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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 fusionfuture.org, 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 - fusionfuture.org (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, fusionfuture.org 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 (www.fusionfuture.org), 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.

Comment RAID 5 + external hard drive (Score 1) 304

I use just a three-level hierarchy:

1. Photos and documents are on my RAID-5 array (4 × 1 TB Hitachi enterprise drives) in my desktop, backed up occasionally (every month or so) to a Toshiba 1 TB eSATA external drive sitting on my desk

2. Music, movies, TV shows, are on the RAID-5 array, not backed up

3. Windows and programs are on my 80 GB SSD, not backed up.

So I'm not protected at all against my house burning down, but this has worked for me for the past 10 years. (For my old system, which ran 2003–2010, it was a WD Raptor, not an SSD. And the RAID 5 was 4 × 200 GB.)

Comment Re:Boggles mind to think about how they squandered (Score 3, Interesting) 440

Haha, I guess that's true. Maybe what it most says is that Canadians are insecure because we wring our hands over a single big company falling from greatness :) But on the other hand, didn't Nortel go much the same way?

I guess it's a problem for smaller countries where their is only one world-class player in a given market. China or the U.S. doesn't agonize over a single big enterprise stagnating because there are several more waiting in the wings.

There must be consternation in Finland over Nokia akin to the parochial concern for RIM in Canada? Or are the Finns more confident.

Comment Boggles mind to think about how they squandered (Score 5, Interesting) 440

Having only recently gotten into the smartphone game (July 2011), I didn't really know anything about the industry back when RIM/Blackberry was king.

But now, having read some about it... wow, what a waste. They basically had huge, fat, margins, essentially no competition in the smartphone arena, for almost five years - and freaking sat on it and did almost nothing. Meanwhile Apple and Google were in the lab inventing the future. Unbelievable.

Like most Canadians the story concerns me because what does it say about the country? I sometimes wonder - even if RIM had had a clue and tried to come up with something iPhone- or Android-like, could they have done it without the California engineer and developer community? They had the money, but could they have enticed the brilliant graduates of top American schools to move to Ontario? And I don't mean to say that Canadian engineers aren't good, but that Apple and Google have access to a global talent pool - did/does RIM? (Fascinating question: How much does snow and ice have to do with the fortunes of a mobile phone developer?)

It's a sad but interesting story all around. I hope they can turn things around but I don't see much chance of it at this point.

Comment Re:I don't care about aspect ratio, just pixels (Score 1) 399

iPad 3 resolution = 264 ppi

On a 24" 16:10 monitor that's a resolution of 5376x3360, well above the capabilities of DisplayPort 1.2. Unfortunately! I would love a high-ppi screen. People always complain about how apps break, blah blah blah, get some high-ppi screens into the hands of vocal consumers and app makers will fix that shit right quick.

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