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Comment: Like Voyager's golden record? (Score 2) 169

by sbaker (#49227737) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Video Storage For Time Capsule?

100 years isn't so long. They people who open the container will almost certainly be able to read instructions - and probably have reasonable technology to access the contents. But maybe they don't care enough to go to a lot of trouble to do it? It's very likely that the images you store will still be easily accessible in the future.

If you don't think they'll go to very much trouble - then you should provide them with the means to replay the data as well as the data itself. There are plenty of small video players (like a cheap digital camera or an MP3 player with video capability) - so long as you pack them appropriately and protect them from crazy temperature variations, they should last a long time in storage and still work at the end. Provide written instructions on what power requirements the machine has - and what buttons to push to access the content.

But quite honestly - there is unlikely to be anything in the data you provide that won't be accessible by then.

I would stick with physical objects that would be of historical interest, personal items - a snapshot of the times when the capsule was buried.

Maybe it would be worth trying to find people who've opened capsules like this - and ask them what was found to be most valuable from the contents?

    -- Steve

Comment: Apple Watch vs Pebble Time? (Score 3, Informative) 529

by sbaker (#49221421) Attached to: Apple's "Spring Forward" Event Debuts Apple Watch and More

I didn't catch the Apple announcement - but I wonder how the Apple Watch compares to the Pebble Time that's doing huge $$$ on Kickstarter right now?

From what I can see:

* Pebble is *way* cheaper.
* Pebble has a 7 day battery life (kinda beats 18 hours!)
* Pebble works with both iOS and Android, so if you ever want to change your phone, you won't have to change your watch.
* Pebble allows anyone to develop & ship apps without a fee.
* Both scheduled to ship about the same time.

I'm sure there is more to it than this than that...but why on earth would I buy the Apple watch?

Comment: Easy to understand - impossible to solve. (Score 1) 164

by sbaker (#49194313) Attached to: Developers Race To Develop VR Headsets That Won't Make Users Nauseous

I've worked with VR helmets since the 1980's in flight simulation.

The problem is simple: Your eyes use two mechanisms to figure out distance - the degree to which your eyes have to point in different directions in order to fuse two images into one - and the degree to which the lens has to be stretched or squished to pull things into focus. Every VR helmet ever made gets the first thing right - and completely fails at the second thing. No matter what optics are used, no matter anything - you're focussing at the same distance over the entire visual field, regardless of virtual distance.

When our brains look at two inputs that should yield the same results - but they don't - we assume that something is malfunctioning, and we get sick.

Same deal with seasickness when the inner ear says one thing about the motion and our eyes tell us something different.

So - you need some kind of insane computer-driven lenticular display where every pixel has a lens that focuses that light at an appropriate depth for the 3D content at that point. Such things don't exist...and that's the only thing that'll make this problem go away.

All of the recent people to try to fix this are amateurs who just started looking at it - look back at the research done by the old flight simulation companies like Link, Singer and Rediffusion - and the decades of research on this subject done by AFRL (the Air Force Research Labs), the US Navy and NASA.

WIthout solving the focus problem, we're doomed to another cycle of dizzy, puking customers.

Worst of all - US Navy research shows that after a protracted time in one of these VR rigs, it's dangerous to go out and drive a car or fly a plane - their pilots aren't allowed to fly within 24 hours of being in a simulator.

    -- Steve

Comment: Re:Cash is king in my world (Score 2) 230

by sbaker (#49175707) Attached to: Will you be using a mobile payment system?

Because a smartphone is something that nearly all of us already have for other reasons (an ultra-portable computer, a phone, a GPS, a music player, a watch, a camera, a flashlight, a gaming system, an email reader, an ebook reader, a video camera, a transistor radio...all in one handy unit) it's not $300 to $500 + $40..$80/month more than most people are already spending, it's $0 more.

Because not having a credit/debit card means that it's hard to shop online, and you have to make frequent trips to a "bank" to pull cash . Actually, if you pay your credit card bill on time and in full, most credit cards cost $0 too...and a debit card probably does everything you need at $0 also.

So your dinosaurian perspective isn't clever - it's just antiquated.

Comment: I actually have some sympathy for the utilities. (Score 5, Insightful) 374

by sbaker (#49129285) Attached to: The Groups Behind Making Distributed Solar Power Harder To Adopt

The thing is that with net metering, solar power users are effectively using the grid as a giant battery that they charge up during the day and discharge during the night.

They aren't paying for use of that battery, but the utility company is still expected to maintain it. If you're not buying electricity from them, then they are providing that service for no pay - and that's not a sustainable business model.

It's not a problem when only a microscopic percentage of users have net-metered solar power - but if a large number of people do it, then there could be a huge problem...and if there is ever more daytime solar power being generated (eg on cloudy days in winter) than is being consumed - then there will be a GIGANTIC problem to resolve - and that's going to require massive investments that they won't have.

So I do have *some* sympathy for them. They should, at some point, be allowed to charge for the service of effectively storing your power for you...although we're not remotely close to that point right now.

Comment: MediaWiki. (Score 4, Interesting) 343

by sbaker (#49075833) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Version Control For Non-Developers?

My wife and I use MediaWiki! Seems kinda silly - but you can configure it to accept all kinds of file types - and you have all of the nice stuff like discussion pages and categories to help you to organize them.

The huge advantage is that it's insanely easy to use. Super-light on features also...but,'s a thought, right?

    -- Steve

Comment: Dangerous assumption. (Score 1) 76

by sbaker (#48990503) Attached to: The Algorithm That 'Sees' Beauty In Photographic Portraits

The thing is that people who take the most carefully lit, composed and focussed images (which is what the computer is using as it's metric) are professional photographers. They use models who are generally considered "beautiful". So unless you're very careful about your initial data set, you're going to come to some very bad conclusions...and that's what seems to have happened here.

So, this is bogus science...badly done.

    -- Steve

Comment: Cut the cord. (Score 1) 244

by sbaker (#48973531) Attached to: Over the past 10 years, my TV-watching has..

With the advent of Netflix and it's ilk, I can now watch TV on my schedule. I don't have to watch crap because I need to veg out for a bit and that's all that's on...and I don't have to watch TV when I don't really feel like it because I don't want to miss an episode.

So watching TV has become a proactive decision - like deciding to go to a movie - and not something that just fills in time.

Now I probably watch no more than an hour a night - and what I watch is only really good shows. I don't waste 10 minutes out of every 30 watching adverts - and I never watch a moment of TV that I'm not really enjoying. I get my news fix from NPR on my 20 minute commute - so that's taken care of. I read far more than I ever have - and the Kindle reader runs on my PC, my tablet and my phone - so I can pick up a book and read it in the odd minutes when I really don't have anything else to do.

This has proven to be an amazingly good thing...and in the age of the Internet - we should expect nothing less.

    -- Steve

Comment: God's Debris...nuff-said? (Score 1) 958

by sbaker (#48973437) Attached to: Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness

Don't get me wrong, I love Dilbert and Scott did an amazing job with that cartoon series. But his science credentials are really, really bad. His book, "God's Debris" is full to the brim with nonsense wrapped up as science.

So he's simply not someone I can trust with scientific claims. I honestly don't think anyone should care what he says in this regard...just because he draws fantastic cartoons doesn't give him any special platform for saying this kind of stuff.

    -- Steve

Comment: Re:It'll never happen (Score 2) 333

by sbaker (#48928371) Attached to: The discovery of intelligent alien life would be met predominantly with...

Negative energy isn't antimatter. If it was, then colliding anti-matter with regular matter would produce a soft 'poof' sound rather than a gigantic explosion. E=mc^2 applies to doesn't have negative mass - so it doesn't have negative energy either.

Negative energy means your idea doesn't work.

Comment: How are these things "bots"? (Score 3, Informative) 41

by sbaker (#48868065) Attached to: Microbots Deliver Medical Payload In Living Creature For the First Time

So it looks like these things are basically zinc-lined sensors, no guidance, no controls, no electronics, no communications or intelligence of any kind.

How is that a "bot"?

The gizmag report (second link in the story here) has a very beautiful picture of something which looks like a proper robot...but the other two links show simple cylinders.

I could imagine it being a motor for a bot...but it's nowhere *REMOTELY* near being an actual robot, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Look...this is an impressive achievement, it's very clever and I'm sure it has some very neat applications - but let's not over-sell it?


Comment: It's not about the presenter. (Score 4, Insightful) 227

by sbaker (#48806363) Attached to: Lawrence Krauss On Scientists As Celebrities: Good For Science?

Einstein and Feynman were both nobel prize winners and Hawkins has Sir Isaac Newton's mathematics chair - we probably shouldn't downplay their achievements!

Carl Sagan was on the slippery slope. He certainly did some good science - but he's hardly up there with the previous three. Tyson has a few decent papers to his name, and his career isn't over yet - but I don't think he's coming close to the others in terms of science achievements.

Einstein was the world's worst communicator. Feynman and Hawkins are better - Sagan was astounding and Tyson may be yet better.

I suppose we might be concerned that there is a pattern here. We're taking people who are better communicators in preference to those who really know their stuff.

But honestly, does it matter? The presenter of a show reads from a script - (s)he is basically an actor. If the author of the script sticks to an accurate portrayal of what's written by the hard-core scientists - then why not pick an engaging personality to present it to us?

The critical part of the cycle is the person who decides WHICH science gets discussed. De Grasse Tyson is often talking about tacheons, wormholes and white holes and other claptrap that's horribly speculative, wildly unusupported, and very probably untrue. As an astrophysicist, he should know better - but as a TV presenter, he does a reasonable job of reading the script.

I'd prefer to have a complete non-scientist who is a supreme communicator be given a script written by good script writers from material handed to them by the hard core scientists behind the scenes - than to rely on a lower-tier scientist (or a high-tier scientist with poor communications skills) to do the entire job.

    -- Steve

+ - 300 Stanford professors call for full fossil fuel divestment->

Submitted by mdsolar
mdsolar writes: Some 300 professors from Stanford University, California, have called for the school to fully divest from the fossil fuels industry, arguing that the magnitude of climate change calls for a thorough commitment, not a partial solution.

In May last year, the board of trustees at the prestigious university decided not to make any more direct investments in coal mining companies, stating that the energy source is polluting and no longer necessary given the clean alternatives now available. The school also said it would divest from the holdings it currently owns in such firms.

However, professors at the university are now calling for the school to get rid of all fossil fuel investments.

A letter from the professors, which has been published in the Guardian, notes that companies currently own fossil fuel holdings sufficient to produce 2,795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – five times the amount recommended if global warming is to remain with the 2C limit, past which scientists have warned that the effects of climate change will become more extreme and unpredictable.

Link to Original Source

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel