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Comment: Circumnavigation is another ballgame (Score 1) 56

by eric02138 (#40245423) Attached to: Solar Impulse Completes First Intercontinental Solar Flight
It's really great that someone is working on this.
However, SolarImpulse is shooting for an eventual round-the-world, non-stop flight. They're even designing a new plane:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Impulse#Planned_second_aircraft_.28HB-SIB.29

There's some major logistical challenges to go along with the technical challenges:
1) They need at least two pilots to spell each other (which means more weight)
2) The new plane would have to go faster - at 70kph, flying 40,000 km would take 24 days
3) There would need to be room for food and water (which, again would mean more weight)
4) They would need, uh, facilities (again, more weight)

I guess you could solve all of these problems by simply scaling up the plane. I think that might also break the record for longest wingspan...

Comment: Low-Hanging Fruit (Score 1) 201

by eric02138 (#40245059) Attached to: Why Do Programming Languages Succeed Or Fail?
When I was an internet noob back in 1996, I had a vague recollection of Pascal from my CS 101 days. But for what I needed to do (interactive web pages), Javascript was the only way to go. Javascript was free, I didn't need to install anything to make it work, and it worked (sorta) on the platform everyone was using (internet browsers). Plus, there was plenty of demos and open-source code to steal.

Later, when I needed to do server-side programming, I learned PHP. Why? Because LAMP was free, easy to install (by that point the "AMP" part was bundled) and it worked on the platform everyone was using (internet browsers). Plus, there was plenty of demos and code to steal.

It was only much later that I realized how ugly Javascript and PHP code could be. But at the time, code elegance wasn't even on my radar screen. I just wanted to make things work. I suspect that my experience has been mirrored many time over.

Comment: Skip Manned Aircraft (Score 1) 569

by eric02138 (#39919421) Attached to: Some USAF Pilots Refuse To Fly F-22 Raptor
In the short term, Lockheed better fix this problem, and fast. And I'm sure they will - this kind of "bug" doesn't just affect pilot confidence, it also affects investor confidence. I'll let you decide which Lockheed cares about more.

In the long term, the military has to get away from its Top Gun mindset. It's 2012 - all future combat aircraft (and possibly support aircraft as well) should be unmanned. Why?
  1. 1) Cost. A human pilot represents a multi-million dollar engineering challenge, from life support system (such as O2 flow) to aircraft survivability to ergonomics.
  2. 2) Capability. As others here have noted, modern fighter aircraft's maneuverability have long since been hamstrung by the physiological limitations of the pilot. A human pilot also represents a waste of space and weight that could be used for fuel, sensors and weapons. The lack of a cockpit also implies smaller aircraft with a thinner profile increasing "stealthiness".
  3. 3) Reduced Political Profile. The Navy has just grounded their Firescout UAVs following two crashes. But that grounding doesn't make big news, because no one died when the UAVs went down and the program has a relatively modest budget, at least compared to the F-22 and F-35.

And yet the military still doesn't have a clue - the Navy just released their proposal for a F-18 replacement that includes a "optional manned" variant. In fact, this dictates a design that meets manned requirements first, with "optional unmanned" variant to follow, in much the same way that the F-35B STOVL dictated the design (and timeline and costs) of the JSF program.

UAVs (as well as Unmanned Surface Vehicles) can and should be used to make the US military safer, more cost-effective and more capable.

Comment: Basic Problems with Flying Cars (Score 1) 249

by eric02138 (#39560353) Attached to: Flying Car Makes Successful Maiden Flight
I love the idea of having my own flying car. And PAL-V is a great technology demonstrator - they should keep at it.

That said, there's some basic safety and legal problems with flying cars that need to be addressed.

Safety: What happens when it breaks down? When your car has engine problems, you pull over and coast to a stop. In a personal aircraft you plunge to your death. Two engines seems like a solution, but expensive and bulky. And what happens when you lose a rotor blade/wing? I know that some small aircraft have parachutes that are supposed to save the entire plane, but they wouldn't have a chance to work if you're flying at 500 feet. Also, keep in mind that there's no such thing as a fender-bender at altitude, so traffic would no longer a simple aggravation. It would be a life-threatening hazard. And then there's all the distracted pilot/drivers, texting, shaving, applying makeup...

Legal: Ok, so the legal ramifications are really just an extension of automotive law, but with the caveat that the damages will be much higher, since there will be a much rate of loss of life. Flying cars crashing into each other, flying cars falling on houses/people, cleanup costs...

Maybe we should wait until we can have robots fly us there safely.

Comment: Website Update (Score 1) 2

by eric02138 (#38306480) Attached to: Police Officer Shot at Virginia Tech, Shooter Stil
Update: Both the police officer and the person in the parking lot were killed.

The VT website is under load. Here's the most recent update:
Update: Shooter's status remains unknown; visitors advised to stay away from campus
(Posted: 2:20 p.m.) Numerous reports have been made recently of sounds identified as gunshots and suspicious activity on campus. These recent reports have been investigated and are unfounded. The suspect's status remains unknown. Several law enforcement agencies are on scene to assist. Please stay where you are and secure your surroundings.

Police investigating shootings on campus; shooter's status unknown
(Posted: 1:49 p.m.) Shortly after noon today, a Virginia Tech police officer stopped a vehicle on campus during a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall

During the traffic stop. the officer was shot and killed. There were witnesses to this shooting.

Witnesses reported to police the shooter fled on foot heading toward the Cage, a parking lot near Duck Pond Drive. At that parking lot, a second person was found. That person is also deceased.

Several law enforcement agencies have responded to assist. Virginia State Police has been requested to take lead in the investigation

The status of the shooter is unknown. The campus community should continue to shelter in place and visitors should not come to campus.

From VT Alerts (1:12 p.m.): Suspect remains at large. A police officer has been shot. A potential second victim is reported at the Cage lot. Stay indoors. Secure in place.

From VT Alerts (12:47 p.m.): Suspect described as white male, gray sweat pants, gray hat w/neon green brim, maroon hoodie and backpack. On foot towards McComas. Call 911

From VT Alerts (12:37 p.m.): Gun shots reported- Coliseum Parking lot. Stay Inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.

Comment: False Assumptions (Score 1) 244

by eric02138 (#37043848) Attached to: Why The US Will Lose a Cyber War

Carr's notion of "war" is outdated. The short history of internet hacking has shown that a) national borders are close to meaningless b) a defined start and end of hostilities is difficult, if not impossible to ascertain and c) the attackers and defenders need not belong to traditional defense establishments.

What the US government should do (and they may require this already, I don't know) is create a standard that would ensure security is built into any system developed for government use. Of course, relying on existing operating systems with known vulnerabilities means that the foundation of US government security is shaky.

The whole "Wolfgang-Pauli-Karl-Jung-I-Ching-We're-too-grounded-in-a-causal-mindset" seems like a pretty specious argument for why we would lose a war. I have a feeling that Carr read a book by Nicolescu and wanted to show people how smart he is.

Comment: Re:It is a jobs program. Doesn't actually do anyth (Score 2) 457

by eric02138 (#36634330) Attached to: Time To Close the Security Theater
I agree - it is a jobs program, and therefore difficult to cut. But it's not impossible. TSA should be ordered to slowly scale back what they check for: no more shoe removal, then no more liquid limit. Gradually, perhaps we can get to a point where screenings are more like pre-9/11. With a simplified screening system, fewer agents should be needed.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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