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Ebola Has Made It To the United States

Beck_Neard Re:Fristy Pawst! (322 comments)

> By tolerating corrupt government, they squander resources, and have nothing left to spend on healthcare infrastructure.

Hey, come on now, the USA isn't that bad.

9 hours ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Beck_Neard Re:Wrong question (255 comments)

> Presently the state of the art in robotics is such that we are pretty limited in what we can do with equipment once we get it there.

And what exactly could a human geologist do that a rover (built with current technology), coupled with a competent geology team on Earth couldn't? I want specifics. It's easy to hand-wave but I want to hear about specific geological methods and procedures.

I'm pretty sure that the truth is the opposite. Right now, given the same amount of money, a rover could do substantially more science with less risk.

> And the R&D payback will probably be 100X as large on a manned mission.

So a $100bn Mars mission is going to deliver $10,000bn in R&D payback that couldn't have been done without sending humans to Mars? What exactly do you base this figure on?

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Beck_Neard Re:Citation Needed (255 comments)

> For all their sophistication, the Mars rovers need days to do what a geology grad student could do in a minute.

Why the hurry? It's not like Mars is going anywhere.

Plus, the robots have a lot of autonomy. They move around obstacles pretty much by themselves, with only occasional help.

Humans would be confined to a radius of within the base camp (the maximum distance they can move to and get back before supplies run out) and to missions maybe a day or two long before having to return. But what about rovers? Sure, they slowly, but once they get some place they can stay there and do science for long periods without rest.

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

Beck_Neard Re:No, who cares? (255 comments)

> A single human on Mars could do in a week more than every previous rover on mars put together has accomplished to date.

I hear that said a lot, but is it really true?

Could a human crew carry more scientific equipment than Curiosity did? Wouldn't they be sending most of the data to Earth for analysis anyway, making the entire thing moot?

Keep in mind that even the most basic manned mission is gonna cost so much money you could send 50 curiosity rovers there.

2 days ago
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The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

Beck_Neard Re:is anyone really surprised here (195 comments)

No crime? How about the credit rating agencies rating toxic loans as AAA because they made money by doing so, Merill Lynch obfuscating and understating its mortgage holdings, and this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A...

Many of these weren't even investigated. For others, settlements were made rather than actual punishment.

If a poor black man steals $100 he goes to jail. If a rich white man steals $1bn he gets a slap on the wrist and a fine.

4 days ago
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Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Beck_Neard Re:The WHO (478 comments)

75 may be an arbitrary number, but if you consider the 70-80 range, it's not arbitrary at all. It's set by the limitations of human biology and, yes, environmental circumstances.

Now if medicine advanced to the point where most people could live a healthy life up to 100, then you'd have a point. But there's no indication we are near that point. In fact, the average life expectancy in the developed world has actually been decreasing over the past 10-20 years. Diseases that start to flare up around the 65-75 age range like cancer are extremely difficult to fight and progress has been incredibly slow. No rational person in 2014 should set a high probability of being able to live well and feel great at 100.

about a week ago
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"Big Bang Signal" Could All Be Dust

Beck_Neard Re:Dust? (133 comments)

There seems to be a lot of confusion about this article.

The dust only accounts for the swirl patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB), not the CMB itself. In other words, the 'imprint' of gravitational waves in the CMB might be an erroneous discovery, and this is not unexpected at all, since gravitational waves have yet to be demonstrated.

But the CMB is still there, and it's still pretty strong proof of the big bang, as it always was. Nothing about this news disproves the big bang.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Beck_Neard Re:You "mind isn't as sharp"? (234 comments)

Sadly, various studies support the fact that one mentally 'peaks' at around the mid-20's and then gradually drops after that. Now it's true that lost 'sharpness' can, to some degree, be replaced by gained wisdom. Maybe that's what you're talking about. But could you pick up a new subject as fast as your 20 year old self could? Unlikely.

about two weeks ago
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Astronomers Find Star-Within-a-Star, 40 Years After First Theorized

Beck_Neard Re:Wait, these are for real? (72 comments)

No star is stable, if you look at long enough timescales :)

But you're right, this isn't a stable configuration at all. It only lasts thousands of years, compared to millions or billions for other star types. That's partly why it was so hard to find one.

Red giants are huuuuge, we're talking a hundred million kilometers in diameter at least. Neutron stars, on the other hand, are only about 20 km in diameter. So you'd have to go really deep - basically to the exact center - to actually find the neutron star. But once you did, you would definitely notice an abrupt phase change.

about two weeks ago
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Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction

Beck_Neard Re:A solution in search of a problem... (326 comments)

No they can't, and it's that attitude that causes all the problems. Everyone thinks they are the exception who is capable of texting while driving. But as it turns out, the magnitude of the effect of texting while driving is actually similar to driving while being drunk.

about two weeks ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Beck_Neard Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (937 comments)

'Doing good' is nothing more than an expression of empathic feelings which all human beings have. We evolved empathy because it enhanced our survival.

The problem with this credo is that some human beings are - for reasons not known - severely lacking or absent in empathy. They are only a small proportion of the population (1%) but commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime (10%). How are you going to make these people do good? The only tool we have is threat of punishment, but that only means that they try harder to not get caught.

'Doing good' might work on 99% of people but that's still not enough.

about two weeks ago
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Why Atheists Need Captain Kirk

Beck_Neard Re:Great idea! Let's alienate Science even more! (937 comments)

People have already thought about this. A lot. If you take this idea to the extreme, it means that everyone should be an ideal Bayesian agent. But that's impossible since it would require more computing power than available in the Universe. There is a very good reason we think irrationally and we often take irrational leaps of faith. These things are necessary for us to get by with just 1.4 kg of brain matter.

The best you can do is try to approximate rational behavior. But there is absolutely no guarantee that in doing that, you won't wind up taking less rational actions than what you would have just done unconsciously.

about two weeks ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Beck_Neard Re:Possession is nine-tenths of the law... (213 comments)

It's true that mining asteroids is of little use for us here on Earth. But when you consider raw materials for space industry, then it suddenly becomes an extremely attractive idea. But the problem is that without cheap materials and a cheap way of accessing space, no space industry is ever likely to develop. So it's kind of a chicken-egg problem.

about three weeks ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Beck_Neard Re:LOL (213 comments)

> when those that have actually done the colonizing or the progeny thereof decides that they don't really need the mother-country anymore.

I'd be alright with that, but the problem is that space isn't like the surface of the Earth where you have neatly demarcated areas that you can lay claim to and you have to actually travel to in order to use. You could have companies pushing around asteroids and bumping them into Earth orbit, extracting resources, without sending even a single person over to the actual asteroid (all done with a bunch of robotic probes). You will inevitably get two companies (or countries) fighting over who gets the right to push which asteroid around. Neither of them are even near the asteroid, and no colony will be set up on the asteroid since it's probably far too small to support an independent human population by itself.

I guess a good analogy would be the Pacific islands and not the 13 colonies. The pacific islands changed hands so many times and many still have debatable levels of 'belonging' to another country. Now imagine if the pacific islands were free to roam around...

about three weeks ago
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Harvard's CompSci Intro Course Boasts Record-Breaking Enrollment

Beck_Neard Re:Linux, cryptography, HTML and JavaScript. (144 comments)

If you teach kids theory, people object that they're not being taught 'practical things'. If you teach them how to use popular software (like JavaScript), people object that they're not being taught enough theory.

You can't win.

about three weeks ago
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Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money

Beck_Neard Re:Bummer (215 comments)

There is a very small proportion of ideas for which crowdfunding is a good thing. These are ideas that are really great but have not been able to attract funding because investors (mistakenly) didn't see their potential.

Ideas like that only comprise 1%, at most, of all kickstarter projects. The vast majority are either incredibly dumb or the creators have not made the effort to find funding and just went straight to kickstarter.

As for OP, though, it doesn't matter to me whether 50% or 100% or 0% of the project has already been done. What I want to see is the potential for it to get done. I want to see credentials and a plausible story for why they're on kickstarter, not a feel-good video with shots of the creator's kids ('give me money, I have to support my children!') set to strumming guitar music.

about three weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

That's completely wrong. The search for and discovery of the Higgs Boson, aside from the eventual applications it could have, has had a bunch of immediate ones as well. Advances in mathematics and particle accelerator tech (better magnets, refrigeration, plasma containment, etc.) to name just a few.

about three weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Doesn't surprise me (348 comments)

Let's consider science during the dark ages. A good portion of the nobility would have private 'labs' where they'd fund scientists (alchemists/philosophers/geometers/astronomers) and give them virtually unlimited freedom to research what they want. Of course it's true that the number of scientists was much smaller back then.

Is the current age of anti-intellectualism so much better than that environment? We seem to take for granted that it is, but it doesn't seem obviously so, at least to me.

about three weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:If you think research is bad (348 comments)

That's actually an interesting observation. I wonder if there is a common cause, beyond global economic hardship.

about three weeks ago
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When Scientists Give Up

Beck_Neard Re:Easy solution (348 comments)

When an experiment can't be reproduced, it's not fraud. It's a very common occurrence for experiments to be non-reproducible. Non-scientists seem to be of the opinion that science requires meticulous back-and-forth checking in order for stuff to be published. It doesn't. A published paper just means, "Hey everyone, we did this experiment and got these results, and we can't figure out if we're wrong. Would you guys mind double-checking our work?"

Fraud, on the other hand, is deliberate manipulation (or fabrication) of results. This is not a common occurrence at all. When it happens it usually makes the news and you get a bunch of people fired.

about three weeks ago

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