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Comment: Failure modes. (Score 1) 307

by mtpaley (#47183479) Attached to: GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch
If you buy a car then you are buying a complex machine with many failure modes. There is a huge business dedicated to saying that these failure modes are due to human failure or engineering oversight. Both are possible but the human element dominates - at a guess for every mechanical/software failure there are at least 100 human failures. The insurance industry loves this kind of issue. I suspect that when safe computer controlled cars become practical the insurers are going to be a issue.

Comment: Temptation to just fix it in the background (Score 1) 307

by mtpaley (#47183339) Attached to: GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch
If you are responsible for a subsystem and you discover a potential fault then the temptation to quietly fix it in future versions and not worry about the 'probably OK' past is huge. This is human nature but the company needs to have schemes in place to allow people to say that something is wrong without worrying about being sacked.

Comment: Re:Hope you've got a big mixer (Score 1) 157

by mtpaley (#46305709) Attached to: Safety Measures Fail To Stop Fukushima Plant Leaks
Quote from the linked article "These findings point to an increase of up to two orders of magnitude – a hundredfold- in concentrations of strontium-90 in the sea, with respect to the background values for this part of the Pacific before the Fukushima accident". I am guessing that the background levels of strontium-90 are going to be minute, I am impressed that it is even detectable, this feels like a 100 times almost nothing is still almost nothing.

Comment: Re:NIF was really for weapons research (Score 1) 143

by mtpaley (#46279317) Attached to: What Would You Do With the World's Most Powerful Laser?
Sharks with frikkin' lasers are old school. Be afraid of carp with particle beams! And I know that the real purpose of the NIF is bomb research but as a side effect it is still a good physics experiment. The only worry is that the results are always going to be filtered by security concerns so some results are going to vanish - this makes it trickier to use as a source of data but still good (rose tinted glasses? I hope not).

Comment: Excellent tool for high density+temperature plasma (Score 1) 143

by mtpaley (#46261153) Attached to: What Would You Do With the World's Most Powerful Laser?
IMHO the NIF is a excellent tool in researching the properties of ultra dense materials be they fusable or not and is up there with CERN as a high energy physics lab and it covers bulk phenomena that CERN can never touch. I expect papers on Rayleigh–Taylor instability, neutron absorption cross sections and tests on the theoretical reaction probabilities/speeds of H,D fusion. But (and you all knew I was about to say that) this is a research tool on the subjects I just mentioned and many others not a step towards a fusion power source. This is a excellent research tool and I fully support it - just don't think of it as a proto-proto-proto type fusion power plant.

Comment: In flight trash selling (Score 1) 366

by mtpaley (#46222129) Attached to: House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Personally I cant stand the long adverts at insane volumes pushed down the PA system of planes. Loads of 'buy our gifts' and 'this is our hire car partner' sometimes in several languages so this can go on for 10 minutes. Why is it always blasted out at ear bleeding volume? I would prefer phones, at least then you can complain to the noisy person and at least have a theoretical chance of peace.

Comment: Play to win (Score 1) 412

by mtpaley (#46156901) Attached to: Audience Jeers Contestant Who Uses Game Theory To Win At 'Jeopardy'
It is a competition and he is using logic and statistics to use the optimal strategy - well done! He is actually teaching algorithms to anyone who is taking note. I have heard of a TV program somewhere which was a '20 questions' format to identify a word. someone did a binary chop search and had a guaranteed win - the program was cancelled. The shocking thing about this is that the people who planned the program did not realise that there was a trivial solution but they probably had degrees in something ending with studies. I remember the link to this but can't find it - annoying.

Comment: Batteries dont like cold - not fatal (Score 1) 476

by mtpaley (#46095087) Attached to: Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold
Batteries don't like the cold. This is inevitable and just physics/chemistry in action. If battery powered cars are going to work in cold conditions then then preheaters of the batteries will be required. For combustion based engines preheaters of the engine block are required but they do at least have the theoretical option of burning fuel to heat the engine upto a usable temperature. This is just something that battery based vehicles are going to have to deal with. If they need to have a feature to dump some power to heat things up then so be it - that is just the way that batteries are going to work but it is not a show stopper - just something that needs to be designed in.

Comment: Re:But it is horribly wrong anyway. (Score 1) 458

by mtpaley (#46059691) Attached to: Stephen Hawking: 'There Are No Black Holes'
The concept of 'magical undetectable matter' seems ludicrous from our day to day perspective but viewed from the point of view of physics it makes perfect sense. There are several forces (= ways for matter to interact). Not all forms of matter are affected by all these forces. For example neutrinos are oblivious to the electromagnetic and strong nuclear force which is why they can casually pass through what we think of as solid matter. Solid really means something that interacts with the electromagnetic force which holds particles together into what we call solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Neutrinos only interact with the weak nuclear force and gravity which is why they are so hard to detect - the weak force is puny and only rarely causes a neutrino to 'hit' something. To make 'dark matter' all that we need to postulate is a particle that does not even interact with the weak force. Such particles would be invisible and intangible to almost any sensor. There really is no reason to think that such a particle is impossible and given that it is so hard to make any measurements on it is not surprising that physicists are vague on the details.

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