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Aerial Drone To Hunt For Life On Mars 152

astroengine writes "What if the Martian terrain is too rugged for a rover to traverse? How do we study surface features that are too small for an orbiter to resolve? If selected by NASA, the Aerial Regional-Scale Environment Surveyor (ARES) could soar high above the Martian landscape, getting a unique birds-eye view of the Red Planet. Its primary mission is to sniff out potential microbial-life-generating gases like methane, but it would also be an ideal reconnaissance vehicle to find future landing sites for a manned expedition. Prototypes of the rocket-powered drone have been successfully flown here on Earth, so will we see ARES on Mars any time soon?"

Comment Re:Human brain != computer (Score 1) 206

How can we learn to throw a basketball into a tiny hoop from far away without having very accurate estimates?

The answer, IMHO, is in the question - "we learn". We do the learning until the brain remembers to link a visual pattern with a muscle activation pattern that gives a satisfactory result. The good bit in all this is that the pattern recognition fortunately is flexible enough to learn a few major patterns and be able to more or less accurately intrapolate and sometimes extrapolate to approach the goal in a somewhat different environment. When the matching->activation cycle "fails" brain learns (has to learn) a new pattern. Some learn it (the ball throwing pattern) quicker, some just cannot - their brain "machinery" is just not tuned for those tasks.

Think of any sport and just how many good estimates are done VERY quickly and pretty damn accurately.

Well, even though the result for some :-) who tries is "pretty damn accurate", for a lot/most it usually is not. Those who do it accurately learned certain patterns to consistently, more or less, recognize them, extrapolate, and execute the appropriate neuron firing patters to reach the goal.

The missing key here is probably this - while it looks the "estimate" is accurate, a brain does not really "know" where the target is. Unless another pattern is learned - match visual pattern with an "abstract" (for a brain) concept of a distance.

The information is never "lost" it's just unavailable for a time.

That would be really nice, but unfortunately it is lost forever and ever.

If it was lost you wouldn't have the "oh yeah" moments when you remember it or look it up again.

We are fortunate that (and for some "if") enough of a pattern remains to recognize the same or similar bits in the future.

A counter example: déjà vu - a brain pattern matching machinery becomes so thoroughly confused :-) that it "matches" an event that has not occurred before...

There is no real reason in the survival of the fittest terms for us to be able to accomplish such tasks. So those resources in the brain were put to use on other tasks like accurately processing visual and audio data

The keyword here is "accurately". It is simply not applicable at least not in a sense we used to associate with what machines are able to do. For our brain there is always a degree of uncertainty in the pattern matching. Sometimes the matching is so far from "accurate" that a matcher gets eaten :-)

Comment Re:UI Lag (Score 1) 261

open a Slashdot story with ~1000 comments and watch as the browser just stops dead in the water for 5-15 seconds while it renders the page

I'd try to disable /. scripts (if you have NoScript). And maybe FSDN too... AFACT, and it was my experience, that the lag is not a page rendering time, but a script on a page trying to connect to a slow server and that, unfortunately, in FF blocks page rendering.

This is not a win-win solution :-) Some page functionality will be lost. Arguably not a very important part of it :-)

Comment Re:I'm also not sure how it's a big deal (Score 1) 203

The big mitigating factor of course is that China's own economy and foreign reserves depend on the health of the US economy.

It does. For now... "It's China's World. We're Just Living in It" - a recent Newsweek article - pointed out that China is forming the Asia-only regional reserve fund. Side-effect of China bankrolling it is that the deals are made now in yuan instead of dollars in that part of the world. The big question is this - how long will it take to transition from "depend on" to "one of the assets" to "why bother, lets collect the debt"?..

Comment Re:If you have to ask, it's hopeless (Score 1) 578

if he already knows that stuff, and is really asking how to get MPLAB working so he can program his PIC, well yeah then he's well and truely lost.

The "request for information" about controlling "bits" on a platter also brought up a file system... along with the idea that it, the file system, controls positions of those "bits"... "Truly lost" would be a nicer outcome, I'm afraid it is much much worse than that.

However, and due to the lack of a useful information in the request this would be a very wild guess, maybe he did not really ask about "bits" and about positions of those "bits". Maybe the question rather was about the writing to the hard drive bypassing the file system and the cache. In this case he only needs to read about O_DIRECT or "raw devices" while they are still in the kernel. That is if he understands, or is able to find out, that one cannot and should not assume anything about the physical layout (number of platters, heads, cylinders and sectors) of a hard drive.

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