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"the flash of explosive light would have been faintly visible to people on Earth with their naked eye"

That makes it sound like one of the reasons for cancelling it would have been that it really wouldn't have been that impressive.


If you picked the right spot at the right time of the month, could you get a mushroom cloud in "profile"? That would look pretty cool, though maybe still not large enough to see with the naked eye. I don't have a good intuition of the scales involved.

[Edit: Or, wait: a mushroom cloud depends on atmosphere, doesn't it? So... What would a blast-created cloud of dust look like in a vacuum? Just a cloud? Yeah, not so impressive a visual.]


"The proposed nuclear destruction of the Moon has been rejected by astronomers on several grounds"

That made me laugh.

I wonder if this is where Neal Stephenson got the idea for Seveneves which has the opening line

"The moon blew up with no warning and with no apparent reason."


I like that "the heating of Earth's atmosphere by a hail of falling lunar debris would be destructive to all life" is only the second of three cited reasons for the proposal's rejection.

I think structurally it should have been third.

As it's currently structured there are three objections.

  1.  We couldn't do it.
  2.  It would have disastrous side effects.
  3.  It wouldn't fix the problem you're trying to solve, and it would in fact make it worse.

Objections 2&3 should be swapped, "all life on Earth would be vaporized" should really be issue #3.

I would also like to print out:

> And if it helps, he made it Over fifty years later and nobody thinks about nuking the moon very often anymore. Good job, Sagan.

Mission failed, I am now thinking about nuking. A lot. Makes me wish I was a senior DoE officer in the 50s when you could nuke stuff to see what happened when stuff got nuked.


I appreciated the section afterwards just as much.

For a man who gained infamy for wanting to blow up the moon, his publications are on relatively boring topics in advanced math.


Along those lines, Chairface from Tick and Tim Robbin’s classic “would you miss it?” defense from Austin powers.

spoiler: we never learn the reason

(it's not important to the story)


I think it is important! It is an unspeakable unknowable dread hanging over the entire story. Its brought up later in the book and remains a very scary, very foreboding mystery. It implies either an unfathomably powerful and malicious force or an unfathomably powerful and uncaring force, both of which are terrifying.

When I did a CS degree in the 1980s at a UK university I think we had at least 4 hours of lectures per day - with lab hours and tutorials on top of that (maybe a couple of hours a day).

We thought we had it easy - the Electrical Engineering students we shared a lot of classes with had 8 hours a day in their timetables.

Edit: By fourth year I was practically living in the department building - easily averaging ~10 hours there then going to the pub or for a run...


My first year was 36 "hours" (an hour was 50 minutes, followed by a break of at least 10 minutes) per week, which included lab/terminal time. Homework was, as the word says, not included, but some classes mixed classical teaching, explanation, and exercises. The number of hours in class steadily dropped over the next years, as the homework load increased to 40+ hours for writing what's nowadays called the MSc. thesis.

I'm currently studying Electrical Engineering at a Russell Group UK uni. My timetable is nothing like what you are describing, so I think things have changed.

I have about 3-4 hours of lecture time per week and 3-4 hours of tutorial time with professors. That amounts to 8 hours per week.

A lot of it seems to have shifted to "self-directed learning" time, i.e. studying, doing labs, etc independently.


You're not going to like this: that degree cost me nothing financially - I didn't pay any fees and I got a full grant which was more than enough to live on and have a nice flat in central Edinburgh.

Edit: Turns out this was a pretty good investment by the taxpayers of the UK...


University of Edinburgh? That happens to be where I'm studying right now.

It's £28,950/year for EU students.


No - I went to the far less prestigious Heriot-Watt (although I was accepted by Edinburgh!) which at the time I was there had the distinct advantage of having the relevant departments located in the Grassmarket.

Fees for Scottish universities still free for students from Scotland though? I'm just bitter because my own son decided to go to an English Russel Group University...


I've never really equated "hours worked" with "work ethic" - if anything I would say that of all the nationalities I have worked with the people who seemed to have the best work ethic in the sense of turning up, focusing on work and going home again were actually German and they have the some of the lowest annual hours worked.

Being expected to come into the office and sit there just because its expected of you seems the opposite of "work ethic" to me....


I agree, this was kind of my point. Work ethic can mean somewhat different things to different people. Some emphasize hours worked, some effort, some obedience, some loyalty and other honesty, bravery or creativity.

Some of these can even be contradictory. Some workplaces reward the bravery to provide constructive, honest criticism to coworkers and especially senior management. In other places, such behavior can be seen as disloyal.

But there are also cultures that actively repress people who seem overly eager to give their best. I personally know of places where the union has been going after young people who work at their full capacity as it makes the older workers look bad.

In other places, I've seen laziness being seen as completely acceptable. And particularly in groups that feel underpaid, either relative to management or to coworkers in other countries with higher salaries. ("We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us").


If the US wanted to defend Taiwan with nukes wouldn't it just use bombers - no need for the weapons to actually be based on Taiwan?

If the weapons are not placed in Taiwan, there's no guarantee that the US would use them to defend Taiwan.

If the US formally makes such a guarantee, that in itself might trigger a nuclear war.

This is a game of chicken, and games of chicken are rather dangerous. Do you want your city nuked to save Taiwan? Does Xi want to risk having Shanghai and Beijing obliterated to maybe take Taiwan?

If there is an actual war over Taiwan, it's hopefully going to be a conventional one. But that would also mean China may risk it. Which would make TSMC production out of service for months or years (or forever).


Just because the weapons are in Taiwan doesn't mean that the US would use them to defend Taiwan - unlike Cuba I doubt if the military leaders would be given delegated authority to use nukes defensively and I doubt any US political leader would use nukes first when faced with a conventional attack on Taiwan.

To be a proper deterrent, Taiwan would need to be able to control their use. I agree that the US would not be likely to use nukes first over Taiwan. Even losing Taiwan would be far preferable to a nuclear exchange for the US.

We don't know if China would, but I don't think they would start a conflict over Taiwan if they expected to only be able to "win" if they use nukes.

Rather, the only way I can see this become a nuclear war is if Xi starts an invasion due to overconfidence (like Putin with Ukraine), but is then humiliated by a combined Taiwanese/US defense, proceeds to see nukes as the only way to avoid losing face, and then caring more about this than the future of the world.

But let's imagine for instance that Russia ends up conquering Ukraine completely, with NATO letting it happen. In such a case, Japan, Korea and many others may suddenly realize that they're not safe until they have a large nuclear arsenal. Once they have build up such an arsenal, it's not that unlikely (I would say) that Taiwan follows, and creates their own secret arsenal of nukes. Maybe even purchasing the tech from Korea or Japan.


Thanks - my wife and I have recently got her mother (who is in her 90's) to try using an iPhone. It never occurred to me to get a printed manual - I think that might really help her.

To be fair, I've seen many human drivers doing equally stupid things.

Yes tired, drunk or raging people do stupid shit.

But the goal is not exactly to have autonomous driving at their level ...


The point I was trying to make, clearly not very well, was that nobody would be surprised by a human making a mistake like this so why are we expecting perfection from a software controlled car? They will make mistakes but I'd also expect these mistakes to become less and less common. I'd only worry if the rate of change of performance isn't fairly positive...

Don't know even by low human standard it's bad.

I would not expect a human to drive two blocks while failing to go back to the correct lane; I would expect him to realize after 50m that there are too many and slow down and go back behind the uni cycle. In the same way I do not expect a human driver to stop after hitting someone then start again and drag the body with it.

The problem is that it's easy to pump the statistic while driving miles without issue then it utterly fails when the situation is not well-defined anymore.


> They will make mistakes

Machines don't make "mistakes". A mistake require intent. In case of autonomous driving, any problem is a defect in the system that the whole fleet share.

> I'd also expect these mistakes to become less and less common

So the people should just tolerate it in the mean time "for the greater good"? oh please, it's an enterprise.


There are a few more categories of people who often do stupid shit, many of which are fairly mundane and far less easy to disregard (such as: momentarily distracted / semi-permanently fiddling with their phone / dangerously incompetent).

I don't think it's unfair to point out that humans, quite often, also suck quite badly at driving.


In general, I don't think human sucks at driving, but there are many times when any driver can be extremely dangerous for many reasons.

Many of those reasons are illegal (alcohol, fiddling with your phone) so it's not a question of fairness an automated program was supposed to be better than that.

I don't see anything unfair in requiring that automated driving which is supposed to not be afflicted from our human failing to not perform illegal and dangerous driving ...

Especially since autonomous driving might bring more car not less (similar to Uber and Lift impact https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00678-z#Sec8 )


My take is that both have spectacular edge cases / failure modes that are essentially laughable from the other's point of view. It's hard to compare the two, when all we're doing is cherry picking scenarios.

I could point to a double pedestrian crossing near my place where cars routinely speed. Various people have told me that the drivers cannot see the pedestrians, for a variety of reasons (buildings, cars, and especially a large tree near one corner), yet the human drivers are confident to go 10-20 kph over the speed limit through the area, despite this lack of information. I can give many similar examples - people really do suck at driving, they just tend to get away with it most of the time because rare events are, well, rare.

AI sucks for a variety of other reasons. The only real question is whether on average, over all scenarios and ratios of humans to AIs populating the roads, one sucks more than the other. It's something I don't think we have the answer to.


I'd expect to be prosecuted if I was caught driving like this, and probably lose my license as a result

what is the threshold for permanently terminating Waymo's license?

    - an example like this of dangerous driving?
    - 1 death by dangerous driving?
    - 10 deaths by dangerous driving? (say it veered right in this video into the other road users)
    - 100 deaths by dangerous driving? (say it veers into a sidewalk full of pedestrians)

Why would you expect losing a license? The only actual issue I can see is crossing the double line which is just one penalty point if caught https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/defense/vehicle-code/21460/

(Possibly also not using the indicator which is another point, but I don't think we can be 100% sure it wasn't used before the change started - California seems to require it only before not during lane change if I read it correctly)


the UK has somewhat stricter driving standards

doing it for a second or two would likely be classed as "driving without due care and attention", resulting in a fine if convicted

however doing it for as long as in this video I suspect would be classed as "dangerous driving", with disqualification being the likely result


I'd be very surprised if someone lost their license over doing this in the UK - you might get a fixed penalty notice but I suspect if you managed to explain to the police what you thought you were doing you might get away with a good telling off. Of course, if anyone got hurt you'd be in serious trouble...

The problem with these self-driving companies is that they drive a lot more miles than a human ever could. Even if their error rates were 1/10th of the most cautious human drivers, if we held them to the same standards as we hold humans, they'd lose their licenses in a week. This is due to the sheer number of cars they have and miles they drive.

This is a variation on the trolley problem. Would you rather have roads that are 10 times safer, with 10 times fewer accidents and 10 times fewer deaths, but where the accidents are completely unexplainable and where nobody can be held guilty, or would you rather have the world stay as it is?


If Waymo sold the software/hardware without onerous licensing costs I would rather live in world #2. If instead they become an incredibly wealthy lobbying engine based on extraction for a few rather than true wealth creation then I'd rather still live in world #1.

Negative publicity is reflected on their equity evaluation. They have great incentives. The system works.

I think with 100 deaths the company would get liquidated. This incident alone probably caused more damage than a cost of one single driver's license suspension.


> I've seen many human drivers doing equally stupid things

Just yesterday I got yelled at by an Italian police officer who was directing traffic at a busy junction (I was in a rental car). [Full disclosure: I stopped, wound my window down, we had a polite conversation, everything turned out fine...]

The key difference is that if I screw up badly enough when driving, I risk a monetary fine and/or losing my licence and/or getting sent to prison. For most human drivers these represent clear incentives not to screw up when driving.

Questions:

Have we agreed on suitable penalties when an autonomous vehicle screws up, given there isn't a single human driver to sanction?

Could the fleet get grounded?

Could the company get fined?

Could relevant executives go to prison?


> Could the fleet get grounded?

Cruise's permit was suspended after their accident


There wasn't just the one Cruise incident, though, was there?

Actually, by looking at the behaviour of the unicycles I could infer that this was a country where people drive on the right and therefore the car was probably doing something wrong?

Well, nobody expected it, but by funding HEP we got the Web.

On YouTube I think maybe 50% are scams and 98% are just plain irrelevant - I've come to the conclusion its really just a way of harassing me to sign up for YouTube Premium.

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