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Comment Re:Still riding the high (Score 4, Insightful) 172

"But with cars, you can't chose if a self driving car is with you on the street." I already can't choose if drunks, teenagers, and idiots are on the street with me -- I'll take self-driving cars over at least half the drivers I see every day. Self driving cars would be easy to be on the road with -- predictable, not distracted, and no road rage.

Comment Re:Is there reason to think Cold Fusion is possibl (Score 2) 344

I'd say there is a chance (never thought I'd defend cold fusion) because muon catalyzed fusion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon-catalyzed_fusion) almost works, though I mean 'almost' in the sense that if the physics of muons were a little bit different then it would work, not that it can be made to work with just a little more trying on our part. If muon catalyzed fusion almost works then maybe there is something else out there that does, but that's a big 'maybe'.

Comment Re:What the eggheads don't consider... (Score 2) 46

One reason, and I'm sure there are others, is that the thermal load from the sun at Venus is greater than at Earth or Mars (nearly 2x the solar flux at Venus as at Earth) and the spacecraft would need at least a partial redesign and some added thermal control items (sunshades or increased heating tolerances) to accommodate it. If the spacecraft was planned for launch in March 2016, the final design is already done. Venus flybys have been used before but not for schedule convenience, only when the spacecraft just wouldn't make it to the destination without a Venus assist, or for Mercury missions where the solar flux at Venus is not the limiting factor.

Comment Re:meanwhile soyuz ... (Score 2) 39

A Soyuz launched mission failed just last April, carrying a Progress 27M spacecraft meant for a resupply mission to the ISS.
"Roscosmos said in a statement Wednesday that mission control lost communications with the Progress spacecraft 1.5 seconds before the cargo carrier’s planned separation from the third stage of its Soyuz launcher."
"A report by Russia’s Tass news agency Wednesday claimed the RD-0110 engine burned longer than designed during Tuesday’s launch, citing a source from the engine’s manufacturer."

Comment Re:Von Braun Screwed Up (Score 1) 242

Von Braun was a big proponent of Earth orbit rendezvous and had to be brought around to lunar orbit rendezvous, like almost all of the rest of NASA. But the engineering studies said that LOR was the only way to make it by the deadline which Kennedy had set. NASA was under orders from the politicians, the ones who were writing the checks. If Earth orbit rendezvous had been adopted and the possible lunar landing had slipped into the mid-late 70s, no one knows if the money for the lunar landing would have come along and the Apollo-Saturn hardware would have been abandoned in the 70's anyway. By 1969 interest among the politicians and citizens in spending the money it took to keep the Apollo-Saturn ecosystem going was already on the wane.

Comment Re:I thought the secondary payload (Score 1) 54

Your point that the SLS is a bad way to get back into space is a good one and I agree, especially given the low launch frequency. We may never build more than a couple of them, like the Soviet Energia. My optimism going forward is based on the Falcon9/Dragon and (less so) on the Atlas5/CST-100, and maybe that Atlas follow-on which ULA is working on as a competitor to the Falcons. My original discussion point with the OP is that the US has not abandoned crewed space, especially with (at least) three vehicle combinations available in the next few years. But, I'll close by completely seconding your point that the SLS is not the way to do it, especially with the heavy versions of the Falcon 9 in the works.

Comment Re:I thought the secondary payload (Score 3, Informative) 54

Well, in 1975 we abandoned our existing orbital (and deep space) capability and put all our leftover Apollo/Saturn vehicles in museums. Then we had a six year gap in crewed space capability until STS-1 in 1981. Now, the first crewed missions for the Boeing Atlas/CST-100 vehicle and the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon vehicle are both scheduled for 2017, again giving a six year gap in US crewed orbital capability (SLS/Orion is a deep space capability to follow a few years later). But, I don't recall the enormous wailing and hand wringing about the USA losing its abilities in space back during the gap in the 70's like there is today.

Comment Re:I thought the secondary payload (Score 3, Informative) 54

Factually as related to the crewed space program I don't think your conclusion holds up.
After the Apollo 1 fatal accident in January 1967, the first crewed flight of Apollo was delayed from its scheduled February 1967 to October 1968, a delay of 20 months.
After the Challenger fatal accident in January 1986, the next STS launch was delayed until September 1988, a delay of 32 months.
After the Columbia fatal accident in January 2003, the next STS launch was delayed until July 2005, a delay of 30 months.

The difference between a 20 month program delay after a fatal accident and a 30 month delay doesn't seem to qualify as "lost its collective balls".

And as for the manned space program in the 1960's, Alan Shepard aboard Mercury-Redstone 3 would have beaten Yuri Gagarin and been the first human into space if the previous Mercury-Redstone 2 had not exhibited some anomalies (which the chimpanzee aboard survived fine) and influenced NASA to add another test flight before launching Shepard. So NASA was not quite as "ballsy" back then as the legends have it.

Comment And we still can't import prescription drugs (Score 3, Informative) 365

This is pretty bold (not really the right word) of Pfizer to move overseas, considering that they, along with the rest of big Pharma are the ones who lobbied to make it illegal for Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs. Maybe Pfizer should be required to sell their drugs in the USA for the price they charge in Ireland.

Comment Re:In other words... (Score 1) 387

I need to pile on here since as a hot rodder and muscle car aficionado this is a pet peeve. NASCAR used to be on the cutting edge of automotive technology as it applied to the modifications possible on factory built consumer cars, back in the 60's, and many of those mods found their way onto the street as factory products. The Chrysler 426 Hemi engine came directly out of NASCAR racing and so did (somewhat indirectly) the big-block Chevrolet V8 of the times (the 396, 427 and 454 CID big blocks). NASCAR cars were based on street cars and the mods allowed from the streetable versions were limited. Somewhere in the 70's NASCAR lost its way and NASCAR cars became tube-framed specially built race cars with only a passing familiarity to the street cars. At this time NASCAR also became inmeshed in rules which severely limited technical development on their cars -- a restriction to carburetors only is the prime example. The factory stock street cars then rapidly advanced beyond NASCAR with fuel injection, computer engine controls, traction control, etc. NASCAR became a backwater in automotive technology; they have a longs ways to go to catch back up, if they has any desire to.

Comment Re:Handwavium (Score 1) 274

OP here. And you are, of course, correct. My understanding is that the discovery of the first Iridium anomaly led to the Impact Hypothesis, which then led to the further predictions including worldwide Iridium deposits in the Cretaceous boundary. I was lucky enough to see Walter Alvarez talk about it at the university here in the early 90's. I was writing pretty fast this morning and hoped no one would call me on it:), guess I'll be more careful next time! Hopefully this inaccuracy didn't detract form my point that "observational" sciences make testable predictions, too and are not inferior to the "experimental" sciences.

Comment Re:Handwavium (Score 1) 274

"Observational science" has experiments too, they are predictions of future observations. For example when the theory came out that the meteorite killed the dinosaurs, it didn't stop with, "we observed this so this is the explanation". No, it allowed specific predictions such as, "If you look in this stratum in the rocks at the end of the Cretaceous period, you will find anomalous amounts of Iridium, shocked mineral grains, and other evidence of meteorite impact." Also when General Relativity was proposed there were no experiments which could be done to test it, but it did make predictions about observations -- GR predicted the bending of star light past the sun, which was subsequently verified. The ability to make predictions about future observations is very little different from any "experimental science".

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