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The Downside to Low Gas Prices

thrich81 Re:Cars and even SUVs do not cause much damage (554 comments)

It is much better for the price of the goods to reflect the full cost of the roads the trucks use to haul them than for fuel taxes for all vehicles to provide indirect subsidies for the "road hogs". If the full cost of the road use is included in the cost of an item then there is direct pressure to make the use of roads for any particular item maximally efficient. The items which don't need to be hauled far will properly cost less, encouraging efficient use of the roads and other infrastructure. That is how pricing is supposed to work in an efficient free market.

about a week ago
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The Students Who Feel They Have the Right To Cheat

thrich81 Re:Worthless degrees (438 comments)

I have a counterexample from the Texas public schools -- I have a BA in Math and Physics, and a kid in 8th grade. I have been impressed with the breadth of the math they are teaching here in the lower grades so far. The kids in 8th grade are getting a simple concept of (linear) curve fitting to a scatter of X-Y points, for example. They've been getting probability and various graphs and charts for a couple of years now -- all in a typical suburban public school, admittedly not in a blighted area, but not exclusive by any stretch. I'm sure these stories about the decayed public schools are true, but I'm not seeing it firsthand.

about two weeks ago
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The Military's Latest Enemy: Climate Change

thrich81 Re:Congressional funding (163 comments)

You know that the current Secretary of Defense, top guy in the Pentagon, appointed by President Obama, is a Republican, having served as such as senator from Nebraska in the US Senate for two terms. Also being a former Army enlisted squad leader in Vietnam with two Purple Hearts, I doubt he would adjust his views much and sell out the armed forces for Democratic Party politics.

about two weeks ago
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Bounties vs. Extreme Internet Harassment

thrich81 Re:Wait.. (716 comments)

Here is why the State needs to be involved in doing something about these sort of death threats -- this time Wu is offering a cash reward to whoever helps get her attacker put in jail -- OK, then her attacker will get some modicum of legal due process. If people feel threatened and don't feel the State can protect them then the next time this happens a "victim" will offer a cash reward to whoever helps to assault or kill their perceived attacker -- there will be no due process involved under those rules. Is that the way you want it to be? Historically that is a major reason why judicial systems came into place, to keep everyone from having to take justice and protection into their own hands.

about two weeks ago
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A Mysterious Piece of Russian Space Junk Does Maneuvers

thrich81 Re:No big issue (146 comments)

Actually, von Braun's team (brought over in Paperclip) was very conservative in their rocket engineering. They preferred incremental improvements over big leaps in technology. Thus the V-2 begat the Redstone, which begat the Jupiter, which together begat the Saturn I which begat the Saturn IB which (and this was a pretty good sized leap) begat the Saturn V. Two explicit examples -- notice that the Saturn IB and Saturn V both had fins on the first stage -- what other space boosters had or have fins? Also, the Huntsville team flew the Saturn I four times with a dummy second stage before they tried it in the two stage orbital configuration. As a result no missions launched with any Saturn booster failed due to launch vehicle problems (though the second [unmanned] launch of the Saturn V was close). Some other engineering teams in the US were pushing the state of the art harder -- such as the Atlas missile which relied on constant pressurization of the fuel tanks to maintain structural rigidity.

about three weeks ago
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China Completes Its First Lunar Return Mission

thrich81 Re:China, mankind's last hope? (109 comments)

Well, let's consider actual space missions in flight right now. Just next year, in 2015, the American Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around the asteroid Ceres, after leaving orbit around asteroid Vesta in 2012. And in July 2015, the American New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto. And there is the American Juno mission to Jupiter, launched in 2011 due for arrival in orbit around Jupiter in 2016. Plus the ongoing flotilla of orbiters around Mars, including Maven which just entered Martian orbit less than two months ago and the two functioning rovers on Mars. Oh, and the functioning American orbiters at Saturn and Mercury. Closer to home, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is still in orbit around the Moon taking pictures with half meter resolution. I'm sure I left some out -- so which of those interplanetary and lunar missions doesn't count as exploration for exploration's sake? The American space program has a PR problem -- they have so many space missions going on at once that no one pays any attention any more -- come on -- we're flying past PLUTO next year! The Europeans are landing a probe on a COMET this year! I'm happy to see the Chinese successes, but the Americans and Europeans are doing more space exploration than anyone right now and can do things there that no one else can.

about three weeks ago
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China Completes Its First Lunar Return Mission

thrich81 Re:So much envy from America (109 comments)

Thank-you for posting this. Usually I feel the responsibility to point out details like this about the early missions, but you saved me the trouble. There are many other examples such as the thousands of pictures returned by the Lunar Orbiters and Surveyor missions to the moon in the mid-60s. By the early 70's the US had missions on the way to Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury, places no one else has even attempted yet (the Europeans are planning to go to Jupiter and Mercury soon but haven't launched the spacecraft yet, and they did hitch a ride to Saturn on the US Cassini mission with their Huygens lander.)

about three weeks ago
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Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

thrich81 Re:Lemme guess (739 comments)

I would guess that the difference in reporting is that the Palin family has been far more entertaining over the years than the Biden family, and that is what the media is in the business of now -- entertainment to draw in those ratings. The Biden cocaine case raises far more useful questions about the drug laws in this country and how the upper 1% are treated by the justice system -- but that's not going to bring in the ratings. This is the free market at work -- isn't that how the (L)s want it?

about three weeks ago
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Most Planets In the Universe Are Homeless

thrich81 Re:Flawed model? (219 comments)

As an example that worked out -- the neutrino was originally proposed as an unobserved, mysterious matter particle to avoid having to modify the laws of conservation of momentum and energy when applied to nuclear beta decays.

about three weeks ago
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Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

thrich81 Re:Redistribution (739 comments)

I guess you weren't around during the Great Depression. There is a reason so much of the country became solidly Democratic for a generation after that -- the people who were in it credited FDR for saving their butts when no one else cared. They certainly didn't see the invisible hand of "economic growth" putting food on the table anytime soon back then. You have to live through the hard times in order to be around when things get better through growth. So where are these places on the planet of fantastic prosperity where the government is less intrusive than in the USA now ('less intrusive' includes 'no government provided health care')?

about three weeks ago
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Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

thrich81 Re:Designs from what? (443 comments)

I think the engines at least are not just based on Soviet designs but are actual Soviet hardware from the 60's and 70s. Leftover KN-33 engines reconditioned in the US by Aerojet and redesignated as AJ26-62. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... I can't say anything about whether that is good or bad for reliability.

about a month ago
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Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

thrich81 Re:Want Critical Thinking? Fix the Public Schools (553 comments)

Smart kids do need to socialize with kids their own age for a lot of reasons. But two groups of other kids their age they especially need to socialize with are other smart kids (to learn early on that they aren't the only or the smartest kid around) and other kids with talents which the smart kid doesn't have (to learn that there are other valuable talents besides being "smart"). Perhaps the best thing about "gifted programs" is it gets the smart kids together to hopefully push and reinforce each other. However a real shortcoming there is getting the smart kids to appreciate other types of talents in others.

about a month ago
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The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

thrich81 Re:TL;DR (350 comments)

Actually the main reason muon catalyzed fusion doesn't produce positive energy is that with each fusion event the muon involved has a 1% chance of being captured by the helium nucleus fusion product and is no longer available to bring more hydrogen nuclei together. At least according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon-catalyzed_fusion). For some reason I just looked that up today. Impressively, this pathway which quenches the fusion reaction was figured out theoretically in 1957, just one year after muon catalyzed fusion was first experimentally observed (though it had been predicted earlier). That's one reason why I am dubious of any of these cold-fusion claims without any nuclear theory behind them -- those 20th century nuclear scientist were good! If these later cold fusion advocates have to deny the existing theory of atomic nuclei to make their devices work then they had better bring some theory of their own, rather than just waving their hands and saying, "new physics".

about a month ago
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What Will It Take To Run a 2-Hour Marathon?

thrich81 Isn't "Cutting the Wind" cheating? (254 comments)

If you have someone running in front, cutting the wind, (called "drafting" in car and bicycle races) then you aren't really running a fair course. Might as well run it all downhill or with a wind at your back.

about a month and a half ago
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Past Measurements May Have Missed Massive Ocean Warming

thrich81 Re:What happens to that heat? (423 comments)

Actually I don't see any problem in the OPs statistics as stated. If you combine the 1951-1975 entries and the 1976-2000 entries you get a 50 year period, just like the two periods before. And its total number of cat 4 hurricanes is 46, well over the totals for the 50 year periods before, which perfectly fits his narrative. It isn't uncommon to reduce the intervals in statistical aggregations when things start changing more rapidly. In this case the OP did it such that we can easily recreate equal sized bins. By the way, those periods he used are 1851 to 1900 = 50 years, 1901 to 1950 = 50 years, 1951 to 1975 = 25 years, 1976 to 2000 = 25 years, not 49, 49, 25, 24 as you stated. The statistics here are pretty simple, not much room to manipulate or complain about them. Looks like a trend to me.

about a month and a half ago
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NASA Eyes Crew Deep Sleep Option For Mars Mission

thrich81 Just Go Nuclear and Get There Quick (236 comments)

At the risk of proposing simplistic answers to these technical questions (as per /. standard), I don't know why NASA isn't considering nuclear propulsion as their first choice for crewed missions to Mars. The nuclear thermal engines were investigated intensively and test articles tested and built in the 60's and were ostensibly cancelled only because there was no mission for them, not due to technical show-stoppers. Once you have a nuclear capability, trips around the Solar System become nearly routine. NASA should let Musk work on chemical rockets for his Mars trips and spend tax money on nuclear which the private guys can't do.

about 1 month ago
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Laying the Groundwork For Data-Driven Science

thrich81 Re:The problem with data driven science.. (55 comments)

Albert Einstein, for one example, is not known for acquiring any of the raw physical data from which he did his work on the Photoelectric Effect, Special Relativity, or General Relativity. All he did was sit at his desk and write equations based on data acquired by others.

about 2 months ago
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Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity

thrich81 Re:Article is about Measurement (232 comments)

You aren't quite right that the satellite gravity scientists are just using climate as a "hook" to display their techniques. A major reason for the launch of these very precise gravity satellites is to use gravity to monitor the movement of water (not just ice) in and around the Earth. Hence the name of the GRACE satellite -- Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. The NASA GRACE fact sheet is at -- http://earthobservatory.nasa.g... with more details.

about 2 months ago
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Antarctic Ice Loss Big Enough To Cause Measurable Shift In Earth's Gravity

thrich81 Re:Less 'stuff' might not mean less ice (232 comments)

"is it possible that the ice has actually thickened and displaced more of the denser sea water?" -- not in this case. The geographic precision of these satellite gravity surveys and complementary ground and airborne surveys in the area constrain the loss of mass to ice over the land. In addition it is possible to estimate the change in ice mass on the land by other techniques and they are in agreement with the gravity. There is a good (but long) discussion of the recent observational techniques and results for the ice sheet mass balances in Greenland and Antarctica here: http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/so...

about 2 months ago
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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

thrich81 Re:I dunno about LEDs, but CFLs don't last (602 comments)

I haven't had any trouble finding incandescent light bulbs for sale lately, but I haven't been looking very hard. The local Home Depot has a whole pallet of the super cheapo 60 watters for the hoarders to buy. The high quality halogen incandescents are available and nice choices for those last niches where you have to have incandescents before LEDs completely obsolete them for general lighting.

about 2 months ago

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