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Comment Re: An interesting option (Score 2) 148

The moon has one interesting feature, and it's not colonization. Aluminum has about the same concentration there as on Earth, but the gravity is significantly lower. Iron has a slightly higher concentration than aluminum.

A railgun can achieve lunar orbital speed (2.4km/sec). We have the technology. General Dynamics has a gun that can shoot at 2.55 km/sec.

This technology is more commonly known as a mass driver.

The thought is that a mining operation could use the 14-day light cycle to orbit refined metal or construction components. Since very little propellant would be necessary, a lot of material is attainable. Metal is the heaviest and therefore costliest material to move out of a gravity well.

Proposals like this show a profound misunderstanding of space flight costs. The two principal costs in space flight are the costs of making the space flight hardware, and the cost of maintaining and managing the vast ground-based infrastructure of a space flight program. Launch costs are relatively unimportant, and the focus on launch and orbital velocity changes is completely misplaced.

Currently, with SpaceX, we are at point where we can project $1000/lb launch costs. At that price point, space exploration would be essentially unchanged in its cost structure if launches were free. Any type of aerospace hardware costs several thousand dollars a pound to build. Look at an undemanding commercial system like the Boeing Dreamliner. Here you have a competitive marketplace, well proven technologies and designs, a benign operating environment, and the cost the plane is $1000/lb. Any spaceflight hardware costs an order of magnitude (or more) more than this. The SpaceX Dragon capsule for example weighs 7000 lb, and is expected to have a unit cost around $140 million, of $20,000/lb.

The aluminum on the moon would be extremely expensive aluminum, considering the cost of the fully automated factory that would have to be designed from scratch, built on Earth, launched to the Moon, and installed there. Yet, even if the aluminum produced there were free, it would do little to reduce the real costs of spaceflight.

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 1) 162

all state-owned companies everywhere are significantly less efficient than their private sector competitors

Except when they aren't. Railway systems, health care systems, and prisons all show clear evidence to the opposite.

That is the problem with taking something that may often be true, and then pretend it is an iron law of nature, never broken, and then apply this imagined 'law of nature' indiscriminately. Bad results will obtain on occasion, perhaps many occasions. But the rule purveyor, who insists it is a revealed truth, like Gospel, will never test it for validity, or believe any evidence to the contrary.

Belief in the absolute inferiority of government and the public sector is a type of cult, a very large on in the U.S.

Comment Re:EPA standards (Score 5, Insightful) 569


Something is seriously messed up there.

There is indeed. It is the fruit of corporate lobbying.

Domestic vehicle makers have maintained a relative advantage in the SUV and sport truck marketplaces, practically alone among all vehicle categories. They also (not surprisingly) have their highest profit margins on these vehicles. Accordingly they have worked hard to make sure that special favors to promote those vehicle categories are written into law. The regulatory-industry turnstile ensures that favorable interpretations by (soon to be industry consultant) regulators.

Some years back there was actually a tax credit for heavy SUVs and trucks, which were classified automatically as "commercial vehicles" which in turn got an automatic "commercial vehicle purchase" tax credit without needing any showing of commercial use so that the tax payer was subsidizing the sale of gas guzzling toys to the well off (but they were American! toys.)

Comment Re:No one is asking YOU (Score 1) 683

...the litter most hikers leave on the mountain (including garbage, human waste, etc. which especially befouls the most popular -- and now frequently crowded -- routes), etc.

You leave off my favorite human litter left on Mt. Everest dead bodies, some of them popular milestone markers used by climbers.

But this site assures us the "The number of climbers who have died on Everest is 6.5% of the 4,042 climbers who have reached the summit since it's 1953 first ascent is 6.5%, not necessarily an alarming number." Perhaps, but a one-in-15 chance of dying in a hobby jaunt, might well be an alarming number to most people.

Comment Re:Their own scientists weren't even close (Score 1) 295

So you are saying that Heisenberg was uncertain?

Well, his momentum was low, we know that, so that means that his position was indeterminable. Which is a fair match which history actually. :-)

By the eponymous principle, if his momentum was low then we should know his position with good accuracy.

Comment Re:There are more important things... (Score 1) 60

Okay, so we get them internet access, meanwhile the people "taking care of the other problems" have made 0 headway on securing clean water, healthcare, and infrastructure.

We seem to have a particularly stupid AC here today. Why on Earth would "0 headway" be made by other people working on other problems? Because everyone has to stop doing anything in the entire country until the Internet is installed? Because the guy doing the Internet is the only guy who can do anything at all in Africa?

But hey, they can log in to facebook to complain about their dysentery, so they got that going for them. Oh right, they can't afford the internet access that was just installed.

Because the only thing the Internet is good for is Facebook? Are you twelve years old? (A smart 12 year old would know better, but we already covered that.) Gee, being able to distribute health information, check the status of villages during epidemics, arrange for medical supply deliveries, provide on-line education, etc., etc. might seem somehow useful. Good communications are essential for economic development everywhere, Africa is no exception.

Comment Can You Say "Software Factory"? (Score 4, Informative) 289

This idea is an old one, and has been tried. It is known as the "software factory" and was a central part of Japan's Fifth Generation Computer (FGS) initiative from 1982 to 1992, 30 years ago. The FGSI probably holds the record for the most spectacular computer project failure in the history of computer science, with a total of $700 million spent in 2015 dollars.

Comment Re:Demand segmentation 101 (Score 2) 379

Actually, airlines in the USA are generally running almost all their flights at full capacity right now. Especially the major carriers. Competition has made them run with nearly 100% load factors nearly every day of the week.

Business travelers dominate Sunday, Monday, Friday and Saturday leaving Tuesday - Thursday for non-business travelers. Middle of the week is where the deals are now, but because they have reduced capacity so much, business travel is being squished into these days as well.

The 2015 domestic load factor is 83.68% right now - which is indeed extremely high. Many flights are full at such a high load factor, but not all of them are. There are still "red-eyes" and other off-peak flights that have loads well below 50%, and the fact that they don't charge high fares (to cover the full cost of flying the plane) for those flights - the rates are discounted in fact - shows that the principle of some flights subsidizing others is still in place.

Comment Re:Demand segmentation 101 (Score 1) 379

It's entirely likely that the airlines are losing money on some flights, and making that money up during peak demand times, so that they can keep their entire fleet going all year.

It is not "likely" - it is a simple fact that this is the case.

Consider the cost of flying an aircraft. The cost of operation does go up when the flight is full compared to nearly empty due to the increased fuel consumption, but the weight difference between a fully fueled airliner with no passengers and baggage, and one with a full passenger/baggage load is only about 25% of added weight. Fuel consumption is close to a linear function of aircraft weight. So the empty airliner has only a 25% fuel savings over a full one, and all other costs are equal (amortization of the plane, flight crew costs, gate fees, etc.).

If they charged the actual cost of operation per passenger for each flight then nearly empty airliner ticket prices would be fantastically expensive while full flights would be very cheap. Yet the empty flights are empty due to low demand, and the full ones are full due to high demand. This is obviously a topsy-turvy pricing model that would mean the demise of the airline, or airline industry if followed. And canceling scheduled flights simply due to low numbers of passengers does not, shall we say, "fly" - people expect scheduled flights to actually be there if they choose to buy a ticket at the last minute.

So nearly empty flight seat prices are low (and the fares come no where near paying for the cost of flying the plane) since they want to get some people on the plane to reduce losses on the flight, while full flights with higher seat prices pay the bills and make all of the profits.

Comment Re:It's Entirely Feasible (Score 1) 147

Mars One is a not for profit foundation.

"Non profits" are perfectly capable of paying their officers huge salaries for doing nothing. All "not for profit" means is that there are no share holders and they can collect money with many tax exemptions. "Non profits" that are run for the profit of the founder and his/her cronies is one of the oldest scams in the book.

Comment Re:Moon Zero? (Score 1) 147

It really doesn't make any sense. The high desert is where they should go. It's dramatically more similar to either planet than is Antarctica, which has a crapload of solid water flying about.

What is "crapload" in metric terms? Antarctica has very little precipitation: "It is also extremely dry (technically a desert), averaging 166mm (6.5 in) of precipitation per year". All of the ice in Antarctica may confuse you, but the reason why there is so much is that it is extremely cold ("The Climate of Antarctica is the coldest on Earth.") so that the little water that falls does not melt and run off.

Comment Re:Did they make more than $750K profit by blockin (Score 1) 188

even after you've been busted the fine will be less than your profits.

Violating a consent decree means go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200, no trial. What business is worth that?

No one who is caught the first time with a violation like this is party to any consent decree. Only the party that 'consents' to it is.

The point of the poster above is that this sets a (very low) price for stealing public bandwidth until after you are caught the first time. A light fee for first time burglary convictions as the only punishment makes burglary very attractive until that first conviction. Not much of a deterrent to all the other burglar wannabes.

Comment Re:Could be argued differently... (Score 4, Insightful) 188

The argument can be raised that it is their hotel, and their rules.

If I went to a pub and brought my own booze, I'd be tossed out. Same rule can be argued to apply with Wi-Fi.

Only if you had absolutely no idea what you were talking about. Wireless transmissions take place on publicly owned airwaves. Jamming these airwaves is theft of publicly owned bandwidth.

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