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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Ken_g6 Re:Binoculars (187 comments)

I got a pair of good 7x50 binoculars. As a side-benefit besides astronomy, I call them my night-vision scopes. When I look through them at dusk at terrestrial objects, everything I see looks brighter! You won't see the landscape when it's pitch black, but it's a surprising difference for unpowered optics.

about two weeks ago

Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Ken_g6 Cheap helpers for cheap scopes (187 comments)

Let's assume you got a cheap telescope. What can you do to make it work better for you?

1. Get astronomy software. Someone else mentioned Stellarium; I guess that's the go-to PC software now. I don't know what's available for phones. But make sure it shows an object's altitude in degrees.
2. Get a red flashlight. I guess these days people use red LEDs; back when I was a kid the place to go was army surplus for those bent army flashlights with colored filters.
3. Get a protractor. It's cheap, it's plastic, it shows degrees, and it's probably on sale now for back-to-school.
4. Get a piece of thin string and a weight, such as a nut for a bolt.

Tie the piece of string through the center hole on the protractor, and tie the other end to the weight. Now tape the protractor to the body of the telescope, preferably along some piece that sticks out near the tripod so it's aligned properly. To get an object in the scope, find its current altitude on your astronomy software. Then tilt the scope so the string's position matches that altitude on the protractor, using the red flashlight to see the string and protractor. You might have to do some math to get the matching number on the protractor. (90-x degrees - see, kids, that's what math is good for!) Now you mostly have to pan the scope, which is usually easier than tilting.

One other idea that came to mind while writing this: Take the jack stand out of your car, tape it to one leg of the tripod, and you might be able to use that for fine tilt adjustments. I've never tried this idea, though.

about two weeks ago

Cause of Global Warming 'Hiatus' Found Deep In the Atlantic

Ken_g6 Well, that's bad news... (458 comments)

Because there was no actual "hiatus". The poles were warming (on the surface, as opposed to 1,500m down) when the rest of the Earth wasn't. So this means global warming is actually accelerating by quite a bit.

about two weeks ago

Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

Ken_g6 Re:Expert?? (442 comments)

He also doesn't get that even at a local level things like AC compressors are already averaged out and that delaying the timing of starts really makes almost no difference at the neighborhood level, much less a town level.

Averaged-out appliances are what you want with baseload generation. With fluctuating renewables, you want to be able to delay a significant fraction of appliances at the same time, for short periods when the generation is low, and start a significant fraction of appliances at the same time when generation is high. To do this, the appliances have to somehow receive a signal of when to start and when not to start, such as a price signal or a direct control signal from a utility. Users would still be able to have control, but could save money by sacrificing some control.

about two weeks ago

The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA

Ken_g6 To parody Dragonheart... (160 comments)

They've always wanted to fly. Now they want to flee!

about three weeks ago

Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

Ken_g6 They're missing a lot of emissions (409 comments)

I notice that only gas is listed as adding new emissions. But hydro has methane emissions from the vegetation that's flooded when the dam is constructed. Not to mention the concrete that makes the dam. Solar, wind, and nuclear also have some building emissions costs, unless you replace all construction vehicles with electric and find a way to make concrete and steel without carbon emissions. (Wood might be an alternative for certain parts of wind turbines and maybe even solar frameworks.) Gas should probably have much higher emissions too, as the whole infrastructure from the well to the power station leaks methane. (How much is debated, but it's not zero.)

about three weeks ago

Comparison: Linux Text Editors

Ken_g6 Re:You're welcome to them. (402 comments)

I use GVim all the time. It can "highlight syntax and auto-indent code...spellcheck documents... [and] record macros". I don't see the point of managing code snippets - if you're using the same code multiple places you should take a DRY-er approach. And being an IDE is for Emacs people. ;P

about a month ago

Opportunity Rover Sets Off-World Driving Record

Ken_g6 Re:So, 40 years and beeelions spent.. (46 comments)

The moon is much closer to Earth than Mars. It's so close that we can pilot vehicles on the moon manually, like an RC car, with just a two-second delay. Vehicles on Mars need to be a lot smarter.

That said, Opportunity is really slow. Its top speed is 50 mm/s, or .1 MPH. I think Curiosity is actually slower. Maybe one of these private space ventures like Elon Musk's SpaceX can send up a fast (minimum 5 MPH or 2,200 mm/s) rover that just drives and takes pretty pictures.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do With Half a Rack of Server Space?

Ken_g6 CPU time for charity (208 comments)

If you think good will for your company would go further than a few cryptocoins, you could do World Community Grid.

about a month ago

China Has More People Going Online With a Mobile Device Than a PC

Ken_g6 Re:So (58 comments)

I found an Android app for Tor about a year ago. Haven't checked since.

about a month and a half ago

Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem

Ken_g6 Re:Is there a similar system in humans? (52 comments)

"It has been suggested that CRISPR interference systems in prokaryotes are analogous to eukaryotic RNA interference systems, although none of the protein components are orthologous.[58]"

about a month and a half ago

Interviews: Ask Dr. Andy Chun About Artificial Intelligence

Ken_g6 How similar is your AI boss to the fictional Manna (71 comments)

Dr. Chun,

Have you read a short story about an AI boss called Manna? (I'll include relevant quotes if you don't have time.) How does your system for the Hong Kong subway compare? It's clearly similar to your subway system in some ways:

At any given moment Manna had a list of things that it needed to do.... Manna kept track of the hundreds of tasks that needed to get done, and assigned each task to an employee one at a time.

But does it micro-manage tasks like Manna?

Manna told employees what to do simply by talking to them. Employees each put on a headset when they punched in. Manna had a voice synthesizer, and with its synthesized voice Manna told everyone exactly what to do through their headsets. Constantly. Manna micro-managed minimum wage employees to create perfect performance.

Does it record employee performance metrics and report them to (upper) management like Manna?

Version 4.0 of Manna was also the first version to enforce average task times, and that was even worse. Manna would ask you to clean the restrooms. But now Manna had industry-average times for restroom cleaning stored in the software, as well as "target times". If it took you too long to mop the floor or clean the sinks, Manna would say to you, "lagging". When you said, "OK" to mark task completion for Manna, Manna would say, "Your time was 4 minutes 10 seconds. Industry average time is 3 minutes 30 seconds. Please focus on each task." Anyone who lagged consistently was fired.

And how have employees reacted to their AI boss - if, in fact, you have been able to get honest evaluations from employees?

about a month and a half ago

The View From Inside A Fireworks Show

Ken_g6 Re:Illegal and Dangerous? (200 comments)

Or worse, if the copter crashes into fireworks on the ground waiting to go off. Kaboom!

about 2 months ago

Philips Ethernet-Powered Lighting Transmits Data To Mobile Devices Via Light

Ken_g6 Re:1990 called (104 comments)

Raised again.

The initial plan called for a ditch and wall with 80 small gated milecastle fortlets, one placed every Roman mile, holding a few dozen troops each, and pairs of evenly spaced intermediate turrets used for observation and signalling.

And more details on another page:

Each tower was in sight of the next in the line, and a simple system of semaphore signalling was used between them.

about 2 months ago

Update Your Shelf: BitLit Offers Access To Ebook Versions of Books You Own

Ken_g6 Re:What could possibly go wrong (82 comments)

My phone is so cheap it doesn't have a flash, you insensitive clod!

about 2 months ago


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