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Comment: Re:small and steady wins the race (Score 1) 154 154

I think that the scale itself is one of the biggest engineering challenges. It's difficult to keep a tube depressurized when it's that large. So building a very small-scale model doesn't give you any useful information about one of the most important aspects of the project.

Comment: I don't mean to be a grump, but... (Score 2) 154 154

...isn't this basically just a model train in a tube? It sounds like the only thing from the hyperloop they are actually using is the "electromagnetic motors." It's using roller bearings, and the tube is not depressurized. As far as I know, those are the two most important things about the hyperloop, which speak to the goal of increasing speed by reducing drag. The speed is 160mph, which is less than half the speed of the fastest trains currently operating. Using electromagnetic acceleration is pretty cool, but I remember riding on roller coasters that used this method of acceleration back in the 90s. I don't fault the students for doing a cool engineering project, but the headline chosen by the journalist is more than a little disingenuous.

Comment: Looks a lot like Doom 3 (Score 4, Interesting) 113 113

There are a bunch of imps throwing fireballs, and it's too dark to see anything properly. Run up to them and shoot them with a shotgun. Strafe around the pillars and backpedal around the corners. The hardware is being pushed to the limit, so there are no large areas with lots of monsters; it's all close-quarters corridor fighting with very little room to maneuver. I guess there are some new visual effects if you look closely, but it really looks like exactly the same gameplay experience. Also, I am old and video games were better in 1994 and get off my lawn.

Comment: Re:Reckless borrowing and spending (Score 1) 1032 1032

This is a good argument for giving bankruptcy relief for student loans. When we want people to make risky investments, we offer bankruptcy as a way out. The Economist periodically runs articles about how the bankruptcy system in the US is more debtor-friendly than in Europe, which leads to more risky entrepreneurial behavior. Encouraging people to take risks that lead to a social benefit is good, but we should not punish people too severely when such a high-risk bet backfires for them, because we have encouraged them in the first place.

I suppose that another alternative would be to freeze or modify interest on student loans in the event of a default, or to offer limited bankruptcy protection.

Comment: Reckless borrowing and spending (Score 2) 1032 1032

"It struck me as absurd that one could amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college."
The implication is that going to college can never involve "reckless borrowing and spending," but it can. He went into debt from buying lots of books and paying lots of people to give him lessons about them -- and he never had a plan for paying the money back. This is not economically different from spending your money on other things that you find pleasurable, such as booze and fast cars. Going to college can be reckless borrowing and spending, if you are reckless in your choices.

There is an argument for subsidizing higher education because it yields positive externalities, and that is his best argument. He makes it in a silly way, opposing choices between a high-paying job he didn't want, and a low-paying job he did want. He is basing his choices on his personal preferences, and again making himself seem reckless -- as if he had spent his time on booze and cars because that's what he "wanted." Instead, he could argue that his worth to society is not correlated with his income because he creates positive externalities, and therefore he should be subsidized. This is basically saying that our economic system is seriously broken in its incentives. This is a reasonable argument, but it requires a more nuanced analysis than saying "Everyone do what you like and to hell with everything!"

His arguments could be used to justify reckless spending on anything. In order to justify subsidizing higher education in particular, he would need to make a more careful analysis of incentives and benefits. Such arguments have been made very successfully, but not by him.

Comment: Re:Heptatonic (Score 1) 111 111

Or it could just be that most of music formalisms are batshit insane...

Westerners break the octave up into 12 steps, each a 12th root away from the previous step. That should be a full stop, but no.... then they decide to pick subsets of that as special... not a single subset of course, but lots of subsets are labeled as special...

Its all a big pile of mistakes.. ancient mistakes...imagine if all programming languages were backward compatible derivatives of Fortran, Cobol, or Lisp.... thats the current state of music formalism...

The major scale is derived from the harmonic series. Schoenberg has a very clear description of the derivation in section IV of his "Theory of Harmony." The equal-tempered chromatic scale is used to tune fixed-pitch keyboard instruments because it provides a reasonable approximation of diatonic pitches in all 12 keys. It was invented after the diatonic scales, which were themselves invented in relation to the harmonic series, which is a natural phenomenon. So the chromatic scale is not really the apotheosis of musical description; it's a convenient way to tune pianos. Understanding how a particular note funtions within a piece of music requires an understanding of the natural auditory phenomena underlying the diatonic system of harmony, and chord/scale theory is a language that has developed to describe this. So, that's why there are lots of other names for subsets of the chromatic scale. I agree that classical theory is quite confused and burdened by history, but jazz theory is more grounded in functional practice, and much clearer in my opinion.

Comment: I haven't used Facebook in years (Score 1) 394 394

I stopped using Facebook because it just didn't seem like it was improving my life. It hasn't made any difference at all. I have never used Twitter. I have a LinkedIn profile, but I haven't looked at it in months. Nobody cares. As far as I can tell, TFA is not describing a typical experience.

Comment: Cases (Score 1) 307 307

I vote for poorly-designed, badly-ventilated cases, because they cause other components to fail. Pretty much all of the component failures I've had can be traced back to improper cooling, so you could say that I have had the most problems with cases. For years, my secretary used an old Dell that had a terrible case -- it was basically impossible to ventilate because it was almost airtight. You could put your hand on it and it felt warm to the touch. It was awful. Sure enough, the HDD crapped out.
I also built a server in a mini-ITX case that was supposed to be fanless, but it would randomly reboot. I checked the temperature of the CPU and the HDD, but they were both normal. After tearing my hair out for weeks, I figured out that my RAM was overheating. I taped a fan to the inside of the case, and the problem went away.

Comment: How much uranium do you drink? (Score 1) 286 286

Did you know that drinking water standards mandate reporting of uranium levels in tap water? Look up your local water source to see how much uranium you drink every day. Bottled water doesn't have to report uranium levels; see here, page 18:
I prefer tap water, because I like knowing exactly how much uranium I'm drinking.

Comment: Non-fictional vs. fictional cubes (Score 1) 266 266

The best cube I've actually seen would be a Rubik's Cube. They're super cool, clever, and pretty. The only other non-fictional cube is the ice cube. I have only once seen ice cubes that were actually cubes, and they were a huge pain to get out of the ice cube tray. So, cubic ice cubes fail for being crappy, and non-cubic ice cubes fail for not being cubes.

My choice for fictional cubes is the Borg Cube. It is an iconic departure from typical spaceship designs in science fiction, in the same way that the Daleks were a departure from typical space monsters. The lack of overtly menacing characteristics makes it the more menacing, and its simplicity adds to a sense of foreboding mystery. I think it was a very clever and successful design choice. It narrowly beats the Companion Cube, which is similarly well-designed.

Comment: Culture and information matter. (Score 4, Interesting) 288 288

The North Korean regime's survival depends on keeping its people completely uninformed. Here's an article about how even a little bit of information about the outside world can destroy the carefully constructed myths that sustain North Korean society:

"About two years ago, a North Korean who worked in the state fisheries division was on a boat in the Yellow Sea when his transistor radio picked up a South Korean situation comedy. The radio program featured two young women who were fighting over a parking space in their apartment complex.
A parking space? The North Korean was astonished by the idea that there was a place with so many cars that there would be a shortage of places to park them. Although he was in his late 30s and a director of his division, he had never met anyone who owned their own car.
The North Korean never forgot that radio show and ended up defecting to South Korea last year."

The article is old, but I don't think things have changed much in North Korea.

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant." -- Aesop