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Comment: Re:Memory problem perhaps? (Score 1) 53 53

Since this is slashdot, how about pseudocode?

function handle_fault_on_approach()
        tell_nasa about_error();
          tell_nasa about_error();
          wait_to_hear_back_from_nasa = FALSE;
    else if (FLYING_BY_EARTH)

Comment: Re: Wrong (Score 1) 53 53

A letter that opens with:

The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly this afternoon that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.

Also, it's a poorly worded letter - they wrote "the team is now working to return New Horizons to its original flight plan", which of course is going to make people think it's going to drift off course or something. Obviously, physics does not work that way. Even if New Horizons exploded today, it's remains would drift right past where it was targeted to be - there's no more burns to make this late in the game. Better wording would have been original science plan. And the science plan doesn't call for any particularly critical science in the next few days.

These sorts of faults happen in spacecraft (often due to cosmic rays), and they're designed to handle them. New Horizons seems to have handled it perfectly, taking every action that it was supposed to.

Comment: Re:From (Score 4, Interesting) 53 53

Oh and for the record: Stern calls Pluto a planet, and makes some very good arguments.

And I'll add more that he doesn't make (though his are best!): it's ridiculous to call something a "dwarf X" and then say that that doesn't count as an "X". In any other field of science, if you had an "adjective-noun", it would also be classified as a "noun". If you have a dwarf shrew, it's also a shrew. If you have a dwarf fern, it's also a fern. Heck, even in the same field, astronomy, the same rule applies - a dwarf star is also a star.

Under the IAU definition, extrasolar planets aren't planets either. They don't even have a name - they're not anything at all. Not like we'd be able to classify them under the definition without dispatching a spacecraft all the way to each different star system even if they weren't excluded. The IAU definition also claims that they will create a system to establish more dwarf planets - something that clearly has not been done. There hasn't been a new dwarf planet accepted in nearly a decade, despite the fact that we know the sizes of many of them better than already-accepted candidates were known at the time. Quaoar is much bigger than Ceres, and we know it's size down to a mere 5 kilometers margin of error, yet it's not a dwarf planet. The IAU not only made up their ridiculous definition, but they're not even upholding it.

As with pretty much every categorization of object in pretty much every field of science, you need heirarchies and multiple groupings to describe the world. Among planets, we already know of significant diversity, and should only expect it to grow - hence we have terrestrial planets, gas giants, ice giants, hot jupiters, super earths, etc, and yes, dwarf planets - which should be just another category among the significant diversity already out there. Everyone knows a planet when they see it - you don't have to scan its orbit to see if it's "cleared" it, with some still-not-yet-agreed-upon definition of "cleared". If it's large enough to relax into a hydrostatic equilibrium, that's both meaningful, intuitive, and what people expect when they hear the word "planet". By any reasonable definition, our solar system has at least dozens, potentially hundreds of planets. And that should be seen as something to celebrate, not to be appalled about.

Comment: From (Score 5, Informative) 53 53


Steve5304: Rumors that Contact with new horizons has been lost again or was never regained. Unconfirmed

Alan Stern: Such rumors are untrue. The bird is communicating nominally.

Alan Stern is the director of the New Horizons mission. So no worries. :) You can see that two way communication is in progress here at the Canberra dish.

This was a really minor glitch and will have no impact on the mission as a whole. There weren't even any significant observations planned for today.

(As a side note, the closer we get to Pluto and the more we see of it (dark band at the bottom is around the equator), the more it's starting to remind me of an airless Titan :) )

Comment: Re:I'm retired now (Score 4, Funny) 324 324

I don't have anything nearly that bad - my worst only cost me data. A friend taught me (while I was still learning Linux) a trick, how you could play music with dd by outputting the sound to /dev/dsp. But as I said, I was still learning Linux and hadn't quite gotten all of the device names into my head, and I mixed /dev/dsp up with /dev/sda...

Comment: Re:Sweden's case won't really matter (Score 1) 142 142

There is one thing where the UK would have had a role even if he hadn't fled bail, in that the UK would have been the EAW "sending state". Under an EAW surrender, the sending state has certain rights and responsibilities - for example, if a request comes for extradition to a third party, it has to not only go through the receiving state's judiciary system, but also the sending state's judiciary system; the receiving state can't just hand off someone that they received under an EAW at will. Which is one of the things that makes the whole thing even more ridiculous - Assange had so much faith in Sweden's independence against the UK (such as their ban on extradition for intelligence crimes and 2006 Swedish special forces raids to shut down the US's rendition flights secretly moving through their territory) that he called it his "shield" and was applying for a residence permit there. But suddenly, practically overnight, Sweden transformed into Evil US Lackeys(TM) when he was accused of rape. So then he went to the UK where he talked about his great respect for their independence and impartiality and promised to abide by whatever rulings their judicial system made. Until he ran out of appeals, wherein the UK also turned into Evil US Lackeys(TM). Funny how he felt just fine walking around freely in both of these countries all this time, having only one of the two countries as barriers against US extradition, but adamantly fought the situation that would make them both be barriers to extradition.

Comment: Re:Competent Authorities (Score 3, Informative) 142 142

Which is, of course, false. AA has accused Assange of lesser sexual crimes, and SW has accused him of rape. There are no counts of rape against Assange concerning AA on the EAW, only three lesser counts (2x molestation and 1x unlawful sexual coersion). There is one count of rape on the EAW (count #4) concerning SW, in line with what the women have accused him of and also in line with what the Svea Court of Appeals has found probable cause for. Both women sought and retained legal representatives who have pushed the case forward for them (initially, both of them retained Claes Borgström, who was the one whose appeal got the closed portion of the investigation re-opened. More recently AA fired Claes because she thought he wasn't doing a good enough of a job with the case and was more focused on self aggrandizement; her new legal representative since started a new push to get Assange handed over to Sweden).

There's a lot more detail on these topics and more here.

The Assange-echo-chamber meme "Neither of the women involved have ever accused Assange of rape" is based on a simple distortion of a key element. SW (the one who the rape charge is concerned) didn't want to have to file charges - she only wanted to force Assange to take a STD test. She didn't want the thing to turn into a giant media circus that basically ruined her life and forced her into hiding from angry Assange fans. But there's a difference between not wanting to file charges and not accusing Assange of rape. She did accuse Assange of rape - first in conversations with her friends while coming to grips with what happened, and then went to the police station, where they told the officer on duty that they wanted advice on how to report a rape (see the statement by Linda Wassgren, the on-duty officer on the 20th). They were then interviewed separately where she described being raped, and after the interview she took a rape kit and sought a legal advocate (getting, ultimately, Claes). Since the leak of the Memoria file (a scummy act on Assange's side, I should add, as it's full of identifying personal details about his accusers and their families that have been used to harrass them - and we know it came from Assange's side because the cover page has a note to Assange's attorney telling him that it's confidential and must not be released), there have been a number of other followup interviews and investigations, and at no point have any objections from AA or SW been recorded. There is absolutely nothing in the record supporting a claim "Neither of the women involved have ever accused Assange of rape". SW has pretty much had to disappear after the event; AA went into hiding for a while but has since resumed taking part in some of the old forums that she used to; last fall she mentioned the case for the first time since the one brief statement she had given to the press after going to the police, mentioning offhand in an unrelated thread that a couple years ago she was the victim of a sex crime and that the perpetrator still hasn't been brought to justice, but rather she's still attacked by his fans for daring to report it. She didn't mention Assange by name, but it's obvious who she was referring to.

Most people who are raped don't want to file charges. They don't want the viscious attacks that come with it and want to shove the event in the past and not have to keep reliving it. A hundred times over when the accused is someone famous who has a lot of loyal fans. But claiming "not wanting to file charges" means "wasn't raped" is a massive distortion.

Comment: Re:Competent Authorities (Score 4, Insightful) 142 142

It's not an "IF" as to whether Assange cherry picks things for political reasons. He does. There are lots of things he's deliberately kept back with threats to release if certain things happen that he doesn't want (unredacted cables, files against NewsCorp, etc). The most famous was his "insurance file" which was to be released "should anything happen to him", which was left vague enough that it wasn't clear whether he was talking about "being killed" or simply "being sent to Sweden" (the statement being made during his fight to avoid surrender to Sweden). The scummiest blackmail on his part, IMHO, was his threatening to release unredacted documents that could get various aid/human rights organizations' employees killed if said organizations didn't provide him money (most famously his $700k shakedown of Amnesty International).

He refers to the leaks in Wikileaks' possession as his "property", and made all Wikileaks staffers sign an onerous NDA imposing ridiculous fines if they do anything to reduce the monetary value of said property, such as by leaking it.

Comment: Re:The Apollo Engine (Score 4, Interesting) 49 49

Not to mention that each piece of hardware is built with the assumption of there being extant suppliers for its component parts. For Apollo hardware, this is rarely true, so you'd have to retool and test for each part. The sad thing is it'd actually be cheaper to build a brand new Saturn-V equivalent than to make an exact duplicate.

This is actually one of the sorts of cases where 3d printing (no, generally not things like plastic filament extruders... meaningful printing, like laser sintering, laser spraying, etc, as well as CNC milling, hybrid manufacture techniques and lost wax casting on a 3d-printed moulds) has the potential to really come into its own: all of these sort of parts that you only ever need half a dozen of them made but might some day suddenly want some more a couple decades down the road. Another interesting advantage on this front is also that of incremental testing - I know of one small rocketry startup that has set themselves up to sinter out aerospikes in an evolutionary fashion - they print one out, connect it straight to test, measure its performance, scrap it and feed that performance data back into the generation of the next printout, in a constant model-refining process. Combustion simulations can be tricky to get right, but real-world testing data doesn't lie ;)

Comment: Re:Americans setting off fireworks... snicker (Score 1) 40 40

Whoops, I was wrong - it's nearly 2 kilograms per person here, not 1. But you've still got us beat :) (Also, it looks like America is up to 207 million pounds of fireworks per year, a big increase... so 285 grams per capita per year).

I just think it's really weird how Americans see themselves as a major-fireworks nation when they set off so few.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351