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Doctor Who To Teach Kids To Code

Immerman Re:It's not every day you get to... (138 comments)

Though in fairness it's only defenseless because it's humanoid body was engineered away as superflous when Davros decided his entire race should be permanently interred in personal battle tanks.

9 hours ago
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Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

Immerman Re: I don't follow (365 comments)

Certainly - just look at what evolution has accomplished. But to make progress by trial and error you need a notable cost to error and I really doubt making your product slightly more difficult to read is a strong enough force to accomplish anything, especially given the echo chamber media arts folks live in. Hell, just look at the proliferation of Comic Sans or horrible unusable "high end" web sites where you have to mouse over the whole damn thing to find the active bits - like they took lessons from old-school maximum annoyance point-and-click adventures. Face it - artists as a class are far more interested in expressing themselves than in facilitating usability. They're the last people you should talk to about the usability impact of subtle changes like fonts.

10 hours ago
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3-D Printed "Iron Man" Prosthetic Hands Now Available For Kids

Immerman Re:Intellectual Property (64 comments)

Yes, but copyright only applies if you copied the scene/characters directly from a Disney still shot. If you instead drew a bunch of Disney characters doing something of your own, copying only the general style and appearance, then you're not violating copyright, you're violating the independently registered character trademarks. It's like if you decided to publish a novel about "Tom Sawyer and the Sword in the Sorcerer's Stone" - so long as the actual story was all your own you wouldn't be running afoul of copyright. At least not in the old days, before all the progress the copyright maximalists have made. These days I wouldn't be quite so certain.

Moreover if you're putting the characters on the outside of a building, where they can be seen by people driving by, then they're inherently being used as advertising as well as decoration, and should absolutely expect to be shut down for commercial abuse of trademark.

yesterday
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NASA Cancels "Sunjammer" Solar Sail Demonstration Mission

Immerman Re:Ouch (74 comments)

Why did the Christians?

2 days ago
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BBC Takes a Stand For the Public's Right To Remember Redacted Links

Immerman Re:Court's judgement, not Google's. (109 comments)

Doesn't that validate their point? The court ordered Google to be the one making the judgment call on every individual case of censorship. Stupid.

2 days ago
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Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

Immerman Re: I don't follow (365 comments)

What makes you think professionals are even qualified to make the call? Presumably you're talking typographers, graphic designers, etc - artist types who couldn't construct a proper double-blind study to save their souls.

2 days ago
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Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

Immerman Re: I don't follow (365 comments)

Ugh, that would have to make translations a pain in the ass. Not only do I have to supply alternate text for all the menus and dialogs, I also have to manually adjust the layout? Yeah, I've created some very nice manual layouts in my time, but never anything with multilingual support.

2 days ago
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No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

Immerman Re:Several problems (293 comments)

Why does any military or police unit have firearms? Primarily to shoot PEOPLE. The arctic meanwhile is becoming increasingly militarily significant as the vast undersea oil fields become accessible and set off a new land-grab among the major powers. I'd be surprised if there aren't a fair number of shots fired over establishing new territorial rights.

2 days ago
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Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows

Immerman Re:freedoms f----d (130 comments)

Huh. It appears you are correct. And that's a very good question.

I still think it would be a good idea. At the least the director of the patent office should have to sign it. That might actually work even better if you're content to have more patents around, but not an insane number - make it so that the person calling the shots is putting paperwork on their own desk with every patent they allow to be approved. Not many people are going to want to hand-sign patents nonstop for several hours every day, even if there are some moderate perverse incentives on other fronts.

2 days ago
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Florida Supreme Court: Police Can't Grab Cell Tower Data Without a Warrant

Immerman Re:This should have been a no brainer (110 comments)

The spirit is relevant, yes, but these days the question of whether it's still actually alive seems to vary on a ruling by ruling basis these days. You can't even count on the letter of the constitution to be utterly reliable.

2 days ago
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Florida Supreme Court: Police Can't Grab Cell Tower Data Without a Warrant

Immerman Re:This should have been a no brainer (110 comments)

I agree. But that has nothing directly to do with this. Your phone is not being searched, it's regularly broadcasting its identity for the world to hear as part of it's normal function - it has to so that the cell company can determine which tower is closest and route your calls accordingly. That routing information then makes it trivial to determine at roughly where your phone is at all times. The cops are then requesting that information from the phone company and/or using stingrays to track your radio broadcast directly. *Your* papers and effects are never searched, the phone company is simply transferring *their* operational logs about you to the to the police.

The problem of course is that they are using that information as a substitute for invasive electronic tracking devices that generally would require a warrant. The courts then have to decide whether it's the technical details or the functional results that are more significant, and I think they made the right call.

3 days ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Immerman Re:Baby steps (348 comments)

Thanks, though the snarkiness is uncalled for - I thought I made it pretty clear that I had in fact searched for the information (several times in fact) and come up empty handed. The problem with Google is that sometimes you need to ask just the right question or the useful information gets buried in a torrent of the irrelevant, and it's sometimes far easier to compose the right question if you're already familiar with the topic and can invoke the proper terminology.

Oh, absolutely, I do not contest the ease of separating the fission fragments from the fuel, or of extracting energy from high-speed charged particles. My point is simply that, unless I'm badly misunderstanding the design, to avoid thermalization your fuel will have to be a low-density gas/plasma rather than a solid, so that the fragments are free to move without a substantial percentage of them colliding with fuel molecules and losing their kinetic energy. But that also means that when an atom fissions and spits off a bunch of neutrons, the odds of there being another atom of fuel sitting directly in the path of that neutron are extremely low. Much less the odds of there being many atoms in it's path so that it has a decent chance of interacting with one rather than passing right through it as usually happens. It would also seem to be virtually impossible to incorporate neutron moderators into such a design, without which the average neutron will have to pass through far, far more nuclei before reacting.

3 days ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Immerman Re:How about... (348 comments)

I'd go back even further - while it was the UK rather than the US that initiated the action we certainly backed them up when we carved out a chunk of choice territory in the middle of a bunch of recently defeated Arab countries and gave it to the Israelis, who already had a long history of bad blood with their new (and very old) neighbors. A pretty transparent strategy for establish a foothold in the region through a group who would be virtually guaranteed to need our ongoing military support indefinitely. Or how we continue to support them despite the fact that they have been aggressively expanding almost since day one, in direct violation of every treaty they've ever establish with their neighbors.

Or perhaps the many governments around the world that the CIA has had hand in toppling in order to install others more receptive to our interests. Hell, even Saddam Hussein was our man - we toppled the previous democratic government when it looked like they were going to ally with the Russians, and supplied him with much of the training and chemical weapons he used against his populace. We had no problem with his atrocities him until he decided to go independent and stopped jumping whenever we asked.

But at least where global opinion is concerned, it's been our most recent actions in response to (and since) the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen Saudi Arabians, along with one Egyption, one Lebanese, and two men from the United Arab Emirates flew some hijacked planes into some buildings, and we used the event as an excuse to invade Iraq, a nation completely uninvolved in the attacks. And our actions just spiraled downhill from their - you could scarcely have planned a better response to throw the Middle East into turmoil. And everywhere our military goes our corporations just happen to spring up right behind them, siphoning wealth out of the region as fast as possible while we make little more than symbolic attempts to stabilize the region or secure the infrastructure necessary to the health and security of the populace we claimed to be liberating.

3 days ago
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Lockheed Claims Breakthrough On Fusion Energy Project

Immerman Re:They cleaned up the story some (564 comments)

That depends entirely on the shielding. Lead, steel, etc do indeed become brittle and radioactive under neutron activation. Lithium on the other hand doesn't just get converted to an unstable isotope that will eventually spit off some radiation as it decays, it becomes *so* unstable that it immediately fissions into helium and mildly radioactive tritium (hydrogen-3). That would indeed contaminate your shielding with radioactive waste, but hydrogen has the unique property that it can flow right through most solids - so it should flow out of the shielding in relatively short order and can be fed into the reactor as fuel.

Now sure, everything else in the reaction chamber will be getting embrittled and radioactive under neutron activation, but thanks to the reactor design there isn't actually all that much that has to be within the shielding, just a couple superconducting electromagnet rings - so the vast majority of the neutrons will be hitting the shielding where they'll be breeding fuel rather than creating disposal problems.

3 days ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Immerman Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (345 comments)

Sure, Rossi's device reeks of fraud. I'm rooting for it to be real, but until I see a properly conducted calorimetric test that wouldn't embarrass a second-year chemistry student I'm not going to believe it.

But that's only one device. Lots of respected researchers in reputable labs all over the world have been measuring unreliable transmutation and anomalous heat from their own cold fusion experiments since Fleishman and Pons managed to do everything wrong in their reveal and so badly discredit the phenomena in the public mind that further research has been mostly limited to hobby projects with laboratory slush funds. The evidence suggests that there is in fact some unknown phenomena that enables solid-lattice fusion under very specific conditions, but thus far those conditions have proven impossible to reliably replicate

3 days ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Immerman Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (345 comments)

It could also mean a dependency on time-varying material properties. From what Ive heard one of the things researchers suspect is a necessary precondition is certain imperfections in the host material - impurities, microfractures, etc. Microfractures especially would be expected to vary over time as thermal stresses altered the atomic structure.

Also, is that sig supposed to be a joke? For all intensive purposes I'm focused and forceful, the rest of the time for all intents and purposes I'm pretty laid back.

4 days ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

Immerman Re:Why Cold Fusion (or something like it) Is Real (345 comments)

Only after you've isolated all the contributing factors involved so you can replicate them. So long as there are unknown factors influencing the outcome positive results will appear to happen at random. So long as verifiable transmutation is occasionally occurring *something* is clearly happening, the challenge is to figure out what is different between the experiments that work and the ones that don't. And from what I've heard it seems that certain sub-microscopic imperfections in the host material are likely at least one of the necessary preconditions. And those are damnably hard to replicate intentionally.

4 days ago
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Fusion and Fission/LFTR: Let's Do Both, Smartly

Immerman Re:Fission = bad, but not super-bad (217 comments)

I believe you're overestimating by an order of magnitude or two, but perhaps I'm misremembering. Or perhaps my source was assuming energy consumption would continue to increase exponentially.

Regardless, we don't have seawater extraction technology today, and are unlikely to develop it in the next thirty years, so it's irrelevant to the discussion at hand - we still need some other energy source in the short term.

4 days ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Immerman Re:Baby steps (348 comments)

Like I said, I'll take your word for it, it's not an unreasonable claim (though I wouldn't mind a reference, google's not being helpful).

But in order to avoid thermalizing your fission fragments the reaction is going to need to be in near-vacuum - and that means the vast majority of the neutrons will hit the walls of your reaction vessel rather than another fissile molecules - density is critically (heh) important in sustaining chain reactions. You could try making the walls out of fissile fuel, but that would still thermalize at least half your fragments, even if you could somehow ensure that the neutrons reacted with only the topmost layer.

Now if you could build a neutron mirror to reflect most of those those neutrons back into the reaction chamber you'd be golden - but our best neutron mirrors can only get total reflectance at angles of incidence of less than a single degree - it would be incredibly challenging, if not impossible, to design a geometry that would reflect a large portion of the neutrons back into the reaction chamber.

You could still perhaps design a reactor using an artificial neutron beam to trigger fission, but it would no longer be chain reaction based. And that's not necessarily a bad thing - without chain reactions a meltdown is impossible.

4 days ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

Immerman Re:Robots (348 comments)

Terraforming: there's really only two candidate biomes: Mars and Venus. And the challenges would be so different that there's unlikely to be any systematic flaws that would affect both. And either would likely take millenia before they could support anything more sophisticated than bacteria. In the interim all other biomes will be contained habitats and, aside from maybe an explosively catastrophic clock-related software bug or diabolically intentional extermination attempt, nothing will be able to hit them all at once, and as soon as one goes the remainder can guard against a repeat.

Energy: I don't see any evidence that it's energy limiting population growth: discounting immigration virtually every developed nation in the world is displaying negative population growth - the only populations still growing are those in the most impoverished areas without affordable access to birth control and/or sufficient health care to reliably see their children to adulthood. And a few religious holdouts who object to birth control, but they're diminishing rapidly since the Pope adopted a hands-off attitude. The limit is not available energy, but the opportunity cost of having additional children.

Spiraling per-capita energy consumption could be an issue, but we'd need to be consuming millions of times more energy in order to match what's currently being captured by our CO2 emissions. I'm content to leave that problem to be addressed by our distant descendants.

Interstellar energy storage: You have two options: the ship is running the whole time, in which case you need lots of energy and nuclear is the only option - nothing else can get anywhere near the energy densities, except maybe some sort of insane electron bottle, antimatter reactor, or other system which willrequire active containment. And there's no reason to assume your reactor would "eat through containment" - aneutronic fusion can theoretically generate power with negligible radiation of any kind, and at any rate if your ship is capable of operating for thousands of years there's no reason to assume you didn't engineer your reactor to a similar level of reliability.

More likely you let the entire ship cool to near absolute zero (ambient interstellar temperatures), and just need a way to jump-start your nuclear reactor at the other end. And assuming your ship, robots, corpsicles, reactor, etc,etc,etc can survive inert for thousands of years, why would you assume solar panels and capacitors would not?

4 days ago

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