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Comment: Re:Please put up or shut up (Score 1) 105

by DerekLyons (#47505811) Attached to: MIT's Ted Postol Presents More Evidence On Iron Dome Failures

Why should anyone believe a person with a clear agenda, no access and no evidence?

That was my thought too... except I'd have added "and whose report contains so many assumptions, incorrect statements, and weasel words that even if I was inclined to believe the guy I'd be skeptical".

Comment: Re:Correction (Score 2) 76

by the gnat (#47503769) Attached to: UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

Actually, we know almost all basic chemistry, and the range of (stable) molecules that silicon can form is orders of magnitude less than for carbon.

Well, yeah, but I didn't want to offend the pedants even further. Unless the laws of physics (and therefore basic chemistry) are very different elsewhere in the galaxy, it's not unreasonable to think that carbon-based, liquid-water-dependent lifeforms are the most probable. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a tidy sum of money that the overwhelming majority of unique forms of life are not terribly dissimilar from ours as far as the underlying chemistry is concerned. They might be fantastically alien in all sorts of other strange ways, but they'll still be based on simple organic polymers. But this is still irrelevant to the discussion at hand, because even if there were different forms of life, we have no idea how we might detect them at astronomical distances.

Comment: Re:Correction (Score 5, Insightful) 76

by the gnat (#47502633) Attached to: UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

I wish I had mod points. Every time I hear about planets not being able to support life, this is my first thought.

And every time a story about extraterrestrial life gets posted on Slashdot, several dozen people say exactly the same thing, as if they've had some brilliantly original insight that the scientists researching the subject missed. No one is explicitly ruling out the possibility that there are gaseous lifeforms living in the clouds of gas giants, or silicon-based rock monsters like the one in Star Trek. Hell, it would be a huge discovery if we found something like that. But since we're presently incapable of observing such lifeforms firsthand, and have no idea what we should be looking for at a distance of light-years, we have to settle for looking for the planetary "signatures" of temperature, oceans, oxygen content, etc. It may not satisfy the pedants, but it's still extremely difficult by itself. When we're capable of actually exploring other solar systems directly, then maybe we can start to look for fantasy lifeforms on frozen airless rocks and methane clouds.

Comment: Re:So depressing. (Score 2) 108

by the gnat (#47500583) Attached to: A Look At NASA's Orion Project

All the hundreds of bases on foreign soil should be liquidated, and the foreign countries that get those back should start footing the bill for their own defense. Then we'll see how much they want to cry about American expansionist policies and so on.

In fairness, it's generally not the South Koreans (to pick one obvious example) complaining about American expansionism.

Comment: Re:NASA has become small indeed... (Score 4, Informative) 108

by DerekLyons (#47498345) Attached to: A Look At NASA's Orion Project

It took 8 years from Kennedy's speech in 1961 to a human on the moon in 1969. Not only did NASA get a moon rocket designed, tested, and launched in that time, it also got an intermediate rocket program (Gemini) designed, tested, and launched prior to the moon program.

From scratch.

Other than the part about Gemini... you're completely wrong. Development of the F1 engine started in 1956. The J-2 got started in 1959. Engineering studies and development of what would become the Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn V booster were well underway by 1960. There was also a ton of other R&D projects and nascent technologies from NASA and DoD programs then under way. (Apollo relied on chips developed for the DoD and a guidance system borrowed from a SLBM.) That's part of why Kennedy chose the moon landing as a goal over his other options we already had many of the pieces under development.
And you can't discount another critical factor - during the crucial startup period Apollo had a massive budget.

Now we're looking at (maybe) 11 years to develop a working rocket to go to an asteroid.

Space programs are like women, when you compare a fantasy (your massively romanticized and largely factually incorrect version of Apollo) to reality... it's unsurprising that reality doesn't measure up.

But the call of space comes from the same place the call of the sea arose from in the past. To Terra Incognita, where "Here Be Dragons." Sorry, there be no dragons around the space rock.

Nope. The call of the sea was "here there be PROFIT".

Comment: Re:no doubter here, I watched the launch (Score 1) 200

by DerekLyons (#47498281) Attached to: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

a stunning achievement. from that effort came chips, medical telemetry, Lord only knows what.

In general, we got damm little back from the Apollo project. (Though NASA's PR department has spent decades telling us different.) Take chips for example - the only reason chips were available for Apollo is because someone had already built the fabs. (To sell chips to the DoD. But they got their timing wrong and the DoD wasn't buying big right then... leaving capacity available for Apollo.)

Comment: Re:String theory is not science (Score 2, Informative) 142

by Mr. Slippery (#47494263) Attached to: Can the Multiverse Be Tested Scientifically?

Uh, yeah, we can measure -1. The charge of an electron. The distance along the x-axis that I travel when I walk one meter west. The effect on a wave when it encounters an identical one 180 degrees out of phase.

Not at all. None of those things "are" -1. They are observable phenomena that we tag with the human invention, the word/concept, "-1". Mathematics is not an aspect of objective observable reality, it is a language that we have found useful for describing our observations.

Comment: Re:10.10 per hour (Score 2) 741

by DerekLyons (#47494145) Attached to: States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

After necessities like food, rent, electricity, phone, transportation, clothing, and so on, it's going to take some wicked budgeting skills to have any disposable income at all.

So? It sucks to be poor. It's *always* sucked to be poor. It always *will* suck to be poor. You can't legislate that away.

Lack of living wage jobs is a problem. But so are the excessive expectations, created in part by our material culture and in part by the belief (created from whole cloth) that nobody should ever suffer because life is unfair nor have a life that sucks.

Comment: Re:Yes, they're separate (Score 1) 213

by billstewart (#47492837) Attached to: Cosmologists Show Negative Mass Could Exist In Our Universe

Yup - Dark matter is simply stuff we haven't seen yet. It might be tiny particles of types we don't understand, it might be supermassive black holes, it might be lots of small black holes, it might be lots of free-floating planets not around stars, or Jupiter-sized gas planets that weren't big enough to ignite into stars, it might be little rocks, it might be accounting errors. It might be weird stuff, it might be non-weird stuff. There's enough of whatever it is to have enough mass that galaxies act differently that we'd expect from the amount of matter we can see (i.e. mostly stars.)

Dark energy is a lot weirder. It's not defined as just the energy form of dark-matter-on particles, it's a different problem.

Comment: Honeypot Credit Card Numbers (Score 1) 122

by billstewart (#47492759) Attached to: FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

Tracing the phone calls hasn't worked very well, but the way to go is to follow the money. Flooding them with honeypot credit card numbers would generate a trail that might be followable (e.g. have an FTC web page that'll generate a credit card number and billing name/address, and have Visa track the merchant information for anybody trying to process a charge against those numbers; the risk is that you have to make sure those numbers don't get used for fraud, even if they're set up to always reject charges.)

I don't know how much information the scammers try to get, such as SSNs; generating fake ones of those has its own risks, though it's always fun to give them 078-05-1120 or Richard Nixon's SSN 567-68-0515. It turns out there is a publicly available official list of SSNs of dead people, which is intended to detect people using invalid SSNs, but it's possible that Rachel's gang doesn't bother filtering on it, considering that they don't filter on phone numbers of people who've told them not to call back.

Comment: Re:She's baaaaaack (Score 1) 122

by billstewart (#47492731) Attached to: FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

They really did go away for a while, or at least slow down a lot, when one of the big "Rachel from Cardholder Services" gangs got busted and shut down. But it's such an easily replicable scam, and probably multiple sets of it are being run independently. I'm pretty sure the call center end is independent contractors or else shady call-centers (I know some are in Canada, and I suspect some are run by prison-labor call centers and some are in the Caribbean.)

Comment: Why Whitelisting Fails (Score 1) 122

by billstewart (#47492725) Attached to: FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

First of all, Caller ID is trivially easy to fake, and the scammers all do it. For now, most of them pick random or fake numbers to avoid getting blacklisted, but if whitelists were common, they'd start forging real numbers to get through.

But many people (ok, me, at least) get lots of calls from numbers I don't recognize, and robocalls that I want that might not come from the number I recognize for somebody. Most of the robocalls are the pharmacy saying I've got something to pick up, or the dentist's office with a reminder about an appointment, or that kind of thing, and the calls from humans might be from some doctor my wife is going to or some business we were trying to reach that has different numbers for outgoing calls than incoming (like the painter calling from his cellphone instead of his office, or a big business calling from their call center or local office instead of their toll-free number.)

And yes, I could just let the answering machine pick up, and you can too. Some of the robocallers' robots do a better job of dealing with that than others.

Comment: Re:The machine I let "Microsoft Repair" hack (Score 2) 122

by billstewart (#47492707) Attached to: FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

It's a virtual machine. Running Linux. Firefox instead of Internet Exploder (Sorry, it's a work machine, the IT department installs Firefox instead of IE.) With NoScript and AdBlockPlus. Amazing how much stuff just "didn't work" when I tried it - I'd go to their web pages, and I'd hit the Download button and nothing would happen, or I'd run the installer and it wouldn't work. (I wanted to see all the different things they were trying - most of them were different Remote Login or Remote Execution programs that would have let him log into my machine and then do his real attacks.)

After about half an hour the guy realized I was faking him out, and we had another entertaining half hour while he tried to convince me that what he was doing really was a legitimate kind of business, and after that his boss came on and spent five or ten minutes yelling at me for wasting his employee's time.

Comment: Re:competitors to Comcast for data services. (Score 1) 122

by billstewart (#47492683) Attached to: FTC To Trap Robocallers With Open Source Software

At least in most states, DSL service from the main telco can not only carry telco-provided ISP services, but also competitive ISPs, such as Sonic and Speakeasy and whatever Megapath and Covad are called these days. The competitors tend to cost a bit more, but also offer things like static IP addresses at more reasonable prices, and usually don't have usage caps or "no servers at home" policies. They may be renting just the wire from the telco, or maybe the wire and the DSLAM, and usually also some regional distribution network, but it's usually their own email and web servers and upstream bandwidth.

My experience with is that about every 5 years, something goes wrong that takes a day or two to fix, either a telco problem in a box down the street, or my DSL modem getting too old and dying. So I call them up by phone or send them email from work or Starbucks, and get a quick response back from somebody who can diagnose the problem but may need to call the telco to actually fix.

Fiber-based telco services don't have to share with competitors, unlike copper, and I'm not sure if AT&T U-Verse gets resold or not. But copper DSL is definitely not just the local monopoly.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz