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Comment Re:American vs. European 'sanity' (Score 4, Funny) 181

The reason why riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a good idea is that, when you die in a crash, only your head is destroyed and all your body organs are probably available for transplants. OTOH, if you die in an automobile crash while not wearing a seatbelt, then you have probably messed up your internal organs and have lost your chance to do SOMETHING for society. Therefore, seatbelts are mandatory while helmets are not.

Comment Re:Resolution? (Score 1) 92

Even the pale blue dot would be plenty big enough to show that the planet in question (a) has water, and (b) has an oxygen atmosphere. Those two features, as far as we know, guarantee life is present.
Take a long exposure of the night side of our blue dot and we could almost certainly detect the lights of civilization.

Comment Re:NBD, it seems (Score 2) 159

"Every single time we can record a cometfall," my ass. The sun-watching observatories see one of these every two or three days and there is NO correlation to CMEs. Most of them are in the same orbit and are called Kreuz sungrazers, the remains of a big comet that broke up maybe 2,000 years ago when it passed too close to the sun. The bigger Kreuz chunks that miss the sun and come on around have been some of the most spectacular comets ever seen on Earth, simply because they generate huge tails on their close pass. This was an itty-bitty one -- the only reason it was visible at all was that it had already evaporated and we were seeing the dust and water vapor cloud where the comet used to be.

Comment Re:Failing of State Education Boards (Score 1) 295

My wife was a sixth-grade English teacher and every year her classes read some science fiction. Some was obvious (Asimov's The Fun They Had and some Clarke and Bradbury short stories) and some was not. I particularly remember a novel her advanced classes read, called Invitation to the Game. It was quite good, set in a dystopian future with the premise that what teenagers THINK is a fancy virtual reality game is in fact training for a secret colony on a virgin planet, established by the authorities as a backup to prevent the human race from possibly going extinct when Earth goes belly up. Not exactly sweetness and light for eleven and twelve year olds.

Agreed this was in Austin, not in Texas. (Everyone knows that in fact Austin is NOT a part of the state of Texas. It's an iniquitous den of a million college-educated liberals surrounded by 20 million tea party fundamentalists.)

Comment Re:Too bad... (Score 1, Flamebait) 47


You obviously don't understand. Except for geography, Austin is not part of Texas. Austin is exceedingly liberal, gay-friendly, pro-abortion, supports evolution, etc. etc. Hell, one of the local public parks has a clothing-optional beach. Most residents vehemently hate the idiot governor and legislature, which retaliates by jerrymandering to try to keep Austin from having ANY representation in Congress. (The current redistricting shows something like six pseudopods stretching for hundreds of miles from all directions to ensure that each sixth of Austin gets diluted by 5/6 of fundamentalist tea-party types.) To my knowledge, Travis County (Austin) hasn't voted for a Republican at any level in the last twenty years.

The net result is that if you don't leave Travis County, you can ignore the stupidity of the rest of Texas and pretend you are in your own state.

Comment Re:Whats the big deal? (Score 1) 688

I hate to disagree with all the "it can't be done" mockers here, but IT CAN BE DONE. IBM used to have a program for turning non-tech employees into programmers -- secretaries, factory workers, etc. We even had an accounting manager once. We did it in FOUR MONTHS. It was sixteen weeks, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. It wasn't all class time, of course, but with the homework and reading assignments every day that's what the time investment boiled down to. Our motto was "Wave goodbye to your friends and families and tell them you'll see them in four months." We actually had several students who rented an apartment and literally moved out of their homes for the duration.

There was no pressure -- every Friday we gave a test, and if you passed it you got to show up on Monday. Otherwise it was back to the assembly line or whatever. We got used to rounding up students from the rest rooms where they had been barfing while waiting for their tests to be graded.

IF AND WHEN they graduated, they were given the EXACT same job as a new college graduate with a 4.0 in CS from MIT, and whoever did a better job got promoted first. I taught this class twice -- well, I taught 1/2 of each class; we had two instructors. That's 15-20 hours of lecture a week from each of us, so the load on the instructors wasn't exactly light, either!

After one class had wound up, I can remember getting a call from a friend who was the manager of a programming department.

"Did you just stick me with this 'Susan Smith'?"

"Yeah. She's great. A real star. What's the problem?"

"Do you have any idea what you did to me? I have to come up with a salary plan for her to triple her salary within a year! You want to try to get that past HR?"

(I lost touch with her about four years later, but 'Susan Smith', ex-minimum-wage employee with a GED, was already making more than I was.)

BTW, we were teaching C, not any of this wimpy new stuff.

If you calculate the hours, in those four months the students actually received a full four years of computer science instruction and homework. They just didn't get any of the history and foreign language and stuff that a college would have made them take.

I will agree that we were cherry-picking intelligent and VERY highly motivated students, but I call BS on anybody who says the job is impossible.

Comment Re:Yikes (Score 2) 754

Since Plague is caused by a bacterium (Yersinia Pestis) and influenza by a virus, I fail to see how a gene for surviving the plague has anything to do with immunity to the flu. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have a counter-example, because IIRC influenza death rates in the 1918 pandemic were higher in Europe than elsewhere. And before you ask, 1918 was a more-lethal-than-usual strain of H1N1, which provides absolutely no immunity against other HxNy mutations.

Comment Re:Here's a question... (Score 3, Informative) 38

Well, mainly because human beings cannot survive at 5000m without oxygen masks, while 3000m is bearable. The residence halls, laboratories, control rooms, and servicing facilities are at the lower altitude. Even at Mauna Kea (4100m), the telescope control rooms are further down the mountain where out-of-shape astronomers and technicians are less likely to drop dead.

They didn't mention in the article that, in the interest of keeping the drivers alive, those trucks (Transporter and servicer) have pressurized cabins just like an airplane.

Comment Re:The web is public domain? (Score 1) 565

Nobody seems to have figured out that, despite the incorrect headline, this has nothing to do with the well-respected Cook's Magazine. The perp is a different entity called "Cooks Source Magazine" (no apostrophe and plus an extra word.) I would highly recommend changing the headline before you hear from Cook's Magazine attorneys.

Comment Linguist Protest (Score 3, Interesting) 277

I'm amazed that nobody has commented that one of the beasties is (or was) an AUROCHS, not an "auroch". Two of 'em would be auroches or aurochsen. Talking about an "auroch" is like talking about a Chinee or Portugee. More to the point, it would be like talking about "ock" as the singular of oxen, since "ox" is the second syllable of aurochs.

Comment Re:Lasts? (Score 1) 146

This doesn't surprise me at all, and it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows anything about the construction of wooden ships. Look up the history of the Eddystone Light, the first lighthouse built in open sea. The first wooden tower failed immediately, but the second (Rudyard's Tower) was built of wood in 1709 by a shipbuilder who knew how wood should flex and how to make solid joints that could take the ocean's pounding. It was perhaps eight or nine stories high and took everything the Atlantic could throw at it for fifty years until it burned down, something the designer couldn't have done much about. It was replaced in 1759 by a granite tower (Smeaton's Tower), which lasted until 1877, when the rock underneath it began to crumble away. The current Eddystone Light is basically a scaled-up duplicate of it. (The top 3/4 of Smeaton's Tower was disassembled block by block and reassembled on Plymouth Hoe, where it is a tourist attraction. The stub is still on the original site beside the new one, and it still hasn't fallen over.)

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