* Posts by Charlie Stross

53 posts • joined 17 Jul 2007

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US navy electro-cannon test successful

Charlie Stross
Stop

Pissed old hack baffled by (not very) new technology

Mach 7.5 sounds a lot more impressive than 2400 metres per second, which is what this is.

It's worth noting that modern tank guns firing APFSHS-DU penetrators routinely achieve 1600 metres per second, that tweaked APFSHS-DU has tested out to 1900 metres per second, and that it's generally agreed that it should be possible to push conventional explosive-driven projectiles to 2000 metres per second in the next generation of guns. So what they've got here is maybe a 15-20% improvement over where the state of the art is with explosive-driven guns at the same level of development.

Meanwhile, did you notice the sparks flying from the underside of the railgun? Serious arcing -- always a problem when you're throwing millions of joules around in under a millisecond -- tends to wreck railguns. And you get arcing when you mix that kind of current with air. Especially damp, salt-laden air (hello, paging the Navy: you are aware that your ships sail on top of seawater which is (a) conductive and (b) tends to splash everywhere? There's a reason naval guns on real warships come with protective caps which are only removed just before firing ...)

Railgun technology isn't new; it's been a hangar queen ever since the Nazis scratched their heads over it in the 1940s. Now DARPA have got it to work about as well as the conventional alternative, in a demo. Nothing to see here, move along ...

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Boffins slashed in big-science budget blunder bloodbath

Charlie Stross
Unhappy

Missing the point

The Diamond synchrotron is mostly going to be used by biological and materials science researchers, not physicists or astronomers -- but those are the specialities whose budget is being dipped into to pay for the project. Ditto the other "big science" cost overruns.

What this means is: the physics/astro budget is being used to cross-subsidize other fields, in a manner that will result in 25% funding cuts to physics and astronomy over 3 years, at a time when physics in the UK is *already* in big trouble.

If this isn't fixed, then an entire generation of high energy physics specialists are going to be out of a job -- and once lost, it's very hard to rebuild that kind of academy. (Look at what happened in the USA after the Superconducting Supercollider got axed in the early 1990s ... then consider that the USA still had a whole bunch of other high-energy physics projects and didn't have a major problem recruiting and educating new physicists.)

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Strict copyright laws do not always benefit authors

Charlie Stross

A writer's viewpoint

Not to put it too bluntly, these conclusions do not follow from the (reported) survey findings, because they're not comparing like with like: the British and German book markets differ in other respects than simply copyright law.

English language rights are traditionally sold in two tranches -- North American rights (US and Canada) and UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada). On a population basis alone, the UK and Commonwealth sector has a comparable number of native speakers of English to German speakers (in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland). When you throw in a proportion of British authors who (like me) also sell to the US/Canada market, it should be unsurprising that the revenue stream is fatter. It's hard for non-English speaking authors to gain a toe-hold in the English language market because most English language editors aren't multilingual and won't read submissions in foreign languages (much less pony up the not inconsiderable cost of translating a book). Basically, network externalities are on the side of the English speakers.

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