Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:Because the alternatives were awesome. (Score 5, Insightful) 398

the Republican platform is nothing but the party of the wealthy elite

As a lifelong Republican, I'd like to point out that Trump's electoral victory - achieved against the streneous efforts of the GOP hardliners and the majority of GOP congressmen - may well incidate that the average conservative voter seems to agree with you. That Bernie got as far as he did against the polished, powerful Clinton machine (so powerful that she forced the Democratic party leadership to cut a deal with her so she'd stop challenging Obama's run for nomination,)and the DNP apparatus, indicates that the left wing is tired of their elitists too.

Look for common ground - right now, I think you're likely to find it.

Comment Re:Chile is interesting (Score 1) 124

I would contend that this press release by your government is a rationally motivated move enabled by the tolerance and general credulousness of your fellow countrymen vis a vis UFOs, rather than a symptomatic lack of education among your elected leadership. To wit, the most salient line of this article:

(Note: None of the agencies acknowledged the possibility of an unauthorized airplane in Chilean airspace, a presence that could explain the radio silence, the lack of a clearance for landing, and the possibility of flying low enough to evade radar detection.)

Spooky unidentified things zooming around controlled national airspace is a security threat - no matter who, or what, is in the cockpit. America has investigated UFOs quite thoroughly as well, but unlike Chile, our agencies consider it a source of embarrassment that shouldn't be made public. Since the Chilean populace is more tolerant of such things, your military is free to publish this most interesting video under the guise of free and open-minded exploration into unexplained phenomena, in the hopes it might encourage their neighbors to keep a keen eye out for further... incursions by these mysterious airspace-transgressing "visitors" - otherworldly, or otherwise.

Comment Re:documentary on Chernobyl (Score 1) 173

I'm a lifelong proponent of nuclear energy, and I've often vented my rage at the mindless knee-jerk reactionary opposition to nuclear energy voiced by "greenies" who over-inflate accidents caused by infamously careless and dysfunctional regimes. I tell you this so you'll understand the significance when I say that your point is not lost on pro-nuke activists.

"We almost Lost Detroit is one of my favorite nonfiction books - especially because I was born and raised in Fermi I's potential fallout shadow. The book does a lovely job of documenting other costly accidents and near misses as well. Nuclear energy scares the hell out of me - and I think any pro-nuke activist should feel the same. I'm also an avid firearms enthusiast, and as any gun owner can tell you the rules of gun safety are based on multi-layered, defense-in-depth paranoia. It is not a question of if you will make a mistake, but when. Failing to apply this same standard to nuclear energy is insane, and we can't expect anyone to take our advocacy seriously if we brush off their concerns as fear-mongering, Luddite hysteria or flat-out ignorance. All three are present in anti-nuke activism, but that doesn't excuse us from the valid fears that need answering.

Those fears are why Americans proof-test our containment buildings to an extremely high standard. It's why our containment domes (Fermi I, shown here) are a damn sight more spacious than those used by other nations, which might explain why ours don't fail and others have. It's not enough to sit around and point out how the Soviet Union was a pack of incompetent bastards, or how Fukushima was the result of breathtakingly corrupt practices in government and industry, with half the employees being Yakuza, terrifyingly slapdash construction (when two major pipes didn't meet up in the middle like they were supposed to, hooking an earthmover to it, bending the pipe a bit and welding it together wasn't unheard of,) and laughable government "oversight" (i.e. "descent from heaven.") To dismiss these incidents is to say "it can't happen here" and most certainly can. And fear of that keeps the sharp edge on the vigilance needed to ensure it never does.

Comment Re:Ramming it??? (Score 1) 135

Also in order to change momentum considerably you'd need to find another small asteroid to pull into a collision course because a missile is not going to do anything.

For Science reasons, the earlier one expends delta-v in an orbit, the more drastic a shift of trajectory is produced down the orbital track for a given amount of delta-v (as every player of Kerbal Space Program knows.) As you say, rocks that are smaller, or far away (preferably both) can be deflected with very small forces applied over very long times - the Gravity tractors, solar sails, ion thrusters - hell, you could even spray-paint the rock to take advantage of the Yarkovsky effect.

If the rock is big and close, you need to impart a lot of force really damn fast to make it miss the blue marble. A missile will most certainly do this job - if it's carrying a thermonuclear warhead, that is. If you've got five years lead time, you can orbit a simple spacecraft with lots of fuel, take a year to do a gravity-assist slingshot around Earth to pick up speed, and do a nice long burn to pick up scads of velocity before smacking that rock in the kisser while it's far away and delta-v requirements to deflect it are relatively low. If you don't have that time and can't pick up free energy from gravity assists, then a kinetic impactor (or ten) are going to have a hell of a time nudging the rock - we can only orbit so much spacecraft and so much fuel with our current tech. We'd need the most energy-dense storage we could orbit, and nothing, but nothing, can best a nuclear warhead for that.

"The asteroid turning into buckshot" is an old misconception born of movies that need to justify plots more elaborate than "we nuked it." It is a concern with so-called "rubble pile" asteroids; which is exactly what they sound like - and as you say, it's exactly why scientists want to actually try this on a real rock so we don't have to play fast-and-loose with guesswork in the event of a real impactor scenario. We could always set off more devices a little further away from the rock to give it a series of gentler nudges over a short timeframe but it'd be much, much better to know.

Comment Re: I got an idea (Score 1) 110

The truth lies somewhere between the extremes, as usual - anthropocentric global warming is real, and the "scientific consensus" is not unbiased.

A decade ago, I was a global warming skeptic. I felt that it hadn't been fully established that it was happening, and that even if it was, it wasn't proven to be anthropocentric. Five years ago, I held it was most certainly happening, but anthropocentric root causes were still up in the air. Today? I believe it's happening and> that human activity causes it. This change of heart was brought about by a decade of continual scientific improvement, refinement, and study. I demanded "more research," and I'll be damned if they didn't go out and do it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't end the political debate. To put it in policy debate terms, once we've established the "inherency" (proven what the status quo is) now we must explore 1. what the consequences are of letting this go forward unchecked and 2. what we should do about it. And this debate doesn't come without teeth - there's a tremendous amount of money at stake here. Hell, there are entire companies that do nothing but purchase carbon credits and re-trade them to other companies. To say nothing of how Global Warming is used to justify and defend lavish government grants for alternative energy research (much like Russians are used to justify and defend lavish government grants for weapons research, for that matter.) There is very, very much a financial and political angle to all these concerns. One must remember that us knuckle-dragging seal-clubbing conservatives have been listening to hyperventilating eco-activists predicting flooded cities and other doomsday scenarios for decades now. I remember the expression that crawled over my face when Al Gore's two hour powerpoint presentation paused long enough to share lurid stories of drowning polar bears, how sad. The fear-mongering and partisan interests are all wrapped up in a smug veneer of superiority - as Emmit Rensin, editor at called it, a "condescending, defensive sneer toward any person or movement outside of its consensus, dressed up as a monopoly on reason." By matching the pattern of arrogant dismissal, it is dismissed out of hand in turn.

This dynamic extends to the scientists themselves - but it just means they're human, not wrong. The hockey stick graph, climategate, et al only shows that scientists are aware of how their data is interpreted by the media, and that they're concerned about their data being spun the "wrong" way. Five seconds of reading the daily news proves these concerns entirely legitimate. That's all that "climategate" was; internal e-mails between scientists bitching about how the media spins or distorts their findings, and discussion about how to prevent or counter it.

That's not how science is used in the Global Warming debate, however - it's invariably invoked as Holy Writ, the incontestable word of Truth, and all who fail to bend a knee before it are branded lunatics and Republicans, forever illogical and excommunicate. The inherent biases of science are not exactly old news, but there's a powerful incentive to gloss over those details when money and political capital are involved - and don't delude yourself into thinking they aren't! This naturally leads to an out-of-hand rejection from those of conservative bent, and the Science ends up thrown out with the bathwater.

This has to stop. Global warming is happening, we are causing it, and economically devastating policies to contain it will never gain much traction and thus will never work. The rational, sane adults on both sides of the aisle have to start talking, now, and build the rapport that will serve as a framework for greater consensus down the road. We need to find solutions that mitigate and/or counteract the problem in a manner that's sustainable (i.e. affordable) and safe. This article on the front page right now is a great example; as the quip at the end puts it, "A 'climate change' project that doesn't involve taxpayer dollars? Is that even allowed?" There are options and ways forward, and if we work together, we can make it happen. You have allies on the other side of the aisle - all you need to is reach out to them.

And they should most certainly reach out to you.

Comment Re:wrong department (Score 5, Insightful) 135

Detection is the major hurdle. If we can detect an earth-crossing asteroid in time, deflecting it is actually pretty easy. The earlier the detection, the less delta-v is needed to make it miss. For the same reason a slight twitch of a rifle makes it miss a target at 100 yards it would still easily hit at 10 yards.

We've sent multiple spacecraft to asteroids in the past - we can hit millimeter wide targets with one-second accuracy halfway across the solar system with our probes and do it all the time. Plus, the US government has squirreled away a few 20 megaton nukes just for this job. We can nudge a rock easy. But FINDING them is hard.

Comment Re:On November 18 Abe spoke to Trump (Score 4, Insightful) 225


Unless you plan to do that anyway, no matter what, in which case have the common fucking decency to at least PRETEND you're waiting to see what he does. In my day we did our oppo research by breaking into places and jimmying file cabinets open - in the dark, because flashlights would get you Watergated! Now you kids just "hack into something." Or send some DUMBASS an email that says "gib login pls" and Bob's yer uncle!


Slashdot Top Deals

The first myth of management is that it exists. The second myth of management is that success equals skill. -- Robert Heller