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Comment Re:You simply cannot be on Slashdot and be that du (Score 1) 184

Heck, I do blacksmithing and knifemaking for a hobby, and even that was impacted by the space program. My propane forge has insulation based on the space shuttle heat protection; the grinding belts I use were developed for making rocket and jet turbine blades, some of the steel I use came out of those programs, and the titanium I sometimes play with is only affordable because the aerospace industry uses enough that there's an economy of scale for production of Ti now.

Comment Re:So the farmer is merely renting the tractor? (Score 2) 637

Nope. If handed that ruling, the owners will declare bankruptcy, re-incorporate, sell their companies back to each other, and then claim that this new fictitious corporate person they've transferred the profits to has nothing to do with the company that has the liability and responsibility to repair stuff. It's how all the major corporations divested themselves of their pension obligations, and how corporations in general treat any toxic "asset" that costs them more than they want to pay out on. The only just solution is to make them open up the codes and repair processes.

Comment Re: It's a liability issue (Score 2) 451

Also, the Asimov stories were, at their heart, about smart people doing clever things to prevent disaster before it happens. Hollywood doesn't like thinking, hates smart people, and is all about the disasters actually happening so they can get butts in seats to sell tickets. The average movie goer likes explosions, mass casualties, and easy explanations. People being clever just pisses them off by reminding them how stupid they are. Now, you could take the Asimov three-laws stories, twist them a bit, and make them all explody and flashy, but they would still fail at the box office because the audience can't relate to the protagonists. It's why I despair of a decent adaption of many of the great books out there: the great stories just aren't emotional enough to get made into a movie, let alone have a decent budget. Producers will grab a title, maybe some plot elements, and then force it into a mold and squeeze until everything that made the story great is gone, leaving something that to them, who have never read the original and who wouldn't understand it if they did, looks like something that will put butts in seats to sell tickets. And then they wonder why it bombed, and vow to never try again.

Comment Re:Getting to a technological level is hard. (Score 1) 559

"You can't melt iron with wood fires." Actually, the first fuels used to smelt iron and other metals was wood -- charcoal to be precise. Still used by hobbyists and re-enactors who want to recreate the iron available to the earliest smiths. A lot of forests have been chopped down over the centuries to make iron.

Comment Weren't lasers banned? (Score 1) 208

I believe there was an issue with laser-based weapons back when a tank-based laser targeting system was determined to be in violation of certain warfighting conventions in regards to blinding weapons. I supposed on the proposed air-to-air platforms it isn't much of an issue, but there would seem to be an issue with air-to-ground use, as it would be trivial to use a 1-megajoule laser to blind anyone in a large area who was looking in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Probably moot as the platform is air-to-air from the description, and probably less effective in real life than chemical explosion propelled metal, but it wouldn't surprise me if the technology got shelved over such concerns.

Comment Re:Don't engineer near the limits. (Score 1) 139

One of the rules in engineering is that you really shouldn't engineer near the limits of your materials. For instance a modern day hammer is so well below what can easily be made with steel and wood that we don't worry about its reliability; even a 50% reduction in strength because of a flaw would still give you a pretty useful hammer, or if the person wielding the hammer is unusually strong, still not a problem.

As a blacksmith, I will point out that I have had many a hammer break on me: not just Chinese recast engine blocks on whatever scrapwood they could handle it with, but name-brand hammers that should have had better quality control. I'm not even particularly strong, but for heavy forging work or repetitive striking of hardened steel tools will take a toll eventually, and some are flawed right out of the box with hidden cracks in the handle or an improper heat-treatiment of the head, or once a beautiful handmade hammer had an issue with the wedge, also handmade, not being properly applied, allowing the head to go flying off after a few uses. Engineering a hammer isn't hard, but don't assume that because it's just a lump of metal on a stick that it's impossible to mess up.

Comment Re:Meanwhile my phone crashes about once a month.. (Score 1) 265

Exactly. Situations humans find easy will sometimes be hard for software to recognize -- a human directing traffic is a great example, or when a construction crew puts up cones but not a clear indication of which side of the cones are going to be worked on, as well as other similar temporary markings. Traffic lights with a burnt-out bulb, or a stuck sensor that won't turn your lane green, old lane markings never properly cleared off before new ones were in place, or even just parking in the right place when a friend is having a party and all the regular spaces in their driveway are taken up. Driving off-road where there are no roads to follow (Sure, you'd drive yourself for fun if we're talking duen-buggies and desert sands, but not so much when trying to get to a remote herd on a large ranch.) Even things like snow, ice, and really hard rain shouldn't faze a robust driving system, but a poorly-marked detour through a parking lot like I had to take this morning? Those will probably need human intervention or similar for a while, though I doubt it will take long for even the extreme edge cases to be covered.

Comment Re:If something does go wrong (Score 1) 264

A big problem with the perception of cars unable to deal with snow/ice is that a lot of people leave all their traction control gizmos on even in slick conditions, and the car just won't move. This is because at least elements of traction control systems need to be turned off in some situations, something an auto-driving car is well aware of and presumably just bypasses when its driving in such conditions. I've seen cars abandoned in the middle of a 4-lane highway on a gentle slope because they didn't know that all they had to do was hit the button to turn off that feature.

Comment Re:What's the rush ? (Score 1) 224

Mars is barren, extremely inhospitable, wasteland. Why are they in such a hurry to send meatbags there ?

Because when, inevitably, someone kickstarts a nuclear war, releases a 100% deadly disease, or we're all turned into computronium by our new AI overlords, having an offsite backup, even a primitive one, seems like a really good thing. Sure, it won't be self-sufficient at first, but if we never start, we'll never get there at all, and then it might be too late.

Comment Re: This is the future... (Score 1) 420

Not to mention, their kids don't want to be caught dead at their dad's former homeland.

I know a few techs who decided, upon living the US a few years, that the arranged marriage waiting for them back home was a crap deal, and made arrangements to stay. In one case, a woman I worked with, her father confiscated her passport and refused to let her return for a month until the arranged wedding collapsed when the groom also declined to marry for someone else's benefit.

Comment Start with the land mines (Score 1) 228

Great idea, lets start with land mines, ban their production in the US (US-based companies build and sell more land mines than any other country, most without auto-deactivation or other features that let them stop being a problem after the war ends), sales, and shipment through US controlled territory. Oh, wait, that would impact profits, nevermind.

Comment Re:People eat (Score 1) 212

It's a great idea, but then a greedy factory-ship captain decides nobody's looking, and goes in and cores out your sanctuary, gets away with it, brags about it, and the next thing you know you have to have your navy shooting foreign ships out of the water to keep them out. Something like that happened in the Grand Banks, and Canada still, despite a naval presence, says that the banks cannot recover for the foreseeable future due to incursions by illegal foreign factory ships.

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