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Comment Image processing (Score 1) 67

When I started my PhD in image processing, I was given an 80-column, 24-line text terminal to the department microVax (approximately 1 MIP, shared between about 40 people). I was lucky, and got one of the good ones, it had an amber phospher :)

Seriously, the only place to see the results of the algorithm was on a shared display downstairs in the lab - which was in high demand. I ended up doing a lot of terminal-style graphs (mine wasn't a tektronix terminal, so I only had text-like characters) to prove an algorithm worked before actually seeing it.

And now I look at the technological ability of my freaking phone, and I wonder at just how far things have come in 30 years or so...

Comment No problem (Score 1) 33

You can have that however you have to accept a few things:

1) Costs are going to go way up. You aren't going to pay $50 or $100 for a software package, it'll be 5 or 6 figures. You'll be paying for all the additional testing, certification, and risk.

2) You won't get new stuff. Everything you use will be old tech. You'll be 5-10 years out of date because of the additional time needed to test and prove things. When a new chip or whatever comes on the market it'll be a good bit of time before it has undergone all the validation it needs to be ready for such a critical use.

3) You will not be permitted to modify anything. You will sign a contract (a real paper one) up front that will specify what you can do with the solution, and what environment it must be run in. Every component will have to be certified, all software on the system, the system itself, any systems it connects to, etc. No changes on your part will be permitted, everything will have to be regression tested and verified before any change is made.

If you are ok with that, then off you go! The way I know this is how it goes is that we have shit like this, we have critical systems out there and this is the kind of shit they go through. They are expensive, inflexible, and out of date compared to the latest mass market shit. If you look at the computers that control a fighter plane or the like you'll be amazed at how "dated" they are. Well they are that way because development took a long time and once they are developed, they continue to be used, they aren't changed often.

Now if that's not ok, if you want the free wheeling environment we have now where you can buy new tech when you like, put things together in any configuration, and run whatever you want that's cool, but accept that means problems will happen. You cannot have it both ways.

Oh and also with that critical stuff:

4) There will be no FOSS. If there's liability for losses, nobody will be willing to freely distribute their work. They aren't going to accept liability for no payment, and aren't going to accept that if their code was used by someone else they might be liable.

Comment This is not the outrage you're looking for (Score 5, Insightful) 62

So $80M over the course of about 6 years is $13.3M/year. Out of an annual budget of $18.4B. That's 0.07% of the annual NASA budget. Okay, so somebody made a bad decision. Reprimand them, do what you have to internally to avoid such decisions in the future, and let's move on. It's not enough that anyone outside of NASA needs to get their undies in a bunch over. If you're looking for government waste to be outraged about I'm sure you can find something orders of magnitude higher than a failed R&D project.

Comment Sure, Uber is evil. (Score 2) 259

It's an anti-social company that's a horrible place to work. Everybody knows that by now.

What nobody can know for sure is why an individual takes his life, or what circumstances would have to be different.

Take Google, which in several recent lists is the best company in America to work for. Google has just shy of 60,000 employees. Given the US suicide rate of 46/100,000, if Google were largely reflective of that you'd expect 28 suicides/year among Google employees. Of course (a) not all Google employees are Americans and (b) Google employees are economically better off than most people in their societies, so you'd expect there to be a lower rate of suicide. But it's safe to assume a dozen Google employees a year take their lives.

And if you look at them as individuals, you'd inevitably suspect work stress was involved, and if you'd look you'd probably find it -- because it's a chicken-or-egg thing. Suicide is a catastrophic loss of coping ability; when you head that way you will find trouble everywhere you turn.

When something like this happens to an individual, everyone feels the need to know why -- even strangers. But that's the one thing you can never know for certain. Now if suicide rates were high for Uber, then statistically you could determine to what degree you should be certain that Uber is a killing its employees with a bad work environment (or perhaps selecting at-risk employees).

I think its inevitable and understandable that this man's family blames Uber. And it's very likely that this will be yet another PR debacle for the company. But the skeptic in me says we just can't know whether Uber has any responsibility for the result.

Comment Leeches are already back. (Score 1) 433

When will Trump bring back leeching?

They're already back. They're used in limb reattachment surgery post-operative treatment.

When limbs are reattached the arteries work well right away but the veins not so much. So they have poor circulation and inadequate oxygenation, especially at the finger and toe tips. This can lead to further cell death, infection, and transplant failure.

Leeches applied to the extremities of the limbs can pull out enough blood and bring in fresh to keep more cells alive and bring more infection-fighting white cells to the area. And leeches do little damage other than draining blood, and provide their own surgical tools and anaesthetic. (It's in their evolutionary interest to not bother the victim into pulling them off while they're feeding, and not leaving wounds that would make him tend to avoid the location later.) So raised-sterile leeches are used, with substantial improvement in reattachment success rates.

Comment Re:Storage? (Score 1) 433

To pick up where renewables leave off, you want natural gas (or even petroleum) turbines that can quickly be brought on and off line.

Also: If you really are concerned about carbon dioxide, they produce a lot less of it per unit of energy.

In fossil fuels most of the energy comes from burning the hydrogen to water. Burning the carbon to carbon dioxide provides some, but it's mostly useful for packaging the hydrogen. Oil and gas is essentially long-chain-of-carbon molecules with two hydrogens per carbon and two more to cap the ends of the chain (with occasional tree-structures with the same carbon/hydrogen counts, and the odd ring-shaped or multiply-bonded impurity that''s short one or two pairs of hydrogens.)

So oil is a little over two hydrogens per carbon, gas goes from about 2.5 (butane) to 4 (methane). But coal is essentially just carbon. So gas is best, liquid oil fractions are not as good (though convenient for mobile engines), and coal is worst, on the energy/CO2 production ratio.

Comment If coal is dead, killing its bueaucracy won't hurt (Score 1) 433

Coal is dead. ... trying to resurrect something ... dying [from] market forces ... is [perjorative].

This isn't about trying to resuscitate the coal industry (though if it lets it run a little longer and die more smoothly - rather than being suddenly assassinated in a fit of political vitrual-signaling - it will let the miners and their offspring migrate to other jobs, rather than to government assistance.)

It's about killing off the massive, expensive, and intrusive regulatory infrastructure that no longer serves any purpose.
If Big Coal IS being killed by market forces, the government needn't bother killing it off.

It also gives Trump the opportunity to keep a promise to some of his voting base, make political appearances claiming credit for it, and engage in some virtual-signaling of his own (conservative style).

Remember: He didn't promise to bring their jobs back (though if some of the jobs do come back, or existing ones not be ended as soon, it is a bonus). He promised to dismantle the regulations that had already killed jobs - and give a dose of job-killing medicine to the regulators.

I suspect schadenfreud will please his coal-state voters, and the prospect of voter revolts and sweeping reforms may make at least a few future regulators think twice before stomping jackbooted on the faces of those they regulate.

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