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Comment Re:$125K 'personal' limit (Score 4, Informative) 228

Having has to suffer for a time working for a company that had something of a scam going regarding employees and AmEx cards (Litton Industries, absorbed by Northrop-Grumman in 2001) I have some insight into how the story might have unfolded.

Litton Industries had AmEx cards issued to employees. It had your name on them, you were required to activate and use them, you were solely responsible for paying the balances, but the limit was set by AmEx based on Litton Industries' financial situation and thus were effectively unlimited. You were required to pay all company travel expenses with them (even charging airline tickets to them) and file for re-embursement when the trip ended (or monthly is it was long-term). Thus the employee could be on the hook for quite substantial amounts of money at the direction and for the benefit of the company.

Something like this could have happened to the poor employee.

But back to Litton Industries. They could not process a reimbursement claim (which required multiple sign-offs) within a week, it often took two (or even more). And they had a "payment cycle" that cut a check only once a month, if approval came in by the cut-off date. So if you took a one-week trip, filed immediately upon return, it was almost impossible to get the check in hand before the monthly bill was due, and thus you either had to pay the balance off out of your own personal funds, or you were hit with a late fee that the company would not reimburse for.

I did not stick around there for long.

Comment Re:Fiat Currency (Score 2, Informative) 692

... the bankers who caused the problems paid for BHO's election/relection rather then being prosecuted...

The "banker" (financial institution) money went very heavily for Romney, not Obama, 3-1 in Romney's favor in fact. Obama did not prosecute the numerous (extremely rich) malefactors in the Bush Crash it is true, but their attitude is always: "Well, what are you going to do for me now?!".

Comment Industrial Bitcoin Mining (Score 1) 595

How prevalent are industrial bitcoin mining operations? That is - people setting up racks of optimized servers that only run when the very lowest electricity rates are available. Does anyone know anything about this? Such an operation would not seek to hold bitcoins. but merely produce them and cash them in to collect pay the bills and make a profit in conventional currency. Of course the could hold their bitcoins, but that would be combining a separate line of business with the mining.

If the cost per bitcoin some are estimating here (~$30) is correct then this would be a compelling business opportunity. Once the servers are paid for, a crash in bitcoin value only leads one to turn the servers off until the value rises again (making running them profitable), much like oil wells that only produce when oil prices are high.

Comment Re:Who knew George W. Bush was French? (Score 0) 179

You are really this desperate to defend G. W. Bush's legacy as President? You realize that you are in effect attempting to argue that a screw-up by the French military proves that Bush is not the most incompetent person in the world. Quite apart of the logical fallacy involved here, this is just an amazingly low bar to set for Bush to clear. From a purely PR (aka "spin") aspect you should rethink your strategy here.

Comment Re:A Better Explanation (Score 1) 173

Gosh. Another AC who - without reading the article - knows the true obvious answer that all those Nobel laureate were to dense to see.

If you bothered to read it you would see that the fact that positrons can be emitted by other sources is precisely why they are not calling this a signature of dark matter yet. You would also see that your "explanation" holds not a single drop of water - the positron flux detected is omnidirectional and does not vary with time ruling out any sources local to the solar system, much less the Earth, as a significant contributor.

You should move on to explaining other great mysteries of science, but of course without reading anything about them first.

Comment Re:Totally unworkable (Score 2, Interesting) 115

There is enough accessible Thorium and Uranium to power our civilisation at current levels until the sun kills the earth.

Care to back up that claim with solid data? because many experts would disagree with that assessment on uranium. and thorium reactors are still experimental.

Did you actually read the section of the article you linked to? If you did you would have read this: "If one is willing to pay $300/kg for uranium, there is a vast quantity available in the ocean. It is worth noting that since fuel cost only amounts to a small fraction of nuclear energy total cost per kWh, and raw uranium price also constitutes a small fraction of total fuel costs, such an increase on uranium prices wouldn’t involve a very significant increase in the total cost per kWh produced."

How much uranium is in seawater? 4.6 billion tons, roughly one hundred thousand times current annual consumption.

How much can we afford to pay for uranium without driving up the cost of nuclear power significantly? Well, in a year 2.7*10^12 kwh of nuclear powered electricity are produced, with a value of something like 270 billion dollars (assuming an average price of $0.10 or so). To produce this 50,000 tons of uranium are consumed, or about $5000 worth of electricity per kilogram. Looks like paying $300 per kilogram for uranium is unlikely to seriously inconvenience the nuclear power industry.

Comment Re:Money (Score 3, Informative) 115

A lazy and ignorant comment.

You don't know anything about Richard Garwin, clearly. Nor do you understand how Federal funds are allocated. I could go on but that is already a lot of stupidity packed into one sentence.

Richard Garwin is the most distinguished defense scientist in the U.S., and provides scientific advice to the government (like the advice quoted in TFA). At age 85 he is unlikely to be cooking up any billion dollar projects of his own.

Comment Re:Hrm (Score 1) 290

as we share no mitochondrial DNA and the quantity of admixture is ~%4 at most.

That would only indicate that Homo Sapien women were either promiscuous or raped by Neanderthal males, and then the women raised the offspring as their own. Mitochondrial DNA is passed down directly from the mother to the child, so it basically says that Neanderthal men were not welcome in the Homo Sapien society in general, but that cross breading still happened....

What?! The evidence is consistent with Neanderthal men being welcome in Anatomically Modern Human society, but not Neanderthal women!

Comment Re:Idle speculation (Score 1) 290

There are some theories that the Neanderthals were actually quite smart, compassionate, and had a sophisticated social system....

Indeed theories that hold the reverse (that Neanderthals were in some way significantly inferior to modern humans) are actually difficult to support convincingly. Neanderthal sites are far more similar to contemporary H. s. sapiens sites than they are different, and differences that can be well supported are not generally good evidence of any sort of inferiority. The technical skills and tools and social practices of Neanderthals and modern humans are virtually identical for the same time periods. The implicit assumption of inferiority has long permeated and contaminated the interpretations of Neanderthal archaeology.

Comment Re:Idle speculation (Score 1) 290

Personally, I'm more partial to the theory that we *are* Neanderthals (hybrids) and that they didn't 'die out', but were simply bred away...

This is an outdated theory (I used to like it myself though). There is evidence of gene flow between H. s. sapiens and H. s. neanderthalensis, but not very much. Theories that modern humans simply outbred them and replaced them are viable, but not ones that propose that the two species interbred to form a new single hybrid.

Consider this recent article: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pgen.1002947 .

A key quote: "Although mitochondrial DNA from multiple Neandertals has shown that Neandertals fall outside the range of modern human variation, low-levels of gene flow cannot be excluded." In other words we definitely are not them, but may (probably do) have some of their genes.

Comment Re:No time to train?! (Score 4, Insightful) 97

You are right to point out the quibble of "no time to train the crew" is straining at a gnat.

But you are having some trouble in trying to swallow the camel. Project Apollo cost $200 billion in current dollars to solve a much easier problem (an 8 day trip) compared to a year-and-a-half trip with an enormously larger delta-vee requirement (if you come back). Perhaps, in a similar national level high priority crash project, like the U.S. undertook in the "space race" it could be done in not much longer than 8 years. But you are looking at something exceeding the cost of Apollo.

Yes, I know Mars One claims they have a plan for a one-way trip that will only cost 6 billion: "The six billion figure is the cost of all the hardware combined, plus the operational expenditures, plus margins." (Emphasis added.)

But they also claim "This plan is built upon existing technologies available from proven suppliers." apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that (as rudy_wayne posted above) that no one knows how to build a workable re-entry system http://www.universetoday.com/7024/the-mars-landing-approach-getting-large-payloads-to-the-surface-of-the-red-planet/ . I guess if you wave away all of the really hard problems its all quite easy.

They also don't address the costs of maintaining the colony in perpetuity - it saves on the really hard problem of return but creates a permanent multi-billion dollar annual obligation to the Earth to keep their colony of four people alive.

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