3100 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
"It lands like a proper 21st Century spacecraft should. Cue the music!"
[Thunderbirds theme starts]
Also geeky kudos points for the "carbon composite over-wrapped titanium spheres" that make up the fuel system. Were I a sci-fi script writer, I'd be busily stealing that sentence now. Also perhaps a product designer for over-priced mobile phones. "We laugh at Apple's mere liquid metal"...
Lovely, shiny spaceship.
Why isn't there a Nobel Prize for Space-loveliness?
Re: lander legs and fuel
The video didn't really talk about the landing legs, so I don't know.
You won't need to fire the engines all the way down though. The atmosphere will be slowing the spacecraft down as it thickens, while the capsule plummets towards the ground. It then fires up the engines for a test run. If the computer or drivers don't like the looks of this, it turns them back off again, and deploys parachutes. I presume it'll normally come down by the coast, so it can do an emergency water landing by parachute if required, and only manoeuvre over land once it's proved the engines are working.
If everything's fine, then it turns the engines on for a bit more slow-downeyness. Given that it's the opposite of an aerodynamic shape, terminal velocity in the lower atmosphere isn't going to be very fast, So I'd imagine it will slow itself down from stupid speeds, and then idle the jets for a bit while falling, before doing the final braking at very low level.
Re: Farming vs local mammal species
Hey kids! Do you want to go to Disney World?
No! Disney World is mingin'!
There's millions of badgers, all under one roof!
It's called Badger Land, Badger Land, Badger Land!
Re: Wolves may be preferable to the hunt...
The wolf has made a re-appearance in France too, they've lifted its protected status as its a pain, and anyone that disagree's with that, I suggest you have them imported to your town and have them polish off the local pet cat/dog population,
I'm sorry, is that supposed to be a bad thing...
Re: Eh Hello?
Sod it, I just remembered the Spanish rules on remotely controlled flying vehicles.
There's no need to go to space to get round this. The Special Projects Bureau have access to plenty of
hydrogen helium. They could obviously go for a high-altitude surveillance balloon.
But they're nearly finished with their rocket plane anyway, so it's time for something different. I suggest a wolf-detecting airship. The bonus being that the Editor of this august journal is an airship buff, so there's bound to be plenty of funding on offer.
Now it's just time to get the acronyms sorted out.
Re: Eh Hello?
AWACS - Airbourne Wolf Alarm Communication System?
But the 153rd cornflake of the morning is the best one. AND PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THIS!1!!!1!!111!!
Re: M for
In Brussels (could it be a Brussels Metro M sign?) there's no discipline. It's a good job it's not as crowded as London during rush hour. Nobody is organised about where they stand on escalators, and no-one gets out of the way of the train doors to let people get off. At one point I stood there in the middle of the door, with arms folded waiting for someone to twig that they weren't getting on until they let the passengers get out of the way first. I ended up barging a few people, relatively gently. The worst temptation was on frequent rainy days, when I had a nice big umbrella with a pointy end - and a terrible urge to make rude-commuter-kebabs...
I've spent quite a bit of time with my American neice and her Mum in London. Being from a small town, they both expect to chat with everyone they meet. And some people's reactions are very amusing - as they get sucked into cheerful chattiness, despite their best efforts to maintain the steely 1000-yard-stare of Tube indifference.
Re: For added irony, on the story's page
btw, how do you encrypt a pigeon?
In a blender.
It's a one-way algorithm. You then store the resulting hash in a salted smoothie.
I shall be abandoning coffee for choco-pigeon shakes forwthwith.
Re: "Dark" , "Off the grid" , "Underbelly"
So what you're saying is that Dark Energy is all the emails and texts sent between all the beings in the universe about what interesting articles they've seen in the latest editorial of the Galactic Digest. Or possibly Sidereal Record Straightener.
Whereas Dark Matter is what happens when they send it by post.
It's junk mail that holds the universe together.
Re: They missed one or two things....
I'm not worried by that. So long as it's only the phone companies that run the data collection. They're mostly run by finance gibbons, and so wouldn't be capable of doing it 'properly'. Of course, when Google build it into Android, they will do so competently. At which point I'll need a tin-foil phone-cosy, to go with my tin-foil hat (also coincidentally shaped like a tea-cosy).
Re: encrypted mail ?
Hmmm avarice? After Royal Mail briefly became consignia, we all knew that silly names were in. We have an Aviva, amongst other ridiculous company names.
I'm rather taken by Avaris. I shall be registering the company today. Now to work out our business model? A hedge fund perhaps? Marketing? Perhaps a technology company that hoovers up everybody else's expensively generated online content, then attaches adverts to it. Nah, that'd never work...
Re: For added irony, on the story's page
It's still trackable if you email it. Or text it on a smartphone.
From now on, if I come across an interesting link, I'm sending it to my friends by telegram...
My current toaster is okay, but it lacks a 'reheat' button
Afterburners on a toaster? You're a bit of a demanding customer aren't you?
Also, I suspect it would lead to even more problems with burnt toast.
Re: YouView. Meh.
My Mum signed up with TalkTalk (against my advice - and has sadly since had to deal with their customer services gibbons), and got a YouView box. I stayed over a couple of months ago, and I did notice the box was very slow. Although to be fair, it was probably slightly better than the Virgin box my brother had last year, which was really, really slow.
YouView is OK. Not as good as I was expecting, after all the good things I'd heard about it. Scary that this is what they came up with after removing a whole bunch of features and bloat - apparently at the insistence of Alan Sugar. Who supposedly knocked a few heads together, after all the various competing vendors tried to stuff the kitchen sink into the box.
Then again, Sky have just made their Sky+ box worse. Had an update to mine last month, that now means the dedicated TV guide button no longer takes you to the TV guide. No, instead it takes you to a nice page where you can see the full panoply of services which Sky would love to sell you. I guess that in the end, sales always takes usability to the ditch out back and shoots it...
Re: Proper design
Product designers' DNA to be recorded, and linked to all their products. With a design equivalent of an activist regulator.
Thus the architect who designed my flat with rooms that are ever so slightly just the wrong shape to work, even though there's plenty of space overall, if only the corridor wasn't so huge.
Thus with a camera and report I can justify to the global design committee why this designer is an idiot. Then they willl punish him in some appropriate manner. From enforced re-training, being struck off, up to being shot, for being a waste of atoms.
So the architect/engineering team who specified an expensive solar hot water system on a student hall of residence in order to get brownie points for being green. But then only connected the hot water to one tap - because they are total and utter arseholes. Should be publicly executed, as a warning to numbskulls. This was the perfect application for solar-thermal, as students don't use their hot water all at once, and most don't get up early, so the sun can actually do its job.
On the other hand, people who put inadequate solar installations on unsuitable British houses, just to get tax-breaks, would only receive a lesser punishment. As it's understandable - just a horrible waste. So they would be force-fed recycled turkey twizzlers, to teach them that not all green schemes are a sensible idea. Only re-cycled toilet paper would be available for their extremely frequent, and urgent, use.
The person who designed my teasmade (what a way to wake up!) with a seemingly 1,000,000W bulb behind the clock, so that I have to put 2 books in front of it to sleep, would also be punished. In their case, I think locking them in a room with Kylie records played at 150 db for say a week, should allow them to see the error of their ways.
Those designers who choose to etch serial numbers and socket descriptions onto inaccessible areas of their electronic equipment in black on a black background, to be blindfolded for a few weeks, and then forcibly re-trained in usability.
The designer of the SCART socket to have their thumbs chopped off.
Punishment for the people who design kettles, usually the expensive "pretty" ones, such that it's impossible to pour them without the handle being vertically above the spout! My Mum keeps buying these for some reason. Have these people never heard of steam? Or the idea that heat rises? Has no-one done any product testing at all?
Hmm, I'm starting to think about writing my manifesto and standing at the next general election now. How would the European Court react to the government office for corporal punishment driving nails into the eyeballs of any graphic designer who chooses to use mid-brown writing on a light brown background?
You've heard of sharia law, well this is shoddy-a law. And the shoddier your design, the harsher will be your punishment! Obviously we'd have to use the SAS to capture foreign designers, so as to make this a truly global system.
Any votes in this?
Re: Did this crowd ......
or were they brandishing buggy whips?
No. The whips are on service pack 1. They work perfectly now...
I'm sure that the Lumia 710 (old WP7) didn't have auto display brightness. The 800 had OLED, so it didn't matter, but the 710 was crap outside without setting brightness to full.
If it did, it wasn't changing things enough, becasue I remember setting mine to full brightness after 2 days. You couldn't put a link to the brightness setting on the main screen like Android, and I couldn't see the menu to do it manually once outside otherwise. Wasn't great for battery life, and was too bright of my reading glasses indoors. But it was £120, and at the time there wasn't an Android to touch it for under £250.
As for your comment on muting the phone, don't you still just tap the bar at the top of the screen with the battery and signal indicators, then tap on the volume to mute it? And I thought 8.1 was supposed to allow you to pin any setting to the homescreen?
No. Zune went over a year ago, with Win Pho 8.
I had the Zune software for my WP7 Lumia 710. And it was buggy, slow, ugly, really confusing, didn't look anything like a standard Windoes Vista / 7 app - and generally made iTunes look like the best piece of software in the world. I hope someone at MS danced on its grave.
Re: It's 2014 and websites still can't generate login certificates...
Certificates are too difficult to handle. I can't see the banks wanting to have to support ordinary users installing them manually.
Also I can remember how much hassle it was to get Android to talk to our company proxy, in order to get emails. And the banks are increasingly moving their customers onto mobile devices.
One of the companies in my industry have 3 Mr Tickles. They were founded by a Mr Tickle, and two of his sons have since joined the business.
There was a Mr Himmler in the accounts department of my last company. I was always surprised he hadn't changed it, given he was in the Hamburg office.
Re: You Couldn't Make it Up
It is also nice to get birthday wishes every month.,
I've picked one new birthday, so I can actually remember my fake d.o.b. Rather than just picking randomly as I did before.
Except for restaurant mailing list sign-ups. Those have to be carefully picked, so you get nice vouchers, spread around when they're useful. So a couple of them are near my actual birthday. Though sadly the last one to regularly remember my birthday have closed down their branch here. So no more birthday tapas for me.
Re: Password huh...
I'd like ANYONE to tell me why you'd ever store customers personal info in an unencrypted form like eBay did (and a lot of others probably do).
Oh I can do that. It's cheaper.
Just like it's amazing the number of companies where helpdesk/tech support can see your password on their screen when you phone up. Because basic security is just too much effort.
Re: Password huh...
That's a bit like BT's pisspoor excuse for a security announcement about the hack of btinternet.com.
We have a very old company email addy on there, that's still used. When it's not drowning in spam from other btinternet addresses. They forced a password reset. Didn't email us to say they were doing it, just invalidated the password on their pop server, and waited for us to guess.
Nothing on the service status on bt.com either. That service is always up, they only occasionally post a problem when it covers one exchange and after it's solved.
Great. I reset the password. But remember something I'd seen on El Reg. It was of course the bloody password reset database that had been hacked.
Surprise! Surprise! We had to reset the password the next day. Again no error message, or warning email / letter. This time I changed the security details.
At least this vindicates my policy of always lying on security questions! This email was set up ten years before I joined the company.
Re: Website policy stupidity
Verified by VISA is truly craptastic.
Although, to be fair to it, there is one mildly useful security feature. It shows me a password, that supposedly only VISA know. So I know that the vendor have connected to VISA's servers. However, given the piss-poorety of the design of that, I'm sure that's probably printed in large flashing letters on top of their building, along with my credit card number and d.o.b. whenever I use the 'serivce'.
That's a nice mobile phone scam you've got there
I've not heard of that mobile scam before. I wonder how they allow their tills to ship out phones on credit like that? It's just asking for trouble.
Reminds me of my temping days in the mobile industry.
I was working for an insurance company, doing mobilie insurance at £5-15 a month, for a chain of shops. Bronze, silver and gold. I'd bene there a mere week, when they sacked the person who processed credit card transactions. So I got that job. As a temp. With private access to the credit card terminal and about 10,000 files with people's card numbers and addresses on. Nothing I did was ever checked. Plus tens of thousands of other files with the direct debits and all the banking info.
After two weeks I noticed that they'd fucked up, and were only renewing the Direct debit after a year on Gold subscriptions. Even though the contracts were for at least 2 years. They rewarded me for this act of genius on my £6 an hour temp heaven by saying thanks, and sacking me 2 weeks later. I think at that time there payment processing team entirely staffed by temps was down from 6 to 2. So I dread to think what state it was in. We saw our manager about twice a day.
However, we were so well run that we had the trust of the banks. We were allowed to process Direct Debits without presenting any evidence to the bank. We maintained our signed copy of the Direct Debit mandate, the bank never checked them. And obviously we had nothing to check the signature against, even though it was often in a different coloured pen (for some reason). I used to get a call from the banks' call centres every couple of hours, with a customer querying a payment on their other line. Sometimes just because we weren't called the same as the mobile company, but mostly because the salesman had filled out the insurance agreement after the customer had left, to meet his bonus targets.
Then I got one of the funniest documents I've seen in my working career. Internal audit had audited one of the stores. And posted it to the separate company who ran their insurance, rather than their own head office. Top work there chaps! The shop hadn't counted their Pay&Go top up cards (back when they were scratch card things in cellophane). Or done a stock take of any kind. In over 2 years. Apparently the staff would take a handful of them whenever they went down the pub, and sell them cheap for beer money. Probably a few handsets as well.
There were several signed, but un-processed, customer direct debit mandates for contracts and insurance. Some from months ago. With all the good details on. Some were on the side by the till, in the actual shop, on open display. Others were in the kitchen and break room. Some had made it as far as the office. The kitchen hadn't been cleaned in ages. There was rotting food in the fridge and on the work surfaces.
The report conclusion: Above average. 75%!
After being dumped, at 4 o'clock on a Friday afternoon, thanks for helping the temp get a post for next week old chaps, I think I only did one more temp job before getting something permanent, and none since. So I have just over a month of experience in the mobile phone industry (from the late 90s), and it doesn't seem that much has changed.
Re: Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas
Sorry, non left. I used my last piece of fairy cake to annoy my wife.
Re: "It can't happen to me!"
True. But of course, everything goes in cycles. Sony roundly kicked the arse of many a Western company. To become consumer electronics top-banana. The cash rolled in, their designs were great, they lead in technology, reliability and quality. Now they appear to be a sad basket case. Though I'm sure a turn-around is possible.
Or to take another great example, the much praised German Mittelstand. That great cohort of globally competitive, family owned / family run, long-term financed engineering companies. They're still powering away, pushing the German economy to ever higher export surpluses. This being the way Britain used to do things, and the way we're urged to go back to.
But, will it continue? We work for one of the well known ones. 100 years of family owned engineering excellence. And they've become smug, arrogant and inflexible. Germany has no minimum wage, and since the Hartz IV labour reforms last decade, has quite a lot of people on incredibly low wages subsidised by government payments. Which is not a sustainable way to run a company. The families are several generations in now, and some are falling out (as British counterparts did 40 and 50 years ago), or just counting their money and employing external managers - so salaries are rising. Maybe they'll sort it out, or maybe they'll go through a cycle of things not being so great for a bit. Wealth inequality in Germany has been rising faster than most of Europe, their banking system is probably in a dodgier state than ours, and has similar political interference problems to the Spanish - and like China the Germans export too much, and are having to take payment in debt, from customers who can't all afford to pay. Look up Target 2 and the ECB - which is basically money printing to ease the critical imbalances in the Eurozone.
In summary, things change.
Re: They aren't all like Huawei
No, but there are plenty of basket case state owned or state controlled companies. That are as much cash cows for the Communist Party bosses, as they are companies. However they get to borrow immense amounts of cash from local banks backed and controlled by local government. Which are also controlled by the Party.
That model of local banks with political and social leaders on the boards providing long-term cash worked great for Germany, but horribly for Spain. And there's quite a lot of evidence that it's not been working for Germany for a while either, and that the Landesbanks bought into the madness last decade rather too much.
It's a mixed bag. The economic figures from China are almost certainly not reliable and there's uncertain rule of law. There are some amazing companies, some good companies and some basket cases. And if some of the stories are to be believed vast amounts of thefts from government coffers.
One of the things that's allowed China to do so well, is artificially holding down their exchange rate in order to subsidise their exports. This has had many unfortunate effects: Firstly it helped to create the global financial imbalances that caused the last enormous crash. Secondly it meant China didn't get paid, they got credit. Those $4 trillion in reserves - so if the West inflates away some of its government debt, we're basically taking that money back. Thridly it lead to Chinese workers not making as much profits from their own industrial success. That's meant the Chinese economy is too unbalanced and reliant on exports. The mirror image of what the US and UK are accused of. And both are true. Both are also un-sustainable. Thus China can't rebalance its economy to internal demand without hideous inflation. Thus fourthly it's been forced to keep the growth going by massive over-investment into capital. This has meant it's exporting deflation to Japan and the West, and again destabilising the economies of its own major trading partners. But it also means that capital is being hideously mis-allocated (and thus wasted). And builds up a huge wodge of un-payable internal debt. Chinese banks must hold 20% capital reserves, and even this may not be enough to cover hidden losses. And that's not to mention the capital that's gone intot he huge (un-regulated) shadow banking system.
Basically there's much to admire in what China has done. But also much to worry about. And I'd like to see a bit more realism about how good the UK economy actually is too. It has many weaknesses, but also many strengths. And it's childish to dismiss those strengths in pursuit of some self-loathing praise of every other economic model.
Re: "eucalyptus trees"
Easy solution. Don't know why nobody else has thought of it. But seeing as it's for humanity (even Aussies count), I suppose I'll donate the idea for free.
40m high eucalyptus canopies are your problem. Hard to separate the fire from the oils for long enough. So what we need is another solution:
40m high, mutant, fireproof koalas. Genetic engineering to the rescue! Or just drop some nukes on a koala sanctuary, and wait for Koalazilla.
They simply eat the leaves. Problem solved. Although we may have to train them not to burp near the flame front.
Glad to be of service...
As you say, targeting of advertising is still really awful. I do have a FB profile, on an unused email address, with very little data, but linked to my real family and a few friends who're miles away and I no longer see much of.
With that info Facebook manage to serve me completely useless ads. It's mostly dodgy looking dating sites, even more dodgy looking chances to score 'free' iPads and diet stuff. There's barely a non-obvious-scam advert in the lot. Seeing that, if I were a legitimate advertiser, I'd run a mile from Facebook - as it's scam by association. Maybe they do better with the people who're filling them up with data. I'll have to look at the ads on some friends' accounts and see.
Google's targeted ads are no better. I suppose they don't care when they list ads on a search. As they're already getting paid. But many times you're searching for something specific - and yet some intermediary is paying for the top billing in order to place themselves between you and the thing you're actually searching for to get a commission. It's really hard to find a specific hotel you know now, as they get knocked further down the ranking by the crappy booking sites.
I think they took away the ads in gmail a while ago. But they were always crap when they had them. They seemed to pick a random word in the email, and stick something based on that.
Amazon deluged me with emails. It got so silly that I turned their email marketing off, when I once got 2 or 3 in a day. I'm happy to give companies I buy from a chance to send me one a week. I did click on the odd Amazon one, but mostly they seemed to advertise whatever the promotion was on their front page. They have virtually my whole CD buying history for 5 years, and about 70% of my book buying, plus the odd tech shiny - so it's amazing how rubbish they are.
Even Sainsbury's suck at it. I've got a Nectar card, and do most of my shopping there. Most of their emails are general offers, like 20% of homeware this weekend. Well that's OK. Not targetted though. When they do offer specific products, it's always staples like fruit juice and butter - which I already buy! And they know this, as they have my whole purchase history. So they also know that I sometimes like a cake. But not every shop. So why not offers on those - or even just reminders, so I think of them before I start to shop?
My conclusion is that this is just too hard. It would need an individual person to look at what I buy - and then extrapolate what I might like at the moment. And that's obviously ludicrously impractical. Maybe some magic with AI will solve the problem, but so far the application of lots of computer doesn't seem to be helping.
Go to the back of the queue. My medal's bigger than yours! And if there's any free drinking and feasting to do, then I plan to be first in line.
Admittedly I run the IT for a 5 employee company, and we outsource it on grounds of my incomptence. But that's no reason not to dwell on the pearls of wisdom that fall from my lips, along with the spilled lager and bacon-crumbs.
Re: Kahhhnnnttt Cut It
I liked his first Star Trek too. I thought it was lots of fun, had lots of shiny special effects and lots of good gags. Admittedly it also had many flaws, but they were far outweighed by the good bits.
I thought his second one was weak. Although probably better than 90% of the original Star Trek films. So I guess I should take a back seat in the discussion. I didn't think the original Star Trek or the Next Generation of spin-offs was all that good to start with.
I've not seen much of his other stuff. I liked the first 'Almost Human', but haven't got round to watching any other episodes yet. So no idea if it deserved to get cancelled.
The temptation is to go and see stuff in hope. After the Phantom Morass, I now feel slightly guilty for paying to see the other two. As it just encourages crap-sequel-itis. As Mark Kermode says, if you pay to go and see this rubbish, then it's your fault it gets made.
But then it's hard to know if it'll be crap at all. I actually quite enjoyed the second prequel at the cinema. It was way too long, and had some horrifically crap dialogue, but there were two huge set-piece fights that made it fun to watch once. Whereas Phantom Menace and the 3rd one were rubbish. Equally Jackson's Lord of the Rings films were way too long, baggy and pleased with their special effects stuff. Also the dialogue they wrote themselves was far worse than the Tolkein original, when they bothered to re-use it. And yet I chose to watch The Hobbit. The first one was OK, but the second one was truly crap. And now I'm left having seen two thirds, wanting to complete the set, but not wanting to give the bastards the money, after they made me sit through so many hours of crap. Bollocks did that need to be a trilogy of 3 hour films!
Re: Amongst the worst...
What could be worse? Hmm... That gives me an idea for the plot:
Sick of being marginalised, ignored and despised - but equally disgusted with democracy and the Jedi, for failing to save the Republic - he turns to the Dark Side. In training during the period of the Rebellion, when Vader and the Emperor were in power, he missed most of the defeat. But he emerges now, to revitalise the Sith, and provie a counterbalance to the new government, who have become arrogant and corrupt - as so many revolutions do. Who is this?
Cower in fear before: Darth Jar-Jar!
Possibly with his new army of Ewok storm troopers, for extra comedy value.
Re: Cart before the horse?
If pie in the sky science is so damned good, then how come there isn't currently a pie in the sky? I'm hungry!
Make it a steak and ale please...
Re: NUH! LAND!
Destroy all Monsters,
That's funny. I thought it was Putin who was smirking and awarding medals to his special forces troops who'd just conquered and annexed Crimea. Or did I imagine that?
Loss of trust in the Russian government.
Whose trust? Their citizens apparently love the bare-chesting
The citizens of Russia don't trust their government. That might not mean they can get rid of it, but it does mean they like to keep their money in other countries. Which cripples the Russian economy. It's one of the reasons they keep needing foreign investment to exploit their mineral reserves. And the more of these international joint ventures that get stolen, or the more scary it looks to operate there, the less investment will happen. And the weaker the economy. In the end, be it military, diplomatic, strategic or political affairs - it's the economy stoopid.
According to the Russian Central bank, $60 billion of foreign capital fled the Russian economy in the first 3 months of this year. According to the ECB that's now up to $220 billion (as of last week! No economy can survive that.
Putin became popular because he sorted the economy out. He may be staying popular because he's making Russia look strong. But if the economy collapses, he''ll lose popular support, and have no money for military adventurism.
Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."
If you're working purely on money, it's a very interesting question if Apollo was actually worth it. Sure we developed a lot of tech - but some of that tech would have come anyway from missiles and other military work. From memory Apollo cost around $24 billion 1960s dollars! That's pre-70s inflation money. You have to look at the opportunity cost of all that moolah.
After all, spy, GPS, weather, mapping, and communications satellites were going to happen anyway. Which would have got us some of the tech, and are the parts of the space program that have 'paid their way'. The manned space program hasn't given us a direct pay-back at all. Obviously medical sensors and such are great, but then all those billions could have been invested in medical research instead - and we'd have got the same thing.
Again what has un-manned deep-space research got us? The earth sciences satellites and the solar-activiity stuff is important, but all the planetary fly-bys are just for fun and the advancement of science. I suppose we may have got better at geology because of it, and that does have practical applications. Obviously basic research is a public good, and you never know what you'll get.
As you say, the shuttle was a dead-end. Although I'm not sure if that was obvious at the time - and I wonder if we were to have fewer military compromises we could now do a better job, with modern materials science. But I suspect not. I think Musk has some of the answer, with re-useable rockets and capsules. I don't know if it's worth re-using the 2nd stage or not. And there's hope for the SABRE engine too.
But the ISS has actually achieved some practical benefits already. It's paid back some of its investment. Admittedly it's boring old political / diplomatic. But it was part of binding Russia into a post Cold War world (even though that might now be falling apart). Also it was explicitly about keeping the old Soviet ICBM infrastructure working, when the Russian economy was collapsing. That's no small thing, given that in that time period North Korea, Pakistan Iraq and Iran have all been doing heavy nuclear weapons and missile research. As well as trading both technologies amongst themselves and to others. Without the ISS, North Korea might have a working IRBM (even ICBM) to go with its barely working nukes.
I was listening to a Radio 4 program about the disappointment about the research conducted on the ISS. I believe there's more going on now, as the thing's built. A lot of the early stages were spent putting it together. These damned Ikea flat-pack space stations take forever!
But a lot of that stuff is still going to be basic research that has no immediate/obvious pay-off. There's the alpha dark matter detector, and aren't they about to try one of these electric plasma engines on ISS too?
So yes, lots of ISS stuff is basically practical research into manned spaceflight. And if you think that's pointless, I guess the ISS is a waste of cash. Although the ISS has given the US the impetus to fund SpaceX, which is going to make satellites much cheaper. And that's a definite plus point in its favour.
I'm no chemist, but I always understood that there was hope of super new medicines / useful chemicals that could only be made in micro-gravity. I don't know if that's still believed to be the case. But obviously that's going to require decent numbers of humans living in orbit. And no way is that going to happen without government pork getting laid out in vast amounts first, to learn the technology. Also asteroid mining ought to be perfectly feasible - and give us extra resources that don't kill the environment. Once you get a space economy going, it's going to be somewhat self-sustaining, as power would be incredibly cheap, once you could make solar panels in space.
Also there's the topic of space defences. Chelyabinsk nearly took a hit last year. If the Tunguska impactor hit London or New York, you'd be talking hundreds of billions of damage to the global economy. Of course there's only a few targets that would do damage worth the investment to build counter-measures, and we don't know how frequent actually dangerous impacts are. Plus there's much ocean to act as a decoy target. But the knowledge to do this is going to be applicable to moving asteroids around, so there's a huge potential economic gain. And a Tunguska level hit in a major city could have killed several million people. Money would likely be forthcoming after an event like that. It would be so nice if we could manage it beforehand...
So in conclusion, apologies for the mega-post, I'd say the ISS may almost have been worth it for the diplomatic-political advantages alone. It's helped to give us SpaceX, and is doing basic research into whether we can have space-based industries. Which will hopefully start to pay off this century. If it's possible, and actually worth doing.
It's also done some basic research, and is now doing more. But that alone is almost certainly not worth the money. Anything to add? Disagree with?
Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."
The ISS is an experiment. Into international space cooperation (mostly a success so far), oh and it was also designed to funnel US taxpayers' money into keeping ex-USSR rockets scientists in Russia - Iran had a $1m a year salary on offer to anyone who could help them build an ICBM in the 90s (at least according to The Economist at the time).
It's also an experiment into large scale construction in space. Something which is bloody hard. Along with just living in space - also very hard. Yes the Soviets then Russians did manage to keep someone up there for over a year, but at one point their space station got punctured by a flight carrying the dinner, lost computers and therefore stability and power, then nearly caught fire from the oxygen generators. They very nearly died in some very interesting (and different) ways, several times over. And were nearly forced to abandon ship at several points.
We've still not spent very long up there, and there's lots to do and learn. Plus there are many experiments into life sciences, crystalography, dark matter, environmental studies of the Earth. Admittedly with only 3 or 6 people up there, they spend a disproportianate amount of time just staying alive, rather than experimenting. But if we want to do space manufacture, we need to learn this stuff. And it's expensive and dangerous.
I think we need to get into space for the resources and the science. Maybe even living space, eventually. Plus possible micro-gravity manufacture. The only pracitcal way to do that, is to start building stuff up there - rather than lobbing it expensively through the atmosphere. Which means permanent habitation. We've now got a water recycling space toilet. But still no space farm to do food and oxygen. So much work to do.
Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"
How will we get the funding out of government when ISS 4 just randomly disappears though?
The problem with this bluff is that people only have to half-believe it, for it to backfire.
After Russia cut off gas to Ukraine last time, partly over re-negotiating the lease on the Crimean bases they just annexed, Europe spent quite a lot of cash on upgrading its gas interconnectors. It's still reliant on Russian gas, but can at least push the stuff the other way down the pipes now, so if Russia chooses to supply only Germany, theoretically the Germans could share. It also pursuaded others to invest large chunks of change in LNG - so lost Russia customers.
Threatening to do this again in a few days is likely to mean Europe has to move to other gas suppliers, and therefore has less reason/excuse to avoid sanctions over Ukraine.
Equally just the threat of removing access to those rocket engines means that the US government will have no choice but to find another US source. Which there wasn't at the time. Once they've done that, why pay defence dollars outside the US, when there's pork to be dished out funding a factory in someone's constituency?
Result, loss of income to the Russian economy. Loss of trust in the Russian government. These ex KGB guys seem to be excellent at the diplomatic/tactical/military stuff, but not so good at the economics and strategy. Still, I guess you don't need to know economics if you can just nick your cash off someone else.
Re: Debate worthy of a playground
no matter what Cameron says about not resigning after any Yes vote the PM and cabinet that reside over the breakup of the United Kingdom are finished.
Not sure about that. Just like the results of Scottish independence, or the whole lot of us leaving the EU, 'tis impossible to predict.
I do think the Nats are a bunch of shysters, without the courage of their own convictions though. There are some big risks to independence, which they keep either glossing over, or outright lying about. I don't think there's any way to predict the outcome, but Scotland has a well-educated population and a modern economy. I'm sure they'll cope. And the SNP should say just that. If it's about policitical independence anyway. I'd say this equally on the EU debate. There are economic risks to coming out, but also opportunities. Staying in has some serious costs, and a challenge to democratic legitimacy.
Therefore, in my book at least, both are as much emotional issues as practical ones. Personally I feel British. Englishness to me is sporting identity. And it would be less fun being rude about the Scottish rugby/football team if were were separate countries. So I'd be sad to see Scotland go, but I don't think there's anything the government could, or should, do to stop it.
I'd say the feeling I encounter amongst most of the people I talk to (in the South East) is a mild exasperation. Some have taken up the nationalist Scots welfare scroungers position, but that's quite recent and relatively rare. I think it's more a reaction against the rise in overt Scottish nationalism. For example, up until 20 years ago, most English people would have supported a Scottish sporting team unthinkingly - until the anything but England stuff became so common. And of course a natural reaction to devolution, with no tuition fees etc. But I'd say the most common reaction is "whatever". If that's what people want, good luck to them. It would be a shame.
Course, after a YES vote, that could turn into a backlash. We loved you, now we hate the bastards that pushed you away. But my strong suspicion is that it'll turn a bit uglier. It'll be "we loved you, and you rejected us you bastards", from a significant number of people. Which is why I can see the government gaining popularity from being tough in the negotiations. Hence I'm certain it's not a bluff that Scotland won't be allowed a formal currency sharing deal with rUK. And discussion on the subject will often turn unpleasant for a few years. Rejection being a powerful emotion.
I think a fudge will be found that allows Scotland to stay in the EU (probably), and if Salmond can show some diplomatic sure-footedness. He comes across too smug and demanding at the moment. But Scotland will have to lie through its teeth about promisiing to join the Euro. Well it's worked for Sweden... And it will probably cost Scotland their budget rebate and opt-outs.
Meanwhile no pound-zone. And lots of fights over national debt, assets, oil zones and the like. Can't see the government going then. But I wonder if the rest of the Union will last the long term.
Not being able to print any more of it is probably the stupidest feature of Bitcoin. Unless it was deliberately designed as a pyramid scheme/scam, so that the early adopters could make loads-a-money selling off their easily mined hoards of coin.
To keep an economy stable, you need to be able to print enough money to grow the money supply at about the same speed as the economy. Even with the gold standard, there was mining. And every time you read about historical economics you come up against long-term depressions/inflations caused by fluctuations in supply of precious metals.
Admittedly continual printing leads to hyper-inflation. But QE looks to have worked far better than was expected, the upside of saving the economy was worth the downside of the current asset bubble. And remember QE isn't actually printing, it's reversible.
As an example, look at those paragons of virtue at the Bundesbank. Oh sorry, I meant the ECB, silly mistake... They've loudly lectured us Anglo-Saxons about how they'd never touch that smelly QE. As they've presided over the virtual collapse of some of the economies they were supposedly managing. Into debt-spirals and now deflation. Bitcoin fans, look at what's happening to the economy of Italy. That is what deflation does. I've been saying for 2 years that Italy would be the country that destroyed, or forced genuinely workable reform in the Eurozone. So far nothing that's been proposed that might actually work has been acceptable to Germany. Anyway, there's no excuse for not understanding the evils of deflation, when there's the example of Japan's economy to look at. Or the 1930s.
So Central Banks would be right to laugh at the idea of using crypto currency. The nerds were needed to come up with the technical jiggery-pokery, but they really needed to consider some basic economics, the reality of human nature and common sense, if they wanted bitcoin to work.
Oh and a fundamental tenet of being a Central Bank is the ability to print money by the way. Not as in QE or hyperinflation. But as in being 'a lender of last resort'. If you're not one of those, you're not a proper central bank. Even the ECB did that. They avoided QE, but they did print €1 trillion in order to fund the LTRO (2 year loans to various banks). But even before that, when the Euro was days from collapse the time before last, they had something like €500m on short-term loan to various banks to stop them from collapsing when the repo market broke down. That's what Central Banks are for, and it wasn't inflationary because the loans have mostly been paid back already.
The last time the Euro was days from collapse (9 months later), they only threatened to print money, and it saved the day. Draghi promised to "do whatever it takes", and that's been enough so far.
Although the countries that did the evil money printing to finance government debt, US, UK and Japan came out of recession. Whereas the Eurozone allowed 25% unemployment in Latvia, Spain and Greece, and not much less in Ireland, Portugal and Italy. Sometimes printing is the lesser of two evils. This time being a damned good example. The Italian economy is now at the same level it was in 1995 - fuck knows what they've done to the Greeks.
Due to having to carry 2 pairs of glasses + sunglasses around, I carry a bag. Hence my tablet goes with me 90% of the time.
My ideal device would be something like an old Motorola RAZR V3. Slim and comfortable to hold. With a mouthpiece that reaches your mouth, and a speaker that reaches your ear. Plus it folds, so you can't accidentally press buttons, and don't need an inconvenient screen-lock. Looked nice too. With ecent ergonomics.
The keypad is fine for most navigating / texting, though I'd want a touchscreen too. But I dial a lot of calls from the keypad, as I talk to a lot of new people at work.
If should do GPS, and internet. Then either share its connection via WiFi or throw the screen to a tablet, it would be wonderful for mobile web browsing (which I don't enjoy on anything less than a 5" screen anyway.
Then I could do quick email or browsing from the small screen, or get the tablet out for anything longer. And still only have a very small, practical phone with me at the pub.
Should something like Google Glass ever take off, it would be perfectly equipped to throw email and GPS to that as well.
I'm a little worried. Why are the sheep to the East of the map, vertical. But all the others horizontal. Is there something untoward underway?
I believe what you meant to say was, I'm sorry, I haven't a clue what you're on about...
Re: To be honest, here...
Exactly. Who wants flashy? What could be more amazing than flying into space? Bling just makes you look like an arse.
Of course, I can dream that in my lifetime going into space will become boring and routine. "Where are you taking your holidays this year Sandra?"
"Well, I was thinking of goin' Magaluf and getting in some serious clubbing. But me 'n Wayne have decided that we're goin' to the Moon instead. It's only a bit more expensive to get a Bacardi Breezer up there, and it's dead cultural innit. We get to see Buzz Armstrong and that Neil Whatsisname's feet an' everythin'...
Aha! Rumbled! ISS = International Space Shed
That explains why they're always taking seeds up there and propogating them. Who's in charge of the Algerian sherry? Or have they got a still up there?
The outfit is “in the process of identifying the extent of the attack and potential impact on user's funds."
That's OK then. No big story. If there's only one user, there's probably not that big a loss.
I guess it's the pedant icon for me...
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