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Comment Wary that it gives congress and excuse to defund (Score 2) 103

Launching to Earth orbit has a clear business plan. Companies with real revenue streams will pay for this service for sound business reasons. Thus, it makes sense for a private company to do this. They can make money this way and that is what all business are out to do.

Going to Mars, though, does not have a clear plan. Where is the profit? Even if you can do it for a reasonable cost, how do you make money? Thus, I'm sure many in NASA and outside, are doubtful that Musk will actually do this.

However, if Elon Musk does send humans to Mars then funding NASA to do the same thing is an expensive redundancy. If enough of Congress believes that story then there will be no funding for NASA.

If Elon Musk does not go to Mars and NASA does not go to Mars (because congress thought Elon Musk would do it) then I guess nobody goes to Mars.

That is the sort wariness I would expect from smart people working at NASA.

Comment Re:Stupid article (Score 1) 226

To be fair to the space shuttle, it went a really high number of miles between services!

Yes, but for the vast majority of those miles, the main engines are off. The engines only fire during launch. The airframe is stressed during launch and decent. All those miles racked up in the middle orbiting the Earth? They don't count much. A little bit of thrusting from the OMS. Maybe a scratch of micrometeors against the shell. Might as well be sitting in a hanger.

Comment Re:where is the link to this so called article? (Score 2) 318

Apparently, some articles now "clearly" show the story link in light green font on the dark green of the article header now (in parenthesis no less so we know it is a detail rather than the main point).

It is actually worst than that. The text is merely the host name of the site where the article comes from. There is nothing to suggest a link pointing to the article rather than the main page or an advertisement for the New York Times. So, it is really just a button whose behavior is only learned by trial and error and which may very well change in the future. That is what a lack of context gives you: no guaranty or even suggestion that future behavior will be consistent with current response.

The web, and especially this site, is based on contextual hyperlinks. Replacing them with something new that is meant to be an improvement would probably be a bad idea. Replacing contextual hyperlinks with hip minimalist design that doesn't even attempt to replicate their utility is beyond stupid. I am baffled that such a change could actually make it to the production side of a web site used by more than two people.

Comment If testing is unneceessary than what is the point? (Score 1) 67

Underground testing was never an environmental problem. Ending all testing has always been about ending the nuclear arms race.

If technology allows the existing arsenal to be tested without detonating anything then it is only a small step further for new designs to be be verified without physical testing. Then we are back on the nuclear treadmill only this time, advancement can be hidden since there are no testing that friends or foes can detect.

Comment Re:Am I the only one that... (Score 1) 67

Atmospheric tests were banned by treaty in the '60s.

And how do you plan on dealing with fallout?

Move? Fallout does not rain down immediately. It takes quite some time for particulate matter raised by a nuclear explosion to come back back to ground. All an observer needs to do to avoid fallout is not hang around long after watching the detonation. Also, an aerial detonation produces negligible fallout anyway.

That does not mean it is safe, though. If you can see the explosion than the primary X-rays and gamma rays can "see" you. I don't think there is any safe way to directly observe a nuclear explosion.

Comment Re:Why did NASA lie about it being destroyed? (Score 5, Interesting) 130

According to the article NASA knew exactly where it was, that it was not destroyed and had even come to inspect it.

"NASA knew it was still available. In my mind, they tried to play a trickery game. They wanted me to loan it to them, but I think they just wanted to get it into their possession. They offered me [perks], they offered me everything but cash," the junkyard owner said. "NASA told me when they came out to inspect it that they had looked for it for 25 years. It is the von Braun, the first and last they made. I was told it is the rarest of all the units."

So what's the deal?

I imagine it went something like this:

NASA Rep: That's GREAT! You've done your country a great service by preserving this priceless artifact. When shall we pick it up?
Junk Yard Owner: Now hold on a minute! This ain't free. I want to be paid.
NASA Rep: OK. How much do you want?
Junk Yard Owner: $BIGNUM
NASA Rep: This is a side project. We don't have that kind of budget.
Junk Yard Owner: This is a limited time offer! If you don't pay $BIGNUM by X, I will melt it down! Then what will your superiors say?
NASA Rep: My superiors barely approve of me spending time on this. I think it is important but there is no way I can get the money you ask.
Junk Yard Owner: I'm serious! I'll melt it down!
NASA Rep: Well, then I guess we're done here.

[Time X + Delta]
NASA PR: A priceless artifact of the Apollo program has been melted down.

[Time X + Delta + Y]
Junk Yard Owner: I did not melt it down. NASA just has to pay me.

Comment Re:None of this is access to space (Score 1) 44

How about getting us off this rock before we're wiped out by an asteroid?

Apart from the area directly under the splat, Earth immediately after a dino-killer asteroid strike will still be more habitable by a large margin than anywhere else in the solar system.

Or getting us off this rock before our population expands to the point where it can no longer sustain us?

This argument has more merit. The biggest threat to humans is almost certainly other humans and one sure fire way to get humans to behave badly is to cut off their resources so they end up fighting each other over what remains.

The trouble is: Earth has an awful lot of easy accessible resources. Flowing water works to separate minerals into rich veins that just don't exist elsewhere. It is hard to find resources that are available in space that can be compete with even the "difficult" and "unprofitable" sources on Earth especially when you factor in the enormous transportation costs.

Solar power and Helium 3 are about the only resources that stand a good chance and we don't actually have the tech to make use of Helium 3.

Comment Re:500MB (Score 1) 204

Like you, I have at times noticed I was using a lot more data than usual, and this was due to the wifi being turned off, just like you. I'm pretty sure that the service providers automatically do that from time to time in order to try to get more money out of you for data usage.

On my current phone I'm pretty sure the issue is a variant of "butt dialing". Settings get changed randomly as my phone bounces around in my pocket. It seems that on at least newer phones running Lollipop, the touch screen is too sensitive. It only takes a few bounces to defeat slide to unlock and then a few more to change settings. Often I find that WiFi turned off and the orientation locked to portrait.

Using an unlock pattern or a pass code will keep the settings from changing. However, I still get random emergency dialing sometimes when I hike.

I'm experimenting with Pocket Screen Lock, an app that is supposed to prevent this at the expense of some battery life.

I see this a bug. My old Gingerbread phone never had this problem.

It had another problem, though. Often, it would stop scanning for WiFi. WiFi would be enabled but it would not see any access points. Turn WiFi off and back on again and "Wow! Look at those access points!"

Comment 500MB (Score 2) 204

Because I'm cheap and I use WIFI whenever possible. I also don't see the point in trying to watch video on a tiny screen. The only time I come anywhere near my cap is when there is some kind of malfunction, like my WIFI being inexplicably turned off or an update using mobile data when it should not.

Comment Is hero worship common among engineers? (Score 2) 105

As a practicing electrical engineer, I know just six names*:

Thomas Edison
Alexander Graham Bell
Nikola Tesla
Steve Wozniak
Jay Miner
John Mashey

I don't mean to belittle Forrest Mimms or his contribution. It just never seemed important to know who did things if they were not people I was ever going to interact with.

*Yes, I'm sure I could expand this if I spent time trying to come up with names and researching who wrote certain books but this is the full list that immediately comes to mind where I know just as immediately what they all did.

Comment Re:Confounding factors? (Score 1) 278

More people walk to work in SF than anywhere I've ever been. I wander what the accident rates are per mile walked?

What? You want details and careful analysis? All they said was "among the most dangerous" and a one-off statistic to lead in their story about a pedestrian safety advertizing campaign. Neither the summer or the article specify what other cities was compared. As far we know Barcelona could be exceptionally safe and San Francisco could be the safest (by some metric) city in North America.

Comment Is Microsoft going to keep suing Google customers? (Score 1) 43

This was never about Microsoft suing Google or Google suing Microsoft. It was about Microsoft suing Android phone manufactures for patent violations. Google themselves only became involved as a way to get Microsoft to back out. Essentially: "If you sue my customers I will sue you for violating Motorola patents".

It looks like Google lost since TFA mentions nothing about Microsoft promising not to sue Android OEM's.

Quark! Quark! Beware the quantum duck!