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Comment "End of an era," indeed (Score 5, Insightful) 256

The fact that the Shuttle was still flying in 2011 isn't just a testament to its longevity. It's a sad reminder that, at least for now, human spaceflight is at the mercy of the schizophrenia that is the American political process.

NASA has consistently brought together some of the finest minds in the world to do what the preceding finest minds thought was impossible. Then, because this is America, we take a bunch of mouth-breathers who probably got Cs and Ds in basic high school science courses and make them the bosses and the gatekeepers, the people who decide that it's more important to systematize the abuse of human rights at airports and buy the jokers at the Pentagon their newest murder toy than it is to push the frontiers of knowledge and ingenuity.

I'm putting my hope for the future of space exploration in private hands. Not because I fetishize the free market, or because I think government is evil, but because human spaceflight is way too important to be put in the hands of the American electorate, which is probably the stupidest and most poorly-informed decision-making body since the Athenian ekklesia.

Comment Re:Sparc (Score 4, Insightful) 235

There's hardly any good reason to choose anything else over it, either.

Well, yes and no. Certainly in the space between the notebook computer and any but the mightiest supercomputers there's no reason at all not to go with x86. But in the mobile processor space, where ultra-low TDP is the order of the day, ARM has a big leg up on x64. Intel sold out their Xscale division (which was only ARM 5 anyway) and now they're losing this increasingly important segment of the market.

I'm not counting Intel out by a long shot in that race, but ARM is the new hotness for most geeks.

Comment Pebble Bed (Score 1, Troll) 560

Supposedly the pebble-bed reactor type is also resistant to the type of damage suffered at the Fukushima plants, and it has the added bonus of not being encumbered by ex-Microsoft patent trolls. I remember reading that the Germans had been experimenting with the design but dropped it for political reasons.

Comment Re:Thera/Santorini? (Score 1) 218

Plato goes to great lengths to try to persuade the reader that this is in fact a true story based on the what was told to a relative of his which Plato committed to memory when he was a boy.

See, if you read the _rest_ of Plato, you find that this is a very common trope for him. He distances himself from the truth of a statement by putting it at multiple layers of indirect speech. Also, the character doing the talking is quasi-fictional to begin with (Plato's Socrates is _not_ the historical Socrates).

Comment Re:Yawn (Score 2) 218

The difference is that the Trojan War happened only a few hundred years before Homer's time -- a short enough span for some memory of the city to be preserved. According to Plato, Atlantis was destroyed by Athens some 6,500 years before his own day.

Comment Re:Yawn (Score 4, Insightful) 218

See, a lack of evidence leads _reasonable_ people to extreme skepticism. It is not an open invitation to invent a crackpot theory and then plug your ears while shouting "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU."

Moreover, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If you want to take Plato at his word you don't just get to point to a previously-undiscovered set of ruins somewhere in the Med and say "Atlantis!" You need to prove

a) that it was inhabited 8,000 years ago
b) that Athens was inhabited 8,000 years ago
c) That an apocalyptic war was fought between the two

because these are all parts of Plato's story.

You also don't get to say "the Egyptians told Solon/Plato/whoever" because archaeology proves that at the alleged time of this apocalyptic war the Egyptians (if you can call the Faiyum A culture "Egyptian" for any reason other than that the happened to leave near the Nile river delta) were still a Neolithic people with no system of writing.

Moreover, since all available evidence tells us that b) is not only not true but impossible, you're putting the cart before the horse trying to prove a) or c). If someone tells me, in earnest, that the CIA has been instructing him to kill the Pope by way of a radio embedded in his brain, nothing short of a CT scan showing me the radio and a bug detector showing signal origin at Langley is going to convince me that he's not insane. I don't start speculating on why the CIA would want the pope dead.

I realize that this type of reasoning from evidence rather than speculation is not the usual fare at the UFOlogy seminars and astrology club meetings you drag your knuckles to every night, but do pay attention, you might learn something.

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Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.