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Comment Sinclair ZX81 ... eventually (Score 1) 857

God the effort it took to get my hands on a computer ... I worked as a paperboy for about 4 months, right through a harsh 1983 winter. I froze my arse off riding through snowdrifts at 5am with no lights, no gloves, etc (cue 'when I were a lad', 'you were lucky', etc)

Then, when I FINALLY had enough money, my dad told me I couldn't spend it on a computer because it was a fad, a waste of time, bad for my eyes and so on.

Eventually I won out and I started my love affair with computers which has never dimmed. I write software in my spare time, most of it freeware (e.g. yWriter)

As a postscript, 20 years after so much opposition to my first home computer, I wrote a gigantic and very complex piece of factory management/sales tracking/accounting software from scratch, which saved the family business. My dad still hates computers though ...

Comment How to heat a moon [Re:Vote Europa] (Score 5, Interesting) 59

It's not the proximity of another moon that produces tidal forces. Just going around Saturn is enough to produce the stresses that induce heat.

Only if the orbit is eccentric. If there aren't other moons, viscoeleastic damping circularizes the orbit until the tidal heating disappears-- it's the other moons that perturb Europa's orbit to make it slightly eccentric, giving it the tidal forces that heat it.

Comment You don't see the light when it's dark (Score 1) 103

Well then by the same logic you can't really see matter either. All you see is reflected photons.

Well, sure. But you see the photons reflected or emitted by the matter. On the other hand, you can't see photons reflected or emitted by a black hole, because black holes do not reflect or emit photons.

Comment You can't see a black hole (Score 3, Informative) 103

You can't, of course, "see" a black hole, even with radio waves: a black hole is by definition what you can't see.(*)

What they are looking to image is the radio emissions from material falling into the black hole. You can't see the black hole itself.
*footnote: Black holes do emit Hawking radiation, which in principle is detectable. But the peculiar property of Hawking radiation is that the smaller the black hole the more Hawking radiation. Only exceptionally tiny black holes emit enough to possibly detect-- a black hole ten micro meters across will emit just about the same amount of Hawking radiation as the microwave background.

Comment Time is relative (Score 1) 83

Different observers see time passing at different rates, of course, and thus the rate of expansion is indeed observer dependent. But all of the observers still see the universe expanding.

It's a trivially small effect, though, unless you're in a gravity well so deep you're poised on the edge of an event horizon, or moving at speeds that are a significant fraction of the speed of light.

Comment Spoiler effect (Score 0) 396

...., and if we used an alternative voting system to avoid the spoiler effect, then we certainly would have voted in a candidate more people prefer.

That's the point: the vote counting methodology has to be changed to eliminate the spoiler effect. "If the other Republican, Democrat, third party, and independent candidates had a presence in the final election and in the debates," is not the issue. The spoiler effect is.

Look, here's the way the vote counting currently works: third candidates have to take votes away from one or both of the other candidates, and in fact, what happens is that they take votes away from the candidate that is most similar to them. So, with the current system, a third party is friendly-fire: it: always results in fewer votes for the candidate that the third party candidate most agrees with.

This has to be changed if third party candidates are to have any viabiliity.

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