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Comment Re:This is not in the least surprising (Score 1) 105

There've been lots of studies finding "psychological differences between the sexes". But when you look into them the statistical correlations are usually terribly weak, barely above statistical significance. And you have to question how much you can trust them anyway. Remember that metastudy that showed that half of all psychological studies can't be reproduced? I downloaded their study data. Every topic related to gender differences was in the "couldn't be reproduced" category. Now, of course that's a tiny fraction of all research that they attempted to reproduce. There surely are psychological differences, even ones that aren't pure upbringing/society related. But its important not to overplay the amount or degree of them.

Comment Re:Fundamentally Flawed (Score 1) 84

Your whole extended statement fell apart with the title.

"NSL = for things that DO NOT require a warrant"

Actually, warrants are the mechanism by which a free society achieves balance between personal and collective rights. Absent that...

Nope. Not everything government does requires a warrant. That is an undeniable fact. The case law which says metadata, for example, affirmatively does not require a warrant, has no expectation of privacy, and is not covered by the Fourth Amendment, is over 35 years old.

It got even weaker when you stated that "NSLs DO have massive amounts of LEGAL oversight..." States facts not in evidence. What, exactly, are these "massive" oversight mechanisms?


"Hey, can you help us out..." is laughable because you characterize this as a friendly understanding between actors who know each other. In fact an NSL is 100% coercive, cannot be challenged, and it's secrecy is the ultimate weapon. An NSL compels the recipient to do as demanded and never tell anyone else. The NSL itself could be illegal but the recipient cannot even inform a lawyer, as that would violate the secrecy provisions. Oh, but do tell us about the "massive" oversight.

But NSLs -- which are nothing more than a letter -- are not illegal. That's the point. In fact, the only thing found unconstitutional about NSLs were the extent and length of the gag orders accompanying them.

By your logic, any law enforcement or government entity should NEVER be able to approach a business about anything and ask for help. It should ALWAYS require a court order, no matter the information requested. That's how you might think it should work, but that is not compatible with reality.

When you state "...if a NSL is used, the person is almost certainly a foreign intelligence target under active investigation..." you put the cart before the horse. Your language is that of conclusions concerning a criminal, as found by a court of law. Except this comes before a court of law has had any chance to hear a case. This is lazy argumentation to support a flawed process.

No, you are putting the cart before the horse by implying that a warrant is required for information or persons who fundamentally DO NOT require a warrant. What you are essentially saying is that a warrant-like approval process needs to happen for any sort of action or information request government takes or makes, ever, to ensure that the government isn't "lying" about it not needing a warrant...which defeats the whole purpose, and timeliness, of not needing a warrant.

Finally, you mention FISA. This joke of a process has a 97% warrant approval rate. Standard court warrants have about a 60% approval rate. Literally nothing else needs be said about how weak the FISA process is; statistically, this approval rate cannot be explained or justified. Except, by repeating what the FISA court really is: A one-sided process meant to produce a Yes answer, with no right of reply or rebuttal. Retroactive FISA warrants are further evidence of the corrupt/flawed/lazy thinking that produced FISA in the first place.

This comment truly shows your ignorance, because you have no idea how FISA works. At all. The IC does not approach FISA with requests that will probably get denied, because it is a massive waste of time and resources for the literal armies of lawyers who submit FISA requests -- for FOREIGN intelligence collection -- on behalf of IC agencies. Law enforcement agencies, however, do this all the time because they have no other choice but to try. So your assumption that just because the approval rate is high is because it's a "rubber stamp" and really doesn't care about what it's approving is false.

Of course, you have already made up your mind and use a lot of specious and absolutely false logic to arrive at your conclusions, so this conversation is moot.

Comment Re:Don't hold your breath (Score 1) 212

That's part of the problem. Generally when one takes a complex system and focuses in a narrow-minded approach toward optimizing just one aspect they end up blowing it on other aspects. For example, an equally well reasoned but precisely opposite argument to OTRAG is Big Dumb Booster concept, where rather than trying to mass-produce many small rockets, you make singular giant rockets because when you compare the economies of giant rockets to those of small rockets, the giant rockets usually win.

OTRAG has some good concepts, but again I think they went too far. Not only are they pushing their propellant costs way up - which to be fair, is by design, accepting the fact that propellant is only a very small fraction of total costs - but they're also pushing up every last part of the handling costs, which unfortunately is not so small of a fraction of the total costs. And they're incurring a lot of size-related costs - load capacity of the pad and tower, environmental impacts on the surrounding area, etc - without gaining the typical size-related economies of scale, as OTRAG's extreme size only yields proportionally small payloads. It has almost no potential to optimize costs further, as they're willfully making propellant a significant fraction of total costs and the design basically throws away any potential for economic reuse. And with numerous heavy steel stages and the first stages having to separate at low altitude due to the low performance, it's basically a bomber ;) And with all of those stages clustered together they're really putting themselves at risk for cascading failures - stage separations are one of the riskiest parts of rocketry as-is, and cluster elements can interact in unexpected ways even when you only have a few of them.

So no, I'm not a big OTRAG fan, I think the design goes too far. I think SpaceX hit the right balancing point in this regard - enough of a degree of mass production to keep production streamlined (dozens of tanks and hundreds of engines per year), but not so much that you have to have huge numbers of stages and crazy-low performance (aka crazy-huge mass). They did this sort of balancing act in a lot of regards. For example, in rocketry there's often been a conflict between structural tanks (which can bear all of the loads during launch) and balloon tanks (which rely on internal pressure not to collapse). Balloon tanks have much better performance (meaning that they save you a lot of mass and thrust requirement - aka money), but they're a pain when it comes to handling because you have to keep them pressurized at all times after construction, even during transport, and if you have to do repairs, it's expensive. SpaceX uses a sort of semi-balloon tank design - their tanks are strong enough unpressurized to hold themselves up, but not to bear the forces of launch - they require internal pressure for that. So you can transport and handle them without hassle, but they still get excellent payload fractions - to the point that that if they were to launch their first stages without upper stages or payloads on them, they'd nearly be SSTOs. And the design is of course aided by their use of aluminum-lithium alloy - which normally is expensive to work in a reliable manner (it doesn't take well to being melted), but the friction stir seam welding system they use is really near ideally suited for it.

Just like in life, rocketry is about balance. OTRAG is more Kerbal-ish ;)

Comment NSL = for things that DO NOT require a warrant (Score 1, Troll) 84

Note what this (or any) NSL does not request, for good or ill given the explosion in digital communications since Smith v Maryland in 1979 and subsequent case law (which effectively says that metadata, as "business records" provided to a third party, do not have an expectation of privacy and are not covered by the Fourth Amendment): CONTENT of communications.

Note what is also missing here: the target. People assume it's an innocent US Person. The fact is, if a NSL is used, the person is almost certainly a foreign intelligence target under active investigation, and the reason why requests are "dropped" is because IF a NSL was used in the first place, we don't want to reveal any further sources, methods, or what we know.

Unless and until the Supreme Court of the United States speaks on this matter again -- and it very well may, and it very well may rule differently given how the communications landscape has changed in 35+ years -- that is the law of the land. Not peoples' opinions, not tech commentator know-it-alls, not self-proclaimed security experts.

If something doesn't legally require a warrant, it amounts to a formal request. I'm not saying it's always perfect execution, but the whole purpose of a NSL is so that it runs through its own legal process -- which, again, is for information that does NOT require a warrant. I know people think it has no oversight, but either something requires judicial oversight, or it doesn't. And NSLs DO have massive amounts of LEGAL oversight, just not a warrant signed by a judge -- repeating myself here -- because one isn't required for information sought by a NSL.

And like information that we seek under Intelligence Community authorities, we don't want the target of the collection or surveillance knowing we are targeting them, or where, or how. Yeah, it sucks, and it's imperfect, and all that, but even in a democratic society, you can't just say every single national security or intelligence issue has to be in the open. That's not how even democratic societies work, or can work, or should work, when it comes to national security matters. Some things tilt too far in one direction based on national events, or politics, etc. Then they tilt back. It's never fast enough for proponents or critics.

The main issue is that people say that something like a NSL is "bad" because it doesn't have judicial oversight in the form of a warrant. If the information sought doesn't legally require a warrant, I don't know what to tell them. Then when we do actual court orders and warrants when required for foreign intelligence collection, issued by the very court whose sole purpose is to protect the rights of Americans under the law and Constitution in the context of foreign intelligence collection, they complain because the evidence is heard and rulings are issued in secret.

A NSL at its core is nothing more than a formal process and notification, with a lot of other legal considerations surrounding it, that is the equivalent of someone saying, "Hey, can you help us out...and oh, by the way, here's a bunch of other legal crap which justifies this. And don't tell anyone, because this is a national security issue." I understand why people make an issue of it, because they'll say, ok, even if it's used for all "bad guys" it still "could be abused". Uh, and? Any government power at all "can be abused". Secret ones "can be abused" in secret.

And yet, the government still has to have powers, and some of them on the national security and intelligence side are necessarily cloaked in secrecy. And in the conduct of war, diplomacy, law enforcement, and counterterrorism as the United States, with our myriad interests at home and abroad, we do all of these things for a reason. No, it's never perfect, and it never will be. People act surprised when the use of something like NSLs skyrockets since the late 90s...well, guess what else skyrocketed since the late 90s? The goddamned internet, which we invented, and our enemies are literally using it against us. No, not bullshit like tweets and Facebook pages; adversaries using the internet for no-shit coordination, collaboration, and C2. AND intentionally using US systems and services because they know that it's a legal rat's nest for us to get to them there, even if they're non-US Persons outside the US.

So anyway, yeah, it sucks, but the general attitude most people in the national security and intelligence communities are operating under is we had better be using the full extent of the capabilities afforded to us under the law, and we don't make the law.

The other issue, speaking broadly, is that sometimes the target itself is not subject to Constitutional protections at all, because the target is a non-US Person outside the US, and it is absurd to argue that if said target's communications touches the US in any way, suddenly it should be subject to Constitutional and warrant protections, because warrantless efforts to obtain it otherwise "could be abused".

SCOTUS can either speak to it, or Congress can pass a law. My own PERSONAL opinion, in a vacuum, and absent everything else I know, is that metadata should be protected -- because of 1.) the explosion in digital communication and the internet in the ensuing decades, combined with 2.) government's ability to exploit large amounts of collected data because of advancements in technology.

I would point out that even though portions of the statute with regard to NSLs have been found unconstitutional, it has only been about the gag order and length of time, not the use of a NSL, which is essentially a formal letter.

The issue of who the Constitution protects and where has many different arguments, but in a traditional law enforcement/intelligence/national security context, generally we see it as protecting either 1.) US Persons (be they citizens, permanent residents, lawful visitors, groups of the above, etc.) or 2.) people IN the US, no matter who they are.

The FISA Amendments Act shifted this a bit due to the reality that over 70% of international internet traffic touches the US somehow, by design or incidentally, and we had an absurd situation where both ends of a conversation would be AQAP members outside the US, who are not US citizens, and have never been in the US, who we suddenly can't collect on, even with capabilities outside the US, because one of them is using Hotmail.

If Constitutional protections applied to everyone, everywhere, my view is that the concept of borders and nation-states is meaningless, and it also destroys foreign intelligence collection -- and I mean Destroys. That said, we can certainly argue that we want to follow Constitutional *principles*, and aside from things people want to cherry pick that they don't like, I would say that, generally speaking, we do that.

Comment Re:Refugees? Not so much. (Score 1) 238

RCP8,5 is 0,53-0,98m by 2100... which is only about 84 years from now. With the rise at 2100 predicted at around 0,9-1,8cm/yr over the 2100-2116 period (minus the current 0,32-0,36mm/yr) the total would be something like 0,62m-1,21m (2' to 4') - basically, a typical person sitting, kneeling, or similar. The amount of rise however does vary to some degree based on location, and some isolated areas (like Baffin Bay) are even expected to get a drop (about 5% of the worlds' oceans). The northeastern US and northeastern Canada are projected to get a particularly large rise, so a statue there could be in a more upright position or built to a larger scale - the waters off of New York are projected to rise a median value of 0,3 meters in just the 2081-2100 period alone. New York's 2100 RCP8,5 range is about 0,5 to 1,2m - adjusting to 2116 would put it at 0,6-1,5m (on top of the pedestal of course, which would be about 1,3 meters tall).

RCP8,5 is of course the "business as usual" line... which has been the best bet thusfar. The "if we make huge efforts" RCP2,6 prediction is about half of the RCP8,5 predictions. There could be some other object on each statue to denote the RCP2,6 line.

Comment Re:Refugees? Not so much. (Score 2) 238

Huh? It says right in the summary: "Moody's family eventually moved to Springdale to live with him and work for Tyson and other poultry companies based in Arkansas". Is "working for Tyson" slang for "running from climate change" that I've never heard of?

Too bad I'm not a sculptor, I'd love to launch a climate change-related kickstarter which both sides could get behind. I'd offer to - if I could raise the expenses - make life-sized bronze statues of the world's most prominent climate-change deniers and install them on popular beaches around the world where permission could be gotten. Each statue would be on a pedestal on which is engraved one of their more prominent quotes denying climate change. The proportions of the statues would be such that at low tide the base of the pedestal is at sea height, while at high tide the top of the pedestal is at sea height, and the total height of the person matches up to the projected sea level rise over the next century.

Hence, if those denying climate change are right, a century forth they're left with a statue on their beach mocking all of the Chicken Littles. If those arguing that it's real are correct, they get to gloat as they watch the statue sink a bit further beneath the waves every year for the rest of their lives and a cautionary dive site for future generations.

Comment Re:Geothermal (Score 1) 202

Here in Iceland some people are against it because of the need to build roads / powerlines out into wilderness areas (and subsequent roads/pipes to each well from the central plant), and because of the wastewater ponds. And some complain about the increased H2S emissions in the area

Personally I think that's taking things way too far. Of course there need to be regulations and environmental controls, but you really don't get much more low environmental impact per MW than geo. And there's lots more pollution controls that can be put on them if so desired than we actually impose on them, it's not like clean coal where the technologies are basically economically prohibative.

Comment Re:Geothermal (Score 1) 202

150mW (milli, not mega) per m2 at most,

Which is why geothermal isn't harvested by laying a blanket across the whole planet.

150mW * 510000000000000 square meters is 67TW, four times higher than global energy consumption.

  But gee, if only there was some sort of way to harvest geothermal other than laying a blanket across the whole planet. Something like, say, if heat would collect somewhere over long periods of time. Like, throughout the entire thickness of the many-kilometers-thick crust and so on down all the way to the center of the planet. You know, that would be so awesome if there were unfathomably vast amounts of heat trapped in the rock that makes up the Earth that has accumulated over time, and if instead of laying blankets, we could just drill into it and take the heat out of the rock in the form of steam, with each area you drill lasting for decades or even longer. Wouldn't that be great?

Too bad that's not possible....

Comment Re:Geothermal (Score 1) 202

Drilling a ton of extra holes in the planet's crust and venting our core heat all into the upper atmosphere at a massively increased rate

This is where a facepalm unicode character would be handy (not even going to *touch* the "volcano capping" thing).

Earth's temperature is what it is due to an equilibrium between inputs (primarily the sun) and outputs (primarily radiation to space). Heat radiates from the air very quickly, as you may have noticed by how cold it gets on a clear winter night vs. when it's cloudy. Heat does not "stick around". In fact, the higher the temperature, the faster it radiates, and not by a small margin - the rate of radiative heat loss is proportional to the temperature in kelvins to the *fourth* power.

The planet cannot warm because you "add in excess heat", of a magnitude not even the slightest bit comparable to the sun. It warms if you change the surface radiative balance, based on how well sunlight penetrates to the surface vs. how well heat radiates away. Sunlight enters in the visible spectrum but leaves in the IR spectrum, so a change in the proportion between these two figures changes the equilibrium temperature (that is, it rises up to the point where the increased radiation rate due to the higher temperature compensates for the lesser ability for IR to penetrate the atmosphere without absorption/re-radiation. The most powerful of gases in our atmosphere at accomplishing this is water vapor; however, water vapor has a short atmospheric residence time (it's constantly entering and leaving, with an average residence of only a couple weeks), so it's nothing more than feedback and fluctation around whatever other factors are driving the system. The two most significant gases that have relevant residence times are methane and CO2; both cycle, but methane cycles over a couple decades and CO2 over a couple hundred years. It's a bit more complicated than that - for example, an individual CO2 molecule on average will be absorbed or emitted every couple years. But in terms of the ability to be absorbed in a way that doesn't correspond to a corresponding short-term release - aka, sequestration - is a much longer timeperiod on average (and it varies depending on the total to sequester).

Comment Re:Sputnik? (Score 1) 212

Half of Soviet missions to Venus failed anyway. They were just a lot more persistant about it ;) Really, the Soviet Union had a pretty terrible record for space exploration away from the confines of Earth - near universal disasters on their Mars program and not even an attempt to explore the outer solar system. But at least their persistence with Venus paid off - the US practically ignored our "evil twin". My favorite finding was the detection of iron during their descent through the clouds - they think it was volcanic ash, but even if it's just dust it's still neat to know that there's mineral condensation nuclei in the clouds.

Comment Re:Don't hold your breath (Score 2) 212

Also, it should be noted that mass production hits some obstacles when it comes to upper stages. You need a lot fewer engines, and higher ISP than you need for the lower stages (but not as much thrust requirement). You can do it with the same or similar ISP like SpaceX does (same engine, just vacuum optimized expansion nozzle), but that limits your scaling - it's fine to LEO/GEO but you're never going to get to Mars and back with a practical-sized rocket with those kinds of ISP figures. Which is why SpaceX's future plans hinge around in-situ methane production, so that they don't have to carry all of that return mass. It's a reasonable, although challenging, approach.

There are some possibilities mind you for getting more impulse out of their current designs. They're already taking some interest steps with the Falcon 9v1.2, aka "Full Thrust" - instead of having their LOX near its boiling point, they're supercooling it to just above its triple point and cooling the propellant to the maximum level of viscosity that their turbopumps can manage, so that they both increase in density, thus increasing both tank capacity and thrust. But while they're playing with increased viscosity propellants, they could take it to the next stage and go with mildly gelled propellants. The gelling isn't in and of itself a performance enhancer, but it lets you suspend aluminum (or if you don't mind the handling problems, lithium) particles in your fuel. Aluminum gives dozens of extra sec ISP, and lithium dozens more. Aluminum also increases propellant density, meaning more thrust and tank capacity (lithium unfortunately decreases it). While lithium metal is fairly expensive (a couple dozen dollars per kg), aluminum is cheap, about $1,50/kg.

Another nice thing (according at least to my CEA simulations with lithium) is that the latter significantly lowers chamber temperature, all other conditions (mass flow rate, expansion ratio, etc) being the same. Entering the conditions for the SSME, for example (77,5:1 expansion ratio, mass flow rate per square meter = 2223,8 kg/sec), CEA calculates (if SSME were lossless) 464,5 sec vac ISP (real world, after losses is 452 sec), 0,36g/cc propellant density, 3602,82K chamber temperature (real world 3573,15K) and exhaust of H2O (~76%) + H2 (~24%). CEA says that with a slightly different ratio you could add an extra 1,4sec ISP, but it's basically near maximum. With aluminum added to the ideal mix it calculates Al (43,9%)/LOX (39,1%)/LH2 (17,0%): 544,0 sec, 0,34g/cc, 3689,38K, -> H2 (~91%), Al2O3 (~9%). And with lithium, it calculates Li (30,0%)/LOX (34,6%)/LH2 (35,4%): 583,2 sec, 0,17g/cc, 2362,44K, -> H2 (~89%), Li2O (~11%). Now, these figures assume complete burning of the metals - which is often difficult to achieve in the real world with aluminum as its oxide has such a high melting point - but in general metalized propellants offer huge potential improvements to performance, with non-esoteric technology, and without posing serious pollution problems (like, say, using fluorine as an oxidizer does). So it'd be interesting to see what SpaceX could achieve if they could get their system to handle gelled propellants - the potential is huge.

(Note: these calculations are for adding metals to LOX/LH... but the same thing applies to hydrocarbon fuels, albeit to a slightly lesser degree)

Comment Re:Don't hold your breath (Score 1) 212

Indeed, and unfortunately, rocket technology is on the opposite side of the tech/price scaling curve. NASA has their own inflation rate used for budgeting long-term projects, and it trends much higher than the US national inflation rate. The reason is obvious when you think about it: back in the 1950s, many common commercial products were handmade, with domestic labour, but are now mass-produced with cheap overseas labor and advanced labor-saving technologies (depending on the type of product). But just like in the 1950s, NASA still builds things largely by hand, generally in small numbers, and with a highly skilled domestic workforce.

"We've got to get mass production" is often a mantra of the alt-space community, and really in large part what's kept Russian costs down. It's also what makes SpaceX competitive - not only are they set up to make lots of cores per year (last I heard it was something like 40), but they put 9 engines per core, and their upper stages are just short, single-engine versions of their lower stages. And the Falcon Heavy is, to the most part, three Falcon 9s stuck together.

One can of course take the concept too far (OTRAG, I'm looking in your general direction...), but mass production is indeed a key aspect.

Comment Re:Far more abundant than lithium? (Score 2) 196

Actually, it's just the other way around. The reserves of in-demand materials - especially those for which there was relatively little demand for previously - tend to grow, by orders of magnitude, over time. And the maximum production cost of lithium is essentially capped, because the oceans have an essentially inexhaustable supply, and it costs an estimated $20-35 per kilogram (last I checked, the figure may have gone down since then) to produce lithium salts from it. But nobody is going to be touching that in the foreseeable future because there are such vast reserves onshore - salars, hectorite clays, pegmatites, geothermal lithium, etc. Actually $7-ish/kg is rather expensive for lithium salts, the long-running price has been more like $4-5/kg. Which has led to a new rush of lithium exploration, as it was so underexplored previously. And companies are finding huge lithium deposits bloody everywhere. A lot in the US, actually.

It's simply not a rare element.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long