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Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake? 191

With three earthquakes of some significance in the news this weekend (Chile, California, and Iceland), it seems a good time to ask: If you live in an area of seismic danger, how are you prepared for an earthquake (or tsunami, mudslide, or other associated danger) and how prepared are you? Do you have a stash of emergency supplies, and if so, how did you formulate it? In the U.S. alone, it's surprising how many areas there are with some reasonable chance of earthquakes, though only a few of them are actually famous for it — and those areas are the ones where everything from building codes to cultural awareness helps mitigate the risks. I'm not sure I'd want to be in a skyscraper in Memphis or St. Louis during a replay of the New Madrid quakes of 1811-1812, which is probably worth worrying about for those in the region. Beyond personal safety, do you have a plan for your electronics and data if the earth starts shaking?

Comment Re:Dobsonian (Score 3, Interesting) 187

No. Absolutely not. Alt-az mounts are horrible, especially for beginning astronomers as there is a complete disconnect between the telescope axis and reality. An alt-az mount almost has to be motorized to be useful, and it drives up cost. People hocking dobs love to talk about how cheap the "dollars per inch" of the optics are, but the fail to mention you can look at something under high magnification for a few seconds before it disappears, and then you have to figure out how to track RA with an alt-az mount under high power and find the object again.

There's no better way to get an astronomy newbie to QUIT the hobby than to set them up with a dob.

Comment 4.5" Newtonian on an EQ Mount (Score 5, Insightful) 187

Get a 4.5" or maybe a 6" Newtonian reflector on an EQ mount. Be sure you spend at least 5x on the mount than you do on the Optical Tube. The mount is 80% of the telescope. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT cheap out on a telescope by getting a shitty mount.

The EQ mount need not be motorized nor have a computer - in fact it's nice to learn about the RA/Dec axes and how to dial them in and track objects manually, but an RA motor would be necessary if you want to do any photography. (An RA motor does not necessarily require a full computer rig)

Eyepieces are also important, and pay no attention to "max power" capabilities, as they are always way overstated. A 4.5-6" Newtonian will be best at powers up to but not exceeding about 60-90X. Make sure you get a range of eyepieces to have variable power, but focus on field of view rather than magnification. Field of view is WAY more important than magnification.

The objects you will look at most with a 4.5-6" scope are the moon, planets, and nebulae. Nebulae are really cool, but you'll need the larger apertures to really appreciate them, or the photography setup so you can collect the light.

If you foresee going far with this as a hobby, you will want to go 8-10" at some point. It's better to decide now as telescopes are utterly worthless on the used market.

Hope this helps..

Comment Two people have access to my passwords (Score 1) 117

There are two people who have access to all of my passwords: My wife and my lawyer.

These are the only two people on this planet with whom my communications are protected by legal privilege.

Should the thinkable happen (let's face it, calling untimely death unthinkable is stupid, as it is entirely thinkable), there should be someone left who can access everything to put my affairs in order.


If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly 305

Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.

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