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Comment Re:There's a lot more iron much closer... (Score 2) 160

And there's some twenty million tons of gold dissolved in the Earth's oceans. Jules Verne made it the source of Captain Nemo's incredible wealth.

To put twenty million tons of gold in perspective, all the gold that has ever been mined by humans totals up to about 180 thousand tons. To put in another perspective: sure, it's gold, but at a concentration of thirteen billionths of a gram per liter of seawater it's worthless unless you have unlimited time and energy to extract it.

That's the problem with asteroid mining in general. Until the cost of changing an object's momentum goes down drastically it's not worth doing. If Pysche were a 1000 kg block of pure, refined platinum (market price: $34 million) you'd be hard-pressed to retrieve it and return it to Earth at a profit. Which is not to say asteroid mining is a bad idea; but first things first: you've got to reduce the price of interplanetary propulsion by a couple orders of magnitudes. One thing that never happens in a sci-fi asteroid mining scenario is the hero worrying about running out of gas. Propulsion in stories is always practically limitless and free of charge. Real propulsion will never be that good, but it could get good enough.

Comment Re:Now lets see. (Score 4, Interesting) 1338

You might be interested in reading "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America", by Colin Woodard. The author argues that there are 11 distinct cultures in North America, which don't align neatly with state (or even national) boundaries, and that US politics is primarily a competition between two shifting coalitions of these 11 cultures, coalitions anchored in the Yankee culture (Democrats) and the Deep South culture (Republicans). One value that both of those cultures hold in common is authoritarianism, though of very different forms.

Yankeedom is built around and values a communitarian form of authoritarianism, derived largely from its Puritanical heritage. Even though the religious aspects of Yankee Puritanism have gone away, they've been replaced by a secular form of the same thing, which is the notion that while it's critical that the people as a whole have "independence", meaning they can form their own assemblies and regulate themselves, the individual should willingly subjugate his or her own will to that of the community. In Puritan days, this was severe; almost any form of disagreement with the community's religious and social values resulted in severe punishment. Individual freedom was not valued, and tolerance for alternative views was extremely low. Also, Yankeedom reveres education, and therefore the fruits of education, including progressiveness.

The Deep South is built around and values a hierarchical form of very strict authoritarianism, derived from that region's slaveholding culture, which enabled it to establish an essentially feudal model of lordly manors occupied by elegant idlers, supported by masses of lower classes. The southern planters placed tremendous value on "liberty" but it was the old Greek and Roman notion of liberty, which is available only to those at the top. The south took the "lower classes" notion a bit further than feudal lords with their serfs, but the southern class-based society wasn't just "planters" and "slaves", there was also a large underclass of what we might now call white trash, which was also expected to be subservient. What's perhaps odd about the old Deep Southern notions of hierarchy is that they were so deeply embedded in the society that although the underclasses chafed a bit, they also grew to expect a strong hierarchy and to respect their aristocratic leaders.

So, the two core cultures around which our political battles revolve are both authoritarians. Their allied cultures are less authoritarian, but it's the core cultures that hold the whip hand. In particular the left coast is very big on individual freedom and self-realization, but also has its roots in Yankeedom, including the trust in education and progress, which makes is a natural ally of the Yankee culture even though they disagree on individual freedom. Similarly, the far west culture is very libertarian but allies with the deep south because of its opposition to Yankeedom, rather than because it likes the southern authoritarianism.

Anyway, that's a flavor of what's in the book. You probably won't agree with all of it (I don't), but a lot of it makes a great deal of sense and I found that it really illuminates my understanding of the major political dynamics in the US, and has helped me understand why there is this strong streak of authoritarianism in a country that purportedly values freedom and independence.

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 5, Interesting) 81

How much thickness do you think the extra outer layer of plastic adds to the phone? If it has to be more than a millimeter I would be surprised.

Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact the lithium ion batteries have a finite shelf-life than it does with thickness. That means in two years you need a new phone even if you never added any software to it and managed the battery recharging perfectly. Even if the phone had been sitting in a box all that time it'd have significantly less battery life.

Comment From TFA: (Score 1) 159

The patterns were a mishmash of unrelated structures that were as misleading as they were illuminating.

This pretty much describes the state of every branch of science after a major influx of new data. Just look at the maps of the world produced after Europe became aware of North America. Early maps sometimes show California as an island; and it's not because the cartographer is stupid; he just put the data at his disposal together into what was at the time a plausible conjecture. And in fact the problem might not even have been that he was ignorant. He may have misinterpreted some of the (at that stage) imprecise data he had to work with.

New information confounds. The detection and resolution of conflicts in data is arguably what science is.

Comment Re:Sounds like wrong approach... (Score 1) 149

Nah, when he was put in place, it was a backwater little desk posting, exactly like it should have been. He was literally in charge of cleaning up the physical mess left behind by the Cardassians.

Then they discover the wormhole, and Star Fleet wants to put somebody appropriate in charge, but they have to appease the locals, who now view The Sisko as the Emissary.

At least, that's how I remember it.

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