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Comment: Re:Material selection (Score 2) 156

by necro81 (#47711149) Attached to: Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity
Curiosity's RTG, like most that came before it, is powered with Plutonium-238. Pu-238 is an alpha-particle emitter, meaning that the radiation is easily blocked by most solid objects (as opposed to, say, gamma or neutron radiation, which require significant shielding). The radiation levels that leave the RTG housing would, I expect, be non-significant compared to the ambient radiation on the surface of Mars.

UV radiation would be a bigger problem as far as plastics are concerned.

Comment: Re:BarbaraHudson is an absolute idiot (Score 1) 89

by necro81 (#47702121) Attached to: Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit

My, how times change. The first iPhone came out a little over seven years ago, to widespread mockery: "It has no keyboard!" "It's too expensive!" "Businesses and government will never abandon their Blackberries!" And now Blackberry is a shadow of it's former self, and we're arguing whether they're totally doomed or not....

Well, this is slashdot - what else are we supposed to do? If we weren't griping, sniping, and tearing everything down, we might actually go out and create something freakin' amazing!

Comment: Re:$4-15K/year (Score 1) 95

by necro81 (#47669645) Attached to: Student Bookstores Beware, Amazon Comes To Purdue Campus
As a counter-annecdote: when I was taking a course in Fourier theory, the professor teaching the course was in the process of writing his own textbook on the subject. Each week or so we got a printed copy of the appropriate chapter. He had been working on it for a while, and it was more or less complete: with huge numbers of embedded mathematics (including lengthy derivations), graphs produced in Matlab, all properly typeset using LaTeX. It was a fantastic "text" (although not exactly in book form), and better than the actual assigned text. It cost us, the students, nothing (other than the costs of being a grad student, monetary and otherwise).

Just for the heck of it, I did some searching to see if he ever got it published. It's available for pre-order now (more than a decade since I took the course). I guess it'll be the required text now, and retails north of $100, but at least it will be good.

Comment: Re:Disengenous (Score 1) 306

by necro81 (#47573413) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

Why? As long as there are 3 or more, why care about anything but price and selection? If you can find what you want, then it's just about price, no? At least, it is for me.

Because I rather like having vibrant communities sprinkled with local businesses - places where people go and interact - and a local economy not predicated solely on the whims of the Fortune 500. The end-game of what you are advocating is that everyone stays home and buys everything online or, if they opt for brick-and-mortar, their only option are big-box stores: nondescript cookie-cutter islands of mega-commerce in a sea of blacktop parking lots. I don't want that to be the dominant model, even if it means I sometimes pay a smidgen more. That smidgen more "buys" me a community I want to live in, and neighbors that can afford to live there. There's a place for big-box stores and online commerce giants - I have made purchases at Target, Amazon, and Home Depot in the last month - but I worry about me and everyone else being screwed by hegemony.

Comment: Depends on definitions (Score 1) 391

by necro81 (#47566911) Attached to: How long ago did you last assemble a computer?
I had to replace the screen on a broken smartphone in the last year. To get the screen free required a nearly total disassembly of the phone itself, followed naturally enough by a nearly complete (re)assembly. Most people would consider say that smartphones are a subset of computers; one can quibble as to whether "repair == assembly."

If the intent of the question is more along the lines of "When did you last purchase components for a desktop computer and put them all together yourself (i.e., sticking processor into socket, RAM into the mobo, etc.)?" Then the answer is: not in a decade, since that was when I last had a personal machine that was a desktop that required such assembly.

As a middle ground, I changed some of the components of my personal laptop (new HDD, more RAM, new battery, replaced a finicky flex cable). That was to years ago.

Comment: Yet another step (Score 2) 119

by necro81 (#47566459) Attached to: The Milky Way Is Much Less Massive Than Previous Thought
Starting from the Earth getting kicked out from the center of the universe to the present hypothesis that visible matter is just a tiny fraction of all the stuff in the universe, having the mass of the Milky Way reduced is just another step in what Carl Sagan called The Great Demotions. Hopefully by now humanity is getting used to it.

Comment: Re:Such a Waste (Score 1) 156

by necro81 (#47564663) Attached to: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

It all could have been one movie it they followed the book

that's what I'm looking forward to once the third film is out: the fan-edit that removes anything extraneous (i.e., not explicitly in the book). Take out all of that, cut each chase sequence roughly in half, and you will end up with ONE tightly paced movie about 2:45 in length that is an entertaining adaptation.

Comment: Re:Radicalization (Score 3, Informative) 868

by necro81 (#47557345) Attached to: Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline

Show me another country in the region that has a single Jew or Christian in office.

You mean like Lebanon, Israel's neighbor to the north?

From Wikipedia:
"High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Eastern Orthodox....

"Lebanon's national legislature is the unicameral Parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions."

I wouldn't say that government-by-religious-and-ethnic-quota is necessarily a great way to go, but it does provide diversity.

Make sure your code does nothing gracefully.

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