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Comment: Lives saved? (Score 1) 454

by starless (#47334533) Attached to: CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking

There are certainly deaths/years of life lost caused by excessive drinking.
But on the other hand, there are health benefits of moderate drinking.

There's some presentation of health benefits/problems on the Mayo Clinic web site:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/heal...

So, one question would be: how may years of life for the entire population are lost from excessive drinking, how many years
of life for the entire population are gained from moderate drinking? And how can moderate drinking be encouraged while
decreasing excessive drinking?
In general terms it appears that Russian men are very adversely affected by drinking (life expectancy ~64), and French women's long
life expectancies (~85) are helped by their moderate drinking.
But culture in general can be very hard to change!

Comment: Re:Progenitors? (Score 1) 686

by starless (#47221203) Attached to: Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

The problem with Drake's equation isn't the uncertainty - that's part of the assumption behind the equation. It's that it doesn't properly account for space & time. Let's say that the highest number is correct and that there are 100 million civilizations

In 4.6 billion year history of our solar system intelligent life has had the possibility of traveling to another star for 1.08695652e-8 of that time (that we know of anyway) - that means that of the 100 million civilizations less than 132 might exist at the same time and if distributed evenly would be 1 per 7.1969697e+15km of space. Meaning that our nearest neighbour might be 760 light years away. That means that if they just started transmitting at the same time we did, we won't pick them up for another 710 years. If they started 100,000,000 years ago those signals have long since passed us by and we likely don't have the science to pick up the more advanced signals that might be passing us by right now.

Well, I do think the Drake equation does incorporate time correctly. It includes star formation rates (rather than numbers) and the lifetimes
of civilizations.
However, the Fermi paradox isn't really a paradox if you only think about sending signals, for the reasons you discuss.
As discussed in the wikipedia article (for example) it's based on the idea of colonizing, or visiting all of, the Galaxy.
A number of people expect such "colonization" to occur by mainly self-replicating autonomous spacecraft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F...

Comment: Re:National Atmospheric Science Administration (Score 2) 41

Before even debating which agency should be involved, why is the "Goddard Institute for Space Studies" a climate research facility? With a name like that, shouldn't it be studying, well, space?

It's "space studies" because the studies are done (in many cases) from space.

We don't study "space" at NASA - we study stars, planets, galaxies, the universe as a whole, the Sun, and, yes, the Earth - all from space.

That's why the Hubble Space Telescope is a "space" telescope. Not because it looks at "space" but because the telescope itself is in space.

Comment: Re:The Songs of Distant Earth (Score 1) 323

by starless (#47121959) Attached to: 'Curiosity' Lead Engineer Suggests Printing Humans On Other Planets

Aside from the whole organic-3D-printing-of-entire-humans angle, this isn't a new idea. Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth features an extraterrestrial colony of humans descended from machine-grown progenitors.

There's also Greg Egan's fascinating short story Glory.
A tiny anti-matter powered package traveling at near light speed is sent to an exo-planetary system.
That's used as a seed to generate humans + technology using data sent electromagnetically.
http://outofthiseos.typepad.co...
(And it's in the 25th Year's Best Science Fiction)

Comment: Re:There are too many pseudo-science stories (Score 2) 293

Remember when the existence of black holes was still hotly debated, back in the '70's? Observations on an very small object with a mass of more than 1.4 solar masses (the theoretical upper limit for neutron stars) resulted in a general acceptance that it was a black hole,

1.4 Msun is the maximum mass of a white dwarf not a neutron star.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...
It's therefore basically the _minimum_ mass of a neutron star.

To show that something is a black hole you have to show that it's more than
the theoretical maximum mass of a neutron star which is higher. That's not very well determined but is something like 3 Msun.
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/d...

Comment: Re:Of 1000? (Score 2) 467

by starless (#46773401) Attached to: Survey: 56 Percent of US Developers Expect To Become Millionaires

I am not sure if accumulating $1M over a lifetime counts as "rich". I started working 35 years ago. I immediately started regularly and automatically putting a little from each paycheck into my IRA, invested in an index fund. The monthly payroll contribution was less than my car payment. Yet, today my IRA has over $700K. Unless there is a market crash, it should be over $1M by the time I retire.

The usual estimate of how much you can withdraw from your savings per year without having too much chance
of drawing down your capital is 4%.
So, $1M gives you an annual income of $40,000, not exactly a high salary, even adding in ~$30k in social
security income won't make you especially well off.

Comment: Re:Procedural Rules? (Score 1) 128

by starless (#46770989) Attached to: Lavabit Loses Contempt Appeal

You want right and wrong? Talk to a priest/rabbi/pastachef. The law, and the courts, are all about rules, and the interpretation of them, and they should be. Otherwise, we'd be making decisions like "yeah, he was illegally wiretapped, but he was a bad man, so we're going to convict him anyway."

The US justice system is unique in the world in completely throwing out a case if there is a procedural error:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07...
While I'm sure many will defend the way things are done in the US, it seems that this is something
that at least merits some discussion of the pluses and minuses of each way of doing things.

Comment: Re:PR smackdown (Score 1) 314

The other fire involved tripping over a 50 pound metal spike at 70mph, causing it to upend violently and drive itself through the underside of the car with the force of a cannon.

This one's easy to spin: "Tesla hits piece of metal on the road, catches fire." Problem was it hit a piece of metal on the road while going incredibly fast--[...]

I don't believe 70 mph really counts as "incredibly fast".
If you're driving at 70 mph on may roads around here (Washington DC area), you'll be passed by many other vehicles.

Comment: Re:Associates (Score 1) 246

A Bachelors of Arts in anything scientific generally implies that you're not going to get enough exposure to anything you'll actually be doing,...

Or else that you went to Oxford University (for example) which doesn't award a Bachelor of Science degree:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...
(And Oxford still managed to produce 5 physics and 11 chemistry Nobel prize winners.)

Comment: Re:Dating Sites (Score 1) 183

by starless (#45831083) Attached to: How Machine Learning Can Transform Online Dating

As somebody who became single in his mid-50s I strongly second the recommendation for meetup groups.
They aren't exclusively for single people, but singles are very "over-represented".
Obviously you want to choose the groups with a large number of people of your favorite gender group.
For me (looking for a woman) the hiking and the arts related groups were good.
Even if you don't find dates, you'll likely have a good time and meet new friends.
Meetup groups give you a low-stress way (because they're not primarily dating in general) to interact with many people
face-to-face.

Also, in response to a different comment. I think that lots of women in their 50s are actually rather
computer literate. (At least the educated women around the major city I live close to.)

(My personal experience is that I met someone via a meetup group, but I wasn't ready for something
as serious as she was looking for at that time. Shortly after that I met someone on OKC and we're still
together 2 years later.)

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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