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Comment: Re:Back to barges? (Score 1) 77

The current F9 second stage is not designed to be reusable, although there are plans to redesign it to do so. However, that will be done after the first stage reuse is regularly functioning, and they currently have nothing to show.

Dragon V2 is planned to land on, well, land. It has legs for just that reason, along with beefed-up maneuvering thrusters to serve double-duty as descent rockets.

Comment: Re:customers refusing to tolerate insecure product (Score 1) 145

by gman003 (#48433291) Attached to: Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

There is a significant difference between "giving up privacy to a company that is legally constrained in what they can do with it" and "having privacy taken from you by a government that is already ignoring its self-imposed legal limitations".

The worst Google can do with my data is serve me bad ads or publicly release it. I'm not important enough for anyone to really care about my indiscretions, and I've not done anything that would make me infamous if it were announced. Unless Google were to try very hard to ruin me, I basically can't be significantly harmed. And why would Google do that? They gain nothing, and in fact hurt themselves by weakening their customers' trust.

The worst the government can do with my data is use it as a justification for throwing me in Gitmo. They even have a reason to do so - it makes them look better, gives them a PR victory of throwing another terrorist in the brig.

Comment: Re:Difficult to assess (Score 2) 382

Since Yahoo uses Bing now, I assume my Bing experience will basically carry over.

Google sometimes detects my entire ISP as bots (I think we're carrier-NATed to a handful of IPs). When that happens, I use Bing rather than fill out a CAPTCHA for every query.

It's not bad. It doesn't have the same level of "this is what I think you're trying to do so have a special box of whatever I think is appropriate", which is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. I do eventually go back to Google, mostly because I do web and Android work and Google has better results for that (Bing does better with .NET and DirectX, though). But it's not a big enough deal that I keep checking - I only go back either when Bing gives me crappy results, or when I restart Firefox and the search box goes back to the default Google.

Comment: How to do killbots properly (Score 1) 317

I'll start with the simpler case of air combat.

Build a swarm of drones. Cheap (~$40K, so you can fly thousands of them for the cost of one F-35), single-engine, unmanned, specialized and above all, networked. While autonomous on an individual level, the swarm itself is controlled by human operators. Not too many, just a half-dozen or so. The humans dictate objectives and terms of engagement.

Give the swarm three alert levels, green, yellow and red.

Under green alert, they take no offensive actions autonomously. They relay data to the operators, who designate targets to engage. This would be for what we currently use drones for, ground-attack in friendly, civilian-heavy airspace.

Under yellow alert, the swarm identifies potential hostiles, prioritizes targets, and automatically moves in to engage. All the human operators need to do is confirm targets, which lets the drones go weapons-free against those targets. This is for smaller engagements between large powers, the saber-rattling that's been going on for decades, or for full-on war against smaller (but still armed) countries.

Under red alert, the swarm acts as under yellow alert, but with two differences. First, it will attack on its own initiative - given a target, it will not need human orders in order to fire. Second, it will assume an aircraft is an enemy unless deemed otherwise (either by IFF, operator override, or recognizing it as an unarmed civilian aircraft). This is for the WW3 scenario, full-on war with a major world power. You declare the area a combat zone, and hope that civilians are smart enough not to enter it.

Extending this design to naval and ground combat is left as an exercise to the reader. The main problem will be red-alert ground combat. Getting civilians to stay out of a shooting war is easy in the air or on the sea. Not so on the ground, since that's where people live, rather than just where people travel.

Comment: Monoculture is bad (Score 1) 485

by gman003 (#48368791) Attached to: Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Let's look at the strengths and weaknesses of each type of power:

+ Fast to spin up
+ Can produce exactly the amount of power needed
- Makes Captain Planet cry

Nuclear (fission):
+ Produces a lot of energy
- Doesn't throttle well
- Pollution problems solvable, but not currently solved

+ Relatively reliable output of power
+ Hydro dams can be used as storage (pump water back up when it's cheap, let it drop again when needed)
- Reliant on geography
- Hydro dams are expensive
- Hurts fish

+ Reliable power output
+ Usually no pollution
- Only works in some areas

+ The greenest
- Not reliable
- Tends to produce most when price is cheapest

Nuclear (fusion):
+ Clean, reliable and powerful
- Doesn't exist yet

From this, you can easily see that you can only get a homogenous power grid that works by using fossil fuels or massive storage. Everything else has problems either with reliability (solar/wind/tidal), throttling (nuclear), or geography (hydro/tidal/geothermal). Since storing electricity is hard, it is obvious that some sort of hybrid system is necessary.

The base load should be handled by geothermal, tidal, hydro, and nuclear, in that order (which is both how green they are, and how strict they are in where they have to be located). These produce reliable amounts of power. Tidal is a bit weird in that it's cyclical and not continuous, but that's not as much buffering needed, and it doesn't synch up with solar/wind.

Peak load should be handled by solar and wind, buffered by a reasonable amount of storage. Long-distance superconducting lines might also mitigate the problems - if it's cloudy in Paris, see if it's sunny in Tripoli.

And yes, there's still a place for fossil fuels. They're your last-line-of-defense system. Keep a few plants idling, to handle any peak load that spills over from solar/wind. Keep another few mothballed, able to be brought up within, say, a week. That way if your wind production gets wrecked by a hurricane, you can get back on your feet quickly.

Comment: Re:SpaceShipTwo - not good news (Score 1) 68

by gman003 (#48336001) Attached to: Life Insurance Restrictions For Space Tourists

They did do things backward, but switching engines would be much easier if they hadn't settled on such a tiny craft. If they could deal with larger fuel tanks, they could use an RD-0124 - higher thrust (290kN vs. 270kN), and I can't see how it can have lower specific impulse. The only hurdle I can see is that liquid fuel takes up a lot more space than solid fuels, and they've got a pretty small craft.

However, you missed an important part of the feather problem. The pilot erroneously unlocked it, but DID NOT deploy it. That is clearly an engineering problem.

Honestly, I think they're fucked right now no matter what the problem is. It could have literally been Space Jesus shooting it with lightning - they're in the tourism business, and rich tourists are pretty risk-averse. Any failure is probably going to be enough to kill the business.

Comment: SpaceShipTwo - not good news (Score 2) 68

by gman003 (#48334951) Attached to: Life Insurance Restrictions For Space Tourists

If it had been the engine, it would have been forgettable. Rocket engines explode all the time, because they're funneling huge amounts of extremely volatile fuels and oxidizers into a high-pressure, high-temperature chamber. SS2 was also testing a new design - new engines are particularly failure-prone, because there's still stuff rocket scientists don't know. While it would have been worse than "not exploding at all", if the problem had been the engine, they could fix it and move on.

The news that it was the wing, and not the engine, that caused the failure is, in my mind, worse. It means they fucked up on a relatively simple, well-understood problem. Part of the blame can be assigned on the pilot disabling the safety early, but it still activated spontaneously and catastrophically. That makes me suspicious of what other simple things they've screwed up.

Comment: Re:America is a RINO (Score 1) 588

by gman003 (#48318569) Attached to: Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

I voted for one Libertarian, one Independent, and two Democrats. The first Democrat was running unopposed, and the other was opposed only by a Republican, and both were for minor local offices only. I didn't use write-ins only because I didn't actually know of anyone worth writing in.

Comment: How suspected? (Score 1) 349

by gman003 (#48269731) Attached to: Suspected Ebola carriers in the U.S. ...

If they're showing possible symptoms AND recently traveled to a region with an ebola outbreak, yes, a quarantine seems reasonable. For "region" I would include both small countries like Liberia in their entirety, and subdivisions of larger countries (for example, Texas).

If they're not showing symptoms but came into close contact with ebola patients, a quarantine is also reasonable. As motivation for accurate self-reporting, let's give them free healthcare if they do develop a case. That way, the people fleeing to seek treatment elsewhere will actually go into quarantine.

Otherwise? Let them go. The early symptoms for ebola are basically indistinguishable from the flu, and even in the countries with full-blown pandemics, it's not a particularly common disease. We don't need to ban all travel from Liberia, let alone from all of Africa.

Comment: Re:Saw the debate (Score 2) 451

by gman003 (#48257333) Attached to: Ken Ham's Ark Torpedoed With Charges of Religious Discrimination

Ham won't be convinced of anything. But the people who follow him might. Ham has convinced them that science and religion are at odds, and many people, unfortunately, would choose religion over science. If you can convince them there is no such war, they'll stop fighting it.

We don't need them to join our side - we just need them to stop fighting.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson