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Comment Re:Booo! (Score 1) 168

I've been dreaming about a remote sub mission under the ice. Probably the best shot in the solar system for complex life. Screw poking around for microbes!

The problem is the ice. There's kilometers of it to get through not meters. You're going to need some serious power and probably a revolution in remote drilling technology.

But yeah, a sub on(in) Europa would be supercool. No pun intended.

Comment Re:Screw Next time . . . (Score 2, Informative) 269

How about we all stop thinking that we have better ideas than the guys who built these incredible pieces of machinery?

Yes, lets stop all this thinking and just worship our JPL overlords as we are meant to do.

Remember that bit about a week into things, Spirit went dumb because they filled up the flash memory? Remember how surprised(pleasantly so) they were when the solar panels were scrubbed the first time?

If you've done any bit of reading on these guys' blogs you would know that they are not the omniscient beings that you give them credit for being. There have been many head-slappers and OMG-we-almost-lost-the-rover moments on the way. These rovers didn't just go up to Mars and deterministically last over five years. New ideas got them there.

Furthermore, I'm not sure if it was you that ridiculed it, but the idea that an air cannon would be ruled out by Mars' low atmospheric pressure.... Laughable. In fact, that would favor the approach. Less stuff in the way of the relief tube of the particle accelerator that way. The adiabatically generated heat might even be useful as a side bene.

Comment Per-mile usage fees aka tolls (Score 1) 585

Toll roads are more of a congestion tax than a usage tax for maintenance. The effect of a toll on a road is to push traffic onto parallel arteries. Even the simplest handheld GPS recievers or cellphones that do turn by turn routing have a setting to avoid toll roads. With the Garmin Nuvis it's on by default. There is obviously a demand and it is external to the ownership of a GPS receiver. The effect of the existence of toll roads is that non-toll roads get more traffic than if the toll roads were "free". This means that non-toll roads have higher maintenance costs if they are viable, legal routes. The extreme example is London's congestion fee where all roads are effectively toll roads and "non-toll roads" translate to alternative transportation modes such as public transit and bikes of engine- and human-powered persuasions.

The damage a vehicle does to a road is (broadly) proportional to the fourth power of its axle load for each of its axles. For a more complete discussion click here. That's not a factor of four, that's exponential. Double the weight on the axles and you do sixteen times the damage to the road. That means that a average loaded semi(articulated lorry for the UKers) or a bus does over 1100 times the damage that a ridiculously overloaded (8000lb) Hummer H1 does per trip. A 2500lb Prius is better by about a factor of 105 than the Hummer.

Fuel taxes in the U.S. do not exclusively go to road-maintenance and administrative overhead, some goes to various transportation research and safety research and other things. However, 80% of the federal tax revenue does go to road and bridge construction. 90% of the Interstate Highway System's budget is Federal money. The average gasoline tax is $0.47/gal with a range of 62.8(CA) to 26.4(AK) cents. Diesel is 53.6 average with a range of 70.6(HI) to 24.4(AK). Apparently, Alaska doesn't themselves tax diesel. Obligatory wiki link. Toll roads also get some of this money. While gasoline taxes are slightly lower than diesel taxes (18.4 vs. 24.4, federal) the primary users of diesel are heavies, like semis and buses. This means that automotive users are effectively subsidizing the roads for the heavies, especially as the heavies tend to be more efficient per ton/mile than autos in moving their cargo and tend to stick to the interstates more. The payback is, of course, lower shipping costs for consumer goods. However, and there is always a however, it could also be argued that shifting the cost through an indirect path increases the chance of(read virtually guarantees) additional cost in arbitrage(middle-man suck or, for Civilization players, corruption).

Tolls for commercial vehicles tend to be higher than for automobiles, but not in proportion to their weight, cargo weight, or especially the damage they do to the infrastructure. (See above) The tolls are a tiny percentage of the cost of shipping, especially in time saved which is usually a prime cost factor. The cost of the tolls will simply be rolled into the shipping costs anyways. Lower income drivers will be incentivised to choose alternate routes shifting congestion elsewhere or perhaps abandoning their plans for travel altogether. Even drivers that don't feel the cost as anything but a nuisance may be disincented on principle. Toll roads thus tend to become an infrastructure biased for the wealthy and commercial interests although not strictly to the exclusion of the poor. And everyone pays for them. Just like NFL franchises and operas.

While Eisenhower was impressed by the autobahns that the Nazis built and the speed with which military transport could be carried out on them and sold the Interstate highway system on national security grounds, a knock-on effect was the change it had on society. Suddenly people could have freinds and not just pen pals in other regions. "Those people in Waukeegan" became "My freinds in Waukeegan". Middle-class and lower families could now afford to travel great distances on vacation. Internal tourism became the norm. It homogenized American society as well or better than TV or the movies.

It seems to be the case that the primary benefit will be to commercial trucking, but with everybody else picking up the tab for the damage done. A better solution might be raise the taxes on diesel used by long-haul trucking to give rail a better edge on shipping. A 1996 study found that rail abandonments of lightly used lines that were predicted would cause a nearly 50% rise in road damage due to increased trucking usage for shipping grain to elevators in Kansas. Increasing commercial taxes to fair share levels doesn't seem likely in our current climate. An analogous thing is going on in aviation. The air traffic control system is paid for by fuel taxes. The primary user of ATC services by far is Commercial Aviation. Two senators last year proposed eliminating the fuel tax for commercial users entirely. The tax for jet fuel as it stands is 21.9 cents, unless you are a commercial operator in which case you pay 4.4 cents. Now you know another reason why nobody owns personal jets. They own wholly-owned corporations which own jets which lease the jets back to them qualifying them for the commercial tax break.

The losers are the general private driving public, but particularly the less-well-off who must use the road. Feel sorry for those whose work entails driving around Houston/Harris County. The County built two toll roads in the 80's because the state was too strapped to pay for planned ring roads to bypass central Houston. One of these did so well that it paid for the other and 4 more toll roads and a toll entrance to the main airport. Now that they're paid for, are the tolls being reduced to maintenance levels or adjusted to traffic demand? Hell no! They're revenue! It has been argued that a rich person's time is more valuable, but that's only the case when they are contributing to the economy. Each person's leisure time is equally valuable. Commute time is taken from leisure time, not working time. And when it comes to vacation, people who earn more tend to have more vacation time available to them so its probable that theirs is worth less.

Now add in the Big Brother tracking issues, the potential for Joe Jobs and the lack of an opt-out and this seems like a bad idea gone worse.

Comment Re:You're either with us or against us... (Score 1) 1656

There's something unnerving, to me, about a group of people SO solidified in their belief that this is not just the best thing to do, but the RIGHT thing to do

What did that for you? The last Eight years? Extra-legal renditions. Tacit approval of torture? "Find me a way to argue that this is legal" rather than obeying the golden rule?

Comment Re:Already a victory (Score 1) 1656

Well, to be fair, he also invoked Superman: "...we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom, and justice for all."

That is the closer to last phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance. One word is different, "Liberty" is swapped for "Freedom". You didn't pay much attention in grammar school or you're not a US citizen. As the AC says, Superman's line is "...Truth, Justice, and the American way".

Comment Re:you would only be dissapointed (Score 1) 197

I presume you're talking about the bureau number. The two digit dash four to six digit number? The two digits are the year that the money was allocated by Congress, not necessarily the year it was built. The six digits are a generally sequential serial for the service in question(USAF, Navy/Marines, Army, Coast Guard). There are exceptions for the serial portion usually dealing with inter-branch transfers and if significant modifications are done the craft could wind up with a whole new number. The two F-5s that became X-37s went from 63-8372 to 82-0003 and 65-10573 changed to 82-0049. Also they became Grummans

Comment Bad Summary? (Score 5, Informative) 200

Despite what scientists originally thought, these holes allow 20 times the normal amount of solar particles through when they are facing away from the sun. This being opposite from what the scientists had originally speculated.

Apparently submitted by the department of redundancy department apparently, the problem is that's not what the article actually says.

Scientists once believed that the particles entered when the sun's magnetic field was aligned opposite to that of the Earth's. But findings presented at the meeting show that 20 times more solar particles enter the Earth's magnetic field when it is aligned in the same direction as the sun's magnetic field.

It the alignment of the fields North-to-South being discussed and nightside effects are not explicitly discussed. Some clarification by a physicist would seem in order.

Comment Re:Why still depend on observation? (Score 1) 186

And after reading a paper about how most arthropods may actually hybrids between two or more original animals, I completely gave up on that idea. Some people think that an insect and its larvae were originally two separate animals. So on which branch of the tree do you place the hybrid ?

Are you sure you parsed that correctly? "Some people originally believed that an insect and its larvae were two separate animals" and "some people think that an insect and its larvae were originally two separate animals" are two non-equivalent statements. I do know that there have been some species where the adults were so morphologically distinct and so divergent in lifestyle and habitat from the larvae that the connection had never been made between the two until recently. What exactly would be the mechanism for two species to glom together such that one becomes the progenitor for the other?


Students Are Always Half Right In Pittsburgh 881

Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have enacted a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work. District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said, the 50 percent minimum gives children a chance to catch up and a reason to keep trying. If a student gets a 20 percent in a class for the first marking period, he or she would need a 100 percent during the second marking period just to squeak through the semester. The district and teachers union issued a joint memo to ensure staff members' compliance with the policy, which was already on the books but enforced only at some schools. At this rate, it won't be long before schools institute double extra credit Mondays and Fridays to ensure students don't take three day weekends.

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