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Comments

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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Re:Wrong question (252 comments)

And what exactly could a human geologist do that a rover (built with current technology), coupled with a competent geology team on Earth couldn't?

So you don't actually want to think about it? The answers are the same as here on Earth. Sometimes a robot is necessary but we don't use them when we don't have to because working through them is incredibly awkward. There is no geologist that wants to work remotely when he can work onsite. Plus there is a LOT more to do than simply geology on Mars.

1) Speed - a human can work faster on site than humans working through remotely operated devices. When latency averages 13 minutes each way humans on site are a LOT faster. A human on site could accomplish vastly more in a shorter amount of time.
2) I defy you to find me an end effector for any robot that is as useful as a human hand attached to a real live human.
3) Notice and investigate things the robot wasn't designed to address.
4) Repair equipment that breaks
5) Utilize local resources in ways robots cannot
6) Do things other than geology
7) Design and implement tools on site

So a $100bn Mars mission is going to deliver $10,000bn in R&D payback that couldn't have been done without sending humans to Mars?

I said that the R&D payback would be much larger for a manned mission than for a robotic mission (or even a large number of robotic missions) which is true. I didn't specify any dollar amounts - The 100X number is just made up to get the point across though it seems to have whooshed by you. A LOT more technology would have to be developed for a manned mission and as a result there would be a much larger R&D payback. For a manned mission we would need all the robotics research PLUS life support, radiation shielding, food supply, medical technology, remote manufacturing, mining and much more. It's a far bigger, more complicated mission with a lot more R&D requirements. Bigger R&D will result in bigger economic payback.

yesterday
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Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

sjbe Science != Math (403 comments)

There is such a thing as a proven theory

You cited examples of mathematical theory, not scientific theory. While they overlap they are not the same thing. Mathematical proofs can and do exist independent of any real world phenomena as they are pure logical constructs.

All scientific theories are falsifiable. This does not mean they are wrong but rather that there is always the possibility (however remote) that a new piece of data will disprove the theory. If it cannot (theoretically) be proven wrong then it is not science. Theories that cannot be tested through observations of real world phenomena are not science.

yesterday
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When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

sjbe Functional jewelry (171 comments)

It's also far from dumb. It's intricate, complex and beautiful.

I think no sane person would argue that a good mechanical watch isn't beautiful as well as an amazing piece of engineering. (I cannot say the same for crappy digital watches however) That doesn't change the fact though that they are a single purpose device that generally speaking is seldom necessary these days. I don't really need to carry around an extra gadget whose sole purpose is to tell me the time 99.99999% of the time. There are occasions when that is useful/necessary but they are rare these days.

If you enjoy wearing a watch there is no problem with that. Just recognize that you are wearing a piece of functional jewelry rather than making a practical choice. I think a watch of any sort is a much better choice than wearing polished rocks embedded in rare metals.

2 days ago
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When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

sjbe Why we use fancy tools (171 comments)

A good hammer, a good manual drill, a good screwdriver, will last a lifetime.

And will sit in a drawer for any but the most basic or simple of tasks. I have each of those tools and use them but 9 times out of 10 I find myself reaching for the cordless hammer-drill or the pneumatic nail gun because I value my time and don't believe in pointless effort. Plus a good part of the reason those hand tools last is because you are somewhat limited in the amount of work you can do with them. I can generate FAR more torque with my hammer-drill than with any manual screwdriver or hand drill. Pretty useful when trying to punch a hole in concrete or loosen a stuck bolt.

Many people, however, invest in pneumatic hammers, electric drills, and bit sets even though they know it will break.

Because they are FAR more productive with those tools. Maybe you've never done any construction. I have. Try framing a house sometime with a traditional hammer and traditional saw and miter box and then do it with a nail gun and circular miter saw. Then get back to me on how much I should value that old school hammer. Sure you can get the job done with the old tools and people did it for a long time. And it will take you 20X longer and require far more effort.

2 days ago
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When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

sjbe When would I need it? (171 comments)

It runs a tiny bit fast (several seconds a month), but until it completely dies, I see no reason to replace it for telling time at a glance (something that can't be done with a smartphone).

Which is exactly why those devices remain useful. And there are times when that is valuable. I sometimes carry a (dumb) watch when I'm hiking or doing some competitive distance running. Also useful if you are flying a plane or navigating a boat.

Here's the thing though. How often to you *really* need to know the time at a glance and do not have several clocks within eye shot these days? I spend most of my day working near a computer that has the time right on the menu bars. My car has a clock. I have various clocks in most of the rooms of my home. Most places at my office have at least one clock visible. When would I truly need to know the time so quickly that I cannot take a few seconds to pull my phone out of my pocket. Why would I wear a relatively uncomfortable piece of jewelry with no other purpose just so I can know to the second what time it is throughout the day? Does that really make sense?

2 days ago
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When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone

sjbe Doesn't scale well (171 comments)

Needs not be slow - you just need enough land and fast-growing trees.

That gets a tad difficult when you are trying to grow enough trees for 7 billion people.

Furthermore wood burning stoves are rather dirty from an environmental standpoint. Most traditional wood burning stoves are quite inefficient and release a lot of particulate matter.

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Why delay? (252 comments)

Why the hurry? It's not like Mars is going anywhere.

Why the delay? You have something better to do? What could possibly be a better use of your time than the greatest exploration mankind has ever undertaken?

Plus, the robots have a lot of autonomy. They move around obstacles pretty much by themselves, with only occasional help.

I think you are grossly underestimating the amount of hand holding going on from mission control here on Earth.

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Wrong question (252 comments)

I hear that said a lot, but is it really true?

Probably yes.

Could a human crew carry more scientific equipment than Curiosity did?

Wrong question. You have to get the equipment there either way. The question is what can you do with the equipment once you get it there. Presently the state of the art in robotics is such that we are pretty limited in what we can do with equipment once we get it there. Generally speaking people can usually do a lot more in a short amount of time than even the most state of the art automation unless it is highly repetitive. It's exactly the same problem we have in automating factories here on earth. Automation can be extremely useful but for most tasks we still have no better or more flexible tool than a competent human being.

Keep in mind that even the most basic manned mission is gonna cost so much money you could send 50 curiosity rovers there.

And the R&D payback will probably be 100X as large on a manned mission. People focus too much on the mission cost without considering the full economic picture. Remember that you have to develop a LOT more technology for a manned mission and much of this technology is applicable elsewhere.

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Forgetting about latency? (252 comments)

Robot operators have a lag time of a millisecond. They just need to get a little smarter, but we're working hard on that.

Not on mars they don't. Not when being operated from earth. Average latency to send a bit of data to mars is around 13 minutes in each direction. Sometimes longer depending on where the earth is in its orbit in relation to mars. The speed of light is fast but mars is really really far away.

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe It's not either/or (252 comments)

The Earth is thoroughly mapped, explored, photographed, populated, and exploited. There are no frontiers or mystery here any more.

Complete and utter nonsense. We are discovering things about the Earth daily. We've barely explored the 3/4 of the earth that is under water. We know a lot but there is a lot left to learn right here on Earth and for the foreseeable future Earth is exactly where we are going to learn because we have limited options regarding space travel right now. Our technology is simply not advanced enough to send people much farther than the moon a present and even that is a stretch.

There's an enormous unexplored solar system out there vastly bigger and more interesting than Earth.

And we should explore that too. Doesn't make your previous statement any less false.

I honestly don't understand the mentality of people who aren't curious about it and don't want to go explore it.

I understand it but like you I don't agree with it. We should be exploring space with as much enthusiasm as we can generate as a species. It will take courage and vision and an appetite for risk but the long term payback is almost certainly there. (and I'm not just talking about money either)

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Rational reasons to explore space (252 comments)

Because space is mostly empty, and extremely hostile. There's no rational reason for anybody to go there.

There are plenty of rational reasons to go there. Not all of them are economically rational. None of them are without some amount of danger. But the notion that there is no rational reason to go into space is easily and demonstrably false. Off the top of my head:

1) Scientific discovery, particularly as it relates to the human body in hostile environments
2) Technology development
3) Preserving the species (the Earth will cease to be habitable at some point)
4) Curiosity (simple curiosity is rational if risky)
5) Economic development (space R&D has a multi-fold economic payback)
6) Because the experience of standing on another planet is as different as standing on a mountain versus looking at a post card

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe We've barely gotten off the beach (252 comments)

For an oceanographer, saying "I have no idea what's there" is a sign that you haven't done your research

Untrue. The oceanographer is simply being candid. Sure they are not completely ignorant but they also know enough to know their is a lot more to be discovered. They are simply stating the obvious fact that there is a lot of territory to be explored and we haven't explored very much of it in any great detail. They are saying they are like Christopher Columbus who has learned some fascinating things about this new continent while standing on the beach but there is a lot more to be learned. If they claimed they understood it perfectly that would be false because they've barely gotten off the beach (literally).

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe Why aren't we investing more? (252 comments)

What is the difference between sending humans, with all their implications, vs. instruments and engines to get them there?

The differences are vast. It's the same difference as standing on a mountain versus looking at a post card. Sometimes machines are necessary but more often they are a poor proxy.

Why is the human part so important to science?

There is some exploration that has to be done in person. There are some questions that cannot be answered without sending people to answer them. Questions like "are we stuck on this planet"?

And at what cost, to everyone who must pay real money for the expedition, (...never minding the folks who volunteered their 'free time'/lives to go up first)?

The cost of space exploration has paid itself back economically multi-fold. The spinoff technologies alone are worth billions to trillions of dollars. Even the most conservative estimates of economic benefit of NASA and other space exploration research has a 3X-8X return on investment. The question isn't why should we be investing in space travel. The question is why aren't we investing more?

2 days ago
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Could We Abort a Manned Mission To Mars?

sjbe We've barely explored the oceans (252 comments)

Earth has no more undiscovered continents, no more unexplored territory, and no more absolute wilderness.

Earth has vast amounts of mostly unexplored territory. The 3/4 of the Earth's surface that is covered by water has only barely been explored. Sure, there are bits and pieces of dry land that haven't been explored yet though those are disappearing quickly. But right now we really don't have the technology to explore the oceans comprehensively. I think people tend to forget about the oceans and how vast they really are.

Please note this isn't an argument against going into space. We absolutely should. I'm merely pointing out that there is actually quite a bit of the Earth that we don't know very much about.

2 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe Turnabout (363 comments)

There's a classic quip about that. "A liberal is someone who will give you the shirt off of someone else's back."

That would mean the conservative equivalent is "A conservative is someone who will take your shirt and tell you to get a job so you can buy another one".

5 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe People are not (necessarily) interchangeable (363 comments)

That being said it kinda dodges the question of why they need more HB1s after laying off a ton of people whom presumably had the necessary qualifications.

You cannot presume that. While it's certainly possible that some of them did have the necessary qualifications, it is also quite possible (likely even) that most did not. If you fire an engineer you cannot replace them with an accountant or even necessarily a different engineer with a different skill set. Even if they did have the qualifications that does not mean they were available and willing to work in the jobs that Microsoft had available. To make up an example, if they fire some guy in Finland from Nokia because they want the development to take place in the US, it's quite likely the guy might not want to move to the US to take the job that is available. Maybe he has family and cannot easily relocate.

The person has to have the right qualifications, be available to do the work, be willing to locate themselves to where the work is and cost the right amount.

5 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe People are not interchangeable (363 comments)

If we had any legitimacy in the Government, I would expect the Government to be asking why Microsoft just terminated 18,000 employees (including no-competes preventing their hire at MS or anywhere else) and is now requesting 1,000 more foreign workers.

You can ask the question but the answer is simple. (whether the answer is actually honest or not is a different issue) What Microsoft would say is that those 18,000 workers didn't have the skill sets needed by the company going forward. If you fire an accountant you cannot replace him with an engineer. Not all people and jobs are interchangeable. I personally have had to fire people and hire different people precisely for this reasons. Even if they are lying through their teeth, this answer provides nearly impenetrable plausible deniability.

5 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe Double standards (363 comments)

That's the problem with liberals like Gates. They are very good at telling others how to be responsible citizens but consider themselves exempt from that

And you think "conservatives" don't do exactly the same thing? Bit of a double standard you have there. One standard will work just fine.

5 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe The DO have it both ways (363 comments)

Corporations want infrastructure, rule of the law, and educated workforce that comes with doing business in US while paying third-world wages and hiding income in tax shelters. You can't have it both ways.

So far they very clearly have been able to have it both ways. Sad but true.

Now let's be fair that Microsoft in general is not paying "third world wages". You only have to look at their financial statements to prove that. They generally pay their employees fairly well. That said, I think they are being more than a little disingenuous in claiming they need workers from overseas when they have net profit margins well in excess of 20%. Microsoft's problems aren't with their costs but with their revenue streams and no amount of cheap overseas talent is going to solve that problem.

5 days ago
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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

sjbe Geographic matching (363 comments)

who later explained that about 60% of Microsoft's workforce is in the U.S., yet it makes 68% of its profits overseas

Which is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to software. There is no need at all in software to match development costs to geographic locations. It's one of the beautiful things about being in that industry. That's why you can have a development team in India for a product that isn't even sold there and it still makes sense. It's not a tangible good you export.

Now if they cannot get the right talent for the right price domestically then sure they might have to look elsewhere but frankly I doubt that is really the core problem for Microsoft. If they are having trouble getting good talent I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that people are well aware they have a pretty toxic corporate culture where everyone has to have their knives out at all times and so much of the best talent decides to work elsewhere. Microsoft is just not an attractive place to work compared with Apple or Google or some of the other top IT firms.

It's also a little disingenuous to claim you need cheaper talent when you have net profit margins well above 20%. Microsoft's problems are not rooted in their cost structure but in their revenue streams. Their problems are that their key revenue streams (Windows and Office) are tied to tightly to the PC market and they haven't been able to translate them very well to the mobile market. They spent so many years trying to maximize their monopoly on the PC they they found it difficult to acknowledge that mobile devices have different requirements and to relax their grip so that they could grow. Microsoft saw the opportunity in mobile 10-15 years ago but kept trying to cram a PC into a mobile device with predictably bad results.

5 days ago

Submissions

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Creationists Editing Darwin's Origin of Species

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 4 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "Proponents of intelligent design have been distributing an edited version of Darwin's "Origin of Species". The edited version reportedly contains a 50 page introduction written by Ray Comfort favoring creationism. The full original text of the book is included with the new version. Over 1000 copies were allegedly handed out near Washington University in Saint Louis without any notice to or approval from the university. The author reportedly draw connections between Hitler and Darwin so Godwin's Law may need to be invoked."
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XM Sirius Merger approved by DOJ

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "A year after announcing the merger the Justice Department has given the thumbs up to the proposed merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius. The FCC still has to give their approval but historically the two organizations rarely contradict each other on proposed mergers. It will be interested to watch if the merger can stop all the red ink from these two money losing companies."
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Ziff Davis Files For Bankruptcy

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "Ziff Davis Media Inc., publisher of PC Magazine has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing is reportedly to reorganize the company's capital structure, particularly with regard to subordinated debt. Papers were filed in the US Bankruptcy court in Manhattan. The company's parent Ziff Davis Holdings Inc. also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Full details are available from Bloomberg."
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Lax TSA Website Exposes Traveller's Information

sjbe sjbe writes  |  more than 6 years ago

sjbe (173966) writes "According to a January 2008 report from the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, from October 2006 through February 2007 traveller's who utilized the TSA website to attempt to remove their name from the No-Fly list risked having sensitive data, including social security numbers, exposed due to poor security practices. The contractor responsible, Desyne Web Services was awarded a no-bid contract to design the website. The TSA's technical lead on the project reportedly had a conflict of interest having been a former employee of Desyne. The security vulnerabilities were pointed out by Chris Soghoian, a Ph.D. student at the University of Indiana's School of Informatics. The TSA has since taken action to remedy the vulnerabilities but no action was taken to sanction the responsible parties for the vulnerabilities."
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