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Comment Ballmer investment portfolio (Score 3, Interesting) 283

$2 billion. For the Clippers.

Bezos wants to suck the entire market into the Amazon central economy.

But let us reason together: the distinguishing qualities of both Ballmer and Cuban are that they were both at the right place at the right time. And both are complete pricks.

Bezos is a menace. But Ballmer strikes me as clown and a lackwit.

Is he planning on making back the $2B from the Clippers? Or did he just need his own shiny like Cuban?

Comment Called my Senators...did you? (Score 3, Interesting) 403

This caused me to login and post for the first time in a long while.

Just spoke to one of Senator Snowe's assistants in the DC office. The assistant was not familiar with HR 2471. I asked that the Senator oppose such legislation. Senator Collins' office in DC only gave me a voicemail...

Called Senator Sanders' office in DC, since Sanders seems to actually understand little things like the Constitution. Sanders' assistant seemed to think that warrantless access was already the norm.

Apparently I woke up in Russia this morning...

Will contact Leahy's office soon. A little less time with Batman movies, Senator Leahy, a little more time guarding the rights of the citizenry.

Comment Re:much as I like NASA... (Score 1) 242

It would be one thing if the cuts ("sequestration") really happened as planned, equally distributed between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

Except that the defense industry has been on top of it for months now, and have a very good lobbying campaign going to scare the shit out of Washington about what will happen if the defense cuts go through. So I fear that what will happen is either the defense cuts will be reversed, and the other cuts will still happen, or else none of the cuts will happen.

People are pretty excited about Operation Chimichanga and the thought of a real shooting war with China. They should be horrified and disgusted.

Comment Historical fusion budget (Score 1) 180

Fusion scientists often get criticized for making unrealistic promises ("Fusion has been thirty years away, for fifty years!" or some variation on that). But take a look at the graph here. The graph shows the funding estimates from a 1976 fusion development plan, with various paths to a reactor. The black curve way at the bottom is the actual funding profile.

Comment This is an ongoing debate (Score 5, Informative) 180

Ph.D student in fusion here. (I was one of the authors of this Ask Slashdot.)

It's important to note that there are a range of opinions on this. Everyone thinks ITER is a good idea, at the right price. That price was originally quoted at $5-billion (with the U.S. picking up 9% of that) when the U.S. made the decision to join in 2003; today the construction cost is estimated at somewhere north of $20-billion. Hopefully now with Motojima as Director-General, this cost will stop rising. (From what I hear, he's being very rigorous about cost and schedule control and pushing the team hard on these fronts.)

The problem for the U.S. is that participation in ITER doesn't make sense without a strong domestic program in place to take advantage of the results that come out of it. And without a (temporary) surge in U.S. fusion funding to get over the ITER construction "hump", the entire domestic program might be "squeezed" out of existence. Check out the graph here:

So it's not so much a matter of "is ITER good science?" (it is!). The question is: "is ITER the right path for the U.S. at a cost of 9% of $20-billion or $25-billion, without a commitment to sustain the domestic program through the ITER construction phase?"

I urge everyone here to go to our website that we set up at, which has a lot of information about this issue. We still need your help - the House has restored funding for the domestic fusion program, but the current Senate version of the bill still has the domestic fusion budget slashed (and the fusion experiment at MIT entirely closed down). There is still work to do!

Comment Runaway electrons colliding into oxygen (Score 5, Informative) 86

Wow, that looks extremely similar to the red light created by the Starfish Prime thermonuclear bomb detonation in space! In that case, it was fast electrons from the nuclear explosion, spiralling along magnetic field lines and eventually colliding with oxygen atoms in the atmosphere, which emit a red glow when excited.

I'm going to guess that this is a picture of oxygen being excited by runaway electrons produced by lightning. Cool!

Comment We need your help - (Score 1) 244

Hi all, Geoff Olynyk here, one of the interview participants.

It was linked in the interview, but I wanted to point out that some of us have put together a website, with information about fusion and a really easy-to-use link to urge Congress not to cut fusion funding in the 2013 budget. They are planning to shut down the MIT fusion experiment (Alcator C-Mod) this fall!

If you go to the website (, and click the "Contact Congress Now" button at right, it literally only takes a minute to send letters to the Department of Energy and your Representative and Senators. We need your help to ensure that this important research continues in the United States!

Thanks everyone.

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