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Comment: Re: Design flaw? (Score 1) 56

by Rei (#49805171) Attached to: Third Stage Design Problem Cause of Most Recent Proton Failure

It also made them a lot more sensitive to the manufacturer, however. Underfunding a project almost certainly led it to being a disaster (the N1 rocket being a classic example). They generally were willing to sacrifice performance for ease of production and quantity - it was very much a widespread phenomenon.

A friend of mine once served as a translator for the military during one of the late mutual nuclear disarmament treaties (don't remember which one). She described them as pretty much a scam, in that both sides wanted to get rid of their old weapons anyway and it gave them an excuse to put funds toward development of new, treaty-compliant weapons. But anyway, they were allowed to inspect any area small enough to contain a "treaty limited item". To figure out whether they could inspect it, the teams were equipped with sophisticated laser measuring devices - if it determined that the space was large enough, they could inspect it. The Russians were really impressed with it. They sent their teams over with... a stick. If the stick fit, they could inspect it. ;)

Another example she mentioned was driving licenses. You know, if you get stopped in the US, they take your license, run your number through their computer, it connects to remote databases, they look up past offenses, they register a new one, etc, and give you your license back. In the USSR it was much simpler: the officer took your license and punched a hole in it. If you had too many holes, they kept it. ;)

I know it's such a stereotype that the Russians preferred low tech solutions vs. the US, but she said that the stereotype was totally well deserved. ;) She also found that they weren't as inclined to get a joke. She and some the guys on her team found it rather sad that these incredible weapons delivery systems were just being destroyed, literally crushed - devices that could deliver a payload anywhere on Earth with precision. So for fun they did some calculations for what they would have to do to reengineer one such that you could load up frozen pizzas onto racks and have them cook on reentry then parachute to the surface - they figured that given the reengineering and operations costs, a person ordering a very large order of pizza could get them for about $20 per pizza, delivered by decommissioned ICBM. They wrote up a formal "proposal" with all the calculations and budgetting and had her talk with what she described as the Soviet equivalent of a colonel about their "Intercontinental Pizza Delivery System". She said he stared at her like she was mad. ;) Totally didn't get the concept that it was a joke and thought that the US team was honestly proposing a private pizza-delivery-by-ICBM venture.

Comment: Re:Seriously? (Score 1) 349

by Rei (#49800067) Attached to: Crowdfunded, Solar-powered Spacecraft Goes Silent

I think it's pretty amazing that spacecraft can survive at all out there, given the sort of particles flying around - individual cosmic rays with the energy of fast-pitch baseballs. Thankfully, particles with such high energy have tiny cross sections (they prefer to move through matter rather than interact with it), and when they do hit something and create a shower of particles, most of the progeny is likewise super-high energy and will most likely just move through whatever it's in.

It's more interesting when they strike the atmosphere - each collision creates a new shower of other high energy particles, more and more, spreading out the energy as they descend. In the end, detectors on the surface over an area of dozens of square kilometers simultaneously pick up different pieces of the same cascade kicked off by a single cosmic ray collision.

Comment: Re:Just...wow. (Score 5, Insightful) 105

by Rei (#49798823) Attached to: Hacked Emails Reveal Russian Plans To Obtain Sensitive Western Tech

No, fines for violating export laws.

Being slapped with massive fines is usually pretty good motivation for a company. And given that the US spends nearly half of the world's total military spending, and the EU a good chunk of the rest, simply "hopping overseas" and choosing to serve other markets isn't exactly the smartest of plans, financially.

It's idiodic for a company to wilfully risk sales of hundreds of thousands of units per year to NATO to sell a couple hundred units to Russia. Russia's economy is barely bigger than Canada's. And less than 80% the size of Brazil's.

Comment: Re:Just...wow. (Score 1) 105

by Rei (#49798769) Attached to: Hacked Emails Reveal Russian Plans To Obtain Sensitive Western Tech

You could start by reading more than the first paragraph.

1) They don't have "zero" capability, but they have way too little - only a few hundred modern imagers.

2) They have tried to buy them off ebay before. And it led to arrests. It's illegal to export military-grade night vision equipment without a license, and apparently sites like ebay are well monitored for potential violations.

Comment: Re:EU food ban? (Score 3, Informative) 85

Yeah, but they "cheat" a lot - for example, Belarus has made a mint serving as a reshipping platform for European goods. And for some reason they left Iceland off their list even though we supported the sanctions against them. Still, it's caused major food price inflation (unsurprisingly). Seems kind of a weird way to punish Europe, it seems obvious it's going to have a lot more effect at home than abroad - Russia's trade in food goods with Europe makes up far more of its imports than Europe's trade in food goods with Russia makes up of its exports. But I guess they didn't have a lot of options for "retaliation". I mean, Gazprom is already nearly going broke as it is, turning off the spigots would have rapidly ensured that it did. Oil and gas make up half of their government budget and 2/3rds of their exports - it'd sure punish Europe, but it'd also be economic suicide.

I think they're really hoping that the sanctions will just expire and they'll be able to go back to raking in western capital again. Because if they don't expire, barring some huge unexpected oil price surge, those reserve funds are going to dry up. They expect it to be down to under $40B by the end of this year. What they're going to do when it runs out, I have no clue. They need dollars and euros to buy the goods that their undersized industrial sector can't manufacture. China's a help but not a solution; they don't have the lending power of the US or EU to begin with, and their goal seems to be more exploiting Russia over the situation than offering friendly aid. For example, they got Russia to agree to the cutthroat rates on the proposed "Power Of Siberia" pipeline that they'd been trying to get for years and to let them own greater than 50% stakes on fields inside Russia. They got Russia to sell them their most advanced air defense system despite the objections of the defense industry over concerns that China would do what they always do with new technology - reverse engineer it and then produce it domestically. But who else are they going to turn to? China's basically becoming Russia's "loan shark". And at the end of the day, if it came down to it and China had to chose between the Russian market and the 20-fold larger market of the US and EU? It's not even a contest.

Comment: Re:Not a new idea (Score 2) 33

by Rei (#49795303) Attached to: GoPro's Next Adventure: Virtual Reality and Drones

I figured they'd tackle something more ambitious than that with their drone offerings - a drone that (barring instructions to do otherwise) follows you around whatever you're doing and keeps the camera on you, trying to get the most epic shots. E.g., you bungee jump off a bridge, it races you to the bottom, keeping whatever distance and filming style you told it to.

But maybe it's just another remote control drone.

Comment: Re:Terraforming potential? (Score 1) 276

by Rei (#49792059) Attached to: How To Die On Mars

But that's the point. If it slams into an immobile object of course. But we're not talking about anything slamming into an immobile object. From the perspective of a molecule in the gas stream, it's going about the same speed as its neighbors. It's quite cool.

As for the boundary region, even at the "pinched" funnel outlet one could be talking dozens of kilometers here. A dozen kilometers between going from zero velocity and 25 kilometers per second is roughly the same as a dozen meters between going from zero velocity and 25 meters per second. Aka, a virtually insignificant gradient.

Comment: Re:I am amazed (Score 1) 245

by Rei (#49789327) Attached to: A Text Message Can Crash An iPhone and Force It To Reboot

I like that idea. You're right, it should be pretty efficient to implement, regardless of the string's backend encoding. And the value represented by the iterator will, by nature of being implemented as a pointer to a certain part in the string, be able to point to a glyph of arbitrary length (unlike a getter function with a fixed-length return type). Being an iterator it'll fit into all standard c++ libraries that take iterators.

It would be nice to have it be a random-access iterator so that you can jump to an arbitrary offset. There's a lot of optimizations they could do internally to help facilitate that. But obviously you still want to let programmers choose - by some means or another - whether they want such unicode optimizations (or unicode iteration, or so forth). Because while the overhead they'd impose wouldn't be huge, there still would be overhead.

Comment: Re:Terraforming potential? (Score 1) 276

by Rei (#49789303) Attached to: How To Die On Mars

Except wait - we've got a phase change from gas to plasma in there, which almost certainly breaks their calculations badly.

Again, no, you don't. All of the particles are moving in the same direction. They're not hot. They're not slamming into each other and kicking electrons off.

Do you think if you had a spacecraft moving at 25.4 kilometers per second it would be plasma too?

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!

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