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Comment America is an Oligarchy, and Not a Democracy (Score 5, Insightful) 211

According to this study, America is an oligarchy. Here is a quote (as per the New Yorker):

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then Americaâ(TM)s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

When I hear about abuses of power, when I hear about the NSA spying on everyone, when I hear about militarization of police, when I hear about local police departments running roughshod over the Constitution as implied in the parent article, I start to think that something is deeply wrong in America. Then I remember that Americans still have the right to vote in those who rule them. And that is encouraging. But then I realize that most Americans have lost the ability to comprehend the systems of power that rule them. I remember that too many Americans vote based on shallow ignorant views, that they are persuaded by 30 second political TV commercials instead of actual rational argument, which is boring and long and tedious. And I remember that those 30 second TV commercials are expensive, and that politicians must go begging to those with large amounts of money in order to buy those 30 second commercials. And I remember that when politicians accept money from those very wealthy interests, that they become enslaved to them. And this makes me feel hopeless.

Then I remember that if Americans stopped listening to shallow arguments given in 30 second TV commercials, if they started to demand rational argument instead of the shallow blather that has so far persuaded them, then they could take back power from the corrupt wealthy interests who have driven the country into the ground over the last three and a half decades. And that makes me a little bit hopeful.

Comment Re:A Common Tactic (Score 1) 49

I believe that it is common to have paid propaganda posters on newspapers and discussion boards such as Slashdot, especially on issues such as global warming. Some of my reasons for believing this are:

1) It is effective. It discourages the believers in particular causes, making them feel alone. It makes readers feel that the beliefs of the elite funders of the paid poster are actually the views of the common people.

2) It is a cost-effective way of reaching the eyeballs of particular and influential groups of readers. Having one poster make many posts under different accounts from a single computer is not difficult. Posting through several IP addresses is not difficult.

If you think that this only happens in Russia and not in our own corporate state, you are quite naive.

Comment Re:So all we need is evolution in 50 years. (Score 1) 417

Hell, why not evolve ourselves? Mankind in the past used to be just fine out in the winter snow with only their pelt to keep them warm.

ROFL. Do you know what evolution looks like during mass extinctions? It means 99.999% of a particular species dies, leaving behind the freaks that have some genetic trait allows them to survive.

Comment Re:All Species have Already Survived Climate Chang (Score 2) 417

What I would love to see is some sort of balanced, objective look at climate change. Hyped up articles like this that are clearly interested in pushing one point of view regardless of evidence convince nobody and risk a "boy who cried wolf" effect where people will ignore real warnings of problems due to climate change.

What you seem to not realize is that the mass extinction events of the past made extinct the most dominant species of the time (dinosaurs for example). Guess what the most dominant species is today? Humans.

Comment Re:For the last goddamn time (Score 1) 528

Drought is killing hydro. Reduced H2O levels reduce the hrs a plant can run and the capacity it can run at. This drives up the cost of hydro power. http://www.energy.ca.gov/droug...

The drought in California is decreasing hydro-generated electricity. It's a good thing that solar is increasing at a fast rate, and is in fact playing a role in making up for the hydro shortfall.

Robotics

A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water 39

Taco Cowboy writes: Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are available here and here, as well as this animated gif.
NASA

NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion 248

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.

Comment Re:Ironic (Score 1, Informative) 195

[sarcasm]He probably is in front of several computer screens with several separate slashdot accounts available. He saves up mod points on those separate accounts and mods up his own posts [/sarcasm] I am being somewhat sarcastic here, but really, I cannot figure out how on earth mods would mark his post as insightful. As another poster responded, it is a series of fallacies, inaccuracies and outright lies.

Seriously though. I'm not familiar with how the mod points system works here, but it seems that I get points eventually when one of my posts gets modded up. Superficially, it seems that if I get 4 mods up (to 5) I get 5 points. That would be an increase of one point overall. To someone who knows, is it possible to have a series of accounts working in conjunction, modding each others posts up? What safeguards are in place to prevent this? Because it seems to me as a pseudo-outsider, that if 4 mods up makes five points, then if you kept your points for modding up posts within your group, that you would net-increase your points within the group. Am I wrong here?

Comment Re:Need more info (Score 1) 654

Public transpiration systems also reach their limit, and costs to expand them are ever rising. I've been on the trains in Paris and some are so overcrowded it is simply unsafe, a miserable experience that some people face every day. The system cannot handle more trains, and there is little room to add new tracks. At least with roads you can often widen them.

First off, Paris has done expansions of their train system. For instance, the Paris Métro Line 4. You will notice that Line 4 has gates at the tracks for safety under crowded conditions. Secondly, I have spent time in Paris, and I have friends who live in Paris. The system is quite good, actually. There are times when it is busy, but you can say the same for freeways. When subways get crowded, the ride time is pretty much the same. However when freeways get crowded, you can be commuting for 90 minutes on a route that normally takes 30 minutes. Also, you were likely referencing the subways in Paris; the rides are usually quite short on those lines However the commuter rail lines are usually far more comfortable. The cars often have two levels, and commuters usually get seats, except at the very worst times.

Finally there are the intangibles. There is good evidence that living in a city with good rail transportation, and using it, results in a better psychological state. I can anecdotally support that. I sometimes commute by subway; sometimes I have to stand, but often I get a seat. The ride is 15 minutes, which is faster than driving to my destination. There are no traffic jams, no accidents. The system just works. To me, there is something quite compelling about an efficient subway system.

Comment Re:Need more info (Score 4, Informative) 654

The question is flawed. The fact is that most US public transportation is awful. This is quite literally by design. In the 1950's, a conscious decision was made by policy makers to begin neglecting public transportation and to start investing public money in road systems in a big way. This is what built the interstate system, for example. A few places, Portland Oregon, for example, took some of that interstate money and invested in public transportation. Portland's system is actually quite good, now, and if you lived there, you would probably use it quite a bit.

But if you live in one of the countless suburban freeway islands, using public transportation is absurd. The way the roads and infrastructure are laid out make it almost impossible to install an efficient public transportation system. In many suburban areas, the mere act of walking somewhere is almost impossible or illegal.

There is a truism in transportation design: the freeways make the sprawl. And the converse is also true: passenger rail transportation increase creates clusters of density. Evidence of this can be seen in the observation that since the massive reduction of passenger rail transportation in the US, there have been almost no new dense walkable diverse large scale downtown core cities established. The big ones, New York, Chicago, etc. were established during the age of passenger rail. Most new cities are freeway places, and usually don't achieve the density of the older cities. By choosing to build freeways, we chose to create suburban sprawl. The only way to get out of this trap is to slow the building of freeways, and to increase investment in passenger rail.

Comment Re:Country run by oil barons does nothing!!! (Score 1, Offtopic) 195

Today, a majority of Americans *are morons* - FTFY

I think "idiots" is the better word. According to this site,

...the word idiot originates from the Greek word idiwtes (idiotes), which refers to a person disinterested in participating in democracy and public life. These people were viewed as selfish, contemptable and stupid as they were more concerned with their daily personal affairs than they were of the good of the society.

Here is the Webster's definition. The Greek origin is mentioned at the end.

Comment Re:Solar *activity* not *output* (Score 4, Funny) 249

With a 60% reduction in irradiance, I suspect that it would get so cold on Earth that CO2 would freeze solid out of the air. So no more CO2 problem. Yay. But then again, plants need CO2 to make O2. So no more breathing on our part. Doh. That would suck.

Comment Re:Solar *activity* not *output* (Score 3, Insightful) 249

Not solar output falling 60%, which would lead to completely frozen Earth, but solar activity, i.e. the 11 year sunspot cycle. Predicting levels near or at those found during the Maunder minimum. This does imply some reduced level of solar output.

Thought I'd smelled a rat. The headline is deceptive (likely deliberately). The vast majority of readers wouldn't know the difference between activity and irradiance.

"Sometimes insanity is the only alternative" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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