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Least Secure Cars Revealed At Black Hat

Latent Heat High speed car chase on "Cops" (140 comments)

Didn't they have these episodes of "Cops" where the patrol officer would pull a car over for a "minor traffic infraction", run the plates, find out the vehicle was stolen, and a high speed chase would ensue?

No offense to your 2004 Focus, but it has been years since I watched the program, but the stolen car was always a Saturn?

I know that auto theft is a felony and the police are there to protect and serve, and this car was some poor dude's ride before it got boosted. But the cops engage in a high-speed chase to recover . . . a Saturn? Which ends up wrapped around a light pole in most of the "episodes"? "Sir, we recovered your car . . ."

So is it really worth the danger to the public to give chase to a criminal who has boosted a 10-year old Saturn?

about three weeks ago
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3-D Printing Comes To Amazon

Latent Heat The hardware store key duplicator (62 comments)

So, you will go to your local national-chain hardware store, some zit-faced teen will take the hinge, put it into a scanner, disappear "into the back", come back with the new part still warm from the process, and tell you, "Take this up front and tell them to charge to twelve dollars."

You will then take it home and then figure that it is a tenth mm too big in all dimensions to fit?

about a month ago
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3-D Printing Comes To Amazon

Latent Heat Vacu-form souvenir machine (62 comments)

Is this going to be like the class trip to the State Capitol? There are these "souvenir" machines into which you place some coins. It is not injection molding as that would produce something semi-durable. Rather, it is vacuum forming where in a process somewhat but not completely unlike glass blowing, this really cheesy soft plastic is pushed against a mold, only the machine puts on a show that it is doing something important. And out pops this floppy statue of the head and shoulders (I think the sculpture term is a "bust") of the Great Emanacipator engravened with "Land of Lincoln."

about a month ago
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Favorite "Go!" Phrase?

Latent Heat . . . turbines to speed, ready to roll . . . Roger (701 comments)

I voted for atomic batteries to power, but I guess that shows my age.

How about the "real life" launch sequence that the "shooters" on the carrier deck crews use?

(5 fingers out stretched) Release brakes.

(circle one finger in the air) Miltary power (i.e. full non-afterburner setting).

(wag two fingers in the air) Combat power (advance throttle to afterburner).

(put a knee to ground Tebow style, duck, and point with an outstretched arm, pilot acknowledges with a Navy salute) Go!

about a month ago
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US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

Latent Heat What is this "tune up"? (529 comments)

You do "tune ups" on your personal automobile?

I have a 4-cyl gas engine grass cutting tractor that requires a tune up inasmuch as it has breaker-point ignition. That tractor dates from the early 1980s, though.

How old is your car that it needs a "tune up"?

about a month ago
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A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System

Latent Heat Hand wringing of the BAS (379 comments)

The BAS has always been on this tear "oh, noes, missile defense" because they have always been ideologically against any side breaking out of the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction stand-off. There are always engineering trades in what these defense systems or what defensive systems could do or couldn't do back to the days of walled cities in Mesopotamia (Iraq).

I remember in the "run up" to the First Iraq War (the "Gulf War') about an interview with some high-ranking Saudi dude being concern-trolled "what about Iraq attacking the oil fields (with Scuds)?" The Saudi official smiled somewhat patronizingly at the news dude and responded, "We are equipped with the Patriot" at the time when the US public didn't know a Patriot from a Tory or that anyone was mad enough to use an ack-ack missile against a Scud rocket.

War is always about PR (i.e. deception). Everyone knew the Scud couldn't hit anything (except in some lucky for the enemy, unlucky for us shots). The Saudi leaders were just too happy to go along with "the Patriot is a Scud defense shield" because they knew that strategically, the Scud was of no consequence and this way they could tell their people to "just chill, bro, the Americans shared with us the Patriot" as the Scuds rained down. The US hurredly gave the Israelis the Patriot to get them to "just chill, bro", but everyone was coming out of the woodwork about how the Patriot was just a sham defense against an incoming missile not aimed at anything.

The "Patriot works" fit Saudi propaganda interests, but went against the Israeli propaganda at the time because they Israelis were itchy to get into the fight of "Scud hunting", where air attacks against this mobile platform that couldn't hit anything in the first place were regarded as futile by the U.S.. The Israelis argued that their pilots would press futile attacks against the Scud more aggressively because they were defending their women and children against the largely ineffective Scud attacks, but the US argued this was Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti's war aim, to lob Scuds to draw the Israelis in to fracture the coalition.

As for Palestinians and the war fighting power they have, suicide bombing are perhaps the most effective thing they have to inflict Israeli casualties, but it really works against them propaganda wise. The singularly most effective thing they had going was the First Intifida, where they were using rock-throwing young people as rubber-bullet sponges. From a propaganda standpoint, that was devastating in its effectiveness of portraying the Israeli troops as hateful goons, whether this was true or not, but the optics on TV were rapidly undermining Israel as a just cause. Why the PLO gave up on a tactic that was working I have no idea, but this may speak to why the conflict has dragged on so long when the Palestinians have demographics and world sympathy in their corner. The Palestinians may simply have bad leaders.

The rocket attacks are a kind of middle ground tactic in sacrificing your own guys. It is not the casualties inflicted by the rocket attacks, it is the 100:1 casualties of your own people that is a feature-not-a-bug, of rallying your own people and of getting Americans to pray in their Christian churches "for an end to the violence."

As to why the Israelis are playing along be inflicting so many casualties, maybe that is a feature-not-a-bug. For one thing, they are targeting "the leaders" and trying to be creative in a tactical sense with their tech for giving telephone warnings. Maybe the Israeli calculus is "the leaders talk tough but they are not that keen on being blown up themselves."

Also, on one hand, Israel is a "Western" country where people get all hand-wringy about the "violence" (I use scare quotes because what is taking place is a war between two sides with irreconcilable national interests and not some unexplained "violence"). On the other hand, Israel is a Middle Eastern country with a substantial Oriental Jewish population displaced from Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran, etc., where the heavy hand of a punative military campaign, responding with a sledgehammer blow to a slap from a fly swatter, is standard procedure in Middle Eastern governance.

If one's sympathies are with the Palestinian side and against the Israeli side, those are your beliefs, but I don't have much respect for the intellectual honesty of the BAS. As for the Palestinians, my advice is "there are people like you among the German-speaking peoples of Eastern Europe. I know of this because these were my parents and grandparents. Whether it is just or unjust, there are consequences to losing a war. My mom's legacy is the most productive farmland on the planet, but there is no getting that back or ever resettling there. There are times when one has to make peace and move on."

about a month and a half ago
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A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System

Latent Heat And Jeff Goldblum uploaded a computer virus . . . (379 comments)

into the alien net from a Mac Book.

What you have to realize is that Brent Spiner (the "mad scientist" in Area 51 who related "we don't get out much") had been hacking the alien tech since the early 1950s so Goldblum didn't have to do that much.

Getting back on topic, the Rebels in St/ar Wars smuggled the plans to the Death Star, which the Grand Moff/Toff/Dufus thought would do the rebels no good because the Death Star was properly engineered.

The Rebel engineers studied those plans and found a weakness in that reactor exhaust port thingy. Maybe there were her flaws, but this is what they were able to find.

As to the WW-II style anti-aircraft, the whole attack on the Death Star was supposed to be the Battle of Midway and Waldron's Lost Squadron running their suicidal torpedo attack down to the last man with the tide of the battle reversing at the last minute (the dive bombers sinking the carriers of Kido Butai at Midway, Luke using The Force to guide his last blaster shot to the exhaust port after Han Solo drove off his pursuers in "Star Wars").

This telling of the tale resonanted with the audience in the late 70's, whose parents of The Greatest Generation told the stories of the WW-II battles. When I first told a friend at work "The whole Star Wars ending scene is just the Battle of Midway", there was this recognition on his part, where he related his father being a Navy submarine combat veteran. Stories of how WW-II was fought from different vantage points was what our generation grew up with.

about a month and a half ago
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IEEE Spectrum Ranks the Top Programming Languages

Latent Heat You forgot the part about (197 comments)

. . . we loaded programs by flipping toggle switches for the binary op-codes until our finger bled. And we liked it!

about 2 months ago
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1958 Integrated Circuit Prototypes From Jack Kilby's TI Lab Up For Sale

Latent Heat Kilby, Nobel Laureate Patent Troll (76 comments)

Halfway there wasn't really any way there. The Fairchild Planar Process was the real breakthrough but Kilby had the broad patent claims on something commercially unworkable.

about 2 months ago
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Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

Latent Heat I was there at the EE Communications Group seminar (686 comments)

where this radio search proposal was presented.

A lot is made about how hard it is to detect radio signals and how SETI is pseudoscience because all of the terms in the Drake Equation are wild guesses.

The meat of this proposal was answering the question whether anything like a terrestrial (analog) UHF TV station was "out there" anywhere up to about 400 light years. The search was "all sky" and didn't even involve highly directional (and hence high gain) antennas -- the plan was to use the feed horns, only, from the Big Dish at Goldstone, California.

The detection probability is a concrete formula in terms of factors such as the transmitting antenna gain (omni-directional), receiving antenna gain (low as they were going to use the feed horn), receiver noise figure (low -- at liquid helium temperature), data rate (one bit per observations -- you were trying to detect a beacon in the form of a pilot tone), and source entropy (very, very favorably low -- a crystal controlled carrier wave is a very stable, predictable signat that the JPL people had experience "picking out" from the background, even when needing to correct for Doppler, in "recovering" spacecraft that had lost their high-gain dish antenna).

If this project was ever conducted, they would have been able to rule out the presence of a UHF TV station out to 400 light years. Yeah, yeah, over what portion of life on another planet is there a civilization with UHF analog TV stations, and that question was asked during that seminar with a lot of wisecrack comments that the ET's have switched to fiber optic cable. But Fermi Paradox wise, were there an advanced Asimov-style intergalactic civilization, and were the civilization trying to get our attention, if they had a beacon anywhere near us, we would have found it by now.

That is, if this plan ever got funded. A quick look at Wikipedia suggests that owing to the spotty funding of SETI on account of anti-ET skepticism, maybe this simple search, which just needed some antenna time on the DSN and a digital FFT analyser, never took place.

about 2 months ago
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Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

Latent Heat Pilot carrier of UHF TV stations (686 comments)

Gosh, this is already 30 years ago, but the SETI project at JPL had the idea of an all-sky search for the pilot carriers of (alien) UHF TV stations out to a couple hundred light years. The search would cover large swaths of sky using just the wide aperture feed horns on the Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas.

JPL's DSN was in the business of tracking spacecraft in interplanetary space emitting very low levels of power in crystal-controlled "pilot tones" that could be detected at great distances, doing this front ends with noise temperatures at liquid helium values. The idea is that a terrestrial TV station carrier would be emitting enough narrow-band power to be detected at interstellar distances, even with wide aperture low-gain antennas. If a tone is crystal controlled, it is sufficiently narrow band to be picked out of the background with a FFT filter bank of millions and then later billions of channels.

Does a digital TV station even emit a carrier or a pilot tone signal anymore? 30 years ago when a Caltech seminar speaker was a JPL engineer who had received a Senator Proxmire "Golden Fleece" award for doing SETI, which the Senator from Wisconsin thought was a misuse of public money, his colleague joked about "the aliens switching everything to fiber optic cable", but digital TV was a distant dream then.

Since then, haven't we pretty much ruled out aliens announcing their presence with narrow-band radio emissions at the level of our technology out to a few hundred light years?

about 3 months ago
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Microsoft Won't Bring Back the Start Menu Until 2015

Latent Heat I, for one (516 comments)

. . . welcome our new butt-plug overlords!

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Taking a New Tack On Net Neutrality?

Latent Heat What happen? (185 comments)

Someone set up us the block!

Screen on.

Hello, gentleman.

All your site belong to us.

You have no chance.

Make your deal . . .

about 3 months ago
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The Andromeda Galaxy Just Had a Bright Gamma Ray Event

Latent Heat The Malaysian jet (129 comments)

No, if it is CNN, they will somehow link it to the Malaysian airliner.

about 2 months ago
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Fixing the Pain of Programming

Latent Heat The Golden Age of Programming (294 comments)

There is this, what should we call it, a mythology of a Golden Age of Programming?

I don't use mythology in a perjorative sense that this is all pretend or wishful nonsense. I use it in the best Joseph Campbell-Hero-With-Many-Faces sense, of a dim recollection of The Way Stuff Used to Be. This is a way of communicating an Underlying Truth about the Human Condition.

Apparently there was this era of things such as this Smalltalk that you allude to. Another version of this I hear from tales is Common Lisp. And Lisp Machines, specialized hardware and expensive workstations on which these "live images" would reside. So maybe these tales of direct, personal communication with the gods taking place with the Bronze Age Greek heros was not made up?

I guess there was this Barbarian Invasion of Bearded Men from the land called "New Jersey", especially a high place among the rolling plains they called "Murray Hill"? There is this piece of non-canonical scripture that our elders have been trying to supress known as the Unix Hater's Handbook explaining how we came to our present age and how this Golden Age entered into myth. Our elders warn against reading this heretical tract as dangerous to our souls.

As Jerry Pournelle describes the intervening Dark Age between now and that heroic or Golden Age, it isn't so much that people forgot how to develop and maintain a live image programming system such as Smalltalk or Common Lisp, it was that people forgot that such a thing could exist, and we attribute such things to gods or space aliens.

But then again, just as there is talk of ancient creatures in deep lakes in Scotland or in the remote sections of Zaire or Southeast Asia, there are accounts that Smalltalk or Common Lisp are still in use . . .

about 3 months ago
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Talking To the Public: the Biggest Enemy To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions

Latent Heat That Venus thang . . . (324 comments)

You can understand the Greenhouse Effect in terms of compression heating.

Owing to its composition of greenhouse gases, the atmosphere at sea level pressure is mostly opaque to infrared, and heat is transmitted through the air largely through circulation and convection, accounting for weather. The "radiative thermosphere", that altitude where the air temperature is determined by radiative equilibrium with space, occurs when the air gets thin enough. That altitude is a little bit below the "flight levels" where aircraft with pressurized cabins operate.

The warmer temps "down here" are the result of compression heating of air as it circulates in relation to the thinner air at the radiative equilibrium boundary. What CO2 does is it raises the altitude of thermal equilibrium, increasing surface temps through increase compression heating.

The atmospheric pressure at the surface of Venus is very high, but the air pressure diminishes with altitude just like on Earth, and that even with the high CO2 content of its atmosphere, the pressure altitude where Venus is in radiative equilibrium with space isn't that much difference as that for Earth. What makes Venus not simply hot but hellishly hot is not just the CO2 atmosphere or being closer to the sun, but the very thick atmosphere, raising the temps to these high levels at the surface.

That doesn't mean you cannot construct a narrative for a runaway greenhouse on Venus. CO2 plus proximity to the sun could have raised temps to liberate more CO2 from rocks in a positive feedback until the atmosphere became incredibly thick, but it is the thick atmosphere operating through compression heating that accounts of the melts-lead surface temps.

about 4 months ago
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Understanding the 2 Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor In W Africa

Latent Heat Obligatory Nuke Snark (152 comments)

Is this a geek thing, a Web thing, or our modern age that information is passed on in a scolding?

A post offers reprocessing as a solution to the reactor waste problem, and a proper counter to that argument is that reprocessing has a waste problem all its own. The total amount of long-lived waste may be reduced, but the "hot" shorter lived waste get spread around into corrosive liquid effluents?

Could a a person remind Slashdot readers of this tradeoff without suggesting that the original post was made by an untutored fool? Or is it important to label someone suggesting reprocessing as a foolish person, to offer a (mild) public scolding of their idea because reprocessing is a bad enough policy that shaming is merited?

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Who checks food nutrition labels?

Latent Heat Latent Heat writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Latent Heat writes "Who checks those FDA-mandated food nutrition labels? I am being treated by my doctor for elevated blood pressure, so the sodium content of the food I buy and eat is important to me.

I have been purchasing a house-label brand of cheese from a Wisconsin-based grocery store chain for about 30 years now. When I first starting consuming this product labeled as "Reduced Sodium", I really liked the "dairy fresh taste" of the low salt content. Low or no salt in processed dairy may not be to everyone's liking, but some of us like the taste of butter and cheese that way in addition to the health benefit. Lately, the Reduced Sodium cheese doesn't taste the same, it tastes of having a lot of salt in it. I checked the FDA-mandated nutrition label, which shows the product to have 60 mg of sodium per one ounce (28 gram) serving. That serving size is for a generous snack and that amount of sodium is quite low for a processed food product.

Does anyone check on this kind of thing? I looked on the FDA Web site, where there was a lot written about questionable health claims. I can't find anything on the Web to support consumer complaints such as, "Hey, bro, your label says 60 mg sodium per one ounce serving, it tastes like there is a lot more than 60 mg in there, when is the last time you submitted a sample for testing?"

Anyone have a related experience? Anyone know how to bring such a situation to regulatory scrutiny? Is there any oversight on those nutrition labels or is it all voluntary compliance and if it tastes too salt rich, fat rich, sugar rich, stop buying it?"

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