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Comment Re:Consumables (Score 2) 49

It shouldn't be that surprising to see water and methane everywhere. After all, hydrogen is by far the most common element in the universe, and oxygen and carbon are also relatively common. Simple compounds of heavier elements with hydrogen should be among the most common things to see on planets (and dwarf planets and moons) that don't have strong enough gravity to keep hydrogen in their atmosphere.

Comment Re:Great! (Score 1) 338

If you want an incandescent that lasts really long, you need one sealed with a noble or inert gas (pure nitrogen might work on the cheap)

Not necessarily! Halogen lamps work by enclosing the filament with a reactive gas rather than an inert one. The halogen in the lamp reacts to form tungsten compounds that are stable at the lower temperatures near the glass of the bulb but decompose to tungsten and halogen at the higher temperatures near the filament. That design scavenges tungsten that sublimes from the filament and deposits on the bulb, minimizing filament erosion.

Comment Re:Great! (Score 1) 338

The argument was making them last longer wasted electricity since they would produce more heat and less light, but the real purpose was basically to create planned obsolescence and sell more lightbulbs at an inflated price.

Which is technically correct for the easiest ways of making the lamps last longer, i.e. running them cooler. The main reason incandescent lights are so inefficient is because they put out most of their energy as IR rather than visible light. If you run them hotter, they become much more energy efficient because more of the light is at visible wavelengths, and at wavelengths our eyes are more sensitive to, but that makes the filament material sublime faster, reducing lifespan. The reason halogen lamps are more efficient than conventional incandescent lamps is because the halogen improves filament lifespan enough that it's practical to run them at hotter, more efficient temperatures.

Comment Re: Sounds like an MBA plan! (Score 4, Insightful) 216

It was up to me to make sure my own code was quality enough before releasing it, and that aspect terrified me enough that I did learn to write quality code (which basically means you are testing your own code thoroughly, doing your own QA).

The problem with testing your own code is that you're likely to miss entire classes of bugs. You can be very effective at catching the kinds of bugs you can think of, but those are always the easiest bugs to catch in the first place. The tests you write for yourself will never do a good job of catching errors in your assumptions about what the code should do, what kinds of inputs it needs to handle, etc. Catching those kinds of conceptual bugs really requires adversarial testing from somebody who isn't starting from the same set of assumptions.

Comment Re:Tax cheats should be drawn and quartered!! (Score 1) 63

Seriously, there need to be strict rules against spying

More realistically, there need to be strict rules restricting spying. The government does have a real, if limited, need to spy on people as part of enforcing the law. That's what the 4th Amendment is supposed to be about: keeping the spying within strict limits necessary to enforce the law. I assume what I assume the IRS means when they talk about "carrying out criminal investigations in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial procedures"- that they have been scrupulous in following those rules. I don't have a big problem with the IRS's actions, per se, so long as they are following the law. The real discussion, though, is what the law ought to be- what things should require warrants, how much evidence should be required to get one, and what to do to police who lie when asking for them.

Comment Re:Before a human walks on Mars... (Score 1) 285

Mars is fascinating, but any attempts to spend tax-dollars on going there under the pretext of "humanity running out of room" must be rejected as mere pretence.

Who said the desire to go to Mars was about running out of room? For most of the people who are genuinely serious about visiting Mars, it's about exploration and science. We've learned an impressive amount about Mars by sending robots there, but a single trip by a small team of well trained people could learn orders of magnitude more.

Comment Re:Not random: Faces Aligned and Similarly Sized (Score 1) 103

I bet if you were allowed to do the same alignment and scaling for bird song you could average the now aligned audio to get something like birdsong.

I am not nearly so confident. Maybe if you averaged the song of many birds of the same species you could get some kind of recognizable song out. But what's going to happen when you average the song of a chickadee, a robin, a meadowlark, and a crow? There's simply no way of aligning them so they produce a coherent combination; they're just too different.

Comment Re:Only a problem if it's not anonymous (Score 2) 187

The problem with anonymizing the samples completely is that it makes it impossible to add new information about the donors' health since birth, which would make the samples much more useful for researchers. Totally anonymous samples could be used, for example, to look at gene frequencies, but not a lot more. The greatest value to researchers would be if they could associate the samples with subsequent health information so that they could look for genetic markers associated with specific diseases. That can only happen if it's possible to connect the samples to their donors' health records.

The ideal approach would be to have a completely trustworthy organization hold the samples, associate them with the health records, and then anonymize the samples before providing them to researchers. That would let you have the benefits of the research without the drawbacks of destroying people's privacy. The question is whether we trust our government to do that.

Comment Re:they serve a purpose (Score 2) 439

The dealers already pay Chevy it's price.

That's not entirely true, because the dealer's pricing isn't that simple, either. They're typically buying the cars from the dealer on credit and get a discount if they pay back faster than the terms of the credit agreement. Manufacturers will also offer incentives to the dealer, like a substantial bonus if they meet a challenging sales target. The net result is that the dealers may sometimes make deals on individual cars that don't appear to make sense given the "dealer price" but that do make sense when you look at all the discounts and incentives they're getting.

Comment Re:You're the problem (Score 4, Insightful) 497

I feel the best comments can and should declare the intent of a block of code, rather than drilling down into the mechanics of the code.

Exactly. There's a lot of code that needs comments like "fixes bug XXX". If you had to fix a nasty bug and it took you a day to get the details right, let the next poor sap know what you were doing. Otherwise, he's likely to reintroduce the bug by tearing out this apparently useless code.

Another good use of comments is to summarize a large block of code so that people don't have to dig into it to figure out what it does. For example, it's good to document functions at the top with enough detail that somebody would know how and when to call them without having to read through the whole thing.

Comment Re:You should have expected this. (Score 1) 132

Criminals and terrorists are usually too smart to voluntarily give their DNA to anybody.

Terrorist and some professional criminals perhaps, but they make up a small fraction of the criminals out there. There are plenty of petty criminals who wind up in a life of crime because they can't hack regular employment. There are even more people who commit crimes because they're temporarily blinded by rage, greed, or drugs into doing something that they would never do if they were in complete control of their faculties.

Comment How do we get one (Score 1) 151

Yeah, it would be great to be able to launch fuel from the moon, but how easy is it to get a fueling station there? My intuition is that it would take a lot more resources to build a moonbase capable of sending up the fuel for trips to Mars than it would to just ship everything for the trip to Mars directly from the Earth. This approach only makes any kind of sense if you plan on going to Mars a lot- or if you're just looking for a convenient excuse to build a moonbase.

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