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Comment Missing: Intelligent placement of figures, etc. (Score 1) 196

What did my word processor get wrong? I have tried and/or used virtually every word processor currently available for the Macintosh and except for LyX, they all lack the ability to intelligently place stand-alone objects such as graphics, figures, tables, sidebars, etc. Except for LyX, they _all_ treat these objects as giant characters. (Please don't tell me about anchor points etc.—they don't solve the problem.) This was astonishing to me when I discovered this about a year ago as I prepared to do a major piece of technical writing. Not even the vaunted Microsoft Word can do this. My astonishment is due in part because from about 1988 to 1998 there was a word processor for the Mac that did this with aplomb.

Second on my "missing" list is built-in equation editor. Again, LyX handles equations natively, not as an afterthought or as a third-party kludge.

Comment The Speed of Sound is not 700 mph (Score 4, Informative) 155

From TFA: "Thirty seconds after leaping, he’ll exceed the speed of sound in the thin upper atmosphere by traveling almost 700 miles per hour."

The speed of of sound in the upper atmosphere is _not_ 700 miles per hour. That figure relates to the speed of sound at one atmosphere and normal temperatures and also has to consider partial pressures including water vapor. In the upper atmosphere, the speed of sound is much less.

Claims similar to this over the years that the space shuttle is traveling at Mach 25 are just as ill-informed, since the "mach" number is supposed to be based on local conditions, not at some hypothetical place on a beach (one atmosphere, nice temperatures). It is wrong to simply divide some velocity by the speed of sound at sea level and then apply it to conditions present at the object's location.

Comment Re:Easier Voting = more uninformed voters (Score 1) 218

Direct democracy isn't what it is cracked up to be. (Sorry for any Americanism in that sentence). Which is why the Founders of the United States chose a different system, a _representative_ democracy in which people vote for wise and accomplished people to represent them, rather than allowing the masses to be swayed by specious arguments and tactics. The Founders were in many ways students of history—The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was being written by Gibbons at the same time and published in 1776–1789. The American system is not without its problems but it arguably has provided a more stable government than a direct democracy such as that of the ancient Greeks.

Comment Easier Voting = more uninformed voters (Score 1) 218

As noted in the introduction, the easier it is to vote (internet, mail, motor-voter registration, etc.), the more people vote who wouldn't otherwise have voted. This is the best reason there is for not making voting easier, for it is these marginally-motivated people who are the least informed and the most ill-informed.

Comment OT: Rocket Scientists Are Not Scientists (Score 3, Insightful) 114

This piece piques one of my pet peeves, the confusion between scientists and engineers. Scientists do not build rockets--engineers build rockets. Even if a person trained in, say, physics, is designing a rocket, that person is effectively acting as an engineer.

I object to attempts to glorify certain kinds of engineers by calling them scientists. There is no such need to glorify engineers--they are glorious in their own right. Calling them scientists is a slap in the face and an insult.

Engineering and science could hardly be different. Engineers put things together; scientists take things apart.

Comment I'm Handsome in Vegas (Score 1) 78

I just returned from the CES and can report that when I'm in Las Vegas, I'm very handsome to very pretty blonde women who want to meet me later for a drink. Which is to say, they let hookers into the CES.

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