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NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX

goodmanj Solomon has spoken... (187 comments)

Welp, they sure split that baby.

(No seriously. Remember, the point of Solomon's judgement was to use a decision that's bad for both sides to determine who the real winner should be in the end. Same here. I'm betting we'll see Boeing whine, delay, and run over budget while SpaceX gets down and builds some rockets, but either way, in a few years we'll see who the manned spacecraft baby really belongs to.)

5 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

goodmanj "Liberal arts" is not what you think it is. (391 comments)

I'm sick of this bullshit belief that "liberal arts" refers to non-STEM majors in the humanities and social sciences, and is college in "easy mode". Quick history lesson: it's called "liberal" arts because from Roman times through the Renaissance, they were the skills that made one worthy of being a free person, as opposed to the manual skills appropriate for a slave. They included both artistic subjects like grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and scientific "arts" like astronomy and math. Of course meaning changed over the years, but today liberal arts colleges try to create well-rounded generalist thinkers, jacks of all trades and masters of at least one.

I've got a BA in physics from one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. You might think that's a joke, but my PhD advisor at MIT didn't. I'm now a tenured professor in physics, and my college buddies do stuff like dark matter research at Livermore, software development for Google and Microsoft, etc.

Enough bragging and tech namedropping, the point is that a liberal arts education can get you an excellent technical education. Unfortunately, too many major universities offer a "liberal arts" program which *is* college easymode, intended for folks who go to college for the social scene. But getting a liberal arts at these places is like buying organic local produce from Walmart: sure, they have it, they've got everything, but it's so contrary to the philosophy of the place that you're right to be skeptical.

"Is there any place for degrees in the humanities and social sciences in tech?" Now that's a reasonable question, to which I think the answer is obviously "yes", and my friends the Latin major computer programmer and the religion major tech writer would agree. But if you think "liberal arts" can't provide a top-notch education in STEM subjects, you're not qualified to read a resume.

5 days ago
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City of Turin To Switch From Windows To Linux and Save 6M Euros

goodmanj ... and back again. (249 comments)

... and will switch back again in a few years, at a net cost of E12 million.
http://arstechnica.com/busines...

(Yes, I'm trolling, but desktop experience for the average Joe really is a problem, no matter how many excuses we Linux folks make.)

about two weeks ago
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SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

goodmanj Re:Safe choice? (123 comments)

Dragon isn't human capable.

Dragon is human capable. SpaceX could have thrown a human into any of its Dragon capsules and he or she would have been fine (if a bit bruised from lack of comfy chairs).

It's just not human *rated* yet. Which is an important distinction, but it's paperwork, not engineering.

As for safety record, their failures have all been for early prototypes testing risky new ideas. You're *supposed* to have accidents at that stage. Every rocket designer worth his salt has blown up a rocket or two in the early days: what matters is that you don't make mistakes when paying customers are on board.

about two weeks ago
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SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

goodmanj Safe choice? (123 comments)

SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice,"

Yeah, people's lives are on the line here. You've got to go with the company who's got a proven track record in safely launching a modern human-capable spacecraft.
http://www.spacex.com/dragon

Wait, which is the exciting choice then?

about two weeks ago
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The Argument For a Hypersonic Missile Testing Ban

goodmanj I'm not seeing it. (322 comments)

I don't see any good reason to ban hypersonic cruise missiles. It's not enough to ban them on the grounds that they are deadly and serve no civilian purpose: war is about killing people. Previously, weapons have been banned in war on the grounds that they kill in an unusually horrific way, or aim to kill "innocent" targets, or kill indiscriminately, Hypersonic cruise missiles are none of these things.

Hypersonic cruise missiles are an undistinguished weapon of war. There's no argument for banning them that doesn't also apply to war in general. I think we's all love to ban war, but 10,000 years of history suggests that's not gonna happen.

about three weeks ago
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Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret

goodmanj All data or your data? (108 comments)

The ACLU fought the wrong fight on this one. The public should absolutely not have access to *everyone's* plate reader data, that would enable serious privacy abuses and criminal acts ("My ex-wife got a restraining order and hid from me, I'll find her car and then I'll show that bitch...") , and should not have access to lists of people the cops especially want to find (the "hot lists" referred to in the article.)

But people should be able to use plate reader data for their own vehicles specifically to defend themselves in court. ("I couldn't have killed the guy, the cops saw my car across town five minutes later." And yes, there are obvious holes in that defense, but it's admissible and useful.)

about three weeks ago
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TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

goodmanj Trap credit card numbers? (251 comments)

I wonder if banks have some sort of honeypot credit card numbers, which one could give to a known scammer to help catch them in the act. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about, but there ought to be some way to turn the tables on the scammers here. (And yes, I've heard about the elaborate ways people have trolled 419 scammers, I'm thinking of something a little less time-consuming.)

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Re:Local Observatory (187 comments)

I'll bet you there's an excellent astronomy club closer than that.

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Re:Small Orion reflector (187 comments)

In my experience, these short, stubby tabletop reflectors are built like turtles, and can take an enormous amount of abuse without losing collimation. Your phrase "parent becomes the gatekeeper" is great, but it's got me thinking about the refractor you suggest, which is going to be physically big enough that a 9-year-old will probably need a parent to carry and help set up.

I spent a lot of time following the "start with binoculars" advice when I was a kid, and came away mostly disappointed. Tripods help, but even then, 7x magnification rules out all the planets and all but the biggest deep-sky objects. Small reflectors offer a nice middle ground between that and the obscene 200x magnification advertised by your average $50 Walmart refractor.

about a month ago
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Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life

goodmanj Not the kind of ETs we should be looking for (80 comments)

This sounds like a great way to discover alien civilizations too huge to give a shit about us, too far away to ever talk to.

Not that we should be picky, but this is punching above our weight.

about a month ago
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Anomaly Triggers Self-Destruct For SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Flight

goodmanj Re:Marketing folks are hilarious (113 comments)

It's not marketspeak, it's an old rocket scientist joke.

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Re:Dobsonian (187 comments)

you can look at something under high magnification for a few seconds before it disappears, and then you have to figure out how to track RA with an alt-az mount under high power and find the object again

You shouldn't be using high magnification with a dobsonian. In fact, at the price point we're discussing here, you shouldn't be using high magnification at all.

Through a 4.5" f/6 Dobsonian with a decent wide-angle eyepiece, you can see Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons plus a hint of cloud patterns, you can see open and globular clusters, and you'll have to push the telescope to re-center the object once every couple of minutes tops.

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Re:Nice Scope (187 comments)

I haven't used this scope, but it checks off all the right boxes. Seems like a good choice to me.

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Re:Thrift Store (187 comments)

No. People who give away telescopes to thrift stores are people who didn't think very carefully about their telescope purchase to begin with. You don't want their hand-me-downs.

about a month ago
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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

goodmanj Small Orion reflector (187 comments)

The telescopes listed in your "one set of suggestions" link are good. To get a telescope that's intended for real amateur astronomers rather than cheap junk for hopeful clueless parents, get a small reflector, not a refractor. I teach at a college: in our class for nonmajors, we introduce them to the sky with Orion Starblast 4.5s, which are cheap, compact and easy to carry, bulletproof, and easy to use. The magnification is low for planets, but that means it's easier to find things, and easier to track them manually through the sky. Orion also sells the SkyScanner 100mm, a slightly smaller, significantly cheaper version of the same thing. Their XT4.5 dobsonian is a little bigger and more expensive, and will give a better view of the planets but be more difficult to use for deep sky objects.

What I'm saying is, buy a small reflector from Orion.

about a month ago
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"MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

goodmanj Re:No Kari??? (364 comments)

I can't say much for certain about Mythbusters, but I'm sure of one thing: Kari Byron's career is not over.

about a month ago
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"MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

goodmanj Re:Modern Television Style - Thanks Beyond Product (364 comments)

The explanation I've heard is that the show is shot and edited for Australian television first, where it takes the form of a half-hour episode (without commercials? not sure). For the American edition, they pad it up to an hour with commercials, but can't really add new content so it's just repetition.

about a month ago
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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two)

goodmanj Re:Two categories of future tech (66 comments)

I deliberately left out things that are impossible, useless, or poorly defined. I suspect most of the items you mention are in this third category, but time will tell.

about a month ago
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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part Two of Two)

goodmanj Two categories of future tech (66 comments)

The dreams of golden age science fiction came in two varieties: technologies that require massive amounts of energy and power (jetpacks, flying cars, space colonies) and technologies that require incredible control of matter on the microscopic and atomic scale (electronics, biochemistry, etc.) We've mostly failed to make progress in the first category, but we've surpassed the wildest dreams of every 1950s sci-fi author in the second.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Forging DNA evidence: a how-to guide

goodmanj goodmanj writes  |  more than 5 years ago

goodmanj writes "Looking to commit the perfect crime and pin it on your enemy? The New York Times explains how to fabricate DNA evidence, as demonstrated by an Israeli biotech firm. Grab a sample of your enemy's hair, amplify the DNA in it, mix it in with a sample of DNA-free blood, and sprinkle it around the crime scene. If you can't get a strand of hair, you can just use the DNA profile data routinely collected by various government agencies. The perfect frame job!"
Link to Original Source

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