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Comment Re: Why not land on the moon? (Score 1) 303

But there was clear economic benefit in setting up colonies in North America. The fishing ground off Newfoundland were making some people in Western Europe very rich. The gold and silver being looted from Central and South America created and maintained the Spanish Empire for over a century, and there was a wide-spread belief that there were similar "cities of gold" in North America. Many a man in Britain and France became wealthy from the North American fur trade. The economic benefits of the New World were very real and very clear to both the chattering classes and to the newly emerging capitalist class.

Comment Re:Good idea for now (Score 4, Informative) 56

The plan is to crash Juno into Jupiter at the end of the mission, so we will get some nice close-up imagery at the end. This will require a manoeuver to change the orbit. The telemetry from the de-orbit burn may provide some useful information about the valves. The reason to de-orbit Juno into the planet is to be sure the probe does not contaminate any of the Jovian moons at some point in the future. After all, we do not want to (eventually) go to Europa and find e. coli spreading from the crash site.

Comment Re:Road Hazard (Score 1) 162

I disageee; if self-driving cars eventually work as well as some people expect them to they will become the norm very quickly. Whether or not the technology will be good enough to allow that is, as far as I can tell, still an open question. However, some of the largest and most successful companies on the planet are spending billions of dollars a year to develop self-driving cars, and these corporations are not known for having infinite cash reserves or chasing sci-fi fantasies like flying cars. Also, these car companies have a lot to lose if automobiles ever become a mere appliance. That they are investing so heavily in self-driving vehicles suggests that they see fully-autonomous cars as their best road to long-term profitability.

The potential market for self-driving vehicles is huge. Most people are not auto enthusiasts. They drive because they have no choice. In places where public transit is a realistic option the rate of vehicle ownership drops dramatically. Many of these drive-because-they-have-to drivers are going to embrace self-driving cars as soon as they are convinced the technology is mature enough to keep them safe. The various delivery sectors are going to embrace self-driving vehicles too because they eliminates one of their largest recurring costs: paying human drivers. Then there is the aging population. Most people alive today in the US and Canada have been driving all their lives and are not going to want to give up that mobility as they become unable to drive safely. Aging baby boomers are numerous and a natural market for self-driving vehicles. And these are just the markets that come to mind immediately.

Comment Re:String theory is just that: a theory (Score 3, Informative) 161

The observations are not wrong. Measuring the velocity dispersion of stars in a globular clusters is not a much harder, or more conceptually difficult, than measuring the colour of a fluorescent light. Determining a galactic rotation curve is a bit more complex, but not much so. These observations have been done tens of thousands of times using many different techniques, sometimes by groups of astrophysicists who hate each other and would like nothing more than to discredit the person who got to speak instead of them at last January's AAS meeting. The observational evidence for dark matter is overwhelming. The modeling, on the other hand, has more assumptions built in. The key assumption is that gravity, in the weak limit, follows Newton's law of gravity, and there is a 400 years of evidence to support that.

Comment Re:Great news everyone (Score 4, Informative) 161

Many people have spent a lot of time looking for ways to explain single like galaxy rotation curves, stellar velocities in globular clusters and elliptical galaxies, the structure of galaxy clustering and what-not without success. The simplest explanation has always turned out to be that there is some sort of extra matter that we cannot see. Dark matter requires the smallest number of assumptions out of all explanations that people have proposed so far. By Ocham's Razor it is probably the right solution. And by Grabthar's Hammer you shall be avenged.

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