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Comment: Re:Can someone explain to me (Score 4, Insightful) 123

by Artifakt (#47873533) Attached to: SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

"There is no purpose to manned spaceflight. The scientific return comes from unmanned spaceflight."

You are currently modded +4 Insightful for having claimed, essentially, that the HST repair and upgrade missions could have all been done by unmanned systems. I have points, I could have modded you as you deserve. I could just ask for a citation - you're making an extraordinary claim there and you really do deserve to have to back it up or retract it. Instead, I'm taking a couple of months vacation from Slashdot - there's too many like you around - the signal to noise ratio keeps dropping towards an absolute zero, and I join all the 3 digit old farts in saying "This site just ain't what it used to be!" .

Comment: Re:HALO (Score 3, Informative) 368

by Artifakt (#47868581) Attached to: Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

Halo was really based in the same universe (or a very similar one) as an earlier series of games usually called the Marathon trilogy. These were Bungie's first big hits, and had two major properties that make them remembered fondly.

1. They were like Doom (2 1/2 D shooters), but with great plots and characterization for their time. (And most of this keenness was something more players saw there for the first time, often before Doom came out, or at least caught on, because Apples were around more then- see point 2). Bungie may have been first with some features, was definitely first to get them right with others, and it took some time for Id games to even be taken seriously. Think of the story everybody wanted for Mass Effect 3, and mostly felt disappointed in. For most gamers who started the series, Marathon 3 was like everything more modern players hoped Mass Effect 3 would be. Plus, many players felt they got a lot of other things right, like squad level control, vehicle movement, microphone talk in multiplayer, weapons/ammo ratios (and not being able to carry 10 or so weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo all at once), being able to design your own levels, and the whole blend of Single Player/Multiplayer/Deathmatch modes.
2. They ran on Apples, and were so big there that many people actually complained about how there was notihng in gaming for the PC as good as for the Apple. (There were other games, such as Myst and Armor Alley contributing to this effect too, I'm not saying it was all Marathon, but Myst and Bungie doing ports to Microsoft shifted the whole gaming scene away from Apple over just a couple of years).

Halo was supposed to be the updated version of those, going to a fully 3D engine, and it delivered an really exciting story with a giant ring around a planet, a weapon that could destroy whole worlds, and A.I. systems that would burn themselves out in 3 years or so just through being so ubersmart (and you had to hope the one you were relying on got you through the next scenario before it popped). And for the first time, there was a version for the X-Box and you didn't ahve to have an Apple Mac!

Comment: Re:Were the latex paint people jealous (Score 2) 173

by Artifakt (#47850049) Attached to: Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

Tetraethyl Lead was used in automotive fuel from the 1920s through much of the 70s, and is still used in some aviation fuel. There appears to be illegal manufacture and use of the substance ongoing in the PRC. The amounts involved as a fuel antiknock ingredient exceed Lead's use in mold control and paint, and should be considered the primary source for increased Lead in the environment..

Comment: Re:Broken light bulbs. (Score 2) 173

by Artifakt (#47850007) Attached to: Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

And you were present to see this but didn't call an ambulance?
There are some forms of heavy metal exposure that produce such symptoms and have near instantanious onsets. One account of such concerns a french soldier who poured and drank about 250 ml of wine passed through a 155 mm artillery piece barrel as part of a unit induction ceremony, and picked up a substantial Tungsten exposure. He had immediate onset of symptoms including seizures and rapid unconsiousness. All the symptoms mentioned by the parent poster are recognized for acute inhalation exposure to Mercury, but I'm running into paywalls trying to find out just how rapid their onset can be. Still the AC who generalized that heavy metal poisoning does not work that way is simply wrong, and is probably not picking up on the differences between gradual and rapid exposure, or inhalation vs ingestion, or both.

And about your sig: You'll take your insight where you find it, like everybody else. and you'll like it!

Comment: Re: tldr; why is blood the perpetrator's? (Score 5, Interesting) 135

by Artifakt (#47848429) Attached to: New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper

It's the previous DNA analysis that was based on just mitochondrial DNA - This one isn't. It's based on what is allegedly a new improvement in DNA testing, but it involves testing conventional nuclear DNA. Also, given the rest of Kosminski's history, if he was, say, merely a pimp who was wounded at the same time as the death of one of his prostitutes, his subsequent behavior was rather unlikely, to say the least. He was suspected of being Jack while he still lived. I don't know about you, but if the police were looking into the possibility I was Jack the Ripper, and the real Jack had tried to kill me, then proving my own innocence by giving them information that might lead to the real killer looks a lot more rational than shutting up about it. It's pretty much killing two birds with one stone at that point. (As opposed to Jack's method of killing birds, I guess). There are people pointing to K's mental illness history, and how he might not be particulalry rational, but there's a big difference between saying someone is mentally ill, and saying, they were mentally ill, and it was definitely in a way that would make them not do what most people would do here, but definiitely also not in a way that would make them commit murder either.
        People taking the other side have to either beleive this new evidence isn't a real improvement in genetic testing and that claim is essentially false (which is fine by me if they do - time will settle whether it is or isn't), or they have to make some pretty bizarre and often self contradictory claims about the few other items of evidence we have, such as claiming Kosminski was a real bad apple who the police wanted enough for very serious crimes (just what, they never wrote down), that he couldn't have whitewashed his own reputation even by giving them Jack, or that Kosminski had some major underworld contacts who would have paniced if he had gone to the police (but these contacts couldn't take care of the Ripper if Kosminski went to them instead). ,
    Other such evidence that has to be tweaked is there are some good sketches of the crime scenes, and for this one Jack had to, for example, fight Kosminski only in places where it was too dark to see his face, then kill the prostitute and move her body indoors past some well lighted areas without K hanging around to see who the real Jack was, and do it all quickly enough that the real Jack could get out of there before K could have returned with the police. (Or somehow, the real Jack had to know K was not the type to return with police, or something else both odd and very much not in evidence.).
            There's also the claim which has been around for decades, that the word Jewes in the grafitti scrawled at one crime scene has to refer to some Masonic ritual and not be a misspellling of Jews, and other such things which have always been oddish speculations, but had better be taken as basic assumptions to make it less likely that K did it - people who seriously want to claim there's no other evidence than this 'questionable' DNA test to link Kosminski will just about have to buy into one or another of these oddish assumptions like the "It had to be a Mason" bit, as well. People willing to go down such roads usually end up "proving' that jack was Queen Victoria, or the Loch Ness Monster, or other such candidates.

Comment: Re:But is it reaslistic? (Score 1) 369

by Artifakt (#47844495) Attached to: Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

I considered asking the original poster if he took Physics for Non-Scientists. The simplest design that would theoretically work involves U-235 in a gun type configuration, an evacuated metal tube at least five stories tall, and no high explosives needed. But I tend to agree with OP in part, such a device isn't really very useful. I grew up in Oak Ridge, TN. We'd find physics packages when they fell off the trucks, but they always had that sticker saying "Atomic bomb, handle with caution - put in any mailbox and the government will pay the return postage", so we never kept them. However, not being able to put them back together right resulted in a lot of teasing, so we all learned pretty quickly. That was a few years before everyone moved back above ground, when the strobe-gophers really got loose and started burrowing through the lead walls and blinking those eyes at us, but for a while there, they were just making the roads bumpy. It might have been the year the giant slime mold ate all the paint off of everyones's cars that the government started telling us kids to stay off the reservation ...

Warning: at least one of the things I've said above is actually true. Sorry if anyone loses sleep over this, but that fact's been out of the bag since the 1950s, when people worked the math out in the letters column of Astounding Science Fiction. U-235 has a broad enough prompt criticality window someone could theoretically get a yield of about 10 Kt by just letting gravity draw the two pieces of a gun type device together.

Comment: Re:It is realistic... (Score 1) 369

by Artifakt (#47844313) Attached to: Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

Given how the US reacted to about 3,000 deaths at the WTC, I would confidently expect any bio-weapon attact killing a million or so US citizens (directly, or as a consequence of wrecking our transportation system and economy) would result in the use of thermonuclear devices jacketed in Cobalt to to create an area denial effect (that is, not even radiation resistant bacteria would be able to survive in the designated area for the next 100 years or so.). (It was actual US doctrine at the time I mustered out (middle of the Clinton years) that we did not have offensive biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction, and so the use of WMD level biologicals against the US would ALWAYS be met with a nuclear reponse, and that hasn't really changed under Clinton or Bush 43 or Obama).
          Assuming an Islamic source, probably that "designated area" would be much or even all of what we currently call Southwest Asia. A little panic, and the US congress would pass a resolution claiming that human decency required spitting all surviving infants in the region on bayonets to send the sub-human monstrous larvae straight to Satan their maker. Remember, Pearl Harbor was enough to make the US demand unconditional surrender and place many ethnic Japanese/American is internment camps, and for a US admiral to promise to make Japanese a language only spoken in Hell.
          If we actually acted better than that, any biological attack sufficent to leave millions starving to death in the US would probably involve literally a hundred times that many people in tropical and sub tropical nations around the globe, and India and China are both thermonuclear powers. Maybe Russia would take a much smaller number of casualties, especially if the attack occured after cold weather set in, but who would bet Putin would say "Ehh, we only lost half a million, let's be calm about this". So if the US didn't, the chances are damned good at least one of the others would. (And all the nations that were about to starve if the US and other Nuclear Powers couldn't even distribute food to themselves would be voting FOR such options in the UN, plus a lot of them would take 50% casualties from a Biological strong enough to disrupt us like that).

Comment: Re:My formal history classes were boring (Score 1) 363

by Artifakt (#47842033) Attached to: Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Right now, there's videos on You-Tube, under the heading Crash Course World History and Crash Course US History. These are little 10-15 minute pieces teaching history, and the introductory level (freshman college) course goes mostly by locations and eras, while the second level (sophomore equivalent), goes by big threads running through history, like societies energy needs or the effects of disease.
          This sounds like just 'feeling good by watching TV', but its much better than that. I've had college level history, but it didn't mention some things at all (Mansa Musa and the Malian empire for one). If nothing else, this series refreshed what I had already learned and showed me how much world history in the time I was in college was about nothing but Dead White European Males (yes I'm an old fart - but what's being taught now really is more balanced and complete).
          30 seconds into the Renaissance episode, narrator John Green brings up just how many years apart some historical figures we group into that era are, how essentially some of them's great, great grandchildren had died before others were even born, and whether we should even count all those events as one related thing, and it motivated me to go back over when various Italian artists did their work, who was whos student and so on - I'd bet that most people who go a full semester just about the renaissance couldn't tell you that much about which artists influenced or trained which, and a lot of them couldn't tell you if Michaelangelo's David was carved before or after Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, and if the second artist saw the first one's work and could have been influenced by it or not.
          That same episode kept referencing Ninja Turtles for some reason. Now if that makes you lose respect for the whole thing, that's your choice, but this series does a great job of linking the 'dry', dates and names and wars sort of history to big ideas and the real reasons why it benefits the student to understand history. Is it comprehensive - No! (like I said it's 10 to 15 minutes long, of course it's doesn't have that much depth.) . But if you showed this to a young person about to take his or her first college world history or US history course, they will probably be more turned on to learning history in more depth, and then it's just up to that course to not turn them off. And I guarantee you, they will ask smarter questions .If you show this to a high school freshman you will have a kid who enters highschool already at the level most of the high school courses aim for. In fact, if I had a kid who needed help to write a thousand words on, say, the Mongols, the first thing I would do is cue up that episode of this 'silly' You-Tube video.

Comment: Re: So long as it is consential (Score 1) 363

by Artifakt (#47841771) Attached to: Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Except no major political group actually acts on what you said (and I'm counting the Libertarian left in' major' there). Why fuss about the size of government if that argument leads to cutting only the parts of government that can't directly come and shoot you? Why is so much of the movement for smaller government focused on cutting the EPA, which can't come and shoot you, or the NEA, which can't come and shoot you, or NASA, which can't come and shoot you, and not on military and homeland security related agencies which can? Why are many conservatives terribly worried about the National Education Association taking their homeschooled kids away, but not noticing that the NEA has no guns, and has to get some judge and some other agency to cooperate if it wants to shoot you, but if some guy from a homeland security related agency wants to mess with you as much as that NEA person did, they don't have to get any outside help to leave your widow filing on your behalf? Why did Ron Paul want to cut the entire department of Energy, but stop advocating that when he found out that DOE has police like powers and numerous weapons systems to protect the US nuclear arsenal when it's on US soil, and start focusing on only the energy research part?

      To sum it up, why do people who advance your argument then damned near universally turn around and advocate reining in big government by first eliminating a department that has no weapons and no police or military like powers?

Comment: Re:Nice (Score 4, Interesting) 105

by Artifakt (#47839373) Attached to: Obama Administration Seeks $58M To Put (Partly) Toward Fighting Ebola

Fast mutation does not equal fast evolution. RNA based viruses mutate a lot faster than DNA based organisms because single helix RNA has less error correction than DNA. Single celled organisns mutate more than multicelled organisms that can protect their reproductive cells inside their outher layers, cells with nuclei have lower mutation rates than un-nucleated cells, and there are several other changes in organisms that reduce the mutation rate further which I won't bother to go into. But that doesn't translate to the organisms evolving faster. Any organism that survives to reproduce is pretty close to being a perfect fit for its environment. That's why evolution isn't about big, sudden jumps, A big change positions an organism so that it is much farther from perfectly adapted, and only a small change has any chance of positioning the organism closer to perfectly adapted for its local conditions, without overshooting. Viruses are so simple that just about any change is a big change. If, just for the sake of argument, we say that only 1 in 100 mutations in an 'advanced' organism (i.e. flounder, oak trees or us) is an improvement, then only 1 in 100,000 or 1 in a Million or an even lower ratio of changes is similarly beneficial to a virus.
        Imagine a giraffe, that is within a couple of inches of being the perfect height to reach the highest branches it needs to eat from. Figure that if a single mutation made a difference of 12 feet to that giraffe's height, the mutants would all have tremendous problems with pumping blood up to their brains, and be very unsuccessful. but a girraffe may have 20 different genes that each affect height in a small way, so a mutation can occur that gets that giraffe's descendents those couple of inches that actually count as an improvement, without overshooting wildly. A virus, on the other hand, may have one short gene for making a simple repeating structure that tiles to make its whole outer shell, and any change makes a structure that won't tile at all. The virus can mutate a lot, but every single time it gets any possible mutation on that gene, it dies without reproducing at all. Huge amounts of mutation are possible ,where maybe 20% of each generation dies of that one mutation before final assembly, but no evolution happens at all.

I do like the idea of people choosing to donate for various projects, if they can be confident the government won't transfer the donations to other areas. I think even a system where people have to pay a given amount of taxes, but get to decide how much they want to go to what government projects would be an improvement.

Comment: Re:Learn something new every day... (Score 2) 141

by Artifakt (#47770881) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

A theory is something that has strong supporting evidence, and if you agree with Popper and Kuhn and various" Historians or Philosophers of Science", something that skilled people have tried to come up with alternatives, tested them, and the theory has survived where they didn't. Ideas that have been proposed, and maybe have a little supporting evidence, but are considered not tested enough, and not studied rigorously to see if they can be falsified, or if some other idea better fits Occam's razor, are called hypothesi (or often just interesting ideas until they get at least a little support). Yes, just who qualifies as skilled, which idea is actually simpler by the razor, how much testing is enough, and 'how much better at predicting what than the competing ideas are' are all somewhat subjective, and individual scientists are not exceptionally flawless at making those judgement calls. But that's true of just about everything. Science works because the method tends to correct for those subjective aspects, not make them more powerful as in so many other areas of human activity.

By this era, the theory that the sun was powered by Fusion of Hydrogen into Helium had a lot of evidence supporting it, such as the abundance of various elements in it and other stars, as determined spectrally. Try a web search for Hans Bethe if you want to know about the first evidence that helped raise this hypothesis to the status of theory, in 1930, although he didn't get the Nobel for his work until 1967. It's interesting to me that people are debating just what counts as a theory, and for this particular case, there's an exact date when a particular paper was published, and widespread agreement that this date and event is when the hypothesis got enough support to start calling it a theory. This is additional evidence that adds more support, and by the Philosophers of Science, ought to mean anyone who thinks they have a better idea will have to gather even more evidence and work even harder if they want their alternative to be taken seriously.

So... did you ever wonder, do garbagemen take showers before they go to work?