It was for lack of better terminology, an entirely new way of doing a webcomic. Usually XKCD updates 3 times a week, with a new URL for each one (and very rarely do stories continue across updates), Time updated every 30 minutes at the same URL, initially with minute variations, which lots of the regular viewers missed for quite a while. The complete lack of dialogue for the first 100 or so frames meant that people were being challenged to create their own backstory. The story itself also got grander in scope as it progressed, with subtle hints towards the setting being given. That it went for months, and over 3000 frames (which when viewed are effectively a stop-motion movie), is also unprecedented to my knowledge. It also managed to spawn a thread which managed to stay on-topic for over 50000 posts, (as well as a whole pile of jargon within that thread.)
It isn't the greatest story ever told, but the method of presentation (particularly the enforced wait between frames which leads to great speculation), subtle hints which rely on not insignificant prior knowledge (the time-period was placed by a particularly beautiful, and accurate, rendering of the night sky which was presented over a period of days), make it unique.
"The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.'s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment."
Sounds like they're talking about ex post facto compromised/tampered laptops—but who knows about Android? FUD, anyone?
That'd be because the majority of pharmaceuticals are covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefit System, ie, subsidised by the government as part of free and universal health care. I'm sure that if the Australian government didn't do that, we'd get an especially large "fuck you" from the pharma companies as well.
As far as media goes, I'm hopeful that something might come of this, it's one thing on physical products (where at least you can put it down to "shipping"), but when buying the exact same software, (or even the same song), costs at least 100% more, then there is no other explanation than price gouging. Particularly galling when most of these countries don't pay much Australian tax on their Australian profits either.
I don't doubt the science behind the concept, and your point about debris being able to puncture the exterior no matter what is a good one. I'm curious about the potential psychological impact of the module. Even if it's completely irrational (and the FA says non-rigid exteriors are better able to withstand a micrometeor), I can't help but feel that if I was up in the ISS, I'd want a solid metal wall, rather than an inflatable fabric one.
Having said that, being able to more than double the size, and presumably living space, of the ISS would probably do a great deal of good psychologically. Not to mention the fact that people who choose to go on missions to the ISS must have a certain amount of crazy to begin with, so probably wont care in the same way an ordinary mortal such as myself would.
The next question of course is how to get it up there? It's about 10x more than the maximum payload of either the Dragon or Soyuz rockets...
Although, I could be a smartarse: my genetic code would only take up about 100GB, add on another 10% maybe for epigenetic markers.
Most of the 300GB is music, photos and TV/Movies. Probably games as well, and a very small proportion of it being text based assignments. Extrapolating from the size of a HTML version of War and Peace, I've probably got another GB or two on my bookshelf, which is actually the data I enjoy the most.
I'd also be curious as to how much "data" the memories and behaviour patterns that make up me would take up, since with the exception of a few GB of photos, none of the other data is really irreplaceable. Any brave neurologist want to take an estimate? Or an overconfident computer scientist?
Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.