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Comment Re:Outer space (Score 2) 72

A laser interferometer in interplanetary space could have an enormous path length quite easily, and would not sense all the vibrations on Earth. It could also be in 3-dimensions, consisting of a satellite hub and 3 corner-cube mirrors at long distances from the hub

Mostly correct. One of the main hurdles, however, is controlling the positions of the spacecraft relative to each other to extremely tight tolerances. In deep space this isn't too difficult. In Earth or Lunar orbit, it's quite difficult. An Earth-Sun lagrange point can work, except that those, too, require some station keeping.

It's not impossible; merely hard.

Comment Re:An honest question (Score 1) 72

Another reason: assuming there is good clock synchronization between the data feeds of the two sites, you should be able to use their separation to determine from where in the galaxy the wave came from. (With two sites, you can only narrow down the location so far. Three sites should provide a good fix; N sites would be that much better.)

Comment Re:Two thoughts (Score 1) 163

How well do these systems work when their feedstock of CO2 is less than 0.5% pure (i.e. air)?

There are places where the concentration is much higher. For instance, the smokestacks utility-scale, fossil-fueled electrical generators. For instance, there are a variety of large coal plants out in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts, which also have abundant solar (PV and thermal) resources. It may seem a bit strange to co-locate a liquid fuels synthesis plant, hopefully run on variable renewable energy, next to a base-load coal-fired plant, but they each have their uses in the vast landscape of energy supply and demand.

Comment Re:This is what I look forward most in hydrogen ec (Score 2) 163

The dream of having a farm with solar panels, converting water to hydrogen to store in tanks in the ground is a cool dream. You can then use that hydrogen to power your car or heat your home.

It is a cool dream, but handling liquid hydrocarbons is a lot easier. If you have a good way to produce lots of hydrogen, you can 1) use it to synthesize hydrocarbons, which our existing infrastructure can handle, or 2) compress it to technologically challenging pressures or cryogenic temperatures, and still have lower energy density. You don't need pure hydrogen to run a fuel cell - a variety of fuel cells you can buy today for powering a home or datacenter run on natural gas.

Comment Re:Sometimes completely self driving (Score 1) 247

As a step in the gradualist progression will be the phase-out of long-haul truckers. Instead, you'll have self-driving trucks that cover 95% of the route (the freeway miles) all by themselves (driving 24/7, as fuel permits), pull into a truck stop just off a prescribed exit, and have a conventional trucker drive it the rest of the way in. I could easily see Wal-Mart, for instance, going this way. The implications for the teamsters could be dire. Would those final-miles drivers be union, or would they be considered scabs? Will we see modern-day luddites attacking or otherwise sabotaging the autonomous trucks? Will this even be an issue in thirty years?

Comment Automation Paradox (Score 1) 247

Generally speaking, automation makes us stupid. Oh, sure, it helps free us from drudgery, and won't get bored like up, but presents new failure modes that aren't always obvious during the design and testing phase.

Over the summer, 99% Invisible and NPR's Planet Money put out several podcasts ([1], [2], [3]) on the automation paradox, and the Google car is front and center. So is Air France Flight 447, which shows what happens when automation fails and humans can't properly respond.

Comment Die, not Der (Score 1) 280

I know that the Slashdot crowd (including myself) is largely peopled by native English speakers. I would even hazard that, being mostly Americans, the Slashdot crowd is majority monolingual (I have learned four others, but wouldn't consider myself fluent).

However, being haughtily, disdainfully monolinguial is no excuse for messing up the name of the news organization you are linking to:

According this article in Der Welt (Google translate from German), ...

It is "Die Welt", not "Der Welt." For heaven's sake, when you click on the link, the correct name is right there on the top of the page in 48-pt font. How do you screw that up?

In German, "der" and "die" are both articles that translate to the English "the," but they have different genders and should not be conflated. ("der" and "die" have more expanded meanings and uses than just "the", but we'll skip that for now.) It would be similar to an American referring to Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Chuck Norris, or Hulk Hogan as "she".

Comment Re:Let's send another one. (Score 1) 18

1. It is a communications relay to Earth. This is probably sufficient justification by itself.

The MAVEN orbiter also serves as a communications relay. As a matter of fact, getting it to Mars to take over communications was deemed so important the launch was allowed to proceed during the last government shutdown.

Of course, when MRO finally kicks the bucket, the U.S. program will be down to just MAVEN for communications. So we should, as you say, have another orbiter ready to take over for continuity's sake.

Comment Perspective (Score 4, Insightful) 293

We in the tech industry may be taking it for granted that, by and large, we can hopscotch from job to job however it suits us. In the broader U.S. economy, with official unemployment still above 5%, underemployment around 11%, certain communities (such as poor, minority urban neighborhoods) well above that, and wages more or less flat or declining for the past decade, I would argue we should count our blessings. That also does not consider the situation in, say, most of the rest of the world, where the statistics paint a worse picture.

In any event, the fluctuations in the unemployment rate and layoff figures month-to-month are pretty meaningless. You still like to have the granularity of month-to-month datapoints, but the broader trends are revealed only in longer timescales.

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison