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Comment Re:A couple visions for the future (Score 1) 271

you don't heat a tube of water, but a tub of oil

Actually, I believe the current state of the art is to use sodium.

Beats me why we don't build more of them

In the past, industrialists were given tremendous power in society because of the economic benefits they produced. As a result, they didn't bother to take care of the environment and often created tremendous pollution. The pendulum has swung pretty far in the other direction and today environmentalists were given enormous power and it seems we can't build *anything*

We the people need to move the pendulum back a bit more to the center. We need leaders who say, "yes, I understand that this solar power plant is going to be built on the habitat of some lizard that nobody has ever heard of. I'm just completely sick about that, really. But it has to be done."

Comment Re:Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (Score 1) 224

it is considered so taboo to say that maybe, just MAYBE, men are discrimnated against

I agree that it's taboo, but there happens to be a very good reason why evolution would predispose us to discriminate against males and to find discussion of that discrimination distasteful, even offensive. It comes down to the simple fact that females are considerably more valuable* to the species than are males. We may not like it, but that's the way it is and that's the foundation for all of our instinctive emotional reactions. A woman's problem is a problem for the whole tribe and they take it seriously. A male's problem is a sign of weakness and the tribe will be better off without him. And any tribe whose members do not have these instinctive reactions will be selected for extinction.

That's just the way the world works. If you keep this simple principle in mind while observing any sort of social behavior, you'll find that suddenly the behavior makes a lot more sense.

*valuable in this context means the ability to have children. If a tribe has 20 males and 20 females, and 10 of the males are killed, the tribe will completely recover in just one generation. But if 10 of the females are killed, it make take many generations to recover. Thus, we might imagine many tribes of humans competing with each other. If any of them have instincts that cause them to prefer and protect males (say, if there's a flood and you have a choice to rescue a male or a female, and you choose the male) that tribe will be out competed by the tribes that have the instinct to prefer and protect females. 100,000 years later, we carry the instincts of those successful ancestors.

Note also that this predicts that we'd have a negative instinctive emotional reaction to any woman that doesn't want children, since we instinctively associate "value" with reproductive fitness. So, this explains the discrimination that career women face.

See? It really does explain everything.

Comment Re:Gender discrimination? Say it ain't so. (Score 1) 224

If you find a lost child, you take them to customer service

Which, unfortunately, is in the back of the store right next to the bathrooms. What's very likely to happen is that the paranoid soccer mom is going to see you walking away, hand in hand with her precious snowflake, and she is going absolutely flip out. Just pray she doesn't have a tazer.

most of the "gender differences" we see are primarily nurture, not nature.

In order to say that *most* differences are the result of culture, we'd have to compile a comprehensive list of differences and decide the cause of each one. Since you don't have that list, I don't think you can say that most of them are culture. For my own part, I am prepared to say that some of them are not culture, but are biologically determined, and that some of these appear to be very important differences. For whatever reason, even that statement is taboo in certain circles, where it is said that any and every behavioral difference must be the result of culture and there can be no other possible reason and to suggest otherwise is sexist blasphemy.

Comment Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 224

My daughter

Yeah, let me just stop you right there. Your anecdote does not disprove a statistic. For example, human males tend to be taller than human females. It's a well-established fact. If we have a slashdot thread full of people saying, "bullshit! My wife is taller than me!" does that disprove the statistic? No, it certainly does not. That's a slashdot thread full of selection bias - the only people who care to post are these who disagree.

Congrats on your daughter. Maybe she is unusual, or maybe you can condition her away from her biological norm. Either way, she's an anecdote and does not disprove the statistic.

Comment Re:Science =! Public Policy (Score 3, Insightful) 899

science can be inconvenient.

I think that science isn't popular because all that we see of it is stuff that's depressing. Kids today are bombarded by the message that we've ruined the world, destroyed the planet, and can't do anything right. Why should they get motivated after hearing all of that?

If you want to see a contrast, find some of the old Mr. Wizard videos on youtube or wherever you can find them. The undercurrent that I see in those videos is that everything is knowable, all problems are solvable. That's the mantra that was taught to the generation that landed on the Moon.

The subsequent generation was very much a downer. Now, I'm not blind to the facts. I know that there is a lot of bad news out there. But it seems to me that what we tell kids today is simply, "omfg global warming!" "omfg extinction!" "omfg pacific garbage patch!" And that's all we tell them. We don't follow it up with optimism of any kind, so they come away with the attitude, "fuck this! what's the point of school when we're all going to die?"

Comment [citation needed] (Score 1) 153

Most anybody who was left at the end of the 70s was fired by Reagan

Got a citation for that? Reagan's administration began in 1981 and according to this wiki article, NASA's budget for that year was $11.2 billion, and steadily increased (in real dollars, adjusted for inflation - these are real increases) except for one year, 1985. There was a one-time spike in the budget in 1987 when they got extra money to replace Challenger.

I haven't heard that Reagan fired engineers, and I'd love to see your source

Comment Re:Gender isn't sex. (Score 1) 1091

I have to tell you, I think your first post was OK, but I think that planesdragon made a better case and I think that your response to him was way off base. You lost this one.

The very definition of gender is cultural, subjective, and very much not scientific.

No, I'm afraid not. It takes about twenty words and two seconds to prove that gender (that is to say, sex-correlated behavior) is not entirely cultural or subjective. Oh sure, there are cultural components like "women wear dresses" but it's not all, or even mostly culture.

You're attempting to use science to advance your own religious or personal beliefs about how the world "should be", not how it is

The dripping irony here is that you have been told that gender is entirely cultural and subjective. It's your own religious or personal belief about how the world "should be" - and I'm sorry to say, you're wrong.

Comment Re:No pattern = a very good thing (Score 1) 432

It's to do with quick factorization of primes

I'm pretty sure that factoring OF primes is easy. I think you mean to say either factoring large polynomials or factoring DOWN TO primes. Specifically (as you probably know) cryptographic keys are usually the products of two large primes. So the factors of the key are exactly two numbers that were non-trivial to compute.

Comment Re:What could possible go wrong? (Score 1) 200

if the source of that sweet, sweet sugar is more convenient to the hive than the flowers (and it would have to be, if it is intended to help the bees get to the flowers) then why go to the flowers?

Bees collect pollen and stick it to their legs to carry back to the hive. Can they carry sugar water on their legs? No? Then they'll still have to go to the flowers.

Comment Re:Depending on who you believe (Score 1) 756

That isn't true either. Even in the most dark of the global warming scenarios, the Earth will remain habitable by humans.

It's our civilization that is fragile. Something as simple as lack of easily obtainable fresh water will destroy our civilization. And the scariest part is, we may never be able to rebuild it this time. Our civilization was built on cheap oil - the cheap (easy to get to) oil is gone now. That fundamentally limits the size of any civilization that can grow to replace us, and that essentially condemns our descendants to (at best) city-states where life will revolve around the toil of growing food, and occasional warfare.

We have a very short window during which we can access the resources of space - for all practical purposes, limitless resources. But if we screw it up, I can't see how we could get into space again.

Keep in mind, intelligence doesn't necessarily lead to technology. For two easy examples, consider the aboriginal people of Australia. When the made it to Australia, they went farther than any other humans alive at that time - they were by definition the most advanced culture on Earth. Some 60,000 years later, their highest mathmatics had five "numbers": 1,2,3,4 and "a lot" They were stuck in an evolutionary cul de sac. Something similar happened in the Americas.

Bottom line, humans will survive global warming, but we will remain at a level that, today we would consider laughably primative, until the sun finally destroys all life on Earth. And that will be the story of us.

If you want to prevent it, the most important thing we should be doing is exploiting resources in space. That's more important than everything else - more important than healthcare or education, more important than everything.

Comment You forgot one (Score 1) 151

"NOES! They'll destroy the historic bootprints!" - Idiot who thinks there was only one Apollo landing, or that the robot will necessarily visit Apollo 11's site.

The robots will likely be sent to the site of Apollo 17. After all, that's the one for which we have the most and the best photographs. Therefore, a second expedition to that site would be the most valuable. You can say, "here's a picture of this rock from 50 years ago, and here's a picture today" and make some kind of sciency discovery that way. Also, that was the only Apollo mission to include an actual scientist, a geologist to be exact, and the use a hammer to break open a few rocks. It might be interesting to go back and have a second look at those rocks.

I can't understand the people in this thread who assume the robot will go to Apollo 11's landing site. That was the shortest mission and it was in one of the most boring (but easiest to land on) areas of the moon.

Comment Re:He has shown forty years of bias (Score 1) 1057

Climatologists have already reached a very solid consensus that CO2 emissions *must* be reduced at *any* cost.

It is not the business of scientists to decide what must be done at "any" cost. Economists decide cost/benefit situations. I invite you to watch this TED talk that echos my point quite well.

Bottom line: scientists study and discover facts and principals about how the universe works. Economists decide how best to prioritize resources. If we did it your way and let scientsts decide what "must" be done at "any" cost then every scientists is going to say that their field is the most important.

Comment Re:Safety? (Score 1) 519

I've been researching this on my own over the weekend. Here are the conclusions I've come to:

1. the Delta IV can't fly what's called a depressed trajectory. It *will* need a new upper stage.

2. the high cost of the Ares I is in part due to the fact that they are designing in commonality with Ares V. For example, the same six-segment SRB will be used on both. The same J2X engine will be used on the upper stages of both. Translation: if you scrap Ares I you *still* have to pay for this development unless you also scrap Ares V.

Neither the delta IV nor the Atlas has (or will ever have) the launch capacity to support a moon mission. So if you scrap the Ares V, you condemn the US space program to LEO for another 50 years.

3. Boeing is promising a lot of great stuff, but it's easy to promise stuff. It's harder to deliver. It may be true that the Delta IV-H is cheaper than Ares I, but Delta IV-H plus Ares V is likely more expensive than Ares I plus Ares V.

You might be interested in heading over to the bad astronomy board. There is a lot of discussion over there (some of the people are even rocket scientists) and the consensus seems to be developing that scrapping Ares I would be a bad idea. also has a lively discussion.

Comment Re:Safety? (Score 1) 519

The Ares I currently has a projected cost of $35 billion (and rising). There's absolutely no way it would cost that much to reliably transport humans on a Delta IV.

That certainly does sound insane. What exactly are they spending all that money on? It looks like such a simple design.

I think the Delta IV heavy is a great launcher, but wouldn't you still need a new upper stage if you used it launch Orion? I'm wondering if the Delta IV would mostly just be a replacement for Ares I's SRB stage - meaning, we'd still need to spend how many ever billions it's taking to develop the Ares I's second stage.

Also, wikipedia claims that Ares I can deliver 55,000lb to LEO, while the Delta IV heavy can only deliver 50,000lb. So, (baring a magical upper stage) it sounds like you'd have to either scale back the Orion to the point of making it useless, or spend a lot more money redesigning the D IV.

You seem to know more about this than I do, so I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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