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Codraroll

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  1. Public transport in the US has bigger challenges than just the salary cost for the drivers. Chief among them is the extremely low density of urban development. Consider for instance the city of Des Moines, Iowa (map link). The footprint of the city is about five times the size of Amsterdam, but it contains less than one-ninth as many inhabitants. Downtown Des Moines primarily consists of a handful of large office buildings, a stadium, a convention center, and a hospital, and vast amounts of parking space where visitors can leave their cars while attending to their business downtown. Nobody lives there. Where people live is in single-family houses sprawling from the very edge of the downtown core and for a dozen or so miles until countryside takes over. One building per household, one driveway per building, a dozen or so driveways per street, a dozen or so streets per suburban subdivision, all housing and nothing else. No restaurants, no street cafes, no corner stores, not even a newsagent. Those are all wrapped up neatly inside giant, boxy malls or smaller, separate strip malls, both in their own zones, surrounded by further oceans of parking lots. Add some industrial areas, some outside-downtown office parks (to accommodate more parking directly servicing each building), and the occasional school or church here and there, and you've got yourself a typical American city. People live, work, and shop in very separate areas, often on opposite sides of the city. Even if you live right on the border between two zones, you usually have to cross a highway or an eight-lane stroad to get from one zone to the other. Now try to draw up public transport lines in this thinly stretched mess. You will quickly notice that destinations are very far apart. Downtown is fine enough, enough people work inside each office skyscraper to support its own bus stop. But where does the bus line go from there? The residential areas are too sprawled. Hardly anybody lives inside a reasonable walking distance from each individual bus stop, which means the line will need to stop on every other street corner to service enough potential passengers to be economically feasible. Problem is, nobody wants to take a bus that stops on every other street corner, because then it takes forever to get anywhere. Likewise in the commercial areas, each shop is surrounded by so much parking and so little pedestrian infrastructure that you can hardly walk from one to the other, necessitating a bus stop for every shop. But again, hardly anyone would use each individual stop, but they add to the travel time. There's simply not enough people in any one place to make it feasible to establish a public transit line. It remains faster to go by car, and so cars are prioritized in street design, which further diminishes any alternatives. So before public transit can be established, something needs to happen to the city planning. I think the lowest-hanging fruit is to reduce the amount of mandatory required parking for shops and offices, which would allow them to group up in smaller, more walkable clusters. It would also free up oodles of downtown space. Second, build some mixed-use development with apartments, shops, and offices together. Then you've got enough density to make a public transit corridor worthwhile. Then further development can be concentrated around the transit stops. And for Pete's sake, extend the transit corridors to the airport. That's a rarity in US cities. Las Vegas is the worst offender, with an airport right in the middle of downtown and millions of visitors arriving every year for temporary stays in hotels not three miles away. The city even has a monorail line that runs between most of the hotels. Yet lobbying from car rental and taxi companies prevented the monorail from being connected to the airport. Hence, visitors to the city rent a car instead of using public transport, the public transport ends up being mostly unused, and then its passenger numbers is used as an argument against building more public transport. I just can't even ...
  2. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the US-Mexico border, reducing vehicle traffic in pedestrian oriented areas is simply the default way of building cities, and it hasn't led to any of the things you describe. Property values are sky high, retail is booming, and ghettos are nowhere to be seen in the downtown of most big European and Asian cities, even though there are really few cars around and driving is a nightmare. Most people just get around by other, more convenient means. The US and Canada are fairly unique in designing urban spaces exclusively for cars, and it has led to some of the worst urban hellscapes the planet has to offer for those without a vehicle. One of the main issues is the lack of a good distinction between streets and roads. To give a short recap: Roads - transport thoroughfares that take cars from A to B, where A and B are intersections with streets or other roads. A road is never a destination. A highway is usually the typical image of a road. You would never have your driveway on a highway. The lack of crossing traffic streams means the road can be fully designed with capacity and speed in mind. Streets - low-speed branches of the transport network, where driveways are connected. Your destination is always a street, or more probably on a street. Low speed is necessary because there are crossing traffic streams everywhere. Also, since you're not meant to drive for long along a street, speed is not important. Driving along a street means you're at the beginning or end of your journey, not the "must go fast" stretch in the middle. The problem starts arising when traffic engineers begin to mix up the two and create the unholy hybrid, the "stroad". A transport corridor built to accommodate high transit speeds/volumes and driveways. Lots of crossing traffic streams from cars driving out of/into driveways, and lots of cars that are simply on a thoroughfare, trying to get from A to B. Those unholy hybrid stroads are almost impossible to navigate without a vehicle (lots of turning lanes makes the stroad too wide to cross without a signaled pedestrian crossing, and those exist very sparingly because they slow down the thoroughfare traffic), and still difficult if you're in a vehicle, because of the high speeds and crossing traffic streams. Stroads are inherently dangerous for that reason. The US experienced an increase in traffic fatalities as traffic went down during Covid lockdowns, because what prevented stroads from killing more people under ordinary circumstances was that they are usually too clogged with cars for drivers to build up speeds that cause fatal collisions. There's an upside even to induced demand, I suppose. Car-dependent city design is just plain bad. It wastes ungodly amounts of space, it reduces your number of transport options to one, it's too low-density to facilitate public transit, it does not reduce the amount of time residents spend in transit compared to a conventionally-designed city, and it bankrupts the cities that have to pay for so many square miles of asphalt (and miles of water/sewage pipes, electrical wires, Internet cables, road signs, etc.) with the tax revenue from so few people. The YouTube channel "Not Just Bikes" has an excellent series of videos on the subject, I recommend starting here:
  3. Ahh, the ultimate conclusion to the "the best part is no part" philosophy. One must admit, it does make rocketry a fair bit easier if one doesn't have to bother with the fragile payload and all the moving parts required to release it.
  4. It can get to a point where the discrepancies between the movie and reality become very distracting, though. Usually when the writers fall back on "... and then this happens!" as a major plot point or set piece, and the audience goes "Umm, that wouldn't happen at all". I think the worst example I've seen in a blockbuster movie was that G.I. Joe movie where a seafloor base underneath the Arctic ice cap is destroyed by blowing up the ice sheet above it. Huge chunks of ice then sink down at freefall speeds and crush the base. Some visual effects director must have had this great vision he pushed through, unaware of the fact that ice floats in water. Hence why it forms on the surface to begin with, and not on the seafloor.
  5. Isn't the force on a human foot during running something on the magnitude of 100G on impact? I've also heard four-digit G numbers about the relevant parts of the body during actions such as blinking or finger snapping.
  6. It's that time of year again! The time when the most prestigious prizes in all of science are awarded. The 2022 Ig Nobels have been handed out! https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/09/maya-ritual-enemas-and-constipated-scorpions-the-2022-ig-nobel-prize-winners/ The URL alone should give you some idea of the absolute insanity that is science sometimes.
  7. The weather forecast also uses it as soon as clouds are present. "Partly cloudy, no rain" translates into "delvis skyet, oppholdsvær" after all. Also typical of the Norwegian weather and language is that there are no commonly used words to discern different types of heat ("warm" is pretty much all there is) and no word for drought, just "dryness".
  8. Another one, then: The Norwegian language has a word for "not-rainy weather", which is "oppholdsvær". Directly translated it means "pause weather" or "interruption weather". Norway is a slightly rainy country, to put it that way.
  9. It would be perfectly possible to be King without knowing about it. It would not matter there and then, of course, but for the purpose of official record-keeping after the fact, no delay happened. The Queen stops being Queen at the moment of death, and the new King is technically King from that very instant, as far as history is concerned, even if it will take half an hour for anybody to learn about it or experience any difference. It's only when the first person asks "what just happened there?" that it will be puzzled together that Charles has technically been King for the entirety of the light speed delay between the Queen's death and the message reaching Earth. Monarchy transfers instantly, even if the universe can't keep up.
  10. Problem is that somebody made a typo in the order and got an army full of oafs instead. It's working as expected.
  11. Why do that when you can build one of those?
  12. Those 30 minutes would be a gap in the monarchy; time when the previous monarch was dead but the new one unaware of it. And monarchy does not allow for gaps. Hence, when Charles sees it happening, he will learn he has already been monarch for 30 minutes. Or in other words, the exact start of his reign would be impossible for him to experience. It can only be learned about after the fact.
  13. Monarchy is one of the few things that can travel faster than light. The system is set up so that the reign of one monarch officially begins instantly when their predecessor dies. There can never not be a monarch. If Queen Elizabeth had died in a hoverboard accident on Mars instead of in Scotland, the news would take 30 minutes or so to reach Charles on Earth, even if he was watching the livestream of her fatal attempt at doing a 1080 over the mouth of a sandworm on fire, due to light speed delay. However, from his point of view, his regency would have begun 30 minutes before he watched the spectacular crash. Of course, things get a little complicated as soon as you start considering third-party observers to verify the timing of the transition of power, but with the monarch and the heir apparent as two fixed points in time and space, it works out quite well between the two, at least.
  14. Quite a bit if it's not coated, which is why items left in your window sill will be bleached by the sun. You don't get that degradation just from visible light.
  15. While we're talking about light and colours, here's one from my field of work I've always found amusing. First a bit of background: Glass is transparent because it transmits pretty much all the visible light at every wavelength equally. All over the visible spectrum, it lets through 95% or so. However, it doesn't stop at the edge of the visible spectrum either. It's equally transparent quite far into the infrared. This means that it's transparent to thermal radiation as well as visible light. From the perspective of a "ray" of heat, it doesn't matter if your window is open or closed, heat passes through regardless. Now, this is obviously not good for building energy management. We'd like our windows to insulate against the cold. Or the heat, depending on your climate. To help energy efficiency, modern windows are coated with a transparent coating that blocks thermal radiation - that is, infrared light. And that's the cool part: what do you call a substance that blocks radiation in only a certain part of the visual spectrum? Coloured! Essentially, modern windows are painted in a colour we can't see. It's totally unlike other colours, because our eyes can't perceive it, but it can be measured. Some animals can probably see it too.
  16. I've finally learned a fun fact worth bumping the thread for. People might not know a whole lot about Ethiopia, but it's a big country in east Africa. Addis Ababa, the capital, is a regional hub of modern development, surrounded by (occasionally drought-stricken) farmland. It's close to the Rift Valley and has a wetter climate than the drought on Africa's horn, but not quite the rainforest of the African interior either. It's sort of a mid-range place as far as climate goes, really. People don't know a lot about Bhutan either, but the common image of it is a tiny, traditionalist country in the Himalayas. Like Nepal's older little sibling. The entire country is mountainous, with the human settlements nested in narrow valleys between tall, icy peaks. The capital Thimphu is the quintessential Himalayan city, crammed into one of the country's innermost valleys with a view of the tall mountains above. Thimphu is very much a mountain city, being the fifth highest-elevated capital city in the world. In fourth place? Addis Ababa. The East African metropolis, with the farmlands and fields and forests, is located at a higher altitude than the mountainous Thimphu of the Himalayas. The three capitals located at even higher altitudes are the Andean capitals of South American countries; La Paz, Quito, and Bogotá. You frequently hear stories about people getting altitude sickness when visiting those places. But I wouldn't ever guess Addis Ababa was next on the list. Oh, and for the record: Kathmandu, Nepal, is also known for being way up in the mountains, with that infamous airport planes can hardly land on. It's all the way down on eighteenth place on the list.
  17. Life in cold and dark climates seems to cause lifeforms to produce significant quantities of ethanol in general. There's a joke out in the countryside here that if you want to buy moonshine, look for the house of the local priest. That'd be the only place you wouldn't be able to buy moonshine.
  18. Just as long as you don't try to use the thing for a takeoff. And since it apparently needs to be repeated at least once a week, it does not make a good SSTO.
  19. And the very likely possibility that Roscosmos would keep cranking up prices to no end if they had maintained their monopoly.
  20. At least the one on the south pole isn't Scott crater. For a while after the race to the pole, it seems to have been a common British narrative that Scott was its moral victor, having done everything the proper and gentlemanly way; that mere flukes were the reason why that honourless barbarian Amundsen arrived first; and that the death of Scott and his entire party on the return journey were merely insignificant details in the glorious triumph. It seems that somebody thought Shackleton was a more fitting hero to be memorialized through the polar crater on the Moon, since he at least returned from the Antarctic. Still, it feels kinda cheap that the honour didn't go to Amundsen, who actually went to the South Pole. Oh, and fun fact: Amundsen was also the first person to properly document a visit to the North Pole. The two other claimants to the title did a rather poor job of proving they had actually been there. Amundsen arrived there by airship, though, after a single day's breezy flight from Svalbard, so his achievement in that regard was a bit overshadowed by previous expeditions who went there the hard way.
  21. If the whole thing caught fire and burned down at the launchpad, it would simultaneously be the saddest and funniest thing in spaceflight history.
  22. Heh, another army story about the moon. Not from my year of service, but apparently a couple years before: During an exercise, all the platoons in our company where tasked to secure the perimeter around the battalion HQ. Each platoon had its own little guard post, responsible for part of the perimeter. Each guard post was tasked to monitor the field of view between there and there, usually marked with different objects visible from the post. Stones, trees, ditches, etc. This would create overlapping fields of view and zones of responsibility around the entire HQ. ... if not for the fact that one of the guard posts was told to use the moon as its right-side limit. As the night went on and the moon moved across the sky, their field of view (and zone of responsibility) grew and grew, and the hapless soldiers eventually noticed movement in their zone. Cue the alarm being raised and a huge ruckus erupting. There was a lot of shouting and firing for a while until it was realized that the sleep-deprived soldiers had attacked their neighbouring guard post. The battalion was docked quite a few points in that exercise.
  23. Have we still not succeeded in explaining to you what a horribad idea pusher plates are in atmosphere? One word: shockwaves. You really don't want to go about with explosive propulsion in a medium that can transfer the explosive force to the entirety of your craft. But I digress. The problem here is that "the air thins" is an event that will happen quite early in flight, as the rocket goes up first and then starts going fast sideways, because you don't want to go fast in an atmosphere for drag-related reasons. So a spacecraft's ascent profile tends to seek thin air before it starts building up the speed required to stay in orbit. In other words, the air-breathing engines will not be of use for more than the first short leg of the flight, but require their own wiring and plumbing and take up weight on the craft all the same. That's a particularly bad drawback on an SSTO. They're helpful for the first minute or so after take-off, and from there on they are dead weight. And you still need a different set of engines to actually take you to orbit. You might be able to use the air-breathing engines as a first stage of a rocket, though. I think the first stage of Saturn V only flew in the lower parts of the atmosphere. But that means disconnecting that entire stage from the spacecraft after they have expended their usefulness.
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