Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - Pay What You Want for the Learn to Code Bundle, includes AngularJS, Python, HTML5, Ruby, and more. ×

Comment Re:huge waste of resources (Score 1) 252

In much of the US east of the Mississippi, there is (or was) a desire to share the same time as Wall Street. This made sense back in the days of telegraphs and telephone based traffic where HOURS mattered (but not before when Solar time was used.) At one point, Detroit, MI (at nearly the eastern most edge of Michigan) shared Chicago's time (sort of.) Frankly, Michigan would be much more comfortable in the Central Time Zone.

These days, with "instant" messaging (and where microsecond delays matter for automated trading), and where smart phones are pervasive, the case for time zones at all is weak. Let's go back to local-solar time.

Comment Speculating with ignorance (Score 1) 216

You can view this as either:

  • Uber and their lackeys breaking a law intended to safeguard users of taxi services in London
  • or entrenched legacy taxi services using a legal monopoly to deny users of taxi services the benefits of competetition

Clearly, a modern (?) Thatcherite response would be to remove the monopoly and allow all drivers a tax credit for clubs and other hand weapons that drivers can use against each other and against scum customers who use the competing service.

Comment Bomb makers take risks too... (Score 1) 43

I would think that if you have sufficiently crazy dedicated lab technicians, some of the lab work could be done by volunteers willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause. It's somewhat like it is for bomb-makers (although much more risky.)

Performing experiments on primates isn't a problem - especially if you don't care much for the scientific method and want results you can compare with controls. Keeping the experiments confined to the infidel sect is a problem though.

Creating a novel organism isn't necessary. Finding a more lethal variant of an existing organism is the goal. Influenza mutates constantly. It still requires a lot of luck, but not an impossible amount of luck.

A lot of early biological research was done with rather crude equipment.

I agree - biohackers aren't comparable with computer hackers. The cost of a mistake for a computer hacker is time and money. Biohackers are more similar to bomb makers - where the bomb makers have to depend on trial-and-error and don't have well developed procedures that can produce reproducible effects.

Comment Re:This wasn't an engineering decision... (Score 1) 569

Yeah. The engineers had a choice from the Project Manager (a Business degree) - Make It So or Get Fired.

It's possible that an engineer suggested cheating as solution. Whether that was a joke solution or an honestly cynical, it had to have been the project manager(s) involved that gave the go ahead.

Comment Nauseating Angles (Score 1) 684

Floating around at nauseating angles is a reason against going to Mars?

He was doing OK with the argument that it was dangerous, difficult, and expensive - but floating around at nauseating angles just wrecks his arguments and puts him in the class of ready made world, no older than 5000 years people.

In any event, going to Mars (or establishing a colony of people on a one-way trip to Mars) isn't justifiable practically or economically. It is justifiable as an adventure, or for other non-economic reasons. I have faith that going to Mars will lead to great things - but it's the nature of faith that it can't be justified rationally.

Comment Re:Alaska (Score 2) 203

Drought is relative too. An ecology evolved for wetter conditions can suffer when precipitation falls - even to levels that would be considered "wet" elsewhere. The northern part of the lower peninsula of the State of Michigan has been under fire-watch/no-burn orders over the summer for the past few years, even though Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes. A few years back, parts of the south around Georgia were under drought conditions.

There is fraking (hydraulic fracturing) extraction occurring in Michigan - and because of shallow water tables in some areas, the fraking operators are demanding large quantities of water from local water systems because on-site wells can't supply their needs (to make a speculative profit.) These demands on local water systems exceed the capacity of systems designed for residential and light industrial use - and might require local communities to overbuild local water systems for transient gain by non-local companies and investors.

Of course, given the importance Californian agriculture has for the whole of the United States, drought conditions there impact everyone

Comment Feaping Creaturitis (Score 1) 417

Two years back, I bought a plugin-hybrid. My first (and probably only) new car. Gas prices were high - but the most important reason was that my introduction to technology was when my father showed me how to repair an electric lamp back when I was in kindergarten, which makes electric cars really cool for me. I didn't care about all the extra features - they just came with the vehicle I bought off the lot.

The thing came with a lots and lots of additional features, like:

  • Interior lights where the color can be changed.
  • Sirius Radio
  • Builtin GPS Navigation
  • Voice control
  • App based remote start, door lock/unlock
  • Cruise control
  • CD player
  • USB ports
  • AM/FM radio
  • in-Car WiFi (through cell-phone)
  • Backup camera
  • Rear gate automatic opening system

The Voice Control lets me get into an argument with my car. It screws up about 5% of the time (and 95% of the time, all I'm doing is asking it to turn the FM radio to my favorite station. When I'm trying to set a navigation destination, it's nearly 95% of the time.)
The AM/FM radio doesn't come back on properly 95% of the time. The Infotainment system claims it's on, but I have to change stations to get it to work, which means changing stations back and forth after I start the car.
The backup camera is a nice feature. I hear a system like it is mandated for new cars in the future. Unfortunately, it's more necessary in this car than my previous car because the sight-lines in this care are so dreadful. It's more of a compensation for bad design (or allows more bad design.) I can see where it'd be very helpful for people with limited mobility.
The one time I really needed the GPS/Navigation system, it couldn't find the address at all (Google maps on my phone worked just fine.)
I have a flash drive plugged into one of the USB ports for music - I haven't played anything from it for a year. I've never used the CD player.
The automatic gate opening system (intended to make it easier to load the back of the car when your arms are full of packages) works about 20% of the time. I've stopped using it, even for entertainment value.

The only part of the Infotainment System I really use (FM radio) - fails to work properly. The rest of the features are largely negative value for me.

Comment Re:how low can it go? (Score 1) 45

The NASA/JPL page says that the planned closest orbit will be at an altitude of 375km (235 miles). (I'm not sure how that'll be measured from a somewhat irregular object like Ceres.) The orbit at 1470km will take 14 orbits to make 11 passes.

Does anyone have any idea of how many small objects might orbit Ceres and pose a threat to Dawn?

Comment Think of the children... (Score 3, Interesting) 202

For all that I've hated Flash for years (for idiosyncratic reasons), and loathe Flash now (for all the usual reasons), there is a great deal of (old) content dependent on Flash. Will that content (like a Flash version of Portal) become inaccessible?

Archivists are probably dreading dealing with this.

Comment Public support of colleges (Score 1) 274

State support of public colleges and universities has been declining for decades - developing a big endowment is the obvious thing for a state college or university to do if it can - which makes a (lucky) state college/university begin to look like a private one.

And then there are all the private (if non-profit) colleges and universities. Whether to develop fund management skills in-house or out-source them probably seems like a loose-loose proposition - except that they think they can apply legal talent to incompetent outside fund managers.

The real problem is that fund management is so lucrative (for the few fund managers who are lucky enough to have had a winning record - whether that reflects competence or not.) The real solution is to make fund management less lucrative by increasing the capital gains tax and possibly introducing a transaction tax. Fund management should be boring - not something for adrenaline junkies hooked on betting with other people's money.

Comment All you need is .... (Score 1) 173

So, instead of the Death Star being a moon-sized platform for a laser, it becomes a kind of delivery truck for antimatter mini-moons with a self-unloader (the laser.)


But these antimatter mini-moons take a tremendous amount of energy to produce. Given that the calculated power to blast apart an earth-like world is the output of a Sun-like star for several weeks - and even assuming that the efficiency of the production of antimatter from energy is likely to better than CERN's billion to one ratio of energy in to anti-matter out, we're still looking at ratios likely to be in the order of millions to thousands. That means the entire output of a sun-like star from 19 to 58,000 years or so for one weapon. And that's with an enormous amount of waste heat.

And that doesn't consider the size of the Galactic Federation or "The Rim" and whether the purpose of the Death Star is solely internal or if it is appropriate for use against external enemies as well. Which suggests that a "SWATting-like" strategy should be used against the Death Star as there can't be more than one or two of these anti-matter weapons available at any one time. It also suggests attacking the systems for producing these weapons might be a more appropriate Rebel strategy.

Comment From the paper (Score 2) 75

I took the time to skim the paper for the LEO detains that the Australian ITNews article skimmed over. The ITNews article was (sadly) a good summary - discussion of LEO satellites was limited to the altitude (160 to 2000 kilometers) and why LEO is better for signal strength than synchronous orbits. No mention at all about the inclination of the orbits (or even if polar orbits were considered). No consideration was given in the paper to existing uses of LEO (such as the Hubble Telescope or the ISS - but they'd probably be out-of-commission by the time anything remotely like this proposal was attempted.) No thought was given to what it would take to replenish the satellites in orbit (i.e.: how many launches per. year) or how small satellites would de-orbit at the end of their useful life or any consideration at all about satellites that had failed and needed to de-orbit.

A particular point I'd like to consider is that the authors didn't seem to give any consideration of the coverage the satellites would offer based on the inclination of the orbits. It appears that the authors assumed equatorial orbits - which would certainly exclude coverage of polar regions (including coverage of trans-arctic flights.) I'd be curious if any consideration was given of coverage north (or south) of 45 degrees - such as Canada, all of Scandinavia, most of Russia, and so on.

Comment Re:"cost online publishers" (Score 4, Interesting) 528

Even more - Ad Blockers don't "cost" publishers anything. They just deny publishers the use of broken business process technology. While accountants might like to treat this as a "cost", it's really nonsense.

However the continued use of "cost" in this way does reveal publishers to be whingy blood suckers whose protestations are of no merit.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.