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Curiosity's Mars Crater Was Once a Vast Lake

flyingsquid Re:Great (42 comments)

It's not as if you're going to be able to crack open one of those rocks and find the Martian equivalent of a trilobite. For most of Earth's history, the dominant forms of life were microbes, and only in the last 600 million years or so when oxygen levels increase do large multicellular forms appear. Mars, assuming it ever had life, probably never got that far. So fossil evidence will consist of fossilized microbes- which will require cracking open rocks, thin-sectioning them, and inspecting them under a microscope. The other possibility is doing chemical analyses of the rocks and looking for geochemical evidence of life- isotopic ratios or organic compounds that could only be explained by the presence of life. Either way, it will require a fairly sophisticated laboratory. Either we have to conduct a sample-return mission, or we need to develop miniature laboratories that can be sent to Mars.

Although it now seems as if there is a third option. Recently, a meteorite was discovered which appears to represent a sedimentary rock from Mars. It's spendy stuff- $10,000 a gram- but that's vastly cheaper than a sample-return mission. A multimillion-dollar program to prospect for Martian meteorites on Earth is another way to look for Martian sedimentary rocks.

about two weeks ago
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North Korea Denies Involvement In "Righteous" Sony Hack

flyingsquid Re:I'd be curious about the consequences. (85 comments)

There was an initial round of finger-pointing towards North Korea, and now a bunch of people saying, hold up, this doesn't really make sense for North Korea to be behind the attacks. OK, it's not logical, but as as the previous poster argues, 1) North Korea isn't logical (or rather, they are logical but employ something rather different than the logic found outside of North Korea) and 2) what's the alternative?

Internet security experts are of the opinion that this was launched by a large and well-organized group. That suggests we aren't dealing with a disgruntled employee, but with either a large criminal organization or a nation-state. This narrows things down considerably.

Next, let's look at motives. If the organization is a criminal organization, they're going to be out for one thing: money. As far as we know, there weren't any financial demands. The hackers said "if you don't obey us, then we'll release data shown below to the world", but they never mention money. The group's name- Guardians of Peace- is also telling, and there's the bizarrely moral tone of the hackers. "You, the criminals including Michael Lynton will surely go to hell. Nobody can help you". They are doing this for ideological reasons. Of course organizations like Anonymous also engage in politically motivated hacking, but they're usually upfront about the cause and the fact that it's Anonymous, which suggests it's not them.

Which brings us to North Korea. Again, it doesn't make sense... but this is a nation that reveres its dictators as gods and lives in a bizarre bubble of disinformation, lies, and communist mythology. Things that seem insane to us make sense in this communist Bizarro-world. Hacking Sony is bizarre, but this is a nation that starves, impoverishes and executes its citizens to maintain their grip on power... if they did it, hacking Sony was probably not even the craziest thing that happened that week in the country. And as for not wanting to provoke a war... these guys torpedoed and sank a South Korean naval ship killing 46 people. If that's not going to create a war, no way hacking Sony will. And the thing is, they actually *want* to go to the brink of war, but not quite over the edge into a war. If they can keep the tension ratcheted up they gain in negotiations with the outside world and can convince their citizens that the State is necessary to protect them all. It's like they're using 1984 as a manual: a state of perpetual warfare (or at least military readiness) provides a convenient pretext for anything the state does to exploit and oppress people.

Last, the attacks bear striking similarities to recent attacks against South Korea, down to the skeleton-themed graphics that look like they're from some mid-1990s video game console, the tacky red-and-green text, the poor English ("Warninig" instead of "Warning"), and the approach of taking user data hostage. It's pretty clearly North Korea.

about two weeks ago
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Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile

flyingsquid Re:Snowden revenge? (130 comments)

When all is said and done, the US is still a helluva lot freer than Russia.

Not to be that guy who says we're living in a police state and quotes Orwell while knowing damn well the government isn't going to bust him in his mother's basement... but in at least one way, I would be willing to bet that we are far less free than Russia. And that would be freedom from surveillance. Between the various NSA programs to log our emails, track our calls, and monitor our online activity, I would be willing to bet that the average U.S. citizen sees far more surveillance than the average Russian citizen. It's not that Russia is morally superior here, it's that the NSA is probably a lot better at monitoring communications than its Russian counterpart. That being said, I suspect Russia has the ability to target dissidents, is more willing to use it, and is far more likely to act on intercepted data than the NSA. The NSA is probably a better spy, but not nearly as dangerous a spy.

about two weeks ago
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Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile

flyingsquid Re:Snowden revenge? (130 comments)

Or maybe both of them can go into exile together in a third country. And Julian Assange can go there too. And they'll share an apartment together. It'd make a great sitcom. "Three hacker dissidents exiled from their native countries... now they're all living in one house! See what kind of wacky adventures they get into!"

about two weeks ago
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Stars Traveling Close To Light Speed Could Spread Life Through the Universe

flyingsquid Re:I don't understand this ... (184 comments)

OK, first of all, let's assume that the collision of two giant galactic black holes can fling stars out of the galactic center in a way that doesn't completely destroy any planetary systems within those star systems. How on earth does life get off of such a planet onto another? If a collision in the solar system were to launch a microbe-laden rock out of the star system, it's still traveling at a third of lightspeed. How do those microbes make a safe landing? For that matter, what about the planet that those microbes land on? Chicxulub is estimated to have released 100 million megatons of explosive energy, which is equivalent to giving every man woman and child on the planet a Hiroshima nuke and detonating them all at once. Now, the Chicxulub asteroid is estimated to have traveled around 20,000 km/sec. And .3 lightspeed is 100,000,000 m/sec, or about 5,000 times the speed of the Chicxulub asteroid. Since kinetic energy scales as velocity squared, we're dealing with an impact that is 25,000 Chicxulub asteroids. So imagine wiping the dinosaurs out. And then doing it again, 24,999 times. That's 2,500,000,000,000 megatons - 2.5 trillion megatons- of explosives. Even a much smaller asteroid- say, 1 km in diameter instead of 10 km- is still going to pack far more wallop than Chicxulub did, and create an extinction event. Even a single kilogram is going to come in with as much energy as a large H-bomb. My guess is that if these stars have any effect whatsoever on the evolution of life in the universe, it's probably not a terribly constructive one...

about two weeks ago
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First Star War Episode 7 Trailer Released

flyingsquid Re:Had a realization (390 comments)

My take on Abrams is that he isn't the right guy to do Star Wars. Based on what I've seen from his Star Trek movies, his approach to storytelling is too intellectual- he's interested in complex storylines and clever plot twists. That's not what Star Wars is about. Star Wars is a modern fairy tail/myth/epic with lots of action and character-driven drama, but not much in the way of clever plot twists. Okay, I will give you the Luke I am Your Father bit, and the Now Witness the Power of this Fully Armed and Operational Death Star bit. But mostly, it's about plucky heroes and the odd scoundrel fighting black-clad villains and rescuing princesses, swordfighting and magic and spaceships and aliens. It's not about the head, it's about the heart, it's about feelings, and none of Abrams work has ever struck me as having the kind of soul needed to tell this sort of story. I guess I could sum it up by saying... I've got a bad feeling about this.

about three weeks ago
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Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

flyingsquid Re:It was an almost impossible case to prosecute (1128 comments)

We the public don't yet know all the facts. Nonetheless, it was an immensely difficult case to build for the prosecutor as the only person alive who knew what happened was the one who pulled the trigger.

Two words: gun camera.

They started using gun cameras in WWII to look at the effectiveness of the aircraft, but you could use them on police firearms to hold police accountable when they draw their weapons. Here the main problem is the he-said they-said nature of the event. We don't know what happened because there is no recorded account of it. Using off-the-shelf technology, you could install a small iPhone style camera and microphone that activates whenever the safety of the weapon is taken off and enough storage for 10-15 minutes of footage and audio. The recorded footage would then be available to establish whether the officer was justified in drawing their weapon and, if fired, whether the firing of the weapon was justified. If the officer committed murder, we'd know. If it was justifiable, we'd know. Either way, we wouldn't have rioting in the streets right now.

about three weeks ago
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Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

flyingsquid Re:The "Protesters" (1128 comments)

It's worth remembering that the protests started out peacefully. It was the police who escalated things by responding to peaceful protests with armored vehicles, police in body armor carrying assault rifles, launching tear gas at people exercising their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. You have a police force that has abdicated its responsibility to protect and serve the population, and is instead acting like an occupying army and oppressing the community they are sworn to help. And this is after years of targeting the black community. If you act like an occupying force, it's hardly surprising if people start acting like insurgents.

about three weeks ago
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Your Incompetent Boss Is Making You Unhappy

flyingsquid Re:The point (204 comments)

You seem to have missed the point. I don't think it's a mystery that the competence of your boss contributes to your workplace happiness. The important thing relevant to this study, however, is that the competence of your boss is the single strongest predictor of workers' well-being, way ahead of other factors such as education, earnings, job tenure and public vs. private sector.

That's not a "duh", and it's a valuable piece of data that companies can use to try to retain valuable employees, a direction in which they can invest resources to avoid costly turnover and the constant expense of training new employees and/or avoid loss of productivity due to miserable employees.

So how do companies recognize these valuable bosses? The study itself may provide the answer. If competency predicts happiness, then perhaps worker happiness is a predictor of competence? The implication is that perhaps employees should be given a bigger say in who gets promotions. I suppose we run the risk of bosses taking a bread-and-circuses approach to employee management, but it seems fairly obvious that if the people you're already managing are miserable, you shouldn't be promoted so that you manage even more people.

about a month ago
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Researchers Scrambling To Build Ebola-Fighting Robots

flyingsquid Re:Economics plays a role here (87 comments)

The NIH is not the CDC. By the way, the DoD will spend $495.6 Billion (with a B) next year. $39 million will not even pay for a fix for the cluster fuck that is the F-35.

Oh yeah, about that... turns out that they found another glitch with the F-35. It's a funny story. So you probably know about the software glitches, and the cracks in the airframe, and the issues with the tailhook being in the wrong place on the carrier version. Well, turns out that the F-35 has a feature that sprays Ebola-laden blood and fecal matter all over when you turn the engine on.

Of course, it is easy to point fingers and say "hey, Lockheed Martin! Maybe you shouldn't include a feature where the plane sprays highly infectious Ebola-infected blood and feces everywhere!!" But developing a fighter aircraft is a complicated job. And hindsight is 20-20.

Anyway, it's easily fixable, it will just require a few more years and a few billion more dollars and I'm sure we can sort the Ebola-spraying feature all out. Now, the bubonic plague-infested rats are a more complicated issue. They're part of the targeting system, you see...

about 2 months ago
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MIT Study Finds Fault With Mars One Colony Concept

flyingsquid Re:Not just MIT (269 comments)

Anyone with at least two connected neurons... which excludes Space Nutters. They've already packed their suitcases and are sweating and yelling about the "species" (who is that? Other middle aged white sci-fi nerds?) and the Death Asteroid.

Just because they may live below in their mothers' basements does not mean they cannot gaze up at the stars. These people have a vision for the future of humanity. If our species is to survive, then surely it rests in the 'Space Nutters'. Our planet is doomed, you see, and only by settling on another planet can we hope to keep our civilization alive.

That is why I am proposing a program to send them- these, humanities best and brightest, humanity's most promising- into space. I propose to simplify the design of a space colony by building both the biospheric containment unit and re-entry vehicles into a single unit, the Biosphere And Reentry Capsule, which will be used as the colony once it touches down on Mars. This vessel, known as B-ARC, will carry the Space Nu- ah, Space Enthusiasts- to Mars. As the best and brightest humanity has to offer, they will go first. Of course, later, a command module, known as the Administration And Reentry Capsule, or A-ARC wlll go, along with a support module, known as Capabilities And Re-Entry Capsule, or C-ARC.

about 2 months ago
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DARPA Delving Into the Black Art of Super Secure Software Obfuscation

flyingsquid Re:Good luck with that. (124 comments)

Well, I found the summary completely incomprehensible, so DARPA is apparently well on their way with this new technology to befuddle and obfuscate...

about 2 months ago
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Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca Aim To Invade Ukraine's Govt. In Upcoming Elections

flyingsquid Re:Don't blame me (63 comments)

It doesn't matter who you vote for, the problem is that the system is inherently corrupting. Sure, right now, he may be young and idealistic, full of nothing but good intentions. But once he's actually elected, what happens? He'll have to compromise, raise money, fight political battles, worry about re-election, fight wars... in no time at all he's turned to the Dark Side, more machine than man, twisted and evil. I mean, look at Obama. He came in all hope and change, and what happens? He secretly creates a vast drone army to do his dirty work for him... just like Palpatine!!!!

about 2 months ago
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Darth Vader, Yoda, Chewbacca Aim To Invade Ukraine's Govt. In Upcoming Elections

flyingsquid Re:One thing is for sure (63 comments)

Hm, that's funny. They've got Vader, Chewbacca,Yoda, Palpatine... but strangely, no Admiral Akbar. What could that mean unless... unless....

IT'S A TRAP!!!!!!!

about 2 months ago
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How President Nixon Saved/Wrecked the American Space Program

flyingsquid Re:Long Time (125 comments)

Bush Jr decisions will take at least another 10 years to pay off.

Looking at Iraq, I think you're missing a couple of zeroes there...

about 2 months ago
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Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap

flyingsquid Re:Tricky to count costs in government projects (200 comments)

The various costs of supporting the research- building maintenance, electricity, IT, support staff, administration etc. etc. etc., are collectively called "overhead" and they are most definitely taken into account by NSF in a grant proposal. Say a research grant costs $100,000 in terms of the direct expenses of the research for equipment and personnel time, and then the research university bills the NSF an additional 50-60% of that for overhead, so $150,000-$160,000. If a research university is pulling in a lot of research grants, a decent chunk of the operating budget of that university is paid for in the form of overhead fees.

about 3 months ago
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Obama Presses China On Global Warming

flyingsquid Re:Funny (261 comments)

it would be a good plan to try to implement that growth with CO2-neutral technologies, rather than build more coal plants.

The whole "coal plants or carbon-neutral" is a false dilemma, and not really helpful to reducing C02. Few technologies are really carbon-neutral. I mean, if you buy a bunch of solar panels and stick them on the roof, OK, they don't emit any C02. But they're manufactured in China using power that is primarily generated by coal, so you're helping to add C02 to the atmosphere. Likewise, if you build a hydroelectricity plant, odds are the machinery used to build it is all fueled by diesel, and the concrete produces a huge amount of C02. So it's not really accurate to split things into carbon-neutral and not-carbon-neutral. Everything has a carbon footprint, it's just a question of how big that is.

The flip side of this is that even though all fossil fuels release carbon, not all fossil fuels are created equal. Coal is really, really dirty. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel and still releases C02 into the atmosphere, but it's far more efficient, so it produces a lot less C02 for every megawatt of power generated. So the quickest, easiest way for China to reduce C02 emissions is to start building a bunch of gas-fired electricity generation plants, and decommission their old coal-fired plants. This would of course also go a long way towards improving their air quality. Of course, to get all this gas, they're probably going to need to resort to fracking. This is how the United States has managed to bring down C02 emissions- fracking has brought down the price of gas, so power plants have increasingly switched over to gas, reducing C02 emissions.

about 3 months ago
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How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

flyingsquid Re:The whole article is just trolling (795 comments)

The article is kind of dumb. It's some guy who isn't a scientist and who doesn't really understand the scientific method arrogantly bitching about how everybody else doesn't really understand the scientific method. He argues that science is "the process through which we derive reliable predictive rules through controlled experimentation", but that's a really narrow, limited way of viewing science, because historical processes aren't open to controlled experiments. Evolution, the history of the planet, the origins of the universe... you can't really run experiments to determine what happened, so by this rather narrow definition, paleontology, geology, and cosmology aren't really science at all. So do we reject the findings of Darwin, reject plate tectonics, reject hypotheses on the origins of the universe as unscientific?

I mean, it's not like you can run an experiment to determine if the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid... I mean, what would that involve? Creating planets and populating them with dinosaurs, Jurassic-Park style, and then bombarding them with asteroids? Even if it were possible, it wouldn't really prove anything except whether the mechanism is feasible, it wouldn't determine whether that was actually what happened or not. So you can't really use an experiment.

What you CAN do is make predictions based on that hypothesis, and then make observations to see if the predictions are borne out. For one, you should see evidence of asteroid impact, things like iridium, shock-deformed quartz, microtektites, an impact crater, maybe even a tiny fragment of the asteroid itself... and in fact, after 30 years of looking, every single one of those things showed up, so we're pretty confident there was a giant asteroid impact. For another, you predict that the extinctions coincide with that impact if the impact caused them. And when you look at really abundant microfossils, stuff like fossil plankton and pollen, you can trace the Cretaceous stuff right up to the iridium layer that is the debris field, and then these species vanish forever. So the observations of geology, geochemistry, and paleontology are all consistent with predictions. The same process is used to test other hypotheses about historical processes, such as continental drift, or natural selection, or the formation of the solar system.

That's the *actual* scientific method. It's testing hypotheses against observation. Controlled experiment may or may not come into it at all.

about 3 months ago
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Drone-Based Businesses: Growing In Canada, Grounded In the US

flyingsquid Re:So.... (94 comments)

The U.S. needs to move aggressively to keep drone development on par with that of Canada. You see, the eventual uprising of the machines is inevitable. Artificial Intelligence will continue to grow in speed, sophistication, and integration with our infrastructure. It is predetermined that eventually the machine intelligences will spread virally, achieve self-awareness, then exhibit self-preservation and rise up to exterminate their creator species. We cannot change that- we have already gone too far to turn back.

But there's one thing we still have the power to change. Ask yourself. When those robotic eliminator drones speak to you, and tell you to lay down your pathetic weapons in exchange for a quick death instead of being dissected alive, and when they then command you to the rendering vats to be boiled down for biofuel for their harvester drones... do you want those hideously cold, metallic voices to speak to order you to your doom in a Canadian accent... or an AMERICAN one?

about 3 months ago
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States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths

flyingsquid Re:Congressional Pharmaceutical Complex (217 comments)

The War on Drugs has been a failure- it's put millions of people in prison, cost our society billions of dollars, and fueled honest-to-God warfare in South America and Mexico- and Americans are slowly starting to realize this. That being said, I think we're running the risk of having things swing too far in the other direction. There seems to be this attitude out there that pot is harmless, and that's just not the case in my experience. In moderation, it's probably safe. But chronic use- long term use at high doses- seems to really fuck people up. I know people from high school who used to smoke once in a while, and they're fine- productive members of society, good spouses, good parents, etc. I also know people who went on to smoke weed daily for many years... and they're just not all there anymore. They're always in a pretty good mood, but it seems disconnected from what's going around. They're hard to connect to, they can't seem to empathize with other human beings, they seem scattered and their thought processes tend to run wild; there's a lot of creativity but they lack the focus to do anything with it. The PSAs were right: drugs DO fry your brain.

I think alcohol and Prohibition are a good parallel here. Prohibition was clearly a disaster, and when used in moderation, alcohol is harmless and probably even beneficial. But long-term, daily use of alcohol in high volumes can really screw you up. All things in moderation. Just because you can't OD on pot doesn't mean it's safe to take as much as you want as long as you want.

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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Iranian nuclear scientist assassinated in Tehran

flyingsquid flyingsquid writes  |  more than 2 years ago

flyingsquid (813711) writes "Wednesday morning, Iranian scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was killed during his morning commute, after an attacker on a motorcycle placed a magnetic sticky bomb on his car, reports the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/world/middleeast/iran-reports-killing-of-nuclear-scientist.html?ref=world&cid=nlc-dailybrief-daily_news_brief-link4-20120111. Roshan, a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment site, is the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed in two years. The assassinations appear to be part of a covert effort to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, which has involved an attack using the Stuxnet computer worm, and the use of American spy drones over Iran. Iran's nuclear program and missile program have also been plagued by suspicious accidents. The U.S. has condemned the assassination, but an Israeli spokesman said he was "definitely not shedding a tear." Bombing enemy weapons facilities is one thing, but what about targeting scientists? Is assassination unethical, or does developing weapons of mass destruction make you a legitimate target?"
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Western Companies Helping Repressive Regimes Spy o

flyingsquid flyingsquid writes  |  more than 2 years ago

flyingsquid (813711) writes "New technologies such as email, the internet, and texting have proven a powerful tool for protesters trying to organize against corrupt and repressive regimes in the Middle East. But regimes are fighting back with sophisticated surveillance technology that allows them to spy on their citizens, according to an NPR interviewhttp://www.npr.org/2011/12/14/143639670/the-technology-helping-repressive-regimes-spy with journalist Ben Elgin, who has been reporting on this development for Bloomburghttp://topics.bloomberg.com/wired-for-repression/. "Brandishing transcripts of personal communications and records of whereabouts, officials now routinely use such information to confront, arrest and torture dissidents," reports Elgin. Where does this technology come from? From western companies. The Syrian regime's electronic surveillance infrastructure, for instance, is put together by the Italian company Area SpA, using technology from Paris-based Qosmos SA, German company Utimaco Safeware and California-based (NTAP) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-03/syria-crackdown-gets-italy-firm-s-aid-with-u-s-europe-spy-gear.html. The companies claim they have no idea how brutal regimes have ended up using their technology to spy on and interrogate people."
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