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Comment Yes, $.5M is a lot of money, but... (Score 5, Informative) 180

... damn, you should have gone to the symposium. These people were not nuts - they were capable engineers and sociologists and educators and authors and astronauts, who well understood the enormity of the challenge (which does in fact edge into astronomic scale).

There were reviews of existing technologies, reports on current research, proposals ranging from modest to blue-sky, discussion about the science that would have to be done. Social engineering was also prominent - any future colony would be a microcosm of human society after all.

Without the Dreamers, you wouldn't have the Planners. It was awe-inspiring to be among the Dreamers for a couple of days, and I begrudge not one dime of the money DARPA spent on it.

The U.S. doesn't do enough R&D as it is.

Right you are.

Comment Re:In other words... (Score 5, Informative) 314


It was 600 smart people all in one place: engineers, technical managers, educators, academics, NASA representatives from Ames and Glenn and MSFC, and everyman types like me, all of whom understood the magnitude of the challenge.

It was a gathering where you could dare to use the word "starship" in a sentence and nobody would crack a smile.

There were tracks on propulsion (light sails, nuclear thermal and hybrid nuclear technologies), habitat creation (bioengineering, microgravity challenges, plasma shields), education (there were lots of educators in the audience), organization, ethics. One university type - I forget his name - boldly asserted that there would be useful violations of the second law of thermodynamics in a couple of years. (I didn't quite believe that, so I did a little reading when I returned; it seems that the second "law" is more like a statistical assertion, so maybe he's got something. IANAPhysicist.)

There was a track on fringe technologies too, those FTL and warp drives you laugh about. I didn't attend that one; at the conference wrap-up the track moderator only said politely that there "was no concensus".

A double handful of SF authors were there and a couple of Hollywood types too, all conducting their own research.

Nobody came here expecting to be beamed up. Nobody was thinking Flash Gordon or Jean Luc Picard. Everyone fully appreciated the immensity of the project, the audacity of such a thing, the difficulty of the undertaking. It was inspiring to be in the company of people who had thought seriously about some of the issues, and who dared to dream big. All brainstorming is like this.

An underlying theme, mentioned several times during the conference, is that Earth "is a single point of failure".

Per the organizers: "The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society will be publishing a select number of papers in a special issue. Date of the special issue has not yet been announced."

Comment If only (Score 1) 904

If you gave me a pill that placed my life expectancy at 150, then the golden handcuffs are OFF.

Here I am today, a few years from retirement, madly saving acorns for my approaching decrepitude. Making good money in my established career... but it's boring as hell. I learned all the interesting stuff in my business years ago.

I follow the kids over at HN doing their entrepreneurial thing, some of them failing, some of them succeeding, most of them subsisting on ramen and hackerspace futons, and I think: how grand it must be to have that kind of flexibility to just chuck it all for the dream.

Well give me another 75 years and the whole picture changes. I could go do something else, something completely different. My kids are old enough to take care of themselves, so I could go join that latter-day-hippie commune. Or move to Novosibirsk and learn the language. Or learn a new trade. Write that novel. Develop some of those ideas I've gotten in the shower.

There are a million things I dare not do at this stage of my life. But give me my life back and there's nothing I can't try.

Comment Re:RIP (Score 1) 1613

IBM? I sincerely doubt it. They would have never believed in personal computing, or that there could even be personal computing. Computers would still be AS400 mainframes to this day most likely.

You are unaware, then, of the IBM 5100 - introduced in 1975.

IBM was coming around to desktop computing, but was hampered by a strong corporate culture of eating their own dogfood - they rolled their own processors and circuit packages. That little 5100 was a sweet machine for its time, but terribly pricy.

Don Estridge convinced IBM to use off-the-shelf components in the mad drive to get the 5150 (IBM PC) out the door in Boca Raton, which made them competitive.

Comment ESR says: (Score 1) 479

"the choice that seals Nokia's doom isn't the tie-up with Microsoft [...] It's the way Elop has failed to resolve Nokia's drift and lack of a strategic focus. Instead of addressing this problem, Elop plans to institutionalize it by splitting the company into two business units that will pursue different - and, in fact, mutually opposing - strategies."

Complete post is here.

Comment Re:Too fucking bad.. (Score 1) 502

Perhaps they feel, as I do, that the punishment is out of proportion with the crime.

Remember the "Disproportionate Response" episode of The West Wing?

Bartlet: But they know we are going to do that, they know we are going to do that. Those areas have been abandoned for days. We know that from the satellites. We have the intelligence. They did that, so we do this. It's the cost of doing business, it's been factored in, right? Am I right or am I missing something here?
Fitzwallace: No sir, you're right sir.
Bartlet: Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?
Fitzwallace: It isn't virtuous Mr. President, it's all there is sir.
Bartlet: It is not all there is.
Fitzwallace: Pardon me, Mr. President, just what else is there?
Bartlet: A disproportionate response. Let the word ring forth from this time and this place, you kill an American, any American, we don't come back with a proportional response, we come back with total disaster!
Unnamed General: Are you suggesting we carpet bomb Damascus?
Bartlet: General, I am suggesting that you and Admiral Fitzwallace and Secretary Hutchinson and the rest of the national security team take the next sixty minutes and put together a U.S. response scenario that doesn't make me think we are just docking somebody's damn allowance.

(Dialogue lifted from

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