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Comment: Re:How low can you go?(power density) (Score 1) 152

Well I asked for that. I should have said it differently. Another try: there is a lot of experimental evidence to show that the fine structure constant is constant. If it hadn't been constant we would have known. With the claim that the fine structure constant is a real constant one is on solid ground.

Then the possibility that outside of the solid experimental proof the constant could still vary "maybe the constant was not always the same" - should be handled very sparingly. It's an idea to be kept on a short leash because it's speculation. And often its untestable speculation , and it's best to stay out of that territory. And when you do experiments and they don't come out right, the hypothesis that 'maybe current scientific understanding is wrong' should be considered a very expensive claim that should be postponed until all other options have been exhausted. Instead, and partly because of popular media, it's become a very cheap claim that is easily made.
In the OPERA experiment they came up with the explanation that maybe neutrinos go faster than light. If you want to claim that maybe all of our scientific understanding is wrong then you need an awful lot of evidence to back it up, or you shouldn't make the claim. The guy should just have shut up and kept searching rather than hoping for a scoop.

People should not start trotting out a 'variable constant' hypothesis because some ratio of elements is wrong in ore.

Comment: Re:engineering heaven (Score 1) 234

Mazda is still selling sport vehicles with Wankel engines ... a friend of mine drives one, an awesome car.

The RX8 has been sold for a long time but they discontinued it a few years back. They're working on a successor but as long as they fail to satisfy the emission requirements it's not going to enter the market.

Comment: Re:How low can you go?(power density) (Score 1) 152

I'm not saying researching the possibility that universal constants are not constant is bollocks, though I'd consider it too speculative for science. But once one starts taking an open environment 'dirty' testcase where the ratio 235/238 is different from the sample nextdoor as a clue for variable universal constants, then one is really in the middle of bollocks territory.

Comment: How low can you go?(power density) (Score 3, Interesting) 152

also to discover whether the laws of physics that govern nuclear reactions may have changed in the 1.5 billion years since the reactor switched off.

What bollocks. I think the actual question to ask is how it's possible to create the conditions for an very large (the size of the mine)and extremely low density (the concentration of natural ore) nuclear reactor.

In the days the preference for civilian reactors was to develop further along the design of the compact high density submarine reactors. The nuclear industry never got over that. There are prototypes of large reactors with much lower power density. It's a natural question to ask how low enrichment and low density one can go.

Comment: Re:Level of public funding ? (Score 1) 292

I think so too. I like to compare physics breakthroughs with earthquakes. A century ago we were in a very active area: decent chance for big earthquakes. Now things have calmed down. Plenty of small earthquakes.Large earthquakes have not become impossible but are very much rarer. Since the 'fundamental laws' have something special it does feel like the end of an era.

  But meanwhile there are other scientific areas that are active and we gradually we'll be moving more and more into areas where we're making and inventing things more than discovering them.

Comment: Re:The US matters (Score 1) 132

I didn't say there was a signed treaty about NATO expansion. This new article from the Atlantic looks like a fair primer.

The thing is, your position is that since Russia is not legitimate they don't have legitimate concerns, therefore, whenever they push back it's for no good reason at all. My position is slightly different. Let's take the ultimate hellhole North Korea: my take is that their aggressive posturing is not only for internal use. It's also based on legitimate concerns about US/South Korean aggressive posturing.
In the case of Russia, there's quite a difference between 'owning' the ex-soviet states and having legitimate concerns about NATO creeping up to them. The US has an official policy that if anyone tries something like that in South America, they've got war on their hands. So in part the conflict comes down to this: is the US going to recognize that Russia has legitimate security concerns or not? I tend towards recognizing those concerns. It doesn't mean one has to be nice about it though.

Comment: The US matters (Score 1) 132

It's reasonable to point out the importance of the EU but the US is a major actor and is I think a larger worry for Russia. It was a core part of the agreement when the USSR was disbanded that NATO would not expand in its former client states. Which NATO promptly disregarded.
Nato is now working very hard to enroll the rest of the countries,hence the (bullshit)scare stories about russian expansionism. Russia isn't trying to expand , they're trying to save what's left.

Also the US was -against EU wishes- an active instigator in making the revolution what it was and in getting it accepted afterwards. Not an obvious thing when a democratically elected president is ousted.

Comment: What do the violinists think? (Score 1) 469

Well, at least Stradivarius is as good as a top quality modern violin. Maybe they don't consider the Stradivarius as better. It could be something similar to a fancy dress: adding festivity and status. It can be the feeling that you're just playing with something very rare that used to be the top. And sometimes people just want the opportunity to find out if there is something special to a legendary instrument.

Sometimes period instruments and associated techniques add authenticity. I know that there used to be a technique with the bow in cello playing that was very different. I don't know if that's the case for violins.

Comment: Joe Haldeman worked with that theme (Score 1) 914

In Joe Haldeman's SF novel 'Buying Time'(previously called 'The Long Habit of Living')
there's a drug called zombie with the effect of rendering a person catatonic while speeding up their perception of time a thousandfold.
So in effect while people are incapacitated for a few days, it feels like 20 years. And some can handle it and some can't.
Good read.

Comment: Re:The NSA has learnt its lesson! (Score 1) 186

I mention that because it fits Snowdens description of himself (if I remember correctly). Hence the reflex reaction to get rid anyone who shares some attributes with Snowden.

That much is a serious speculation. As for a discussion on the gap between libertarians and more 'core' conservatives, I would be opiniated and possibly boring.

Comment: The NSA has learnt its lesson! (Score 2) 186

- get rid of as many sysadmins as possible
- screen sysadmins for libertarian tendencies and for caring too much about the constitution
- make sure information is less widely accessible
- increase monitoring of everyone who accesses information
- prepare to make a few token concessions for public consumption .. but, but.. we sort of hoped you'd cut back on the surveillance schemes! You know, mend your ways?
Do what? Hm no, we didn't think of that. Why would we have to do that then ?

Comment: Re:why wait? (Score 1) 273

Maybe he anticipated how they would try to play the game?

I don't think that's the explanation. He's been trying to play things pretty straight. He's said before that he's used internal channels and now he's only being more explicit. There's also a downside into dragging in other people. They didn't want to stick their necks out , certainly not if they predicted -rightly- a serious backlash. This is normal-person-behavior. It's 'not daring', and that's very different from 'not caring'.
So why should he shine the spotlight on them unless there's a very good reason?

They are relatively good but absolutely terrible. -- Alan Kay, commenting on Apollos