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Comment: Not on the Black Rock: Leave No Trace Fail (Score 1) 81

by cxbrx (#47230381) Attached to: Cockpit Revealed For Bloodhound Supersonic Car
Sadly, the run won't be on the Black Rock Desert, says:

In light of this impressive record, surely BLOODHOUND will return to the Black Rock Desert? Sadly, no. A lack of rain over the last decade, together with increasingly heavy use for the playa surface (principly by the annual Burning Man festival) has left the Black Rock surface in poor condition. It is bumpy, crumbly, rutted and uneven for much of its 140+ square mile surface and is not currently a suitable surface on which to run a car like BLOODHOUND. Hence an alternative surface is required – and we need to find one, wherever in the world it may be.

Comment: I used the NTIS last month: The Long Tail (Score 5, Informative) 32

I was doing research earlier this year and needed a paper summarizing a taxpayer funded project from 1967. This paper was not to be found anywhere else but at the NTIS. Libraries listed the NTIS as the place that had a copy. If the NTIS was not able to sell me a copy of the paper, then I would not have been able to get the information. Closing the NTIS only makes sense if the entire contents of the NTIS's archives are made available on the Internet.

The problem is that the most popular NTIS stuff is already on the net, but the remaining 30% (the long tail) is not.

The federally funded research was about these large (miles in radius) circles found in Nevada. There was conjecture that they were from a nuclear test. It turns out that they were from a toxic cloud test that was done using a solid rocket engine treated with beryllium. See http://pacaeropress.websitetoo..., and

The NTIS had the paper in question, which I was able to get and confirm that the semi-circles were created as part of the test. There was no mention of the test in the local papers or anywhere else I could find. If the NTIS did not have the paper, then my only hope would have been to ask Aerojet, the company contracted to do the research. The odds of them having a paper from 1967 is pretty low.

I realize that this question is not a critical, life threatening question, but determining *why* the circles where there and dispelling rumors about nuke tests is useful. The pursuit of the truth is lofty goal. Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. In the case of this study, it turns out that there was an inversion layer that prevented a bunch of the particulate matter from reaching the ground in the test site. Maybe this is a well know mechanism now, but if I were researching atmospheric pollution, then I would want to review a study like this. If this study is not accessible, then it is like it never happened.

If the NTIS is disbanded, then we are basically tossing a bunch of tax-payer funded projects in to the shredder.

Interestingly, Canada is going through a somewhat similar issue where libraries containing research materials are being closed. Here an article from 2012:

I'm no fan of big government, but if the NTIS is to be closed, then the entire contents of the NTIS library must be made freely available.

Comment: Re:Two separate fights (Score 1) 720

by cxbrx (#43536709) Attached to: FAA On Travel Delays: Get Used To It
BTW - I thought that SS and Medicare are funded from payroll taxes, but apparently not . Wikipedia says: "Parts B and D are funded by premiums paid by Medicare enrollees and general fund revenue. In 2011, Medicare spending accounted for about 15 percent of the federal budget, and this share is projected to increase to over 17 percent by 2020."

Comment: Re:How old school. (Score 2) 237

by cxbrx (#38942125) Attached to: The Engineer Who Stopped Airplanes From Flying Into Mountains
The day after 9/11, my boss was scheduled to lecture undergrads. He talked about the idea of using terrain maps to prevent planes from flying in to buildings. The system is called Softwalls, which was discussed on Slashdot. The really interesting thing about this is how strongly pilots and others objected. There is a FAQ that covers common objections.

+ - Survival Research Laboratories: Banned in San Fran->

Submitted by
cxbrx writes "Apparently, Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), "a machine performance art group credited for pioneering the genre of large-scale machine performance" has been banned from performing in San Francisco by the San Francisco Fire Department. For many years, SRL has been doing machine performance art involving the repurposing of technology. SRL machines include robots with microcontrollers and flame effects like a V-1 engine. SRL says that this is because SRL humiliated the San Francisco Fire Department during the filming of a 1994 show that ended up on a Connie Chung TV show. In December, 2011, "the SFFD, citing an SRL show from 1989, Illusions of Shameless Abundance, stated that SRL would no longer be allowed to perform in San Francisco." [Disclosure: I worked successful SRL performances in San Jose and Santa Rosa.] Do slashdotters have any suggestions on changing the opinion of SFFD?"
Link to Original Source

Comment: 1977 Popular Electronics Article (Score 1) 66

by cxbrx (#38467560) Attached to: Solar Cells Made From a Spreadable Nanoparticle Paste
This brings me back to the April, 1977 issue of (I think) Popular Electronics that had a recipe for creating solar cells at home using "3'7 Dimethylpentadecon-2-ol propionate". At the time, I was 13 and spent quite a bit of time bothering my science teaching trying figure out what 3'7 Dimethylpentadecon-2-ol propionate was and how to get some. Years later, I happened to look at the May issue and it turns out it was an April Fools' joke. Even at that time, I did laugh out loud. Anyway, if you want to see a description, check out Don Lancaster's "The worst of Marcia Swampfelder"

In addition, Marcia does have some suggestions about car stereo speaker orientation that are useful for winter driving :-^

Comment: What helps acceptance of Academic Software? (Score 1) 314

by cxbrx (#37530878) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Successful Software From Academia?
A somewhat different question is: What helps acceptance of Academic Software. Off the top of my head:
  • An open source license
  • High quality, readable code
  • An active community
  • Test cases and nightly builds
  • Regular releases
  • A faculty member who is a programmer, or at least was a programmer.

There are many other factors, does anyone have favorites? Note that not all academic software is destined to be used outside of academia or to even survive past the end of the semester. That's ok.

Comment: Software as a form of publication. (Score 4, Interesting) 101

by cxbrx (#36160622) Attached to: 10,000 Commits To an Open-source Project
I have 30874 on the Ptolemy II repository, see Hauke Fuhrmann put up Codeswarm videos of the software evolution of the Ptolemy II project. See Chaotic, Less Chaotic. The number of commits is a poor measure though. I tend to make lots of small commits while cleaning code. A student doing a Ph.D., may make many fewer commits, but their commits have greater impact in the form of support for their Ph.D. We see software as a form of publication, see Software Practice in the Ptolemy Project.

Comment: Re:and this story isnt a lure for the bad guys (Score 1) 88

by cxbrx (#35190180) Attached to: Sandia Helps Secure Kazakh Nuclear Material
Sandia says "along a journey by train across Kazakhstan to Kurchatov; while it was at another interim storage pad there; and along a truck route to a long-term concrete storage pad in northeast Kazakhstan." Wiki says "In its heyday Kurchatov (which was known by its postal code Semipalatinsk-16) was a closed city, one of the most secretive and restricted places in the Soviet Union."

Comment: Re:and this story isnt a lure for the bad guys (Score 1) 88

by cxbrx (#35190148) Attached to: Sandia Helps Secure Kazakh Nuclear Material
In a few months, when new satellite data is uploaded to your favorite map site, these should be fun to find. says "transport nuclear materials 1,860 miles by train across the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan". has two maps of railways in Kazahkstan. The Sandia site also has pictures.

Comment: Re:A Better Question: (Score 2) 214

by cxbrx (#34757512) Attached to: 45 Years Later, Does Moore's Law Still Hold True?
Agreed. When watching a presentation, I have a corollary to Moore's Law, where if a slide mentions Moore's Law and has "the graph", then it is ok to ignore that slide and the following two slides because no new information will be transmitted. It is like a nicer (and temporary) version of Godwin's Law.

Comment: I made this while you were playing FarmVille (Score 3, Interesting) 220

by cxbrx (#32723734) Attached to: Mozilla Updates Firefox To Appease <em>FarmVille</em> Users
I saw this great art car once, it had an immense amount of detail and was huge. There was not much clear space on it except in an area about 6"x8" that had a sign in the middle that said, "I made this while you were watching TV." I've been thinking of updating the saying to "I made this while you were $^&*ing with FarmVille". FWIW, I built a Snail art car instead of watching TV of frobbing with Farmville. Now, if I could only get away from Slashdot . . .

See also this Good Samaritan Cartoon:
Guy in street, prone man at his feet:
"Oh, Great, as if I have the time or inclination to help a dying homeless man"
Same guy in front of computer:
" What's this?!! Sally needs a bag of fertilizer for her FarmVille Farm? I better get right on it."

Comment: Re:Textbook Publishers (Score 2, Insightful) 208

by cxbrx (#32569814) Attached to: E-Reserves Under Fire From Publishers
From TFA:

"Indeed, to the uninitiated, scholarly publishing is a curious enterprise. Simplified, it works something like this: universities or the government subsidize a professor's research. The professor, who is required to publish frequently for professional advancement, gives his research to a scholarly publisher, usually for little or no money. That publisher, who adds value through editing, peer review, and production, assumes the copyright, packages, and sells the research back to the university at a markup. And those mark-ups have proven significant over time, especially as the digital age has fostered an explosion of new databases and resources."

In my department (Electrical Engineering), new faculty are offered a support package to get started and then the faculty go out and get funding. At least 51% of the funding they find is paid to the University as overhead. It is difficult for faculty who don't have external funding to attract grad students or pay for computers. The funding comes from the Government, but much of it comes from corporations.

In my experience, publishers no longer do any editing. I had an expensive text book on "Quality" and the author misquoted John Kennedy. How could this get by an editor? Authors submit camera ready text to academic publishers.

In my experience, peer review is managed by an unpaid faculty member who distributes material to other unpaid faculty members who distribute the material to unpaid students who do the review and pass the review back up the chain. This is actually very good because it gets students to review the work of others.

The reality is that academic publishing is a dead-end. Journals are in trouble. Conference proceedings and self-publishing of text books are on the rise. Recently, he only thing that I've heard faculty say that publishers provide is that publishers sometimes show up at conferences with a table of books which faculty browse. This seems like a weak basis for a business.

Reading the TFA, it seems like the publishers should just settle. Georgia changed their ways.

Stellar rays prove fibbing never pays. Embezzlement is another matter.