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Comment A better way for the initial heavy lifting? (Score 1) 288

Way back when Russia was lifting much heavier loads into space than the USA could manage, some (NASA?) people got to wondering out loud how they managed to do that. One suggestion I recall was that they had a stretch of basically railway track, and an electric(?) locomotive+spacecraft-holder+spacecraft. That whole assembly was accelerated along the track. Towards the end, at high speed, the track angled upwards and about then the rockets fired up, lifting the spacecraft off of the locomotive+spacecraft-holder, which was decelerated and retained for reuse. So the rockets got off to a flying start, and were carrying no unnecesary weight. If that was such a nifty-seeming idea back then, could it not still be a nifty idea?

Comment Calgary Saddledome: concrete roof on a stadium (Score 1) 107
"Working with British structural engineer Jan Bobrowski, whose firm still lists the Saddledome on its website, the design team came up with the concept of a roof made of precast concrete panels supported by a net of cables. Think of it as a giant tennis racket, a grid of cables, and on this net you drop these concrete panels,"

Comment Simulate many possibilities, like SETI or Folding (Score 1) 499

How about a project that explores millions of unlikely chains of events. It would record all the events, and if any event-sets were to result in unimagined but catastrophic failure, an analysis of the inputs would probably uncover some interesting facts. This could be run by a distributed computing project, like SETI, Folding etc. Toyota would probably not want to facilitate unauthorized analysis of the processors' code etc, but that could all be sealed in a Black Box so as not to be available except to the project client code, and the inputs & outputs would be encrypted and communicated from/to Toyota (or some appropriate authority).

Comment LightScribe? (Score 1) 578

The LightScribe feature on some CD & DVD disks/drives appears to be close to what you want to achieve, i.e. it writes 'bits' that create a visible graphics design ("bits anywhere & everywhere"), without regard to what the bits mean as data. So if you can find the tricks behind that, you might be able to find someone who can implement a similar scheme in a HD.

Comment Not allowed to fix (Score 1) 381

If a/the government authority was enabled to declare an infected PC as a weapon, they could then come up with some pretext to attack it. Not suggesting this though, as the cure might well be worse than the disease. Thinx: since US Border Security can seize almost any device having data storage, with no evidence, why do they quibble about finding & disabling real threats that operate within their borders?

Comment Re:two possible improvements (Score 1) 151

Silver corrodes quickly in open air, that's why most supermarkets sell silver polish. IIRC, the culprit is sulphur.

I've had two gizmo failures due to silver contact corrosion, and sulphur was the cause. Silver sulphide is black and apparently a decent insulator (or poor conductor).

My local sulphur source is "sour gas" (Methane contaminated with Hydrogen Sulphide). The H2S is (mostly) removed in gas processing plants before entering the pipeline as 'natural gas', but some small amount escapes to the atmosphere.

Comment Re:PNGs?! (Score 1) 297

OMG, who uses PNG files?! The compression routine is rubbish! I'm going to use this technology, but I'm going to convert the files to JPEG before I upload them. When people see how much smaller the file is that they have to download, they'll quickly move over to my way of thinking.

Those of us that need lossless compression, but we use SuperPNG, which has better compression.

The conversion to JPEG might be a disappointment - my gut feel says this torrent trick won't work if the data are altered by JPEG's lossy compression.

Comment Re:Blocks by indentation (Score 1) 199

because it makes sense. Back in the 1960s & 70s I was working for IBM, when PL/I appeared. It uses Do... End to delineate blocks, and I was OK with that but then found it wasn't enough. So I developed an indentation scheme, jogging right at a Do and jogging back left at an End (white space is ignored in PL/I). This made it much easier to grasp the logical flow at a glance. Unfortunately I didn't keep any examples when I quit programming, but I think it would look remarkably similar to Python (except for the Do & End keywords).

"Today's robots are very primitive, capable of understanding only a few simple instructions such as 'go left', 'go right', and 'build car'." --John Sladek