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  • Apr 25th, 2016 @ 6:25pm

    The devil is in the details

    Just because something is labeled "GMO" doesn't automatically make it evil. But the devil is in the details.

    Adding a gene to corn to make it juicier or tastier is probably harmless.

    Adding a gene so that the corn produces its own pesticides is now common (it's known as "Bt-corn"). Here's a description of it:

    https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef130

    Maybe it is harmless to humans, but I am very skeptical. The BT endotoxin does very nasty things to an insect - I would not automatically assume that it is harmless to humans just because Monsanto says so.

    Adding a gene to make corn "Roundup-ready" means you will be getting a lot more of the herbicide Roundup in your diet. Although the corn itself maybe harmless to eat, I very much doubt that the Roundup it contains is benign. Perhaps those lobbyists who work at Monsanto can demonstrate how safe it is by drinking a glass of Roundup in front of the TV cameras, and then get back to us a week later if they're still alive.

  • Apr 20th, 2016 @ 10:21pm

    (untitled comment)

    The whole space shuttle era should serve as evidence that making space craft "reusable" doesn't necessarily make it cheaper. I do realize that the space shuttle itself was not the whole banana - it had to ride into orbit on booster rockets which themselves were disposable. But the space shuttle program was sold to Congress as a way of making space travel cheaper because the shuttle component could be reused.

    Meanwhile, the vastly cheaper Russian disposable space capsules now provide the only way for humans to reach the ISS. However, supplies are occasionally sent up on disposable unmanned rockets.

    Thanks to Star Wars and similar movies, we're conditioned to seeing flying "space airplanes" with wings and wheels that can take off and land under their own power. As a practical matter, this just doesn't work. One lesson we ought to have learned by now: bringing wings and wheels into space makes no sense.
    [ reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  • Apr 20th, 2016 @ 7:04pm

    Reusable rockets are more expensive

    The whole space shuttle era should serve as evidence that making space craft "reusable" doesn't necessarily make it cheaper. I do realize that the space shuttle itself was not the whole banana - it had to ride into orbit on booster rockets which themselves were disposable. But the space shuttle program was sold to Congress as a way of making space travel cheaper because the shuttle component could be reused.

    Meanwhile, the vastly cheaper Russian disposable space capsules now provide the only way for humans to reach the ISS. However, supplies are occasionally sent up on disposable unmanned rockets.

    Thanks to Star Wars and similar movies, we're conditioned to seeing flying "space airplanes" with wings and wheels that can take off and land under their own power. As a practical matter, this just doesn't work. One lesson we ought to have learned by now: bringing wings and wheels into space makes no sense.

  • Apr 18th, 2016 @ 8:31pm

    Re: It never ceases to amaze me

    I couldn't agree more with you, Dom. First there a great obsession with Trump's hairdo. Then suddenly I saw a bunch of posts by anti-Trump folks including a photo of Melania in the nude. And now a painting of Donald's dick. I can only guess what the next bad-taste cartoon or Photoshopped picture will be - perhaps Trump having sex with a sheep or playing with excrement.

    I realize it's very old-fashioned of me, but I think it would be nice if presidential campaigns were based on discussion of real issues.

    I'm not a Trump supporter, but I have to say that many of the anti-Trump folks are willing to sink so low that they manage to make Trump look good by comparison. And that takes talent.

  • Apr 5th, 2016 @ 5:59pm

    Why the Apollo program was really cancelled

    When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the surface of the Moon in 1969, he said:

    "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind."

    This has been quoted many times, used in films, TV shows, satires, and so on.

    Unfortunately, it's use violates the DMCA, and thus it was necessary to cancel the Apollo lunar exploration program in order to protect NASA's intellectual property.

    This is also why we can't send humans to Mars, unless they're deaf mutes.

    However, it's not a problem with robotic exploration of the solar system, since robots can't own intellectual property...

    ...yet. However, after the TPP becomes law, we can at last extend copyright law to robots, and such copyrights would be for a period of the robot's life plus 70 years. Since it's difficult to determine if a robot on Mars is still alive, we could be seeing quite a few "stranded copyrights" lasting until the solar system gets swallowed up by a big black hole.

  • Mar 28th, 2016 @ 7:11pm

    nano-foods

    > Bread packaging with nanodroplets of oregano and clove
    > essential oils can help keep bread free of mold
    > -- for more than 2 weeks!

    The problem with nano-foods is that the effects of consuming them have barely been studied. A few years ago there was a big fad of consuming nano-milk because it led to much better absorption of calcium (about 10 times normal), thus leading to stronger teeth and bones. Great, except that evidence started to emerge that it greatly increased the chance of developing milk-alkali syndrome, which can cause kidney failure and death.

    I have no idea if nanodroplets of oregano and clove essential oils is harmful. Apparently it kills bread mold. That's nice, but does it do anything harmful to intestinal flora? Without careful testing (which probably nobody is doing), we don't know. And that is the big problem with nano-foods - we are creating new substances and haven't tested them for safety.

  • Mar 11th, 2016 @ 5:25pm

    We need more prison labor

    In today's free-trade world economy, the USA is clearly falling behind in manufacturing. We cannot compete with China, especially since they can use nearly free prison labor. Slowly but surely, the US industrial base has crumbled.

    Happily, our political leaders have a plan to solve this problem. Newly privatized prisons can supply cheap labor. Unfortunately, in the past it was a problem because real criminals usually aren't the brightest bulbs. But now thanks to national security laws, intelligent computer-literate individuals can be made into criminals. Think of all those kids who took out loans to attend college, only to graduate and are unable to find jobs. Now, by making them into prisoners, they can become productive. Furthermore, the 40 cents per day they earn in prison factories can be directly applied to repaying their college loans.

    The only thing we need to change is to get a law passed so that when they die, their kids inherit the loan. Also, we'd better get a law that denies the right to have a passport to anyone with a college loan, so that they don't try to flee the country. Better yet, make it a crime to apply for a passport if you've got an unpaid college loan - that way we can recruit more prison workers to make our proud nation competitive.

    Full employment, a profitable military-industrial complex second to none, and we can give China the finger. Looks like a win-win to me.

  • Mar 8th, 2016 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Noam jumped the shark a long time ago.

    Noam Chomsky was a big apologist for the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s. Even as reports of the genocide kept filtering in, Noam insisted it was all just a smear campaign by the USA imperialists. After the release of the movie "The Killing Fields" and the fact that the genocide was too obvious to ignore, Noam essentially disappeared from public view, totally discredited.

    He then re-emerged with 9/11 and has been going ever since as The Big Mouthpiece. Always looking for an issue to attack the horrible racist USA, and Israel, his two objects of loathing. So I'm not surprised he'd jump into this too, this it "proves" that America is racist.

    Many young people - too young to remember Noam's Khmer Rouge lovefest - just believe everything this creep says. Noam spits out book after book, all saying pretty much the same thing, it's how he makes his living. He leaches off of well-meaning liberals who don't realize they are being had.

  • Feb 26th, 2016 @ 7:20pm

    Cape Canaveral on the moon

    This idea of building a Cape Canaveral on the moon to help us to get to Mars more cheaply is moronic. Anytime you add complexity, you add cost, and often reduce the possibility of completing the original goal of the project.

    The Space Shuttle was a perfect example. It was touted as a way to save money on space flight because the craft were "reusable." But instead it proved to be expensive and unreliable, and far less capable of leaving low-earth orbit than the very successful Saturn rockets that took us to the moon. Ironically, US astronauts are now dependent on the Russians for rides to the ISS, even though the Russian-built rockets are only slightly improved versions of 1960s technology.

    I can think of no better way to sabotage Mars exploration than to divert resources to building a moon colony for mining and manufacturing fuel and parts for the Mars journey.

  • Nov 18th, 2015 @ 3:17pm

    blocked torrents

    I signed up with PureVPN for a year's subscription only to discover that they block torrents. The promised "refund if you cancel within 3 days" didn't pan out. Just so you know.

  • Oct 20th, 2015 @ 5:34pm

    based in USA

    Unfortunately, the company appears to be based in the USA. I fear that using them would weaken my anonymity rather than enhance it. Too bad, since I am in the market for a new VPN.

  • Jul 20th, 2015 @ 9:30pm

    Re: How was it done?

    OK, I just checked (should have done this before posting). According to Netcraft, ashleymadison.com runs of Linux using nginx as a web server.

    Of course, hacking could have been via security holes in php programming, rather than the OS and server software.

    As someone very sceptical of systemd's security, I also wonder if that could be the source of the breakdown.

  • Jul 20th, 2015 @ 9:23pm

    How was it done?

    I'm just wondering if anybody knows just how the site was hacked. What OS was Ashley Madison running? Which web server?

  • Jul 10th, 2015 @ 6:01pm

    NiCD should be banned

    Most of the world has banned NiCD batteries, but the USA still allows them. They are far more toxic to the environment than NiMh batteries. Plus the latter hold a charge longer. So I would urge everyone to go with NiMh.

  • Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 8:15pm

    because America

    I live in Taiwan. Our current president has been down on his hands and knees begging the USA to let Taiwan sign up for the TPP. We have a presidential election early next year - the candidates for the party that is currently leading in the polls (the DPP) is also begging to join the TPP. The likely nominee for the other major party (the KMT) has said nothing - I suspect she's cool to the idea, but she is also less likely to win because of her pro-China ideology.

    Taiwan is not even a party to the current TPP negotiations. It's also unlikely we'll be admitted because China would object. It is largely due to China's objections that the DPP wants to join to TPP (sorry for all these acronyms - the DPP is the Democratic Progressive Party). The KMT (Kuomintang) leans towards China, but the current president will bend over and spread for the USA anytime, which is why he wants to join the TPP.

    Why does Taiwan want to sign up for the TPP without even knowing what it says? Because the TPP is from America, the land of the free, home of the brave, home of Hollywood and Disneyland, etc. So the TPP must be good. After all, if you can't trust the USA, who can you trust?

  • Jun 30th, 2015 @ 6:25pm

    nuclear power

    It's cold on Mars, so heat is required to keep people alive. Not to mention necessary to melt ice for water, and process the air to make it breathable.

    Any attempt to send humans to Mars will mean we'd better get serious about 4th generation nuclear power. There is simply no other way to keep humans alive on Mars. The current 3rd generation nuclear power plants are not up to the task, since they are water cooled, and Mars is not exactly overflowing with water. Plus generation 4 has the added advantage of consuming its own nuclear waste.

    Other alternatives for energy on Mars? Almost nothing. Fossil fuels - even if they existed on Mars - would be useless given the lack of oxygen with which to burn them. Wind power...yes, Mars is windy, but with an atmosphere less than 1% of the density on Earth, a 100 mph wind on Mars is less powerful than a one mph wind on Earth.

    There is solar. But given the super cold nights, it's unlikely that enough heat energy could be collected and stored during the daytime to survive the night. Storage of solar energy on Earth is barely doable (pumped storage is most feasible), but would be far more challenging on Mars where water cannot be stored on the surface in liquid form.

    So we'll have to get over our anti-nuclear allergy, or else forget about sending humans to Mars.

  • May 29th, 2015 @ 9:40pm

    Body & dash cams should be required for police

    I think that all police departments should be required to outfit their officers and their patrol cars with video cameras. And it should be prohibited for the officer to disable such devices, on pain of being fired. The only time they should be able to cover the lens is when they're going to the toilet.

    As another poster said, having this keeps both sides honest. One reason why the police should be in favor is that when they encounter a really bad buy, the video evidence will be very useful in getting a conviction. But of course it works the other way too - rouge cops who abuse and plant drugs on prisoners will have their bad behavior recorded.

  • Apr 17th, 2015 @ 7:47pm

    desalination consumes energy

    It takes energy to desalinate sea water. It would be nice to think that we're always going to use alternative energy sources like solar to do the job, but in the real world it's more likely to be coal or natural gas. So desalination is, in most cases, not exactly "green."

  • Apr 14th, 2015 @ 4:03pm

    We could be even worse off...

    The intent of this law in New Mexico sounds good, but there is a danger. Now if the cops really want to steal your stuff, they'll try like hell to get you convicted of something. Could be anything, like "resisting arrest" which is one of their favorites.

    A better reform would be that the cops can't keep your stuff at all, even if you are convicted of something. In the case where a person does commit a serious crime, and let us say a boat was used (for example, to smuggle drugs), the most that should happen is that the boat gets seized, sold at auction (after conviction) and the money donated to a charity, not the cops themselves. If the cops take it, then it's stealing, and they should be prosecuted for theft.

  • Oct 30th, 2014 @ 7:54pm

    What were the five crimes that were solved?

    Just wondering what the five crimes were. Smoking a joint? Spitting on the sidewalk? Failure to file a tax return?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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