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Comment Re:Misleading summary (Score 1) 459

In addition to the absurdity of the case at all, there are a couple other things that bother me a lot about this:

1) the prosecution asked for 4 year sentences. The judge upped it to 6 years. How often does a judge go beyond the prosecution's requested sentence?

2) this was held in the town that got devastated by the quake. What are the chances that they'd get a fair trial?

Somehow they've successfully alienated the scientific community and made their own judicial system look like a joke at the same time. If I was a scientist on any government advisory committee in Italy, I'd be stepping down right about now.

Comment Re:Stupid human! (Score 1) 472

Along those lines, it should be pointed out that in the laser (spectroscopy) community, if we want a window that's transparent in the UV and visible, we typically use sapphire. Glass (ie BK7, float glass, or the like) absorbs UV, and the alternative, quartz, is not as strong. So it would make sense if they wanted to switch to sapphire for its strength, but didn't consider its UV transparency. Has anyone opened the camera up to see what else is between the sapphire and the element?

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.

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