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Comment Cities need diversity to thrive (Score 1) 167

Look, I understand that we don't want coal factories building next to residences.

Same basic principle just with a different cause and effect. Too much of any single type of business can actually be bad for a city in the long run. The canonical example is a city like Flint Michigan. Flint had a lot of automotive assembly business and the city came to depend on it. Then at some point business conditions caused the companies for various reasons to relocate and the city has fallen on hard times ever since. It might be hard to imagine but it does happen. Plus it can make it really hard to get vital services that aren't provided by highly paid engineers. If the rent is $3000/month how exactly is a janitor getting paid $30,000/year expected to live in that city? It's easy to forget that just because a job doesn't pay well doesn't mean it isn't still vital.

I have no well informed opinion about Palo Alto in particular. I've never been there and know little about the city or its problems. But it is reasonable for a city planner to worry about having too much of the economy and city planning dependent on a single company or single industry.

But where does a city get off telling a person they can't run a business (e.g. sole proprietorship) out of their home?

When that sole proprietorship causes problems. For example if I ran a business out of my house and started using my garage as a shipping dock and having contractors show up daily and basically making the area no longer resemble a residence, my neighbors would be well within their rights to complain and the city likely would take action. If I'm a coder who never leaves the house and basically is quiet as a church mouse then it's unlikely the municipality would care.

Comment Downtown Detroit (Score 1) 167

Detroit used to have factories downtown.

If by "downtown" you mean within the city limits then that was true a loooong time ago. But Downtown Detroit hasn't had factories of any meaningful scale for ages. The actual factories tended to be in other nearby places like Hamtramack, Highland Park, River Rouge, and other areas. Detroit's downtown has been greatly revitalized in the last 15 years in spite of what many of you who haven't actually visited may have heard but very little manufacturing actually occurs in Detroit proper. Instead most of it happens in the greater Detroit metro area which has a far larger population than the city itself.

Comment Use the scientific method (Score 1) 376

But they are hurting real science. Look at this fucking EmDrive nonsense for example. It is complete crap, but is a distraction.

In all likelihood you are correct about that. Extraordinary claims needing extraordinary proof and all that. It sounds like another cold fusion fiasco to me. But part of science is testing even the seemingly absurd claims. Once in a while something seemingly ridiculous actually works and we learn something new. That doesn't mean we should believe unsubstantiated claims but science does require one's mind to be both open and skeptical at the same time.

Optimism is one thing, but you need to be real: humans will never travel to another star. NEVER. It is too far. Space is big, and time is even bigger.

And your evidence for this is what exactly? Yes even the closest star is absurdly far away. The nearest star is about 25.3 trillion miles away (4.3 light years). The technology it would require to get even a probe there much less a human is manifestly beyond our current capabilities. But it doesn't follow that because something is difficult that it is also impossible. I seriously doubt we will even get a human to Mars during my lifetime. But I don't think it is impossible - just very hard. I doubt we will travel to another star system within the next 1000 years. But is it possible? I have no evidence that it cannot be done and neither do you.

You claim to care about science but your aren't using the scientific method. If you want to claim scientifically that we cannot ever get to Promixa Centauri you need to have actual evidence to back that assertion up. Show us how we cannot get enough energy or how there are irreducible problems with keeping humans alive during such a journey or some other problem we have no way to get around. Saying "space is big and time is even bigger" proves nothing about the question.

Comment Still figuring it out (Score 1) 110

With lower $/kg to your selected orbit, replacing a satellite is economically possible and building a satellite with a much shorter projected lifetime is probably optimal because the alternative is for the operator to be stuck with 20-year-old technology in orbit

The $/kg to orbit would need to fall quite a lot to make it practical to design less robust equipment. And the difference in cost between a satellite designed to last 5 years vs one designed to last 10 years or more is probably not a linear function and the engineering costs will be very large in either case. To make up an example with bogus numbers even if you cut 1/3 out of the engineering costs it still will be a big number. Even if you can cut some corners by being able to launch more frequently you still have huge cost in engineering until you can standardize the stuff you are sending to orbit to realize economies of scale.

It will happen just like it does in other industries but it's just going to take a while because the starting dollar amounts are so large and the engineering challenges are still being addressed. Plus the economic model for space is still being figured out and it's hard to standardize something if you don't know what the goal is yet.

Comment Standardized parts (Score 1) 110

The other assumption of spacecraft uniqueness is becoming less and less true. Most of the bigger comm satellites are built on a more or less common backplane. The radios are not one off devices.

To a meaningful degree this is true. I would expect some amount of standardization over time and there is some evidence of it happening. But we're still a long time away from spacecraft that are built from parts you can buy from a figurative Digi-Key if you get what I mean. It will (probably) happen but it's going to take a non-trivial amount of time.

Comment Lighten up (Score 5, Interesting) 376

Space nutters are usually tech people who are uneducated in the hard sciences

Yet you don't seem to be able to discern who they are. You accused me of being a "space nutter" and I do have a background in hard science and engineering and accounting as well. I've built parts that have actually gone into space. I'm actually largely a voice of caution for those who spout overly optimistic timelines or economic absurdities regarding space travel.

You seem obsessed with that term "space nutter" like others are with hipster and you throw it at anyone who shows the least optimism about space travel. Lighten up. Someone who thinks that someday we might actually develop the technology to go to other planets or leave our solar system is just being optimistic. Nothing wrong with that even if they don't understand the technical details. It amounts to nothing more than fanciful musing. As long as they aren't hurting anyway with their day dreaming what do you care?

Yeah, space travel is an incredibly difficult problem and it will take a long time before we can do really useful things. This is not news.

Comment Android annoyances (Score 1) 174

Android has become a fucking nightmare.

I own an android tablet but frankly I find most Android devices to be more of a PITA than I prefer to deal with. Most of them come with crapware or annoying custom versions that usually don't improve things. I'm not an Apple fanboi but at least for a phone usually I find iOS less headache inducing. When I upgrade my phone all my stuff migrates with minimal to zero problems. Buy an new phone, sign in and all my stuff downloads just like I expect it to. It does most of what I want without getting in my way. Not perfect but fine. The android phones I've used have been an irritation to put it mildly. Plus each vendor does it differently which has no benefit to me. Getting my stuff from one phone to another is a crapshoot, especially if I change vendors. There are some things I like from certain vendors but it's hard to trust that it will remain consistent over time. Plus Android devices too often never get updates which again is of no benefit to me.

I respect that some people want some features Apple doesn't offer (replaceable batteries, SD storage, etc) or that they don't like the interface or the company. No product is perfect for everyone. But personally I want a nice but relatively simple device for the one I carry around everywhere. So far Apple has fit my needs the best. I'd drop them in a heartbeat if that were to change but so far it's been fine.

Comment The engineering is the expensive bit (Score 4, Interesting) 110

Then again, part of the reason that you spent 100m$ on building the cargo, is that the launch was been so darn expensive.

The reason that you spent that much money building the cargo has comparatively little to do with the cost of the launch and everything to do with the fact that you really don't get multiple chances to get it right plus the fact that the destination has pretty much the harshest environmental conditions imaginable. Satellites and probes are expensive because they are (usually) one off bespoke products designed from scratch. If Ford could only sell a single Ford Taurus but it needed to be build to the same standards as the production model you can buy from a dealer you better believe it would cost many millions of dollars.

You could propably build a supercheap satelite with the exact same functionallity for a fraction of the cost using standard parts.

I run a company that makes custom wire harnesses for all sorts of applications. We've had some of our products go into space. The notion that you could build a "supercheap satelite" using "standard parts" is more or less nonsense at present. Maybe in the distant future that will be true but for all but a handful of corner cases it isn't true today and won't be for some time to come. It is possible to design a set of standardized space rated components but we're a long way away from that happy state of affairs for most applications.

First off "standard parts" (stuff you can order from a catalog) are generally not designed with space travel in mind. I buy components daily from distributors and they are designed for particular environmental conditions. You exceed these conditions at your own peril. Space travel is WELL outside of the performance specifications envelope for most off the shelf components. Even for the comparatively few off the shelf parts you can buy that will work, the components are not what really makes it expensive.

Second, even if you can find some components that would work in space you most likely are still building a custom product. I can assure you that a single version of anything custom that has to be right the first time is not going to be cheap. If you want your product to work for any meaningful length of time there are going to be very detailed assembly instructions, designs, reviews, audits, checks, test procedures and calibrations. You have to make sure the whole thing works together even if the components individually would be fine in space. You will spend enormous amounts of engineering time to do even the seemingly simplest things because you only get one chance to get them right. All of this is very expensive. You can try to do in on the cheap and hope you get lucky but in my experience customers who buy components for space travel aren't real fans of trusting to luck.

Third, to reduce costs of engineering you need to be able to design products that can be sold multiple times. Then you can spread the engineering costs across them. I expect that will happen eventually but right now most products intended for space are one off designs so there are no economies of scale to be enjoyed. There will have to be considerable standardization of products before that happens and we're a long way from that right now. Kind of like in the early days of aviation we're still figuring out what works because you don't want to build a lot of something that doesn't work.

Just saying that if the launch prices go down far enough we will see a whole another market of cheap hardware, where the reason for building really expensive satelites or other cargo partly vanishes.

They would have to go down a LOT further for that to be the case. I'm talking almost unrealistically cheaper. Science fiction levels of cheaper. Nothing that is likely to happen in my lifetime cheaper. It isn't the hardware that is the primary cost center in many cases. It's the design and engineering and assembly and test requirements. Those are harder to minimize without having economies of scale. Don't get me wrong, I think it will happen eventually but it's going to take quite a while. Launching stuff into space is so expensive that the pace of progress is necessarily slow. It's going to take decades if not centuries to get a set of standardized products we can launch into space with very low cost.

Comment I shoot events as a sideline and have done since (Score 1) 360

the late '90s in digital.

I have a library of about 180k photos. You retain originals in case someone goes back to a contact sheet and wants a reprint or an enlargement a decade later or something. At a typical event I will shoot between 100 and 1,000 images. Sometimes, depending on conditions, I will shoot RAW.

My current gear is 24mp SLR and generated files are on the order of 12-15MB each for JPG images. I can easily lay down 12GB a shoot or 50GB in a week.

I keep an online 12TB RAID-1 library and then have 3 backup sets on LTO, rotated, with one set always offsite.

I know a person that does video editing and production as a sideline for corporate clients, mostly working on online ad videos and 30-second spots. They keep archives as well, because it's not uncommon for a client to come back several times over a period of several years to want minor tweaks to something that's already run (for versioning or feature changes, slightly different voice track, color edits, text overlay edits, etc.). They have even larger data needs.

Point being: even many individuals and small businesses *do* have legitimate, productive needs, and your condescending view is just a tad narrow.

Comment Re:Moronic Subject for an Article (Score 1) 221

Java is the new COBOL

So your CFO and auditor can read it?

I don't think you understand the point of COBOL, which is "while it is very long-winded and a struggle to write, it is possible for lay people to read, and (at least the evidence suggests) maintain 50 year old code after the original author has died".

If you write COBOL, you probably spend two days reading the background info and requirements docs for every ten minutes you spend writing code anyway.

Good luck getting an accountant to understand 50 year old Java.

That's true, in theory. I've also seen COBOL code that's nearly as unreadable as the worst Perl crap I've seen, and I'm pretty sure the reason the original author died is suicide after the boss wanted him to make changes to the damn thing.

Comment Science fiction != science fact (Score 1) 149

You might enjoy reading Kim Stanley Robinson's last novel Aurora which muses that life might be a planetary phenomenon

Umm, you are aware that that is science FICTION right? Just because someone wrote an interesting story doesn't make it reality.

KSR was spurred to write Aurora in part by the critical backlash against his idealistic vision of terraforming in his famous Mars trilogy of two decades ago

"Critical backlash"? I read that (very boring) series and there were some interesting ideas in it but it wasn't exactly a scientific treatise. Anyone who took it as one pretty much missed the big picture rather badly.

So if the Singularity never happens and human beings can never transition to machine bodies from biological ones, we're not going anywhere.

And you have a categorical proof of this assertion? If so your Nobel prize awaits.

Comment Taxonomy and location (Score 1) 149

What the IAU "got the ball rolling on" was chaos. They had a bunch of astronomers telling planetary scientists to use a definition that they disagree with.

So it's up to the planetary scientists to do something about it if they think it makes little sense. All I hear is a bunch of bitching about it but no serious counter proposals. If the IAU decision wasn't scientifically useful then it will be ignored anyway. Personally I think they have a strong point that Pluto belongs in a different category than the rest of the planets. I would argue that they didn't actually take the categorization far enough and so from that standpoint the IAU's decision is flawed. If there is a better taxonomy then propose it and if it makes sense the rest of the scientific community will get on board in due time.

How do you see this as even remotely similar? If you take a shrew from Ohio and you place it in Nepal, does it cease being a shrew and become a dwarf shrew that no longer counts as a shrew?

Actually biologists do stuff like that all the time. There are species that are considered different based almost entirely based on location. I'm not arguing that this is a good or bad approach but it does happen and it's not irrational. Location is routinely a consideration in taxonomy in many scientific disciplines.

Seriously, you're going to cast doubt on the guy who came up with the Stern-Levison parameter that's used to make that distinction?

When he says something igorant, yes I am. If he doesn't think the IAU's decision is logical I have no problem with that. But when he claims location is not a consideration in the taxonomy of any other scientific discipline he is clearly stating something that is not true. He might be an expert on planets but that doesn't make him an expert in other areas.

Pluto is absolutely not "much like" "big rocks", and the fact that you'd make this claim is a profound expression of ignorance on the topic.

You are seriously arguing that Pluto is nothing like other "dwarf planets" or other large rocky/icy objects in our solar system? Curious argument you have there. Heck you argued yourself that Earth and Pluto have a fair bit in common. Pluto is like some other rocky/icy objects and not so much like others. Put it in a category that makes sense and be done with it. If location and size are considerations in that taxonomy then so be it.

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