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Comment Interstellar debris? (Score 3, Interesting) 339

How is it that Plait says no excess infrared means it isn't dust clouds and unlikely comets, but then he turns around and suggests Dyson sphere? One of the defining characteristics of Dyson spheres is excess infrared.

Here is a hypothesis that fits the data gathered so far: interstellar debris. It can be oddly shaped. It can block the star's light without generating excess infrared. A cloud of it passing between Earth and KIC 8462852 would produce non-periodic luminosity variations. If the debris was a light year away from Earth, the largest chunk would have a diameter of around 500 km. There would be no constraints due to orbital velocity, and no aliens.

Comment Hand of history (Score 1) 78

It’s fair to ask, if NASA is getting 50% of the world’s funding and the rest of the world is going to the Moon, why is it unreasonable to expect that we would go as well? There are two possible answers. Perhaps the rest of the world has an unrealistic impression of the complexity of the problem and their own capabilities. Or, perhaps our own space agency has turned into a bureaucratic morass that is incapable of finishing large projects without spending ridiculous sums of money. For sure the former is a factor, but there is plenty of evidence that the latter dominates.

I think we are victims of the unstoppable hand of history in this case. NASA built the pyramids. They drove the golden spike. They defined the nation for all future generations. But once they were done, we could not throw the heroes out on the street, and we certainly could not let them keep the checkbook. So everything that has happened in human spaceflight since about 1970 has been one big retirement party and career transition program. It’s a colossal waste of time and money to pretend otherwise.

But hope is not lost. There are many bright and hungry people out there who can make the next giant leap given the right support structure and incentives.

Comment Are they going to fix the bugs? (Score 5, Interesting) 126

That's great that Google is going to enable device encryption by default. But are they going to fix the usability and security problems for Android L?

If you enable device encryption on Android, you can no longer back up and restore your data over USB or through third party tools. You can create encrypted backups over USB, but you can't restore them because of bugs in the ADB tools. The only way to back up and restore is by uploading your data to Google's cloud servers, where your data is much more likely to be purloined than if you had just left your device unencrypted in the first place.

When you enable encryption, you set a password. The encryption password becomes your lock screen PIN and there is no way to change it. So, which are you going to choose? A secure encryption password that you'll spend 15 seconds entering on the tiny keyboard every time you want to unlock your phone? Or a useable PIN that is trivial to crack if an attacker gets your encrypted data?

It's clear someone added device encryption to Android to check it off the list and didn't intend for anyone to use it. I hope their product team realizes this before they bring it to a wider audience.

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