×

Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely

bitingduck Enceladus (57 comments)

Enceladus is probably a better candidate-- there's reason to believe that it's as little as a few meters to get to liquid water that's already known to have most of what you need for life. It's much farther away though, so it's a lot longer to get there.

about a month ago
top

Russia May Be Planning National Space Station To Replace ISS

bitingduck Re:What's it good for? (236 comments)

If you need an environment free of vibrations and atmosphere, can't you just park it a foot from the space station? And once the experiment is done, retrieve it?

The added bonus is that if the experiment needs modifications, you have the possibility of doing it in almost real time and send it out again.

It's not that clean an environment around space station. It's more llike the space equivalent of Pigpen from the old Peanuts comics- a station with a cloud of contamination floating along with it. There was a microgravity facility that was very loosely coupled to ISS, but it still has to be coupled so that when the space station maneuvers your things keep up. If you really need microgravity it tends to be easier to make a free flyer and stick it in a higher orbit. The possibility of re-usability is appealing, but it rarely seems to work out to be cost effective for anything large-- the cost of making the stuff is usually much less than the cost of all the testing and verification that it will actually work when it gets there.

about a month ago
top

Russia May Be Planning National Space Station To Replace ISS

bitingduck Re:What's it good for? (236 comments)

The ISS cost $150 billion over 20 years, or about $7.5 billion a year to construct and maintain. The US currently spends about $3 billion a year to keep it going - or about $8 per person. It's not a lot of money. Think about that - watching a movie about space costs more than actually maintaining a real life space station.

The movie analogy is one of my favorites. I like to point out to people that you can send a small rover to Mars for the same cost (or less) than making a couple of really bad movies about sending people there. You can send a large rover for about the cost of a James Cameron extravaganza or two about it.

about a month ago
top

Russia May Be Planning National Space Station To Replace ISS

bitingduck Re:What's it good for? (236 comments)

Consider Philae - if it had landed a few meters in another direction it would still be working. If it had been a manned expedition, that wouldn't have been an issue.

Or they could have included three or four more copies of the lander and still cost less than sending humans. Rosetta has been in space for 10 years-- there aren't going to be humans floating around in tin cans in deep space for that long for a *long* time. At least not live ones.

Or look at the Mars rovers. Great stuff, but there's little ability to improvise. Think up a different experiment you want done? Well, it'll have to wait for the next rover because that one can't do it.

That's not an argument for manned missions so much as an argument to either make things we're sending smaller and more capable or increase our ability to send larger and larger things. A significant portion of the mass you send on a human mission will be just stuff to keep the people alive, limiting the amount of stuff you can send for them to do experiments or massively increasing the cost because you're trying to send a general lab. If you're developing a set of very general lab stuff that humans can take halfway across the solar system, for the foreseeable future (even with significant reductions in cost to orbit) it's going to be less expensive and lower risk to make a robot that operates the lab and feeds it with stuff.

about a month ago
top

The Downside to Low Gas Prices

bitingduck Re:Stupid, trucks cause the problem (554 comments)

Delivery vans often reduce other traffic-- a UPS truck going through a neighborhood dropping things off might be eliminating a bunch of local trips to run errands, reducing the traffic on local roads and the need for parking at local sellers.

about a month and a half ago
top

The Downside to Low Gas Prices

bitingduck Re:Stupid, trucks cause the problem (554 comments)

More to the point, think of right fucking now where large swaths of the country are buried in 2' or more of snow. Have fun walking or riding a bike in that. Then just wait for a little later in the winter when there will not only be snow, but pretty damned cold air temps even w/o windchill.

When I was using a bike for primary transportation and we got 3 feet of snow in one day (and another foot the next) the only reliable transportation was bike. I helped push a lot of stuck cars out, only to watch them creep along and get stuck again.

Bike gets stuck? Pick it up and move it. Get to a street that's not plowed? Carry the bike. I went grocery shopping by bike in that mess, and it was *way* better than any other transportation.

about a month and a half ago
top

Boeing Readies For First Ever Conjoined Satellite Launch

bitingduck Re:First 'conjoined' satellites? (67 comments)

Or Herschel & Planck?

http://orbitalhub.com/?p=475

They don't stay together, but they're large satellites launched in a stack. The Herschel load doesn't go through the Planck structure, so maybe it doesn't count.

about a month and a half ago
top

What Happens When Nobody Proofreads an Academic Paper

bitingduck Re:MS Office Incompatibility (170 comments)

In LaTeX (and Word for that matter), I always prefix my notes with @@@ because that is a string that nnever occurs in normal text (easoly searchable) and that sticks out visually like a sore thumb.

Percent-sign-prefixed comments ("this needs an update") are much easier to overlook, or even guaranteed to be overlooked during proofreading. At least, I don't proofread my LaTeX markup, but rather the typeset document.

Word actually has a "comment" feature that attaches comments to particular locations in the text, and a flag that lets you show/hide them. It's been there for quite a long time. It works quite well.

about a month and a half ago
top

Amazon's Echo Chamber

bitingduck Re: Um ... (112 comments)

Yes, they track usage. They know what page you're on.

about a month and a half ago
top

Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

bitingduck Re:Horrible track record (443 comments)

3% to 5% failure rate is about typical for more reliable launch vehicles.

It's not like airplane flight yet.

about 2 months ago
top

Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

bitingduck Re:Orbital (443 comments)

The NASA centers that buy spacecraft and instruments still do some in-house builds, partly to maintain the skill base so they can be smart buyers. For instruments they tend to build things that are first of a kind. But even in those cases they're part system or instrument integrator, part builder, because nearly all the pieces are purchased from outside shops.

about 2 months ago
top

Cisco Exec: Turnover In Engineering No Problem

bitingduck Re:The essence of enterprise (148 comments)

Competition rewards hard work and innovation. The "losers" learn from the "winners" and everyone ends up better off. In your idealized model of "cooperation" there is no way to know what works best and what is worst: you have nothing to compare against and no motivation to become better.

It also rewards lying, cheating, and fraud, which have all increased in science as the competitive pressure (for positions and funding) to publish large volumes of high-impact research in short times has increased.

about 2 months ago
top

Cisco Exec: Turnover In Engineering No Problem

bitingduck Re:The essence of enterprise (148 comments)

That seems grossly oversimplified. Like most things with humans, it isn't a dichotomy of 'exceptional' and 'ordinary'. Every worker usually has some amount of 'exceptional', and some amount that aligns with what you need them to do, and that amount might be more or less than others performing the same role. And engineering (which is encapsulated by the 'techie' group of Slashdot readers), a field where insight, clarity, work ethic, intelligence, and lateral thinking are major factors of job performance, that 'individual skills' factor matters at least as much as it does with scientists and inventors. Your posts indicate that you might fall into the category of people, as pointed out elsewhere, who don't actually understand what engineers do and instead confuse them with technicians.

Overall an excellent post-- too bad you posted anon so fewer will see it (I don't have mod points).

To expand on the quoted section-- good management of technical people is finding the areas where people are exceptional and putting them into positions where you can best use those skills, and avoiding forcing them into areas where they aren't particularly special or interested interested in becoming so (which will make them unexceptional).

I should also point out that there's a very fuzzy line between "engineer", "scientist", and "inventor" (which you sort of imply, but I'll come out and say it). A very substantial part of many science fields is engineering to make the observation that you're trying to make. And anybody can "invent" something that they need, but it usually takes a bunch of engineering to implement it, much of which gets done by the inventor. Even on a small scale, a significant fraction of engineers have to "invent" things on a small scale on a regular basis.

about 2 months ago
top

Which Cars Get the Most Traffic Tickets?

bitingduck Re:Prius (261 comments)

My first thought was that Prius drivers get pulled over for more or less political reasons, because the car is some kind of symbol for left-leaning environmentalism which you would mostly expect runs counter to the expected cop mindset of a right-wing anti-environmentalism.

Or it could be because they're a disproportionate fraction of the cars on the road in California even if most people who drive them are pokey, when you multiply the numbers by the rate, you still get into the top 20. I've seen Toyota lots in LA that look like they're the storage lot at the end of the Prius assembly line-- hundreds of them as far as you can see. On the road, it's pretty rare to not be able to see at least one in your field of view. The C probably made it onto the list because it's more likely to be driven by younger people who aren't hypermiling yet.

about 3 months ago
top

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

bitingduck Re:Depending on local ordinances... (488 comments)

But nothing says *all* your power has to come from the grid. It's entirely possible to switch some circuits of your house off grid with a second panel, or even a single switch that lets the house be connected to the grid or the personal system. The house is still connected to the grid, you just don't pull much off it.

I have a peculiar case of unreliable power from the power company, but not enough roof to make a full grid tie system worth the trouble (trees over the house block most of the sun). I'll eventually get around to putting in about a kW of solar and some batteries that will power my outdoor stuff normally and that is usable for minimal power during outages just by running cables. It's not much more than the cost of a good generator and doesn't require going to get fuel (which could be difficult after an earthquake). A friend of mine has a grid-tie system that switches completely off the grid over to batteries when power goes out.

about 3 months ago
top

The Billion-Dollar Website

bitingduck Re:Why dont we (194 comments)

And never worked large projects.

For some projects (not necessarily software, and not even necessarily that large) there aren't more than 2 or 3 companies that can do them, and they're all a pain to deal with.

about 4 months ago
top

The Billion-Dollar Website

bitingduck Re:Technical People (194 comments)

Non technical people are not competent to commission technical work from technical people.

If you (as a government or large company) don't have your own technical people on staff to oversee the process and comprehend or write the specs, you're doomed. The contractors know well how to milk a cash cow, simply by adhering to the specs written by people who don't understand how to write specs.

This is a part of why the government created Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). DOE created them during WWII because they saw a need for an organization that had more flexibility than the government (they're all privately operated) but would act as an expert exclusively on behalf of the gov't. They get their money entirely from a single agency and most do a combination of direct work ("we'll do it in house") to main expertise and procurement ("we'll spread it around"), recognizing that to be good buyers they need to have a good deal of internal expertise. Most of the FFRDCs are run by DOE (they started as the weapons labs and science centers to develop knowledge of elementary physics for weapons research), but many agencies have them. It's probably time to create one for government software development, or assign is as a role to a few existing ones.

about 4 months ago
top

Big Bang Actors To Earn $1M Per Episode

bitingduck Re:Nerd Blackface (442 comments)

We're talking about a fictional example, but Sheldon is highly successful, and seems quite happy with his life. He doesn't need to be medicated just because he doesn't meet stereotypical norms.

As far as I can tell, Sheldon is a string theorist and is doomed to being a perpetual post-doc. The others will all have much more successful careers.

about 5 months ago
top

Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

bitingduck Re:Perhaps... (192 comments)

I'm a small publisher, and we give good royalties to our authors (we provide actual publishing services free up front to the authors in return for the part of the sale we keep). They get a bigger royalty from our website than anywhere else (because it's just split between us and them). We sell everything DRM free in multiple formats and explicitly tell users they can format shift. You can figure out the name of the company from my username if you care to go and buy some books.

about 5 months ago
top

Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

bitingduck Re:The end of reading as culturally relevant... (192 comments)

If actual editing was still happening, I would agree with you - but my experience as an avid reader tells me publishers stopped doing any significant editing 20-30 years ago.

They're depending on the author's agent to handle that now, and hand them a complete book ready to send for typesetting. It doesn't always work out...

And with some authors you can see that as they got famous they got to tell the editor to get lost a lot more. JK Rowling is a great example-- the early books were fun reads and short. As the franchise got bigger, the books got longer and lots of fluff got left in. She also would introduce new characters at the drop of a plot hole, then abandon them later without explanation.

about 5 months ago

Submissions

bitingduck hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

bitingduck has no journal entries.

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?