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Comment: "stands by the viewing figures" is telling... (Score 4, Insightful) 103

Discovery Channel has long since gone the way of the History Channel, and now bears only coincidental moments of truth.

All they care about are ratings, and if lying to the public means ratings, well, obviously, Discovery is all over that.

As a scientist quoted in any of the current Shark Week "dramas" (they don't even rate the "docudrama" label), I'd sue Discovery for misrepresentation and libel. They quoted out of context and stitched together several scientist's different takes (not to mention failing to inform them about the subject being talked about, rather lying to them about the nature of the interview). As a consequence, the "scientist" never said any of the things they were purported to say.

Don't watch Shark Week. Don't watch Discovery/History/TLC or anything like that any more. heck, even NatGeo is bad. It's a shame.

Comment: Expense is the big one... (Score 2) 107

by trims (#47669009) Attached to: Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two)

Flying vehicles are expensive: to build, to operate, and to maintain. Probably close to an order of magnitude for each, though the last may be close to two magnitudes.

Cost per pound of cargo in an airborne vehicle is huge. Here's an example: the HondaJet runs around $5m. A comparable Honda Odyssy is $35k.

Flying is a significantly more energy-intensive operation than rolling along the surface. A cheap prop plane like a Cessna has an airspeed around 100mph, and gets 20mpg. The equivalent super-cheap subcompact doesn't have to worry about winds, and gets 40+ mpg. Turbofans (like the HondaJet) which you'd want on a "flying car" get 4x or worse gas mileage than a Cessna. VTOLs (whether helicopter or directed thrust) are getting 6x or worse gas mileage.

The vast majority of aircraft require HOURS of maintenance per hour of flight time. Even the small, simple stuff like Cessna are more than a 1:1 maintenance:use ratio. There's not really any way to avoid this, since flying is significantly more hard on the vehicle than driving. So, for each flight you take, you're going to have to pay several hundred dollars in maintenance fees.

Overall, even with some reasonable improvements and economies of scale, you're looking at a vehicle that costs 10x or more than an equivalent wheeled vehicle to start with, and has an annual operating cost around 100x.

Besides, we already have flying cars. They're called helicopters. Notice how the pricing on those has kept them from be adopted. There's no real way to make a flying car significantly cheaper. And you're still stuck with the 1-6 reasons above.

Asking where flying cars are is only slightly more inane than asking why we don't have personal teleporters, and about the same as asking why personal jetpacks aren't sitting in everyone's closet.


Comment: Freedom of Participants trumps Picture Owner (Score 0) 328

by trims (#46666459) Attached to: Federal Bill Would Criminalize Revenge Porn Websites

Except the 1st doesn't trump the 4th.

Within your own house (or other private area), you have a right to control access to allow for a reasonable level of privacy.

That is, allowing you to walk into my home does NOT automatically give you the right to record everything you see there. As the owner, I retain my personal rights to everything there; your rights don't trump mine, because this is MY private space. This also applies to actions within that space with respect to the guest: the homeowner does NOT automatically gain the right to record the guest WITHOUT permission.

Similar protections apply to all places where a reasonable expectation of privacy exists: bathrooms, private hotel rooms, etc.

A minor level of Prior Restrain is perfectly reasonable here - that is, the owner must show PROOF of permission for photographic reproduction, since the possible harm from an illegal post outweighs the benefits of unfettered postings. That is, documented permission from the participant is NOT an onerous burden on the poster, and, in fact, protects the participants' 4th and 1st Amendment rights, which, in this case, are reasonably seen as being greater than the picture owner's.

Comment: Low-end, constant acceleration gets you there... (Score 1) 392

by trims (#46665409) Attached to: How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

Voyager and all the other space probes suffer from a massive problem: they have no (functioning) engine.

They got an initial boost from a chemical rocket to start out their journey. They used up what little fuel they had on orbital adjustments, not propulsion, and then got some velocity boost via gravity-well slingshots.

Any inter-stellar transport WILL have a engine, that continues to function for the vast majority of the trip. Current bets are on some sort of a ion engine, with solar sails being a nice runner-up. Both of them are low-thrust, long-duration engine types that don't require massive amounts of fuel to be stored on the vessel.

In either case, it's well within current engineering reason to presume that your inter-stellar engine can produce a thrust acceleration of 0.01g across several decades, at a minimum. After a year at a constant 0.01g, that means you're moving at about 3.1E6 m/s, or about 0.01 C. Even at that slow-poke speed, you'll cover a light year per 100 years. If you can accelerate for a decade (and decelerate at the end at the same rate), you get up to 0.1 C velocity, which means you cover a light year per 10 years.

You're only off by about 5 orders of magnitude that reasonable tech can provide now.

Comment: Technical degrees now a requirement... (Score 4, Informative) 84

by trims (#46664119) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: the State of Open CS, IT, and DBA Courseware in 2014?


The vast majority of folks employed in IT/computing these days without degrees are the older generation (30+), who got into the fields before it really solidified. I can count on one hand the number of under-30s I know that don't have a degree in something reasonably technical (math, engineering, CS, etc) that work in IT out here. The opposite is true for the older generation: I have to use two hands, but that's about it, to count the number of aged 40+ people who have a technical degree and work in IT.

Silicon Valley companies all want, for an "entry-level" position: (5) years experience OR a degree in something technical. If you have neither, you'll not get past HR or the recruiters, even for that entry-level position, unless you're extremely lucky.

It's darned hard to find an entry-level job out here, with no experience. And without a technical degree, everyone ignores you. As soon as you have several years experience, well, they ignore the degree, but it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem there. And by "experience", they mean fulltime employment, not "I worked at a job while in college/high school".


Comment: Note on Relative size of that amount of water... (Score 2, Interesting) 157

by trims (#46306619) Attached to: Safety Measures Fail To Stop Fukushima Plant Leaks

100 tons of water is 24,000 gallons, or about 3600 cubic feet of water.

That's roughly about the same amount as two (2) of the large tanker trucks that fill up a gas station.

Or, in Olympic Pool metrics, about 1/24th of a Pool.

In radiation terms, 230m Bq per liter (for 24,000 Gal = 91,000 L) or 21 Trillion Bq.

A single (average) coal plant puts out about 4 Quadrillion Bq via emissions pollution. So this spill is roughly 0.5% of the yearly output of a coal plant (or, 46 hours of operation of one).

In terms Banana Equivalent Dosage, you're talking about 1.4 Trillion bananas per hour to start with, halving every hour.

And Now You Know.


Comment: Getting there is only part of the battle... (Score 4, Insightful) 131

by trims (#46234117) Attached to: China's Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Officially Declared Lost

As I pointed out on the story on Israel doing a moon mission last week, the technology and knowledge required to put an (unmanned) 100kg object on the moon (or Mars, or other celestial rock) is very well understood these days, so much so that well-financed private corporations (see the various X-prise competitors) can do it, given $100m or less. All the engineering issues are both well-known, and well-documented as to solutions. This is all out in the open press, so anyone with the capital merely has to hire enough competent engineers, and have enough money to build the resulting design. Rocket science is no longer rocket science.

What remains extraordinarily difficult is for someone to build a long-functioning probe. The knowledge of the practical problems (and their workaround/solutions) has NOT been disseminated, and thus, pretty much everyone has to learn from scratch. Extraterrestrial probe building is still very much a Deep Magic field, with only a select few organizations (mostly NASA, but ESA too) having the experience to do it well. And they're not sharing.

I fully expect the Chinese to get a working lander robot sometime soon. Just like I fully expect that their next one will not work to its design specs, either. In many ways, it's like building a new car from scratch - the first couple of prototypes crash badly, and you have to learn all the tricks by yourself, because nobody else shares their hard-won info with you. Tesla does well because they were able to hire experienced people from Ford, etc. who brought that knowledge with them. The Chinese Space Agency (CNSA) wasn't able to do that, for obvious reasons, so they're going to have to do the whole learning curve themselves. Good news is that they'll do it MUCH faster than anyone else did, if for no other reason that the tech and general science knowledge is more available and understood.


Comment: No, they weren't.... (Score 5, Insightful) 255

by trims (#46191557) Attached to: Big Pharma Presses US To Quash Cheap Drug Production In India

The current crop (and the future crops, too) of drugs were NEVER intended to have to recoup costs out of non-developed-world countries.

In fact, pretty much ALL drug research is based solely on the American market. That is, everything else outside the American market is gravy (or, in this case, pure profit). The metrics are driven by how long it takes to recoup money from the USA's market.

The reason why is that the US drug market (due to a combination of large population, and completely unregulated pricing) is so much more lucrative than anywhere else, by an order of magnitude even more than Western Europe. That's right - the USA alone brings in more profit THAN THE ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD for a drug.

Letting India manufacture these domestically (and, heck, the entire rest of the developed world) wouldn't affect drug research and investment strategies one little bit. The big fear from drug companies is reimportation, where drugs manufactured in India are imported back into the USA for sale, without the major patent premium being paid. This is fairly trivially avoidable.

So, yeah, in the end, it's about squeezing that last dime in profits out of people, and not fundamentally giving a damned about anything else.

Comment: Lie, Damned Lies, and Statistics... (Score 4, Insightful) 269

by trims (#46156145) Attached to: How Voter Shortsightedness Skews Elections

The fact that a large majority of voters make judgments on what happens in the immediate past (i.e. 3-4 months) prior to an election, rather than the entire term of office (2, 4, or 6 years for various US Congress/Presidents) is well documented, so no surprise here.

Much of that has to do with the difficulty virtually all people have distilling a complex, hugely multivariant problem, into easily understood metrics and views. That's not going to change, because even a super genius is going to only be able to accurately remember a half-dozen major points, while there may be as many as several DOZEN relevant metrics/issues that you probably can consider important.

The proposed solution in the paper is yet another form of a simplification and lie, NOT a real solution. The simple answer is that I see no indication that the claimed "yearly growth" rate is any more accurate than the absolute income. Do the grow rates take into account inflation? (I see no indication they do) What about changes in the job market over those years? What about overall economic indicators? I.e. if the average income managed to grow ANY over the period 2007-2009 (in the middle of the most severe recession in 80 years), then that a huge accomplishment vs say merely keeping up with inflation in 2003. The authors are merely substituting one questionably useful statistic with another (of the same dubious relevance).

Never trust someone selling you a simple numerical answer to a complex problem. Politicians and Statisticians are both extremely adept at contriving lots of meaning from simple numbers. There's a reason this post is titled the way it is.


Comment: I don't mean to belittle the will to do so... (Score 0) 150

by trims (#46124779) Attached to: Israeli Group To Attempt Moon Landing

But this has long since ceased to be any sort of technical challenge or accomplishment.

Putting a lander on the moon (or, even, for that matter, a human) is not much of a technical challenge, insofar as needing to do anything other than learn how to properly use complex (but well-known) technology.

There's a whole raft of small aerospace companies (of which SpaceX is merely the best known) with funding in the low millions than can produces a lunar lander for you within 6 months of a go-ahead. And building a sufficiently large rocket to put 100kg on the moon for a 1-way trip is merely a matter of money, not even advanced tech these days.

The bigger obstacle is political will, and being able to divert the few tens of millions it costs from being cannibalized by special interests.

If the Israelis do it, good for them. But it's not really advancing the state-of-the-art in any way, nor is it much more than a publicity stunt.

Comment: Why so low a commonality? (Score 4, Interesting) 202

by trims (#46104807) Attached to: 20% of Neanderthal Genome Survives In Humans

Neanderthals are barely a separate species.

They're homo neanderthalensis, while modern man is homo sapiens sapiens. The immediate predecessor to modern humans is homo sapiens idaltu, which is minutely different than us. While a simple majority of paleontologists classify Neanderthals as a separate species, there's a significant minority that advocate them as merely another subspecies (home sapiens neanderthalensis) being more correct.

Given that the ENTIRE Neanderthal genome differs from ours by 0.15% or less (we're about 2% different than our closest modern primate relative), I'm very surprised that the Homo-specific genome part is only 20% in common between Neanderthal and Modern Human. Particularly since it's now commonly accepted that they interbred with modern humans.

I think the 20% commonality (if it bears out) probably reinforces the "separate species" theory more than the "distinct subspecies" theory of the Homo genus family tree.


Comment: For a noted pragmatist, Linus is dead wrong... (Score 2, Insightful) 279

by trims (#46019831) Attached to: Linus Torvalds: Any CLA Is Fundamentally Broken

Normally, I see Linus being pragmatic about things, but I have no idea why he's against CLAs.

Having a CLA (with some form of copyright assignment or "unlimited" sublicensing) is the ONLY way to run a flexible, long-term Open Source project.

The Linux kernel is the only substantial project that doesn't do this, and, frankly, can only get away with it because it's so critical. Even there, it's a pain, because (to pick a stellar example), Linux will NEVER be able to relicense itself under an improved GNU license. It's stuck FOREVER on the GNU v2 license. Which is hardly a good thing.

CLAs are a consequence of copyright, just like the licenses themselves are. They're necessary to allow a project to update the license, defend the entire codebase in court, keep track of ACTUAL authors, etc. If you don't have this, you have a toy project, one which ultimately will fail to succeed.

If you don't like CLAs, then use the BSD or Public Domain route, because they're the only licenses (or non-license) that avoids all the traps of copyright law. Otherwise, if you want copyleft of any sort, then you have to use a CLA.

Linus is basically complaining that having a driver's license is an obstacle to people just getting on the road and driving whenever they want. Sure, CLAs restrict the "fly by night" patcher. That's a feature not a bug. Sometimes, you do want to set the bar higher than the lowest common denominator. Naturally, some CLAs are worse than others, but the concept as a whole is sound.


Comment: As can ANY of the major CLAs... (Score 5, Interesting) 279

by trims (#46019755) Attached to: Linus Torvalds: Any CLA Is Fundamentally Broken

Take a look at pretty much any major CLA out there.

I'll name three big ones: OpenJDK, FSF's for GNU, and Apache's.

ALL of them either directly assign the copyright of the contribution to the org, and thus, you lose any ability to control it whatsoever, or give the org the ability to relicense it explicitly.

This is intentional, and a GOOD thing, because it increases the flexibility of the project, including making it easier to defend rights in court. Frankly, have a project with multiple copyright assignment is impossible to manage from a legal standpoint, let alone one where you don't even know the real identity of a contribution's author.

The Linux kernel is stuck on the GNU v2 license for exactly this reason, and can never change. That's the fate of any such non-CLA'd Open Source project (other than something using Public Domain or the BSD license).

FYI: the FSF can (and has) relicensed code contributed to GNU projects under a proprietary license. (gcc and part of the toolchain)

Comment: Report validates the "dead man walking" assessment (Score 1) 207

by trims (#45994029) Attached to: Previously-Unseen Photos of Challenger Disaster Appear Online

No, the report effectively validates the "they're dead, Jim" assessment.

The "repair" theory was so riddled with uncertainties that NASA itself acknowledged that it was too high risk to even contemplate. Basically, they'd have to do a spacewalk just to figure out the extent of the damage, then jetison all the cargo, then try to jury-rig some sort of thing. The idea they had was laughable: use spare metal parts to pack the hole with something of substance, then use an ice pack to try to maintain wing aerodynamics. Then make it back through re-entry, where a best case scenario exposes the patch to several hundred degrees of heat and Mach 25+ airspeed.

The "rescue" option was only slightly less hair-raising, and, frankly, ran a significant risk of loss of TWO orbiters.

The realistic assessment is that as soon as the accident happened, they were doomed. Citing low-probability theoretical (and that's all they were, theoretical) plans that have never been tested or even simulated, and that would have to be executed under extreme time pressure as evidence that they weren't doomed is muddy-headed wishful thinking.

The report makes it pretty clear that saving the Columbia was about as realistic as saving the Titanic.

10 to the minus 6th power Movie = 1 Microfilm