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Comment: Gravity Tug (Score 1) 148

If you have enough lead time then I think the gravity tug works well. You rendezvous with the asteroid and fly alongside it, using solar-electric or some other slow but mass-efficient drive to hold station on the same side of the asteroid. The gravity of the probe VERY SLOWLY accelerates the asteroid and over a few decades (perhaps with a few refueling missions to bring more xenon or whatever) the asteroid's orbit is changed enough to miss the Earth,.

Comment: Re:Now if only the rest of the country would follo (Score 1) 544

by stevelinton (#49696029) Attached to: California Senate Approves School Vaccine Bill

You are making a classic error of comparing the normal progress of the disease with the rare side-effects of the vaccine. This is the (false) argument against measles vaccination -- "I (or most people, or my kids or my parents) had measles. It was uncomfortable for a while, but it got better. A tiny fraction of children have a bad reaction to the vaccine which is really nasty. It's not worth that tiny fraction getting the bad reaction to save everyone the mild disease". What's missing is the larger but still small fraction of people who have nasty complications of the disease and are left handicapped or dead.

Comment: Re:Now if only the rest of the country would follo (Score 3, Informative) 544

by stevelinton (#49696017) Attached to: California Senate Approves School Vaccine Bill

There is no evidence for risks of clustering that I am aware of. On the other hand not clustering means, at least, more risk of individual children missing shots due to greater complexity, more visits to doctors with more risk of infection with unrelated diseases and more cost, which could be spent on other public health measures that would presumably reduce other risks.

If you do think clustering vaccines adds risk, there is a fairly straightforward, if somewhat lengthy, route to address this.

First get a PhD in virology or some other appropriate discipline and a suitable job.

Next, carefully design a series of experiments that will help answer your question and get relevant approvals for it (ethics, safety,....)

Now apply for an NIH (or your country's equivalent) grant to perform it.

Perform it, analyse the results, publish them.

If they show significant extra risk from clustering, then, after a little bit of bureaucratic inertia while people find out about and understand your study and try and work out what changes to procedures would reflect it without risk elsewhere, the chances are clustering would be reduced.

Comment: Re:Again (Score 4, Interesting) 63

by stevelinton (#49411081) Attached to: Restart of Large Hadron Collider At CERN

I'm very familiar with the scientific model, which is why they are running experiments at the LHC rather than just announcing supersymmetry as fact.

However, the scientific model doesn't tell you what experiments to run, or what theories to form or test. Scientists have to decide what they think "needs" an explanation, then they can look around for an explanation which fits the existing data and devise experiments to acquire new data to test it. If the new data fits the theory well enough the theory becomes part of our model of the universe, which is now a little more complete and precise. If it doesn't they try again. The last part is what is usually called "scientific method" but it doesn't help you decide what to try and explain, or which explanations to test first.

In this case, physicists, backed by decades of experience have identified the low mass of the Higgs boson (relative to the Planck mass, as it happens) as the kind of thing that might be expected to have an explanation (beyond just "that's how the universe is") so they have looked around for such an explanation. There are a few competing ones, of which supersymmetry is the best worked out. Actually supersymmetry is not just one theory, it has many variations, The new LHC run may support or exclude some or all of these.

Comment: Re:Again (Score 3, Informative) 63

by stevelinton (#49410487) Attached to: Restart of Large Hadron Collider At CERN

Wat do u mean unaesthetic.

Pretty much what it says. The theory that relates all the existing particles ("The standard model") doesn't predict a mass for the Higgs boson, it's a number you have to measure and put into the theory. The theory does suggest limits -- it can't be less than zero or more than about a million million million times what it is. So it's a bit like finding something that could in principle be anywhere on a line from New York to San Fransisco but happens to be less than one atomic diameter from the New York end of the line. It could be chance but it doesn't feel right. That "not feeling right" is what I mean by unaesthetic.

Experience in physics is that things that "don't feel right' in this way usually hint at a deeper explanation which we don't understand. This one might not, but it seems worth looking.

Comment: Re:Again (Score 5, Informative) 63

by stevelinton (#49409877) Attached to: Restart of Large Hadron Collider At CERN

One goal is to better understand the properties of the HIggs boson by making lot more of them. This will surely happen. There are a bunch of similar things where they just want more data to get details of something already discovered.

After that, the biggest target is supersymmetry. This is a purely theoretical notion (at present) which would offer a nice explanation for one of the major mysteries of current particle physics -- why particles like the Higgs are as light as they are. At the moment we have a bunch of equally "natural" theories in which Higgs masses range from little or nothing to massively more than they are now. Hitting a value this close to zero by chance is unaesthetic and experience suggests that when something like this happens there is usually a deeper explanation. Supersymmetry is a candidate for such an explanation.It would predict a whole slew of new particles, the lightest of which might be stable and might be within reach of the new LHC. They also might make up some or all of the "dark matter" which seems to make up most of the Universe.

The dark matter is also a target in its own right. Even if it isn't made of supersymmetry particles, it might be made of some other kind of particle light enough for the LHC to make some.

Then there are more exotic conjectures around like extra dimensions and dark energy particles wjich might show up.

Comment: Re:A few fairly obvious things (Score 1) 160

by stevelinton (#49335161) Attached to: Energy Company Trials Computer Servers To Heat Homes

You are right that the no moving parts thing is speculation, but it's what I'd do. Several people have worried about disk failures and such like as a concern with the idea, and noise would also be a concern.

Regarding cabling, yes, you are right. In densely populated areas of the Netherlands there is probably fibre to the apartment building already, but they might have a low-networking workload in mind.

Comment: Re:But (Score 1) 69

by stevelinton (#49331233) Attached to: Jupiter Destroyed 'Super-Earths' In Our Early Solar System

Simulations suggest that it is very sensitive to exactly where the gas giants form and the density of different parts of the dust cloud. Small changes in initial conditions mean that they may head in and stay there -- hot Jupiters; never head in at all -- hot super-Earths; or do what ours did and dive in and then out.

Comment: A few fairly obvious things (Score 4, Insightful) 160

by stevelinton (#49331055) Attached to: Energy Company Trials Computer Servers To Heat Homes

1. Thermodynamics: if you need to convert electricity to heat for any purpose you can get computation out for free. Electricity is very low entropy, low-grade heat over a large area very high, you can have the difference as useful computation

2. The article makes clear these are compute servers, not data servers or web servers. They may well be bitcoin mining, or running large-scale compute jobs for universities or the local met office or rendering a movie or ... In any event you expect a proportion of the servers in any job to fail. When you think they may have failed you restart the tasks they were doing somewhere else. Most of these tasks do not need much security either. There is little to gain by stealing or changing the predicted air pressure in a 100x100x10km block of air over Belgium next Thursday.

3. They are surely custom servers, not standard racks -- no moving parts. SSD for boot, application data over the net and a fanless design. They can be totlally sealed units entirely immune to junior's orange juice. Use mainly nonstandard form factors and they become basically unsellable reducing the theft problem and getting round some more security issues.

3. The article says that the supplier supplies power. Whatever cable they use for that can easily have a fibre built in for data.

4. Since this is cloud compute, it doesn't matter much if it gets turned off on rare hot days in the Netherlands, but if you care, pay the owner to open a window instead.

Comment: Re:Help me out here (Score 5, Informative) 88

by stevelinton (#49155623) Attached to: Mysterious Siberian Crater Is Just One of Many

I think the idea is this:
You have a large volume of clathrates underneath ice or frozen soil.
As things warm, they start to break down and a reservoir of methane gas builds up
at high pressure.
Eventually the pressure reaches the point where it can push aside or lift up or whatever the ice at its weakest point
and it finds a route to the surface.

Now you have a LOT of gas rushing through some kind of hole, a little bit like an oil well blowout and the gas flow erodes the sides of the hole and throws soil or ice into the air and generally starts to make a crater.

Furthermore the escape of all this gas lowers the pressure down where the clathrates are quite suddenly, so the breakdown accelerated greatly, providing still more gas to ruch up through the hole.

So not really an explosion, perhaps more like a blowout, but still fairly violent simply because of the amount of gas and the pressure.

At no point does it combust.

You can fool all the people all of the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough. -- Joseph E. Levine