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Comment: Neon is quite a mess and everyone knows it... (Score 1) 116

by sugarmatic (#48540317) Attached to: NSF Accused of Misuse of Funds In Giant Ecological Project

Neon has been a mess for a long time. Feuds between scientists, notable acts of outright sabotage, shaky data from substandard instrumentation, overhead and management fees that approach two thirds of the entire budget, the list goes on.

The entire enterprise risks entire swaths of ecological science and debate because it has been so incompetent. Chaos.

Anyone who believes we don't have good data because of a lack of money needs to pay attention...the problem is that incompetent institutions are quite literally sucking the air out of the room. Progress is stymied by incompetence from the likes of Neon.

Comment: This is very old news. (Score 1) 239

To date, there are literally dozens of groups of hobbyists who compete with FPV vehicles (both ground and air) to deliver large pyrotechnical devices to "goals", from over 4 km away. It's not even expensive or is off the shelf and an click away.

To date, there are at least a dozen people who have equipped a vehicle with FPV transceivers and the simple servos required to navigate through actual city streets while miles away themselves. Latency is not the issue that some people who haven't actually tried it might argue. To be fair, the videos I've witnessed were done at night with minimal traffic present.

These things are relatively cheap, not very difficult, and are completely available to anyone with some time and motivation.

This has been the case for a very, very long time. This is no game changer.

The game changer would be the sudden appearance of legions of people with a little money and a lot of motivation to use these things for nefarious purposes.

So, the question is this:

Why isn't this happening all the time?

1) Either people just don't know how easy, accessible, and cheap these things are, or

2) All the luggage searches, border security, and spying on private citizens is batting 100% for effectiveness in preventing the legions of terrierist attacks that must be attempted every day, or

3) These nefarious people simply don't exist in any number great enough to worry about.

Hypothesis (1) is naive and silly. These ideas are the first thing to occur to any casual 14 year old pyromaniac nerd. They aren't the last to occur to occur to a determined, capable theoretical "terrierist".

Hypothesis (2) is what comprises the confidence game we willingly pay trillions to every year.

We live in a world where hypothesis (2) is the only likely scenario, and should be considered "theory" by now given the ridiculousness of (1) and (2).

Comment: Re:The US government (Score 4, Interesting) 104

Prohibited areas are few and far between, and don't include power plants as you suggest,despite what some obedient naive security person might proclaim to an even more naive reporter.

The data center is wide open, and this was a peaceful protest. It is not possible from the picture to tell if the flight was conducted at a legal altitude or not. ==the law enforcement community proved itself to be a bunch of incompetent, fragile personality types.

People like to believe anything that gives a sense of urgency or authority to what they feel they have to say.

If the government truly wanted to protect the data center, they wouldn't have placed their chiller stations on the perimeter with no barriers,or their transformer service stations, etc. The place would be disabled for months at a minimum if they were affected. An airplane flying overhead? It would barely mess up the paint. There is no reason to shut down the airspace there.

Comment: Pennsylvania is a Stand Your Ground State... (Score 2) 798

The detective clearly would have preferred it if the kid had pulled out a Colt .45 and blown the offending child bully's brains out all over the wall.

The simple truth is simply too threatening to too many people. They demand laws that provide drama instead.

Comment: optical multiplexing... (Score 2) 40

by sugarmatic (#46238869) Attached to: Researchers Unveil High-Speed Laser Communications Device For Space

...also exploits polarization to a high degree. In fact, many developmental optical communication systems exploit polarization purity for higher base digital transmission, and even if polarization modulation slows things down for some schemes, the resulting bandwidth can overcome the obstacles by an order of magnitude or more over the reduced rate of the mux/demux. The issues with these schemes is more about cost. But most of these programs are directed at n-fold increases in existing optical fiber network bandwidth. Their time will come.

Comment: Re:I abandoned thoughts of getting a pilot's licen (Score 1) 473

by sugarmatic (#46220401) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

1. That's all a person needs, or wants most of the time, to fly. Old radios. Round gauges. The rest has had zero impact on safety. Safety comes from between the ears, not from behind the panel.

2. Costs. Yes, but it is only slightly more expensive in constant dollars than 30 years ago. The real issue is that we all make less in constant dollars.

3. Regs are ridiculous at times. Again, flying is expensive. I have a dual GPS IFR panel. Not a single radio in the panel costs more than 3500. You can spend all you want. Or you can spend less...for used.

4. ADS-B is nice. But that's all. It only enhances safety...but it has not shown itself to actually improve it significantly enough to measure. Remember- if you avoid making the decision to fly into instrument conditions when you are not rated for them, and are careful enough to not run out of gas, you've just eliminated the causes for 95% of all accidents. Mechanical issues make up most of the rest. Things like mid-airs are so far down the list, you might as well worry about lightning. The latest tech has not proven itself to have any impact on general aviation safety- even in the aircraft so equipped. With one notable exception: the new ELT's (406 MHz).

5. Regs squelch anythign new coming into aviation. And the personalities one finds in aviation are often deeply conservative, curmudgeonly, and sort of unpleasant anyways.

6. Yes, it seems to be a badge of honor for the FAA to stay locked in the past...sort of like medical residencies ("We had to pull 36 hour shifts as residents, so new med students should too."). It is silly. After 30 years of flying, when they actually had teletypes and sub 100 baud faxes, it is silly to have to do a decode of weather.

Comment: The airlines just want hand outs. (Score 1) 473

by sugarmatic (#46220225) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

Well, they say there is a pilot shortage out there too. Which is a lie. The airlines simply have a shortage of pilots willing to donate $100k of personally financed funds in training and experience to work for a near minimum wage job.

Bottom line: why spend 100k-150k on your own training/opportunity costs, all to make $15k to $20k a year for a few years, maybe get a copilot position after that for 35k, maybe a pilot situation after 5 years of experience (which will take 6-8 years in reality, due to furloughs), and watch as retirement and other benefits rapidly disappear as you approach mid-career?

Folks who are mid career have it great compared to what folks getting into it can look forward to, and their predecessors had it oodles better then.

Flying for fun and occasional business is expensive. But it is also not much more expensive than it was 30 years ago (perhaps 20% more in constant dollars). The cold hard truth is that people don't make as much in constant dollars now, and that expense went out the window for the vast majority of the middle class long ago.

In constant dollars, the initial cost of buying a plane is quite a bit lower than it was 30 years ago (mostly because the fleet ages year for year because hardly any airplanes are made any more). The cost of maintenance has gone up due to age, even as shop costs for aviation have gone down. Parts have gone up. Fuel (at around $5.50 a gallon) is roughly 20% more expensive in constant dollars. Flight training is roughly 35% more expensive in constant dollars (due to trends in increasing the average time a person is asked to train before soloing and taking exams).

On the other hand, there is a vast world of unique experiences out there one simply cannot have unless one flies themselves around. There are fewer people who can prioritize/afford it in the middle class. In a world where median engineering or technical fields would pay $175k a year in constant dollars since the mid-60's, when reality is more like 85-100k, there will be adjustments.

In the mean time, I'm happily trading extra years of working life for being able to fly to mountain wilderness airstrips to camp and fish in solitude, desert airstrips to explore remote canyons, ski areas to take advantage of powder days without turning into an expensive, multi-day trip, and see my parents as they grow old more often (for less than flying a commercial flight). It costs...yes...and I am fortunate to be able to have one hobby I love that I can sacrifice for. I wouldn't trade these things as a younger person for an early retirement any day.

Comment: When a military becomes too invulnerable.... (Score 3, Insightful) 365

by sugarmatic (#46190307) Attached to: Do Hypersonic Missiles Make Defense Systems Obsolete?

...and asymmetric, then the only legitimate targets for an adversary become the public citizens that fund the efforts.

If no military response can ever be effective, it is the only thing left. We call it terrorism now, but it will be business as usual in the near future. Drones bombing your weddings?

Bomb their weddings. And schools and anything else.

The only limits to empire are consequences. When an empire can inflict with no fear of retribution to overtly military assets, other targets of retribution will be placed at risk.

"It's when they say 2 + 2 = 5 that I begin to argue." -- Eric Pepke