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Comment Re:As someone with a masters in this -exact field- (Score 1) 271

If you are a true master, you should be able to explain concepts in a way that even a child can understand

This is, in a word, horse pucky. It's the same reasoning my niece uses to justify her anti-vaxxer beliefs: the quacks and charlatans she listens to are more credible than epidemiologists and immunologists because they're easier to understand. This is the real-life equivalent of the joke about searching for the $20 bill under the street light because where you actually lost it is inconveniently dark.

If it were true that a child could understand anything, there wouldn't be a need for education. You'd just find a "true expert" to explain, say, fluid dynamics to a random bunch of people off the street and then set those randos to work designing aircraft. Or cryptographic systems.

There's an unfortunate cultural trend to devalue anything that requires mental effort and dedication to understand as elitist bullshit. This is a dangerous development, especially when combined with our national vanity: ever since the Moon landing we see technological and scientific leadership as a birthright. It's not. It's something we have to earn, and continue earning every day by dint of hard labor.

The humbling truth is that real understanding in many things requires trekking a long and arduous road. It's a near certainty that you don't actually understand General Relativity; crude analogies about balls and rubber sheets notwithstanding. General Relativity is like a mountain that looks easy to tackle from a great distance, but the fact is it takes years of toil before you can even grasp how arduous the foothills of Mount Einstein are.

Comment Re:Their fault (Score 1) 163

This. Humans hunted almost all big, meaty, slow-moving animals to extinction. Starting with the woolly mammoth. Seriously, a TWO TON wombat (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Vombatus_ursinus_-Maria_Island_National_Park.jpg)? Something like _4000_ person-days worth of food (not to mention pelts, bones, etc.) with no natural defenses? Delicious, easy kill. All were slain.

Comment Re:He's missing the point. (Score 4, Insightful) 148

It would be nice if people could learn to think in terms of threats that fell somewhere between "safe to ignore" and "extinction level event". Or could distinguish between "extreme and expensive" responses and "effective" ones.

9/11 could have been prevented by simple, conservative and inexpensive countermeasures. After 9/11 politicians droned on about how "9/11 changed everything," but the cold sober fact was that it in fact changed nothing. It just showed that some of the things sensible people had already been telling us to do (like reinforcing cockpit doors or getting agencies to work together despite institutional rivalries) really did need to be done. Instead "9/11 changed everything" became the rallying cry for every pet scheme that had heretofore been correctly dismissed as too expensive, hare-brained, or just plain dumb.

Which doesn't change the fact that something needed to be done. Here's the lesson I think we should take into this infrastructure debate: we should take sensible and conservative steps to secure infrastructure against terrorism now, before events put foolish ones on the table.

Comment Re:Good but... (Score 1) 120

Or... what if anytime anyone called a residential number, a nickel was transferred from the caller's account to the callee's account.

That wouldn't stop anyone from making a call where an actual person is likely to be involved; the labor costs for a three minute conversation would swamp that. But it would discourage people from robocalling a hundred thousand people in order to turn up a handful of suckers.

And the public wouldn't have to pay a regulator to try to track down these boiler room operations.

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 1) 87

I don't have to do anything. Even stored under ideal circumstances li-ion batteries lose capacity.

What matter is capacity relative to demand. In a phone like the Droid Maxx from a few years ago with plenty of surplus battery the phone will still be usable four years later. But something like a Samsung Galaxy S6 barely has enough battery to make it through the day when brand new and is pretty much unusable two years later even under ideal conditions.

Comment Re:There's a lot more iron much closer... (Score 4, Informative) 300

And there's some twenty million tons of gold dissolved in the Earth's oceans. Jules Verne made it the source of Captain Nemo's incredible wealth.

To put twenty million tons of gold in perspective, all the gold that has ever been mined by humans totals up to about 180 thousand tons. To put in another perspective: sure, it's gold, but at a concentration of thirteen billionths of a gram per liter of seawater it's worthless unless you have unlimited time and energy to extract it.

That's the problem with asteroid mining in general. Until the cost of changing an object's momentum goes down drastically it's not worth doing. If Pysche were a 1000 kg block of pure, refined platinum (market price: $34 million) you'd be hard-pressed to retrieve it and return it to Earth at a profit. Which is not to say asteroid mining is a bad idea; but first things first: you've got to reduce the price of interplanetary propulsion by a couple orders of magnitudes. One thing that never happens in a sci-fi asteroid mining scenario is the hero worrying about running out of gas. Propulsion in stories is always practically limitless and free of charge. Real propulsion will never be that good, but it could get good enough.

Comment Re:already exceeding expectations (Score 2) 1544

Thank California for that. Because apart from the landslide in California, she lost handily in the rest of the 49 states. ...and if you remove the Trump landslide in Texas, he would have handily lost the election. But at least you believe that being blatant biased is more important than being a patriot.

Comment Re:Divided Country? (Score 2) 1544

The rules haven't changed.

Yeah, it seems crazy that a President can win an election with fewer votes than his opponent. In programming, we call an "edge case." An edge case doesn't always require a rewrite, or throwing out the system. Edge cases are anomalies that sometimes need to be accounted for, but more often we just live with them because it's too expensive to fix them all. Can you imagine having to recount all votes nationwide, in case of a close election? It's much more manageable to recount just votes in close districts that could make an electoral difference. In other words, the Electoral College serves a practical purpose, and doing away with it would cause significant expense.

I guarantee that if Hillary had won with fewer popular votes, the press would be talking only about the amazing electoral win, not the "divided" country.

Comment Re:A Bad Day for 65,844,954 Americans (Score 1) 1544

So are you saying it's a good day for the other 244 million Americans?

OK, math aside, it's a GREAT day when we can transfer power from one ruler to another, two people who don't agree on a whole lot, and there is no bloodshed. In the grand scheme of things, that is awesome!

Democrats will get another turn, you can count on it.

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