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Comment: Re:Well done (Score 1) 71

The DMZ for New Jersey has been 500% better ever since privatization

So many potential jokes... where to begin?

"The NJ DMZ: blocking border crossings at 1/5th the price since 1995!"

"The NJ DMZ: we'll blow you up, but won't break the bank!"

"I thought all of NJ was a demilitarized zone!"

Anyone else?

Comment: Re:Open the pod bay door HAL (Score 1) 71

presumably, in the event of a failure, they could just "park" the Dragon a convenient orbit

It's an operational hassle, to be sure, but I wonder if part of Elon Musk is hoping for just that opportunity. The Dragon capsule gets more flight time, and the chance to demonstrate significant orbital changes, start/restart of the engines - all on NASA's dime!

Comment: Re:Horizontal (Score 1) 44

by necro81 (#46726307) Attached to: NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition

So the two issues (the landing position and launch position) are disjoint (only the lander has to land in a mostly upright position)

So the lander - a launch platform - is going to land on the surface of Mars with a long, horizontal rocket laying across it? That was the part that didn't make much sense to me.

Comment: Horizontal (Score 1) 44

by necro81 (#46723687) Attached to: NASA Setting Up $250,000 Mars Lander Competition

The Challenge would award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude not less than 800m, deploying a sample container with the cache internally sealed and landing the container at less than 6m/s terminal velocity.

I wonder why the rocket starts off horizontal. For an actual sample return mission, do they intend to land the return rocket horizontally? I always figured that the return rocket would be upright when it sets down or gets placed on the surface, like the Delta Clipper or Grasshopper.

Comment: Re:Energy (Score 1) 256

by necro81 (#46703271) Attached to: Navy Creates Fuel From Seawater

but I don't see this supplanting the fossil fuels any time soon

Maybe yes, maybe no. We're probably going to continue using liquid fuels for a long time. Some folks talk about the hydrogen economy being the replacement for hydrocarbons, but I've often wondered why. Hydrogen is a tricky fuel, starting from its relatively inefficient creation, through the difficulties in storage, transportation, distribution, to tricky bit of transferring and storing it in a vehicle tor provide sufficient usable range. If you've got the technology for manufacturing huge quantities of hydrogen, why not go one step further and create low weight hydrocarbons (methane, ethane, etc)? Those are much more energy dense, easier to transport and store, and there's already an extensive infrastructure in place.

Comment: Re:Don't bother. (Score 1) 509

by necro81 (#46662219) Attached to: The Problem With Congress's Scientific Illiterates

I've already heard three rants about the stupid, stupid government designing forms that the smart engineer can't use

What, that's not rant-worthy? I know the tax code is stupendously complex and all, but one should not have to be a professionally trained tax-preparer to be able to do an honest job of it.

Regarding the rest of the behavior you describe - yeah, that's just plain asking for trouble.

Comment: Re:Don't bother. (Score 1) 509

by necro81 (#46662171) Attached to: The Problem With Congress's Scientific Illiterates
That may be, but for the sake of humility, I try to recognize my own ignorance. I do not bloviate about how fantastically wonderful my ignorance is, nor belittle the opinion of people who actually are experts. Not about things that actually matter - ya know, important stuff like life and death and the survival of nations. Then again, I'm not a self-serving politician in a place of power. That's why this kind of behavior from politicians drives me bonkers. Their celebrated ignorance and obstinance in the face of established theory isn't just some game - even if they are playing at one - this will have real, serious, and mostly bad consequences that they couldn't care less about.

Comment: Re:nope! (Score 1) 496

by necro81 (#46647783) Attached to: Will Cameras Replace Sideview Mirrors On Cars In 2018?

You can point a camera anywhere you want

What is more, you can do a variety of optical manipulations with a camera that you can't with a mirror. For instance: have a wider, fisheye view for certain driving circumstances, or a narrower, more directional view for others.

Cameras are also useful inputs for various vehicle systems - navigation, active cruise control, crash avoidance, etc. Right now these rely on a different set of cameras, laser rangefinders, radar, etc. These sensors are extra components. If most cars have cameras already, these features are easy to implement

Comment: Re: Gyroscopic precession (Score 3, Informative) 262

by necro81 (#46596583) Attached to: Prototype Volvo Flywheel Tech Uses Car's Wasted Brake Energy
The F-1 flywheel systems have a vertically oriented axis, so that the gyro forces are reduced.

The model demonstrated by Volvo has a horizontal axis, so the gyro forces will be greater and must be dealt with. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to quantify. If you get the flywheel spinning in the correct direction, you can even make the forces work in your favor to reduce roll during a turn.

Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson