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Comment Re:No Dragon 2 Soft Landing Yet (Score 2) 355

But good luck getting Elon Musk to focus on the practical and eminently desirable target of the Moon. He isn't interested. It's only Mars for Elon.

The SpaceX launch manifest begs to differ. Elon Musk may have Mars as his ultimate goal and be developing the hardware to do it, but in the mean time he is busy launching communication satellites, Iridium satellites, space station resupply, military payloads - anything and everything that people will pay him to launch. If NASA were to foot the bill, he'd be more than happy to land on the Moon.

Or to put it another way, you don't need luck, just money.

Comment Old Time Radio (Score 1) 268

The other thing that is worth remembering is that there is a lot out there as well as podcasts. Over the years I have discovered and enjoyed many Radio serials. Though not currently updating these can have huge backlogs of old programs which can be found on the likes of or elsewhere.

My favourite OTR shows are:


The Goon Show

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue

I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again

Just A Minute

The Unbelievable Truth

Audio Drama (SF & fantasy):

Dimension X

X Minus One

The Mysterious Traveller

Mind Webs

Lights Out

Comment My favourite Podcasts (Score 1) 268

I can see that this discussion is is one I'm going to have to go through in detail. I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly on my daily commute (~ an hour each way). My current list is:


Radiolab (WNYC)


More or Less

Cheap Astronomy

Math Mutation

TEDTalks (Audio)

Audio Fiction:

All the Escape Artists podcasts: Escape Pod (science fiction),

Pseudopod (Horror),

Podcastle (Fantasy),

Cast of Wonders (Young Adult)

Welcome to Night Vale

19 Noucturne Boulevard (though no longer updating this has huge backlog)


Decoder Ring Theatre

The Dunesteef

The Truth


The Irrelevant Show

Ask Me Another


99% Invisible

The Allusionist

Imaginary Worlds

Comment What Would the Movies Do? (Score 2) 180

In answering this question for books it might be instructive to look at what happens in another artistic field, that of the movies. Although there are some major differences (Movies cost a lot more to make and therefore there aren't so many made each year for a start) the comparison might shed a little light.

With rating movies statistically there are a number of methods:

- Box office takings, such as Box Office Mojo

- DVD and Video sales

- Movie audience figures (when broadcast on television or similar)

- Industry awards, such as the Academy Awards or the Baftas

- Ratings from critics, such as Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic - Ratings from general users, such as IMDB

- and finally, "Best of" listings voted on by critics or interest groups.

I include the last not because it is really a very good statistical comparison as compared to any of the other methods, but because it is the only one analogous to the sorts of lists being considered in the Worlds Without End rankings.

To get a good statistical ranking for books or movies we need to get a comprehensive set of data that covers all (or most) of the entries, and which applies the same rankings to each. None of the rankings for Movies which I have listed really does that, but some do better than others in some ways at least. For example, ticket and unit sales cover all movies, though they have the problem that the number of people going to movies, and the price they pay per ticket, have increased over time so that the ranking metric isn't the same for all movies. It also has the disadvantage that ticket sales are not necessarily related to how good a movie is. Industry awards can probably be assumed to cover all movies released in a given year and therefore cover the whole population, but have the problem that the award givers may not cover all entries equally, and may be subject to bias. Critical judgement, whether from professional critics or members of the public, also have the problem of coverage - I personally cannot expect to be able to see every movie made, and the ones I do see will be affected by by things like advertising budgets which are not necessarily related to how good the movie actually is.

With books we do have some similar data sets. Figures for number of books printed, or sales on the likes of Amazon can be compiled, though these have the same problem of not being related to quality. I don't know of any compilation sites for professional book critics (anybody?), but there are sites such as Goodreads where members of the public can give their subjective rankings. Industry awards also exist, such as the Hugo or Nebula awards, but these have the disadvantage of being subject to politics (*cough* Puppies vs SJW anyone?). Finally, there are "Best of" lists, such as the ones cited by Worlds Without End.

Books have a problem compared to movies in that far more books get published than movies get made. While a good critic can expect to see all the movies that come out in a year (at least all those released theatrically), reading every book that is published is impossible. This eats into the quality of critical rankings out there, or even into Industry awards. Any "Best of the Year" list can't really hope to be definitive, because a book - especially a ground breaking, iconoclastic new classic - will take time to find a wide audience and be widely recognised.

For my money, I think the likes of Goodreads are probably the best bet as an objective, comprehensive and timely statistical source for rankings of books.

Comment All in the definitions (Score 5, Insightful) 80

The comment that the algorithm does better at predicting personality than a person's friends will depend very strongly on how you define a friend. I have a very large number of Facebook friends about whom I know almost nothing, so I am not at all surprised that an algorithm will do better.

Comment Re:There have been too many scams... (Score 1) 280

That's why you have Wikipedia...which will tell you that aneutronic fusion needs much higher temperatures, in addition, at least fifty times the density-time of D-T fusion, and generates three orders of magnitude lower power density.

In their paper in Physics of Plasmas they report having achieved the density and temparature necessary for aneutronic (hydrogen-boron) fusion. The new electrode will enable them to demonstrate a reaction which creates more energy than is required to trigger it - not a finished device, but one which will demonstrate its practicality and attach the funding necessary to commercialise it.

For more detail, an interview with the project founder can be found on the Future and You podcast here.

Comment Re:It's here (Score 2) 211

It should be on Google's home page, starting Saturday.

Perhaps it's not Saturday yet where you are? Or maybe it's locked by country-code or something?

Here in Australia we got it on Friday. And we got the special on local TV at the same time as the UK.

Comment Re:Reminds me of a joke a Welsh priest once told m (Score 1) 668

Why wasn't Jesus born in Wales?

Because God couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.

Irrelevant. Both the wise men and the virgin came from elsewhere.

Now I come to think of it - the wise men came from the East, which would be London in the case of Wales, while the virgin came form the North, which would be Scotland.

Perhaps your priest knew what he was talking about after all.

Comment Re:Not snacks but plenty of coffee (Score 1) 172

We had something like this happen were I worked. In our case we have a devices which dispenses boiling or chilled water and people make their own coffee. When it broke down and didn't get fixed immediately I went out & bought a cheap plug in kettle and left it in the kitchen. Made me very popular. Not that the situation is otherwise very close - our building is in the CBD and surrounded by good coffee shops.

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