Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Comment: Re:Couple of things (Score 1) 62 62

Then what is the speed of sound at the point where re-entering spacecraft hit the atmosphere? (I realize that "hit the atmosphere" is a relative term, so I suppose the question is what the speed of sound is at the point the spacecraft starts generating enough plasma to interfere with radio.) My guess is that it's nowhere near 8 km/sec / 5. But that's a guess...

Comment: COBOL (Score 1) 257 257

Actually...25 years ago was 1990. Windows 3.0 had just come out.

I worked on a project once that used three programming languages. All three of them had gone through incompatibility-causing changes by the end of the project, and that in a space of three years. One was C; it went from 16 bits to 32 (which should tell you when this was). Since I was doing things that depended on the size of int (I was using ints--or maybe it was long ints--to encode things at the bit level), that was relevant. That would not have been too hard to fix. The second language was Prolog; the version I used also transitioned to 32 bits, and the vendor decided at the same time to change the way C calls were made. That would have been more difficult to change in my code. The third language was Smalltalk; the vendor was bought out by its competitor, who had an incompatible version. The version we used was dumped. That would have been a nearly complete re-write.

As a result, my next project encoded its information in XML, and I wrote a converter (in Python) to translate the XML to the programming language of a finite state transducer. When (not if) that transducer becomes obsolete, we'll change the converter. (Of course Python may go out in 25 years, but the converter is the simple part.) I do not expect XML to go obsolete soon, and when it does, at least the data is human-readable (and there will probably be a converter to whatever the replacement for XML is).

Comment: Re:Is this the un"adjusted" raw data? (Score 1) 310 310

"It's absolutely baffling - That people will actually believe that 98% of all the world's scientists are engaged in a mass conspiracy"

I was not aware that 98% of the world's scientists were doing climate research. Now I _am_ worried about Ebola, because what ever happened to all that medical research "they" used to do? And I wonder what scientists all those nasty corporations you say are funding; must be the remaining 2%. Not to mention Bill Gatesand Warren Buffet (I guess those are some of the billionaires you say are funding deniers). There must be some rich scientists out there with all that money going to them.

Comment: Re:Projections based on what? (Score 1) 310 310

"Anybody who understands complexity theory knows that this is absolutely guaranteed to cause feedback loops in a complex system which accelerates the effect." Huh? How do we know that the feedback is "absolutely guaranteed" to be be positive? In principle the feedbacks could be negative, even sufficiently negative to prevent any rise in temp whatsoever. I don't think they are that negative, but my opinion on positive vs. negative feedback doesn't really matter; what matters is that there is no guarantee that the effect will accelerate.

"if you reduce the rate at which energy leaves a system then the total energy in the system will go up over time": true, but the amount of that change in the present case depends on a large number of factors, only one of which is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. If there are no other positive feedback factors (see para above), then the projected rise in temp is quite a bit smaller than the projections of most models, which assume that other factors provide positive feedback.

Comment: Re:Projections based on what? (Score 1) 310 310

"Nobody owes you a burden of proof." If they want my tax money to spend in an attempt to avoid that possible catastrophe, I think they do owe me that.

There are lots of catastrophes which could do us in in the next 100 years. Frankly, I'd rate the chances of someone setting off a nuke in a populated place is much more likely, and more dangerous to boot. We've dodged that bullet since 1945, but there are many more nations now with that capability, and probably that much more danger. (And if a nuke were set off in an unattributable way by some non-state actor...)

Or if you want a catastrophe to the ecosphere, I wonder to what extent the problems that coral reefs have faced in the past several decades have been due to something other than warming--like over-fishing, or over-tourism, or garbage, or something else we are overlooking in our rush to blame everything on global warming. Those sorts of problems are difficult to address, but should they turn out to be the real issue, they will likely be much easier and less costly to address than trying to stop (much less reverse) CO2 buildup. And our descendents will be rightly wroth with us if we chose the wrong solution.

In sum, I fear that seeing global warming as the big danger will lead us to neglect other problems which are much more likely, and potentially more dangerous.

Comment: Re: wrong is right (Score 1) 193 193

No, a theory (much less a hypothesis) need not have fully specified parameters; a model is based on a theory, but must have specified parameters. In practice, you run lots of models, and pick one that closely fits some set of observations.

The _theory_ that the Earth's average temp should go up with increasing CO2 is largely accepted, even by most skeptics. At question are some of the parameters that determine how much it will go up. Not the opacity of CO2 to IR (that can be measured in a lab); but by itself, that produces a rather small temp increase. Less well known are some of the feedbacks, and different values for those result in widely different temp responses.

Comment: Re: wrong is right (Score 1) 193 193

I suppose you might panic, but saying the models are wrong doesn't make me panic, because it appears the situation is much better than predicted.

I don't suppose anybody believes the lies, but we also don't believe you've stopped beating your wife. (Hint: presupposition failure.)

Comment: Re:wrong is right (Score 1) 193 193

My memory differs. There was an article in Scientific American about a year before Y2K; it predicted that even if "great resources" were mustered, there would be severe problems on the day after, and continuing for several months. I don't believe "great resources" were actually mustered, certainly not in the third world countries where computers were even then being used by governments and corporations. That article (or another one) also mentioned computers that were inaccessible, and which therefore could not be fixed (I think the example was computers monitoring undersea wellheads, which for some reason were located on the wellheads). And on January first, 2000, there were around ten documented problems, world-wide. (BTW, I have been unable to find the article in SciAm's on-line database, but I'm certain that's where I read it. Perhaps I should go to the library some time. You know, that place with all that paper...)

Looking back, I felt the article was a call for governments and industry to pour money into a field--the field the author of that article (and many others) would benefit from. Which is partly why I am now a skeptic when someone says that a catastrophic problem is going to hit us unless we do s.t. about it, and where that s.t. always involves $ (ok, euros and yens and... but not rubles, maybe that's a hold-over from the USSR's successful 5 year plans).

There is of course a Wikipedia article on Y2K, which summarizes the debate over whether this would really have been "a potential threat, a huge one" (quoting silentcoder).

Comment: Re:Advancement overcloked! (Score 1) 265 265

The fact that the apparent diameter of the Moon and the Sun are virtually the same, resulting in nearly perfect solar eclipses, is also rather surprising, although I don't know that any science breakthrough comes out of that. (Lots of beauty, for those who can fly their Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. Also nice if you want to avoid being burned at the stake by King Arthur. And I suppose that's how the Sun's corona was discovered.)

Unix: Some say the learning curve is steep, but you only have to climb it once. -- Karl Lehenbauer