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Comment (Score 1) 203

I'm a member of the forums, and there are some very sharp people on that site who would be happy to give you a hand with the technical side of things. They also have a user-fiction section just for writing stories, and some of the ones posted there are pretty damn good.

Just be polite. And make sure you have a thick skin. And do your homework first.

As for your questions, I can take a stab at them...
As for the destination, the moon and Mars are the obvious choices, but what else would make sense?
Near Earth Asteroids, Venus (reasonably habitable 50 km up:, Phobos, Deimos. Moons of Saturn might work, Titan and Enceladus being the more interesting ones.

How long would it take to get there?
Also the rest of the atomic rockets site I just linked has very good stuff for just this type of question.

What could be the goals of the mission?
There are maybe three broad categories, I'd say: political (Why did we go to the moon anyway? To rub it in the Soviet's faces.), monetary, and scientific.
Beyond that, well, you tell me, you're the writer. He3 mining on the moon? Political/Religious refugees? Life found on Mars means everyone wants to go see it? There are a lot of semi-plausible explanations. Which is all you need to start a rattling good yarn (sometimes not even then).

Any events or tasks that could punctuate an otherwise predictably boring long trip?
Micrometeroid punches a hole in the ship. Solar CME event burps a lot of radiation at the ship. The engine stops working. The AE-35 communication dish develops a fault and they can't talk to earth. The plants (the ones that provide air and feed people, you know) get sick/die. The biologist comes unglued and murders someone. I mean, this is stuff off the top of my head, man.

And there's always turnaround day for continuous acceleration ships. (The fastest way to get anywhere in space besides FTL travel is a continuous acceleration route, where you burn the engine to speed up halfway to your destination, then flip the ship over and burn the engine to slow down. Flipping the ship you have to do with the engine off, so everyone goes weightless for a few hours or a day while the ship turns end for end.) In some universes this is traditionally accompanied by a celebration or a special dinner or something, along with funny things like (say) bolting the floor furniture to the ceiling or having the most junior officer head up dinner instead of the captain.

Any possible sightseeing for beautiful VFX shots?
Space is beautiful, kid. There are always good VFX shots.

What would be the crew?
Captain, doctor, science, communications, pilot, engineering (the astute among you will notice I'm actually listing off bridge positions from the original Star Trek...)
Ok, come on, kid, I'm not going to do all your homework for you. If you can't even be bothered to look up or think up common crew positions, why bother helping those who won't help themselves?

Seriously, most of this stuff could be answered with some intelligent usage of Wikipedia and Google and a few hours of spare time. I answered this because I was bored and was familiar with it, but if you actually care, why aren't you looking this up for yourself? If you did already, say that you did, but want geek's valuable opinions. (and they'll fall all over themselves to give it).

Because right now the summary looks like you are lazy and can't be arsed to look this stuff up yourself. Do your homework, and intelligent people will be much more interested in helping you help yourself.

Comment Re:To all candidates (Score 1) 343

We can either bypass the Constitution and get a mostly working government in a few days, or we can wait the 3-to-6 months it would take (and all this while putting up with the associated media frenzy) to try to pass a Constitutional Amendment. This would happen every time we need a change.

This is like needing to upgrade the generator at the only powerplant in town to cope with rapid increases in demand: either we can have an hour of downtime while we disconnect the governor and a few safety switches so we can run it hotter, or we can have a month of downtime while we swap out the generator, the turbine and most of the steam piping. Every time we need to upgrade.

Do you want to explain to the people why they have to go without power for a month, every year? No? I didn't think so.

Submission + - A rethinking of files (

An anonymous reader writes: Two recent papers, one from Microsoft Research (above link) and one from University of Wisconsin ( are providing a refreshing take on rethinking "what a file is". This could have major implications for the next-gen file system design, and will probably cause a stir among Slashdotters, given that it will affect the programmatic interface. The first paper has some hints as to what went wrong with the previous WinFS approach.

Citing the first paper: "For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today. We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction; another has to do what such a shift would mean for enduring user actions such as ‘copy’ and ‘delete’ applicable to the deriving file types. We finish by arguing that there is an especial need to support the notion of ‘ownership’ that adequately serves both users and engineers as they engage with the world of networked sociality. "

Comment Re:Linux =Startup time non-issue, no frequent rest (Score 1) 242

How about when it decides to force a restart of your computer, and It's Just Too Bad you were in the middle of a fullscreen application that hid the restart notification until the timer expired and your application was force quit on the way to update-land?

Yeah, I'll reboot at the end of the day, if you ask politely like Linux does.

Comment GUI changes (Score 1) 495

Weren't they making frequent and unwanted changes to the GUI the last few releases? (I dunno, I just realized I've been using Chrome exclusively for the past few months.)

I mean, if your interface rapidly goes down the tube, your customers are going to jump ship as fast as they can.

Comment Re:Chinese resource grab reaches new heights (Score 1) 481

NO, L3, L4 and L5 are NOT "very nearly the same distance as the moon." (Did you not realize the diagram would not be to scale?)

L4 and L5 form the third point in an equilateral triangle whose other two points are the Sun and the Earth. Given that all three sides of an equilateral are the same, and that one is the distance from the Earth to the Sun (roughly 8 light minutes or 93 million miles, if memory serves), that means that the distance from the Earth to L4/L5 (or the Sun to the same) is ALSO 8 light minutes away. It should be obvious that the moon is nowhere near that distance away, else its orbit would intersect the sun. (The moon is roughly 1.2 light seconds or 1/4 million miles away)

L3 is listed as being on exactly the opposite side of the sun from us, so that, again, is nowhere near the orbit of the moon. I'll leave the math as a exercise to the reader.

Comment Re:Doomed to become a statistic (Score 1) 191

There are a lot of systems in the world that have to work correctly to prevent disaster, and NASA certainly deals with this all the time. They've got a lot of smart engineers that work on this stuff, and they have a lot of experience with it.

You can play armchair engineer all you want, but that doesn't mean you know what you're talking about. Saying "There are X systems that are mission-critical, thus I believe it will fail" all but demonstrates that you have no familiarity with the project*, and your statement of personal incredulity is naught but a fallacious argument from ignorance.

*To be fair, neither do I.

Comment Can I get usability instead of flair? (Score 1) 112

I'd much rather get useful new display options (say, a stream of all articles likely to be interesting), or options to hide boring news stories as they rise. (I ended up avoiding Google News the last two weeks as the Casey Anthony trial flooded the headlines. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a darn.) While I understand that it's easy to implement flair over UI/UX improvements, and that adding addicting achievements is good for site traffic, lets try to maintain the focus on bringing value to the user, ok?

Comment Re:Love? (Score 3, Insightful) 137

Um, that's not called love. You can call it eccentric, kinky, quirky ... even obsessive and crazy. But love? No, that's not love.

Who are you to determine who or what someone else falls in love with? Sure, you may not be interested, but maybe you should leave determining what feelings are to the person who is experiencing them.

What will you claim next? That homosexuals are not really in love? That their love is eccentric, kinky, quirky ... even obsessive and crazy? No? Then, by the same token, I say leave the robosexuals alone.

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