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Comment: Solomon has spoken... (Score 1) 176

Welp, they sure split that baby.

(No seriously. Remember, the point of Solomon's judgement was to use a decision that's bad for both sides to determine who the real winner should be in the end. Same here. I'm betting we'll see Boeing whine, delay, and run over budget while SpaceX gets down and builds some rockets, but either way, in a few years we'll see who the manned spacecraft baby really belongs to.)

Comment: "Liberal arts" is not what you think it is. (Score 1) 385

by goodmanj (#47923729) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

I'm sick of this bullshit belief that "liberal arts" refers to non-STEM majors in the humanities and social sciences, and is college in "easy mode". Quick history lesson: it's called "liberal" arts because from Roman times through the Renaissance, they were the skills that made one worthy of being a free person, as opposed to the manual skills appropriate for a slave. They included both artistic subjects like grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and scientific "arts" like astronomy and math. Of course meaning changed over the years, but today liberal arts colleges try to create well-rounded generalist thinkers, jacks of all trades and masters of at least one.

I've got a BA in physics from one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. You might think that's a joke, but my PhD advisor at MIT didn't. I'm now a tenured professor in physics, and my college buddies do stuff like dark matter research at Livermore, software development for Google and Microsoft, etc.

Enough bragging and tech namedropping, the point is that a liberal arts education can get you an excellent technical education. Unfortunately, too many major universities offer a "liberal arts" program which *is* college easymode, intended for folks who go to college for the social scene. But getting a liberal arts at these places is like buying organic local produce from Walmart: sure, they have it, they've got everything, but it's so contrary to the philosophy of the place that you're right to be skeptical.

"Is there any place for degrees in the humanities and social sciences in tech?" Now that's a reasonable question, to which I think the answer is obviously "yes", and my friends the Latin major computer programmer and the religion major tech writer would agree. But if you think "liberal arts" can't provide a top-notch education in STEM subjects, you're not qualified to read a resume.

Comment: Re:Safe choice? (Score 3, Informative) 123

by goodmanj (#47875599) Attached to: SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

Dragon isn't human capable.

Dragon is human capable. SpaceX could have thrown a human into any of its Dragon capsules and he or she would have been fine (if a bit bruised from lack of comfy chairs).

It's just not human *rated* yet. Which is an important distinction, but it's paperwork, not engineering.

As for safety record, their failures have all been for early prototypes testing risky new ideas. You're *supposed* to have accidents at that stage. Every rocket designer worth his salt has blown up a rocket or two in the early days: what matters is that you don't make mistakes when paying customers are on board.

Comment: Safe choice? (Score 2) 123

by goodmanj (#47874109) Attached to: SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice,"

Yeah, people's lives are on the line here. You've got to go with the company who's got a proven track record in safely launching a modern human-capable spacecraft.
http://www.spacex.com/dragon

Wait, which is the exciting choice then?

Comment: I'm not seeing it. (Score 1) 322

by goodmanj (#47821597) Attached to: The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

I don't see any good reason to ban hypersonic cruise missiles. It's not enough to ban them on the grounds that they are deadly and serve no civilian purpose: war is about killing people. Previously, weapons have been banned in war on the grounds that they kill in an unusually horrific way, or aim to kill "innocent" targets, or kill indiscriminately, Hypersonic cruise missiles are none of these things.

Hypersonic cruise missiles are an undistinguished weapon of war. There's no argument for banning them that doesn't also apply to war in general. I think we's all love to ban war, but 10,000 years of history suggests that's not gonna happen.

Comment: All data or your data? (Score 2) 108

by goodmanj (#47791757) Attached to: Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret

The ACLU fought the wrong fight on this one. The public should absolutely not have access to *everyone's* plate reader data, that would enable serious privacy abuses and criminal acts ("My ex-wife got a restraining order and hid from me, I'll find her car and then I'll show that bitch...") , and should not have access to lists of people the cops especially want to find (the "hot lists" referred to in the article.)

But people should be able to use plate reader data for their own vehicles specifically to defend themselves in court. ("I couldn't have killed the guy, the cops saw my car across town five minutes later." And yes, there are obvious holes in that defense, but it's admissible and useful.)

Comment: Trap credit card numbers? (Score 1) 251

by goodmanj (#47758683) Attached to: TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

I wonder if banks have some sort of honeypot credit card numbers, which one could give to a known scammer to help catch them in the act. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about, but there ought to be some way to turn the tables on the scammers here. (And yes, I've heard about the elaborate ways people have trolled 419 scammers, I'm thinking of something a little less time-consuming.)

Comment: Re:Small Orion reflector (Score 1) 187

by goodmanj (#47740053) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

In my experience, these short, stubby tabletop reflectors are built like turtles, and can take an enormous amount of abuse without losing collimation. Your phrase "parent becomes the gatekeeper" is great, but it's got me thinking about the refractor you suggest, which is going to be physically big enough that a 9-year-old will probably need a parent to carry and help set up.

I spent a lot of time following the "start with binoculars" advice when I was a kid, and came away mostly disappointed. Tripods help, but even then, 7x magnification rules out all the planets and all but the biggest deep-sky objects. Small reflectors offer a nice middle ground between that and the obscene 200x magnification advertised by your average $50 Walmart refractor.

Comment: Re:Dobsonian (Score 1) 187

by goodmanj (#47739387) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

you can look at something under high magnification for a few seconds before it disappears, and then you have to figure out how to track RA with an alt-az mount under high power and find the object again

You shouldn't be using high magnification with a dobsonian. In fact, at the price point we're discussing here, you shouldn't be using high magnification at all.

Through a 4.5" f/6 Dobsonian with a decent wide-angle eyepiece, you can see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons plus a hint of cloud patterns, you can see open and globular clusters, and you'll have to push the telescope to re-center the object once every couple of minutes tops.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.

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