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Comment Re:It's good to see that ..... (Score 1, Offtopic) 128

OK, this IS off topic, but it's something I feel strongly about.

When I have mod points, I follow some simple rules. I rarely, if ever, mod someone down. I'd rather mod a good post up.

I always reserve some points just to bump up an AC who does a good job. Some people post AC because they're at work or need/want to remain anonymous, not because they're trolls. (And you didn't need to lose your mod points in this discussion; you could have posted AC yourself, then said, "posting AC 'cause I have points" and then added your name to prove it.)

I want a well-done post that makes me think, even if I strongly disagree with the poster's conclusion. It irritates me when I see someone modded down just because he/she has said something that others might disagree with. (Threads on politics, global warming and gun control come to mind.) If you mod someone down just because they attack your sacred cow, YOU are the one with the small mind ... not THEM.

Comment Re:It's not smaller, everything else is bigger! (Score 1) 171

> So it's possible that the proton isn't getting smaller, but that everything else in the universe is expanding with the expansion of the universe.

A functioning universe is actually a very, very precariously balanced animal. The Anthropic Principle was developed essentially to explain this. (Quick and horribly inaccurate summary: the only way to get around the apparent design is by assuming that there are other "worlds," other "realms" or other universes, each with a different collection of physical laws and constants. Otherwise, you face a theological, and not physical, dilemma.) :)

The strong force, the weak force, the ratio of electrons to protons, the precise distances between them, how they act, the strength of gravity, and a zillion other things must carefully balance to get a functioning cosmos. Increase gravity a smidge? You'll have to readjust everything else from the strong force to the weak force to the electromagnetic force at the same time, or the universe descends into chaos.

You and I are here because of an amazing series of coincidences regarding nuclear resonances. If you look at a periodic table, you'd wonder why, after fusing hydrogen to make helium, a typical large star doesn't make lots of lithium or beryllium. Instead, you get tons of carbon -- due to a VERY critical resonance inherent to the laws of physics. Likewise, as the star ages, when it comes time to make oxygen, an ANTI-resonance comes into play, meaning you don't destroy all of the carbon that was made previously. You get just the right amount of oxygen.

(Look up "Cosmic Coincidences" by Rees and Gribbon. Even the mass of the neutrino is absolutely critical.)

So: to get to the point here ... if the distance between the nucleus and the electron shell(s) is increasing, you're going to have to diddle a whole lot of other forces and constants to keep the cosmos in balance.

Ergo, I vote for the fact that one of the methods of measurement ignored something or was in error. The actual size of the proton (and all the other constants) hasn't changed.

Comment Re:I dont see this working (Score 1) 148

> There could be enough gold come from asteroid mining to completely destroy its value.

Of *ALL* key minerals, not just gold.

Recommended reading: "The Man Who Sold The Moon" by Robert Heinlein. Harriman(sp?) wasn't even interested in profits. He just wanted to go to the moon.

Your point about cartels is well-noted. For that matter, I've read that there are already enough diamonds on this planet to give everyone at least 1 carat each. I have no idea how accurate that figure is, but hey; diamonds are simply crystalline CARBON. One of the most common elements in the universe. The price is kept artificially high by a ... cartel. (The Debeers group.)

But I think it's inevitable. We can decide that our generation will colonize the asteroids, or leave it to the distant future when our great-grandkids have no choice but to do so, and under much greater economic difficulty. We're running out of copper and other important metals. Gold isn't just for jewelry anymore, it has very important industrial uses.

Comment Re:I dont see this working (Score 1) 148

> 50/50 chance

I personally think (hope) the odds are better than that. It depends on how smart they are. (And by "they," I include Planetary Resources in that.) What's really interesting about their proposal is the use of small, inexpensive satellites and telescopes to do the initial searches.

Some skeptics point out that NASA will spend about a billion dollars just to bring a couple of ounces back to Earth. They conclude that this isn't even worth the try. My answer would be, first, well, NASA. The government. $400 hammers and toilet seats. You know. Second, for all of it's flaws, private enterprise, being profit-driven, has every incentive to find ways to do it cost-effectively. The government doesn't and never has.

> Bottom line, for me, is that they are accumulating experience and knowledge in the attempt

Bingo! You've got it. Even if these attempts fail, someone else will jump in and try a different angle.

Like I said: my intense irritation is with those who whine that we just need to make do with less, and return to a more pastoral lifestyle. Don't even bother to try. At least these people are trying. I give them two snaps for that.

Comment Re:I dont see this working (Score 3, Interesting) 148

> the funding for this endeavor is a bit of a question mark

Unless and until they discover an asteroid, in a favorable orbit, that has large deposits of rhodium, or palladium, or platinum, or gold. (Or even copper.)

That will bring in the speculative investors.

Once they demonstrate that they can bring these minerals back to earth at a profit, then they will have screaming investors climbing over one another to put up money for it.

I was arguing years ago that we ought to be doing this. I'm TIRED of the whiny, "only one Earth and we're running out of resources" bullcrap. If they can make this work -- and I give them an even 50/50 chance -- it'll be as revolutionary as the invention of the wheel.

Comment Re:Umm? How far away would it have been? (Score 1) 157

> There isn't such a high density of black holes that the risk would be that high.

There isn't a very high density of sandbars and reefs in the oceans, and yet, the USS Guardian (thanks to a bad digital map and an allegedly arrogant captain who allegedly ignored a warning from officials in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park) managed to find one off the coast of the Philippines. :)

Comment Re:How many times did this happen? (Score 2) 157

> I hereby declare the 775 event a giant solar flare.

I can't remember if the article specifically mentions this (yes, I did read it), but you'd think that someone would have recorded the event. We have some half-decent written records from that period, from the Chinese, if nothing else. If it was a solar event, you'd think we'd have the Mother Of All Auroras in the sky that evening. Surely someone would have noted it?

After all, the Crab Nebula was finally declared as the probable result of a supernova explosion in 1054AD, primarily from Chinese, Japanese and Arab records. Those folks were carefully watching the sky back into antiquity.

Comment Re:Umm? How far away would it have been? (Score 2) 157

> Wouldn't it be possible to calculate where that black hole formed in the night sky at the time, and where it is located at the present?

I'm guessing insufficient data. The distance and bearing would need to be established with some precision.

As for finding a stellar-sized black hole 1,000 light years away, unless its effects can be noted, even its peripheral effects would be difficult to observe.

This is why we'll have to be careful once the scientists get off their lazy butts and give us hyperdrive. There you are, zipping along, and all of sudden, "chomp," you get eaten by an uncharted black hole. :)

Comment Re:93 million miles (Score 3, Informative) 157

> I've heard the 775 C14 anomaly attributed to a very large solar storm period too, even those these guys dismiss the idea.

The article claims that it would have to be 10 times more intense than any solar storm ever recorded. The article admits that it's a possibility, but (for various reasons) unlikely.

Comment Re:I Dunno (Score 2) 404

> If Windows is in trouble because of market shrinkage (and that's most certainly the case at the consumer level, not really at the business level), then how does decreasing Microsoft's diversification (which is what I always assumed the XBox division was all about) help things? Sure, it might make some quick cash, but then Redmond is still stuck with the same problems.


I would believe that Microsoft would start deemphasizing Windows and Office in favor of more profitable activities before I'd believe this article.

Comment Re:Yay! (Score 1) 133

> If he wasn't crippled, he wouldn't be an idol.

I respectfully disagree, at least in part. Sure, the public admires him because he absolutely refuses to give up, in spite of disease that would have made most people surrender long before now. I respect him for that.

But to be fair, Hawking had already made a name for himself long before he landed in that wheelchair -- starting with the Adams Prize for his doctoral thesis (back in 1966). He's not just winging it or banking on public sympathy. He and Roger Penrose first established mathematically that time was a property of this universe -- that "time" as we know it didn't/doesn't exist outside of this universe.

We lay-creatures tend to think only in terms of Nobel Prizes. No, Hawking has never won one. But there are plenty of other honors that, amongst physicists, carry just as much weight (if not more). Most of them you've never heard of.

If you want another great example of an absolutely outstanding physicist who has never won a Nobel, it would be Freeman Dyson. He is just as well-regarded as Hawking, and has never been near a wheelchair.

I think you (and some of the other complainers here) are way off base on this one.

Comment Re:About time but is it enough (Score 2) 53

As a patient involved in this mess, first, let me say that you sure are putting a lot of people in the closet. :)

(And I heartily agree.)

As a patient, what drives me crazy is that each health care provider wants you to fill out forms with the same questions. Each form is just different enough that I can't make a standard form and just take it with me. "Yes, I have high blood pressure (and you people are part of the reason, heh), yes, I've had surgery, my father had heart trouble and both parents have had cancer," and so on. Standardize the blooming form and let me fill it out once.

This isn't an issue for some people, but my wife, just to name a good example, is one of terribly unlucky people who specializes in conditions that are uncommon. We often have to explain them, over and over again.

Pseudo Tumor Cerebri, or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension -- hope I spelled that right -- is the best example, though she was also one of the youngest ever to need hip replacement because of avascular necrosis; in that case, Blue Cross insisted that she HAD to have been in an accident, because it just didn't happen to people her age. The form just said, "give the date of the accident and the name of the responsible party." I had to cram on that form: "NOT AN ACCIDENT."

I have to be honest: I am NOT a fan of the Affordable Care Act, at all. I won't get into that here. But I'll agree that some form of standardization, and the availability of records, is badly needed.

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