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NASA Offering Contracts To Encourage Asteroid Mining

RockDoctor Re:Funny as hell (150 comments)

This means that you also need to get rid of a lot of kinetic energy very quickly, which makes things very hot.

Meteorites of more than a few kilogrammes that have been observed to fall and recovered within seconds or minutes are cold to the touch - sometimes very cold. The surface can get very hot - incandescent - but that is because most rocks are pretty poor conductors of heat. As the heating rate increases, even solid metals can't keep up, as study of the flow patterns on impactors and tektites have shown for as long as meteorites have been a topic of serious study.

4 minutes ago
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Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones

RockDoctor DP-landing pad - new ??? (95 comments)

The tweets describing how it would work, also include an autonomous seafaring platform, which can hold its position within three meters even in a heavy storm, that would act as a landing pad.

I'm sure that Musk is aware of it, but there is a DP (Dynamic Positioning) spacecraft launch system which has been operating with reasonable success (~90%) for 15 years now. The DP systems (which are pretty routine in deep-water oil exploration equipment these days - anchors don't work well below about a half-kilometre of water depth) were bolted onto the burned out husk of the Ocean Odyssey drilling rig (after the body of the radio operator, Tim Williams, had been removed, of course) during the conversion, and the drilling mast replaced with support structures for the rocket launch. During launch, the crew watch the fireworks from a location over the horizon from the launch platform, which has self-evident safety benefits.

Or, to put it another way, Musk's landing platform is something that he can phone a Korean shipyard and get a delivery date for ... in about 2-3 years time, I'd guess. There would be some novel features in handling the landed spacecraft, but the basic equipment is an established technology.

yesterday
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Judge Unseals 500+ Stingray Records

RockDoctor Re:Police legal authority (160 comments)

If technical standards (in this case, for GSM) mean anything, then you should be able to design and implement such a pseudo-tower from the documentation. GETTING the documentation, on the other hand, may be expensive : many standards are actually quite expensive to purchase, and many are also particularly encumbered with patent rights too. But these [should be | are] implementation issues which should be resolvable.

So in theory, you ought to be able to work out the maximal capabilities of such a device from the documentation. But then deciding what features are actually of interest to $ThreeLetterAgency$ is a separate question. I would be entirely un-surprised to find that the manufacturers of such equipment have a modular design to allow implementation of different capabilities at different price points, and also to allow the implementation of capabilities which are illegal in some countries, in equipment destined for other countries. Since GSM is used in both Sweden and Saudi Arabia, a company manufacturing this interception equipment in Sweden may not be able to sell equipment for some functions in Sweden, but shouldn't face any significant encumbrance selling much more invasive capabilities to a Saudi $ThreeLetterAgency$.

Indeed, it seems that the OpenBTS project is getting a long way down the line towards doing this sort of work. The tricky thing would seem to be getting the permission to run the radio transmitters. And if you're willing to break the law, or you "Am The Law" (quoth Judge Dredd, but please, not the Stallone pooftah). that's not much of a technical problem.

yesterday
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Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

RockDoctor Re:"Two" times, not ten times (198 comments)

I wonder what a "plastically deformed, but not fractured" phone screen would look like?

Bent.

I was having to clarify with a drilling engineer just a few hours ago whether he was talking about a material that is tough to drill, when he said that it was hard to drill. Because I knew perfectly well that the material he was talking about isn't particularly hard, but is tough. Even professionals get slippery about using the terms in their fields of professional competence.

yesterday
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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

RockDoctor This isn't an autonomous-vehicle future yet ... (452 comments)

... but I still don't want to own the car that I already own. The wife needs it for driving to work (I take a helicopter to my work) because the 40-50 minute commute by car beats the 70 minute commute by bus, but I still question whether that is worth the (approx) £5000/year cost of the vehicle (including fuel, tax, etc) compared to the ~ £500/year cost of the bus pass.

I'll have to investigate better the question of the local "community car" scheme for those once-a-month situations when I need to do shopping or delivery that is larger than I can comfortably do on the bicycle.

yesterday
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Extreme Shrimp May Hold Clues To Alien Life On Europa

RockDoctor Re: In Reverse (75 comments)

If that really is how life got started then it's likely that primitive cells are still being spontaneously created near these vents today

Modern conditions are very considerably different to those in which life developed on earth.

For a start, there is oxygen. Now, it may be true that oxygen is essential for large organisms to develop (we only have a sample of one ecosystem, in which oxygen is almost ubiquitously associated with large organisms ; but that's an "almost ubiquitously", not an "always" ; the case may be suggestive, but it is certainly not proven.), but we're not talking about large organisms, we're talking about the formation of the first very small organisms. For certain, life evolved on Earth for a very long time before there was any significant amount of free oxygen in the ecosystem. Life and significant concentrations of oxygen have coexisted at best for a half of the duration of life on Earth.

For a second thing, the modern world is full of organisms that breakdown ad re-use organic molecules. While there is a lot of debate about what particular compounds were common in the pre-biotic/ peri-biogenetic environment, it is sure that the modern environment has been stripped of many of the more complex molecules. Some of that stripping is due to the molecules being broken up by reaction with oxygen (see above), but much of it is simply going to be eaten.

The likelihood of life spontaneously developing around modern deep-sea vents (or shallow-sea vents, for that matter) is considered pretty low, even though their ancient analogues are certainly sites of interest for biogenetic models.

Radical re-thinking about the possible environments for biogenesis happens almost every time there is a new student writing a paper on the subject. There is not a scientific consensus on the question (though there are certainly ideas that are more popular than others). If this clashes with what you've heard on Discovery Channel, then I'd advise you to swap their (pretty shoddy) "journalism" for actually reading the relevant science. Much of it is available open access.

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

You're making the common error of expecting that your opponents are stupid. That has killed a lot of people.

Your opponents may be wrong - or they may be right and you're wrong. They disagree with you, that is what "opponent" means. But it doesn't mean that they're stupid.

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

There are geoengineering schemes that you could build on a "fire and forget" basis. For example, you might place a fleet of solar sails near the Lagrange-1 point in the Earth-Sun-Solar system point, with electron/ magnetism thrusters for station keeping, and a telescopic monitoring system aimed at the Earth. Set the control logic up so that if the polar ice caps vary by more than 10% from present (pre-industrial norms), then the solar sail fleet re-configures to increase or decrease the insolation on the Earth by a couple of percent.

OK - it needs engineering on a multi-millennial reliability scale, and a control loop that thinks for a decade or so before taking any action, which are substantial pieces of engineering beyond present capabilities. But they don't violate the laws of physics.

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

With CO2 at over 400 ppm, even if everyone went zero-emissions tomorrow, the planet would still continue to warm up for at least a millennium, more likely five millennia.

FTFY

The experiment was done, on Earth, around 54 million years ago. It was called the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, and I've just finished drilling through the rocks laid down around that interval, with their associated fossil changes, changes in rock chemistry, etc. (Steering oil wells to land in particular horizons in this sequence is a bread-and-butter bit of industrial geology for me.) The temperature increases, as calibrated by Milankovitch 20kyr cycles in magnoetostratigraphic records) took about 5kyr, though our best estimates for the gas releases is more like 1kyr (runaway warming once the methane hydrates around the proto-Icelandic High started to rise above their stability limits).

Really, within the geological industry, the argument has been over for more than a decade. We know, with the confidence of seeing the results of the last experimental run, what is in the pipeline for us.

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

I almost wish I knew what the heebie-jeebies are in your world. In mine they're Mini cars stuffed with long-haired androgynes.

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

Venus is probably a better match for Earth's climate system than Mars is. There's a lot of water in the atmosphere of Venus.

So ... let's say we build a sunshade to start to lower the temperature of Venus' atmosphere at twice the rate we're raising the temperature on Earth. Let's say that we get it in place by 2050, to get our test running. That's about 4K/decade, and we've about 300K to decrease the surface temperature by.

So in about the year 2750 (if I've got my numbers right), our experiment will have reduced the temperature of Venus to the point that liquid water will start to condense to the surface. Then we'll get into a complex situation of convecting heat (as clouds of steam) from the surface rocks to the higher atmosphere, where the heat gets dumped to space. How long is that going to take? Tens of thousands of years, or hundreds of thousands of years? I wouldn't rule out millions of years - but I'm a geologist and I've got some sort of idea how long similar process took on the Hadean Earth.

Sorry, but wasn't the point to get some data relevant to the lives of your children/ grand children, or at least people who might know your name as an ancestor?

2 days ago
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Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

RockDoctor Re:We've been doing it for a long time (360 comments)

Bloody ACs, why don't they have the character to post under real accounts?

Let's say that we decide in 2020 that we have no option for survival beyond 2200 but to start a programme of geoengineering which will take 150 years to have sufficient effects. (That would be starting in 2050, and you can make a rough guess that we started having significant effects on the planets climate in around 1900. So I'm making a guess that it'll take as long to bring the problem under control as it took to cause the problem.)

So, how do you manage to test an areoengineering programme on Mars, in the 30 years leeway that you've got?

There's a more fundamental problem - Mars essentially lacks the large heat buffer that comprises our oceans. So the climate system of Mars is almost completely unlike that of Earth. The climate on Titan is probably a closer match in terms of processes.

Geoengineering is something that we're unlikely to have an opportunity to experiment with before having to implement it. Which means we'll have to be in a pretty desperate situation before trying it. So, maybe, just maybe, bringing our dangerous ecological destruction habits under control might just possibly be better. But since that is going to impact the ability of a small proportion of people to make money, that is a forbidden concept.

2 days ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

RockDoctor Re: I'm quite surprised it wasn't (519 comments)

a billions dollars on simple solar panels.

I think it was entirely appropriate to work out how much power they needed, then provide a power supply capable of achieving that, using materials that were acceptable to the people paying the bills (NB : not America, in the largest part). And they did it using some of the most sophisticated solar panels to go into space.

If they had used a Pu-238 RTG (which for political reasons may have been sourced from our neighbours - the Russians), and some 60-90kilos of instrument weight had been rejected from the orbiter to allow for the increased mass of the lander+RTG, and the lander had then landed, bounced, landed upside down, and achieved only 10% of the science package, would you have like to defend the RTG decision to the court of public opinion?

Ah, hindsight - the only 100% perfect telescope!

2 days ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

RockDoctor Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (519 comments)

I hardly consider myself to have more than the normal -for a nerd- interest in space science, astronomy and technology, but I'm astonished how you could have actually acquired or held that immensely mistaken a belief. Did you pay no attention at all to space technology since the month (or so) when we both signed up for Slashdot? Did you not notice the months of struggles to bring SOHO back from it's unplanned orientation excursion? Did you miss the years of worries over the build up of dust on the Mars rovers. Did the agonies of trying to manoeuvre the cripples Spirit rover to get the extra couple of degrees of tilt to try to survive it's final winter pass you by?

How can a Slashdot reader not be paying a modicum of attention to space science? After all, to the best of the evidence we have, that entire universe is ours, and we nerds are likely to be the first people to get out there and own it. (Or our logical descendents.)

2 days ago
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City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber

RockDoctor Re:Toronto Municipal Gov't divided (168 comments)

They do not receive special safety inspections above and beyond the normal, the drivers do not receive special scrutiny above and beyond a normal driver, the only issue is insurance which the ride services already require be handled, or handle themselves.

Speak for your own country. Here, for certain taxi cabs and mini cabs receive special safety inspections. The normal regime of inspection is nothing for 3 years, then a mandatory annual inspection ; for taxis, it's a 6-monthly inspection from registration.

Taxi drivers who are to handle vulnerable people (unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied sub-normal adults) require a full criminal records check - as does anyone who works with vulnerable people.

All taxi drivers must display their photographic and hologrammed (i.e., fakable, but not trivially fakable) where the passenger can inspect it ; no ifs, no buts, no maybes - "must". All taxis must display their additional registration plate where it can be read, and that plate contains the registration plate of the vehicle.

Your country may have fucked up regulations which are not enforced, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the world is as badly fucked up.

I take it that you're not going to support the spread of Uber etc to countries with proper taxi regulation.

2 days ago
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Scientists Discover Diamond Nanothreads

RockDoctor Re:How about "not diamond"? (79 comments)

I doubt that the audience of The Shopping Network (house plants, some humans with house-plant characteristics) is the target audience.

2 days ago
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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

RockDoctor Re: "after four nearly sleepless days and nights" (88 comments)

That's the job. Many of my trine es go on to supervise or plan such jobs. They leave me with no doubt of the drain they put on people. And, in my experience they remember, and fight a corner for 24x7 experienced cover. But if the people aren't there to hire, and the bed space isn't available ... then at least they understand the problems of the (person)in the field better. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing.

about a week ago
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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

RockDoctor Re: "after four nearly sleepless days and nights" (88 comments)

I also get paid to be prepared to climb into the lifeboats, or go to the drill floor to deal with unexpected events. A wake up 2 hours after a 17 hour shift is not welcome, but is part of the job.

about a week ago
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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

RockDoctor Re: "after four nearly sleepless days and nights" (88 comments)

I've been doing this since 1987, to varying degrees. Some years I've been down to about 1500 hours work (though we bill by the day, or part of, door to door), some years pushing 3000 hours, and utterly exhausted. The intensity increases with time, because you get sent to jobs with absolute greenhorn (instead of being the greenhorn yourself). And sometimes you do have to just dump raw data upstream for assessment there, but even then you need to verify that the collection parameters were recorded appropriately.

(An 8h x 5d x 48w year is 1920 hours. On the other hand, when I'm not at work, I can go for a week hill walking if I want, and there's nothing the Boss can say - it's my compensatory time for sleeping at the work site and being on 24x7 call.

about a week ago
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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

RockDoctor Re: "after four nearly sleepless days and nights" (88 comments)

When I'm at work, and we go from routine operations (where I have a lot to do) to evaluation operations (where I have a lot to do and can't delegate chunks of it to my night-shift/trainee, because they're a trainee) then yes, I have to do this regularly. Bouts of 4-5 days are normal; up to 8 days not uncommon, but deeply draining. Then there will unavoidably be 1-2 days of engineering/ maintenance work, and then the cycle repeats. Bouts like this happen a couple of times a month, then I'm rotated back to shore or my home country to recover.

Don't get me wrong- this is draining. But it's not impossible.

OTOH, there is a good reason that 90% of trainees move on to office work instead of staying in field work : a lot of them can't handle the fieldwork.

about a week ago

Submissions

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Life insurance restrictions for Space Tourists

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about three weeks ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "Reuters are reporting that there are changes afoot in the terms of life insurance contracts which will require additional premiums for "space tourists". While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test."
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Car thieves and insurers vote on keyless car security

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a month ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The BBC are reporting that Britain's car thieves, rapidly followed by Britain's car insurance companies, have been expressing their opinions on the security of keyless car entry and/or control systems. The thieves are happy to steal them (often using equipment intended for dealer maintenance of the vehicles) and in consequence the insurance companies are refusing to insure such vehicles (or to accept new policies on such vehicles) unless they are parked overnight in underground (or otherwise secured) car parks.

So, I guess I won't be considering buying one of those for another generation. If ever."
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Micro$loth to sack 18,000 workers

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 4 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The Grauniad is reporting that Micro$loth are planning to sack 18,000 people in the near future. I'm sure that'll make them feel better. The sacked people, of course ; it'll be devastating to the managers who hand out the redundancy notices."
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International game tournaments segregated by sex/ gender.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 5 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The Grauniad is reporting that a finnish heat of an international gaming competition is being segregated into male and female branches in accordance to international rules.

The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) want "eSports" to be recognised as equivalent to physical sports. And that, it seems, requires that competitors be segregated on grounds of sex. Which may be appropriate for pole vaulters, but not necessarily appropriate for ePole vaulters. This leaves the organisers of national heats of eSports in a rather invidious position of having (in this case) a tournament only open to "Finnish male players."

So, support gender equality, or support the recognition of electronic sports as having the same status as kicking balls around? Pick one."
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French Railways order the wrong size of train.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 6 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The BBC are reporting that SNCF, the French national railway system, has ordered several thousand new complete trains, but then discovered that they are

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-27497727

to fit into many railway stations.

For reasons that are not explained, the railway owning company (RFF) had to measure the sizes of it's platforms to find out what size they were (which begs the question of, why didn't they know the sizes of their stations already?), then tell the train operating company (SNCF) what size trains to buy. But RFF only measured the sizes of stations built in the last 30 years, and since discovered that stations built previously were noticeably different, and the new trains wouldn't fit into older stations.

At least they were both using metres, not cubits versus roods.

[The French] Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed an "absurd rail system" for the problems.
"When you separate the rail operator from the train company," he said, "this is what happens."

The last quote is ominous for the Britons who pay for the BBC, as our railway system is similarly divided up between track-owning companies (many) and train-operating companies (also many), thanks to the the Maggon and her cronies."
Link to Original Source

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Pentagon : scope of intelligence compromised by Snowden 'staggering'

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 6 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The Grauniad are reporting that a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed a report (or 12 pages of a 37-page report, the remainder censored) that

“the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering”

Well isn't that just terribly sad for them. My heart bleeds. Ed Snowden, if we ever meet, the first beer is my shout."
Link to Original Source

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A new class of plastics : recyclable thermosetting polymers.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 6 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "Plastics which form by chemical reactions in the presence of heat are very useful. They can be very strong, and if you incorporate appropriate "filler" materials (chalk, glass fibre, carbon fibre), they can have very attractive engineering properties. But .. that chemical reaction makes them very difficult to recycle, because the new chemical formed during the reaction will often char before it melts. We're not talking about thermo-plastic polymers here (e.g. nylon, polypropylene, PET), but thermo-setting ones including epoxies, phenol-formaldehyde resins, etc.

But no more : an international team have discovered a new class of polymer-forming reactions that produce a thermo-setting polymer, but they can recover the initial components by digesting the polymer with moderately strong acid (pH 2 ; I'd wear gloves. And glasses.), so after a component is used and obsolete, or broken, it can be separated reasonably easily into it's original components (including valuable reinforcing materials, such as carbon fibre) and these then re-used. That is a pretty big step forward."

Link to Original Source
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First diver dies in S.Korea ferry recovery efforts.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 7 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The BBC are reporting that the Korean ferry disaster has claimed it's latest victim, a civilian diver engaged in body-recovery efforts.

Five minutes after commencing a dive to about 25m, diver Lee lost communication with other divers. His body was later recovered to the surface.

This is unlikely to be the final death. Last week another diver lost consciousness underwater, which is an extraordinarily bad situation. He had dived four times previously that morning. Several others have been treated with at a hyperbaric oxygen recompression facility after decompression events.

The initial search of the vessel is nearly completed, but the entire ship is to be re-searched. 40 bodies are still missing."
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Data security on the Internet of things - digestible version

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about 9 months ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "While it has been discussed on Slashdot before, the questions around data security on the "Internet of Things" may seem a little dry to many people.

The excellent webcomic 'Freefall' (by Mark Stanley) addresses some of these concerns in typical "Ha ha. But serious." manner. While the original Internet-controlled coffee machine might not seem so threatening, when it becomes a voice-controlled coffee pot, linked to your grocery account ... all of a sudden it doesn't seem so innocuous."
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Bitcoin plummets after Chinese block 3rd-party payment processors

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "In order to use Bitcoin in the real world, you need to convert it into a convertible currency (Kroner, or Rupees, or Yuan, or even USD), a task that is undertaken by "third-party payment provider[s]."

Earlier this month, China's central bank warned that Bitcoin was "not legally protected," had no "real meaning", and barred financial institutions from using the currency. That ban was extended to 3rd-party providers on Tuesday (though with a deadline of Jan 31st / Chinese New Year), and last night 3rd-party provider YeePay complied with the ban. In consequence the Chinese Bitcoin exchange BTC China announced that they could not accept deposits in yuan ; overnight, the exchange's value for Bitcoin has fallen to half it's earlier values.

All the theorising about the value of Bitcoin in opening up a new economy is moot if users can't either put money into the currency, or exchange the currency for one that they can use in the Real World."

Link to Original Source
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The Empire of Evil develop technology ... without (obvious) evil intent.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  1 year,10 days

RockDoctor (15477) writes "In a move designed by a PR genius, a conspiracy team of crack Iranian hardware hackers are developing a ground-steered drone for marine Search and Rescue work. Development plans include fully automating the flying and search-and-track capabilities. This will no doubt be followed up by a beefed-up version capable of dropping a "dirty nuke" in Central Park New York.

In deference to the expressed stereotypes of Slashdot, it is also impossible that these persons of the "brown" and "Muslim" persuasions to have developed this technology on their own, and must have stolen it from someone in the rest of the world."
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Falling GOCE satellite seen from Falkland islands.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  1 year,10 days

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The GOCE satellite was expected to fall out of the sky at the weekend, and orbital calculations before it last disappeared from the view of ground stations suggested that it came down in the South Atlantic.

The BBC post pictures from a Falkland Islands resident (Las Islas Malvinas if you're in Latin America) who saw a large, fragmenting fireball travelling in the right direction at the right time. Video is available. You'll need to travel to their home near Volunteer Point to view it. If you happen to have a satellite base station in your back pocket, they might be interested in borrowing it to be able to upload the video recordings. Don't bother to take a mobile phone.

Oh, nice tombolos along that waterfront."
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"Light Caber" to be replaced.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "In news not coming to you from the Star Trek universe, the so-called "light caber" is to be replaced. How this will impact future aspirant Jedi Knights is unclear, as they will have to manufacture new designs. Members of the Jedi Knight community who are experienced tossers may be little affected."
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Google 'Glass' to be banned while driving

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes ""Stuff" magazine, a "gadget" oriented mag, is reporting that the UK's Department for Transport is planning to ban drivers from using Google "Glass", using the same law (1988 Road Traffic Act) that is used to ban drivers from using hand-held mobile phones.

While there are obvious parallels between the distraction potential of the mobile phone and of "Glass", there are arguments in the other direction that the speech-control aspects of "Glass" could make it less distracting than, say, a touch-screen SatNav. So, to ban "Glass" driving or not?

Typical fines for using a mobile phone while driving are £60 cash plus three penalty points on the driving license ; the points expire 3 years after the offence and if you accumulate 12 points then you've lost your license. Repeat offenders may experience higher fines and/ or more points. Around a million people have received the penalty since the mobile phone ban was introduced in 2003."

Link to Original Source
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Cyclist pleads guilty to manslaughter of pedestrian.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The Grauniad is reporting that a San Francisco cyclist has pleaded guilty to a charge of "vehicular manslaughter" over a collision which killed a 71-year-old pedestrian.

Seemingly, the cyclist had run three successive red lights before finding himself "unable to stop" and ploughing into multiple pedestrians at a junction. "Unable to stop" plainly translates to "driving too fast" in this case.

Running multiple red lights, as the cyclist seems to have accepted by the plea bargain, is a mark of reckless irresponsibility on behalf of the cyclist, as is his admittedly excessive speed. Cyclists have obligations towards pedestrian safety in the same way that motor vehicle drivers have too."

Link to Original Source
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Wood-powered USB re-charger

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "Out camping, and your smart phone has a flat battery, so you can't turn it on to discover that you haven't got a signal to call up a weather report to find out if it's raining or not? Well now you don't just have the option of opening your eyes and looking at the skies (hint :the big, round wet things are "raindrops" — Wikipedia may have a better description) ; now you can also feed some random bits of plants — twigs, cones — into a little camping stove, and while you're making a cup of $BEVERAGE$ the stove will produce enough electricity to recharge your power-hungry technology.

OK, I'm being a touch sarcastic about using it for a mobile phone. But as someone who likes week-long trips into the mountains, with camera batteries to re-charge, and GPS loggers to re-charge, and tablet computers which I use to record my geological notes also needing re-charge ... this is a technology that I may well be experimenting with. It's not without criticisms, valid ones, but it does have interesting potential. I'm sure the compounded wilderness experience of the techno-nerds of Slashdot can work out some criticisms of the idea.

In a sideline, it comments on the (in-)efficiency of thermoelectric electricity generation : for a stove peak power of 5.5kW, it can produce up to 4W of electrical power, for an efficiency of 0.072% (tech specs here). Hmmm, maybe photovoltaics on the lid of my rucksac would be better?"
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BBC gives up on 3-D programming.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "After spending several years on supporting the uptake of 3-D TV, the BBC has accepted that people don't want it, and are turning off their 3-D channels following an uptake of under 5% of households with 3-D equipment.

I can just feel the joy at not having wasted my money on this technology."

Link to Original Source
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Will Alibaba have a bigger IPO than Facebook?

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year and a half ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "The BBC are speculating that the impending IPO of Chinese mega-B2B company Alibaba may have an IPO value larger than that of Facebook. Since Alibaba primarily put the manufacturers of physical goods into contact with the customers of physical goods, does this remind you that the world does exist outside of the Interwebz?"
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Retail 3-d Printers becoming available in the UK

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year and a half ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "Well-known retail electronics/ gadgetry company Maplin are advertising the availability soon of retail build-it-yourself 3-d printer kits from German (I think) supplier Velleman. While this is quite expensive (£700), it's specs also include a fairly large build volume (20x20x20 cm).

While Maplin have never been cheap, they are one of the few places in the UK these days where you can get electronics parts on the "High Street" (more or less — dozens if not a hundred stores ; for electronics what Jessops used to be for cameras) without having a business credit card and a £1000/month minimum account spend.

So, if they're dipping a toe onto the 3-d printing bandwagon, then it's a good chance that widespread adoption is not far behind."
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XCom : Enemy Unknown (iOS) edition to be premium-priced

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  about a year and a half ago

RockDoctor (15477) writes "BBC News are reporting that 2K Games will be marketing the iOS (iPhone and/ or iPad? I'm not an Apple-core.) at the relatively high price of £13.99 (20€ / $US17.99) compared to a more typical game price of £5.99 (etc. etc.). They discuss how effective this "premium-price" model will be, compared to the alternative "pile'em high and sell 'em cheap" model or the "give away the game and charge for buying a BFG9000" model.

Seems to me about the same price that I paid for the original game in ~1994, and I still enjoy playing that. Guess that makes me an economic dead end to the company though."

Journals

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So, new toys. "Acheivements" and encouragement to contribute

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Well, pouring a little (more) petrol onto the fire of burning the religious seems to have garnered me another fan, one "thats1fuzzybug99" has increased my "Friend" count by almost 6%.
That would be wonderful. If I knew what it meant.
I wonder who some of the other 94-odd% are. Hopefully some are very odd!

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Politics and moderation.

RockDoctor RockDoctor writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Doing some moderation and getting extremely pissed off by the endless maundering of (presumed) Americans about some internal political matters. Someone called Kerry Dubyah is contesting with someone called John Bush for the leadership of some body called POTUS (sometimes a related position called FLATUS is also brought into the "debate" to confuse matters. this post seems to be related to the gigolos/ babotchkas that the contestants use/ are used by. I think.)
I'm wishing for a moderating flag like "Parochial Politics" that would come at a level like "-99", so that such comments could be killed off at source, leaving the interesting (to nerds - this is "News for Nerds, stuff that matters" after all) stuff like the trolling, the flamebaits and the actual technical stuff where people can find it without wading through the dross. Might be able to get rid of the Iraq dross through the same method.

But how to put this forward to the "system" as a proposal? Still can't find a place to post such suggestions/ requests.

The idea is not /quite/ comparable to moderation though - things can move up and down a scale in the moderating system, but I envisage this as being more like a permanent flag. Sort of like the "green beard" method described by W.D.Hamilton.

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