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  • Commented on Lost in Translation
    I'm impressed that machine translation works as well as it does. I can read articles from Al Jazeera (the Arabic site, not the English edition) through Google Translate and the English emitted generally appears to tell logical, comprehensible stories. I...
  • Commented on A working hypothesis
    In an effort to shortcut what could possibly become a long and off-topic discussion about the nature of morality and the meaning of universal, I'm willing to redefine the distinction between religious morality as being: Religious believers think that morality...
  • Commented on A working hypothesis
    And you make my point for me. I can be persuaded that there exist beings that are HPLD (more Lem), that their mastery of the sensible world extends to modifying basic physics with a snap of their tentacles, etc. But...
  • Commented on Note
    A few questions/comments about lighting: first, about the white LEDs: really? The phosphor-based ones have a double-hump spectrum with a very not-like-sunlight peak in the blue region. The RGB based ones have a strongly discontinuous spectrum. Second, how much of...
  • Commented on Moonshine
    How is ore leaching done on earth? You pile up your crushed rock into a pile, pour acid over it and allow to percolate, then tap of the metal "concentrate" from the collecting ponds. What about the moon? Firstly no...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    Apollo spinoffs are often vastly oversold by space advocates. NASA's Apollo spinoffs showcase has a nice list of concrete spinoffs, but not nearly enough to credibly account for "orders of magnitude" return on the $170 billion* program cost. Spinoffs that...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    We're still doing a lot of unmanned moon science, though as noted, not ON the moon for a while (unless you count last year's Kaguya impact). I don't know why there haven't been more sample return missions or some teleoperated...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    It was said that the 50 year hiatus between the successful assault on the South Pole by Amundsen and the establishment of Antarctic bases would be reflected in a similar period before we established a moon base. McMurdo now has...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    I can't believe I forgot to cite my favorite evisceration of space colonization, space mining, space solar power, and all other Big Projects in Space: The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects....
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    I'm not sure which "side" your parody is coming from, but it is quite true that there is an enormous social, technological, and temporal gap between a nuclear submarine and any ocean-going submersible conceivable in the 18th century. Even someone...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    Argh, should be "turning light energy into something more useful TO humans"...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    Photosynthesis is, alas, not all that efficient. Roughly 1% conversion of light energy to biomass, and only part of that biomass is directly edible by humans. Run-of-the-mill terrestrial solar panels are 10 to 20 times as efficient at turning light...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    So no point in colonizing America in the 1600's because an asteroid hitting Europe... I don't know where you are going with this. The Americas weren't colonized to provide a lifeboat for humanity. The colonization process destroyed more human life...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    You could argue that humans in orbit with the actual exploratory stuff on the ground would at least eliminate a lot of the time-lag that makes teleoperation from Earth impossible. And further, for any samples that need to be...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    Helium-3 is another good one I'd forgotten. Sure, we haven't even hit energy break-even with D-T fusion, and sure D-He3 is even more demanding, and sure if it were really needed could just get He-3 from terrestrial lithium via tritium...
  • Commented on Space Cadets
    I haven't actually seen many space cadets around here, at least not since the The High Frontier, Redux. Robert Zubrin, Gerard O'Neil, and John Lewis appear to form the modern trinity behind wildly optimistic space cadet expectations, though they probably...
  • Commented on Mediocrity
    I'm not actually advocating for interstellar colonization or nuclear pulse propulsion... just pointing out that accepting the premise of AI + fully automated manufacturing gives you a pretty big magic wand for engineering on a staggering scale, and one that...
  • Commented on Mediocrity
    Nuclear pulse propulsion -- riding thermonuclear explosions to the stars -- is theoretically capable of 0.1 C or better, IIRC. And the rest of the ludicrous-scale effort doesn't look so daunting if you accept the grand initial premise that there's...
  • Commented on Mediocrity
    I think it is non-falsifiable and in the realm of religion. Whenever I'm running a simulation, emulation, or virtual machine and it crashes or otherwise exhibits an obvious bug, I restore the system to a checkpoint from before the problem...
  • Commented on Mediocrity
    I forget which book he did it in, but I liked one of Ken Macleod's solutions to the Fermi problem. It turns out that intelligent life has already arrived in the Solar System and many other places. But it's colonies...
  • Commented on Insufficient data
    "Engineers and manufacturers don't want to record what they did in such excruciating detail that even a new graduate could retrace their steps without hands-on assistance" explains why specialized production lines that have been stopped for years are very difficult...
  • Commented on Insufficient data
    I've read Drexler's thesis, which I understand is very close to the Nanosystems book, and it's quite enough to convince me that a lot of molecular manufacturing is possible in principle, but that's far from having a working nanofactory on...
  • Commented on Insufficient data
    Say you've arrived on the pristine surface of Earth 2, which looks a lot like Earth of 5000 years ago save there are no other humans on it, and you want to build an incandescent light bulb. A bulb really...
  • Commented on Geopolitics in the raw
    Iran has launched satellites. Judging by the history of the last 60 years, unarmed satellites are infinitely more useful to military and civilian alike than ICBMs. Of course a satellite launch vehicle can serve as an ICBM even if it...
  • Commented on Unpleasant Medicine
    On the matter of the fossil fuel dependency of agriculture: yes, natural gas currently is an input to the production of the lion's share of artificial nitrogen fertilizers. It is far from irreplaceable, though. Artificial nitrogen fixation works by catalytically...
  • Commented on Unpleasant Medicine
    "Is this why Google and others are on the constant lookout for less energy intensive server technologies? An IP-based economy is constrained by energy even more - it takes inexpensive and reliable sources of electricity for granted, otherwise it stops...
  • Commented on Amazonfail round-up
    "Also, unlike CD's which are the 'security hole' for music, the existing book product is analog and pretty secure, due to the effort required to copy it, while it's the newer product (the ebooks) which can be easily copied." Surprisingly,...
  • Commented on Information, Freedom, Flame-bait
    Writing and editing are valuable services to me the reader and I'm perfectly willing to pay for them. Quality-gatekeeping, distribution, and promotion: not so much. There's no commercial blog-publishers to separate the slush from the must-read, yet I haven't found...
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