despite having a larger house and two more members in my family. However, the former is desert, and in the latter I live a stone's throw away from a big river. Anyway, great post!

Comment: Re:Actually... (Score 1) 135

by butalearner (#48574533) Attached to: Rosetta Results: Comets "Did Not Bring Water To Earth"

Thus proving that the dinosaurs had an advanced technological civilization based on deuterium fusion.

Historical documents show that tyrannosaurs used their relatively small arms to operate the controls of fighter jets, so it stands to reason that dinosaurs figured out economical fusion power. I wouldn't be surprised if all the fossils we've found are just the dinosaur lawyers and telephone sanitizers.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with emacs and make ? (Score 1) 115

I'd like IDEs a lot better if they didn't bury stuff like build information in menus and dialogs. Android tutorials and such always encourage new developers to start from an example, so that's what I've done on multiple occasions. But I quickly get annoyed because I don't know everything that's happening under the hood, so I basically have to google every time I want to do anything. If it could give me one big, organized text file or script that controls how it's built (with environment variables for portability), I'd be so much happier. But no, I have to right-click on the project, open a submenu (the 17th of 38 menu items), click on Project Build Path or something like that, click on this other tab, click the Add JARs button, browse to the desired files...

Comment: Re: rounding error (Score 1) 71

by butalearner (#48524375) Attached to: Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch

Note, don't go to Mars, sending people to Mars with current technology would be stupid. Get a moon base operating first.

The first part is okay, but the second doesn't necessarily follow. Establishing a permanent presence on another planetary body will take a long time - even if we started ASAP - and technology can be developed in the meantime. One such technology is in-situ resource utilization. The more resources the base can pull from its surroundings, the better. Mars has carbon and the Moon doesn't, which is pretty huge. If water is also significantly easier to extract, then even despite the far greater distance, Mars might be a more attractive location.

But who knows, we may find out we can deal with near-zero gravity better than we thought, and there may be a decently large, carbon- and water-rich asteroid at one of Earth's L-4/5 Lagrange points or something. That would be even cheaper in terms of delta-V to reach than the Moon. Or maybe we set up shop on a co-orbital body like 3753 Cruithne, which orbits the Sun every 364 days, and will be within 13.6 million km of Mars in 2058 (Earth and Mars only come within 56 million km of each other).

Or we just do all of the above, because humanity is awesome.

Comment: Re:rounding error (Score 1) 71

by butalearner (#48523689) Attached to: Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch
The total cost of Ares development was expected to be upwards of $40 billion in 2009 dollars. The total cost of SLS development was expected to be $18 billion in 2011 dollars. It might not launch if Tea Partiers like Ted Cruz gets their way, but with the pro-NASA congressman expecting to head up the appropriations committee over the next two years, there's still a good chance it will.

Comment: Re:A nice dream (Score 1) 62

by butalearner (#48517003) Attached to: 'Mirage Earth' Exoplanets May Have Burned Away Chances For Life

Well we know other civs either go silent or don't exist because we don't hear them.

Just because we can't hear them doesn't necessarily mean they're silent or don't exist. Due to the inverse square law, most of our signals are indistinguishable from background noise by the time they hit Alpha Centauri. A couple years ago we pumped a lot of energy into a directed Arecibo transmission toward the Wow! signal, but even that will get lost in the noise a couple hundred light years away. This is not to mention that we transmit on and listen to a certain band of frequencies. My understanding is that, for SETI to hear anything, an extraterrestrial civilization has to aim a very high-powered signal toward us in a frequency band that isn't already saturated by local electromagnetic signals.

Comment: Re:Wait till they see water! (Score 2) 128

by butalearner (#48506021) Attached to: Scientists Have Finally Sampled the Most Abundant Material On Earth
Actually, TFA links to an earlier article that discusses a sample of ringwoodite (the transition layer material between upper and lower mantles) that had water trapped inside it. The whole thing was encased by a diamond that emerged in Brazil. They claim that it "confirms predictions from high-pressure laboratory experiments that a water reservoir comparable in size to all the oceans combined is hidden deep in Earth’s mantle." The ringwoodite sample was 1.5% water by weight, so water is still a small percentage of Earth's mass, but there is more than just surface water.

Comment: Re:And making my link a link: (Score 4, Informative) 108

by butalearner (#48497169) Attached to: Who Needs NASA? Exoplanet Detected Using a DSLR

As someone posted below, here is the forum post with some data, and here is the raw data with more plots. This is really awesome, but you have to temper your enthusiasm when you realize he knew exactly when to look and how much the brightness should drop, and he chose a relatively bright star (apparent magnitude +7.676, which is just barely too faint to see with the naked eye) with a relatively large exoplanet to image. There is some wiggle room there, but the data is pretty noisy, so it will be pretty tough to spot new exoplanets like this.

In comparison, Kepler-67b is a confirmed exoplanet 3610 light years away, orbiting a star with an apparent magnitude of +16. That is, take the light received from the star this guy imaged, divide it by 2000 (less than 0.05% the brightness), and Kepler can still detect exoplanets passing in front of it. The Hubble and Keck Telescopes have imaged stars with magnitudes of +30 or higher. So to answer the headline (in case it wasn't already obvious), we still kinda need NASA.

Comment: Re:Junk Article? (Score 4, Informative) 219

by butalearner (#48467857) Attached to: Hacker Threatened With 44 Felony Charges Escapes With Misdemeanor

*sigh* as always, we have this and that said, no citation. Anyone got a LINK to what he actually DID (excuse me, what he was accused of specifically)

Not sure of full details, but I got this much:

18 counts of cyberstalking: filling out a public contact form on the "victim's" website with junk text.
15 counts violating Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: scanning sites for vulnerabilities using commercial available scanning tools.
Not sure what the other 11 counts were.
The only charge he pled guilty to was a violation of the CFAA, downgraded to a misdemeanor, for trying to log in to the Hidalgo County website server 14,000 times, causing a slowdown that prompted them to hire specialists.

Comment: Re:What's it good for? (Score 1) 236

by butalearner (#48433539) Attached to: Russia May Be Planning National Space Station To Replace ISS

That's just the hard limit. There will be many catastrophic events between now and then. Sure, the odds that the next one occurs in the next couple of decades is astronomically small, and we have a really, really long way to go to settling on another planet or in space. But your statement "if there's still a civilization" is telling: if we left it to people like you, humanity would keep kicking the can down the road, over and over, until it's too late.

Comment: Re:NDS != NDS (Score 1) 61

by butalearner (#48433327) Attached to: The Nintendo DS Turns 10

Both of my original DS's have a cracked hinge (rough handling from the kids), but both of them still work. Our family still uses them occasionally to play multiplayer games like Mario Kart and New Super Mario Bros DS with our two 3DS XLs.

That's a pretty awesome feature. Several months ago I picked up three used copies of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time for cheap, and the 3DS XLs my wife and I got last Christmas can play multiplayer with the systems we had even before we had kids.

Comment: Re:Huh (Score 1) 223

by butalearner (#48386857) Attached to: Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes

The legs are 'springy' and can be used to hop the lander off the surface. The problem is that they can't tell the orientation of the lander. If it's in a cave, the legs might hop it deeper into shadow.

I understand why they haven't tried it yet, but if it's about to run out of juice anyway, there's no reason not to give it a shot.

Comment: Re:Genius /Insanity (Score 2) 49

by butalearner (#48386835) Attached to: Mathematics Great Alexander Grothendieck Dies At 86
From Wikipedia:

His growing preoccupation with spiritual matters was also evident in a letter entitled Lettre de la Bonne Nouvelle that he sent to 250 friends in January 1990. In it, he described his encounters with a deity and announced that a "New Age" would commence on 14 October 1996.

Yikes. There are still 20,000 pages of unpublished manuscript around, written before the early 1990s. Hopefully most of it was written before these encounters.

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"