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Comment Re:Sounds Like a Hoax Right Up Until You Read the (Score 1) 362

First problem, where are you going to get a $5 violin that isn't broken beyond repair?

If you DO find one, it's likely going to be a discarded piece of "junk" in an estate sale, and unless it's severely damaged (light damage, scratches, cracks, etc can actually add legitimacy) it's going to be worth a lot more than you paid for it, which means fraud would be difficult to ascertain.

If you can find a violin for $5 that's worth 1000x more, why not just sell it legitimately and avoid the legal complications?


Comment Re:Still continues to be an asshole (Score 1) 576

That's what he SAYS... And we all know that he NEVER exaggerates or distorts his facts in any way. It's quite likely that any clients who were already uninvolved in this mess would like to remain uninvolved and aren't likely going to be sending out press releases that they've had a "reorganization" of their "marketing team". I'm sure that once the dust settles there will be several more of his clients who will decide to change their strategy in such a way that it no longer involves him without making a scene about it.


Comment If you don't use it, you'll probably forget it. (Score 1) 845

I'm guessing the school board member in question hasn't used anything more complicated than basic arithmetic for a few decades now. However, I've managed to use at least most of the high school math I've learned in one form or another over the years. If I wasn't using it, I was tutoring someone, so at least most of the information was kept fresh. What I couldn't recall off the top of my head I was able to look up, study it for 30 seconds, and crank it off like I had never forgotten it.

However, if you want me to speak or read French, I won't be able to do so, even though I was at least moderately ok at it once upon a time. And don't even begin to ask me about biology or history, even though I did pretty well in those subjects back when I took them. It's possible to maintain all of that information if you want to, but it takes time, and unless you want to be a professional student or teacher, there's not much point in doing so unless you find it enjoyable, and most people don't.


Comment Re:What do they expect? (Score 1) 353

It's not worth it. The industry turns over every couple years anyway. This will just turn out to be little more than an unexpected re-tooling operation and will present, at most, a minor annoyance for the industry for a few months. In the meantime, remaining facilities that were unaffected by the disasters will scramble to increase production to pick up the slack and within a few months, things should be back to normal. The cost to insure against minor annoyances such as this aren't worth the overhead cost that would be added to each product sold, and we probably wouldn't accept them if they were. We would rather have to face the possibility of having an inconvenient bump in system prices for a few months out of every 20 years, rather than pay significantly more all the time just to insure that prices remain stable during disasters. The best part about this is that consumers can easily adapt to a HD shortage. Those that REALLY need them will pay for them, but everyone else can always make do with what they've got for a while, even a couple years if need be.

This will probably have a much larger impact on a company like Google who purchase a LARGE amount of HDs all the time, and rely on the ability to constantly increase storage capacity. Will be interesting to see what happens there.


Comment Re:Is it that bad? (Score 5, Interesting) 463

This is CHINA we're talking about here. The United States would never "cancel" degrees or otherwise dictate to colleges/Universities, private or otherwise, what classes or degree plans they can and can't offer. HOWEVER, it could happen that government funded student loan programs could be optimized to only go toward degree plans that have a reasonable chance of resulting in a decent job later. This helps to insure that the loan gets repaid. You can still study nuclear underwater basketweaving if you so desire, but you'll get to spend your own (or more likely your parents') money on it instead.


Comment Re:I wish this was the case in the UK (Score 2) 575

What you need is a red herring partition that contains a lot of sensitive but not illegal information. Fill it up with a lot of documents on various radical protests or government conspiracies... the thing that paranoid lunatics would see fit to hide behind strong encryption. Hopefully the authorities will be convinced that this is the "illegal" information you were trying to hide and ignore any other possibilities.


Comment Re:observing a lack is not proof (Score 1) 645

While I will agree that Bill Gates wasn't exactly poor to begin with, the way he operated in the beginning wouldn't have required much in the way of capital OR connections. It would, however, be difficult to do the same thing in the current environment. Someone would have to identify a potential industry that doesn't yet exist and convince everyone to spend a lot of money to bring it to fruition. It worked well with home computers. It worked well (until the bust anyway) with the Internet, and many more people were ready for it. Capital is not a problem. There's always a VC ready to throw money at a crazy idea if you can sell it well enough. I'm not saying that the relationship will be in any way beneficial to you, but a lack of capital isn't going to be the real barrier to success.


Comment Re:The other question should who wants own the rig (Score 3, Insightful) 129

In the case of an accident, Google would do what most other companies do. Offer a reasonably large settlement offer now to avoid the prospect of a 2 decade long court battle to possibly win more. Besides, chances are good that Google's car will likely cause far fewer accidents than human driven cars would, so they wouldn't need nearly as large of a settlement budget that conventional car companies do. Also, in the case of an accident, there is a huge flood of data available to the engineers to determine the exact cause of the problem and implement a solution to prevent a similar accident from happening in the future. The patch can then be applied to ALL of their vehicles currently on the road without requiring an expensive recall action.


Comment Re:Debunk the Moon Landing Conspiracy already! (Score 1) 412

50 years from now, there will probably be people that believe 9/11 never happened. I don't mean like the ones who claim the government was involved in it or something like that, I mean, will say, completely, without any doubt, that it NEVER happened. The twin towers never existed, planes never crashed, etc, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever convince them otherwise. There are people now that say the same thing about the Holocaust. It goes way beyond a simple non-belief. It's practically a sickness. You could kidnap one of these people, strap him down in a rocket, land them on the moon, kick them out the airlock, and they would STILL deny that anyone ever went to the moon, including themselves.

Best thing I ever read about the moon-hoax people is something to the effect of the fact that 10-20% of people think that we never landed on the moon, which is coincidentally about the same number of people who happen to be intoxicated at any one time.


Comment Variety of unrelated topics (Score 1) 412

Although your blog is clearly geared toward Astronomy related topics, and far more of the good than the bad as the name might otherwise indicate, you also delve into a number of unrelated topics, primarily global warming and anti-vax opposition. Of course, it's your blog and you can write about anything you want, and I can choose to read everything or just skip over those topics that I'm either uninterested in, or in some rare cases might disagree with. Sometimes, even for a controversial topic for which we are 100% in agreement on, I don't want to waste brainspace getting emotionally charged up on an issue when all I want to do is look at awesome pictures and explore not only the visual appeal of the cosmos, but the scientific background as well. Therefore, since astronomy is clearly your core strength and the only reason I come to visit, in more recent years I've noticed that I've gone from visiting once a day to only visiting once every couple weeks, so I can skim past the posts I'm uninterested in and get to the juicy astronomy stuff. Problem is, now I find myself only visiting when it dawns on me that I hadn't been there in a while.

So, my question is this.. do you think that having a blog with a more diverse set of topics, especially some of a more controversial nature (which astronomy itself typically isn't), attracts and retains a larger and/or more preferable audience than one that is more focused on a single discipline, and do you think the resulting commentary contributes well or distracts from interest and attention to the blog's core mission (whatever that may be)?


Comment Mad Scientist (Score 2) 412

Any chance of ever bringing back your Mad Scientist section, where you do a Q&A sort of like the Straight Dope, only with generally more Astronomy related topics? That's the particular feature that caused me to discover your site in the first place.


Comment Age doesn't matter. (Score 1) 465

I would think that acting would be the one profession where pretty much anything goes. They need actors that are 6 months old and they need actors who are in their 80's. It all depends on the part, and if the part calls for a mid-40s character, they're generally going to cast mid-40s actors, or at least try. Of course, if she's trying to get acting gigs as a high school student, then I can see how that might be a turnoff.

It has nothing to do with her age. The lack of opportunities for any "up and coming" actress will be due to an enormous amount of competition. In the end, having the "right look", the talent to get it right on the first try, and awesome networking skills will be more valuable than any hangups about your age.


Comment Re:Shatner died for me when... (Score 1) 189

And likewise, alcohol companies realize that every time alcohol facilitates a fatal car accident, or contributes to the destruction of a marriage, or the requirement for a liver transplant, the company and their product get a bad rap. "Too much" alcohol contributes to things like prohibition, excessive taxes on alcoholic beverages, the reason why "closing time" is a legally mandated concept, etc. And for all of you drug legalization folks, its the reason why pot is illegal and likely will continue to be. Man people have proven, over many centuries, that as a group, we can't or won't consume the product in a responsible fashion, and therefore annoying laws and regulations have to be implemented and enforced to be the primary annoyance for those who can, and routinely ignored by those who don't.

Granted, the government is unlikely to pass any laws to make it more difficult for you to dress up like Spock on a daily basis or show off your prowess for learning Klingon, but there might be some sense in recognizing the fact that many of our best and brightest have chosen to spend an extraordinary amount of their free time and money indulging in an obsessive hobby instead of pushing the advancement of science and technology. I'm not saying that I agree with that assessment; people can do whatever they like. But I can certainly see the viewpoint of someone who hoped to inspire kids to grow up to be astronauts, or develop amazing breakthroughs in physics, or build amazing new vehicles, instead must consider that a great part of their lasting legacy is instead warming the hearts of deranged fanboys.


Comment Re:Didn't Sound Optimistic to Me! (Score 1) 479

This works fine as long as those who are investing money have unlimited opportunities to examine and dissect the workings of any such invention, or at least the plans if it hasn't been built yet. They would likely do so under terms of a strict NDA, and wouldn't be talking about it afterward, endorsements or otherwise. If the invention actually works as claimed, he wouldn't NEED to talk about it. Just set it up and start selling cheap energy at a rate below which all other conventional energy providers can compete at. That's the beautiful thing about energy. You don't HAVE to market it. People already want it and the lowest price will win out over all other factors, provided you're not doing something politically suicidal to fund/operate it.

Scammers tend to work in a different way though. They boast endlessly about their new product, and provide scripted demonstrations in very well controlled environments and prohibit anyone from having any physical access to the technology at hand, especially the investors. They then request large amounts of money to fund this slight of hand product. Most importantly, they never deliver.

The best scammers will use the investors' greed to their advantage. They offer up something that sounds generally reasonable considering the current state of technological advancement, but offers the opportunity to get a few years head start over the competition. To be ahead of the game in any emerging industry means you can make a 10fold return on your investment almost literally overnight. Many investors see that possibility as being worth the risk, since they falsely consider the risk to be the product not selling as well as hoped or perhaps not performing as well as promised. The fact that they were being duped from the beginning didn't factor into that assessment.

So, is this real? Probably not. If it were, we wouldn't be hearing about a "secret catalyst" that nobody's allowed to inspect, we wouldn't hear anything about the process at all. Or.. more likely, we'd hear about some experiment in a laboratory somewhere (probably at a school) where they discovered (probably by accident, or after a LOT of trial and error) some chemical arrangement that makes something like this work, ... and the best part of all, we always hear "maybe in 10 years, this technology 'MIGHT' be able to produce cheaper electricity". And then it goes through lots of peer review and refinement research. If it works, we hear more about it later, if not, well... we probably hear nothing at all. So this potential scammer, if he's actually legit, likely spent the last 20 years working in a lab somewhere, and did all of this work himself, bypassing the peer review process, collaboration with other scientists, or involving any lab assistants, TAs, students, etc. If so, that'd be a pretty important dot to look for on his resume, and it'd probably be a good idea to confirm it before writing any checks.


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