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Comment Re:Biodegradable ordinance (Score 1) 49

They should also invest in biodegradable ordinance and bombs, so that they stop harming innocent individuals for decades after the end of the military operations in which they were deployed and failed to detonate.

You are absolutely correct. I posted above about how munitions that become safely inert after a set period of time can be made. Lack of interest in doing this is unconscionable.

Comment Re:I have a better name for this. (Score 1) 49

I'd be ok with land mines if they automatically evaporated once the war is over too.

Although "evaporation" is not in the cards, it is quite easy to design land mines, and other munitions (like cluster bombs) that become safety inert after a set period of time. The key feature is to use an electrical detonation system with a current drain built in so that the battery goes dead within a fixed period of time. Combine this with an exploding bridgewire or "slapper" detonator, in which all of the ignition energy comes from electricity and not a sensitive primer, and the use of inert high explosives (IHE) like TATB that can be thrown into roaring fire without risk of explosion, and you have a device that becomes perfectly safe after a designed number of weeks or months. If, for good measure, you put a a metal tag on the mine so that it can easily be detected with a metal detector, then mine fields - though safe - could be efficiently cleared (to keep the TATB out of other people's hands perhaps).

Comment Re:18 million for someone that was NEVER Charged?! (Score 5, Informative) 287

That's not how things work here. The police typically interview you before charges are file. Assange has refused the interview.

No he hasn't. The Swedes are refusing to interview him in the Embassy. Now, why would that be? Think, think...

Comment The "Connectome" Is Grossly Insufficient (Score 1) 262

Even after mapping out all those hundred trillion synapses, that still does not get you close to understanding the brain/mind or close to "uploading".

How can I say that? Because we have the complete "connectome" for at least one model organism, the tiny marine roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, and we still cannot "upload" its behavior or accurately model its nervous system. C. elegans has 302 neurons in 118 distinct classes, 6400 chemical synapses, 900 gap junctions, and 1500 neuromuscular junctions, and we have mapped every single synapse and junction, but it is still not enough data because we do not understand the behavior sufficiently well of a single isolated neuron (in any of those 118 classes).

When we have a good computerized roundworm THEN all we have to do is scale up 100 billion fold, in a non-destructive manner. (You don't think we mapped those worms by noninvasive scanning did you?).

Comment Re:Very Probably Wrong (Score 1) 262

Arguments over Federalism was a big one

Yes, the south was for federalism, and the north against it. But, for some reason, despite the pro-federalism words, forever recorded in the secession documents, people still reverse the two.


By every measure, the presence or absence of widgets was irrelevant to the issue of slavery in the US.

Bingo! You are absolutely right on both these key points.

Comment Re:Very Probably Wrong (Score 1) 262

The causes of the civil war are many and varied and likely would take more room than we have here to discuss properly.

Doesn't take as much room as you might think.

Slavery was one.

Indeed it was. In fact it was virtually the only issue that the Secession Commissioners that organized the secession of the South thought to mention, likewise the secession legislative debates, and declarations of the secession by the states (see Charles Dew's "Apostles of Disunion").

Arguments over Federalism was a big one,

You are referring to the Nullification Controversy, in which the South objected to tariffs that impeded the profits of slavery (as John C. Calhoun so stringently argued)? That was largely decided in the South's favor when the tariffs were dropped to low levels. Or are you referring to the Fugitive Slave Act in which Federalism required that slaves be returned to their owners from free states? Again Federalism was decided in the South's favor. Odd to secede when you are winning all of the Federalism arguments.

The North blocking industrialization of the South was one,

This one is a fantasy. In no way was the North "blocking industrialization" (how?). The South had for example as much railroad mileage per capita as did the North, and better water transport, and the relative lack of capital being put into factories was due to the much higher profits (up to 10% annually) from investing in slaves and slave plantations. It was a deliberate, and economically very savvy, choice by the South.

contention over various political issues like the Louisiana Purchase, etc. etc. etc. Civil wars on that scale don't happen for one reason but a confluence of factors.

Is "the economic prosperity of the Deep South" one reason or many? This prosperity rested on the enormous Cotton Kingdom of plantation slavery. All the other issues derive directly from that.

Comment Re:Very Probably Wrong (Score 1) 262

As slavery was ended, across most of the world from 1850 to 1900, machines were needed to replace the "free" labor that was lost.

You have that backwards, the machines caused the end of slavery not the other way around.

You are both wrong. The initial effect of industrialization was to cause an enormous surge in the us of slavery in the United States, which quickly became the world's major slave economy. That machine called the 'cotton gin' greatly increased the ability to produce cotton fiber, and the demand for cotton fiber for those super fast textile machines (mostly in Britain), created the market. Together they made production of the raw material using slave labor extremely profitable. The "Cotton Kingdom" came in existence and grew in a mere 50 year period, from 1810 to 1860, increasing 50% in its last decade, with no sign of slowing down.

After the end of slavery in the U.S. machines were still not harvesting cotton, not until about 1950 did they significantly replace manual stoop labor.

The abolition of slavery elsewhere also had nothing to do with industrialization. Britain freed its slaves in the West Indies in 1838, thinking that free blacks would still work those plantations just as hard, but then imported hundreds of thousands of indentured servants from India to replace them when this proved untrue. Slaves were replaced with another variety of cheap unfree laborer, not machines.

Comment Re:History says otherwise (Score 1) 419

Wind and solar have minuscule costs over the long term (just maintenance on the machines and lines).

Please then explain the massive fields of dead turbines in California and the southern tip of Hawaii.

Long term history teaches us that wind power plants shut down after just a decade or two. Why is that? If the long term cost is minuscule why would they have been decommissioned?

Of course there's tremendous cost to birds also but fuck wildlife, right?

Wow. The Big Lie, big time. The explanation for those "massive fields of dead turbines" is that they do not exist, and everything you posted above is a work of fiction.

Possibly you have seen the turbine fields, in pictures or in person, when the wind was not blowing (a regular, expected occurrence) and then combined ignorance with fantasy to produce the above nonsense.

Did you forget to log out and post as AC?

Real data show the installed wind capacity, and actual annual wind production growing rapidly, year after year. I drive through one of the major California wind farm areas regularly and have watched the steady expansion of the windmills, and older designs being replaced by ever larger and more powerful models.

(This is the only occasion when right-whiners show much concern for the environment - those 300,000 or so annual wind turbine bird kills, which is 0.01% of the number of birds killed by domestic cats every year. Feer bird kills are better than more, but America's birds are not being endangered by wind turbines.)

Comment Re:NSA vs NASA (Score 1) 182

You make an interesting and valid point about U.S. spending on domestic surveillance because terrorism. But you overstate the risk of terrorism.

Since 2001 there have been on average 5 terrorism deaths in the United States per year, and annual rate of 1 in 60 million, and it is a hazard with no potential for fatalities of more than a few thousand people (the deadliest attack since 2001 killed 13 people). Yet this is deemed dangerous enough that billions are spent annually on domestic spying.

Comment Re:The odds are very low... (Score 1) 182

There is also the problem with impactors we don't know about. NASA has a pretty good handle on the major potential impactors, true, but from the article you link to:

NASA has said that roughly 95 percent of the largest asteroids that could endanger Earth — space rocks at least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide — have been identified through these surveys.

95% is not 100% (or 99.9%), so there is some significant distance to go yet.

One problem though that asteroid charting projects will not help with this that ~20% of the potential threat comes from long period comets that we only see for the first time as they fall in past the outer planets, a matter of months, rather than years before they cross Earth's orbit. To deal with this threat we need to develop a good deflection technology, and ready launchable hardware, and plans to conduct an interception if a likely threat is detected. Some of these comets put the "dinosaur killer" to shame. The impactor that formed Chixulub Crater was only about 10 km wide. Comet Hale-Bopp that was only detected 20 months before it reached Earth's orbit in 1997 was 60 km wide, 200 times the mass of the "dinosaur killer". (If a threat is that big not even nuclear weapons can take it out, but there are many more comets that are smaller, yet still represent a major threat. It is possible that a Hale-Bopp sized comet might have caused Earth's greatest extinction event 252 million years ago.)

Comment Re: An interesting option (Score 2) 150

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.

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.