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Comment 1985, a banner year (Score 1) 497

You know what's interesting about your link? Look at the year with the most manned launches: 1985. NASA really was aggressively ramping up the Space Shuttle launch rate, to finally try to make good on the promise of reducing costs by amortizing the cost of the SLS over a large number of launches.

Loss of the Challenger (January 1986) put a stop to that, of course, and things never fully recovered. I expect we won't surpass the 1985 figure until SpaceX starts doing manned launches.

Comment Next time, insurgency should enter the calculus (Score 1) 527

For some people, it made their lives better. For most others, it made it far worse

Regime change would have made almost every Iraqi's life better -- except for those who lost employment due to de-Baathification, which was about as justified as the de-Nazification program following WWII -- if not for the insurgency that subsequently arose.

Now, you can argue that we should have foreseen the insurgency. But no one in power, of any political stripe, did.

Think about this little-known fact: prior to the invasion of Iraq, the wargamers' best estimate of how many Americans would die in battles with Saddam's forces was 10,000. This estimate was briefed to the president and Congress. It did not deter Congress from voting for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. That's right: 374 members of Congress, including H. Clinton and J. Biden, felt that 10,000 American lives was an acceptable cost for deposing Saddam.

The wargamers apparently gave no thought at all to a possible insurgency, because they did not produce any estimate of how many would be killed by insurgents.

So we now know their crystal ball was quite inaccurate in two ways. Actual American deaths were: ~110 killed in battles with Saddam's forces; ~4,387 killed by insurgents; 4,497 total.

Objectively, one could argue that 4497, being much less than the 10,000 anticipated deaths, is an indicator of a very successful operation. But since the insurgency steadily generated bad news for about 8 years, the political perception was different. And that is why Joe Biden could get away with saying Iraq was the biggest mistake in American history. (That pronouncement was a pure political hack on Biden's part. He could not have possibly forgotten what was objectively a far bigger mistake: Vietnam, where 58,315 Americans were killed, even while we failed to meet the objective of protecting South Vietnam from invasion by the North.)

Comment Mobile apps are stupid (Score 1) 153

People are sick of ultra-specialized apps. (Not-so-far-fetched exaggeration: swiping through pages of apps until you find the one that displays the tensile strength of Reebok shoelaces.)

Every company's IT cost goes up when the public comes to expect an app, that simply presents the same information that's already available on the company's web site.

There's already an app that can replace 98% of the apps out there: a mobile web browser. If the user experience for mobile web browsers could be improved, there would be no need for the deluge of apps.

Comment Military spending: 18% of the federal tax burden (Score 1) 579

You use the military, whether you want it or not. In the US that represents somewhere around 30-50% of your federal tax burden.

The U.S. spends 3.3% of GDP on the military (see )

Federal spending represents about 18% of GDP (see http://www.usgovernmentspendin... )

So from these figures, military spending represents 3.3 / 18 = 18% of our federal tax burden.

Comment His debt, transformed into our liability (Score 1) 420

If he wants to take on debt so he can spend four years on poetry or Russian literature or on women's studies, that's his business, and HIS debt

If the leftists who want to make public universities "free" get their way, it will no longer be his debt. His education will be paid for by the taxpayers who didn't choose garbage majors.

Comment Efficiency is not infinite, if measured properly (Score 1) 532

Perhaps the most common way to measure the efficiency of a traditional rocket is specific impulse: total impulse (or change in momentum) delivered per unit of propellant consumed. Note that this is not a measure of energy efficiency; it's a measure of how efficiently propellant is used. (It's possible to waste a lot of energy in the process of getting your propellant up to extremely high exhaust velocities.)

By that measure, sure, a propellantless thruster's use of propellant is infinitely efficient. But that's not a good way to measure the efficiency of a propellantless thruster.

People who follow the Em Drive usually use a metric of thrust per kilowatt of electric power. Much better; and by this measure, efficiency is definitely not infinite.

Comment Re:Technology does not work that way. (Score 1) 367

a collective right does not suddenly spring into existence just because you brought together a bunch of people who would not have that right individually.

If making decisions collectively, by a bunch of people, doesn't reduce the risk that results from concentrating all power into a single individual, we might as well trim the Supreme Court down to a single judge. Trim the Senate down to a single Senator, while we're at it.

The only one with the right to decide to whom their secrets should be entrusted is the one holding the secrets.

That's not how things have worked with traditional information storage methods. In 1890, if there was probable cause to believe that documents locked in a safe contained evidence of a crime, law enforcement could get a warrant that compelled that safe to be unlocked. Are you arguing that that kind of power never should have been given to law enforcement in the first place?

Comment Re:Technology does not work that way. (Score 1) 367

You are speaking about a simple backdoor, while I was speaking about a whole system of systems of "clever checks, balances, and safeguards".

is not your call to make

Correct; it should not be my call to make.

Slashdot, for example, has a metamoderation system, that determines who tends to make good mods and who doesn't.

A similar system could rate law enforcement officials, to determine who would be most worthy -- after obtaining a legitimate warrant -- of access to private information.

Comment Technology does not work that way. (Score 1) 367

Technology does not work that way. There are any number of permutations in which the room is not dark for everyone.

The worst possible permutation is where criminals have access to all our private information, and the system that wants to prosecute those criminals can obtain no evidence against them.

The best possible permutation is where criminals are in total darkness, while the most incorruptible members of law enforcement, after obtaining a legitimate warrant, are in a brightly-lit room.

There are smart people in the fields of cybersecurity and encryption. It just might be possible for them, over time, to develop clever checks, balances, and safeguards, that get us close to the best possible permutation.

Comment Bill Nye, science denier (Score 4, Insightful) 448

Nye hasn't published any papers on this topic. Let's look at what real scientists have found.

Even as Al Gore was trying to scare everyone into believing that the frequency and intensity of cyclones was in the process of skyrocketing, Dr. R.N. Maue analyzed actual data and found just the opposite:

Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity
Tropical cyclone accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) has exhibited strikingly large global interannual variability during the past 40-years. In the pentad since 2006, Northern Hemisphere and global tropical cyclone ACE has decreased dramatically to the lowest levels since the late 1970s. Additionally, the global frequency of tropical cyclones has reached a historical low. Here evidence is presented demonstrating that considerable variability in tropical cyclone ACE is associated with the evolution of the character of observed large-scale climate mechanisms including the El Niño Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation. In contrast to record quiet North Pacific tropical cyclone activity in 2010, the North Atlantic basin remained very active by contributing almost one-third of the overall calendar year global ACE.
- R.N. Maue, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University

And there are plenty of studies that show increasing global temperature causes reduced storm activity. One such study published in Quaternary Science Reviews is summarized here.

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"This generation may be the one that will face Armageddon." -- Ronald Reagan, "People" magazine, December 26, 1985