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NASA's Space Launch System Searches For a Mission

catchblue22 Problems with SLS (53 comments)

Aside from the horrific cost of the SLS (18 billion dollars) it is worth considering the fundamental flaws of it. If you use it to launch astronauts with the Orion spacecraft, you are using somewhere around a quarter of the SLS's lift capacity. If you want to use it to send things to Mars, you will need to add another stage, which is non-trivial. Overall, this seems like a giant corporate welfare program for NASA's contractors.

yesterday
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3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

catchblue22 Re:What? (393 comments)

Thank you. That was an excellent article.

about two weeks ago
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3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

catchblue22 Watch out for ULA Propaganda (393 comments)

I have posted before that there is evidence that ULA has initiated a propaganda campaign against Space X. From what I have read, Shockey Scofield Solutions, which is a PR firm hired by ULA is tightly linked with congressional lobbyist culture...they know how to pull particular strings in Washington. This seems to have their fingerprints all over it.

We should really be aware of the reason why ULA was formed in the first place. A few years ago the government decided to bring competition into launch procurement, by creating a bidding process. The dominant/only American players, Boeing and Lockheed responded by merging their launch products into the United Launch Alliance so that in almost all cases there would be only one bidder for American launches. This resulted in an increase in launch costs.

Enter SpaceX, which looks to be a real competitor. ULA can't absorb Space X, so they seem to be doing everything they can to sabotage them instead. From proposing financial rules on bidding companies that are biased against smaller players, to focussing on trivial "anomolies" that put uncertainty in the (simple) minds of Congressional lawmakers, to floating fanciful speculative stories about future vaporware "Space Planes" that will leapfrog SpaceX's cheaper launch platforms, to calling Elon Musk a corporate welfare bum (as if ULA wasn't the queen of queens of welfare queens).

The simple fact is that Space X has taken older proven technology and molded it into what promises to be a robust and reliable launch platform. ULA knows this, and the only thing they know how to do is to make this a gutter fight. They are despicable.

about two weeks ago
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Elon Musk Promises 100,000 Electric Cars Per Year

catchblue22 Re:What about a coal powered Tesla? (122 comments)

Don't forget the processing and distribution costs associated with liquid fuels... including the ethanol.

Yes. I think my calculations are conservative. Especially if we are relying on fuel from the tar sands, which are MASSIVELY inefficient in terms of CO2 emissions. They have to melt the tar in order to separate from the sand and refine it. They use natural gas and a large amount of fresh water. Think about that water, Californians. Now much of that wonderful fresh water is languishing in huge pools, mixed with a toxic slew of organic chemicals and heavy metals.

The tar sands are madness. When I think of Alberta tar sands, I think of Mordor.

about three weeks ago
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Elon Musk Promises 100,000 Electric Cars Per Year

catchblue22 What about a coal powered Tesla? (122 comments)

So... not to stir up a hornets nest... but everyones aware that electric cars produce more pollution than gas right?

Let's look at some facts here. First off, the efficiency of a thermal power plant is somewhere around 33% to 48%, at least according to wikipedia. Let's split the difference and say 41% for a thermal plant. The typical thermal efficiency of a a gasoline engine is about 18% to 20%. Let's split the difference and say 19%. Thus, a thermal power plant is more than twice as efficient as a gasoline engine in terms of changing chemical potential energy to useful output.

But there are some caveats. Firstly, the electricity needs to be transmitted. High voltage power lines are extremely efficient, about 94% according to this article. That means that the chemical energy (lets assume from coal) reaching the charging station is 41% x 94% = 38.5%. And then there is the charging process. According to this article, the charge efficiency of a Li-Ion battery is about 97%, which makes sense to me, as batteries usually don't run too hot. The charging devices however probably are responsible for some loss. Let's assume they are 80% efficient. That gives us 38.5% x 80.0% x 97% = 30%. Thus, according to this, 30% of the coal chemical potential energy makes it to the engine.

But what about engine efficiency? Well electric motors run very cool, and have very high efficiencies, typically around 90%. I wouldn't be surprised if Tesla's motor is better. This means that if a coal power plant powered a Tesla, 30% x 90% = 27% of the energy would reach the wheels of the car, compared with a gasoline powered car, where 19% of the gasoline's potential energy comes out of the engine, never mind the losses in the transmission lines. Thus, a coal powered Tesla is 40% more energy efficient than a gasoline powered car.

However, there is one problem. Generating energy by coal produces more CO2 than generating it by gasoline. According to this article, coal generates about 215 pounds CO2 per btu of energy, while gasoline generates 157 pounds CO2 per btu. However, even with this, by my calculations, an equivalent gas powered car still emits 3.8% more CO2 than our coal powered Tesla.

Elon Musk made this claim in an interview, that even if a coal power plant generates the electricity, a Tesla still emits less CO2. My referenced back of a napkin calculations above support this assertion.

about three weeks ago
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SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

catchblue22 Anti-SpaceX Propaganda Campaign (114 comments)

As this article indicates, United Launch Alliance, the principle competitor to SpaceX has hired Shockey Scofield Solutions to initiate a propaganda campaign against SpaceX. You can see ULA listed as a client in the website listed above. The campaign is indirectly mentioned in the following very informative article, just past the halfway point in the article. You will also notice another client to Shockey Scofield Solutions as Koch Industries, which is a company notorious for its deceptive propaganda campaigns against action on global warming.

Given this fact, I would tend to suspect many of the anti SpaceX comments as being part of an astroturfing campaign. To be honest, I really don't understand why an actual thinking person would have any problem with SpaceX. They build reliable rockets quickly and cheaply. What on Earth is the problem with that?

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

catchblue22 Re:How Many Employees are Required? (272 comments)

Actually Windows XP was based on the Windows NT architecture. Windows 95, was based on the DOS architecture.

Windows 95 was decades ago, it wasn't up to modern standards but it was certainly better than Mac OS 7 or Linux 1.0. It's time to move on.

OSX in fact precedes windows 95, let alone Windows NT. That's right, because the best parts of OSX originate in NeXT, which was sold as a product in 1988, six years or more before windows 95. And the reason why NeXT/OSX were so great so early was because they were based on the decades old Unix architecture. And don't talk about Mac OS 7. It was dead end garbage. Only the most superficial structures from Mac OS made it into OSX.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

catchblue22 How Many Employees are Required? (272 comments)

Consider the history of major software projects, and how many employees were required. BSD unix was a university project, developed by faculty and students. Linux was developed initially by one person, and then a relatively small team. NeXT was developed by a fairly small team over a relatively small amount of time. Mac OSX was basically the NeXT system ported over to the Mac platform; at the time, Apple had about a tenth of the employees of Microsoft, and was under significant financial stress. iOS and the iPhone were developed by a very small team within Apple (20+ employees if I am not mistaken). The interesting thing is that all of these systems have displayed remarkable stability and security. This likely has something to do with the fact that these OS's are all unix derived. However I find it interesting that such excellent products did not require large numbers of programmers to develop.

Contrast the above with the offerings of Microsoft over recent years. Most especially consider Vista, Win7 and Win8. During the development of these systems, Microsoft had a huge number of excellent programmers. Why did it take them so long to develop these operating system versions? Why has MS had such difficulty porting over to different processor architectures, such as ARM? Apple has had no such difficulty, porting OSX/ iOS from PowerPC to Intel to ARM. I believe that a fundamental cause of the difficulties that MS has experience with Windows lies in the early stages of operating system development. Whereas the systems based on Unix were built on a solid and proven foundation from their earliest versions, Microsoft has from a very early stage shown a tendency to build its own early versions on its own unproven architecture, with the intention of fixing the significant problems later.

Early versions of Windows 95 had very limited networking protocols, that were intended for home networking only. Wide area networking was added as an afterthought. Contrast this with unix variants, which are based on an architecture that grew up in an environment of university main-frames with hostile tinkering computer science students vying to break the system.

Anyone who worked with Windows 95 can attest to the buggy mess that it was. I supported people using it, and I remember the problems. User says, "my system crashed so I rebooted it. It still didn't work so I rebooted it again. It still didn't solve the problem." Tech guy responds, "well there's your problem. Tap the computer twice, pray to the god of your choice, and reboot it a third time, and it should be fixed."

Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 all originate from that same architecture, right down to the fact that they all share the engineering disaster that is "the registry". How can Windows ever be truly solid when it is built on such a bad foundation. I believe that the reason why Microsoft has had such difficulty building a solid OS stems from this weak foundation. It explains why it took MS many years and a staff 10x that of Apple to build the marvel that was Vista. As Mythbusters showed, it is possible to polish a turd. However it takes a lot of effort. And in the end, you still only finish with a polished turd.

about a month ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

catchblue22 Re: Catching the big choices (710 comments)

Not to mention that I cook more at home than average. In my place, cooking is responsible for the largest part of the electric bill. Cooking at home puts me slightly above average on electricity usage, even if I have all led/fluorescent lights. I don't even use my electric heat 95% of the time.

about a month ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

catchblue22 Catching the big choices (710 comments)

I am not sure this study captures the some of the bigger decisions made to conserve energy. For instance, here is what I have done: I live in a condo that has a high walk score, so I don't have to drive much. We are close to transit and we use it. I purchased a Prius, which gets 60mpg. Given that and the fact that we barely drive, our monthly gas bill is about $50. One tank per month. I don't eat much meat. This substantially reduces the carbon emissions from the production chain of my food. However, according to this study, I am being remiss if my electricity bill isn't lower than my neighbours' bills. The study is flawed. My overall carbon emissions are way lower than average but this study would overlook me.

about a month ago
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Fighting Climate Change With Trade

catchblue22 Re:Does anyone oppose this? (155 comments)

This is social engineering by subsidizing one group of products and letting other products pay the price.

Yes. We should stop subsidizing fossil fuels, which currently receive massive subsidies.

about a month ago
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By 2045 'The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans,' and That Could Be a Problem

catchblue22 Re:Warp Drive (564 comments)

Neural networks was one of the worst misdirection in the history of AI. These was a lot of wasted effort on that idea.

Have you seen what neural networks are doing recently? I think you will find that the course on machine learning I linked to is primarily about neural networks. Your opinions are asserted very strongly but you give me no reason to think you know much about the field other than your swagger.

about a month and a half ago
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By 2045 'The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans,' and That Could Be a Problem

catchblue22 Re:Warp Drive (564 comments)

I see no evidence of any programming that "learns" or is the slightest bit adaptive.

Ever heard of neural networks? Machine learning? Here is a course given Andrew Ng at Stanford. Watch the intro video, and you will see, amongst other things an autonomous helicopter that was taught, not programmed but taught to do an inverted takeoff. This stuff is already real.

To quote the video:

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to learn without being explicitly programmed.

about a month and a half ago
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Intelligent Autonomous Flying Robots Learn and Map Environment As They Fly

catchblue22 Does anybody know more details about this project? (37 comments)

Cool project, but the article/video is short on detail. I'd like to know more about the way this robot is actually learning. Is it a neural network? How does it know an oscilloscope is an oscilloscope? Does it use binocular vision to recognize distance? Ultrasound? Both? What type of computing hardware is on board? For that matter, what type of quadracoptor is this? And more importantly where can I get one?

about 2 months ago
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SpaceX Falcon 9R Vertical Take-Off and Landing Test Flight

catchblue22 Re:New ULA anti-SpaceX campaign is apparent (105 comments)

What you are looking at IS the State, unless you stay constantly vigilant.

Yes, exactly. And obviously we are not there yet. However, from what I can see, we are going towards this. It may not be once corporation, but even if it is ten, twenty or thirty corporations that control most economic activity, this is concerning to me. Of particular concern is the American food supply, both its creation and its distribution. Small farms are disappearing, with huge corporate owned farms becoming dominant. I believe this is a dangerous concentration of power.

However, the elephant in the room is wealth distribution. The wealthiest Americans own a concerningly large portion of the national wealth right now. And it is a simple mathematical fact in the American system that wealth leads to political power. Thus, the American political system is now acting primarly in the interests of the most wealthy. The right wing, which is the most owned by the wealthy, push "low tax" and "small government" policies, whose sole aim is to increase the wealth of the most wealthy relative to the rest of the nation. And the "tea party" movement will not fix this. It will in fact make it far far worse.

It is a historical fact that the ONLY way America has found of leveling out wealth distribution is via a progressive income tax system. Following WWII, the top tax bracket (over $500000) was more than 90%. These tax rates effectively created the American middle class. In 1980, the upper tax bracket rate collapsed, and this began the decline of the American middle class. Seemingly paradoxically, the decline of the middle class has led to economic decline as well.

I would advise that if you value the future economic well being of your children and grand-children, that you perform a political and economic reality check.

about 2 months ago
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SpaceX Falcon 9R Vertical Take-Off and Landing Test Flight

catchblue22 Re:New ULA anti-SpaceX campaign is apparent (105 comments)

Government should be small, on the side of the people and transparent when at all possible. Also, Importantly we should never have a regulation or law that we are compelled to live under that can not be easily explained and understood.

Ok, I agree with the "on the side of the people" and the "transparent" part. The "small" part might be nice. However, I would like you to consider a thought experiment, basically a reducto ad absurdum. Imagine a world in which there is only one corporation that controls all trade. I mean all. All goods must be bought through this corporation, and all people work through this corporation. What would the role of government be then? What if a person disagreed with that corporation? What if that corporation chose to banish that person from working? This would mean that this person would basically be out on the street with no chance of work. Would the government's role be to protect that person? Should the government act to break up that huge corporation to preserve trade? Would it? Or would the State have become the corporation?

about 2 months ago
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SpaceX Falcon 9R Vertical Take-Off and Landing Test Flight

catchblue22 Re:New ULA anti-SpaceX campaign is apparent (105 comments)

National Defense, Infrastructure, Foreign Relations, Border Security, Protecting Individual Rights, Protecting trade between the states, Ensuring a uniform set of laws that normal people can understand and follow.

What happens when the rights of an individual conflicts with the rights of a huge corporation?

about 2 months ago
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SpaceX Falcon 9R Vertical Take-Off and Landing Test Flight

catchblue22 Re:New ULA anti-SpaceX campaign is apparent (105 comments)

The State will always wield its power badly. The more power you give them past what is 100% absolutely needed results in worse than what you want to be protected from. Always.

You completely missed my point. If you try to eliminate the democratic State, the corporation will become the State. Only it will not be restricted by the laws of a democratic government. It will make its own defacto laws.

about 2 months ago
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SpaceX Falcon 9R Vertical Take-Off and Landing Test Flight

catchblue22 Re:New ULA anti-SpaceX campaign is apparent (105 comments)

I am a right leaning libertarian and I think Musk is doing well. It is his business and he can try to accomplish whatever he wants.

I too believe that Elon Musk is awesome. He embodies the best of the free enterprise system. The problem is that most on the right, and that includes the funders of the tea party movement, espouse policies that will result not in a proper system of free enterprise where the best and brightest rise to the top, but rather a system where entrenched players act ruthlessly to maintain there positions of power. Whenever a small player looks too competitive, they will just absorb that player.

The idea that the removal of government power will result in a world where super-humans like Musk will be free to make life better for all of us is, I believe, a delusion. The simple fact is that you can never, ever eliminate the State and its power. There will always be some organization making laws that all society must follow. What is happening in the US is that the power of the State has migrated into private hands. Congress is now, for all intents and purposes owned by private corporations, who get Congress to write laws in their own interest (they are already writing laws to hinder the disruptive Space X) And if Congress lost the ability to control society, the power would then migrate into the hands of the largest corporations, which would basically mean a return to a feudalist society of lords and serfs. And judging by the fact that you are spending time posting on a plebian board such as slashdot, you are likely to be a serf, and not a lord. Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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The Gods Strike Back: Wall Street's Risky Hubris

catchblue22 catchblue22 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

catchblue22 (1004569) writes "The Economist has an interesting essay that gives some perspective on our economic situation. From the article,

THE revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of the gods and that men and women are not passive before nature. So wrote Peter Bernstein in his seminal history of risk,"Against the Gods".

Wall Street quants have claimed over the past decade that they had the ability to quantify financial risk down to several decimal places. The Great Recession has shown their claims to be absurd. Wall Street's supposed mastery of risk allowed financial institutions to package risky loans as derivatives that ostensibly had definite and identifiable risk profiles. Our recent financial collapse shows the limits of our beautiful and elegant mathematical models of the economy."
Link to Original Source

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