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Comment Re:He's missing the point. (Score 4, Insightful) 116

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) 109

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:Dude plays race case, threatens upper managemen (Score 1) 271

People are afraid of our legal system, and things are usually about making sure you can defend yourself against a lawsuit.
I had a friend who got a million dollar umbrella insurance policy when he put in a pool - just in case of a tragedy where a neighborhood kid drowned, he didn't want to be sued. The fact that you and a lot of others probably think "that's not a bad idea" means that lawyers have weaseled their way so deeply into our society that it's now the default behavior.

Just think about that. And watch things in your daily life. Our legal system is built to sustain the profession of lawyers. And do they actually make things better for everyone else, or just themselves?

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 1) 86

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) 262

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:Jumped the shark a long while ago (Score 1) 157

And maybe TOS was best because its three leads were archetypes; you had the brave and adventurous Horatio Hornblower figure in Kirk, you have the cold intellectual in the form of Spock, and you have the emotional and moralistic McCoy. Though the casting was never quite that intentional, it's pretty clear that by the first few first season scripts were being produced that Roddenberry and his writers understood the good fortune they had in the chemistry between Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley, and fleshed out those three characters to a point that by the mid-way point of the first season, we basically have the Holy Trinity in place. Thus, when you have the penultimate scene in The City On The Edge Of Forever, where McCoy is restrained from saving Edith Keeler, you have those three archetypal characters in one of the entire franchise's most dramatic moments.

And that really is the magic of TOS; some damned good stories matched up with actors with incredibly good chemistry (which is something you can't manufacture, but was just damned good luck on Roddenberry's part), and the rest just flows. Even awful episodes are redeemed by the fact that Kirk, Spock and McCoy are in it.

You can see through the other Star Trek series where the writers and producers tried desperately to reproduce that chemistry, but even when they came closest in the final seasons of TNG, it still felt somewhat stilted, as if the actors and writers were trying to show us what good friends they all were, without ever really convincing us emotionally that these people were more than just comrades. I suppose the friendship between Geordi and Data came closest, but even that felt one-dimensional as opposed to what seemed like genuine love and friendship between the three TOS leads.

And the brilliance of the TOS characters extends even past the three leads. The second tier characters; Scotty, Uruha, Sulu and Chekhov all were well enough written and portrayed (more the latter than the former considering how few lines these actors generally got) that you could feel some emotional attachment to them. Scotty, in particular, is one of my favorite characters out of the whole ST universe. A bit cranky, but brilliant and incredibly competent, he's sort of the archetypal engineer, to the point where I've read that a lot of people were inspired into technical fields because of Jimmy Doohan's portrayal.

Comment Re:Sounds like wrong approach... (Score 1) 157

Enterprise could have been incredible, and there were brief glimpses here and there, and particularly in the fourth season, when it became clear that it wasn't going to be renewed. If Enterprise had been about the founding of the Federation, if it had paid more attention to the cold war between the Andorians and the Vulcans, if it had spent some time on the human supremacist movement on Earth, instead of squandering so much screen time on that idiotic "Temporal Cold War" crap in the first three seasons, and in particular on the idiotic Xindi arc which made the third season into a pointless aside, then it would have been possibly the best Trek of them all.

I like to imagine an alternate Enterprise, where the first season is for the most part what was shown, minus any Temporal Cold War episodes. The second season could have been more about the Andorian and Vulcan conflict, plus run of the mill exploration episodes. Season 3 could have seen the founding of the Federation and then season 4 would have been the Romulan War, then I think you would have had a killer series. But I don't think Braga and Coto ever knew what to do with it, and just tried to turn it into another Voyager.

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