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Comment: Re: 1-600 kilotons (Score 1) 172

by RsG (#46834457) Attached to: Asteroid Impacts Bigger Risk Than Thought

It's "Hiroshima" ,and you really ought to read up on the details before commenting.

Roughly 80K were killed INSTANTLY from the blast. Blown to bits, vaporized, incinerated, or rather more prosaically by killed shrapnel. Others were killed when the city burned - lots of wooden construction, especially far from the city center. Many more were fatally wounded but did NOT die in the blast - burn or shrapnel victims who would die of infection or lack of treatment days, or even weeks later. The fatality list would have been smaller had the bombing not eliminated most medical staff and facilities within the city, leading to treatable wounds becoming septic.

You can't take the total fatalities, subtract the immediate deaths and arrive at the figure for "death by radiation poisoning". In point of fact, there were a great many people killed from radiation, but anyone close enough to the blast to receive a lethal dose ALSO received other injuries, meaning that, rather than having discrete categories for radiation poisoning, burns, shrapnel/blast and infection casualties, you have people who were wounded in multiple ways, and died of more than one cause.

Comment: Re:Don't be ridiculous (Score 2) 207

by RsG (#46800609) Attached to: Cody Wilson Interview at Reason: Happiness Is a 3D Printed Gun

Limited demand. They'd be selling a product that's both low quality and illegal to own. The target market for that would be criminals with money to spend, who don't already have access to equal or better guns. And it's not like you can set up shop on a street corner; secrecy is expensive.

Basically, a black market Sten Gun factory has all the drawbacks of illegal arms dealing AND startup costs to boot. I'm not surprised it isn't a thing yet. Oh, and I doubt 3D printing will make it a reality any time soon - the startup costs would be lower, but the 3D printed guns would be even worse than cheap locally manufactured metal guns.

There are places in the world where the locals make cheap metal guns en masse, but they tend to be places like Chechnya rather than the UK.

Comment: Re:Enjoy it while it floats (Score 4, Informative) 66

by RsG (#46556139) Attached to: Goodyear's New State-of-the-Art Airship Makes Its First Flight

When underground radioactive elements decay, helium is a byproduct (look up "alpha particle radiation"). Because it's a noble gas and doesn't bond with anything, it seeps its way to the surface, where it escapes into the upper atmosphere. Some helium can instead become trapped by non-porous rock, in underground pockets. Those same pockets sometimes have natural gas deposits.

So you find a natural gas deposit, tap it, and what comes out as well? Helium. It's not the main product they're after when they go drilling, but it is valuable enough to set aside and sell.

Comment: Re:Is this really a _good_ idea? (Score 4, Interesting) 177

by RsG (#45431085) Attached to: Military Robots Expected To Outnumber Troops By 2023

It actually wouldn't be that difficult to avoid what you describe as "silly sci-fi crap" scenarios. The key concept is autonomy.

Meatbag infantry aren't that autonomous to begin with. They need their supply lines; an army marches on its stomach. And they need orders. For every squad of grunts shooting/getting shot at there's a legion of grunts keeping them in ammo, food, water and fuel, bare minimum, and and whole line of dummies (excuse me, officers) telling them where to go and what to do. Interrupt either and they stop being effective in a hurry.

Despite these limits infantry are still the MOST autonomous branch of the military. Tanks need entire shops for of full time specialists, aircraft spend more time getting fixed than getting flown, and ships go through fuel by the tanker.

A super advanced drone with onboard guidance still needs fuel, and if it wants to kill anyone, ammo. And it'll probably need a direct order, possibly with an access code, to unlock its weapons, seeing as ROE are already that restrictive for human soldiers.

And the kinds of traits your talking about in an advanced computer - self-determination, intellectual autonomy, freedom - are the polar OPPOSITE of what the military wants in a drone. If Cyberdyne made a pitch to the Pentagon that started with "Our new T800 Killbots are able to learn, think and adapt", they wouldn't make it halfway through the first PowerPoint slide before getting politely asked to leave. Top brass don't even want regular grunts doing any of those things.

Comment: Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (Score 1) 227

by RsG (#43381967) Attached to: Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists?

This fearmongering is the product of years of zombie fantasies in popular culture. All of it is utter nonsense.

Second that. Though it's not just zombies.

Plagues, both natural and manmade, are a staple of apocalyptic fiction. Current craze is zombies, but they're a recent (and effective) retelling of a very old meme.

Stop me if you've read this one: "PLAGUENAME a (virus/bacteria/prion/plot device) created by (godless researchers/actual god(s)/mother nature/snidley whiplash) swept the globe after (accident/outbreak in the third world/contrived event) killing (millions/billions/everyone but our heroes), and turning our cities into haunting graveyards". When you can make a mad libs version of what is essentially the same story, it's officially become a cliche.

Now, reality time. The worst plagues in recent history were the 1918 flu epidemic and the HIV pandemic, while the worst in ancient history were the black death and smallpox. These are the killers that the cliche above sprung out of. They set the bar.

They aren't even close to apocalyptic. Especially not on a global scale. Even a pathogenic perfect storm is at worst a regional catastrophe.

Is this any surprise? Fiction always takes things further than reality. If the world conformed to our fantasies, we'd have moon cities twenty years ago. Reality is a huge letdown sometimes. Not that that stops people from believing; you could probably make a killing by selling lunar real estate with the promise that it'll be ready in twenty years.

So you get people who think that yes, it really is possible to bring about the end of the human race via pathogen. And those same people will look at something like the 2001 anthrax attack and think the sky is falling, while reality being what it is, the total death toll for that was single digit. The article is pandering to that mindset.

Comment: Re:Yuh huh (Score 1) 171

by RsG (#43375363) Attached to: Fusion Rocket Could Take Us To Mars

Actually, thinking about it for a minute, a hydrogen bomb is a bad comparison. What this idea is closer to is a Farnsworth Fusor. For those of you who haven't heard of those, click the link. Short version: we can very easily make a device that causes fusion to happen, in a controlled non-explody way, provided we aren't too concerned about breaking even on energy. And fusors date from 1964, just to give you an idea of how long the tech has existed. There are even homemade ones in existence.

Achieving fusion is easy. Making fusion POWER PLANTS is hard.

Since the object of the exercise is propulsion, rather than power, the usual objection to fusion need not apply. Doesn't matter that it takes more energy than it could turn into electricity as a powerpant; an ion engine isn't a viable source for power, but we already use those on probes. What matters is how much reaction mass you have to carry to get where you're going. A fusion engine with a solar or fission power source could outperform conventional rockets on specific impulse and outperform ion engines on pure thrust.

Comment: Re:Cool story bro. (Score 1) 427

by aug24 (#43367361) Attached to: TSA Log Shows Passengers Say the Darndest Things

You are not being bayesian enough.

You need the probability someone is telling the truth given the evidence of being dumb enough to say "I've got a bomb".

If the Hypothesis is 'got a bomb' and the Evidence is 'said bomb', here are my estimates:

p(E) = 10**-7 proportion of travellers who are dumb enough to say bomb (one in ten million)
p(H) = 10**-13 proportion of travellers who have had a bomb so far (one in ten million million)
p(E|H) = well, ZERO so far, but let's say 10**-3 bombers who mention the word bomb (one in a thousand)

Then p(H|E) = proportion of people who say bomb who have a bomb = P(H) * P(E|H) / P(E) = 10**(-13-3+7) = 10**-9

One in one billion people who mention the word bomb will have a bomb.

So if we close the airport each time for two hours, our losses for an actual bomb need to exceed the damages for closing an airport for two billion hours before it is worth it. That's over 200,000 lifetimes of waiting in the departure lounge.

Just.

Any comments on my maths / approach happily received.

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe

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