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Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

kenwd0elq Well, yes, back THEN.... (304 comments)

We're pretty sure that most large galaxies have a supermassive black hole in the center. We know that some very-VERY-far away astronomical objects are very active in radio and X-ray output; we call these "quasi-stellar radio objects" or "quasars".

Is it not at least remotely possible that these facts are related? My physics degree is 30 years old and I have only sort-of kept up with the news, but it seems at least possible that those gamma ray bursts and quasars are symptoms of the formation or expansion of those black holes. Nearby galaxies seem quiescent by comparison, so since our observations of the very distant objects are also views back in time, I think it likely that those gamma ray bursts are more like childish temper tantrums, and that our own Milky Way has grown up and matured and is now ready to create new life of its own.

It's entirely possible that life on Earth arose about as early as it could have, and that we may be among the "senior" intelligent lifeforms around. Or, perhaps we're entirely alone, which carries with it its own philosophical baggage. It's interesting to speculate, but it's foolish to make definitive statements when we are 99.9% ignorant of what's actually out there.

3 days ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

kenwd0elq Re:RTG (519 comments)

An additional 5 pounds in mass at launch would have required many times that much in additional fuel. Ounces are important in spacecraft design, especially when you're planning on a 10-15 year timeline. The ESA probably made the best decisions that they could, and second-guessing is idle speculation.

Any of my "it's too bad that..." sentiments have to be balanced with the extraordinary achievement of launching the Rosetta probe, of getting it to the comet, of actually LANDING on the thing, and getting any pictures at all from it. And if it finally spins back into the sunlight, we may still get stuff from it. Especially since the harpoons apparently didn't function, and that it has an effective weight on the order of grams, and that comets do generally release gas and dust into space. Philae could easily be carried back into space with any puff of gas. It probably won't happen, but ..... Who knows?

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

kenwd0elq RTG (519 comments)

One downside to RTG (Radio-isotope Thermal Generators) is that radioactive elements decay, and this causes the power output to fall off slowly but continuously. And the probe wasn't deployed for 11 years after launch; it's not something that we can activate on deployment. IF the thing had landed properly, in the sunlight, the solar power would have been fine. It's too bad that it couldn't have carried both, but that would have been a hefty weight penalty at launch.

about a week ago
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Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband?

kenwd0elq Re: Split Comcast in two (135 comments)

This is only practical where there are local or regional monopolies MANDATED by local governments. Cities, towns and counties have allowed, even encouraged, sweetheart deals between the regulators and the regulated. Eliminate cable and telephone monopoly powers, and allow other players into the market, and we might get internet service that's as good as South Korea's.

about two weeks ago
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Amazon's Echo: a $200, Multi-Function, Audio-Centric Device

kenwd0elq Re:You heard it hear (129 comments)

The only difference, of course, is that we don't expect your cell phone or tablet to relay EVERY word to the NSA. The "Echo" device would appear to do just that. We always suspected that Big Brother was going to subcontract the work; now we know who got the bid!

about three weeks ago
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Meet the 36 People Who Run Wikipedia

kenwd0elq Wikipedia is Broken (140 comments)

Wikipedia is tolerable for old or static or uncontroversial information. For example, I'm sure that the data on the masses of the 50 nearest stars is reliable.

For anything political or controversial, the Wikipedia "stewards" are hard-left. I would NEVER trust them with anything important.

If I were a teacher, I would inform every student that Wikipedia can NEVER be cited as a reference, and that doing so would be an instant F on any paper.

about three weeks ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

kenwd0elq Re: Marked Paper Ballots FTW (388 comments)

Yeah, I guess having electronic voting machines AND working printers is an invitation to failure, especially when a few dozen Sharpie pens is ... what, fifty bucks?

I realize this is heresy, but even though I've been working with PCs on a daily basis for THIRTY YEARS, not everything needs to be computerized.

about three weeks ago
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Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

kenwd0elq Re: Marked Paper Ballots FTW (388 comments)

AND, paper ballots allow one to recover from gross errors. Electronic ballots do not.

The only kind of "electronic voting" that I would support would be one that allowed the voter to fill in his ballot on the computer terminal and then PRINT the ballot. The voter then reviews the PRINTED ballot, and then drops it into the ballot box. Immediate results, which is what the BigMediaMoguls want, to do breathless "breaking news" bulletins, AND a scanable paper ballot which would be the OFFICIAL ballot.

about three weeks ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Re:they just write it that way (468 comments)

True statement! Of course, Nixon was a piker on the corruption front compared to the incumbent.

about a month ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Re:Old news, old news (468 comments)

Are you certain of this? I've seen reports of the Dems doing it; this one, and Althouse in 2012 and again now. I've never seen any reports of the Republicans doing this.

about a month ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Re:On Abstaining (468 comments)

True statement! When everything is data-mined after the election, one of the things that the election "consultants" (and there are no more vile people like "election consultants, whether of the Carville or Rove variety, they're still evil) analyze is the "no vote" ballots; how many total ballots were submitted, and how many had no vote for EITHER candidate.

about a month ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Re:they just write it that way (468 comments)

Ummmm..... Wrong. As the mailer said, they don't know HOW you voted, but the fact that you did - or didn't - is public record. They even know whether you voted in person, or by mail. They even know if you requested an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot and didn't return it.

And the stats are extracted per PRECINCT, which is pretty darned granular.

Big computers and massive databases - especially when run out of the most corrupt White House in history - can be scary things.

about a month ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Re:correction (468 comments)

It's the "(We WISH we were the) House Majority (and maybe we will be again, but not THIS time) Pac ".

about a month ago
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Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

kenwd0elq Old news, old news (468 comments)

Nothing new here; University of Wisconsin law prof and blogger Ann Althouse related the (apparently quite similar) mailings she received during the 2012 campaign. Those apparently worked, so it isn't surprising that the Dems would try the same dirty tricks again.

about a month ago
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Are the World's Religions Ready For ET?

kenwd0elq Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven (534 comments)

The finest single work of fiction concerning the relationship of religion to life on other worlds was Mark Twain's "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven".

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebook...

Twain's Captain Stormfield dies and makes his way to Heaven, to find that Heaven is inhabited with uncounted numbers of souls from billions of different planets; every planet has its own Redeemer, but all represent the same God.

The idea that God is human is laughable; any religion that restricts God to a single planet, or even a single galaxy, is thinking much too narrowly! If there is a God, a Supreme Being (a topic on which I reserve judgment, having no knowledge and only limited faith), He/She/It must be truly supreme in the universe(s).

about 2 months ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

kenwd0elq Re: And so it begins... (252 comments)

Preferences vary. I was a big B5 fan of the original shows, read about them in the "lurker's guide" site first on USENET, and later on Hyperion. I'll happily go see a rebooted Babylon 5 in the theaters - even though as a big Star Trek fan (I watched them on our little TV on the original broadcasts), I haven't been to any of the rebooted Star Trek movies.

"A willing suspension of disbelief". Babylon 5 had it. Star Trek, in my opinion, did not.

about 4 months ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

kenwd0elq Re: And so it begins... (252 comments)

Most television programs stink at dialog; because it's all written down first, and most actors can't be bothered to figure out how to make their characters speak in their own voices. Bab5 was less bad than most, because most of the episodes were written by JMS. Most TV programs are written by committee, or by outsiders, or by a rotating staff of writers.

about 4 months ago
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Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

kenwd0elq Re: And so it begins... (252 comments)

As somebody who got INTO Babylon 5 in his 40's, I disagree; Babylon 5 was the best program on TV ever. (Barring, of course, the hot mess that resulted from the on-again/off-again cancellation of Season 5.) There were a few discontinuous episodes in Season 1, but seasons 2-4 were like old soap operas; you didn't dare miss an episode, or you wouldn't be able to catch up.

Even though I generally despise "reboots" of old favorite stories, I'm glad that JMS is doing it, and I wish him the best of luck in it.

about 4 months ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

kenwd0elq Re:No real surprise (710 comments)

Thanks. See? There's the scientific method working; I learned something new. Unfortunately, many of the more passionate advocates will not admit mistakes, and don't learn anything new.

Which was my original point.

about 4 months ago
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People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

kenwd0elq Re:No real surprise (710 comments)

" Science resolved. Nothing even to discuss. Period."

There speaks a man who knows NOTHING about the scientific method. "Science" isn't a thing, it's a process for narrowing in on the truth. The "science" is NEVER settled; there's always more to learn. Even Stephen Hawking is still changing his mind about how black holes work (or don't) and he's the guy who INVENTED the things. AGW is a RELIGIOUS belief, which is why we "deniers" are treated as heretics and apostates.

Remember, 30 years ago the existential crisis was the coming ice age, and 120 years ago, the existential crisis was that London was going to be 5 feet deep in horse manure.

about 4 months ago

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