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Comment Re:Not a great study (Score 1) 338

The Slate article shows the way to do this prediction thing. As my own similar research logically explains, the use of radios has declined from its height in the 1940's, obviously because there are no more "entertainment" shows nationally broadcast, such as "The Shadow, et al." Radio technology was a short lived fad, behaving just like a viral epidemic.
Google search trends show that interest in "television" has declined 80% in the last 10 years. Thus, the use of TVs is similarly on the decline, again proving technology behaves as a viral epidemic.
Films in 3D are currently increasing in theaters. Communicable diseases spread quickly in large groups of people, so the 3D fad will spread from theater to home use. This implies development of a new home entertainment system. Home use implies it will be compact, ambulatory, and with voice recognition, since people hate to get up to change channels and like to talk back to their TV shows.
Therefore, portable 3D projection systems will be the next fad to replace TV. QED.
"Help me, Obi Wan, you're my only hope!"

Comment Re:Yes, and I doubt my situation is exactly unique (Score 1) 445

My lab is 10 m underground, and there is no alternate carrier coverage. We're not allowed to use most VOIP applications. My office has metal walls and a metallic window film, so my cell phone doesn't work there very well. And I'm not even a spook or defense contractor.

My land line is tied between my office and lab. Sounds like a good plan for it to stay that way.

Comment Re:The good old days... (Score 1) 388

This may be modded funny, but I was serious... this is exactly the type of 'well, it could happen' hypothetical attack that the TSA and it's counterparts around the world would take seriously. Recall that for a time (was it ever reversed?) passangers were forbidden from carrying their own drinks onto the flight out of a fear that the bottles could contain a liquid explosive?

You must not fly anywhere, or are not paying attention. No food or liquid can be brought inside the airport secure areas (outside of packaged trail mix, etc.) The only food or drink available to bring onto the plane is the over-priced, fast food and bottled drinks available from the airport shops inside the inspection sites. (It's hard to bring a cup of something on board without drinking it quickly, since there is no place to set it during takeoff.) A lot of people do bring a meal and bottle of soda onto the plane to eat immediately, or they spend the time waiting to board by eating something.

As for everyone bringing their own dinner, try that on a long trans-ocean flight. Maybe some people like to eat a room temperature sandwich of stale or soggy bread, processed meat, and limp lettuce some 24 hours after it was pre-packaged by the local fast food processor shop, or 8 hours after being "hot-off-the-grill". The heated airline food may not be 5-star, but the sandwiches in the "box lunch" are nearly inedible.

Comment Re:Very large limits (Score 4, Informative) 41

Given that h is very small (1e-15, 1e-34 or 1e-27 depending on units), a limit of .007 seems rather large.

Considering NIST in Washington, NRC in Ottawa, NPL in London, and METAS in Berne (all national metrology labs) have directly measured h to within 300 parts in a billion (1E9), this is an unusual report. Those results are within a relative limit of 0.0000003.

Planck's constant cannot be measured with only a GPS or atomic clock, so this is at best some comparative result.

Comment Re:How do you measure how accurate it is? (Score 1) 169

If an atomic clock is your most accurate timepiece then how on earth can you tell if something is more accurate?

Can someone explain?

Also , given that a second is defined in terms of the ceasium atom as used in atomic clocks then surely anything that deviates from this is by definition LESS accurate (if you see what I mean)?

The SI unit for time and frequency is defined by using the Cesium atom. There are other atomic clocks that are "better", meaning their energy transition lines are sharper and higher frequency, usually optical rather than microwave. This is like keeping time with a nanosecond electronic timer versus a pendulum grandfather clock.

One reason to have a more accurate clock is in looking for very tiny time-dependent changes in physics constants. One can look for the change of a second over the age of the universe (astronomical observations of spectra light from the edge of the universe), or one can look for a change in a higher frequency of a part in 10^20 in a few minutes.

Comment Re:Every time a bell rings (Score 2) 309

'Proper' SF (which I dare not attempt to define, but feel free to have a go) will always be too 'niche' for the general public to appreciate in this way. Perhaps there should be a Best Picture category at the Hugos instead.

There is an SF film award. From Wikipedia: "The Saturn Award is an award presented annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films to honor the top works in science fiction, fantasy, and horror in film, television, and home video."

They break the award down by category. Started in 1972. Impressive list!

Comment Re:So says the religious guy. (Score 1) 1237

If there is an entity that can and does affect results in an intelligent way (let's call it god) it is impossible to reproduce any conditions completely.

Thus rendering the scientific process meaningless, because we may be at the mercy of a trickster who is carefully guiding the results of our experiments to ensure that we see what we are supposed to see, and nothing different.

Which only brings us back to the discussion about science and religion being incompatible with each other.

You just came close to repeating the essence of philosopher Descarte's argument. He argued that either Descarte (we all) really exists, or he is being fooled by a trickster (the devil) to think he exists. But if the devil is doing something to him to make him think he exists, then he must exist. "I think, therefore I am." Even a trickster cannot fool reality, and only a devil would try to fool us.

Comment Re:Well (Score 1) 756

It would probably take us MILLIONS of years to reach the nearest planet that's even remotely habitable.

That's assuming we use the present technology of "one short blast of acceleration followed by drifting forever". We would no more do that than Columbus paddled a canoe to cross the Atlantic.

A constant 1 g acceleration would reduce travel time considerably, plus it is needed to keep a human's bones from turning to mush over many years.
(A spinning cylinder with 1 g on the inside has its own issues, beside the long travel time, baring a "huge" engine plus fuel supply for that acceleration. It has to be "really big" so the inside surface area is enough live on comfortably. A very small cylinder spinning fast would have so much coriolis force that it would probably knock you over every time you stood up.)

Granted it will also take a generation ship (or suspended animation, or genetic manipulation for longevity) even if the time is down to hundreds or a few thousand years. Add on the other things needed to survive a long, one way trip:
100% recycling efficiency (both biological for food and material to replace old equipment)
failure proof power sources other than sunlight
sufficient medical supplies to treat cancers, mutated germs, and psychological illnesses
ways to create new entertainment (everyone would go crazy-bored being stranded on that "desert island" with only a favorite eBook, DVD, or iTune)
manufacturing facilities (to replace the iPads and LED lighting that will eventually break or fail)
research facilities (will your children's children's... be better off than you when you left town?).

Finally, colonists can't expect to find friendly natives to help them build houses, or bio-fuels to run the factories and transports, so it all has to be brought with them, or nano-fabricated at the end of the road. Plus, regrow those genetic stores of Earth's biosphere. (I'd be wanting to check if that 300 year old myth about latte or tea with cream and sugar tastes as good as the eBooks mentioned.)

Whether humanity even goes anywhere in the near term, i.e. 100-200 years, these are just the technologies that should be developing here on Earth. An active space program might just make them happen faster, with less built-in obsolescence.

Comment Re:A staple of my library (Score 1) 181

I also have a collection of most of her books. I found "Weyr Search" in a compilation of Hugo winners, for which she won best novella in 1968. I've been hooked on all her books ever since.

Note: I read in an essay of hers that her compilation of short stories, "Get Off the Unicorn" was supposed to be "Get of the Unicorn", where the meaning of "get" was "offspring". Some editor didn't "get" it and thought "of" was misspelled. The poor title made no sense after the correction.

Ride on, Anne. I will miss you as a friend I've come to know through reading your stories.
From the Weyr and from the Bowl,
Bronze and brown and blue and green,
Rise the dragonmen of Pern,
Aloft, on wing, seen, then unseen.
"Dragonflight, 1969"


The Incredible Shrinking Genome 113

Shipud writes "Mammalian genomes have been shrinking for about 65 million years, roughly since the dinosaur extinction. Why? And why were ancient mammalian genomes three times larger than they are today? A new article in Genome Biology and Evolution tries to explain this bizarre finding, and why the genomes of mammals (but not of other living groups) are still shrinking. 'Once [the dinosaurs] were gone, mammals started to radiate, fill those niches, and a whole new level of competition arose. The selective advantage of not having a genome encumbered by potentially damaging mobile DNA elements has probably become critical at this "be ye fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein" stage. In effect, the genomes of mammals has been shrinking by removing mobile DNA elements, just after the KT boundary. And according to the model presented in this study, this process is still ongoing: mammalian genomes are not at an equilibrium size. Unlike flies, mammals are still cleaning up.'"

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