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Comment Like HST (but not in a good way) (Score 1) 101

It's an impressive amateur engineering feat, but its performance as a telescope might not be anything to write home about. It probably shares one quality with the hubble that you wouldn't want: a problem with gravity.

Remember how when it first went up, the hubble had problems focusing clearly? The designers forgot that its mirrors would be deformed/reshaped by the lack of gravity. Essentially, the hubble's primary mirror was optically designed to work as a telescope mirror on earth, not in space. It wasn't until the later mission to fix it with some corrective optics that it really achieved its best capabilities.

Now, since the surplus 70" mirror this guy used was designed to work on a satellite, it would very likely have the same problem but in reverse. If the mirror was designed to be shaped properly in a microgravity environment, it would also be deformed when on earth (as it is when used in the amateur telescope.) That might make the images from it quite a bit worse than one might hope for from a 70" instrument.

Comment High school is too late (Score 4, Interesting) 138

I took AP computer science in high school, myself, and it really wasn't programming, it was pretty much the same as a college data structures class (arrays, linked lists, trees, sparse matrices, searching and sorting, etc.) Going straight into that without some earlier programming foundation doesn't really work so well. We need to start kids earlier to really get proficient.

The logic skills needed to code can be developed, too, but it needs support much earlier, including in elementary school math. I remember in 2nd-4th grade, our textbook was called "sets and numbers," and we did a lot with set theory, which my son's school hasn't. There are tradeoffs: he was into algebraic equations in 4th grade, which I never did until at least middle school. But overall it seems like he's had less emphasis on logic and discrete math and more on general/continuous math. My wife and I have tried to supplement it, but it isn't really standard anymore, where we live.

Anyway, if kids get enough practice with sets and set operations in elementary school, then logic operations a bit later (which and teach them how it's really the same, AND = intersection, OR = union, etc.) and throw in a few other concepts like variables, then they should be ready to start getting some early programming classes in middle school, which will stick with them a long time.

Comment Re:that money (Score 1) 364

That's too much like saying it re-enforces a simplistic worldview that there is such a thing as reality, whereas nothing is actually "real." After all, isn't "reality" just a stand-in for perception?

In an even more complex construct, it is equally simplistic to assume good and evil are not real as it is to assume they are. It all depends on how many levels of non-reality you want to contemplate, and how superior you want to consider yourself to those who adhere to "simplistic" world views.

Comment Unusual software and hardware (Score 1) 1215

Along similar lines, if you're dependent on a handful of apps most people have never heard of, because they drive something specific (like scientific equipment, or in my case, telescopes and cameras for amateur astrophotography) your chances of moving to Linux are poor. There's a lot of good open source effort devoted to making equivalents for things most people need, but when there aren't that many users, the community of potential open source developers is small.

My own list of boat anchors keeping me in the Windows pool includes MaximDL, PHD Guiding, PemPRO, FocusMax, and a bunch of drivers for things like telescope mounts, focusers, a CCD camera, etc.

And yes, there's virtualization, and such, but some of these programs and pieces of equipment are finicky enough to get to work together to start with, without that added level of complexity.

Comment I want my dark time (Score 1) 646

As an amateur astronomer, I find evening hours of sunlight a waste. I'd rather have it get dark sooner, to extend useful observing time earlier into the evening rather than later into the night.

What the article is arguing for isn't getting rid of DST, it's making DST permanent--the worst possible solution. To argue for getting rid of DST, which is what I would advocate, you'd have to stay in the "fall back" time and never "spring forward."

Comment Changing the "every other version sucks" model? (Score 4, Interesting) 292

I don't know quite what to make of this. I got used to skipping every other generation of Office, especially MS-Word, back sometime around the time of Word for Windows 2.0 (which was great) and Word for Windows 6.0 (the next version, which was not... who knows what happened to 3, 4, or 5.) But then later, Office/Word 2003 was the last good version, before they totally messed up the interface with their "ribbon bar" or whatever they called it, that made its functions impossible to find and use.

Rumor was that Microsoft had two competing teams, and while team A was releasing one version, team B was prepping the next version. Then when team B went to release their version, team A went back to development.

Given the later performance, though I don't know that it still holds. I just know that every time they make changes, I definitely want time to watch others' use of it and see what they are before I accept the upgrade.

Comment Technically nothing is really renewable (Score 2) 626

Stars and supernovas aren't quite a renewable resource, except possibly through initiating a new "big bang" and rebooting the universe. The universe ultimately uses energy and moves to increased entropy. New stars are formed, but the pool of matter and energy to form them from is limited; some is lost over time (think of loss to black holes, for example... no real way to recover matter once it reaches that state.)

If renewable energy doesn't exist, then the whole premise that any civilization--human or otherwise--could be powered entirely by renewable energy is moot.

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They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.