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Comment Re:Sorry (Score 4, Insightful) 640

If in fact this was a father's grieving rant, then I agree with your sentiment. Give him space.

Unfortunately there are features in this story that suggest that this might be the beginning of a wrongful death suit against Tesla. The mention of a lawyer being involved, and therefore presumably advising the "distraught" father about what to say in public. How big a settlement might be squeezed from Tesla? If you are going for a fat settlement, then you don't need a winning case, you don't have to be able to prove anything. You just need to demonstrate that you can be a massive pain in the butt until you are paid off. Will we next be hearing comparisons between Tesla's acceleration pedal and the Ford Pinto's gas tank?

People who are truly grieving usually don't make such a public spectacle of it.

Comment Re:Idiot (Score 1) 640

Building a case for a lawsuit against Tesla is not appropriate for a grieving father, either. But he already has his legal dog sniffing around, and one of the things they are looking at is whether they could present a case that Tesla failed to nannify their car sufficiently. Remember, in this kind of high visibility case, you don't need to have a winning argument in order to exact a fat settlement. You only need to be able to threaten that you can make enough noise to damage Tesla's reputation.

I don't own a Tesla and if I was given one I'd sell it or give it away: it doesn't fit my lifestyle. But I've been following Tesla's development. Their engineering is sound and their approach to vehicle safety is very good. But barring nannystate features like an obligatory breathalyzer before the car will start, there is no more Tesla can do to protect against the drunk driver.

Comment Re:Radiation wrecks robots? (Score 1) 307

Our engineering for safe and inexpensive nuclear power is excellent for every component of these complex systems.

However we need to re-engineer the humans who design, build, and run these things. A failure of the human component will eventually destroy every fission reactor, and there are multiple paths of failure. Including allowing the wrong kind of cat litter to make it past the specifications.

I am pessimistic about fission reactors.OTOH, we have been making great strides forward on wind and solar power generation, and the only remaining major problem, storing power at peak production to meet the demands of peak usage, could be handled with technologies we already know.

Comment Re:Sneer today, gone tomorrow (Score 1) 133

You are right, the Apple II did not have the equivalent of an OS. Isn't that marvelous, that those early machines worked without that overhead?

And yet CPAs were buying Apples by the truckload, because He Whose Name I Cannot Remember wrote a simple spreadsheet application that came to be called VisiCalc later on. That transformed the biggest section of the entire accounting industry and ushered in the use of PCs in the workplace.

Pretty effective computing for an underpowered 6502 machine with a lousy non-standard keyboard and external floppy drives that would put worms on every TV set within a quarter mile. Gotta love them unshielded parallel cables.

Point being, that a lot of very powerful computing can be done without a lot RAM and other stuff. You might need it, but in most cases it really isn't necessary to get the task done.

Mmm, I don't have a car analogy. But its more than likely that the computer that controls your car's engine has much less than a GB of RAM. And it almost certainly runs FORTH, too.

Comment Re:Sneer today, gone tomorrow (Score 0) 133

"640 kilobytes is more than anyone will ever need." ---Bill Gates

A gigabyte of RAM is much more than enough for any actual computer work. It of course is not sufficient for games, or for lots of eye candy, but those aren't work. Some youngsters might consider them necessities, but that is just a measure of how shallow the knowledge and wisdom pools in their brain pans happen to be. In time some of them will mature, others will collect Darwin awards, and the rest will be left on the sidelines.

I got my first computer after my 30th birthday, about a year after the Apple II came to market. It came with 8 kilobytes of RAM and I beefed it up to 16 kB, but was unable to afford the big step to 32 kB. It was a good little machine and I learned a lot from it, and put it to good use in managing a household budget, calculating bicycle gearing (I was big into customizing ten speed bikes then), and writing up procedures for my work as an ICU RN.

Comment Re:Recursion is dead! (Score 4, Informative) 600

I was there.

Circa 1980, GOTOs in early BASIC and also 6502 Assembly were appropriately used to maximize the limited resources of early desktop computers. A particularly elegant technique on the Apple II was to POKE instruction codes into the keyboard buffer and GOTO it (the Lamb technique IIRC). While the KB buffer was only something like 128 bytes, it was long enough that a GOTO to a computed destination could be built in it and, wowsa, suddenly Applesoft BASIC had a very powerful CASE emulation.

Naked GOTOs were no longer needed when disk drives replaced tape drives, and RAM grew from 4, 8, or 16 kilobytes to the incredible size of 640 kilobytes. We still used GOTOs that were clothed within Structured Programming constructs (IF-THEN, DO-UNTIL, WHILE-DO, etc) but those were tamed GOTOs. The wild, naked GOTOs became much more rare and good programmers charged with maintaining legacy software would savagely hunt them down and destroy them.

Meanwhile, Gee-Whiz BASIC (arguably the only really good thing to ever come out of Microsoft) let us replace line numbers with labels and brought about the Business BASIC revolution circa 1985.

Dijkstra first used the phrase "GOTO considered harmful" in 1968, only 3 years after BASIC was written and about 7 years before BASIC was widely used (the costs associated with moving from Big Iron using centralized card and tape readers to minicomputers with networks of remote terminals slowed BASIC's adoption.) He was talking about FORTRAN and COBOL practices. His work was part of the slowly dawning recognition that it was not sufficient to write a program that solved the problem; that you also had to write it in such a way that you could maintain it or repurpose it next month or next year. That was the dawning of what became known as structured programming practice.

Bringing this back to the present, using recursion makes a great deal of sense when time to production, long term costs of code maintenance, or repurposing are things that need to be considered.

Obviously if the code is one-off throw-away, like a tool that will be used in converting the accounting system database from warehouse inventory to just in time purchasing, then maintenance is not a consideration but neither is efficiency. Slap together whatever will work and get on to something else asap; don't take time to rework a recursion into something faster or more robust unless the software breaks on a pre-production trial run. And then look for a quick and dirty fix.

But if the code is likely to still be in use five years in the future, then write it so the poor bastard whose got to maintain it can understand it as quickly as possible. That could well mean using recursion. The same goes if chunks of the code might be re-used in some other way, say for example taking chunks from an inventory application to build a library system for maintenance manuals.

Also keep in mind that today's hardware limitations will not apply to tomorrow's problems. It is perfectly acceptable to use a recursion that you know will fail on the 20th iteration if you also are assured that there will never be a need for more than 19 iterations in the next 5 years. In other words, don't waste yourself trying to fix tomorrow's problem, which may no longer be a problem when tomorrow rolls around.

Comment Re:"Helping our galaxy on its journey" (Score 3, Interesting) 149

The approach being used that identifies the repulsor is a valid one. Bicycle mechanics have been using it since at least 1890 in practical work.

When truing a bicycle wheel, it makes sense to talk about the push that a spoke exerts against the ground that keeps the wheel from collapsing. While you cannot push a string, the tensile pulling forces of all the spokes toward the top of the wheel are too complex to easily analyze. But fortunately it works out that you can invert your frame of reference and then not worry about those forces since in the inverted framework those tensile pulling forces become a single push through the one spoke that opposes the sum of the vectors of all the other spokes.

A miniaturized bicycle mechanic standing on the inside surface of a wheel's rim could use this pushing vector to figure out where the hub of the wheel was. That is never done only because bicycle mechanics are big enough to eyeball the entire wheel. But scale the metaphor up....

That is what is being done here. It is an interesting study, and much more than a theoretical sleight of hand. It suggests that the Milky Way is moving away from a specific point, which they are calling the "Dipole Repulsor", but which can also be described as the Center Of The Big Empty. I did not see anything in the article that suggests that we know how far away the COTBE is, but it looks like we at least know its direction from Earth, the Solar System, and the Milky Way. That's more than we knew before.

It has long been understood that the universe is expanding like the surface of a balloon that is being inflated. This work suggests that we may now know the direction to the center of the (possibly local) universe. I'm not entirely sure of the scale of the implications... this could be on the scale of the Copernican Revolution.

Comment Re:Uh oh. (Score 1) 67

No, no, no, you've got it all backwards.

With the tremendous amount of raw material on the lunar surface, intense solar power, and reactionless engines, there will not only be huge penal colonies providing cheap labor to the regolith cement factories, but habitats at the Lagrangian points and deep space probes will be built of concrete.

Do you really think all those objects in the asteroid belt are natural? Did it never occur to you that some of those near Earth orbit objects might be used by the bug eyed monsters to monitor human activities?

Someone has not been reading their Heinlein.

Comment Re:Uh oh. (Score 2) 67

They probably will go after the lunar dust first. That thing is abrasive as hell, and probably useful in some industry.

True, that.

Early lunar habitats will be built of cinderbrick and mortar made from regolith. It is very likely that a strong enough construction material can be made by simply sifting the regolith for the right size particles, adding water, and pouring the slurry into forms.

It probably won't even need to be baked. If baking is necessary, then that can be easily done in solar ovens using batch processes on a two week schedule.

Comment Re:stupid yank (Score 1) 67

I don't usually respond to AC posts, but yours is kind of cute in an ugly troll doll sort of way. Go ask your Grandma what an ugly troll doll looked like.

Unless plants are doing some form of cold fusion that has yet to be discovered, they are not producing oxygen. They are simply moving existing oxygen from one molecule to another.

Please refrain from mixing up chemistry and nuclear physics. Better yet, please refrain from posting on slashdot until you know the difference between the different fields of scientific inquiry.

Comment Re:The source is NOT biological (Score 1) 67

I thought oxygen was heavy enough that it was only formed in supernovas? That the fusion process in normal stars could not produce elements that heavy?

Or is it that oxygen formation is now considered the borderline between what a living star can produce and what requires a supernova's environment?

I'm behind in my knowledge of astrophysics. I never got beyond reading layman level material, and for several decades I've been distracted by other things. So what is the current thinking about stellar fusion products? Does this have any implications for carbon dating, etc?

Comment Re:Intriguing (Score 2) 67

What's really funny is that this could be the truth.

Some viruses are thought to be small enough to escape the Earth's atmosphere. Bacterial spores are considerably larger, but still small enough that the panspermia hypothesis --that life on Earth was originally seeded by space-borne spores-- is a viable concept (not necessarily true, but cannot be dismissed by anything within current scientific knowledge). When you consider that the upper atmosphere is under constant bombardment by meteors, there is enough outside energy being introduced at local levels to propel even large pieces of dust, pollens, spores, and virus particles into the region where magnetospheric influences become more significant than Earth gravity.

Since lunar regolith has been collecting and probably preserving stuff for at least as long as life on Earth has existed, there might be detectable levels of viruses or even spores or possibly grains of pollen in the Moon dust. I wonder if anyone has bothered to look for that yet? I am guessing not; I doubt that anyone has even done the theoretical work to estimate the amount of bioactive substances that might be present in Moon dust.

As to Monsanto's role in all this--- yes, their corporate history demonstrates a willingness to file lawsuits whenever one of their pet plants escapes the designated plots of those who buy Monsanto's devilseed. :)

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