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NASA Can't Ethically Send Astronauts On One-Way Missions To Deep Space

Re:Ethical is irrelevant. (402 comments)

Not detracting from what the colonists did, but they knew that they only needed to pack enough food and water for the voyage and the settlement time, plus the knowledge they could breath was an additional bonus.

And they also didn't require many billions of dollars of taxpayer funding to support their one-way trip - they paid their own way.

If someone wants to build a rocket to Mars in their backyard using their own funding, then go ahead, and any ethical considerations are your own, with the caveat that local and federal prosecutors might have different opinions than yours.

That said, another analogy is that we don't allow institutions to perform medical experiments on people that will cause harm to them, even if they volunteer with full knowledge of the consequences. We, as a society, consider this to be immoral.

While I know that society often puts people in positions where harm might very well occur (test pilots, astronauts, medical procedures), the usual assumption is that every effort will be made to prevent harm. I'm struggling to discern how this is different.

It may be - it's just with two minutes thought, I'm not able to articulate why it's ok to kill an astronaut on a one-way mission and it isn't to kill a person in a medical experiment that might well save lives. Because in the latter case, it's definitely something society has decided not to allow.

about two weeks ago
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One Person Successfully Removed From US No-Fly List

Re:Hack it to add American names like "John Smith" (286 comments)

Things have changed in the decade-plus since 2003, AC. Since the Patriot Act. And court filing fees have certainly gone up.

about three weeks ago
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One Person Successfully Removed From US No-Fly List

Re:Hack it to add American names like "John Smith" (286 comments)

you can bet they have to notify the people who maintain the no-fly list.

I would not bet that - the FBI couldn't find me once when it was a simple matter of looking up my name in a phonebook, back when those were still a thing. As I said, incompetence and stupidity abound, as they do in any bureacratic organization.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that legal name changes are (or are not) monitored by TLAs - either way. But I wouldn't bet the success of my plan to take over the world on the lack of it.

about three weeks ago
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One Person Successfully Removed From US No-Fly List

Re:Hack it to add American names like "John Smith" (286 comments)

Since 2003, it is not so easy to change your name anymore. While in the US, for the most part, you can simply use any name you want, if you want a new passport, you'll have to go before a judge and it's going to cost you about a grand.

Having dealt with various TLAs, it's not difficult for me to believe that they don't have any monitoring system in place for this - incompetence, ignorance, and stupidity abound. On other hand, if I had evil intent in mind and didn't want to get caught, I don't think I'd want to risk triggering this. Far easier to use a mispelled version of your name...

about three weeks ago
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The Earth As a Gravitational Wave Detector

Re:Resonant Detector (70 comments)

'95-ish? That's the first meeting I remember where there was a realistic attempt to propose something to NASA. I don't think there wasn't much research funding before that. Not that long a history.

Mostly the cost estimates have gone up, especially after the scrutiny brought by JWST overruns brought more honest costing. It was always going to be a flagship mission. We could debate whether eLISA is actually going to save that much money over the combined US/ESA LISA proposed in Astro2010, which we cast as the sweet spot of science per dollar.

And as far as eLISA and 2034, well, I ain't holding my breath for funding profiles that far in the future. Actuarially, it's unlikely that it'll fly in my lifetime (scientifically, and otherwise). So for me, not better than nothing.

about a month ago
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The Earth As a Gravitational Wave Detector

Re:Resonant Detector (70 comments)

[...] note that it is at a frequency where there are not a lot of expected sources

There are sources in that range, thus LISA. Galactic black holes merging, inspirals of stellar mass objects by galactic black holes.

LISA was a high pick in the DOA Astro2010 Decadal, now sacrificed on the altar of HSF and JWST.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?

Re:Lego Mindstorms (876 comments)

We do this as well, with Simulink/Matlab, and LabVIEW. Yeah, it would be great if we all knew VHDL, but then we'd be VHDL programmers, not scientists.

We get things working and tested with (very expensive - trading time for money) hardware in LabVIEW, come up with a Simulink model that matches the LabVIEW, then hand it off to a VHDL guy who generates the FPGA code from that. It would be nice if LabVIEW generated usable VHDL but it doesn't. But it's also nice to have a model to play with, and LabVIEW is better at hardware, Simulink better at modeling.

Even so, it's been a bit of a problem getting the final VHDL FPGA to exactly match the results of the tested hardware-in-the-loop LabVIEW and Simulink simulations. Fencepost errors, quantization mismatches, etc.

If we had just handed the requirements to a VHDL person, maybe we'd have something that worked [1], but that person would have been the only one who understood it or been able to experiment with it. This way, ten scientists have been able to use, change, model, and eyeball the algorithms, and see the results, without any of them having to learn VHDL.

[1] maybe not. We tried that experiment, and it almost worked, but the programmer who wrote it moved on to another project before it was debugged, and we were left with code that no one else wanted to start with.

about 2 months ago
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How the NSA Is Harming America's Economy

Re:tough love (330 comments)

Snowden is a giant monkey wrench in that; He's done more to harm America than pretty much anyone since the turn of the century save perhaps Osama Bin Laden, if we want to count out dollars on it. I hope they find him and make him suffer for a long time, slowly. He claims to be a patriot, but he's done most damage than our biggest enemies.

Maybe was the spying that did the damage.

about 5 months ago
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How Safe Is Cycling?

Re:It would be safer if cyclists followed traffic (947 comments)

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cyclists I've seen in the last year who haven't run red lights and stop signs or otherwise ignored basic safety and traffic laws.

I will happily furnish two chairs and as much liquor as you can drink, and we'll sit at the stop sign next to my house. One block away from a school, and one block away from a heavily frequented park. In a residential historic neighborhood with home values approaching seven figures. Speed bumps on almost every street.

You chug a beer every time a car rolls through the stop sign. You down a shot every time someone blows through it without even slowing down. You take a sip when cars bottom out on the dips. Shot for people texting or talking on mobiles. Just a sip for speeding. You want to up the ante? Add a drink for failure to yield right-of-way, or honked horn.

I'll take a shot for every car that doesn't break the law in some fashion.

I'll go home in better shape than you, by far.

Everyday on my bike, someone tries to kill me. Often enough on purpose. On my bike, it's very unlikely that I'll kill or maim anyone, whether I follow the law or not. Every cyclist I've ever talked to who has been in an car/bike accident (and that's just about all of them) was following the law at the time of the accident. And the car wasn't. Guess who got injured?

So the hell with you. Cyclists rarely hurt anyone, and car drivers kill cyclists every day.

about 6 months ago
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What the Surveillance State Does With Your Private Data

Re:Yeah, right (81 comments)

And where is the sharing of that information with Israel?

Pages 45, 47, 74, 78 (last two are references).

And where is the part where this is not surveillance, but directly hacking into personal machines and servers planting backdoors on them?

The title is "What the goverment does with Americans' data", not "How the government gets American's data".

I'm not arguing that what the NSA is doing is not evil, just that is not what this report addresses. However, one glaring omission is data-sharing with the DEA.

about 6 months ago
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Cost of Healthcare.gov: $634 Million — So Far Re:A deal at twice the price (497 comments) Servers from AWS or some other provider would provide capacity and cut back on costs Can the government put HIPAA and PII information on AWS? I'm asking because I don't know. I can't use it, or Dropbox, or Google Docs, or any other cloud solution because ITAR. I'm assuming that's why they have to build their own servers and not use cloud services. about 6 months ago top Cost of Healthcare.gov:$634 Million — So Far

Re:simple (497 comments)

I've put in many RFQs on government dollars at universities, national labs, and private businesses (I've never been a direct employee of the government). All the law requires is that I get a quote (which usually turns out to be a no-bid) from a minority or woman owned business, and if that quote comes in over, the money still goes to the lowest bidder. The only extra cost is my time in getting another quote. Fair enough.

Pretty much every extra cost that I see comes about because someone abused the system in that specific way that the rule addresses. You can simply look at the process and see, ah, that rule or requirement was instituted because someone was either dumb or dishonest. No matter how rare or unlikely to occur again, however, the bureaucracy will institute a rule or procedure. Because that's what bureacracies do, private or public.

Toss in empire-building and that explains most of it. Though honestly the national labs have been far better places to work than the businesses or universities. Businesses are just as subject to these tides of human behavior as governments. They're just not as transparent, and you get fired for making them public.

I'm not saying this was that Healthcare.gov was the most efficient use of resources ever. On the other hand, the Facebook comparison is ludicrous. FB didn't have to serve 40 million users on day one; they got to scale up slowly. HC.gov is in the unenviable position of having to have a system which will handle millions of users (and almost certainly an overload) the moment it opens, then never having to handle that great a load again. In addition to having to do it in a way that absolutely protects the users HIPAA PII (so don't say cloud), unlike FB, which is in the business of making PII public and faces no penalties if it gets hacked.

about 6 months ago
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Snowden Shortlisted For Europe's Top Human Rights Award

Re:Comparative sacrifice (273 comments)

It was far from the uncontrolled dump that Bradley Manning did

Not unlike Snowden, Manning passed on encrypted files to three media outlets for them to publish after redaction and vetting, but David Leigh and Luke Harding of The Guardian were not as careful as Manning, and managed to leak the passphrase. But "the dump" wasn't Manning.

All this is on Wikipedia.

about 6 months ago
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At Current Rates, Tesla Could Soon Suck Up Worldwide Supply of Li-Ion Cells

Re:Statistical fallicies (351 comments)

The cost of labor has not gone down in 20 years.

In 1991, that 486 was manufactured in Austin, Texas. In 1992, it was manufactured in Ireland. In 2009, the equivalent was manufactured in Poland, and in 2013, in Penang and Xiamen.

I think a large fraction (not all, to be sure) of the reduced cost of the 2013 machine versus the 1991 machine is the global pursuit of the lowest possible wage. Ingenuity, yes. But not always technical ingenuity. Also financial, and logistical.

about 7 months ago
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Snowden Spoofed Top Officials' Identity To Mine NSA Secrets

Re:We're fucked (743 comments)

OMG these people are looking incompetent. OTOH the general public may believe them and think snowden has super powers and this isn't someone elses fault.

This isn't about competence or incompetence. It's about putting as negative a spin as possible on Snowden.

Float a lot of trial balloons, make sure negative things get out there via anonymous sources, even if rebutted the next day, then the "traitor" contingent can forever quote the negative and leave the detailed rebuttals to others, which no one will read.

To wit: in this thread, Manning is excoriated as a traitor for releasing all the documents unredacted, but Manning did not - that was accomplished when professional journalists from the Guardian published the passphrase for an encrypted file.

about 8 months ago
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NSA Broke Privacy Rules Thousands of Times Per Year, Audit Finds

Re:Take a breath, get some perspective. (312 comments)

And also only for the Washington area. From TFA:

The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency's top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA's Fort Meade headquarters and other facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.

It is a bit interesting that they got that information from "three government officials", instead of a stonewall.

about 8 months ago
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NSA Broke Privacy Rules Thousands of Times Per Year, Audit Finds

Re:Take a breath, get some perspective. (312 comments)

retaining an effective level of intelligence

Define effective.

So far, even while "sacrificing privacy of X thousand citizens", and at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, the NSA and its counterparts have completely failed to predict or prevent everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to September 11 to the Boston bombers, in arenas both foreign and domestic.

Including failing to prevent Edward Snowden.

about 8 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Non-Obnoxious Outdoor Lighting?

Re:But why? (445 comments)

My floodlights are on motion sensor, however. It helps cut down on the obnoxiousness.

No it doesn't. I hate being blinded by those, without warning, as I walk the dogs around the neighborhood at night. They're far more obnoxious.

about 9 months ago
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U.S. House Wants 'Sustained Human Presence On the Moon and the Surface of Mars'

Re:Unfunded mandate? (285 comments)

On the other hand, everyone knew we were going to find extra-stellar planets. The math dictated it. Actually finding them was tidying up loose ends.

Cite please. Cause I remember sitting in conferences discussing this with other people in the field, and we were apparently woefully underinformed.

I could, were I so inclined, find you numerous references to discussions of the Drake equation in the 80s and 90s when one of the unknown variables was \eta_{planet} and the explanation was, maybe planets are just rare. Maybe we're special. It's not the way anyone would have bet, but it was definitely a possibililty.

And dark matter is the new ether - it's so obvious until one day it's not.

One, I think you mean dark energy, and two, both dark matter/energy were stunningly unobvious when I was a grad student, even though we were dealing with the same problems that led to the experimental evidence supporting these theories. I don't think the solution was obvious and handed out when I wasn't paying attention in Weinberg's and de Witt's classes.

This isn't any sort of "golden" age.

Holy cow. We've built, launched, and observed so much more in the last 20 years, experimentally, than in the whole previous century. I could hand you my grad school copy of Peebles, and we knew nothing, nothing for certain. All speculation. Now we know, and know that we don't know, and that's old science. What an ingrate.

This is how science is done. I don't care that you didn't get space elevators or jetpacks or a GUT. You might have expected what all those bozos in Popular Science were predicting for five cents a word, but no one else did. Those guys didn't understand orbital mechanics, chemistry, or physics. Huh. Who knew? We don't have flying cars and robot detectives and blasters either. Turns out maybe they weren't such great idea. Or fusion, or cheap reliable nuclear energy. The Jetsons weren't a reliable predictor of the future. We don't get cheap travel to the asteroids. We get GPS and smartphones and digital photography. We don't get fusion. We get Google and cheap travel to other continents and super-reliable cars and global warming.

I don't know what we'll get in the future, but it won't be what you, or I, expect. My grandfather got cars, airplanes, world wars, nuclear energy, and moon travel. I get computers, internet everywhere, and to go almost anywhere in the world I want to go. And realizing that the universe that I was taught we almost understood is 96% unknown. That's pretty awesome. "Everything we knew yesterday is wrong!" That's exciting, if you're a scientist.

Nothing's been done since Einstein and Dirac? All that work towards making and validating a Standard Model and making it calculatable out to 11 decimal places is a big disappointment? Just for instance.

You want new science, and you want it to be done out of trailers in BFE, Texas, and you want it for no money by people who get paid nothing. Land is cheap out there. Go nuts. Elon Musk isn't doing it that way. He's got a pretty nice setup in Hawthorne.

If it were possible to do science that way, most of us would be doing it. I don't know anyone who's in it for the money.

Kickstarter is your metric for what should be done? Look at what's on Kickstarter now if you want a list that's 99% junk. It's worse than Sturgeon's Law! That's why scientists have peer review and decadal reviews when we want to spend a lot of money. I'm not letting Kickstarter decide what science gets done, else we'll all be working on robotic sex slaves and Death Stars.

As far as NASA goes, yeah. More (and maybe bigger) telescopes in different wavelengths, more outer planet probes, more solar system and earth study. Dozens of great ideas are unfunded for the price of peanuts, and would be cheap at the price. One of them might well give us the key that unlocks the beginning of the universe or a GUT, but that's the thing about science. We find things we didn't even know to look for.

about 10 months ago

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