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Asteroid Impacts Bigger Risk Than Thought

RsG Re: 1-600 kilotons (172 comments)

It's "Hiroshima" ,and you really ought to read up on the details before commenting.

Roughly 80K were killed INSTANTLY from the blast. Blown to bits, vaporized, incinerated, or rather more prosaically by killed shrapnel. Others were killed when the city burned - lots of wooden construction, especially far from the city center. Many more were fatally wounded but did NOT die in the blast - burn or shrapnel victims who would die of infection or lack of treatment days, or even weeks later. The fatality list would have been smaller had the bombing not eliminated most medical staff and facilities within the city, leading to treatable wounds becoming septic.

You can't take the total fatalities, subtract the immediate deaths and arrive at the figure for "death by radiation poisoning". In point of fact, there were a great many people killed from radiation, but anyone close enough to the blast to receive a lethal dose ALSO received other injuries, meaning that, rather than having discrete categories for radiation poisoning, burns, shrapnel/blast and infection casualties, you have people who were wounded in multiple ways, and died of more than one cause.

about 6 months ago
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Cody Wilson Interview at Reason: Happiness Is a 3D Printed Gun

RsG Re:Don't be ridiculous (207 comments)

Limited demand. They'd be selling a product that's both low quality and illegal to own. The target market for that would be criminals with money to spend, who don't already have access to equal or better guns. And it's not like you can set up shop on a street corner; secrecy is expensive.

Basically, a black market Sten Gun factory has all the drawbacks of illegal arms dealing AND startup costs to boot. I'm not surprised it isn't a thing yet. Oh, and I doubt 3D printing will make it a reality any time soon - the startup costs would be lower, but the 3D printed guns would be even worse than cheap locally manufactured metal guns.

There are places in the world where the locals make cheap metal guns en masse, but they tend to be places like Chechnya rather than the UK.

about 6 months ago
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Goodyear's New State-of-the-Art Airship Makes Its First Flight

RsG Re:Enjoy it while it floats (66 comments)

When underground radioactive elements decay, helium is a byproduct (look up "alpha particle radiation"). Because it's a noble gas and doesn't bond with anything, it seeps its way to the surface, where it escapes into the upper atmosphere. Some helium can instead become trapped by non-porous rock, in underground pockets. Those same pockets sometimes have natural gas deposits.

So you find a natural gas deposit, tap it, and what comes out as well? Helium. It's not the main product they're after when they go drilling, but it is valuable enough to set aside and sell.

about 7 months ago
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Military Robots Expected To Outnumber Troops By 2023

RsG Re:Is this really a _good_ idea? (177 comments)

It actually wouldn't be that difficult to avoid what you describe as "silly sci-fi crap" scenarios. The key concept is autonomy.

Meatbag infantry aren't that autonomous to begin with. They need their supply lines; an army marches on its stomach. And they need orders. For every squad of grunts shooting/getting shot at there's a legion of grunts keeping them in ammo, food, water and fuel, bare minimum, and and whole line of dummies (excuse me, officers) telling them where to go and what to do. Interrupt either and they stop being effective in a hurry.

Despite these limits infantry are still the MOST autonomous branch of the military. Tanks need entire shops for of full time specialists, aircraft spend more time getting fixed than getting flown, and ships go through fuel by the tanker.

A super advanced drone with onboard guidance still needs fuel, and if it wants to kill anyone, ammo. And it'll probably need a direct order, possibly with an access code, to unlock its weapons, seeing as ROE are already that restrictive for human soldiers.

And the kinds of traits your talking about in an advanced computer - self-determination, intellectual autonomy, freedom - are the polar OPPOSITE of what the military wants in a drone. If Cyberdyne made a pitch to the Pentagon that started with "Our new T800 Killbots are able to learn, think and adapt", they wouldn't make it halfway through the first PowerPoint slide before getting politely asked to leave. Top brass don't even want regular grunts doing any of those things.

about a year ago
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Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists?

RsG Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (227 comments)

This fearmongering is the product of years of zombie fantasies in popular culture. All of it is utter nonsense.

Second that. Though it's not just zombies.

Plagues, both natural and manmade, are a staple of apocalyptic fiction. Current craze is zombies, but they're a recent (and effective) retelling of a very old meme.

Stop me if you've read this one: "PLAGUENAME a (virus/bacteria/prion/plot device) created by (godless researchers/actual god(s)/mother nature/snidley whiplash) swept the globe after (accident/outbreak in the third world/contrived event) killing (millions/billions/everyone but our heroes), and turning our cities into haunting graveyards". When you can make a mad libs version of what is essentially the same story, it's officially become a cliche.

Now, reality time. The worst plagues in recent history were the 1918 flu epidemic and the HIV pandemic, while the worst in ancient history were the black death and smallpox. These are the killers that the cliche above sprung out of. They set the bar.

They aren't even close to apocalyptic. Especially not on a global scale. Even a pathogenic perfect storm is at worst a regional catastrophe.

Is this any surprise? Fiction always takes things further than reality. If the world conformed to our fantasies, we'd have moon cities twenty years ago. Reality is a huge letdown sometimes. Not that that stops people from believing; you could probably make a killing by selling lunar real estate with the promise that it'll be ready in twenty years.

So you get people who think that yes, it really is possible to bring about the end of the human race via pathogen. And those same people will look at something like the 2001 anthrax attack and think the sky is falling, while reality being what it is, the total death toll for that was single digit. The article is pandering to that mindset.

about a year and a half ago
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Fusion Rocket Could Take Us To Mars

RsG Re:Yuh huh (171 comments)

Actually, thinking about it for a minute, a hydrogen bomb is a bad comparison. What this idea is closer to is a Farnsworth Fusor. For those of you who haven't heard of those, click the link. Short version: we can very easily make a device that causes fusion to happen, in a controlled non-explody way, provided we aren't too concerned about breaking even on energy. And fusors date from 1964, just to give you an idea of how long the tech has existed. There are even homemade ones in existence.

Achieving fusion is easy. Making fusion POWER PLANTS is hard.

Since the object of the exercise is propulsion, rather than power, the usual objection to fusion need not apply. Doesn't matter that it takes more energy than it could turn into electricity as a powerpant; an ion engine isn't a viable source for power, but we already use those on probes. What matters is how much reaction mass you have to carry to get where you're going. A fusion engine with a solar or fission power source could outperform conventional rockets on specific impulse and outperform ion engines on pure thrust.

about a year and a half ago
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Spy Drones Used To Hunt Down Christopher Dorner

RsG Re:No different than helicopters (498 comments)

Actually, that one's a myth. What they got were discarded disposable launch tubes, with no rockets in them, probably brought back from the middle east.

Without an unfired rocket in the tube, the tube itself is essentially scrap metal. You can't reload it (hence "disposable"), and even if you somehow could, you can't acquire the rockets for it in the first place. The rockets are treated as restricted munitions, the tube (sans rocket) is not, and the regulations that draw that distinction are sensibly written.

To draw a non-rocket analogy, I can go to my local army surplus and buy a sawn in half grenade casing with no explosives in it. Without the part that goes BOOM, the metal bits that were once attached aren't weapons anymore.

about a year and a half ago
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Warp Drive Might Be Less Impossible Than Previously Thought

RsG Re:Make it so. (867 comments)

I'll assume, for the sake of argument, that conservation of energy still applies to the discussion. That is, you can't move a chunk of the crust into orbit without expending more energy than the gravitation potential energy thusly imparted into said chunk.

Let's assume the energy to make the handwavium drive go is equal to the potential energy of a 500 kg mass, as it says in TFS. Presumably we've got matter-energy conversion or antimatter fuel to make this work, that's no more implausible than the handwavium required to make the FTL drive work in the first place.

How much energy is liberated by converting 500 kg into energy, say in the form of 250 kg antimatter to 250 kg matter? About two hundred and fifteen times as much as was released by the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated. Make no mistake - that's a huge amount of energy, but nowhere near planet cracking levels. For another point of comparison, the impact that (probably) killed the non-avian dinosaurs was a couple million times as powerful.

Further, if we've got some way of supplying that kind of power, in a package small enough to fit on a spacecraft, wouldn't the power plant itself be a more dangerous weapon than a handwavium suicide run? Dangerous in the sense of city busting, not planet cracking.

more than 2 years ago
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Man Orders TV On Amazon, Gets Shipped Assault Rifle

RsG Re:really??? (666 comments)

When the dictionary says one thing and a journalist says another, the journalist is wrong. If a newspaper refers to an iPad as a laptop, or calls a head of lettuce a fruit, or calls Micheal Phelps a diver, the newspaper is wrong. Not wrong in the sense of "I don't agree with this", but wrong in the sense of "You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means".

An assault rifle is a select fire automatic weapon. Not semi auto. Unless, of course, you want to accuse the Oxford English Dictionary of being in the pocket of the NRA.

more than 2 years ago
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Man Orders TV On Amazon, Gets Shipped Assault Rifle

RsG Re:really??? (666 comments)

What's a "high-caliber" assault rifle?

A contradiction in terms.

An assault rifle is A) fully automatic (with a fire selector that includes either full auto or burst) and B) fires an intermediate rifle cartridge, meaning not high calibre.

If it's high calibre, but still a military rifle, it's a battle rifle. If it's intermediate calibre, but limited to semi-automatic fire, it's just a semi-auto rifle.

You can't legally buy assault rifles, or select fire battle rifles for that matter, if you're a civilian living in a first world nation. Doesn't matter what you might see in the news that says otherwise, go try it at your local gun store and see how far you get. If it's got automatic fire capability, it's a military weapon belonging in the hands of soldiers, and cannot be owned by your local gun nut anymore than he can own a live grenade.

Referring to anything that looks remotely dangerous as either an assault rifle or machine gun is a good indicator that the person doing the labelling knows fuck all about the subject at hand. "Assault style rifle", which is the weasel word term for weapons like the one in TFA, is about the same thing as a car that looks like a racecar, but drives like a sedan; legal, fancy looking, but boring under the hood.

(Disclaimer: I am Canadian. The second amendment down south is none of my business either way. I own no guns. I am firmly in the "guns belong in the hands of professionals" category. Anyone busting out the "sure, that's what an NRA drone wants you to think" in response to my post presumably didn't read the post script.)

more than 2 years ago
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The World's First 3D-Printed Gun

RsG Re:The 12 gauge shotgun was deadlier ... (846 comments)

The term "Assault Rifle" actually applies only to rifles capable of full-auto operation. When the rifle is semi-automatic only "Military Grade" is a fiction, relying only on cosmetic appearance not actual functionality or capability.

A useful rebuttal (in the form of a car analogy, slashdot's favourite) I posted elsewhere for dealing with people calling an AR-15 an assault rifle:

Some people own cars where the suspension, tailpipe, wheels and paintjob are meant to make the car look like a race car. Under the hood, it's your average sedan, on the surface it looks like it belongs on the track. These cars are sometimes called ricers.

An AR-15 is to an assault rifle what a ricer is to a race car.

It looks similar. It looks fancy and powerful. It isn't. It's boring and ordinary.

No soldier takes an AR-15 into combat, and most criminals avoid it too; it isn't rapid fire, or powerful, or concealable, or cheap and at the range most gun crime happens, it offers no advantage over other guns.

You can actually buy an AR-15 in Canada; CBC was running a story about that earlier. Need I say more about the guns "military" status?

Which is not to say anything one way or the other about the American gun control debate, rather it's to dismiss the notion that you can judge a gun's legal status and purpose solely by appearance, without examining functionality.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Securely Store Private Information For Posterity?

RsG Re:Mod parent up. (257 comments)

Yep, most of the stuff (banks, 401(k), mortgage, insurance, etc) listed in the summary would be best suited to paper. And safety deposit boxes are the way to go.

For the stuff like email and online banking, might I suggest setting up a main email account with a stable password that is as strong as you can make it? I.e. twenty characters, alphanumeric, no words in the dictionary?

You don't need to use this account for your regular email, you just use it to reset your other passwords when needed. So you've got "yournameherebackupaccount@____.com" on every online form for password recovery, and the backup accounts password is written down someplace secure, and too strong to need resetting. Pretty sure you can even set up a "forgot my password" option for your regular email provider (I recall doing something like that with gmail in any case).

Once you become metabolically challenged, your family just needs to access the one account, using the password saved in your deposit box, and reset the passwords on everything else for their own access. Since the password is saved in a deposit box, your bank becomes the gatekeeper for it, and they're pretty good at that job.

more than 2 years ago
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Symantec: Religious Sites "Riskier Than Porn For Viruses"

RsG Re:More details? (343 comments)

I'd like some more detail too.

TFA specifically mentioned sites that have been hijacked. Which makes sense to me, since there can't be that many sites where the viruses are the work of the site owner - spyware is another matter entirely. Porn sites, especially pay sites, are bound to have better security than a site made by amateurs.

Which leads me to wonder why religious sites would be hijacked more frequently than other amateur operations. Are they more vulnerable due to shoddy security practices? Are they attractive to people looking to spread viruses? Do they have a reputation for attracting users who may not have antivirus software installed?

more than 2 years ago
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EA Defends Itself Against Thousands of Anti-Gay Letters

RsG Re:Well I say (1069 comments)

Bingo.

EA has almost nothing to do with the gay content of their games. They're the publisher for fucks' sake, at best they're not getting in the way. They are due perhaps a smidge of credit for not demanding bioware remove the "offensive" content, but no more than that. Doesn't make them the good guy, and doesn't even come close to compensating for the way they treat their developers. One brief moment of apathetic social activism doesn't outweigh a decade of abuse.

The reason they're getting flooded with angry emails from the religious right is that the people sending the letters know fuck all about who makes what decision, and I will freely believe the person up the thread who said they're hoping to capitalize on the Streisand effect for free publicity. Why address your flaws when you can paint your critics as a bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth homophobes with an axe to grind?

Now, that being said, will they lose sales for ME3 and TOR because the people who sent angry letters staged a boycott? Nope. Can't boycott something you were never going to buy in the first place. The gamers I've known who dislike gays (and I don't mean "use gay as a general purpose slur", every idiot tween with a headset does that) aren't going to boycott the games, because it takes a hell of a lot more than an optional same sex relationship to dissuade them. At best a few people will give those two games a miss.

The people I've known who would boycott a piece of fiction over having even the tiniest touch of "the gay" aren't in the gamer demographic. They might matter to Hollywood, but gaming is a niche they already disapprove of.

more than 2 years ago
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Rutgers Student Ravi Convicted of Bias Intimidation and Spying

RsG Re:Damn unfortunate (714 comments)

It is, but it's not 10 years in prison wrong.

Are you sure about that? This was someone filming two other persons engaging in intimate acts without their knowledge or consent. If the couple being spied upon were heterosexual and the spy was a stalker getting his rocks off, he'd actually get worse than this, particularly if NJ has a sex offender registry.

Not saying I agree entirely with the law on this one, but I don't personally believe that the accused here was given worse sentencing because of the orientation of his victim.

more than 2 years ago
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Crying Foul At the BSA's "Nauseating" Anti-Piracy Tactics

RsG Re:Use Linux (235 comments)

This is not in favor or support of the BSA at all, you just left out the point that actually not breaking the rules they're claiming you're breaking is a good idea.

Yeah, I left that out to be polite, since the OP was talking about running a FOSS only business. Wouldn't do to conflate the businesses that don't pay the BSA because they don't use BSA software with the businesses that don't pay the BSA because bittorrent is cheaper. Apples hate being called oranges.

I don't doubt that some businesses do get threatened by the BSA thanks to anon complaints from ex employees, and actually do have pirated software. Even in the case of those companies, I'd tell them to get the IT guy(s) to do an internal audit and clean up their act, not let the BSA run the audit for them.

more than 2 years ago
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Crying Foul At the BSA's "Nauseating" Anti-Piracy Tactics

RsG Re:Use Linux (235 comments)

I think you're treating the BSA as if they were a law firm. They follow a different approach than actual lawyers do.

They don't actually sue, see the line about "hasn't pursued a court case in 5 years". Lawsuits cost money. They threaten to sue if you've got pirated software, then sell you on an audit to prove your innocence. If they find pirated software, they offer to legitimize it by selling you a licence, rather than go to court. It's a revenue generating approach where unleashing the lawyers is a last resort.

They're the equivalent to an angry McDonald's customer demanding to see the manager (for whatever reason), threatening to sue/call head office/stir up a ruckus, and walking out with a refund or free food. If they don't get their free mcnuggets, they give up and try the same approach in the next store down the road.

more than 2 years ago
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Crying Foul At the BSA's "Nauseating" Anti-Piracy Tactics

RsG Re:Use Linux (235 comments)

Yeah, that's what I was getting at, should have phrased it more clearly. So, refining my original statement:

If you get a threatening letter from the BSA demanding an audit, disregard it.

If you get a subpoena, or anything else official, forward it to your lawyer.

The letter is bait. Don't rise to it, and most likely they won't do anything about it. Actual court documents are too serious to ignore.

more than 2 years ago
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Crying Foul At the BSA's "Nauseating" Anti-Piracy Tactics

RsG Re:Use Linux (235 comments)

Doesn't really help, what with the whole false accusations from disgruntled employees angle. Replying "no thanks, I use Linux" to them isn't going to do you much good. Replying at all isn't going to do you much good. It shows them that you're listening.

A better approach is to simply ignore the BSA on principle. Threatening letters are cheap, subpoenas are expensive, and they do their business in bulk (meaning they can't actually sic their lawyers on most of their targets).

Also, try not to have disgruntled employees. A big company can't avoid a few bad apples, but smaller businesses can vet new hires better and treat existing employees less like disposable resources. If nothing else, the BSA isn't the only recourse for a pissed off ex employee to screw his former boss. I once worked at a restaurant that got hit with a surprise health inspection shortly after a round of layoffs - the people running the place treated employees and health code rules about equally well and almost got shut down as a result (I would have said good riddance if they had, but it would have meant looking for a new job myself).

more than 2 years ago

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