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Comment No user serviceable parts inside--NOT! (Score 2) 159

I'm currently reading Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End, and one of the chapters is entitled "No User Serviceable Parts Inside." That's something that you see a lot in today's electronics (and even software), and it is extremely frustrating for a would-be tinkerer who wants to learn how things work, the way I was when I was a kid. About thirty years ago an aunt of mine got me a C-64, and it was on such a platform that I first learned how to program, first in BASIC, and then later 6502 machine language (by peeks and pokes off a photocopied reference manual and manual relative branch offset calculations, lots of fun!). Until the Raspberry Pi, there existed no cheap system where hacking even close to like what I used to do as a kid was possible. That's what the vision of the Pi is supposed to be about as I understand it. It is intended not to hold the user's hand so much, but to teach them how things work. This is something for those kids that, were they kids 30 years ago, would have taught themselves 6502 machine language from photocopied references and soldered together some TTL circuitry and plugged that into a printer port.

Comment Re:Why is this good? (Score 4, Interesting) 158

Interfaces. Flexibility. You can plug it into a 1080p TV and get video output that way. If you need more storage, a multi-terabyte USB hard drive is easy to plug in. Software is also your responsibility, and that means you can make it run just about anything with more or less effort depending on that. You'd be lucky if the $40 Android tablet even has an HDMI port, much less a USB port, and good luck getting it to run anything but the version of Android it came with. I managed to build a working HTPC with a Raspberry Pi within a few hours of it getting to me in the mail, and the only reason why I haven't yet turned it into a file server/torrent box as well is that I'm reorganising the several external drives I have, so I can repurpose one of them.

Comment Re:What about Magic? (Score 1) 136

Reminds me of my own sig quote at the moment, which, more fully in English goes: "God, however, has chosen the most perfect, that is to say, the one which is at the same time the simplest in hypothesis and the richest in phenomena." --Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Discours de métaphysique (1686).

Comment Open Source? Not really, I think. (Score 2, Informative) 56

CC-BY-NC-SA is not open source, not by the traditional definition of open source. The NC part of the license is the problem. Open Source licenses should permit commercial redistribution, and this is in fact part of the first criterion given in the definition of an open source license:

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

(emphasis added) The NC portion restricts selling the manual. It isn't a free cultural work either for the same reason.

Comment Re:Ericsson, ehh? (Score 1) 43

Well, while it's true that Ericsson no longer makes mobile phones, that was actually a far more recent development than you seem to believe. Up until early 2012 Ericsson still made mobile phones, in joint partnership with Sony, under the Sony-Ericsson brand. They made some pretty neat smartphones as well: you might have heard of the Sony-Ericsson Xperia line of Android phones. In February 2012, Ericsson sold all their shares in SE to Sony, and the former Sony-Ericsson Mobile Communications is now just Sony Mobile Communications. Ericsson, however, even after this, is the world's largest manufacturer of mobile telecommunications equipment (38% global marketshare). That's the real battleground for them, as it seems Samsung is edging into this space as well.

Comment Re:Reminded me of my first C application (Score 1) 241

Which is why I always compile with -Wall -Werror on gcc. I get: "warning: suggest parentheses around assignment used as truth value [-Wparentheses]" for code which looks like that. I consider code that generates compiler warnings as being a bad sign, and always make it a point to clean them up before considering any code suitable. I don't know why this doesn't seem to be as widely done as it should be.

Comment Re:Or... (Score 1) 286

To cause significant danger to earth's biosphere, a supernova would have to occur within about 100 light years in order to cause any kind of significant harm to the biosphere, and there isn't any supernova progenitor object within that distance at this time. Supernova progenitors are not that hard to find: you'd need either a very heavy white dwarf orbiting a more massive companion star that is gaining a lot of mass from accretion (to produce a Type Ia supernova), or a massive star nearing the end of its life cycle (Type Ib/Ic or Type II supernova). Of Type Ia progenitors, IK Pegasi is the closest, at 150 light years, but at the rate it's going, it probably won't go off for another several million years, but it's also moving away from us, and by then it'll be a lot further away than it is today. Alpha Lupi is the closest Type II supernova candidate, at 550 light years, followed by Antares at 600, and those are all much too far away to cause any significant harm. Geminga was only 550 light years away and it went supernova 300,000 years ago, and that wasn't associated with a major mass extinction. A hypernova from a really big star would of course have longer destructive range (perhaps 50 times more), but there aren't any stars capable of exploding like that which are near enough to cause any significant damage. The really big stars like VY Canis Majoris and Eta Carinae that could become hypernovae are all more than 4000 light years away, far too distant to cause any real harm given the kind of explosions they could conceivably produce.

Comment Re:cannot install apps on micro-sd card (Score 2) 471

Simply not true for Android. You can install apps on the SD card of an Android device: I've been doing it for more than a year because I have had no choice. I have been using an original HTC Desire as my primary phone for more than a year now, and it has a pathetically small amount of internal storage (only 512 megabytes, and only 150 of those are user-accessible!). It would be almost completely worthless if I was unable to install apps to the much larger 16 GB SD card I bought for it. Granted, there are certain apps which you cannot install on the SD card (e.g. widgets or apps for which there is some kind of copy protection), but those are few and far between and tend to be small. If you use custom ROMs it's even possible to partition SD cards so that portions of it look like part of the internal storage, so even those apps get to use the external SD.

Comment Re:The title makes me weep for science journalism (Score 2) 74

It's clearly a reference to Wien's displacement law. At 100 million kelvins, the peak blackbody emission frequency by the Wien displacement law would be somewhere in the region of 6e18 Hz (0.05 nm), which is well into the hard X ray region, almost energetic enough to be called low-energy gamma rays.

Comment Re:or, they could bombard it with neutrinos.. (Score 1) 226

From what I understand the process that causes neutrinos to speed up radiocative decay is the result of inverse beta decay (I'd link to a Wikipedia article but WP thinks that the term 'inverse beta decay' is synonymous with electron capture. There seems to be no independent article for this process I refer to, despite the fact that this process was used in the Cowan-Reines experiment that was the first conclusive evidence for the neutrino, and won for Frederick Reines his share of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics!). Anyway, if you had neutrinos energetic enough to make this process frequent enough (never mind that doing this is very difficult), these neutrinos would then hardly be harmless to living things. They're only harmless to us because the interaction cross section for the vast majority of neutrinos is so small, and so their chances of interacting with ordinary matter so remote as to be almost nonexistent: you could send a neutrino of typical energies through light years of solid steel before it interacted with anything. If you could somehow produce a neutrino beam that was of high enough energy, it would readily transmute normal matter in its path: an antineutrino beam would turn protons into neutrons, and a neutrino beam would turn neutrons into protons. If you had hydrogen (e.g. in water), you would get high-energy free neutrons, and that is the way to increase the radioactivity of something, not decrease it!

Comment Re:But... (Score 4, Insightful) 138

And what of it? Nothing of what your people in high school has said in any way contradicts true science. I at first thought that you were talking about the Omphalos hypothesis which is a load of bullshit (but it is what the original posters were referring to), but reading what you wrote more carefully says that it's not what you are talking about at all. Your said that your high school people believed that the natural world as a whole was created by God as something for us to discover. Think of what that really means for a second. If you read it carefully, it actually says that the honest practice of science is nothing more or less than God's will for us! For what is science but an attempt to to discover and understand the workings of the natural world? Contrary to what many people around here seem to think, there is nothing inherently anti-science about religion and the belief in God in general. It is non-scientific to be sure, a belief in God and in science can be held without a whit of cognitive dissonance. Science is there to tell us the how of the world, religion is there to tell us the why. Granted, there are many religions out there that fail to grasp this essential fact and so rail about with creationism and all that because they wrongly believe that their religion is the only possible repository of all truth. The questions religion is supposed to answer are fundamentally meaningless for science, and vice-versa.

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