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Comment Re: Looking more and more likely all the time... (Score 1) 442 442

Probably because they are confusing "fuel" for "energy". Nobody claims it doesn't need energy. It does. It just doesn't need liquid fuel. That means you can use energy sources that weigh a lot less. Solar panels for example. Converting electricity to thrust is not exactly new. Hell we have built solar cars on earth. This is just a way of doing the same thing without a road.
But out there it's a lot more valuable to do.

Comment Re: Looking more and more likely all the time... (Score 4, Informative) 442 442

Well NADA is an unlikely source for scams and it doesn't fit the pattern. The science behind it is openly shared without any secret sauce claims. The physics are uncontroversial.
The only thing there could be scam in is whether our engineering can really cash in on it.

At it's best its also not claimed to provide much thrust. You can't leave earth with it. But once you do even a tiny bit of thrust goes a long way. It's not even the only known way to get thrust without fuel - solar sails do that too.

I never got why so many people are so sceptical of this one. Engineering scams are nothing new but this breaks every pattern and the science is genuinely sound.

Comment Re: Web censorship (Score 4, Insightful) 188 188

It absolutely does and every free country on earth recognises this. That is exactly why all the disparate laws with so many differences you deceptively lump together as "intellectual property " do have one thing in common : they all have limitations that make them temporary. The mechanism of expiration vary widely but they all expire. No physical property rights expire. You can inherited land for unlimited generations. But copyright and patents have time limits, trademarks have to be renewed and are lost if they become generic. These expiration are exactly because they are, all, censorship and the trade off is only worth while if that censorship is temporary.

Comment Re: WTF? (Score 1) 309 309

Fair enough, but not really the point I was making. The point I was making was that scientific definitions are very important - and indeed do change over time. Once upon a time there was no scientific distinction between the concepts either.
We knew how to measure weight, but the only variable we could really change between measurements was the mass - so for a long time even early proto-scientists used them interchangeably (Archimedes's density idea with the king's crown didn't make the distinction and while it wasn't truly science yet [ideas weren't tested] it was certainly an early fore-runner).

But the question of what is, or is not, a planet is a scientific one - and this is a matter of definition. Newer knowledge led to the definition changing, and when it did - Pluto no longer met it. That's science. As it happens some of the discoveries from New Horizons suggest Pluto may have rather more mass than we previously believed - possibly even enough to once more meet the definition, so it could actually rejoin the list of planets again.

Having said that, it's not actually all that interesting. The amount of public interest in whether Pluto is a planet or not is ... well silly. It's ultimately like the mass and weight thing, outside of a science discussion - who CARES if you do call it a planet ? It matters in science, but not in common speech.

What we SHOULD be paying attention to is what New Horizons already sent back that we didn't expect to see - and can't explain. In just these first few pictures, a tiny subset of what's coming ... we saw giant mountains of ice, which shouldn't be there. The substances we thought Pluto was mostly made from can't form ice mountains that big, they aren't strong enough. So what ARE they ? We have no idea. The most likely possibility is water but we have no way of proving that, and if it IS water it means Pluto has a LOT more water than we thought.
And then there's the huge question coming out of what isn't where we expected: craters, there aren't any. Not having craters is an even bigger mystery. The only things we know off that can prevent an object in space from having impact craters is an atmosphere or tectonic activity - two things we were sure Pluto didn't have.
Now it seems it probably has at least one of them... and we can't explain EITHER. How could something with so little mass have an atmosphere ? But it's also so small and far from the sun... where could it possibly get enough energy to drive tectonic activity of the scale needed to resurface a world ?
One idea that's been suggested is that smaller tectonic activity could throw up plumes of dust and smoke creating atmospheres - these don't last long as Pluto lacks the gravity to hold onto them, but maybe last long enough to wear down any impact craters. It's attractive because it means we don't have to explain an atmosphere and it would need less energy than the kind of tectonics that resurfaces Venus regularly... but we didn't expect ANY tectonics, even this reduced energy version still requires way more energy than we thought Pluto could possibly have.

Whatever the real answers are, and they are likely to be surprizes we haven't come close to thinking about yet, they will be huge... they could massively alter our most fundamental theories about such questions as "how did the solar system form" and "how did Earth come to be".
In 500 years nobody will remember the debate about whether Pluto is a planet or not just as I'm sure there were a lot of things that happened in Galileo's time that seemed important and of which we don't even have records... but what we learn to answer these questions (and the others likely to be asked in the coming months)... that could be the Galileo moment of our generation... of our century.

The next big leap forward in astronomy could be happening right now... and the public is mostly interested in arguing about something that is important in the same way a good filing system is important and for the same reason - but definitely not very interesting and certainly not exciting.

Comment Re: The Anti-Stallman Brigade rears its head again (Score 1) 75 75

Strawman. He has never said that without adding: "seriously though, it's ok to use a proprietary program in that scenario provided you contribute in whatever way you can to projects that aim to create free alternatives to that software so that the situation isn't permanent but can ultimately be changed".

Comment Re: WTF? (Score 2) 309 309

For thousands of years mass and weight were considered the same thing. In common English they are still conflated... in fact weight is more commonly used to describe mass than mass is ! Think of weight loss programs... visiting orbit is the most effective weight loss program we have. But scientists have different definitions. The common English mistake originated because on earth weight and mass is directly correlated but that's only because we defined the early units of mass by measuring weight on earth.
In the end though mass is the amount of matter an object contains and weight is the gravitational force it exerts on the planet earth. The latter correlates with the former up close but because of the inverse square law that correlation dissappears very fast as you travel. At low earth orbit weight is as close to zero as makes no difference... but mass is unchanged.
The point is thst in science definition is actually extremely important. In fact science can be said to consist of nothing but changing definitions that get more acurate over time. We have a special process for doing so but definition is the end product of science because that's how we communicate knowledge most effectively. And if definitions cannot change then science would be not science.

Comment Re:The Anti-Stallman Brigade rears its head again (Score 4, Insightful) 75 75

Correct on both counts, and Stallman has publicly agreed with me when I stated that "A duel license is, to the user, no different than a non-copyleft license. The impact on freedom is exactly the same as using the BSD licenses. The user who gets it from you gets freedom, but the user who gets it from a third party may not".
So from his agreement in a public forum when I used that argument, I think we can surmise that he holds the same view. He would not try to stop a dual license anymore than he has tried to stop BSD licenses, he just thinks that copyleft is better.

The really funny thing is that people complain he isn't enough of a pragmatist... which really proves their ignorance. Stallman's ideal world is one where software cannot be copyrighted, and source code distribution is mandatory if you sell binaries. This is repeatedly said in his writings.
But it isn't what he is pushing for, he isn't arguing in courts for that, he isn't sending letters to congress for that. He did not try to pursue a, probably unreachable, ideal - instead he chose a pragmatic solution, the copyleft license, to create a self-perpetuating system that produces free software into the market, forcing non-free software to compete with it.
That will not give him his ideal, it will never eradicate non-free software, but it did make the world a lot better than it would have otherwise been. He also wrote the LGPL - which violates his own cherished ideals even further, because pragmatically - it was better to have it and let proprietory software run on GNU than to NOT have it and have people avoid GNU altogether because they can't replace a proprietory tool yet.

The man's history is not of an extremist or an idealist, quite the contrary - it's a history of tactical pragmatism. He does STATE his ideals, but he has never been so blinded by them as to let the perfect be the ENEMY of the good.

Comment Re:And when she is questioned by CBP... (Score 1) 334 334

Yep - the most horrible cop-out of all time.
The bit between the customs office and the landing strip is technically NOT inside the USA, so technically US law doesn't apply there - it's a bit like the cop-out Bush used to say it's legal to torture prisoners in Gitmo because Gitmo is not under American jurisdiction.
At the same time, despite NOT being America, an American government agency somehow has power and jurisdiction in those areas, yet claim to be free of all the checks and ballances.

In fairness though, this is not unique to America, EVERY country on earth with airports does the same. I was once detained for hours of stupid questioning at an airport simply because my travel history had included a very large number of flights to Nigeria and Brazil respectively (my employer had major contracts in Nigeria and I was dating a Brazilian girl and visiting her whenever I could) - unfortunately those are both major drug routes.
I was detained, and held for hours, before they declared I could only be released after an x-ray to prove I'm not a drug mule (all without ever being read my rights) - which forced them to take me outside where my boss was waiting to pick me up. While waiting for the ambulance to take me for x-rays (which took hours more) my boss spoke at length with the cop holding me explaining our business, the nature of our work and how that has meant both of us spending lots of time in Nigeria... sufficiently so to ultimately convince them I was innocent and let me go.

All that, just for visiting the wrong countries a few times too many - never actually comiting any crimes in either or being in any way involved in criminal activity.

Comment Re:In Soviet Russia (Score 3, Insightful) 334 334

It DID ! When it was still called Romneycare !

It only became evil when a democrat implemented this republican plan, thought up by the Heartland Institute and first instituted by a republican governor (who would run for president against Obama a few years later) and even then it pretty much only became evil because the democrat who did it turned out to be a black guy.

It's also exactly why all the REAL liberals are hoping against hope for Sanders to be the surprize swing-vote.

Comment Re:That's not what the Civil War was about, either (Score 4, Informative) 334 334

>For the record. the Civil War was not about one side fighting for the right to own black people under the banner of a "white power" flag, either.

That's complete bullshit, that's been spread way too widely but utterly fails to match the facts.

1) The confederates were NOT fighting for states' rights, exactly the opposite in fact, they wanted to get RID of states' rights. 3 of the declarations of secession state that a fundamental reason for their secession was their anger at states like Maine for refusing to return runaway slaves or allow slave transit. In other words - they opposed the right of Maine and New York to NOT support the slave trade.
2) The confederacy was formed by a declaration which all the confederate states had to sign - much like the US was originally formed by the declaration of independence. The very FIRST article in that declaration bound all the member states to a promise to never, under any circumstances, now or in the future, ban slavery or inhibit it in any way.
3) The various declarations of secession ALL discussed slavery at length and repeatedly stated that the single most important reason for the secession was that the abolitionists in northern states threatened what they saw as the proper and natural state of the world: one where whites could own blacks as slaves.
4) Non-slave owning whites in the South did NOT in fact support the war or the secessions - that vast majority very vocally and visibly opposed it. So severe was the opposition that on multiple occasions General Lee had to threaten to burn towns to the ground before they would allow him to feed his horses or buy food for his soldiers there ! In Tennessee this happened twice !
The real heroes of the South are those citizens, who supported abolition - who despised the slave owning minority (a ruling class that tended to mistreat poorer whites pretty badly as well) and actively opposed the war to the extent that the confederate army had to threaten their lives just to buy supplies !

In fact, there isn't a single official contemporary document by any of the Southern states governments, the confederate government or any of their leaders or generals that does not repeatedly say that the war is about preserving the right to own slaves.
EVERY claim to the contrary appeared AFTER the war, in a desperate attempt to white-wash the history of why that war happened.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Comment Re:Because Republicans (Score 1) 334 334

Oh, you didn't hear ?
Normal citizens and the GOVERNMENT should be subject to the same restrictions and held to the same standards... You know because rights like freedom of speech was created for government and only shared with citizens out of kindness !

In the real world of course - no such equal standard have ever or should ever exist as it would be the most illiberal idea you could possibly imagine. It's exactly why the burden of proof is so much heaver in criminal than in civil courts - because in criminal courts, one party is the government and are supposed to be held to a higher standard.

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