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Public To Vote On Names For Exoplanets

Narrowband Or better, "Pluto's Revenge" (127 comments)

That's my vote, but there are all kinds of great possibilities: Gallifrey, Alderan, Tatooine, Romulus, Mordor, Asgard, Manticore, Beowulf...

about two weeks ago
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Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

Narrowband Time and progress more than gullibility (469 comments)

I remember this discussion when I was playing violin in high school and college (quite a while back), but it seemed like professors and violin teachers talked about surpassing Strads as a goal that might be reached someday, and that people were working toward. It never seemed to me like something the music community thought could never be achieved, like there was something mystical about it. So I'd chalk it up to time, not gullibility.

Since at least the 80s, modern instrument makers have been trying to duplicate and reverse engineer the Strads and try and make a modern instrument that's equally good. And there were tests like this, but when they were performed, the Strads would win out consistently. But now it looks like they finally succeeded. And we're entering the age where even outside blind tests, performers are starting to recognize this, like Yo Yo Ma and his professed affinity for carbon fiber cellos (I think he appeared on "How it's Made" a couple of years ago when they were demonstrating their construction).

I think you're right that it's not amazing that we'd get here eventually. In any theoretically achievable goal, where you're not trying to break fundamental physical laws, time, effort, and innovation win out. It's just like building better computers and programming them to beat chessmasters. At first, the technology and the programming just wasn't there, and computers lost. Now it is, and they win.

What this test doesn't say, however, is that the best of the modern violins are cheap. They aren't. They may not be the historical artifacts that Strads are, but they aren't something your average highly ranked college student performer could afford to perform on. I remember how prices ran, even for decently good modern instruments. This may bring the cost down from the tens of millions to the tens or hundreds of thousands, but the instruments they're comparing with are still astronomically priced, from most people's perspectives. They're the product of decades of research and mastery of the craft by modern luthiers, where the work is one part art and one part science. Good progress, and a big milestone, but they're still probably decades from making the same kind of qualities common and affordable.

about 4 months ago
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NASA Puts Its New Spacesuit Design To a Public Vote

Narrowband NASA's attempt at Case Modding (127 comments)

Kind of sad that NASA's suit R&D rollout to the public seems to be focused on case modding the exterior.

That said, they clearly need a "retro" cover. First look at the NASA design reminded me of a book I read as a kid, "Tom Swift and his Jetmarine," where he built escape suits for his submarine in the shape of giant eggs, like Humpty-Dumpty.

about 4 months ago
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Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold

Narrowband Battery chemistry and safety (476 comments)

Depends on battery chemistry. Most electric/hybrid cars seem to be congregating around Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries, which generally shouldn't be charged in the cold... it can cause lithium plating to accumulate on the anodes and if done repeatedly can eventually compromise the safety of the battery packs. Discharging (using) them below freezing is OK, but charging is not.

about 6 months ago
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Cold War Spoils: Amateur Builds Telescope With 70-Inch Lens

Narrowband Like HST (but not in a good way) (101 comments)

It's an impressive amateur engineering feat, but its performance as a telescope might not be anything to write home about. It probably shares one quality with the hubble that you wouldn't want: a problem with gravity.

Remember how when it first went up, the hubble had problems focusing clearly? The designers forgot that its mirrors would be deformed/reshaped by the lack of gravity. Essentially, the hubble's primary mirror was optically designed to work as a telescope mirror on earth, not in space. It wasn't until the later mission to fix it with some corrective optics that it really achieved its best capabilities.

Now, since the surplus 70" mirror this guy used was designed to work on a satellite, it would very likely have the same problem but in reverse. If the mirror was designed to be shaped properly in a microgravity environment, it would also be deformed when on earth (as it is when used in the amateur telescope.) That might make the images from it quite a bit worse than one might hope for from a 70" instrument.

about 9 months ago
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Signs Point To XKCD's Time Ending

Narrowband Re:oblink (226 comments)

Cool! I guess it's ending at Andrew Henry's Meadow... I loved that book when I was very little.

about a year ago
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Kernel Dev Tells Linus Torvalds To Stop Using Abusive Language

Narrowband Re:Victim Card (1501 comments)

Swearing and calling people names is one thing. But legitimate verbal threats can still be short of actually showing up at your door with a baseball bat. If a guy tells you he's going to show up at your door with a baseball bat, that qualifies.

1 year,12 days
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Who Will Teach U.S. Kids To Code? Rupert Murdoch

Narrowband High school is too late (138 comments)

I took AP computer science in high school, myself, and it really wasn't programming, it was pretty much the same as a college data structures class (arrays, linked lists, trees, sparse matrices, searching and sorting, etc.) Going straight into that without some earlier programming foundation doesn't really work so well. We need to start kids earlier to really get proficient.

The logic skills needed to code can be developed, too, but it needs support much earlier, including in elementary school math. I remember in 2nd-4th grade, our textbook was called "sets and numbers," and we did a lot with set theory, which my son's school hasn't. There are tradeoffs: he was into algebraic equations in 4th grade, which I never did until at least middle school. But overall it seems like he's had less emphasis on logic and discrete math and more on general/continuous math. My wife and I have tried to supplement it, but it isn't really standard anymore, where we live.

Anyway, if kids get enough practice with sets and set operations in elementary school, then logic operations a bit later (which and teach them how it's really the same, AND = intersection, OR = union, etc.) and throw in a few other concepts like variables, then they should be ready to start getting some early programming classes in middle school, which will stick with them a long time.

1 year,23 days
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Man Of Steel Leaps Over Record With $125.1 Million To Mixed Reviews

Narrowband Re:that money (364 comments)

That's too much like saying it re-enforces a simplistic worldview that there is such a thing as reality, whereas nothing is actually "real." After all, isn't "reality" just a stand-in for perception?

In an even more complex construct, it is equally simplistic to assume good and evil are not real as it is to assume they are. It all depends on how many levels of non-reality you want to contemplate, and how superior you want to consider yourself to those who adhere to "simplistic" world views.

about a year ago
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Apple Updates MacBooks and Mac Pro Desktop With Haswell, "Unified Thermal Core"

Narrowband Re:Not a cylinder (464 comments)

Specifically it looks like a NeXT cube. Something tells me that's the wrong link, and that it doesn't look like that.

about a year ago
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What Keeps You On (or Off) Windows in 2013?

Narrowband Unusual software and hardware (1215 comments)

Along similar lines, if you're dependent on a handful of apps most people have never heard of, because they drive something specific (like scientific equipment, or in my case, telescopes and cameras for amateur astrophotography) your chances of moving to Linux are poor. There's a lot of good open source effort devoted to making equivalents for things most people need, but when there aren't that many users, the community of potential open source developers is small.

My own list of boat anchors keeping me in the Windows pool includes MaximDL, PHD Guiding, PemPRO, FocusMax, and a bunch of drivers for things like telescope mounts, focusers, a CCD camera, etc.

And yes, there's virtualization, and such, but some of these programs and pieces of equipment are finicky enough to get to work together to start with, without that added level of complexity.

about a year ago
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New Pirate Bay Greenland Domains Suspended

Narrowband Re:Wait a minute (193 comments)

Heck, TUVALU had a TLD, until they decided they could get more out of selling ".tv" than having one themselves.

about a year ago
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Automated System Developed To Grade Student Essays

Narrowband New market for SEO companies (253 comments)

Watch as we move from "search engine optimization" to "grading engine optimization," as students look for AI solutions to write their papers, freeing them for other tasks.

about a year ago
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Is Daylight Saving Time Worth Saving?

Narrowband I want my dark time (646 comments)

As an amateur astronomer, I find evening hours of sunlight a waste. I'd rather have it get dark sooner, to extend useful observing time earlier into the evening rather than later into the night.

What the article is arguing for isn't getting rid of DST, it's making DST permanent--the worst possible solution. To argue for getting rid of DST, which is what I would advocate, you'd have to stay in the "fall back" time and never "spring forward."

about a year ago
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A New Version of MS Office Every 90 Days

Narrowband Re:Changing the "every other version sucks" model? (292 comments)

Thanks, I think I must have known that back at the time, but never paid attention to the DOS versions so it didn't stick. Word for Windows 2.0 was the first time I earnestly made the switch to Word from Borland Sprint on DOS.

about a year ago
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A New Version of MS Office Every 90 Days

Narrowband Changing the "every other version sucks" model? (292 comments)

I don't know quite what to make of this. I got used to skipping every other generation of Office, especially MS-Word, back sometime around the time of Word for Windows 2.0 (which was great) and Word for Windows 6.0 (the next version, which was not... who knows what happened to 3, 4, or 5.) But then later, Office/Word 2003 was the last good version, before they totally messed up the interface with their "ribbon bar" or whatever they called it, that made its functions impossible to find and use.

Rumor was that Microsoft had two competing teams, and while team A was releasing one version, team B was prepping the next version. Then when team B went to release their version, team A went back to development.

Given the later performance, though I don't know that it still holds. I just know that every time they make changes, I definitely want time to watch others' use of it and see what they are before I accept the upgrade.

about a year ago
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Will Renewable Energy Ever Meet All Our Energy Needs?

Narrowband Technically nothing is really renewable (626 comments)

Stars and supernovas aren't quite a renewable resource, except possibly through initiating a new "big bang" and rebooting the universe. The universe ultimately uses energy and moves to increased entropy. New stars are formed, but the pool of matter and energy to form them from is limited; some is lost over time (think of loss to black holes, for example... no real way to recover matter once it reaches that state.)

If renewable energy doesn't exist, then the whole premise that any civilization--human or otherwise--could be powered entirely by renewable energy is moot.

about a year and a half ago
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J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars VII

Narrowband "There can be only one" (735 comments)

...but nobody suspected that meant only one director.

In the end, it will come down to a fight between JJ Abrams and Peter Jackson?

about a year and a half ago

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