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Comment Re:Not the engineers fault (Score 5, Informative) 383

Thank god you're not responsible for the design of complex, life-critical systems, like those commonly found on passenger jets, in nuclear power plants, in high-speed rail systems, etc. All of those systems incorporate fail-safe measures so that if something were to go wrong (like an operator losing control) the system would fallback on a safe state.

Sure, in an ideal world, every operator of a life-critical system would have total understanding of that system, know the value of every system setting at all times, never forget, never be tired, and have an IQ of 200. In the real world, operators are often overworked, susceptible to distractions, minimally qualified, and sometimes under-trained or even improperly trained. Even the most experienced and well-trained veteran airline pilots can lose focus and make deadly mistakes (which is why Cockpit Resource Management has been a major area of research in aviation psychology). You can base your system design on ideal conditions, or you can base it off of real-world conditions; either way, it's going to be operating in the later.

You also seem to be missing the main purpose of mechanization and automation, which is to simplify a task or make it easier to perform. When you buy a cappuccino machine, you don't want to understand the details of how it operates or be asked for input every step of the process to make a cup of coffee. Eliminating/minimizing the human factor in a particular process is another major advantage of automation. It provides more consistent results and helps to minimize human error. All of this helps to reduce the learning curve and skill level required to perform a task, which confers economic benefits. However, not every well-designed system can necessarily be operated by unskilled personnel—nor would you want a high school drop out to be operating most life-critical systems. Nonetheless, you still want mechanization/automation to simplify the task in these cases. That's because some tasks are so inherently complex and mentally demanding that, without automation, it simply can't be performed.

Flying a passenger jet is a perfect example of this. Even with all the sophisticated automation (including autopilot) on a modern airliner, it still takes a full cockpit crew (not to mention support personnel on the ground) to safely fly & land the plane. With all of the complex duties that airline pilots need to perform simultaneously, they don't have the time to monitor the status of every system component or manually adjust every actuator on the plane to control its flight surfaces. It may take 50 different mechanical actions to retract the landing gear on a plane, but why clutter the cockpit interface with 50 items when a single switch or button will do? Likewise, doctors and nurses are already required to undergo extensive medical training; they don't need to have to learn how to mechanically calibrate a CO2 laser or calculate the spectrum of an X-ray machine based on the anode material of its emitter and the voltage passed through it. Medical personnel should mainly be trained in medicine and only need to learn how to operate a particular medical device, not how to troubleshoot it or read its blueprints.

A simple and streamlined interface is much less distracting and more intuitive than a field of buttons and dials for a thousand different minute settings and system readings. Even with the utmost simplification, most industrial machinery and complex systems are still overwhelmingly difficult to operate by an untrained person. It's never just a single "magic button" for the operator to press. A nuclear power plant might take hundreds of different readings from multiple sensors and summarize it with a single status message or indicator light on a controller's console, but that message/light would likely be sitting next to a dozen other status indicators that each take hundreds of other readings. And although a complex process like lowering the reactor temperature might be simplified down to a single "magic button," the controller interface would probably be comprised of several dozen such buttons. And it still takes a skilled operator to know when to trigger which actions, how to read/interpret different sets of indicator lights, various safety protocols, etc.

Simplicity is not the problem. And even if it were, ditching the benefits of automation while ignoring human fallibility are certainly not the solution.

Comment Re:Oblig XKCD (Score 2, Informative) 125

That's a funny strip, but it doesn't really apply to mass surveillance/filtering. It's actually a lot cheaper to build a (multi-) million-dollar supercomputer to filter/analyze day to day internet traffic than to actually send goons out with $5 wrenches to beat the information out of hundreds of millions of people (on a daily basis).

Comment Re:Military applications? (Score 1) 105

Yea mean like ketamine-laced robot bees? That would be awesome.

I can see it now... A high-security military installation is equipped with a hive of these sentry bees. News of the security mechanism spreads to a local college campus, and on Monday morning guards at the military installation find their perimeter lined with hundreds of catatonic k-holing college students.

Comment Re:No company has yet.... (Score 1) 91

I think you're confused. S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia is the manufacturer of most of the spacecraft and components used by Roscosmos. But it's the Russian Space Agency that's providing the transportation into space. It's also through the RKA that Space Adventures is able to book civilian flights to (the Russian part of) the ISS.

I don't know what you're getting at with the rest of your post. It may help if you reply a comment in its entirety rather than randomly singling out words and phrases here and there. You'd also come off less troll-ish sticking to constructive arguments instead of making snide remarks.

What is wrong with mentioning the space elevator anyway? It may not be feasible to construct in our lifetime, or ever, but at least there are people out there working on developing alternatives to conventional launch vehicles. I named the space elevator as an example as it's the most original alternative launch vehicle concept being toyed with by researchers right now to my knowledge. Obviously there aren't any truly viable alternatives to rockets at the moment (though Scaled Composites' air-launched rocket-powered glider is an interesting take on an old idea), otherwise we'd already be using them. But radical thinking is what got us into space in the first place. And even the space elevator isn't nearly as absurd as trying to build a commercial space tourism industry on half a century old technology that costs $60,000 per kilogram to put things into low earth orbit.

Comment Re:No company has yet.... (Score 5, Insightful) 91

Space Adventures is a U.S. company; they're just using the Russian space program to send clients into space. Nothing is really being pioneered here, not even by the Russians. They haven't designed a new launch vehicle. They haven't made space travel more affordable. They haven't made it significantly safer, either.

That said, the Russian space program has had a better safety record. Also, they're probably a little less risk adverse, and a little more desperate for cash. So that's why it's the Russians who are sending billionaires into space.

I think it's a good thing that NASA has the federal funding to focus on science rather than having to rent themselves out as a space taxi for the rich for funding. If private companies want to invest in space tourism, that's their prerogative. That's not what NASA was created for. If anything, they should stick to developing cutting-edge technology (which eventually gets passed down to the civilian sector after they've matured and decreased in cost) and leave the commercialization of space to the private sector.

This is akin to renting out our cutting edge nuclear subs to the rich and famous to use as a weekend pleasure vessel. Yea, it's "pioneering" in the sense that it hasn't been done before, but it's not exactly an enviable achievement. Now, if Space Adventures had designed a spacecraft of their own specifically tailored to commercial space travel, making it economically viable and safe enough for civilian use (i.e. not having to spend a year training for a 10-day trip), then that would be a huge pioneering achievement.

However, I just don't see that happening within the next decade unless some significant advances in space technology are made. It simply costs to much to put something into space. Short of the space elevator or some other revolutionary launch vehicle being developed, "space tourism" will remain a novelty for the super rich.

Comment Re:Also... (Score 1) 433

Is that another way of saying, "I can program however the hell I want. If you don't like it, don't run it?"

That may fly if you're some hobbyist programmer deflecting user criticism regarding free software you donate your time to develop. But that kind of argument has no place in a discussion about sound programming practices. Otherwise, you're basically saying that there's no such thing as a bad program, since a user can just choose to not install it (though in many cases the end-user doesn't actually have this choice).

Comment Re:Who cares... (Score 1) 212

Yea, those are some pretty outlandish conclusions to jump to based simply on the shape of 3 screw heads and a white speck in a blurry low-res photo.

I mean, I'm sure that a tech company as large as Nvidia would have a few extra flush-mounting screws around amongst their huge stocks of video cards. If they really wanted to convincingly fake a real video card, I doubt they'd go to Home Depot to buy some "wood screws" instead of just ordering one from their warehouse or even just pulling a few screws out of a production video card they have laying around. It's also very unlikely that they'd spend millions of dollars marketing their video cards, even before launch, but then use Elmer's glue to construct a fake demo product. If they were that lazy, they'd just take an early prototype (or even an existing production card) and just slap a fancy cooling assembly and new decal sticker on it.

Comment Re:I'm sure it didn't help. (Score 4, Interesting) 1040

I think they should have 2 sets of flights/gates/check-in lines at the airport: one for regular people who would like for their total check-in time to take less than their flight time, and one for the paranoid "OMG! that brown person is speaking in something other than English!" crowd.

This would greatly improve the traveling situation in the U.S. in several ways:

  1. Air travel could once again be painless for those who value convenience/dignity/privacy over the negligible improvements in safety provided by excessive security procedures. (Especially if you don't want your wife/children to be virtually undressed by airport security.)
  2. As a corrolary to #1, there would be less lawsuits and complaints filed against retarded airport staff (e.g. from a TSA goon forcing a mother to drink her own breast milk) since those subjected to these ridiculous security procedures are now willing participants.
  3. If you're a busy person or you're in a rush to get somewhere, you can always hop on a "less secure" flight and skip the 2-hour check-in time caused by someone leaving a nail clippers in their check-in luggage.
  4. If the TSA inspectors have less people to search, they can be much more thorough. (mandatory strip searches and cavity checks, anyone?)
  5. Since a terrorist is more likely to choose one of the "less secure" flights to hijack, those who are taking the "high security" flights can rest a little easier knowing that their chances of being hijacked have dropped from 0.000001% to 0.0000001%. Also, since those belonging to profiled social groups would likely opt for the less intrusive check-in lines, those on the "high security" flights would also feel safer sharing their plane with fewer Arabs/Egyptians/Persians/Mexicans/etc.

This way, airline passengers get a choice in whether or not they want to take part in the elaborate security theater, and everyone is happy. Heck, even the airlines will be happier since fewer people would be deterred from traveling so their profits would go up.

Comment Re:No. (Score 1) 1040

I disagree with a lot of Obama's policies, but what exactly about him makes you say he's not down to earth (or at least more so than past presidents)? Do you know him personally? Did he ignore you when you waved to him at the mall?

Blindly making character attacks on public figures is not hard to do. It does, however, make you look foolish complaining for the sake of complaining. (Do you really have any reason to believe he isn't down to earth, or is your spite towards him just an equally irrational response to all the rabid cheerleading by his masses of supporters?) Unless you get your political views from celebrity gossip rags, or such preeminent supermarket tabloids as the National Enquirer, I imagine you could do better than "OMG! Obama is sooo stuck up!" What's next, making fun of his cellulite? Aimless criticism is worse than no criticism at all.

Besides, even if he were stuck up, what difference does it make in his capacity to be president? Just about every speech & public appearance he makes is scripted and written by White House aides or professional speech writers. National politics are run like marketing campaigns and corporate public relations these days—i.e. air-tight (which makes Bush's incredibly poor public opinion in his last years all the more impressive). With all the things going on in the world these days, I don't think that Obama showing up to a heads of state meeting sporting a pair of sweatpants with "H-O-T" written across his ass would cause an international incident.

Comment Re:Okay (Score 1) 197

I agree that there is a bit of over-reaction here. But I think it's healthy. A political love-fest doesn't drive progress, only constructive criticism does. Troubled waters can't become stagnant.

So far, I've been pleasantly surprised with the site. Aesthetically speaking, it far exceeded any expectations I had for a government website. And even though there's way too much flash (you don't really need flash to generate pretty charts & graphs on a modern browser; Magento does a good job of it without any third-party plug-ins.), they do offer a text-only link underneath each graphic. And on those pages, they use TH elements to denote column headers and the SCOPE attribute to denote row headers. The incomplete implementation of the 508 standard on some tables seems to be an honest oversight, and it's good that there are people bringing the issue to the designers' attention.

Not visibly labeling each state on maps, though, is a pretty minor issue. Again, there is a text-only link underneath, where those whose geography might be a bit rusty can easily locate the data for any state. It's a bit unfair to put the blame on the website's designer for America's "geographic illiteracy." Not knowing your geography is not the kind of "disability" that web designers should have to account for—just as illiteracy is not something that a web designer should have to deal with.

Comment Re:Aim Higher (Score 1) 131

Which is why this should be limited to emergencies (i.e. only to calls to/routed through emergency services). For everything else, it would be better to just replace the disjointed/overlapping commercial cellular networks with a nation-wide open wireless (wi-fi, wi-max, etc.) network. Then you could just use a VoIP phone and not be locked into any one provider. You wouldn't need to get a special sim chip (or risk paying outrageous roaming fees) when you travel to another country, and text messaging would essentially be free, just like e-mail/IM; not to mention all the other benefits that come with ubiquitous wi-fi access (portable internet radios would finally be of practical use; having access to your home mp3/video/ebook collection wherever you go, without needing to lug several terabyte hdds around, etc.).

Alas, I don't think that the telecoms or ISPs would ever let that happen. And it wouldn't just threaten them, but also cable providers and conventional TV & radio networks.

Comment Re:Exactly (Score 1) 404

That's not true. Advertising did serve a purpose for consumers in the past. If you're living in the early 1900s, then you probably actively sought advertisements, like the Sears-Roebucks mail-order catalog to see what new commercial products are out there. And even today, if you're like my family, you probably still appreciate the local supermarket sending you their weekly advertisements showing what products are on sale or what deals they're currently offering.

But today consumers are much less dependent on advertisements to tell them what's available. There are better ways of finding out about products & services that you need/want. If I want to find a good LCD monitor, I'd be much better off searching Google and looking at online product reviews. I can even find the best prices online by doing a simple search for a product name on Google. So what do I gain from targeted ads?

Likewise, if you're looking for a printer, a publicist, etc. then you'd just do a Google search as well. This allows consumers to find exactly what they want, exactly when they want. TV, e-mail, radio, web banner/pop-up ads, OTOH, are not only unnecessary with the advent of powerful search engines like Google, but they force themselves on you when you're not looking for those products/services. People today like to shop on their own time. So the best way to advertise these days is just to have a well-designed, easy to find, easy to navigate website. But beyond that, there are still ads that people actively seek out, they just take the form of eBay auctions/Craigslist/classifieds ads, and listings on sites like Pricewatch.com, Orbitz, Google Product Search, etc.

So there're definitely ways to market your product without annoying people.

Comment Re:A bigger waste of time than twitter? (Score 2, Insightful) 336

Exactly. If you look at different people's e-mail inboxes, some are full of primarily work-related communiques, while others are filled with idle conversations with family & friends. If you find that your inbox is filled with chain letters and unproductive correspondences, then perhaps you need to reconsider your e-mail habits and who you give your contact info to (or use 2 separate e-mail accounts). It doesn't make sense to blame the communication protocol or your e-mail client. Likewise, instant messaging and even text messaging can be very powerful/efficient business tools (my boss, for instance, splits his time during office hours about 50/30/20 between text messaging, e-mail, and the phone, respectively), but that doesn't mean everyone will use it as such (or even knows how).

From what I saw in the demo video, you can control who you choose to invite into your wave. So if you find that it's making you unproductive, then maybe you need to be more discerning about who you choose to invite to your wave. If your friends have nothing better to do all day but to distract you from your work on your wave, then that seems more like a social problem rather than a technological one.

Comment Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (Score 1) 246

And? Coal also doesn't produce electricity and is a natural resource. It also costs a lot less than batteries. I could go on and on listing the differences between coal and batteries, but none have anything to do with the discussion.

The GP argued that storing more energy in a pocket-sized device than what is currently stored in conventional batteries is inherently unsafe, no matter what technology is used. How that energy is extracted is irrelevant.

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