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Comment Re:Bad choice (Score 1) 156

Now to proceed with my answer, have you probably read "Guns, germs and steel" by Jared Diamond? In that book the author asks a question why different civilizations have developed differently by the time the world became global, and his answer is that very basically it boils down to geographic factors.


In a similar manner it can be argued that for the foreseeable future Russia won't be a lucrative place to live for a young aspiring adult, because it is cheaper to produce new fantastic gadgets in the South Asia and it's more profitable to design them in the U.S. Russia falls in between, with the climate which increases the costs of production and the economy which does not allow for serious levels of irrecoverable costs (i.e. engineering labor). This pretty much means that the economy of Russia won't boom, and as a boomerang effect its middle class won't rise economically and aspire to claim political leadership.

Your analysis ignores the existence of states in similar, if not worse, predominant climatic conditions, that fare much better in terms of economy and (arguably, more importantly) quality of life. Canada, Finland, Sweden, Iceland... which of these have a problem with outflow of skilled labor?

Then again, the harshness of climate in Russia is also often overstated for effect. A good chunk of European Russia (basically, the lower 2/3 or so) has very reasonable climate. There are plenty of geographic benefits, too, such as a vast network of large rivers that can be readily used for transportation, significant number of natural resources (even in the European part), forests, and quality soil. In fact, the latter could easily enable homesteading, if you're keen to follow the American example.

IMO, for the past few centuries at least, the constraints on development in Russia (or lack thereof, which has been a rare occasion indeed) largely originate from poor governance rather than climatic conditions or that elusive "national mentality". It has everything that is needed to be a very successful, strong country economically - indeed, this shows up in some of the successes that USSR has enjoyed despite everything - but it either squanders those opportunities outright, or when they're actually used for something good, the wealth thus produced goes right past the majority of the populace, in a manner that is more blunt and unfair than even the most income-unequal liberal democratic capitalist countries (such as US).

Comment Re: The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 124

You know, you post as AC but it's really obvious who you are, you have the same writing style everywhere you post ;)

Anyway, here's what the treaty actually says:

Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.

Any questions?

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 2) 124

The missing part is making explicit that an entity owns what it mines and has the right to work the mines it develops. I think given the context it's pretty clear that this was expected, but it is an oversight. You know, if one corporation spent billions clearing the overburden off an asteroid, then another company comes in and just starts mining the ore in question... that's a big problem. It needs to be controlled. Really, it should be allocated out in blocks, with exclusive rights given to use the blocks but only if they're actively working those blocks within a certain timeperiod from their last renewal.

On Earth this is done by nations auctioning off resource extraction rights, but since there's no national ownership of territory in space, no nation could rightfully profit from selling off resource blocks. Blocks would either have to be free or for profits go to an international fund. In the early days, since nobody knows whether space mining actually will play out to be profitable at this point in time, one would expect them to start out free.

But of course all of this would require a new treaty.

Comment Re:Bad choice (Score 1) 156

As it happens, I'm also a Russian, and my current whereabouts are close to Seattle... ~

And yes, I'm pretty sure that the US economy can accommodate us all - or at least the kind of people that you have listed. We have valuable skill sets, and we actually produce wealth - and we pay more in taxes off our income than most natural-born citizens, not to mention all the spending that also creates jobs. Furthermore, we integrate readily: we often marry locals, our kids usually speak English better than they speak Russian (esp. with American moms!), and their kids often don't speak Russian at all; and our cultures are close enough that 1-2 generations is sufficient to get thoroughly Americanized without any conscious efforts effort.

So the bottom line of your cautionary tale is really more of a caution to your country: if it's so easy to convince so many that their country is shit, not just to the point where they nod, but to the point where they pack up their belongings and leave on an expensive and uncertain one-way trip, perhaps there's readily observable truth to the accusation? Should you, perhaps, be doing something to remedy that (and by remedy I mean fix the issues that make people leave, as opposed to, say, closing down the border and instituting exit visas, which seems to be the way the wind is blowing currently - we all know how it ends)?

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 1) 124

Things don't always come down to that. Look at the Cod Wars between Iceland and the UK. Three times Iceland pushed the UK - a nuclear power with hundreds of times its population - back further and further out its shores. The UK had the military ability to crush Iceland like an ant. But Iceland succeeded by combination of making it economically unfeasible for the British to fish Icelandic waters (net cutters, for example) and well-played international geopolitical maneuvering (for example, threatening to give the NATO base at Keflavík to the Soviets if the US didn't exert pressure on the UK, while also successfully positioning itself as a small weak state being bullied by a large powerful one)

Anyway, the Outer Space Treaty was well meaning. Think of the context of the Cold War and how that was all playing out. It seemed logical to think that both nations would begin laying claim to various bodies (or parts thereof), say by landing as many landers as they could to them... which would inherently lead to disputes, just like happens with worthless pieces of land on Earth - with the each side supporting their claim by military means, just like happens on Earth. It was seen as a ripe grounds for an unchecked military escalation, and while it would start out on other celestial bodies, it would progress to LEO and GEO, and then to Earth.

They were probably way overly optimistic about the space of advancement in space technology (remember, this was 1967) and overly pessimistic about everything else. They certainly weren't trying to "block commercial mining"; the goal was simply to prevent a space arms race between rival powers. Quite to the contrary, the treaty talks frequently about encouraging the peaceful use of space for the benefit of humanity. There's just one detail missing, which is to make explicit that corporations or individuals own what they mine. Without that, there won't be much of any "use of space" beyond exploration.

Comment Re:The treaty says no such thing. (Score 2) 124

Getting things *to* locations in space is inherently expensive. The cost of getting them *back* is not inherently so, if you don't insist on each return having a custom reentry vehicle and instead just shape it as its own reentry vehicle, with full expectation that it'll suffer some ablation during atmospheric entry. Some NEOs have only dozens of meters per second delta-V to reach earth intercept with an optimal trajectory and timing - a good baseball pitcher could do that unaided ;)

Submission + - Is it time for government to get out of the business of giving dietary advice? (wsj.com)

schwit1 writes: But that would mean giving up on so many opportunities for graft and self-importance and control over others.

With the release of the eighth edition of the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines expected by year’s end, it seems reasonable to consider—with the “obesity plague” upon us and Americans arguably less healthy than ever before—whether the guidelines are to be trusted and even whether they have done more harm than good.

Many Americans have lost trust in the science behind the guidelines since they seem to change dramatically every five years. In February, for example, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee declared that certain fats and eggs are no longer the enemy and that cholesterol is “not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This, after decades of advising Americans to “watch their cholesterol.”

Such controversy is nothing new. U.S. Dietary Guidelines were first released by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980. One nutrition expert at the time, Edward “Pete” Ahrens, a groundbreaking researcher on fat and cholesterol metabolism, called the guidelines “a nutritional experiment with the American public as subjects . . . treating them like a homogeneous group of Sprague-Dawley rats.”

The original goals were to: 1) increase Americans’ carbohydrate consumption to 55%-60% of caloric intake; 2) reduce fat consumption to less than 30% from 40% of caloric intake; 3) reduce saturated fat to 10% of calories and increase poly- and monounsaturated fats each to 10% of calories; 4) reduce cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day; 5) reduce sugar intake by 40%; and 6) reduce salt consumption by 50%-80%.

These six goals, viewed in the context of what we know today, could hardly be more misdirected.

If only we could hold them liable the way we would if they were pharmaceutical companies that produced similarly defective and harmful products.

Comment Re:What else is there left to do on smartphones? (Score 1) 282

When a technology is rapidly evolving, and innovation occurs on a yearly basis, all that means is that the technology is still very immature.

I, for one, will be glad to see the end of smartphone "innovation". That means smartphones will stop becoming a trendy fad you "need" to purchase everyone one to two years, and instead will become a commodity, a tool, that you instead purchase once every four to seven years, or as desired - sort of like with PCs now. It will mean that designs and form will have settled down into what is universally agreed to be the best form-factor and feature sets, and the "innovation" will occur with incremental improvements that simply refine already good functionality into slightly better.

*Gasp* Our trendy smartphones becoming as boring as a tired old *PC*? Say it ain't so!

Comment Re:Problem with the definition of a planet (Score 3, Interesting) 57

They'll say, "oh, it's okay, there's enough of a size difference between those bodies that they don't count". But the thing is that there's no way that most of the current "8 planets" would have cleared their orbits without help from the giants. It's pretty much accepted science in astronomy that Jupiter, and to a lesser extent Saturn, scattered most of the bodies in our solar system. Mars has a Stern-Levison parameter (rating of the ability of a body to scatter small bodies) two orders of magnitude less than Neptune, and Neptune has multiple Pluto-scale bodies in its orbit. Pluto may be small compared to Neptune, but it's not so small in comparison to Mars, yet Mars has two orders magnitude less ability to scatter them. Mars didn't scatter these things away - Jupiter did. Heck, a number of the models show that the planets didn't even form in their current locations.

There's all this misuse of the Stern-Levison parameter out there to say things that it doesn't. The parameter is based around a probabilistic simulation of the body and a bunch of "small bodies" with a mass distribution and orbital distribution similar to our asteroid belt. But of course, that tells you very little - our asteroid belt only has the size and mass distribution that it does today because of the influence of other planets - and when I say "other planets", I really mean overwhelmingly Jupiter (only a tiny fraction of asteroids are in Mars resonances). Jupiter has stopped these bodies from coalescing into larger bodies and scattered the vast majority of its mass elsewhere. That's not the situation that the solar system was in during formation. There were numerous large "planetissimals" scattered around. The Stern-Levison parameter says absolutely nothing about the ability of a body to scatter large planetissimals. And even concerning scattering asteroids, it doesn't state that the scatters are enough to "clear the orbit", only that their angle changes on a pass by more than a given number of degrees.

Basic point: a standard based around the "8 planets" having cleared their orbit is a lie. The science says that most of them aren't responsible for clearing their own orbits.

And while we're at it: what sort of stupid standard puts Mars and Jupiter in the same group but in a different group than Pluto and Ceres? There was a perfectly reasonable standard under discussion at the IAU conference shortly before they switched what they were voting on: a definition built around hydrostatic equlibrium. A lot of the planetary scientists left thinking that this was the version that was going to be voted on, and being happy with either "no definition" or an "equilibrium definition", saw no need to stick around for the final vote. Hydrostatic equilibrium actually is valid science, and it's very meaningful. A body not in hydrostatic equilibrium is generally made of primordial minerals. It's the sort of place you'd go to research, for example, properties of how the solar system formed. A body in hydrostatic equilibrium has undergone mass conversion of its primordial minerals to new forms. It's undergone massive releases of energy (which may still be present, depending), associated action of fluids, etc, and are the sorts of places you would go to study mineralization processes, internal processes or search for life. They're very different bodies, and there's a very simple dividing line - one that's much easier to calculate/measure than a pseudoscience "cleared the neighborhood" standard.

Comment Re:"Failed" push for renewables? (Score 1) 312

Speaking as someone who, back in the late 80's, out of my own fear due to ignorance and a lack of foresight, voted to shut down Rancho Seco, [...]

If it's any consolation, you were probably right at the time. We can only talk about how good nuclear power is now because of the moratorium on new plants which let us skip a generation of reactor design. If the US had been building nuclear plants in the 80s, your electricity bill today would still mostly be paying off the capital costs.

My mother is a fish. - William Faulkner