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Comment the equivalent of about 300 miles? (Score -1, Troll) 128

...a half-hour travel time between Stockholm and Helsinki, which is the equivalent of about 300 miles.

"The equivalent of about 300 miles"? What does that mean?

Oh, it means "about 300 miles". Or even "a distance of about 300 miles". Right. But this is a 'technical' topic, so we need to use more and bigger words. The best words.

Unless there's some sort of weird space-time physical equivalence principle the authors are alluding to, in which case a half hour is actually 300 miles long.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 1) 175

But regarding their testing, it was certainly a small scale test of known technology, but you underestimate the value of such tests. There's massive amounts of theoretical aspects they have to plow through first, move gradually to small scale live tests and finally piece it all together in one big PoC. After the small pieces are theorized and tested, it takes exponentially less time to piece them all together in the end.

I wouldn't say I underestimate the value of small-scale tests so much as I would say that Musk and company have been deliberately obscure about exactly what they were testing, and have been downright misleading about the distance between where they are now and what they claim they will be able to deliver. We were shown a dog-and-pony show constructed to meet an artificial publicity deadline, not a well-explained demonstration as part of a clearly-elucidated development roadmap.

When I read comments like yours, it reminds me of anti-innovation corporate voices I have to battle against on a daily basis.

Hmm. Do you misrepresent your progress and conceal the nature of your accomplishments to your corporate masters too, then? That could be your problem.

Look, I'm a scientist in an academic setting, but with private-sector collaborators. I do both "pure" and "applied" research. I contribute to both peer-reviewed papers and patent applications. I can tell the difference between healthy skepticism and blind anti-innovation. The problem with Musk's Hyperloop demo isn't the idea, or the technology, or the dream--it's that he doesn't tell us what the demo is actually doing. It's like writing a scientific paper that starts with the usual Abstract and Introduction, then jumps straight to a one-liner Conclusion and a big Discussion about the implications of the work and all the cool stuff that's going to happen in the future. He just skipped over the Materials & Methods and the detailed Results. We aren't told what we're actually looking at or what it can really do, just to take on faith that it's awesome. That's my issue.

Comment Re:Hyperbole (Score 2) 175

Mod parent up.

The "first successful test" appears to have been a small test sled on a short, low-speed test track. Yes, they showed they could drive a piece of metal with a linear induction motor, but that's just demonstrating an application of known technology. Vancouver's SkyTrain has been using linear induction propulsion since 1985 as part of a regular, boring, functional public transit system. Similar technology appears in Toronto (the Scarborough Rapid Transit line), New York (the AirTrain JFK airport link), and at least a handful of other sites.

Practically speaking, one could have done the same demo by taking a 30-year-old SkyTrain car, stripping the body and seats out, and flipping the induction drive unit sideways to be compatible with the vertically-mounted induction track shown on the Hyperloop demo system. (You'd get great acceleration, too, since you can dump much of the car's weight--and you wouldn't care about the components surviving for more than a few seconds of photo op.) Maybe there were major technological advances under the hood, but the breathless hype all glosses over any meaningful description of what might have been accomplished.

Comment "Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys? (Score 5, Interesting) 64

"Alien-hunting telescope"? Really, guys?

A large-scale pure-science project. A tool that will advance modern astrophysical and astronomical research. A landmark technical achievement.

But it came from funny-looking furriners (not just funny-talking, like them ones from Yurp). So we must be sure to cast the headline in the most derisive terms possible. It's not a research tool that shoestring SETI projects will be able to snag a bit of time on--no, it's an "alien-hunting telescope".

I mean, my God--snippets of Aricebo's time have been used for alien-hunting (and alien-spamming) for decades. It was used to send publicity stunt messages to M13 in 1974, and to some nearer stars in 2009. SETI@home users have been crunching Aricebo data looking for little green men since 1999. And yet, oddly enough, no one ever seems to refer to Aricebo as an "alien-hunting telescope". Why is that?

Comment Re:Dude, you're messed up. (Score 1) 364

You'd rather break someone else's bones than total a car where everyone escapes injury free? That's messed up.

Heck, it probably even falls down (er...) on a strict monetary cost basis. A broken bone caused by a vehicle colliding with a pedestrian likely has a bunch of associated soft tissue injury, which can lead to all kinds of expensive-to-manage (and -treat) damage. The straight-up hospital bills plus lost wages for pedestrian victim can very easily pile up to more than the insured value of a car--making those priorities a net loss for society even if we assign no value at all to preventing pain and suffering.

Of course, it's also silly to pretend that the car is "smart" enough to confidently and reliably predict what will be a moderate injury versus a potentially-fatal one. The car doesn't know if a wound is going to suffer a serious infection. The car doesn't know if a bone fragment is going to sever a major artery. The car doesn't know if the pedestrian will suffer a serious brain injury when her head hits the pavement. Pretending there's a firm choice between totalling the car and non-permanent injury is a fiction--the choice is between totalling the car and a risk of serious or fatal injury.

Comment Re:Donating blood after a disaster (Score 1) 1718

There's a lot of dumb posts on this story, but this one makes my top 5.

I'll just quote the front page of the American Red Cross' website:

Our hearts go out to all those who are affected by the tragic shooting in Orlando. The Red Cross has received a tremendous outpouring of support and we are grateful for all who have responded. The blood needs from this tragedy have been met. In the event of an emergency, it’s the blood already on the shelves that can help save lives. That’s why it’s important that eligible individuals schedule an appointment to give blood and platelets in the weeks and months ahead.

Emphasis added. Don't take it from me, take it from the Red Cross.

Comment Donating blood after a disaster (Score 2) 1718

"Posts directing people where and how to give blood have been removed."

While straight-up removal of such posts may not be the best approach, the intent behind such removals is likely honorable.

Donated blood needs to be screened for infectious diseases and otherwise processed before it can be used; it generally takes at least a couple of days before blood from a donor's arm can get to a patient's bedside. The blood that helps the victims of the Orlando massacre isn't the stuff that the Red Cross collects today and tomorrow; it's the blood that was donated last week or the week before. And blood has a limited shelf life--creating a big oversupply now doesn't help unless there's an enormous disaster in the next few weeks.

Donating blood now might make the donor feel good about themselves, but it's not actually a particularly constructive thing to do. If you want to help, put a reminder in your calendar to donate blood in two or three weeks, after this glut has made its way through the system. Or donate blood when the Red Cross (or whichever agency handles blood products in your jurisdiction) indicates a shortage. Better yet, get in the habit of donating blood regularly--help maintain a stable blood supply over the long term.

Comment Re:SJW bullshit (Score 1) 231

I guess no men wrote anything decent this year?

I'm sure that George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris (winners, Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation) would be surprised to hear you say that.

No they wouldn't be surprised at all. They wrote a movie featuring strong women that was very popular with feminists. They know this is why they got to be the tokens this year.

So you're shifting the goalposts, then? It has to be men writing about men only. Got it.

(And I'm not sure why, even with your special pleading, you think you can ignore the inconvenient fact that men were amply represented among the nominees.)

Comment Re:SJW bullshit (Score 1) 231

I guess no men wrote anything decent this year?

I'm sure that George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris (winners, Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation) would be surprised to hear you say that.

Or, for that matter, Charles Gannon, Ken Liu, Lawrence Schoen (Best Novel nominees); Eugene Fischer, Usman Malik (Novella nominees); Michael Bishop, Henry Lien (Novelette); David Levine, Sam Miller, Martin Shoemaker (Short Story)....

But since you can't read more than four lines into a Slashdot blurb, I suppose it isn't surprising that you don't know much about good writing.

Comment Re:Arousing (Score 1) 162

It's important to note that by 'arousal', the researchers do not mean sexual arousal.

Though it should be noted that "arousing" only indicates a generally heightened state of awareness or attention.

Indeed, I was about to offer the same note. I presume that the quote from the article (and the paper's title) were deliberately offered without context in order to sound more titillating than they really are.

"Arousal" in this context can also represent nervousness, discomfort, fear,, and reluctance. The sensor is measuring skin conductance (galvanic skin response), which just indicates that there is increased blood flow and/or perspiration.

Comment Re: Article title (Score 4, Informative) 135

Soap doesn't kill germs. All it does is makes oily substances more likely to be pulled along by water than they were before.

Soap certainly kills some germs. There are lots of bacteria and viruses which are vulnerable to the SDS (sodium dodecyl sulfate), a detergent widely used in hand soaps, shampoos, and a bunch of other sudsy consumer products. The detergent disrupts the cell membranes of many bacteria, and it denatures (unfolds) important proteins in many strains of viruses and bacteria.

Sure, the improvements to mechanical cleaning and suspension of oily matter are important, too. And there are certainly some things (spores and other more robust pathogens) which are resistant to SDS and other detergents, particularly at short exposure times. But "soap doesn't kill every germ" is a long way from "soap doesn't kill germs".

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