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Comment: It's the same problem no matter who you blame. (Score 1) 200

by stealth.c (#48608877) Attached to: NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower
Whether you want to blame NASA bureaucrats for covering their asses or Congresscritters for their warped priorities, this failure can be explained the same way. Government and its agencies are total strangers to the economic incentives of profit and loss. The only profits and losses they directly experience are the rise and fall of their bureaucratic clout. As a result, success and failure are defined on completely different terms versus a private endeavor. For an operation like SpaceX, success is getting the customer into space with the greatest practical efficiency. For NASA, success is whatever curries favor with the people in Congress deciding next year's budget. Congressmen don't care about what goes into space or how. They care that federal money gets back to their clients at home. The bickering in this thread over whether to blame NASA leadership or Congress misses the larger point: Both are culpable because of the incentives they operate under. This is just the economics of nationalized space exploration taking its inevitable course.

Comment: Re:Great (Score 4, Interesting) 42

by flyingsquid (#48551381) Attached to: Curiosity's Mars Crater Was Once a Vast Lake

It's not as if you're going to be able to crack open one of those rocks and find the Martian equivalent of a trilobite. For most of Earth's history, the dominant forms of life were microbes, and only in the last 600 million years or so when oxygen levels increase do large multicellular forms appear. Mars, assuming it ever had life, probably never got that far. So fossil evidence will consist of fossilized microbes- which will require cracking open rocks, thin-sectioning them, and inspecting them under a microscope. The other possibility is doing chemical analyses of the rocks and looking for geochemical evidence of life- isotopic ratios or organic compounds that could only be explained by the presence of life. Either way, it will require a fairly sophisticated laboratory. Either we have to conduct a sample-return mission, or we need to develop miniature laboratories that can be sent to Mars.

Although it now seems as if there is a third option. Recently, a meteorite was discovered which appears to represent a sedimentary rock from Mars. It's spendy stuff- $10,000 a gram- but that's vastly cheaper than a sample-return mission. A multimillion-dollar program to prospect for Martian meteorites on Earth is another way to look for Martian sedimentary rocks.

Comment: Re:I'd be curious about the consequences. (Score 1) 85

by flyingsquid (#48547169) Attached to: North Korea Denies Involvement In "Righteous" Sony Hack

There was an initial round of finger-pointing towards North Korea, and now a bunch of people saying, hold up, this doesn't really make sense for North Korea to be behind the attacks. OK, it's not logical, but as as the previous poster argues, 1) North Korea isn't logical (or rather, they are logical but employ something rather different than the logic found outside of North Korea) and 2) what's the alternative?

Internet security experts are of the opinion that this was launched by a large and well-organized group. That suggests we aren't dealing with a disgruntled employee, but with either a large criminal organization or a nation-state. This narrows things down considerably.

Next, let's look at motives. If the organization is a criminal organization, they're going to be out for one thing: money. As far as we know, there weren't any financial demands. The hackers said "if you don't obey us, then we'll release data shown below to the world", but they never mention money. The group's name- Guardians of Peace- is also telling, and there's the bizarrely moral tone of the hackers. "You, the criminals including Michael Lynton will surely go to hell. Nobody can help you". They are doing this for ideological reasons. Of course organizations like Anonymous also engage in politically motivated hacking, but they're usually upfront about the cause and the fact that it's Anonymous, which suggests it's not them.

Which brings us to North Korea. Again, it doesn't make sense... but this is a nation that reveres its dictators as gods and lives in a bizarre bubble of disinformation, lies, and communist mythology. Things that seem insane to us make sense in this communist Bizarro-world. Hacking Sony is bizarre, but this is a nation that starves, impoverishes and executes its citizens to maintain their grip on power... if they did it, hacking Sony was probably not even the craziest thing that happened that week in the country. And as for not wanting to provoke a war... these guys torpedoed and sank a South Korean naval ship killing 46 people. If that's not going to create a war, no way hacking Sony will. And the thing is, they actually *want* to go to the brink of war, but not quite over the edge into a war. If they can keep the tension ratcheted up they gain in negotiations with the outside world and can convince their citizens that the State is necessary to protect them all. It's like they're using 1984 as a manual: a state of perpetual warfare (or at least military readiness) provides a convenient pretext for anything the state does to exploit and oppress people.

Last, the attacks bear striking similarities to recent attacks against South Korea, down to the skeleton-themed graphics that look like they're from some mid-1990s video game console, the tacky red-and-green text, the poor English ("Warninig" instead of "Warning"), and the approach of taking user data hostage. It's pretty clearly North Korea.

Comment: I would say no (Score 1) 167

by stealth.c (#48513649) Attached to: Is a "Wikipedia For News" Feasible?
The first hurdle is the Western obsession with "objective" reporting. No such thing exists. But in the pursuit of the appearance of objectivity, you get slanted news constantly disguising itself as authoritative truth. Sometimes you get the same phenomenon on Wikipedia but at least there, interpretation of data is kept to a minimum. There is so much to report on, and so much information to curate, one has to employ a particular world view to decide what part of the story is important to tell. When it comes to news, there is no way to avoid ideological siloing. A single 'wikipedia of news" is not possible, but maybe several of them, each devoted to a certain way of understanding events, is possible.

Comment: Re:Snowden revenge? (Score 1) 130

by flyingsquid (#48510655) Attached to: Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile

When all is said and done, the US is still a helluva lot freer than Russia.

Not to be that guy who says we're living in a police state and quotes Orwell while knowing damn well the government isn't going to bust him in his mother's basement... but in at least one way, I would be willing to bet that we are far less free than Russia. And that would be freedom from surveillance. Between the various NSA programs to log our emails, track our calls, and monitor our online activity, I would be willing to bet that the average U.S. citizen sees far more surveillance than the average Russian citizen. It's not that Russia is morally superior here, it's that the NSA is probably a lot better at monitoring communications than its Russian counterpart. That being said, I suspect Russia has the ability to target dissidents, is more willing to use it, and is far more likely to act on intercepted data than the NSA. The NSA is probably a better spy, but not nearly as dangerous a spy.

Comment: Re:Snowden revenge? (Score 5, Funny) 130

by flyingsquid (#48510571) Attached to: Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile
Or maybe both of them can go into exile together in a third country. And Julian Assange can go there too. And they'll share an apartment together. It'd make a great sitcom. "Three hacker dissidents exiled from their native countries... now they're all living in one house! See what kind of wacky adventures they get into!"

Comment: Re:I don't understand this ... (Score 3, Informative) 184

OK, first of all, let's assume that the collision of two giant galactic black holes can fling stars out of the galactic center in a way that doesn't completely destroy any planetary systems within those star systems. How on earth does life get off of such a planet onto another? If a collision in the solar system were to launch a microbe-laden rock out of the star system, it's still traveling at a third of lightspeed. How do those microbes make a safe landing? For that matter, what about the planet that those microbes land on? Chicxulub is estimated to have released 100 million megatons of explosive energy, which is equivalent to giving every man woman and child on the planet a Hiroshima nuke and detonating them all at once. Now, the Chicxulub asteroid is estimated to have traveled around 20,000 km/sec. And .3 lightspeed is 100,000,000 m/sec, or about 5,000 times the speed of the Chicxulub asteroid. Since kinetic energy scales as velocity squared, we're dealing with an impact that is 25,000 Chicxulub asteroids. So imagine wiping the dinosaurs out. And then doing it again, 24,999 times. That's 2,500,000,000,000 megatons - 2.5 trillion megatons- of explosives. Even a much smaller asteroid- say, 1 km in diameter instead of 10 km- is still going to pack far more wallop than Chicxulub did, and create an extinction event. Even a single kilogram is going to come in with as much energy as a large H-bomb. My guess is that if these stars have any effect whatsoever on the evolution of life in the universe, it's probably not a terribly constructive one...

Comment: Re:Had a realization (Score 1) 390

by flyingsquid (#48480685) Attached to: First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released
My take on Abrams is that he isn't the right guy to do Star Wars. Based on what I've seen from his Star Trek movies, his approach to storytelling is too intellectual- he's interested in complex storylines and clever plot twists. That's not what Star Wars is about. Star Wars is a modern fairy tail/myth/epic with lots of action and character-driven drama, but not much in the way of clever plot twists. Okay, I will give you the Luke I am Your Father bit, and the Now Witness the Power of this Fully Armed and Operational Death Star bit. But mostly, it's about plucky heroes and the odd scoundrel fighting black-clad villains and rescuing princesses, swordfighting and magic and spaceships and aliens. It's not about the head, it's about the heart, it's about feelings, and none of Abrams work has ever struck me as having the kind of soul needed to tell this sort of story. I guess I could sum it up by saying... I've got a bad feeling about this.

Comment: Re:It was an almost impossible case to prosecute (Score 1) 1128

by flyingsquid (#48459767) Attached to: Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

We the public don't yet know all the facts. Nonetheless, it was an immensely difficult case to build for the prosecutor as the only person alive who knew what happened was the one who pulled the trigger.

Two words: gun camera.

They started using gun cameras in WWII to look at the effectiveness of the aircraft, but you could use them on police firearms to hold police accountable when they draw their weapons. Here the main problem is the he-said they-said nature of the event. We don't know what happened because there is no recorded account of it. Using off-the-shelf technology, you could install a small iPhone style camera and microphone that activates whenever the safety of the weapon is taken off and enough storage for 10-15 minutes of footage and audio. The recorded footage would then be available to establish whether the officer was justified in drawing their weapon and, if fired, whether the firing of the weapon was justified. If the officer committed murder, we'd know. If it was justifiable, we'd know. Either way, we wouldn't have rioting in the streets right now.

Comment: Re:The "Protesters" (Score 4, Insightful) 1128

by flyingsquid (#48457799) Attached to: Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting
It's worth remembering that the protests started out peacefully. It was the police who escalated things by responding to peaceful protests with armored vehicles, police in body armor carrying assault rifles, launching tear gas at people exercising their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. You have a police force that has abdicated its responsibility to protect and serve the population, and is instead acting like an occupying army and oppressing the community they are sworn to help. And this is after years of targeting the black community. If you act like an occupying force, it's hardly surprising if people start acting like insurgents.

Comment: Reminds me of the movie Brazil (Score 1) 169

by stealth.c (#48418775) Attached to: City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber
...and the crime of unlicensed duct work. People are taking money in exchange for giving car rides. Look, if the Toronto city government is willing to let any old moron DRIVE a car (and they are), I think those same people can be trusted to delegate to a hired driver without risking a carpocalypse.

Comment: Re:How did your senator vote? (Score 1) 445

by stealth.c (#48418675) Attached to: Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power
I'm afraid the Republican Party has always been the party of empire. Recall that the first Republican President waged the country's bloodiest war to prevent the central government's domain from shrinking. The war turned a federation of sovereign states into a compulsory chain of provinces. There is no "smaller government" party in the US, because Americans would never vote for one.

Comment: Re:The point (Score 1) 204

by flyingsquid (#48381473) Attached to: Your Incompetent Boss Is Making You Unhappy

You seem to have missed the point. I don't think it's a mystery that the competence of your boss contributes to your workplace happiness. The important thing relevant to this study, however, is that the competence of your boss is the single strongest predictor of workers' well-being, way ahead of other factors such as education, earnings, job tenure and public vs. private sector.

That's not a "duh", and it's a valuable piece of data that companies can use to try to retain valuable employees, a direction in which they can invest resources to avoid costly turnover and the constant expense of training new employees and/or avoid loss of productivity due to miserable employees.

So how do companies recognize these valuable bosses? The study itself may provide the answer. If competency predicts happiness, then perhaps worker happiness is a predictor of competence? The implication is that perhaps employees should be given a bigger say in who gets promotions. I suppose we run the risk of bosses taking a bread-and-circuses approach to employee management, but it seems fairly obvious that if the people you're already managing are miserable, you shouldn't be promoted so that you manage even more people.

Comment: Re:Economics plays a role here (Score 1) 87

by flyingsquid (#48177227) Attached to: Researchers Scrambling To Build Ebola-Fighting Robots

The NIH is not the CDC. By the way, the DoD will spend $495.6 Billion (with a B) next year. $39 million will not even pay for a fix for the cluster fuck that is the F-35.

Oh yeah, about that... turns out that they found another glitch with the F-35. It's a funny story. So you probably know about the software glitches, and the cracks in the airframe, and the issues with the tailhook being in the wrong place on the carrier version. Well, turns out that the F-35 has a feature that sprays Ebola-laden blood and fecal matter all over when you turn the engine on.

Of course, it is easy to point fingers and say "hey, Lockheed Martin! Maybe you shouldn't include a feature where the plane sprays highly infectious Ebola-infected blood and feces everywhere!!" But developing a fighter aircraft is a complicated job. And hindsight is 20-20.

Anyway, it's easily fixable, it will just require a few more years and a few billion more dollars and I'm sure we can sort the Ebola-spraying feature all out. Now, the bubonic plague-infested rats are a more complicated issue. They're part of the targeting system, you see...

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