* Posts by John 209

27 publicly visible posts • joined 30 May 2010

It's 50 years to the day since Apollo 10 blasted off: America's lunar landing 'dress rehearsal'

John 209

Re: Grit

Two days ago, I apologized for Google/YouTube withdrawing the documentary "Moon Shot: The Inside Story of the Apollo Project" without explanation, so the link posted above will no longer work (a snowflake offended by politically-incorrect real history? who knows).

That is still true, but thanks to Internet Archive @ archive.org, the full documentary survives. It is on archive.org in two parts, Moon Shot 1 (1:43:51), and Moon Shot 2 (1:35:22) - (The first item on the list at the bottom of the screen - i. e., In the Shadow of the Moon (1:39:55), is NOT part of the documentary.

Link to it at


John 209
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Re: Grit

Where the grit came from. Having come of age in the '60s in college and the navy, it was the most remarkable decade of all time - i. e., to the depths of the Challenger Deep and to the moon within a span of 10 years.

And, I know of no better documentary that tells the story of the times and astronauts, from Mercury through Apollo programs, from the astronauts' point of view than "Moon Shot - The Inside Story of the Apollo Project". Originally a book, it was made into a four part TV documentary miniseries (3 hrs, 16 min total time) that aired on Turner Broadcasting System in 1994. It has all original films of the Am. astronauts, narrated by Barry Corbin (as Slayton, who died before the miniseries was completed in 1993).

It's available in its entirety on YouTube at


It's worth your time to watch, if you want a realistic view of how risky it was and the character of the men that made it happen, without the political correctness and presentism that dominates so many of the more recent productions.

Two Arkansas dipsticks nicked after allegedly taking turns to shoot each other while wearing bulletproof vests

John 209

So, who's going to press charges?

My guess is that neither of the perps, nor the wife, will do so, and so they'll probably only get a "ticket" for an "administrative infraction", like disturbing the peace, get a fine, and be let off.

Yes, you can remotely hack factory, building site cranes. Wait, what?

John 209

The lowest bidder, with inadequate criteria.

All this "stuff" was bid to be built "on the cheap" with inadequate security criteria, then awarded to the lowest bidder. It's clear to see that the engineering and construction companies have been remiss in exploiting new technology in a responsible way and, probably clinging to a mantra of all government regulation being bad regulation, failed to exercise due care themselves - demonstrating once again, that leaving regulation of highly technical matters to market forces alone is folly for all.

Amazon Mime: We train (badly) an AI love bot using divorce bombshell Bezos' alleged sexts to his new girlfriend

John 209

Power doesn't corrupt, it merely expands one's scope for depravity

He's acting out late, but had it in him all along - or so the wisdom goes.

Watchdog growls at Tesla for spilling death crash details: 'Autopilot on, hands off wheel'

John 209

Re: Damage control mode

"How many other folks desire to be test dummies?" ...and how many of the rest of us want to be involuntarily put in harms way?

Tesla share crash amid Republican bid to kill off electric car tax break

John 209

Subsidizing specific technology fails

This kind of subsidy, of commercial products embodying a specific technology, always fails in that it retards further development. It creates a high barrier to alternative better technology being developed in the research sector, as basic and applied research are by their nature expensive and risky. That is, most modern technology flows from basic and applied research, but with existing technologies being subsidized, the ability to realize a return sufficient to justify the cost and risk of new research is substantially hampered by the subsidies being offered for existing technology products.

It would be better for the government, in consultation with basic and applied researchers, to offer substantial prizes for substantial improvements in specific areas of technology. The criteria for such "substantial improvement" would have to be well thought out and concise, but researchers are up to that. Winning ideas would be the property of all who wished to implement it, with compensation for the winning effort covered by the size of the prize.

John 209

Sales crash

Not mentioned in the article, April sales of Teslas in Hong Kong fell to zero, from 2,939 in the previous month, when the subsidies for electric vehicles there were cut off.


8 out of 10 cats fear statistics – AI doesn't have this problem

John 209

I think you can blame politicians. In the U.S., most politicians graduated from law schools and shunned quantitative courses in their academic careers, yet they deal with national and international policies of profound importance like macro-economics, international trade and international economics, as well as military capabilities, all of which are based largely on quantitative assessments. As for, "Everyone and her dog...", the purpose of a representative democracy is not for the elected to represent the simple sum of constituents' opinions, if that's was best we'd have direct democracy, it's for putting people smarter than the average in power, to run the government.

John 209

Re: Statistics actually started much earlier - think sums and means

True, but use of the mean or average (only a measure of central tendency) to represent a population or sample, without citing a measure of variation, is itself a frequent misuse of statistics in that relatively few in a population or sample are "average".

Would you believe it? The Museum of Failure contains quite a few pieces of technology

John 209

Re: Betamax - Betamax quality wasn't actually that much better.

However, re Sony: It seems to have learned its lesson from those days that you mention, at least insofar as its digital cameras are concerned. Unlike its competitors, who marketing departments parse out advanced features according to their tiered market-price categories (in order to keep up-selling wannabe digital photographers for the better features), Sony routinely puts its advance features in their whole product line as soon as that technology is available and economically feasible. The result is a line of digital cameras that, not cheaply, embody the best that can be had in the various price categories.

John 209

Re: Kodak Created The First Digital Camera

Amen! Exactly! And, after that bad management had run the company into the ground, while running around schmoozing with the other rising corporate elites of the day, they bailed out with their golden parachutes and, in the process, trashed the entire exquisite film division that had been built on decades of incremental progress. While true that the mass market for the latter had collapsed, there was, and is, a niche market for such which has been left without that fine technology.

‘Artificial Intelligence’ was 2016's fake news

John 209
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Great article, long overdue

"Intelligence" has always been a faulty estimate of "human mental aptitude", supposedly independent of specific experience, but obviously requiring basic "normal" experience for its interrogation and measurement. When pressed to the wall, psychometricians would admit not much more than intelligence being the number which humans score on intelligence tests. With all manner of variation in definition, measurement tools, and statistical manipulations, the word and the concept it represents are so plastic that they can be made to mean just about anything. Much like "consciousness", there are about as many definitions of it as there are people writing about it, each one confident that their insight is the true insight. Pair that with human constructed, or artificial, intelligence, and one has a countably infinite number of variations ripe for exploitation by the arrogant ignoratii seeking to impress the impressionable. This is not just an amusing diversion from reality, it is a dangerous one that is absorbing more and more resources and in that process, shortchanging meaningful research and development of sorely needed advances that are really capable of benefiting humankind. This is not to say that developments in so-called AI do not have beneficial applications, only that they have little or nothing to do with intelligence as it is generally understood, much less, artificial instances of same.

Brits unveil 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

John 209

Re: I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but...

"Why does every mad concept car have to have gull-wing doors?"

To insure that none of the occupants escape hydrogen immolation in the case of a roll over, would be my guess. That is, to eliminate the potentially noisiest complainers.

Since the days of the mighty M 300 SL gullwing, they just haven't been able to resist it.

Behold, Microsoft SQL Server on Linux – and a firm screw-you to Oracle

John 209

Whether encryption

So, corporations can have bullet-proof encryption, but we lowly smart-phone users cannot?

Official: Toshiba pulls out of European consumer PC market

John 209

Re: Upsetting news

Agree - I've used their higher end Satellite Pro and Tecra series for a decade and they couldn't be beat for business/research (not gaming) and as a lower-end desktop substitute. I'm sorry to see them go, but then I haven't sampled their wares in the last couple of years, so as others say, maybe that was failing along with their corporate DNA for notebooks in general. Features aside, how a higher performance notebook/laptop dissipates heat is a major factor in longevity, and the better Toshibas did that well.

NASA announcement of MAJOR MARS DISCOVERY imminent: WHAT can it be?

John 209

Guess what?

We ran out of money this weekend, but we've established a crowd-fund, and as soon as it reaches $1B or so, we'll be able to present our data.

So, was it really the Commies that caused the early 20th Century inequality collapse?

John 209

Re: Destructive growth?

For better or worse, we measure economic health and growth with GDP, but that only takes into account current expenditures - and makes no place for existing asset evaluation, its increase or decrease. That, in turn, makes any expenditure a gain, and lack of expenditure a loss, so that a natural disaster, or artificial one such as war, that destroys assets but elicits recovery effort, is a gain or growth in the economy even though expensive assets, including infrastructure, may have been wiped out in the process. That is, the economic base may be substantially reduced, but if that elicits a recovery effort involving expenditures, the reduction goes unaccounted in GDP, and only the ongoing recovery expenditures are recorded. One might argue that a substantially reduced base would be indirectly reflected in a lower GDP, by taking away the potential for expenditure by all, but if the recovery effort is sufficiently robust, it won't count for much. There are other national accounting statistics that would reflect the asset losses, but they don't get nearly the attention or the identification with "economic health", "growth", "stagnation", or "decline", as GDP.

Gasping for an Apple Watch? You'll have to tremble and shake for two more weeks

John 209

H. L. Mencken comes to mind...

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to real photography?

John 209

Find one good tool and learn it well

Michelangelo's advice applies to photography as well as sculpture, although a chisel and hammer are a damned sight simpler than film cameras w/ processing, and almost infinitely simpler than digital photography well done. And, as "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands", so he photographs with his brains and not with his eyes or his camera. That is, whatever tool, or set of tools with photography, you settle on, you must master the technology to the point where that technology disappears into the picture that your brain wants to take at the moment you click the shutter. That's what you see when studying the photographs of the classic masters like Adams, O'Keeffe, Cartier-Bresson, Avedon, et al.. Each was master of their selected technology and technique (using it), but nowhere does it intrude or overpower their subject matter. That involved, as it does now more than ever, stripping away all the alternative ways of making a photograph (and the hundreds of interacting options available on digital cameras, post processing gimmicks, etc) and systematically focusing on, and mastering, a limited subset of tools and processes that reliably translate what your brain sees and wants to appear in the final photo, on paper or electronic display.

That takes a lot of effort, trials, errors (differences between what you wanted and what you got) and learning from each error so that you improve over time. With lots of consistent practice, the "technology" becomes automatic, your brain chunks the long sequences of necessary mental and physical steps into a few fluid motions, and you can then concentrate your effort on the subject and lighting (instead of fumbling with menus and options). Being able to think ahead before you shoot, with lots of relevant experience, is what photography is all about, while shooting like a wildman and sorting through the dozens takes for something acceptable and patching it up after the fact is what most picture-taking is about today. The camera company marketers, who have too much influence over camera design today, much prefer that you do the latter as that keeps you permanently frustrated and wanting the latest and greatest to see if that can "automatically" improve your mostly lousy shots. It won't. Doing as recommended won't necessarily make you a great photographer, or even a good one, but it will make you a better photographer than you are today.

Finally, two more relevant quotes from the master: "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." and "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish."

UN: Fossil fuels should be terminaated 86 years from now

John 209

Homo sapien or Homo plumbeus?

Arguing over the myriad symptoms and their amelioration, while ignoring the root source of the problem - i. e., ever-increasing numbers wanting ever-increasing standards, only prolongs the disease and insures its final domination. As long as we uncritically entertain the ideas of the thoroughly unqualified and highly biased Pachauri and his ilk, we will continue down the path we're on, and that path will not end well for anyone. Re Homo sapien: We've been messing with Ma Nature to a positive exponential extent since the dawn of the scientific/technological revolution. With recent advances, we've almost eliminated all the negative feedbacks of natural selection on our population numbers, but failed to find the equivalent wisdom to put something reasonable in their place. Population-wise, that's put us in a positive feedback loop with a predictable outcome that even an engineer like Pachauri should understand (a few months ago, the U.N. quietly revised its decade-long certain prediction of population growth leveling off by natural forces at 9 billion in 2050 to perhaps 12 or 13 billion in 2100 - uh huh). Buttressed from attack on all sides by dominant mythologies and ideologies (religious, political, social, economic, etc) that render still-born any rational debate on the problem, we are likely to see a repeat of the response to calls for population control in the '60s and '70s when "alarmists" were rendered mute by the genius of Borlaug and his Green Revolution. His breakthrough in ag bought a few decades respite from the worst result of growing population - i. e., starvation, to come to grips with the problem in a relatively sane environment, but that respite has been totally squandered with wishful thinking, inept attempts at voluntary control through education, and draconian limitations that trample rather than employ the best integration of pschological, economic, social and cultural knowledge. It's time to grow up fast or pay the heavy price.

Yes, Samaritans, the law does apply to you. Even if you mean well

John 209

Re: stop their Radar app from processing your tweets

Along the same line, I think Radar smacks more of practicing clinical psychology/psychiatry without a license as well as libel, defamation or slander, than invasion of privacy per se (the latter for the reasons given by others).

Practicing clinical psychology/psychiatry without a license because Radar itself has no certification or license as a mental-health practitioner (as required in all states of the U.S., at least, probably elsewhere), yet it is representing itself as able to make conclusions about the mental condition of individuals and distributing those conclusions to others. Libel, defamation or slander, because some of the mental states they are inferring from the tweets are those known to carry prejudicial stigma in the public's mind and would likely have adverse effects for the individual so judged.

Laws against such misrepresentation (licensing of psychologists and psychiatrists) were enacted explicitly to protect the public from such ad hoc quackery. Even if they have based their algorithms on published peer-reviewed research, that would not qualify them to apply the conclusions of that research where they are not licensed to do so, when it is not invited (as you point out), and distribute the results - good intentions notwithstanding. It's not the same as busy bodies gossiping and exchanging opinions about so and so behind his or her back.

People have no bloody idea about saving energy

John 209

Who's more daft - and misleading...

...the Eco-Nazis, whose certainty is inversely related to their knowledge, or their critics, who go to great pains and research to point that out?

In pointing out the silliness of recycling glass and harassing teens about their cell-charger habits, the critics still implicitly endorse the concept that we, individually, by our habits, can make a big enough difference in energy consumption to make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

Our problems, dear people, are structural, not individual and they will be solved, or not, by structural changes from the top down. Just because those (in the U.S.) who should be making long-term wise choices about such things are thoroughly corrupted and mislead by interests already heavily vested in the established structure, does not change the fact stated, but it does highlight the problem that every micro-watt of brain- and body-power wasted in trying to alter the course of "the Titanic" with a canoe paddle, is a micro-watt that could have been spent getting a better government into place.

Tom Stoppard: Tech is destroying the written word

John 209

re:As Plato once said about writing

Yea, ironic too, that the permanence of the written and printed word, properly cataloged, is the foundation of the incremental advances of science and technology in the western world. Yet, those very advances now threaten to undermine such permanence and categorization - with ephemeral digital storage requiring advanced technology to access and rivers of unorganized information eroding existing systems of classification while challenging attempts at providing equal or better alternatives. By uncritically accepting the new as better, we implicitly hang our future on the indefinite continuation of present optimal circumstances that, in the history of our species, have never been known to continue indefinitely. (To further explain - or confuse, an individual's intelligence - beyond simple reasoning skill and its rapidity, is not inherited by that person's brain but, rather, assimilated from one part or another of our "written cultural intelligence". Lose the latter, or the ability to find it, and we're all back to the "darker" ages.)

There are important issues at stake, although they are not the ones described by Stoppard, and they should not be buried under irrelevant arguments that divert attention from those issues.

Top-killing, crisp spam and cooling the Tube

John 209

Fridge, don't refrige

In keeping with dr48's dictum..."Better to stop making the heat in the first place than then have to try and get rid of it.", I've always wondered about the following possibility.

Why, in the higher latitudes of the continents where much of the year is spent in near- or sub-freezing temperatures, are not home fridges (and, even, commercial ones) equipped with a thermostatically controlled intake from, and exhaust system to, the outside - properly filtered, screened etc, of course? That is, take in cold air from the outside to chill the fridge portion when temps approach freezing and to chill both the freezer and fridge portions when temps fall some way below freezing - using simple volume regulation with tiny fans for degree of chill required.

The refrigeration units for summer would have to have the same capability as present, so there would be no savings in initial construction there. Although such a vent system would add to initial cost, it could be very simple in design and operation adding only a little to that cost and retrofitting existing units with external vent systems might be possible for little cost (letting it simply supplement existing cooling with original thermostat allowed to do its normal job). Additionally, waste heat from normal operation of the heat exchanger in winter would be lost to home heating, so another "negative" value there - but not much as this is a very inefficient method of heating.

However, on balance (and taking dust-to-dust, total environmental impacts into account) it appears that there would be substantial savings over present units - for both owners and environment. First, the electric current drawn in winter would be substantially reduced - proportional to latitude. Second, the reduced wear on the refrigeration mechanism could extend the life of existing fridges by 0.3 to 0.6 times (indefinitely in arctic regions?) - where replacement and disposal/recycling costs are major factors in environmental impact that too often go un-noted when promoting the latest and greatest "green" appliances and cars. Third, the exhaust, properly designed, could vent heat-exchanger heat from the house in summer.

Of course, smart moms and smart houses of old in the northern latitudes have always used "cool entry vestibules" as small pantries for things needing cool storage, but modern ones, not so much. In any case, a huge number of fridges and power stations in northern climes might benefit from such a simple change.

Recognizing that many "... 'ideal' suggestions simply collapse upon scratching the surface." , I'm hoping this isn't one of them. Commence scratching!

John 209

Generalists - top down or bottom up makes a difference

Methinks that there are far too many "top-down" generalists these days - with a thin line between such generalists and dilettantes who have never looked too deeply into anything, and too few "bottom-up" generalists - those with deep understanding of several divers fields who are able to discriminate between connections that count and Freudian free-associations.

Of course, it is far easier and faster to spew ideas when unencumbered by detailed facts and substantiated theories. It can take a systematic bottom-up generalist several pages to unwind the musings of a top-down's single-paragraph, of seemingly relevant word-salad, and show it for the hoax that it is. However and unfortunately, in the current environment, where number and speed of ideas delivered overwhelm all else, the dilettante has the decided advantage. By the time the bottom-up can deliver a rebuttal, the conversation (blather?) has moved on to a new topic.