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Comment Re:High Certainty. (Score 5, Informative) 324

That's a load of nonsense - the problem is that 10-15 years is too short a time-scale to make a reliable judgment. Since 1975, global average surface air temperature has increased at a rate of 0.17 deg.C/decade. But it isn't a steady increase. If you look at the 15-year period up to 2006, the warming trend was almost twice as high as normal (namely 0.3 C per decade) but nobody cared much (except climate scientists and environmentalists). The 15-year period from 1998 to now has been slower than the trend, and that's got hugely more attention. The reason is that interest groups strongly push the latter, and want to ignore anything that doesn't fit their agenda. See here for details

Comment Re:Um what TF? (Score 3, Informative) 324

No, the rate at which it's removed doesn't increase with increasing CO2, at least not enough to make a difference. Some additional carbon is stored in the oceans, possibly some increased biomass (but probably outweighed by deforestation?), but its pretty small in comparison to the amount of carbon stored in fossil fuels. And the amount is limited - the oceans are already turning slightly acidic.

Comment Re:Meanless (Score 2) 1105

All of those were proved wrong by evidence, and once the evidence was there and presented to people, people believed it. That isn't the case with global warming. There is plenty of evidence, and it all points in one direction. There isn't any "smoking gun" that can be used to disprove global warming, and there almost certainly never will be.

Also, it isn't true that "99% of scientist used to say that "the Earth was flat"". Even the ancient Greeks knew that the earth was round.

The comparison to the geocentric / heliocentric models of the solar system isn't fair either. Science as a discipline really only developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, so at the time that the Church taught everyone that the Earth was the center of the universe there wasn't really such a thing as a "scientist". No one had any real reason to disbelieve the geocentric model because there wasn't any convincing evidence to refute it. Not until Galileo observed the moons of Jupiter, and Kepler's equations for orbits, and later Netwon derived Kepler's equations from the inverse-square law of gravitation, that finally the heliocentric model was on a firm footing. it Indeed, the events that led to the heliocentric model in many ways represents the birth of what we regard nowdays as "science". There is nothing "scientific" about climate change denial, it is pure politics and greed.

Comment Re:Yeah... (Score 5, Insightful) 1105

That isn't very accurate. At some point 97% of geologists had never heard of plate techtonics. Once the theory was proposed there was, of course, some opposition because it was so different to what was previously believed. But once geologists properly evaluated the evidence, almost every geologist took it on board.

Similarly, once the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs became widely known, it didn't take all that long for scientists to take a good objective look at the evidence and rewrite the textbooks.

There is no comparison to climate change because the "for" and "against" theories have been known for 30+ years by now. So far no one has managed to find any convincing evidence against global warming, and at this point the basic theory is so well established it is inconceivable that anyone ever will. You might argue about the magnitude of the problem, and whether some other effect might mask the warming (which is true anyway, eg I don't think anyone really knows why the deep ocean has been warming faster than expected, and somewhat masking surface warming). But there isn't going to be a "smoking gun" that disproves the basic notions, not any more than there will ever be a "smoking gun" that disproves Newton's theory of gravity. That doesn't mean that the theories won't get refined (eg, general relativity can be seen as a refinement of Newtonian gravity).

Technology

Festo's Drone Dragonfly Takes To the Air 45

yyzmcleod writes "Building on the work of last year's bionic creation, the Smart Bird, Festo announced that it will literally launch its latest creation, the BionicOpter, at Hannover Messe in April. With a wingspan of 63 cm and weighing in at 175 grams, the robotic dragonfly mimics all forms of flight as its natural counterpart, including hover, glide and maneuvering in all directions. This is made possible, the company says, by the BionicOpter's ability to move each of its four wings independently, as well as control their amplitude, frequency and angle of attack. Including its actuated head and body, the robot exhibits 13 degrees of freedom, which allows it to rapidly accelerate, decelerate, turn and fly backwards."

Comment Re:Cart Before The Horse (Score 1) 115

I don't think so - even after an extinction-level event on the Earth, it would still be an easier place for a habitation than the Moon. For a start, the Earth would still have an atmosphere, and even if it was toxic or otherwise not breathable it still makes the task of maintaining a habitat much easer (ie only need to seal it, rather than build a pressure container). Similar story for water (maybe need to go to great lengths to decontaminate water from a post-apocolyptic Earth, but that is still fairly simple compared with extracting water from the Moon), soil, plant life etc.

Comment Re:Hope it's going in the new Mac Pro (Score 1) 176

>virtually all laptops are macs though, which is curious.

Not really. The laptops really are great hardware regardless of which OS you run on it. Unless of course you are one of those people with an irrational hatred of all things Apple.

I was referring to the dichotomy of using windows on the desktop but a mac laptop.

Comment Re:Hope it's going in the new Mac Pro (Score 1) 176

Most of the people in the physics department here use windows desktops, but pretty much all of the numerics people use linux desktops. Naturally, all of the computing clusters are linux. It seems that virtually all laptops are macs though, which is curious. Possibly people would like to use macs on the desktop but there is some barrier (eg, purchasing or IT administration policies) ? I'll have to find out!

Comment Re:Total bullshit assumption (Score 1) 73

Contracts, basically. You've probably never had a job before, but when/if you do, you'll find out that people always have some kind of contract. Once you have a permanent position or a fixed term position, the employer can't simply say "you don't have a job anymore, I'm not paying you past Monday". Any termination clause in the contract is going to specify some period of salary that still needs to be paid. For programs that are currently part-way though, even shutting them down requires money. Eg, putting equipment into storage or transfering it elsewhere, paying off orders that have already been put in. So sure yes there are always ways to cut money, but a very large fraction of costs simply cannot be cut, at least not overnight. NASA has had a tight budget for many years now - they do an awful lot with it, but they've been stretching it very thin and wide for a long time.

Comment Re:Aussies, now you know why... (Score 2) 150

The USA in 1776 wasn't a democracy, it was a colony of England. (England may have been a proto-democracy, but the colonies certainly were not.) Nazi Germany wasn't a democracy. Adolf Hitler never won a popular election. He wasn't elected as chancelor, but appointed by Hindenberg in a constitutional crisis.

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