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Comment Re:Millions of years of life-supporting conditions (Score 3, Insightful) 312

And how exactly does panspermia get a lift here? It's not as if catching a lift in interstellar space would have been any easier at that stage than now. I suspect with the level of energetic activity from quasars and the like, it would have been even less likely.

Comment Re:Fireworks in 3...2...1... (Score 1) 1251

Even Tolkien got a little irritated with CS Lewis's rather simplistic take. CS Lewis was a lot of things, but what he never was, no matter how much those who so dearly love to quote him may believe it, any kind of learned Biblical and theological scholar. At least Tolkien had the decency to stay away from the kind of allegorical Christianity that so damaged Lewis's works.

At any rate, even if I considered someone like St. Thomas Aquinas a far more potent Christian theologian, I still think their beliefs are utter claptrap. Building a more complex and consistent mythology doesn't make it any less a mythology.

Comment Re:Offensive (Score 1) 1251

Oh BS. The Ten Commandments are at bast a thin facade over top of Continental legal systems that date back to Antiquity. The common law found in most English-speaking countries has its origins in pagan German legal precepts (with a healthy admixture of Medieval Continental law), while the various civil codes owe their largest debt to Roman law. The Ten Commandments probably had more direct influence on Islamic laws than on any Christian state's laws.

There's nothing revolutionary about them; Sumerian and Akkadian laws predate them with much the same content. They certainly didn't end up being expressed very much in Western legal systems, save perhaps Canon Law, though it, like much Continental law, owes its largest debt to Roman law.

In short, the Ten Commandments may be rather important to Christians, but even during the formative years of our legal systems, they seemed to have had far less influence than the Romans and the Germans.

Comment Re:This was definitely not intentional. (Score 1) 40

The issue is, you deal with the system you're with, not the situation you wish you had.

We can't change a transmission protocol or route data over arbitrary connections. This is a collection of everything from very old hardware to brand new, protocols from very old to brand new, in every country in the world, and you can't just arbitrarily rework them. It's the same in the air, too. And when new protocols are made, they're generally in addition to existing ones, not replacing them. I'm not aware of any with error correcting codes or the like (there could be, I just haven't worked with them), but some of them (not all) use checksums (though that's a whole 'nother story... the documentation on how one common type of checksum, that used in datalink messages, is a big fat lie, caused by a screwup in whoever implmented the code the first time that everyone else now has to imitate... but it works, so...).

In the long run, the goal is to move as much traffic as possible to the more automated, more reliable newer protocols. But this is something that's invariably going to happen at a snail's pace.

As I've never messed with them directly, I can't decribe to you the protocols used for physical data transmission at every point over the FARICE and DANICE links - just the message layer on top of them, which is plaintext except for the header marker characters. I've never worked at anything more than the endpoints. But I can tell you this, there's no way we could just go in and replace all of the hardware along the way (you should see the graph of all of the hardware that exists just between Iceland and Britain). It would be an expensive long-term international effort with major potential for disruption in its own right. And it would only help for that particular link anyway. What you really want is how all of air traffic control messages are transmitted - aircraft, atc, tower, etc - everywhere in the world to be switched over to a single, reliable mechanism and a standardized set of international routing hardware. Well, great, join the club, I'd love that too! But it's just not going to happen any time soon without a massive funding surge.

You work with the systems that you have, not the systems you wish you had. Yes, we're working to modernize everything, just like everyone else. For example, in the past year I've spent a good bit of time working on adding in capabilities to one system to help take a sort of "middleman" server that it talks to out of the loop to improve reliability and error logging. But these things don't happen fast. And how many programmers / hardware engineers do you think we have, really? We're no Microsoft here.

Comment This was definitely not intentional. (Score 5, Informative) 40

It's just an unfortunate incident.

British Telecom has had an issue (which has happened a number of times) which led to a minor timing glitch in one of their systems. When this happens, the data reliability on the FARICE line to Iceland drops and you start getting corrupted flight messages. Shanwick was alerted to the problem and both sides consulted and decided that the best solution in the interrim would be something that had been done previously, disconnecting FARICE and thus forcing all connections through the backup line, DANICE, which appeared to be operating normally.

Unfortunately, the problem was even worse on DANICE. What appeared to be normal operation was only normal up to the data logger. Once it actually got to the flight tracking software, the messages were being refused, and corrupted messages being sent in the other direction. So while BT was working on getting their system fixed, flight control managers were being forced to basically manually dig up ATC messages and copy-paste them off to the air traffic controllers (as much was handled through voice as possible as well).

But it got even worse. A totally unrelated communications network, Datalink, decided to misbehave during all of this, which may or may not have been due to the Shanwick problems. On the Iceland side, the general solution is to force a switchover to the backup system. Which was done... except a critical component on the backup system immediately crashed. Repeated attempts to switch and ultimately switch back caused even more problems for the air traffic controllers.

Eventually the fixed FARICE line was brought back up, Datalink back online (with the switchover-crash problem postponed to be investigated during a low-traffic timeperiod)

It's terrible that there were so many delays, but these are extremely complicated systems with a challenging task, built up over decades with tons of computer components, protocols, lines, routers, radar systems, transmitters, and on and on, scattered all over the world. On a weekend. Everyone was scrambling and doing their damndest to fix it as soon as possible. It should also be noted that it was never a safety issue - even in the absolute worst case, air traffic control could go all the way back to the old paper-and-pencil method. What the systems give is, primarily, speed, and thus when there's big problems, there's delays.

And that was my weekend, how was yours? ;)

Comment Re:Axis of evil, again (Score 2, Insightful) 137

The US could turn virtually every major urban area of Iran into radioactive craters, could wipe out most of its navy and air force in 48 hours and likely most of its anti aircraft capacity in pretty short order as well.

When I think of major threats I think of Japan in WWII or the USSR during the Cold War.

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