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Comment Re: Private companies don't do exploration of fron (Score 1) 282

The thing is, you're not going to mine 500 lbs of platinum, it's quite possible you're going to mine millions of pounds of it, along with other valuable metals. Yes, you wouldn't be able to dump that on the market too fast, but you would put all the existing platinum mines out of business quickly. And with lower prices for platinum, more uses would be found for it, increasing the demand. More people would want it for jewelry and aesthetics probably, but also it's quite likely new industrial uses would be found for it which were previously unexplored due to its extremely high cost. You have to think more long-term about these things, which it doesn't look like you're doing with your analysis. An endeavor like this isn't going to be something small, it's going to be absolutely huge, and mining a single asteroid will span for decades most likely.

Finally, look at the environmental aspect: mining is terrible ecologically. Wouldn't it be better to do as much mining in space as we can, so we aren't digging giant holes in the ground, polluting groundwater and rivers, shearing the tops off mountains, etc.? We just had a bad incident with river pollution in one of the western states (CO I think), and mining always has problems with environmental opposition in advanced nations (and in backwards nations causes all kinds of problems, like fueling conflicts as with coltan). Environmentalists won't care if you break up asteroids for mineral resources.

Comment Re:Space-based Economy (Score 1) 282

Last I heard, they found a lot of water at one of the poles.

And all those other things, while not extremely rare here, are still valuable for building stuff on the Moon. Iron, aluminum, and titanium are very useful for making things. Plus there's tons of sunlight there to provide solar power, without any clouds or atmosphere in the way.

So with all this, you should be able to build a Moon base which you can use for refining captured asteroids (which have far more valuable ores) and doing low-g manufacturing.

As for the gravity well, it's half the gravity of Mars, and it's very close to Earth. These sound like big pluses to me. I guess if you really need extremely low gravity or zero gravity, you could just build a big space station at the L1 Lagrangian point. And again, all that material on the Moon you think is "boring" would come in handy there, because it'd be far cheaper to lift all that mass from the 1/6g Moon than from the 1g Earth.

Comment Re:Fail. (Score 1) 225

I don't see the problem here. If you're looking for a phone where you can easily replace the CPU, that doesn't exist and never has, and it's just plain idiotic to ask for that. What's important is if you can replace the screen (since they get cracked sometimes), the USB port, the battery, the camera lens, etc.: the things that actually do get broken or wear out and need to be replaced.

Comment Re:I would like to say for the record... (Score 1) 454

If you're all PhDs, then you're not real engineers, you're statistical anomalies. In 15+ years of work, I've never even met a PhD engineer except when I was at college, and college professors aren't actual engineers since they don't do any engineering work.

We're talking about real engineers here, the kind who work at companies and do regular, everyday engineering work. Most have BS degrees, or at most, MS.

Comment Re:Private companies don't do exploration of front (Score 1) 282

The return is high relative to the return they would be getting without government funding, which is close to zero.

No, it isn't. They could do some other commercial work and potentially get higher profits, but with higher risks. They do government contracting because it's low risk, not because there's a lot of profit in it.

You seem to be implying that without government funding, corporations would simply go belly-up. That's ludicrous in the extreme.

Comment Re:Serves them right (Score 5, Insightful) 87

Oh please, I've used Cox before, and they were pretty decent for an ISP. They upgraded their systems at one point, rendering my cable modem unusable, so they sent me a new Surfboard for free. Their prices were good (compared to other ISPs I've had since I had to move away from there), and the prices were stable.

The company that really, really sucks is Comcast.

I've never heard of Cox continuing to charge people after they canceled their account (Comcast is famous for this), or for making it almost impossible to do (again, Comcast is famous for this; I think I was on hold for 2 hours doing this when I had to move out of a Comcast service area).

Cox also lets you just buy a cable modem and install it yourself, without a visit from a technician. Comcast and other companies require you to have a tech visit and charge you $100 just to plug in a modem.

I also don't remember Cox having any kind of 3-strikes system like Comcast has.

I see exactly what's going on here: Cox is the best of all the cable ISPs, so they're being run out of business so Comcast can buy them up for pennies on the dollar.

Comment Re:Space-based Economy (Score 1) 282

The problem I see with your plan here is that Earth is a huge, huge gravity well (well, not compared to Jupiter maybe, but compared to everything in the inner solar system it is). Keeping stuff in Earth orbit requires very high orbital speeds, or very long distances (for GEO). Wouldn't it make more sense to build your asteroid refineries and manufacturing facilities at the Lagrangian points?

Also, I'm not an expert on mining, but if any of those processes require gravity, then the Moon would be a good place for that: it has some gravity, but it's pretty low so your landing and launch costs will be low too.

Comment Re:Private companies don't do exploration of front (Score 1) 282

However, government funding is low risk/high return for the companies that actually receive the funding.

I completely disagree. If this were true, Lockheed Martin, BAE, Northrop Grumman,
  etc. would be the most profitable companies around, instead of Apple. Government contracting generally means accepting a limited profit margin, dictated by the government, plus a shitload of overhead to make sure the contractor is meeting the terms of the contract and that everything is accounted for. The reason government contractors do it is because it's low risk and decent return, not high return. It's almost a sure thing basically. Once your company is big enough and established enough in the government contracting space, you just have to keep doing what you've been doing and reliably provide service and you'll get more contracts and have a continuous source of revenue, though it is subject to political dealings and changes. But if you have a multi-year contract in place, you can count on getting continuous revenue for that time, as long as you live up to the contract.

By contrast, a company like Apple can make huge profits by selling overpriced Chinese-made stuff to gullible consumers, but only as long as their marketing convinces them it's fashionable. As soon as consumers, who are known to be fickle, decide something else is more fashionable, or Apple pisses them off somehow, the house of cards can collapse and their profitability disappear. The risk is quite a bit higher for companies which sell directly to consumers, but the potential for profitability is higher.

there is going to be little return from that because there is nothing on Mars that we want or need right now.

There may be mineral resources there. However it's ridiculously far away and it's unknown if it does have any significantly valuable resources. What makes a LOT more sense is near-earth asteroid mining. There's already some billionaires who've set up some venture to work on that. It's quite likely there's very highly concentrated ores in asteroids which pass relatively close to Earth, of very valuable materials like platinum. We already know how to launch probes to stuff within the orbit of the Moon or so (or really, all the way to Pluto), and with anything as close as the Moon, you can even remote-control it in almost realtime (a few seconds' delay), unlike with Mars where you need to wait 30-60 minutes to hear back from your rover.

Comment Re:Private companies don't do exploration of front (Score 1) 282

You would likely have been better off discussing the Viking voyages, which is more of a scenario where voyages of relatively small ships fitted out for trade and raiding eventually got to North America.

I don't think even that's accurate. Viking ships were indeed relatively small compared to the English or Spanish or whatever ships which came 500 years later, but at the time, the Viking longboats were the largest and most advanced ships made in Europe. Their range extended as far as North Africa, Italy, Iceland, and of course all the way to Newfoundland. These weren't boats that a couple of guys could build, they were financed and built by people who were then the wealthy leaders; it just took too much manpower to do that. Don't forget the cost of sending men and all their equipment and arms. Watch a YouTube video sometime showing how a reproduction Viking sword is made; the amount of labor involved is absolutely ridiculous, plus the raw steel at the time was extremely expensive. I just watched a video last night about a smith forging a Viking sword and it took him 3 months, and that was with the benefit of a lot of more modern equipment (like the big pneumatic hammer used to draw out the sword; back in the old days they had to hammer everything by hand).

The European voyages that came later surely benefited from centuries of improved technology and more developed economic markets.

Comment Re:Cost of access is key. (Score 1) 282

The islands of Polynesia were explored, settled and exploited at least a millenia before Europe even knew the earth was round, using only naked eye observations to navigate.

This isn't really true. The ancient Greeks knew the Earth was round, and even calculated its radius to an impressively accurate degree considering the technology of the time. Greece is part of Europe.

Comment Re:I would like to say for the record... (Score 1) 454

You'd be trading shitty co-workers for shitty patients, shitty administrators, shitty insurance companies, and (at least at the beginning) shitty pay.

That's why I'm thinking something to do with medical imaging wouldn't have been too bad. Hospital employees shouldn't be dealing with insurance companies, except those in the office departments which deal directly with them.

Medical research probably would be a good field though, and should pay similarly to engineering I would think.

I'd think about getting another job where there's fewer zealots

That's not going to happen in engineering. Just about everyone in this field is a nut. Just look at the wackos on this site alone. APK is a pretty good example of the mentality of people in this field, not to mention all the religious zealots, including "meta-monkey" who also replied to me here.

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?