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Comment: At least they're not (very) venomous. (Score 1) 78

by AJWM (#46113355) Attached to: Flying Snake Mysteries Revealed

[...] As he spoke, Carson noticed a slim green ribbon ripple out of the jungle canopy ahead. It glided toward them and settled on Gupta's shoulder. A jade ribbon snake.
Carson reached over and flicked it to the ground, then stomped on its head, hard.
Gupta flinched, then looked down. "A flying snake is only mildly toxic to humans, there was no need to do that."
"Flying snakes on Earth, perhaps," said Carson. "This is a jade, its venom compares to that of a krait or a taipan."
Gupta paled. "That deadly?"
"Only if you let them bite you. Come on."
Gupta looked up at the branches above them, then down at the body of the snake. He brought his heel down hard on its already flattened head.
Carson looked at him, an eyebrow raised.
"Just making sure," Gupta said.

-- The Chara Talisman, 2011.

Comment: Human Body Not Cut Out For Sea Travel Either (Score 1, Redundant) 267

by AJWM (#46101239) Attached to: The Human Body May Not Be Cut Out For Space

Let's face it, humans aren't cut out for ocean voyages either.

We certainly can't swim for any great distance, so we need boats or ships. Sea water is toxic to us, so there's nothing to drink. Days, weeks or months at sea means constant exposure to sunlight, with all the radiation damage that brings. Humans are prone to seasickness -- the illness is named for the sea for Pete's sake! Similar long times without access to fresh food can lead to deficiency diseases like scurvy. I could go on...

No, clearly humans are not cut out for sea travel. The idea is folly.

Comment: Re:NIMBY (Score 2) 105

by AJWM (#46068485) Attached to: Mexico's Stolen Radiation Truck: It Could Happen In the US

It depends.

I'll agree with you where management of said private corporations is less than usually psychopathic or where regulatory inspections are frequent and/or the cost of doing it right is not dramatically more than taking shortcuts.

Where there's more money to be made by taking those shortcuts, and management doesn't care about public consequences or thinks the risk of getting caught is low, then government can (not necessarily will, depending) do a better job because there's no profit bottom line to worry about. Indeed, doing a proper job may well mean a bigger staff and budget which is a plus to bureaucrats.

Comment: Not Apple, neither (Score 1) 474

by AJWM (#46068109) Attached to: Schiller Says Apple Is the Last PC Maker From the Mac Era, Forgets About HP

If you want to limit it to PCs (which the original quote did not), then you might as well rule out Apple too.

They build (or rather, subcontract offshore companies to build) phones and tablets, neither of which by any stretch could be considered general purpose computers the way PCs could, and an increasingly shrinking line of computing appliances, ditto. Of course that's pretty much true all the way back to the original Mac, except for a brief period when Jobs wasn't around.

Indeed, arguably Apple isn't around either. They got assimilated by Jobs's NeXT which then changed their name, same way Southern Bell is now AT&T. The original AT&T isn't around. (Of course, the Jobs Reality Distortion Field was such that Apple paid him to be assimilated.)

On the flip side, if you want to talk about companies that are still around which made PCs back in the day, then add Radio Shack and Texas Instruments. Arguably, TI still does make PCs, given what some of their hand-held calculators are capable of.

Comment: Websites or videos?! (Score 1) 208

by AJWM (#46067161) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Educating Kids About Older Technologies?

Come on, man, that's just replicating the problem you're trying to solve.

The basics of telegraphy are dead simple: Build an electromagnet by wrapping some wire around a nail, add some kind of spring or rubber-band mechanism to a piece of steel so that it clicks when the magnet is turned on or off, add a couple of batteries and a push button (momentary) switch. Et voila, a telegraph. If you don't want to build the electromagnet yourself, buy an old-fashioned doorbell or buzzer from your local hardware store, and take the cover off to show the innards.

You can do interesting things with wire and iron filings to demonstrate how a current generates a magnetic field, too, which is the basis of all that tech.

Hands-on experiments are the way to go. Videos don't "prove" anything about the real world any more than they prove cartoon physics is real. Gets the kids more actively engaged too, rather than just passively watching. (Even "interactive" web sites are still mostly passive, you can't try something the programmer didn't think of.)

Comment: Re:ground-based satellite? (Score 2) 47

by AJWM (#46053701) Attached to: US Lab Developing Technology For Space Traffic Control

they are all names for the same orbital construct

Not quite. Yes, they're all names for the basic idea, but there are several applications of a beanstalk that don't require an elevator. The term "space elevator" applies to a subset of the various suggested technologies. Also, a skyhook doesn't have to be anchored at the base, there have been several suggestions for rotating tethers which dip down into the atmosphere and grab payloads at their nadir.

A couple of decades back I published a paper or two on the "Aresian Well", a beanstalk and pipeline on Mars for exporting volatiles (H2O, CO2) mined at the north polar cap to elsewhere in the inner solar system. Since then we've discovered that water on e.g. the Moon isn't quite so scarce as we thought. That beanstalk was not an elevator, although you could add one.

Comment: Re:Interesting economics (Score 1) 265

I want to be a sci-fi writer; I can world-build fantasy and sci-fi, but I can't come up with plot. They've all been done; I'd feel like I'm copying someone else--anyone else--everyone else!

As Robert Heinlein said, "just file off the serial numbers". He also said there were only three basic plots. Others have different numbers, but there really are only a few. Just put your own unique twist on one (or a combination) of them.

Even if you start out blatantly ripping off someone else's plot (ideas can't be copyright, just be sure you change the names), as soon as you transplant it to your own sci-fi world, it will start mutating into something unique to you. Go for it.

(And yes, I am a sci-fi writer...although that entry is a bit out of date).

Comment: Re:Just post it on Slashdot (Score 1) 381

by AJWM (#45900803) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Protect Your Passwords From Amnesia?

I don't even know that I should be looking in any safe deposit boxes, because I have amnesia.

Embed the information in a tiny projection device then implant that under your skin. (Maybe implant several in case the amnesia-inducing trauma is accompanied by loss of body parts.)

Hey, it worked for Jason Bourne.

Comment: Re:Nice idea but... (Score 1) 368

by AJWM (#45884867) Attached to: Australian Team Working On Engines Without Piston Rings

'm sorry but the energy density of gasoline (36 MJ/L) is nowhere close to that of Uranium-235 (1,546,000,000 MJ/L).

Now, if only somebody would develop an engine that could run on a cubic millimeter (a microliter) of U-235 (roughly equivalent to a tank of gas). Or even a completely sealed unit with a milliliter of U235 buried somewhere in its innards (a few hundred thousand miles' worth).

Comment: Re:Overreach (Score 1) 366

by AJWM (#45872653) Attached to: The SEC Is About To Make Crowdfunding More Expensive

Kickstarter and its ilk are not anything the SEC should concern itself with.

Kickstarter projects are usually selling products on advanced order, not selling shares in the company. If someone's pulling a fast one, there are already fraud laws in place for that sort of thing. Sure there's an element of risk (as with anything), but Kickstarter projects aren't selling securities as such.

Yes, there are some bad crowdfunding eggs out there, but caveat emptor.

Real computer scientists don't comment their code. The identifiers are so long they can't afford the disk space.

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