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Comment Re:as a layperson, im a little confused. (Score 2) 551

I fully agree that institutional biases exist and are a problem. And in some cases, they are born out of unconscious bias. But you can't really blame people for having an unconscious bias - after all, it's not a decision they've consciously made. So, what a decent person would do is find ways to counteract bias, as scientists do with double-blind studies. Or, if that's not practical, find a way to test your own bias and then actively work against it.

Harvard has a pretty quick way to do that online: https://implicit.harvard.edu/i...

For myself, I taught high-school science for a while, and so I took a few tests on that site to see if I had any strong bias to be worried about. Turns out that I had no particular racial bias, but had a pretty strong gender bias against females in STEM. I've tried to be actively more self-aware thanks to that, although effectively addressing the bias, even if you know it's there and you know it's wrong, is hard to do. You're essentially trying to ignore and/or retrain your subconscious associations, and I'm not sure that anybody is super effective at doing that.

Comment Re:as a layperson, im a little confused. (Score 3, Insightful) 551

If you're a manager and your making decisions on bonuses, promotions and pay and you're even unconsciously taking gender, race, religion or ethnicity into account, then you're a bigot.

Hang on now. There is probably nobody out there who doesn't unconsciously get influenced by those factors. We all have biases that we aren't even aware of - the very best we can do is try to take conscious steps to counteract those biases, or to evaluate a field of resumes without looking at the names, something like that.

Having a bias does not make you a bigot, it makes you a human. You only become a bigot when you believe that those instincts towards prejudice are appropriate and seek to rationalize and protect them. And you become a willing enabler of bigots if you try to pretend that bias doesn't exist.

Comment Re:Resonating with Americans (Score 1) 181

No. That's what the typical decision tree looks like, where you vote for the incumbent party vs. the challenging party. That doesn't fit this time around, though, unless the "change" you are looking for is completely abandoning decency and competency as a nation. Trump is unfit for the presidency, to an unprecedented degree.

Comment Re:Of course you can. And you should. (Score 1) 551

Hitler was elected democratically. Do you think the people who put him in power should be applauded? They were just exercising their right to democracy, after all.

OP is not saying that we should ban people from voting. But, if you've demonstrated that you're willing to support a xenophobic demagogue who also happens to be a pathological liar, then you deserve to be ridiculed for it. That's people exercising their free speech to call you out on your poor judgement and apparent disregard for basic human decency. You can use your free speech to try to defend yourself. It's called liberty.

Here's the thing: the Germans that put Hitler in power deserve to be blamed for it, because they wanted promises of grandeur and success and sacrificed their freedom and decency to get it. The people who vote for Trump deserve to be blamed for it, for the exact same reasons. Liberty doesn't mean that there are no repercussions for your actions - it means that you are free to make piss-poor decisions, such as supporting authoritarians like Trump, and it means that you will be treated accordingly.

Comment Re:Holy flamebait batman! (Score 1) 903

No, your numbers are wrong on a few counts. First of all, this doesn't apply to children. Second of all, even among earners, only a small fraction of people will collect the full UBI - the others are paying tax, even if they earn $1k a year from working, they still pay a tax on that $1k, so the total drain on the system is somewhat less than the UBI. Whereas currently, many people with low enough earnings pay no tax whatsoever, or get money back from the system.

If you tax people only on earned income (basically, taxation exists on every dollar of your income past UBI), then a large chunk of the population is still paying in more tax than UBI, so in real terms they don't count as pulling from the system. What's more, when you do it that way, you effectively get a continuously variable progressive tax, even if it is flat: I ran the number assuming a $12k UBI, and a 25% flat tax on income, using real IRS number from 2014. Assuming you get rid of $500B in "income security" spending by the federal govt (2013 number, and that leaves Social Security and Medicare intact) then the UBI program actually saves you money. Part of the effect is that with a flat tax such as that, everyone below $70k has more take-home money but everyone over $70k pays more from the new tax policy + UBI than they got previously.

Anyhow, the numbers work. Let me know if you want the spreadsheet or references.

Comment Re:Competition.... (Score 2) 89

No, this is wrong. The reason rocket science is hard is because getting to orbit is hard. Going suborbital requires much less velocity, which means much less energy, which means less fuel, and you have tons more margin to work with. You can use cheaper, more reliable materials, you can afford to over-engineer structures and systems for safety. A suborbital rocket can also ignore many technical challenges entirely - there's no staging, for instance, there's no need for thermal protection for re-entry, there's far less destructive capacity involved so you have simpler pads and support infrastructure and less regulatory burden since your rocket isn't capable of destroying small towns.

For a simple comparison, a kg to space (100km) means you've only got to worry about gravitational potential energy, mgh, a total energy of 1kg * 10m/s/s * 10^5m, or 10^6J. For a kg to orbit, you have to have that gravitational potential energy, plus ~7.8 km/s. KE = 1/2mv^2, so 1/2 * 1kg * 7800m/s^2 = 3*10^7J. That means, from the very start, you need ~30 times the energy. To find a similar difference in capability, you could look at a Cessna vs an SR-71. The two are only similar in the most superficial ways.

Getting to orbit absolutely is the hard part. Blue Origin is working on it, but they started at suborbital specifically because it is easy, and their entire motto is gradatim ferociter, meaning "step by step, ferociously". Suborbital is an easier step, so they are taking a more gradual approach than SpaceX.

Comment Re: Whoopty Doo (Score 3, Insightful) 843

His entire world view is based on either pure fantasy, or on making productive people slaves to non-productive people and calling that a virtue.

There is not a single policy that Bernie has advocated that isn't being put to good use in Northern Europe - he's really a Democratic socialist after the Scandinavian style. So are you saying that Finland is an imaginary place?

On your second point: Too true, I hate it when productive people (like contractors, who actually build useful things) are unpaid slaves to non-productive people (like freeloading Trump and his ilk).

Comment Re: Whoopty Doo (Score 1) 843

You don't get your company to that size "with an iron fist, and no help or good ideas from anyone else", or by "blaming everyone but himself as he never accepts responsibility".

You underestimate the power of having a ton of money to start out with and a rich dad to bail you out whenever you mess up. Also, being willing to screw over all of your contractors whenever you can get away with it is a great way to save some cash. Oh, and make sure to use clever accounting to completely avoid paying your share of taxes.

Even then, if Trump was just competent, you would've expected him to at least stay even with the market, but as it is he performed far worse, even counting all of his unethical business dealings.

What's more, how do you know Trump is even that successful? Because he says so? If he really was so rich, and charitable, and successful, why doesn't he release his tax returns? Especially considering that he was the leader of the birther movement, it's completely hypocritical to withhold his personal information from the American people.

Comment Re:Hatchet job (Score 1) 843

According to Adams, Trump is using a technique called "pacing", where you make an extreme statement and follow it up by a moderate position. As with anyone running for a higher political office: what he says during his campaign has essentially nothing to do with his personal beliefs. It's all tactics to get elected. This is, sadly, how politics works.

This is a classic example of how otherwise sound-minded people talk themselves into supporting a narcissistic demagogue like Trump - just invent a more complex, reasonable, and intelligent persona hiding underneath the ignorant, blustering rhetoric, and then support that imaginary persona. The key problem, though, is Occam's Razor. If you have to invent elaborate scenarios to explain why your preferred candidate isn't a duck, even though he looks, acts, and sounds like one, and has for his entire life, maybe the simpler thing is to just cut the B.S. and admit that you are in fact dealing with a duck... or a xenophobic sociopath, in this case.

Comment Re:That's Heavy (Score 2) 202

There are plenty of incremental steps that could be pursued to drive R&D and expand the industry, such as near-Earth space tourism (as you suggest), asteroid mining, space-based solar, and small-scale research and exploration colonies that aren't intended to be self-sufficient. All of these things would benefit greatly from a huge reusable rocket like the ITS, without the high probability of catastrophic, deadly, horrendously expensive failure that accompanies a premature large-scale colonization effort.

I tend to agree... if we have to find the "next Earth", then Mars is certainly the best candidate in the solar system, but I don't think there's any real requirement or capability for that kind of thing at the moment. Instead, just opening up a new economic frontier in space will probably be the real key to what Musk is after - moving humanity into the next phase of civilization. It might be that he even recognizes that (and the fact that this has been renamed the Interplanetary Transport System rather than the Mars Colonial Transporter suggests that he does) but is maintaining the vision of Mars because it provides the focus needed to hone the development effort. If he builds transportation infrastructure sufficient for a Mars colony, that same capability effectively unlocks the whole solar system to large-scale manned operations. Yet, it is still useful to focus on one specific mission to help sell the idea and cut out the cruft and feature creep along the way... and that way, nobody can call his system a "rocket to nowhere", a moniker that has plagued the entire SLS effort.

Comment Re:That's Heavy (Score 2) 202

You have a very narrow view of aerospace if you think its most important product is launch vehicles, or that the only design goal worth mentioning is raw power.

Not at all, I'm well aware of the advancements in satellite technology because I work directly in that field (and, FWIW, 90's era processors are still considered state-of-the-art in some contexts) - but my original contention was this: "[Apollo] was arguably the pinnacle of manned space capability and we still haven't matched it with modern systems." It's irrefutably true - the only manned system that's even operational as of today (Soyuz) literally predates even the Apollo program.

That's a false premise: costs did come down. Even the Delta IV heavy - widely regarded as badly overpriced compared to its contemporaries - is about 30% cheaper to launch on a per-ton basis than the Saturn V ever was.

Sure, but Delta IV isn't man-rated, so it better be cheaper than Saturn V. And, even if it was, a 30% decrease really is a pittance, especially considering that the capability is much lower. What's more, the Delta IV is a commercial operation, while Saturn V was a no-expense-spared national prestige program - you would think it ought to be dramatically cheaper by comparison. Of course, it isn't fair to compare to computers, because Moore's Law growth is unprecedented in any industry and we've never seen that kind of growth anywhere else, but if we looked to airliners which are more comparable, this would be like having intercontinental flights in the 70's, and today we can only fly cross-country, but still have to pay 70% of the original price. Pretty tepid "advancement".

As for SpaceX... what they've done is quite amazing.

Their internal technical capabilities aren't as far ahead of their competitors as the external results make it appear though: they're "standing on the shoulders of giants".

I totally agree. They haven't innovated technically as much as they've innovated with the economics of spaceflight. The development costs for their vehicles are peanuts. This might be because they've taken a page out of agile software development - start with a poorly optimized, bare minimum launcher (the original Merlin engine and Falcon 9 had pretty miserable performance compared to today) and iterate to get successively better. As well, in a sense they've done something "Apple-esque", in terms of taking existing hardware that isn't groundbreaking, but integrating it in a much more effective way than prior companies have done. And, they've had a very different motivation - in the short term for ULA or any of the entrenched launch providers, lowering costs means that you lose money, because the launch market is small enough and slow moving enough that it will take a while for demand to ramp up and for increased volume to make up for your lower per-launch cost. Which is why the launch industry has been more or less stagnant for 50 years. You need someone commercial, and who can look past the next 5-10 years of profits - we haven't gotten it until Musk and Bezos.

The problem with that, is that currently the technology does not exist to build a self-sustaining colony anywhere but on Earth, even with cheap space launch.

I think this is the classic "if you build it, they will come" scenario. You couldn't start a software company in 1970, and you can't start an orbital tourism company today. The hope is, cheap launch capability will bring these companies out of the woodwork, and it really ought to be a separate venture from launch, because ideally colonization hardware should be vehicle-agnostic. Personally, I think in the short term, orbital tourist stations could be a lot more lucrative than Mars - how many people would spend $20k for a 2-week space vacation in LEO, vs spending $200k for a multi-year (or one way) voyage to Mars? Either way, those prices are decades away, but I expect the order of magnitude difference between them will remain indefinitely, and I bet you there will always be more than 10x as many LEO travelers as Mars travelers.

Comment Re:That's Heavy (Score 1) 202

Materials have gotten lighter and stronger, computers have gotten immeasurably better in every respect, manufacturing capabilities have improved - so we've made advancements in individual areas. But as an integrated system, it's a simple fact that the Apollo program produced the most powerful launch vehicle ever created.

The modern aerospace industry has innovated in some areas, but in terms of launch vehicles we're still doing the same basic things as in the Apollo days - expendable rockets, throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars on every launch... If we're so much more advanced, why haven't costs come down? Why haven't capabilities increased? The state of the art didn't increase meaningfully (in production systems) until SpaceX and now Blue Origin came along.

Comment Re:Haha no. (Score 1) 114

It's almost impossible to predict the "killer app" for a technology before it becomes available. The PC was around as a hobbiest contraption for quite a few years before it became a serious business tool, the internet was around for a while before Google and Facebook learned that targeted advertising and data collection were the real cash cows (and became some of the largest corporations in the world)... nobody predicted in the early days of the internet that collecting user data would be so lucrative. They never imagined that something like a social network would become so significant or that a company like Facebook could become such a prominent corporation.

So, on some level, it's going to be a matter of lowering costs and building the infrastructure, and then waiting to see what crops up. Space tourism gets a lot of press, and it might be overstated, but I can say for a fact that if you get the cost low enough a huge market will emerge. At $100k/ticket, would you pay for a flight to orbit? Nah. At $10k? Maybe. At $1k? Hell yes.

So Musk is pulling out all the stops to drive that price/lb into the dirt and planning on the market to respond. But he's dumping his own cash into the business to do it, and in the short term, if you have 20 launches in the global market, and all of a sudden SpaceX does 10 of them for half the standard price, the net effect is that now there's 25% less global spending on the launch market. So the question is how fast the market will respond to the decreases in price, and if the increase in volume will be enough to offset the decrease in per-launch spending. Traditionally, that's how markets have worked, but if it ends up being a lot more lethargic, or less elastic, than Musk is projecting, he could run out of cash (or die of old age) before he succeeds in making space access routine and affordable.

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