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Pope Francis: There Are Limits To Freedom of Expression

thrich81 Re:throwing punches (892 comments)

Bad example -- Dr. Aldrin was not just provoked by the dumbass moon hoaxer saying something offensive, but the hoaxer was following Aldrin and his daughter around, harassing them after he was asked to leave the couple alone. Aldrin had a plausible defense that he and his daughter felt physically threatened.
"Beverly Hills police investigated the incident, which occurred 9 September, but said that the charges were dropped after witnesses came forward to say that Mr Sibrel had aggressively poked Mr Aldrin with the Bible before he was punched." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ame...

about two weeks ago
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Chinese Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around the Moon

thrich81 Re:Great to see (152 comments)

I stand corrected on the state of the Dragon. Still, I don't feel the angst about the US space capabilities which is often expressed around here. Having lived through the 70's with the abandonment of the Apollo/Saturn hardware, with two flyable Saturn Vs left to corrode away on the ground, and then the long, slow disappointment of the STS, the rebuilding situation in crewed capabilities we have today just doesn't seem so bad, and that doesn't consider the golden age of interplanetary programs going on now. And, come on, you can't really stand by your statement that the US couldn't build a system equivalent to Mercury-Redstone in a couple of years if some billionaire wanted to do it. Anyway, thanks for the (nearly) direct info on Dragon.

about two weeks ago
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Chinese Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around the Moon

thrich81 Re:Great to see (152 comments)

During the period 1975 to 1981, the period between the last crewed Apollo flight and the first crewed Space Shuttle flight, the US did not have an operational system to launch crewed spacecraft. I was around during that time and don't remember any of the wailing that "America has lost the ability to go into Space!" like is common now. The Russians could still do it then (with pretty much the same hardware as they use now) so that wasn't the difference. I think it is just trendy now to bash American technical prowess in space which is uninformed as proven by rovers on Mars, probes on the way to Jupiter, Pluto, and Ceres, and orbiters around Saturn and Mercury. Unlike the 1975-1981 period there are currently THREE (four if you count Dreamchaser) crewed American spacecraft in advanced development, two of which have already flown in uncrewed configuration. So by any standard the US space program is stronger now (far stronger on the robot side) than it was in the late 70's. And, to be blunt, the statement that "America has lost the capability of being able to reproduce the original Mercury flight of Alan Shepard," is just ignorant -- Space-X could reproduce the orbital flight of Apollo 7 (first crewed flight of Apollo) tomorrow if there was a reason to, using the Falcon 9/Dragon system.

about two weeks ago
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NASA's New Horizons To Arrive At Pluto With Clyde Tombaugh's Ashes

thrich81 Re:Not all of his ashes.. (108 comments)

OK, I was harsh on the unnamed "planetary scientists" and the ones I know are not like that so should have been less direct in my implied accusation. Sorry about that.

about two weeks ago
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NASA's New Horizons To Arrive At Pluto With Clyde Tombaugh's Ashes

thrich81 Re:Not all of his ashes.. (108 comments)

Except that interplanetary missions and NASA in general are not ALL about science. I would even venture a guess that much of the support for NASA's interplanetary programs among the American public (the people paying for it) is based on a romantic vision of "exploration", not hard science. Little add-ons like this, and the on-board DVD's with thousands of people's signatures, don't cost much and add a lot to public support. Unless the planetary scientists are going to fund these missions by themselves they had better be sensitive to their other perceived values beyond the science published in journals read by 0.01% of the American public.

about two weeks ago
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SpaceX One Step Closer To Launching Astronaut

thrich81 Re:That's will be one dead astronugh (70 comments)

Maybe the astronauts know and accept the risks of their chosen profession but their families don't seem to. Google up "Apollo 1 Lawsuit", "Challenger Space Shuttle Settlement" or "Columbia Space Shuttle Settlement". In every case either NASA or a NASA contractor paid off the families, $26.6 million in the Columbia case. Legal actions were initiated after each disaster.

about three weeks ago
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Professor: Young People Are "Lost Generation" Who Can No Longer Fix Gadgets

thrich81 Re:Dupe (840 comments)

Let me tell you, as someone with a lot of experience fixing cars (most recently, pulled the engine and transmission from my '96 Volvo to fix a transmission input shaft leak), the fact that they aren't as easy to fix is not a problem. That's because they don't need to be fixed nearly as often. The old (make that "classic") musclecars from the 60's and 70's I grew up fixing, swapping engines, etc. needed something all the time -- points replaced, carburetors rebuilt, overhauls at 75,000 miles, brakes rebuilt every 15,000 miles, etc. You haven't lived until you have rebuilt a Quadrajet four barrel carb from 1975 and gotten all the little springs, metering rods, and gaskets back in correctly. Nowadays, except for oil changes, you can pretty much weld the hoods shut for the first 100,000 miles. And they run far better in every respect than the old,"fixable" ones. I do it as a hobby, but nope, I'll take the new cars any day. That Volvo engine pull will be my last. Same goes for electronics -- the old TV's, the "fixable" ones -- every few years it was down to the electronics stores for new tubes, if you could figure out which tube was bad, and didn't electrocute yourself on the high voltage supplies and capacitors in the process -- no thanks. Things are just better now -- if loss of fixability is the price, it's well worth it.

about three weeks ago
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US CTO Tries To Wean the White House Off Floppy Disks

thrich81 Re:The most technically-advanced Presidency... (252 comments)

Well, I realize this is going way off topic, but previous executive and management experience/training has not been an indicator of being an effective US President (or good one, whatever the definition of that is). Example number one: G W Bush -- Harvard MBA, campaigned to "put a CEO in the White House", governor of Texas for two terms -- none of that seemed to help much when he hit the presidency. I know, bringing up Bush when discussing Obama's failings is a new kind of Godwin's law, but in this case the facts of the argument are germane.

about three weeks ago
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How Galaxies Are Disappearing From Our Universe

thrich81 Re:Curious (174 comments)

I going to take shot at this and press my luck, as I've already posted a comment about cosmology which is beyond my real understanding -- but ... The apparent mass increase you refer to is a Special Relativistic effect and Special Relativity only holds strictly in a flat, non-expanding space-time. Once you bring in General Relativity and curved or expanding space-times then your notions from Special Relativity don't hold, especially at cosmological distances. And the relation of velocity to red shift is not the same as in Special Relativity, since the cosmological redshift is caused by an actual expansion of the space between objects which is somewhat different from the notion of just relative velocities of the two observers' (flat) reference frames in Special Relativity. So the short answer is: General Relativity, especially at cosmological distances, is really strange and any intuition you (and I) have from a reasonable understanding of Newtonian physics and Special Relativity don't hold. Sorry, I can't do any better.

about three weeks ago
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How Galaxies Are Disappearing From Our Universe

thrich81 Re:What happens to the photons? (174 comments)

I'll probably get busted by some cosmologist for this, but -- there is no "edge" to the Universe, at least not one a photon or anything else can can travel to. For one thing, if you try to look far enough in any direction, from anywhere, you will eventually see space expanding away from you faster than light so the photons at the speed of light can go forever without catching up. More philosophically, because the Universe is "practically" (this is where I will get busted) defined by the space-time manifold which provides the coordinate systems to measure any events in it, there is no definition of an "edge" where there is space-time on one side and something else on the other, at least which anything in this Universe can get to or observe. Any notions of Galilean motion where you go far enough for long enough in one direction and you will eventually get to the end of any bounded region is defeated by the structure of space-time.

about three weeks ago
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Vast Nazi Facility Uncovered In Austria; Purported A-Bomb Development Site

thrich81 Re: Non-scientist at work (292 comments)

So, as a Brit, have you ever visited Dresden? "In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B...

about a month ago
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Vast Nazi Facility Uncovered In Austria; Purported A-Bomb Development Site

thrich81 Re: Non-scientist at work (292 comments)

Let me add to your excellent post -- having grown up in Huntsville during the 60's and the peak of von Braun's American fame (not infamy, yet), he serves as an almost perfect corner case for techies to consider as to how they would fit into their larger society to advance their technical dreams. von Braun did not ask to be born into what would become Nazi Germany and when he started working for the army there it was before the Nazi atrocities started. He wasn't particularly interested in weapons and by all accounts his goal was always space flight. The German army resources allowed him to pursue the development of the rockets he had been working on for years before, at that time Germany was not yet the horror it would become. By the time the really bad stuff started happening there -- the deadly slave labor, which his project was involved in, he was stuck -- continue the work or head to prison or execution, most likely the latter by that time in the war; he was arrested in 1944 and released only due to the intervention at the highest levels (Albert Speer, Minister of War Production). Those slave laborers (which he claims to not know the extent of) were doomed from the start; there is nothing he could have done for them. So, just what was he supposed to do? -- given that there was nothing he could have done to improve the lot of the populations under Nazi control? The fact that he was working on weapons aimed at the civil population of England could be problematic but by then the English and American bombers were incinerating German cities. He didn't have the option of just quitting and going away to work on something else. Given the same circumstances what would any of us techies had done? I don't know and I'm glad I will never have to find out. There is an excellent recent bio (2007) of von Braun by Michael Neufeld which tries to address the moral ambiguities of von Braun's life -- worth a read.

about a month ago
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BU Students Working On a Cheaper, Gentler Suborbital Rocket

thrich81 Re:Airship one headed in the right direction (43 comments)

Not intending to bust on you here, but this idea comes up occasionally -- that NASA screwed up by "abandoning" air-launched space planes for ICBM based capsules. Often it is from someone who "had an uncle working on it in 1958" or similar. Seems promising but the physics just don't work that well for air launches and it turns out that putting the rest of your vehicle on a big first stage to get it out of the atmosphere and on a good start for speed is very efficient. There is a huge difference in getting an X-15 to Mach 6+ and an orbital vehicle to Mach 25. Air launch just doesn't work for anything other than small payloads.

To get the Apollo lander to the moon the Saturn V had to put 260,000 lbs into low earth orbit. The biggest Boeing 747 now (in 2014) has a takeoff weight of 975,000 lbs. Look at the difference in size between the X-15 and the B-52 which carried it. There is no aircraft which is going to launch an Apollo sized payload into earth orbit. Or looking at it another way -- at burnout and jettison of the first stage of the Saturn V, the rest of the vehicle was already moving faster than the X-15 ever got to (a lot faster) and almost as high.

If air launch was really feasible, then customers would be knocking down the door at Orbital Sciences which has had their air-launch to orbit Pegasus booster in operation since 1990 and there would be an effort to build bigger versions -- there isn't. That whole X-30 program (National Aero-Space Plane) in the 90's was similar to air launched spacecraft and it didn't get anywhere.
   

about a month ago
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N. Korea Blames US For Internet Outage, Compares Obama to "a Monkey"

thrich81 Re:They have a good point (206 comments)

"Where is the greatness of America anymore?" -- you asked, here's one answer -- New Horizons, NASA space probe, launched 19 January 2006. Due to fly by Pluto on 14 July 2015. After that, headed to interstellar space, following the other four American space probes leaving the solar system; there are no others. American made, American operated, American funded. (with nods to the other fine nations who are operating interplanetary exploration programs)

about 1 month ago
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Paul Graham: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

thrich81 Re:Let the other programmers in... (552 comments)

What it (importing all your IT workers) causes is a native brain drain out of IT. You get a smart kid in high school making a career choice and right now he or she has to consider what professions are being depressed by bringing in workers who are not any better than he is but will work for substandard wages. The smart kid then says, "screw that, I'm going to med school, or an MBA or law degree from a prestigious school". And parents steer their kids away from the profession. Then the corps really can't get native born talent any more -- self-fulfilling prophecy. Is that in the national interest?

about 1 month ago
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CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

thrich81 Re:American Hypocrisy is unmatched (772 comments)

Don't try to get away with blaming the government for this. I guarantee you that it had at least a majority support for "anything goes" in the general populace at the time, and maybe even now. Remember the hysteria after 9/11 and that most Americans were hell-bent to go into Iraq which had no connection to the 9/11 attacks. You can say the government lied -- they did, but the lies were so transparent even at the time that you had to be willfully ignorant to accept them. Now, if the USA had had a responsible government at the time it might have been able to resist or deflect the worst impulses of the mob, but the government we had just gave the American populace, most of them, what they wanted. I don't know what American community anyone is living in who says the people are any better than the governments they elect but it isn't the one I hear on the radio call in shows and the newspaper letters to the editor. And no one else in the world is any better, so they can keep their remarks to themselves, too. The best we can do is to try to improve the sorry lot which humanity has become (actually, always was).

about a month and a half ago
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NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

thrich81 Re:Spare me NASA's PR Hype (140 comments)

I'm not trying to start something here, but where exactly did the OP (me) not get it right? The first Saturn V flight (to which I was comparing this Orion flight) was never intended to be manned, so that disposes of the post you responded to. And one of the test points of that Saturn V flight was to test the Apollo capsule (admittedly a Block I but with some Block II modifications) at reentry speeds faster than those of low earth orbit, which seems to be a talking point about the Orion flight. Just saying that the Orion program as demonstrated by this flight is only as far along as Apollo was in 1967, actually considerably less because by late 1967, project Apollo had demonstrated the booster to go out of LEO (Saturn V) while the launch vehicle for this Orion flight was barely more than the equivalent of a Saturn 1B. I'm a huge fan of NASA and have the posting history to prove it, but I also remember back when they were doing great things and didn't overhype every little event like they do now. They are still doing great things, but this Orion flight just isn't that great, just a step forward.

about 2 months ago
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NASA's Orion Capsule Reaches Orbit

thrich81 Spare me NASA's PR Hype (140 comments)

I'm glad to see this flight finally, but the flight trajectory of this flight was eerily similar to the first launch of the Saturn V. That mission also tested the Apollo spacecraft reentry characteristics at higher than LEO speed. Well, plus testing the largest booster ever built in all-up configuration on its first flight. So NASA has basically taken an off the shelf military booster (Delta IV Heavy) and launched an uncrewed Orion spacecraft and it worked -- great. So their PR release should have said, "We have now almost achieved the same capability with Orion as we had in 1967 with Apollo." Instead, the official commentary from Mission Control is, " 'There's your new spacecraft, America,' " Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said as the Orion capsule neared the water 270 miles off Mexico's Baja peninsula. Navias called the journey "the most perfect flight you could ever imagine." In 1967 the commentary from Mission Control would have been something like, "The vehicle performed nominally" One of the things I miss about the old NASA was their understated PR at the time -- just the engineering description of events, little fluff. Now I get the feeling that a division of PR hacks are crafting every word of commentary ahead of time.

about 2 months ago

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