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Comment Re:Wow, who would have thought? (Score 4, Insightful) 175

I think the idea is that there are two types of qualified women.

The first type is the one in your 1:20 ratio. She's competent and can tolerate the environment of a male dominated workplace. She's not the issue.

The second (theoretical) type is also skilled (or at least has the right inclinations and intelligence type), but she's uncomfortable with the male dominated workplace and so she either leaves the field early or never even gets into the field to begin with.

Some believe that the remedy for the second type of woman is seen to be a place where there are more women, period. This allows them to have friends and the ability to have a more balanced environment. The increase in women in general will make it more attractive to the skilled women as well.

Obviously, this is an assumption, but not a necessarily a terrible one. Many people only feel comfortable among people like them. Same goes for gender, skin color or ethnicity.

A lot of this comes down to what the actual value of a more equitable ratio actually is. What are the quantifiable benefits of this sort of parity or diversity? And are those benefits come at the expense of productivity or opportunity for those who are not selected purely on the basis of their gender? Does one benefit outweigh the other? If so, then the feelings and misconceptions of the other side should give way, at least to the extent that the greatest benefit can be achieved.

I think there is a lot of shooting from the hip on this. I'd like someone to tell me:

1) Does having more females in IT being a perceptible benefit to either IT, or themselves?
2) What methods are necessary to achieve those benefits?
3) In the end, do any benefits actually outweigh the costs?

Comment Re:Education... (Score 1) 243

You're absolutely right. You can choose to spend more on education as a part of your GDP and have a better educational bang for the buck.

On the other hand, lower GDP sometimes does come back to roost elsewhere. You might have a free education, but does that translate into opportunity within those countries when you finish your education?

An educated person can do many things, but that doesn't always means they have the chance to do so in their own country, and many times the chance to do so comes in some other country.

Also, it is a bit unwarranted to be offended by being compared to Arkansas' education system. Although popularly considered a backwater, it's not really the same as living in a state like Alabama or Mississippi. There are plenty of good options for education in Arkansas. Although like the rest of the US, higher education is not free, that actually says little about the quality of the education itself, only about it's general availability to anyone who wants an education. While it is a comparative hardship, people can and do pay for university with the aid of grants and loans.

Comment Re:You mean a NATO wargame almost triggered war (Score 1) 210

That's sort of like building a large bomb in your house attached to a motion detector pointed at the sidewalk and when a pedestrian gets too close to your house, he trips it and the bomb annihilates the pedestrian and your entire house with you in it. You then point out that it's the pedestrian that triggered it, which is true, but hilariously misses the point.

If you build a system that causes you to launch a preemptive strike without an actual attack underway, it doesn't matter who triggered it. You're still the idiot that created a system that almost launched WWIII when no one was actually attacking you.

Luckily, the Soviet people were not stupid, but the leadership mindset at the time was very much insular and paranoid. The extent to which that was true shocked Reagan himself badly when he realized that they actually believed that we were going to attack.

I remember life in the USA in the early 1980's. We were constantly concerned with nuclear war, but no one actually believed we'd be the ones to fire the first shot of WWIII. We had no interest in actually attacking the Soviet Union, but we were rightfully concerned that they'd roll through Germany with a lot of tanks. And frankly, given the fact that they had shown no qualms about doing so in either 1956 or 1968 in their own allied states, I'd say we had reason to be concerned. The Soviet Union might have been paranoid of an attack, but they earned that paranoia by exporting revolution and outright expansionism.

Comment Re:Yeah, I've worked with a few of those (Score 1) 495

The summary seems to be assuming that terrorism is a phenomenon that is limited to conservatives or religious folks. Particularly radical Islamists.

In my opinion, their description of religious and terrorist merely means that engineers are more likely to be *religious terrorists*.

There are types of terrorists that are not religious, and actually, you had a lot of Marxist and anarchist terrorists in the past who could not by any means be called "conservative" or "religious".

So really, all this is saying is that engineers tend to be more conservative or religious, so if they become terrorists, it's because they have found a conservative or religious terrorist group to join.

I imagine there is a similar correlation between certain social scientists and Marxist terrorism.

Comment Re:Cost of access is key. (Score 1) 372

You're assuming that the catapult/accelerator is on the ground, for one thing. Concepts like a launch loop actually put the accelerator at 80km above the Earth and only impart a 3g acceleration on launch. Yes, you have to get there with an existing craft, but that's a much easier thing to do economically.

Don't get me wrong, this is all concept design often requiring things like megastructures. The launch loop would be 2,000km long and suspended by a maglev cable system, for instance. No one has ever done such a thing before. Not even close.

However, I don't think such a megastructure is beyond human capabilities technologically, and while there are intervening steps we need to get through, none of them are really based on speculative science or technology, it's mostly engineering and materials science.

I do have to wonder if it is beyond human capabilities in terms of attention span. The cost would be colossal, but not impossibly high, particularly if we could commit to such a project over a longer period. I just think if humanity said, "We are going to complete a launch system", that it is something we could do. It's not woo-woo Star Trek fake technobabble, it's just really, really hard.

Comment Re:It requires energy, not money. (Score 1) 372

I think energy is the first thing we will be able to get from space, not materials. Space based solar is a project that will provide energy, but without the major concerns of mining and transporting actual matter to Earth. And as you pointed out, once there is sufficient space based power, the mining can become profitable both in space, and in providing materials for Earth.

The sun itself is probably the best energy source we have at this time and it will scale up very well over time. If we can figure out the big hurdles of building the infrastructure and transmission, there could be significant profit to be made in space well before we start mining it. Indeed, the mining might be started by the energy company itself to reduce costs of building more infrastructure by not having to launch them from Earth.

Comment Re:The guy aint no Sagan... (Score 1) 372

So for this to work, particularly for guys like Musk who barely hit the two-figures billion$, the private market has to be orders of magnitude more efficient then NASA, which does not seem terribly likely because the private market has had years to get beyond the ISS and still has not done so.

We are still relatively early in the Space Age, particularly in comparison with human history. I don't think it is right to say that just because we haven't done it in 50 years that commercial players will never do it. We're still doing things like figuring out reusable launch systems, but we are making progress on those fronts.

Admittedly, there will have to be a point where the businesses do have to make some money, and satellite launches and space tourism are unlikely to advance the profit as much as you'd want. My best bet for such a profitable enterprise would probably be space based solar power. While such a project has significant hurdles that have yet to be overcome, energy production is something we need to have increasing amounts of, and it is incredibly important to make that a renewable, "green" source as our energy requirements grow.

Comment Re:Cost of access is key. (Score 1) 372

This is not true, really. We could quite conceivably construct catapult systems or other efficient means of getting cargo into orbit.

What we really lack is the will to build such things because even though the eventual payoff would be absolutely unprecedented, there is a colossal upfront cost to realize it and we simply can't force ourselves to either "just do it" or we lose interest when we try and do such things slowly over time.

Nevertheless, providing the ability to obtain resources from the rest of the Solar system would probably prove to be the most profitable investment in the history of mankind... eventually.

Unfortunately, I am wondering if the Great Filter isn't nuclear war or asteroids, but it is instead the inability to develop very long term thinking. Humans seem much less concerned about things that do not directly affect themselves or their recent generations of offspring. I wonder if most lifeforms are in a similar boat, having only evolved to ensure the survival of themselves and their more immediate offspring, and being unable to extend their attention far enough to complete such projects.

Comment Re:Private companies don't do exploration of front (Score 4, Informative) 372

In the 15th Century every early exploration of any note was government sponsored to some degree.

Although, it is important to note that at that time, there was a fuzzier line between the "government" and the people who had capital to send voyages. Queen Isabella provided money of her own for the voyage, as opposed to money raised directly in a tax and budgeted for the exploration.

However, as Queen, her jewels and her personal wealth were effectively derived from her position as a ruler.

Prince Henry the Navigator was in a similar position. He was rich, but mostly rich because he was a royal who had estates and money derived from his position related to the government.

There was no commercial interest, or any individual ship which was involved in the exploration of the Americas at that time.

You would likely have been better off discussing the Viking voyages, which is more of a scenario where voyages of relatively small ships fitted out for trade and raiding eventually got to North America.

Comment Re:You mean a NATO wargame almost triggered war (Score 1) 210

War games are a common event for military organizations. Despite the fact that Able Archer was particularly aggressive, it did not result in anything but a build up of forces within NATO's own territory or International airspace or waters. If the Soviets had launched a preemptive strike under those circumstances, even if they had understandable fears, it would still be an aggressive action on *their* part. They would still have pulled the trigger.

Although I don't want to understate the problematic use of brinkmanship in the Cold War, I want to be clear that running an exercise is not the same thing as actually launching an attack. If the Soviets really came under attack, they would still have likely had more then enough time to retaliate with a substantial portion of their strategic missile forces. The very fact that they did not understand this underscores the paranoia the Soviet state operated under.

Now, if the Able Archer participants had something like having a bomber or two accidentally stray over the border, then you have something more like an act of war. And that is one place where having such exercises can be very dangerous. A small scale accident can be mistaken for something it is not. Without the exercise, the bomber either would have gotten out ASAP, or at the very worst, been shot down, but without the build-up, that is as far as it would go. With the exercise, a stray bomber could cause a war.

Comment Re:Turkey downing plane (Score 1) 594

More to the point, the Russian pilot was probably not expecting the attack until he got a missile launch warning. I'd imagine that the fighters were lighting him up with their FC radars every time they came out to intercept.

And no, Russian planes are not shitty, but this is a Su-24. That model first flew in the late 1960s, which actually makes the model somewhat older than the F-16s Turkey has.

Comment Re:This is why ISIS wins (Score 1) 594

I agree. Turkey cares more about keeping the Kurds down than about ISIS. It is thinking like this which historically can groups like ISIS the breaks they need to become a real threat.

For the record, I do think ISIS will get squashed or fade out, but the longer that something like that festers, the longer it has to influence Muslims around the world to radicalize. Unless decisively dealt with, the ideology and the aftereffects tend to leave openings for follow-on movements, just like ISIS came out of al-Qaeda and the Baathists.

In many ways, it feels like the right thing to do is to split up Iraq, but an Iraqi derived Kurdistan means that Turkey would have to deal with its own Kurds, and a completely Shiite dominated area will likely ally with or even join Iran. In that sense, it feels like a no-win situation because the most stable state of the region is one where you're empowering the troublemakers and enemies.

Comment Re:I have an idea (Score 1) 594

Except I don't see the CIA being interested in destabilizing Egypt and getting Mubarak overthrown. Egypt has been a good ally of the US. I would be willing to believe the other operations were possible, while in the case of Syria, it happened to fail miserably.

On the other hand, the chances of the CIA being involved in a secret overthrow plan seems rather remote under an Obama administration and too subtle for the Bush administration. Obama mostly failed in Syria because he did far too little to actually try and take advantage of the unrest, and that does not seem to jibe with an covert program to overthrow Assad.

Artificial intelligence has the same relation to intelligence as artificial flowers have to flowers. -- David Parnas