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Comment Re:This is why DDT was "banned". (Score 1) 271

It also shows why Zika got a cure toot sweet in the west: the wealthy bastards didn't want to see themselves dead.

There's more to it than that. If the laboratory and the researchers are far away from the disease you can hardly expect a viable cure to be developed quickly. There's only so much you can do with a field laboratory.

Of course, DDT hasn't been BANNED banned, just the idiotic use for widespread copspraying has been banned, which it had never been authorised for in the first place, though that didn't stop idiots doing it that way anyway.

I don't know about that. DDT basically eliminated malaria from southern Europe, including Italy. The cure was basically to drain the swamps and spray DDT everywhere. But good luck try to implement that in 3rd world countries. You would get Greenpeace and other greenie envir-wackos saying that you need to preserve the swamp to the detriment of the human population. Why don't they just go live there... I suspect they would change their tune rather quickly.

I avoid 3rd world cesspools like India. It still needs a lot of basic sanitation improvements and it's ridden with malaria and other tropical diseases. Even things like dysentery and cholera.

Comment Am I the only one... (Score 4, Interesting) 120

.... who can't help but cheer at my screen when they nail one of those landings? Now I finally understand how sports fans feel when they watch a game and do the same thing ;)

One thing nobody can deny about them is optimism. ;) Seriously, their IPS numbers are, pardon the pun, out of this world. $200k per booster launch. $500k per tanker launch. I mean, really? Good luck with that. No, seriously, good luck with that; I won't be expecting anything close to that, but please by all means prove me wrong ;) ITS would be a great system to have, I've been playing around with some Venus trajectories with it recently. Looks like it can do a low-energy transit with nearly 300 tonnes of payload from LEO and back again with the same, over 400 if starting at a high orbit - but from an economics perspective the high energy transfers actually make more sense.

I noticed a lot of people were confused about why Musk wanted the trips to be so short and was willing to sacrifice so much payload to do so - many assumed it had to do with radiation or something. But the issue is, when your craft costs so much but your launch costs are cheap, you can't have it spending all of its time drifting in deep space, you need to get it back for a new mission as soon as possible. There's a balancing point, in that if you try to go too fast, you reduce useful payload below the point of making up for it with going faster - but a minimum energy trajectory is just not optimal when the ratio between launch costs and transit vehicle cost is so extreme. I come up with the same thing from Venus as they were getting for Mars, although for the Venus case you end up aerobraking to a highly elliptical orbit rather than to the surface for ISRU refill (you need ISRU, but for the ascent stages, so it's not realistic to do so for the return stage in the nearer term). So for Venus they get no refill like on Mars, but they also don't have to do a powered landing nor do an ascent on return - it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Both are quite accessible with it.

Comment Re:Great strides (Score 1) 120

It depends what you mean by "refurbishing"; each element is different.

The solid rocket boosters, for example, suffered a hard impact into salt water. They then had to be fished out of the water. And of course you don't just "refill" a SRB, they have to be taken apart and recast, then put back together.

The ET is disposable, and had to be rebuilt from scratch.

The orbiter was legitimately reusable, but with design flaws.

I don't blame the shuttle program - they were sort of pigeonholed into this dead end by circumstances. The concept came about during the heyday of the Apollo Programme, when NASA budgets were serious. It was supposed to be a much more reusable, much more maintainable, and somewhat smaller system. It was supposed to then have a huge flight rate supporting all of these big projects that were on NASA's docket, including a permanent moon base and a huge manned orbital station dwarfing ISS, which was supposed to replace Skylab.

But of course, Vietnam and the realities of having soundly trounced the USSR in the space race led to their budgets being slashed, which pushed the program into ever more untenable positions until it was nothing more than a jobs programme. Forget full flyback reusability of all parts. Forget the titanium frame for the shuttle, which would have let it run hot and thus not required so sensitive of a TPS. Go begging for money and be forced to modify the design to meet Air Force requirements, pushing you into an inferior design position. On and on.

If I'd fault them for anything, it'd be for going straight for a full reusable workhorse rather than a small-scale pilot programme first. But those were the days of optimism. Optimism which only recently seems to start being regained.

Either way, the Falcon boosters are a very different beast. A vertical soft landing is hugely different from the SRBs, yet the thermal issues are far easier than with the Shuttle. And the Merlins were designed from the start under the principle of preventing the need for a full teardown. That doesn't mean that they will be cheap to reuse. But it does mean that they have the possibility of it.

I do think SpaceX had a rather clever strategy, in that while their goal was reusable, they made a rocket that in the process was cheap as a disposable. So they could get volume and flight history while working on getting the kinks out. They may have flown too close to the sun with the densified propellants and (externally) unlined COPVs, but obviously, with a company like this, their whole existence is to push the envelope.

Comment Re: Awesome (Score 2) 120

Most of Europe agrees with you. And even the US agrees with you up through high school plus with various forms of assistance for college, including state-subsidies, particularly for state colleges, and federal subsidies (direct subsidies, tax credits, and tax breaks), roughly $80B/year each. Pell grants alone cost the government $35B.

Comment Re:There will be no train (Score 1) 370

A subsidy for its initial construction is fine. But if the people using a mass transit system aren't willing to pay enough for it to recoup its construction and operation costs, then it is by definition not contributing enough economic efficiency to pay for itself, and is therefore a waste of money.

Comment Re:Well, duh. Mass transportation is a slush fund. (Score 3, Informative) 370

It may work eventually, but it's a boondoggle for construction companies and mayors/governors

. So I must have been just dreaming when I thought I remembered zipping from London to Paris in just over two hours and sending emails from under the Atlantic seabed.

Emphasis mine. What you say does not contract what OP said. From the Wikipedia article on the Channel Tunnel:

In 1985 prices, the total construction cost was £4.650 billion (equivalent to £13 billion today), an 80% cost overrun.

I suspect what's going on is a bit more insidious than mere corruption. Construction companies bid low so that they'll win the contract. Then they charge the actual construction costs as cost overruns. What's needed is an incentive to encourage companies to bid a realistic estimated cost, rather than a completely unrealistic underbid just to win the contract. Something like, say, not paying for overruns and holding the company to its original bid price.

Comment Re:Indiscriminate antibiotic use in farm animals.. (Score 1) 271

I don't disagree with what you're saying, but according to TFA, the woman acquired the bug while in India - a country with the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world. This would suggest basic sanitation and health care, and being sure to complete prescription antibiotic regimens are bigger factors than the use of antibiotics in livestock.

Comment Re:There will be no train (Score 1) 370

LAX is right on the coast, as far from the city center as one can get. It's a half-hour ride through traffic to downtown.

SFO is way down in the southern extremity of San Francisco. It's a half-hour BART ride to downtown.

SJC has much smaller capacity than those, but I'll grant that it's closer to downtown.

SAN and SNA won't be reached by high-speed rail in the first phase;

Comment Re:Support High Speed Rail (Score 1) 370

When can we get started on all of the million or so projects that somebody would call "progress", but not such that they'd choose to pay for it?

Well, the CA high-speed rail project is being funded as it is built -- though some is funded by bonds, there's no "blank check" or unlimited deficit spending. So I'm not sure the above comment is really relevant.

Comment Re:Envy is one of the seven deadly sins (Score 1) 370

HSR safety document. AFAIK, true grade separation isn't fully funded. The quad gates described in the PDF are said to reduce "collisions" 98%, but I'm inferring that as vehicle collisions. They don't look like they would do much for pedestrians.

Fair enough: "In the Central Valley, where trains will be capable of running at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, the high-speed rail system is being built fully grade separated." But in the denser regions (which have more people, albeit lower running speeds) it looks like grade separation will not be complete, at least in the regions with blended service. I find that pretty disappointing -- but thanks for pointing it out.

Comment Re:Coast Starlight (Score 1) 370

Because Amtrak is a corporate welfare basket case that will never come close to justifying itself economically.

... except for the Northeast Corridor, which shows that high speeds and large populations make it economically effective -- just as California will.

We have aircraft now.

When San Francisco and Los Angeles build airports in their downtown cores, come back and talk to us. The trip times will be comparable and the rail journey will be more comfortable by far.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

... and this writer goes "off the rails" yet again

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