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Comment Re:Oh Science. (Score 1) 110

There's nothing like spending a day to save a few dollars by not having to buy a specialized sensor. Sounds like my Master's research; why buy good equipment when grad students can spend ages building a poor imitation of it?

research assistant n. see indentured servant

I know that "why" is a rhetorical question. But... too bad grad students don't work on grant budgets. :-) Having wrestled with said budgets in Excel (before someone with a bussiness degree took over), I can tell you that the amount of money allocated to equipment tends to be rather flexible. Any give in the budget tends to be used for junket... er, travel expenses for attending scientific conferences.

Comment Re:Lies, Damn Lies and "Science" Articles (Score 2, Funny) 132

Our fine Slashdot poster says,

This article should be in "Entertainment".

It is a light hearted article to be sure so let's not be "hasty" about making "claims" suggesting that is has no "reason" to be in a popular science "web site."

Or why NASA is having them take a "cocktail" to "get the job done" which would, if the description is accurate, prevent the job from getting done if not kill them (alcohol + uppers + downers + tranqs? Anyone remember Karen Ann Quinlan?)

More "sensationalism" in response to a light hearted "article". So let's be serious for a "momen..." er, moment.

As noted by our fine poster, DynaSor (hey, I like that name) must know, NASA prefers that astronauts refrain from using any drugs especially while performing critical activities such as launch, reentry, and EVA. If they needed medications on a regular basis that would not be acceptable in medically certified pilot, they would not be astronauts since there is certainly no shortage of qualified candidates. That noted, it would be irresponsible for NASA to jeopardize a mission or well being of crew members not to make drugs available on high profile multi-million dollar missions that are part of a multi-billion dollar program.

Alas, the simple mention of the the word "drug" triggers bizarre and irrational reactions from many, many people who are conditioned by propaganda and misinformation thrown at them from many groups (religions, politicians, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.) each with their own agenda. Ignorance and rationalization run rampant. It's not at all difficult to imagine listening to a patron sitting at a bar pontificate about how drug use is leading society to Hell in a hand-basket while gulping down cups of black coffee that he hopes will sober him up enough (it won't) so that he can drive home without fear of getting pulled over and get charged with a DWI. (For the uninformed, alcohol and caffeine are, indeed, drugs.)

However, I was prompted to reply when reading this in TFA:

Modafinil: You may know it as Provigil, Alertec, Vigicer or Modalert, but astronauts know it as the upper they take when sleep isn't an option.

Modafinil is not an "upper" in the generally recognized sense. Wikipedia says this about Modafinil: other stimulants, [it] increases the release of monoamines... . However, modafinil also elevates hypothalamic histamine levels, leading some researchers to consider Modafinil a "wakefulness promoting agent" rather than a classic amphetamine-like stimulant. ... Despite modafinil's histaminergic action, it still partially shares the actions of amphetamine-class stimulants due to its effects on norepinephrine and dopamine.

One can be administered Modafinil and fall asleep without undue problems. Suffice it to say that it is misleading to simply lump Modafinil with stimulants such as amphetamines and Ritalin that are routinely put to recreational use.

Therefore, I would say the major shortcoming of TFA is that it plays on the fears and misconceptions of readers to garner undeserved attention to a subject that could otherwise be more interesting and informative.

Comment Re:That Analogy Falls Apart (Score 1) 917

You're sending them there on a one trip for one reason and one reason only: saving money.

One reason? Consider the expression "opportunity of a lifetime."

Typical NASA Mars mission profiles have astronauts returning after only one year on Mars (yes, "only"). A scientist who needs or even wants to spend a longer period of time there is SOL. With virtually no chance of making a return trip the obvious solution is not to return to earth; retire there.

The astronauts, however, are ... heading to a place of no resources. None for living anyway. ... This isn't little house on the prairie, this is the cold deadness of space.

It's not Space, it's Mars. All the necessary elements needed to survive are there. Try reading a book written by Robert Zubrin; he's done the math.

All other things being reasonably equal, given the choice between a one way trip to Florida for retirement versus a one way trip to Mars, I'm going to Mars.

"Faith is no substitute for arithmetic" -- Henry Spencer


The Mindset of the Incoming College Freshmen 383

Beloit College has come out with its annual Mindset List of what the incoming class (of 2013) has always known and has never known. "For these students, ... the Green Giant has always been Shrek, not the big guy picking vegetables. They have never used a card catalog to find a book. ... Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible. ... Rap music has always been mainstream. ... Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled. ... Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code."

Comment Re:Because Cisco would never do such a thing (Score 1) 392

This is just more bullshit for the U.S. government to work around trade agreements they've signed in the past.

What trade agreements? The US was given China temporary Most Favored Trade Status 1990 and made permanent in 2001 during the Bush Administration. Conversely, the US maintains trade sanctions against Iran and does not even have diplomatic relations with Iran and has not since 1980. So I ask again, what trade agreements?


Amazon Kindle Endorsed By Oprah 197

Oprah Winfrey enthused about the Amazon Kindle on her show today — it's her "new favorite thing" — and had Jeff Bezos on to announce a $50-off offer good till Nov. 1. A plug on Oprah is ordinarily a sign that a product has crossed over into the mainstream. But her show's audience has been slipping lately, and it's unclear how many cash-strapped citizens will be willing to part with $309 (after the special offer) for a new techno-gadget, for which they then have to shell out more money for DRM-encrusted content.

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