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Comment This is pretty big. (Score 4, Informative) 200

This is pretty amazing, although as I write this it remains to be seen if the capsule re-enters correctly. If so, SpaceX will probably combine its next two missions into one. The first upcoming mission is to perform an ISS flyby, followed by a docking. If all goes well with today's mission (and I expect it will!) then the mission in spring 2011 will be an unmanned resupply mission to the ISS. It's worth noting, though, that the Falcon 9 / Dragon platform is probably not going to be the one taking us to the moon or elsewhere outside of Earth orbit; it was designed to be cheap and fast to develop, which is exactly why SpaceX was able to fly this mission whilst Orion got cancelled. It would take some really heavy modification to even do a lunar flyby. For now, though, it seems like exactly what we need. If these flights prove to be reliable and inexpensive, then the supply and personnel lines to the ISS are secured, and it'll probably pave the way for Bigelow's space station to launch in a couple years.

Comment moped owner here (Score 1) 533

Hey, bicycle, electric bike, and moped owner here. And I don't mean scooters like your Honda Spree and Vespa PX. I mean moped. Your Puch Maxi, your Vespa Ciao, your Tomos LX. It's so interesting watching the moped revolution of the late 1970s in the US come alive again in even fuller force in China and other Asian countries today. We Americans could save a mighty lot of gas if a lot of us switched to two-wheeled transport; and I get the feeling that at some point it might have to happen yet again.

Comment this has real potential...for certain things (Score 1) 384

I think this could have real potential for getting raw material into orbit. Delicate electronics aboard satellites would obviously not fare too well with such high acceleration, but if we ever wish to build large space colonies in the Earth-moon area, this would be the way to do it. We'd probably need to spend a few billion to launch the machines necessary to process raw material, but apart from that, the rest could be made from raw material. The ISS masses about 400 tonnes. A small space colony that supports, say, 100 residents, would probably need to mass around 50 times that of the ISS, I would think, so that's around 20,000 tonnes, which would require about 50 launches with this gun.

Comment Re:It'll never happen (Score 1) 554

Because with current launch costs, it would be uneconomical and/or impossible to go higher than LEO. With enough boosts and/or propellant, the ISS can be placed in a very high orbit, theoretically. But then that means the shuttle can't reach it. A Constellation vehicle could surely reach it but it would be incredibly expensive to get there. In the future, when we build larger and even more permanent space stations, perhaps they'll be placed in geosynchronous orbit or L4/L5. Every satellite that has ever been launched into geosynchronous orbit will be there for the next billion years unless it collides with something like another satellite or space trash or an asteroid. Until we have significantly cheaper launches, though, LEO is where it's at. In fact, even with much cheaper launches I suspect it'll still be cheaper to stay in LEO and simply constantly thrust with ion engines or something like it.

Senators Want To Punish Nokia, Siemens Over Iran 392

fast66 writes "After hearing about Nokia-Siemens sale of Internet-monitoring software to Iran, US Senators Schumer and Graham want to bar them from receiving federal contracts. They planned the action after hearing about a joint venture of Nokia Corp. of Finland and Siemens AG of Germany that sold a sophisticated Internet-monitoring system to Iran in 2008. According to, Schumer and Graham's bill would require the Obama administration to identify foreign companies that export sensitive technology to Iran and ban them from bidding on federal contracts, or renew expiring ones, unless they first stop exports to Iran."

Comment Re:If it's affordable, I would LOVE it. (Score 1) 1385

For me, it's never that Amtrak costs significantly more than a plane. Quite the contrary! Amtrak fare tends to be around $60 each way and it's usually about double that to fly (on say, Southwest). The problem is that Amtrak is on such a thin budget that they only run the most economical routes at reasonable times; the less profitable routes they only run, say, three times a week, and sometimes the trains leave at midnight. And it's also so very slow. I went to Washington DC last week for a conference, and I was considering taking the Amtrak from Indianapolis to Washington because it really was quite a bit cheaper than flying, but the train would have taken about 12 hours, versus 2 hours to fly. Also, the train didn't leave on the right day of the week and it also left at midnight, so I would have had to miss a day of the conference, or go a full day early and waste money on hotel/food. If Amtrak simply ran trains to and from most major cities, had departures/arrivals twice a day instead of three times a week, abandoned this bus connection bullshit, had wifi so I could get some work done, and took 6 hours instead of 12 to get anywhere, I would ride Amtrak every, single, time.

Comment Re:Bollocks (Score 1) 368

FYI, in the US, 'public radio' is not 'government radio.' National Public Radio, American Public Media, Public Radio International, etc., are primarily funded from donations and other private sources. Some funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but it's usually around 15%. The CPB is, in turn, mostly funded by the government.

Bona fide 'government radio' from the US would be programs like Voice of America.

Comment Re:What is really wrong with trains? (Score 4, Interesting) 299

I would imagine that a PRT system like this would work best in conjunction with other mass transit and personal transit systems, preferably integrated into one overall system. Just like the only way to replace fossil fuels is with a combination of renewable resources, the only way to really replace cars is with a combination of transit systems. On really heavy, major routes, I would think that trams/trains/buses would be the best. On lighter routes, (especially flowing out from urban to suburban areas), PRTs would be best, with dozens of small branch lines to take people within just a block or two of where they live.

This is how cars will eventually be replaced.

Comment You need to be well-organised (Score 4, Interesting) 465

In my experience, departments can be re-structured, staff get replaced, budgets get changed, buildings get remodelled, torn down, or re-purposed. Frankly, if you expect such a project to survive even 50 years you may have to do a bit of planning first. Figure out who is going to manage the whole thing; a system can't just be put in a closet in a classroom; find a central location (say, a large airtight, waterproof safe in the school library, labelled with a plaque, and get the school board, school paper, etc. informed about the project so that its existence is recorded in various ways. I'm sure that's just about the best you could do with your budget. I'd also not recommend preserving just one system, but probably several complete ones, maybe of varying age. If you got a couple of 286's with PC-DOS, a couple of Pentium II's with Windows 95, a couple of original iMacs with Mac OS 9, etc, that might be much more interesting than just one system, and surely it's better to have some redundancy in case one or more of the machines don't survive for some reason. And certainly include as much physical media with as wide of a variety of software as you can...floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, zip disks, and perhaps best of all would be USB flash drives as these would be more likely to survive than optical or magnetic media, and unlike these, USB mass storage might be possible to read with computers with computers built in 2020 or even later. Miscellaneous tips: I wouldn't bother with any software that requires online activation, active internet connection, etc. I'm sure the internet will be quite different from how it is today, and even software giants like Adobe or Microsoft may be long forgotten in 2060. Make sure the systems POST without their clock batteries; these will surely be dead in 2060. Include as much paper documentation as you can. Manuals, quickstart guides, printed tutorials, anything. The documentation on this stuff might be very well preserved online in 2060. Or it might not.

Comment It's called free space optics (Score 5, Informative) 264

It's called free space optics. The technology has been around a long time, in fact, and for a while it was fairly common on laptops. It was called IrDA, and though it was fairly short range you could use it to transfer files, establish a TCP/IP connection, etc.

I remember playing a Starcraft game with an iMac G3 and PowerBook G3. A friend and I used AppleTalk over IrDA. Unfortunately it was rather awkward since they had to line up, but we figured out you could bounce the infrared beam with mirrors. So we didn't need ethernet, we could play wirelessly...this was in 1998, long before 802.11b became mass-market.

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