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Comment Re:Can Big Dog be knocked over? (Score 1) 91

Yeah I saw the videos, which tell me that it's hard to knock Big Dog over. But I guess I was wondering what would happen if you knock it completely on its side, whether it can upright itself.

That's very good point about the power - wonder how much power this sucks up, but I'm sure it's much more than a rover of comparable size.

Comment Can Big Dog be knocked over? (Score 1) 91

One thing I'm wondering about in regard to Big Dog is whether it can actually be knocked over. More importantly, if we were to lay it down on its side, would it be able to get back up? If I'm relying on it in the battlefield or as an emergency responder, the last thing I want is 400 lbs. of my supplies getting stuck on the back of a robot that's ended up on its side and stuck. If it can get back up, then I'd say we have something that would be an awesome replacement for a Mars rover, since it can certainly climb steeper slopes, and I don't have to worry about it getting stuck anywhere.

Comment Re:How do they measure this? (Score 1) 76

Monochromatic is not a prerequisite for laser light. Coherence and leverage of a population inversion are requirements for it to be laser light, with the latter being sometimes loosely applied. This pulse is as much a laser emission as that from any other, because it is coherent. Laser emission can come from continuous wave lasers (like most red laser pointers), which can be incredibly monochromatic (sub-MHz bandwidth) or from pulsed lasers, which can be incredibly non-monochromatic (many nanometers bandwidth).

Comment Re:Antisocial Usage (Score 2) 34

a real bio-chemical engineer could easily get creative enough to make highly addictive chemicals that are hypnotics and have embed-able dispensers that release only when they receive encrypted transmissions

Uh, reference please?

Being in the field of biophysics, I can say that even the most advanced bioengineering institutes in the world, with tens of millions of dollars in funding, are very, very far from realizing anything like this. Hypnotics aren't drugs that hypnotize and allow someone to control you - they sedate and calm you, but they are frequently highly addictive. If by embed-able dispensers you mean macro-molecular sized release capsules, we are very close to realizing them, but controlling them with an encrypted transmission is impossible. If you mean larger RFID-based release mechanisms, they exist, but good luck getting them into the victim's body, or establishing an addiction.

Comment Re:Antisocial Usage (Score 3, Interesting) 34

It will almost certainly be more economical to make something like a nerve agent using old fashioned chemistry. You can scale up a synthesis to bulk volumes much more easily than waiting for a printer to print out a bulk amount of product. Reaction rate (or reaction time) is independent of volume (ideally), whereas printing time will go linearly with volume.

Comment 1 hr 40 minutes. (Score 3, Interesting) 353

Commuting by train from Connecticut to Harlem (NYC), then taking a bus to Columbia U. 100 minutes in total, each way. Taking the train is pretty great, though - you can relax, use your laptop (even plug it in if needed), catch up on emails and talk to folks. On some trains there's even a bar car. It definitely beats driving in, even if I'd save a few minutes on the drive.

Comment Re:memories of Hubble (Score 1) 115

I'm guessing there's a good reason, but do you by any chance know why NASA didn't test the final optical alignment of Hubble on the ground before it launched? Why not lay the thing on its side and point it at something really far away to make sure everything was in focus (or just point it up at the night sky)? Too much structural warping due to gravity?

Comment Re:Not Published = Trash (Score 2) 474

In fact Science and Nature do peer-review their articles. The first step is a decision by the editor about whether or not it fits with the journal/has the scope of a Science/Nature article. That's usually the hard part to get by (I've heard 10% of articles get by this stage). Then it goes out for review, where at least two, sometimes three referees review it. This is true for short form ("reports") and long form ("research articles") papers.

Comment Re:Hockey goalies (Score 1) 87

I remember hearing once that the reason why Ted Williams had such an unbelievable hitting ability was that he could see lace rotation on incoming pitches with better fidelity than other batters. It had something to do with his eyes' "refresh rate", which was also fast enough that he had trouble watching movies because he could see the individual frames flashing by. Not sure if it's true, but makes for a great story.

Comment Re:They have become the next Radio Shack (Score 1) 322

I have to say that as annoying as the customer service is at Radio Shack, I respect the fact that you can still go in there, walk all the way to the back, and find racks and racks of honest to god electronic components. You can still get resistors, capacitors, jumpers, enclosures and tons of connectors. They're the only brick and mortar store I know of that still carries that stuff. I wish one of the big chains still had a "computer components" section for people who knew what they were doing. CompUSA, for all their faults, had a section in the store for people building PCs from scratch, so you could get motherboards, cases, etc.

Comment Local repair shops (Score 1) 322

Everywhere I've lived I've found a local computer repair store with better prices and service than BB or Staples or any big chain. I live in CT right now and around here it's PCW computers. They have intelligent people who don't bug you unless you ask them a question, and they sell high quality individual components. I don't know how the repair services are at these small stores, but it can't be worse than Geek Squad.

A few months ago I tried to set my Dad's computer up for wireless, so I went to BB for a standard PCI wireless card. They had absolutely none. I asked a salesperson if they had any, and he goes, "here's a USB one." He said USB is just like PCI, except it's on the outside of the computer. I explained that the computer has a lot of PCI slots, so I didn't want to waste a USB port on it. He goes, "computers don't even come with PCI slots anymore." I told him thanks for his time, I'm going to Staples. The guy at Staples had no idea what PCI was, and when I explained that it's a slot inside the computer, he couldn't believe that I'd actually take a cover off the computer. So I went to newegg and just ordered one.

Comment Re:bad idea (Score 1) 376

And remember, I'm not talking about arresting. I'm talking about investigation.

I agree with you there. I certainly think that going off and arresting a person based on a 25% or 75% or even 99% chance that they'll commit a crime is ridiculous. But if that search inspires the local police department to, say tail you for a day or two to make sure you don't commit the crime, I don't see what the harm is. They wouldn't even have to talk to you - just make sure you're not doing something illegal. I think an analogous situation would be if you walked around in public asking strangers how to suffocate someone - eventually one of those strangers would get suspicious and go to the police, and the police would (or should) investigate.

Of course all this is in the limit of infinitely large police forces and budgets, and assuming people don't take advantage of it (e.g. using your buddy's phone to search for ways to kill someone, just for kicks...).

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