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Comment: Re:Mars Needs Nothing (Score 1) 73

Mars is also a nine-month journey with no practical prospect of a "turn around and go home if something goes wrong" option. The moon is three days away and a free-return abort is built into the flight plan (along with a direct abort if the situation is dire). The scale of the two missions is completely different, with Mars being vastly more difficult mainly due to time.

I'm a big fan of the lunar base idea. Start there and develop -- or re-develop, as the case may be -- the technologies needed to get us reliably to and from the moon. Lunar habitats can be inflatable, or built underground using locally available materials. Hell, we could put robots on the moon to BUILD the habitats before we ever go there in person, making the whole trip a lot safer. And remotely controlling robots on the moon is a helluva lot easier than doing the same on Mars. Water is present on the moon for rocket fuel. Solar power is reasonable, but a small fission reactor would be much better. The escape velocity for the moon is lower than Mars and vastly lower than Earth. And asteroid capture missions could redirect to the moon instead of Earth, where the risk of "losing" and asteroid and having it impact would be negligible compared to aiming one at Earth and hoping you don't hit a populated area.

In short, a sustainable lunar base could be used as a springboard for future manned missions to Mars and the outer planets. The moon is IDEAL for this for every reason except one: it currently has no infrastructure for building or launching anything. Let's remedy that as soon as possible instead of trying to figure out how to haul everything out of Earth's gravity well and dense atmosphere. Grab an asteroid, send it to lunar orbit, smelt it down in orbit and construct your spacecraft THERE instead of on the surface. Complex items that cannot be easily made in orbit can be made on the lunar surface and launched via magnetic catapults into lunar orbit for final assembly. Or, for that matter, a lunar space elevator. The lower gravity and lack of atmosphere means we can construct a lunar space elevator with existing materials RIGHT NOW. Forget the magical unobtanium needed to make one on Earth; we just turn the moon into our launch platform for the solar system. Long term, instead of just redirecting asteroids to the moon, we can get to Saturn and grab a few cubic miles of water ice from its rings. Sent to the moon, it could provide water, breathable oxygen, and fuel for thousands of missions.

Comment: Re:Just visit the damn Moon (Score 1) 73

The DC-X and NASP were cancelled because they were unworkable concepts. The prototypes you saw up until cancellation were about as space-ready as my toaster is. There were too many problems with materials and performance that we do not have the technology to overcome just yet. Boeing recognized this and that's why the ideas were shelved, not some Vast Corporate Conspiracy.

Comment: Re:Just visit the damn Moon (Score 1) 73

Except for the fact that it does nothing to spread out the human species. Right now, if a calamity befalls Earth such as an asteroid/comet impact, or the explosion of the Yosemite supervolcano, or global thermonuclear war, we get wiped out as a species. In the long run, we MUST leave Earth if for no other reason that to get all our eggs out of one basket.

And, if you want to be REALLY forward thinking, we have to eventually leave this entire solar system, as our Sun will eventually burn out, turn into a red giant, swallow Mercury and Venus, and probably Earth as well if it isn't burned to a cinder already.

Comment: Re:Time for some leaps and not baby steps (Score 1) 142

So for a return mission we would have to land both a rover AND a rather large rocket to get a sample back.

Why land a rather large rocket? Seriously. This same discussion took place pre-Apollo when engineers thought we'd have to land a large rocket on the moon. Their solution then would work equally well now. Send a lander with a small, lightweight return-to-orbit ascent stage. Leave the Earth-return rocket in orbit awaiting the ascent stage with sample. Your landing/takeoff mass problem is thus solved.

Granted, you now need an automated docking procedure in Mars orbit, but I can't imagine that would be more difficult to engineer than trying to orchestrate a much heavier land-and-return rocket setup.

Comment: Re:Go MS! (Score 1) 200

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48609877) Attached to: NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower

Remind me again who's been in charge of charge of the House, the Senate, and the White House for most of Obama's tenure? Sure, a Republican was pushing for this pork. But it passed a Senate and a White House both controlled by Democrats, either of which could have easily stopped it. Neither did. In fact, depending upon the timeline (which I'm too busy to fully look up at the moment), it's possible the Democrats were in control of the House as well at the time this was going on. I can't recall exactly when the Republicans took over the House.

The truth here is the entire system is contemptible. Both Republicans and Democrats bear equal responsibility for this debacle. And to suggest there aren't billions and billions of dollars of pork barrel projects championed by Democrats is disingenuous at best.

Comment: Re:We've already seen the alternative to regulatio (Score 1) 93

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48524821) Attached to: A Backhanded Defense of Las Vegas' Taxi Regulation

Regulations can suck, but they don't -have- to.

Like any tool, regulations can be abused. That's why We The People should be especially vigilant in allowing them to be established in the first place. As hard as I might try, I can't find anything in the federal and state Constitution that empowers the government to look out for me making shitty decisions. Therefore, the government has no business saying who can or cannot drive a taxi. If Uber gives shitty service, they will fail because the market will MAKE them fail. It's not the government's job to choose winners and losers when it comes to providing voluntary services.

These regulations are protection rackets, no more, no less.

Comment: Re:We've already seen the alternative to regulatio (Score 2) 93

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48524777) Attached to: A Backhanded Defense of Las Vegas' Taxi Regulation

Come on, man; nobody in the nerderati even knew about taxi regulations until we started talking about Uber.

Actually, anybody who knows anything about how labor unions -- and, in the case of Las Vegas, the spectre of organized crime syndicates -- use their political muscle to destroy free market competition knows pretty much whatever they need to know about this situation. Uber/Lyft represented a threat to the government-enforced near monopoly of the taxi market, using laws created by labor unions and pitched to politicians in concert with generous campaign contributions. Business as usual.

Comment: Re:More detailed ratings are a good thing (Score 1) 642

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48406777) Attached to: Sweden Considers Adding "Sexism" Ratings To Video Games

On the flip-side of this though is the MPAA. They are not a government organization, nor are they mandated by the government. They do possess quite the power to stop certain things from being shown in movie theaters though. Plenty of producers have forced the editing of movies so they could avoid certain ratings. And we are not even allowed to know who the people are who produce the ratings, or how they are created. It is a black box that controls what gets shown in theaters. Check out the movie "This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)" [imdb.com] if you want more details.

Ironically, the MPAA you cite possesses no power that the public doesn't give it voluntarily. The MPAA puts ratings on its movies. Movie theaters show these movies to the public. These theaters are under no obligation to ban unrated movies. That they have collectively decided to do so is a social phenomenon, not a regulatory one.

In this sense, the MPAA has no more power than, say, Consumer Reports Magazine. If I decide to open a theater chain showing any movie, regardless of rating, nobody can stop me. But my success will depend upon the public's willingness to ignore that lack of rating. Honestly, it might make a fun social experiment to see what would happen, but I lack the funds and time to do it. I suspect the results would surprise the MPAA, as social and moral attitudes have changed markedly in the last several decades. I don't think many people really care all that much about ratings anymore. It should be enough to note if a movie contains "adult content" or is "suitable for children" and that's about it.

Comment: Re:I can see the curiosity aspect.. (Score 3, Insightful) 187

Can't you be spending your time doing something more productive?

Consider that any successful experience in cloning anything adds to our knowledge base about cloning. By perfecting cloning, we can do a lot more than just bring back extinct species. We could, for example, grow entirely new organs cloned from your body to replace damaged or failing ones, organs that could be transplanted into you without fear of tissue rejection. Further, the practice of being able to reliably modify cells at the genetic level can lead to all sorts of other benefits in medicine, biology, and even far-flung fields as nanotechnology when you consider the scale you have to work in.

The whole "can't you spend your time/money better" argument is pretty short-sighted when you consider the enormous ancillary benefits. It's like saying why bother going to the moon when you can spend money on Earth. But without that impetus, we might not have the very computers and Internet you're currently using to read this post, or lasers to correct your vision, or lightweight, strong materials used to make the planes you fly on, or the fuel cells used to power zero-emission vehicles, or...you get the idea.

Stop thinking in checkers. Think chess. It's not the current move that matters; it's the move you make three moves from now that wins the game.

Comment: These idiots are going to ruin it for everyone (Score 1) 132

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48380671) Attached to: Drone Sightings Near Other Aircraft Up Dramatically

Expect to see them heavily regulated or banned soon.

Exactly how are they going to ban them? Short of banning them completely from stores -- a heavy-handed move that would likely meet significant legal obstacles -- they're going to be out there. You can't control where people fly these things, either. You could try jamming commonly-used RC frequencies to stop people from manually flying them here or there, but you can't stop someone who might pre-program a GPS-guided drone to deliberately go into controlled airspace without also jamming GPS -- and that would piss off too many people. And if that fails, really determined bad guy/idiot could put together an inertial guidance setup and *still* get into your airspace.

The only way to be sure is to shoot them down, but that's also impractical. These things are here to stay. I'm not saying I like it anymore than you because, I agree, some fool is going to fly their shiny quadcopter into the intake of a plane during takeoff and kill a bunch of people. I just don't see a way to stop them that's both legal (i.e. respects the safe, legal use of drones for legitimate purposes) and practical (you can't just shoot them all down).

Comment: Re:the solution: (Score 1) 651

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48051817) Attached to: The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

Technology has been in an arms race between arms and armor since the first man picked up a stick. One thing that stands out is that armor always is playing catch up. I don't see that changing. Even a mythical force shield would just create the atmosphere for a weapon designed to pierce it.

The issue here isn't to go after the weapons. Nor is the issue to develop defenses against the weapons. The issue is to go after the men and the mentality that would use them for ill. If this sounds like racial profiling and pro-active anti-terror ops, you're right. I'm not debating the morality of them, I'm just saying I see no other option.

Comment: Re:the solution: (Score 1) 651

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48051777) Attached to: The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

The truly scary time will come when the same is true of more serious weapons, like chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons. As technology progresses these may become more accessible to individuals as well. It will be an interesting world when the disgruntled kid at school can just blow up the city instead of shooting up the school.

Agreed. And the worst part is, I don't see a way to defend against it in a passive sense. Imagine, if you will, a scenario were a single bad guy could personally possess and use a weapon with the capability of killing tens of thousands of people. It's not a big stretch to see that coming to pass in the next half century. If such a weapon were easily portable, easily concealable...what can you do to stop it? The answer is, you can't. At least not once the weapon is in his possession and close to the target.

As offensive as it may seem to civil libertarians, isolationists, and non-interventionists, the only way to stop such an attack would be to pre-emptively seek out such plots and terminate them in their infancy. Waiting until they're actualized is too late. How can civil liberties be preserved in such a scenario? I honestly don't know. People won't tolerate a government that won't protect them. Nor will they tolerate an external entity -- state or non-state -- that incubates such activities. The world is going to be a much more dangerous place sooner than anyone thinks.

Comment: Re:the solution: (Score 1) 651

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48051737) Attached to: The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine

No, if a cop/soldier shoots and kills someone, it's much better PR for the government if that person is armed.

The best martyrs are unarmed and offer only passive resistance.

But you miss the point. If I'm unarmed, the government has no need to use deadly force to remove me. A few flashbangs and a SWAT team and there's very little I could do about it without my own stash of firepower.

Where there's a will, there's an Inheritance Tax.

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