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About Nikolai

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    Sr. Spacecraft Engineer
  1. Woomerang launch site

    Oh, no doubt. It's my experience as a software developer, though, that people outside the industry asking for a small thing that shouldn't be too much trouble really don't know what's actually involved -- and, of course, one person's "bit" is another person's "far too little to be interesting, and they shouldn't have bothered". I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth here. Players have been asking for a second launch facility for years, and now we have one.
  2. So what's the next DLC going to be about?

    I'm not sure that's a completely bad thing. That might mean that we end up with a small handful of really good stories (among other interesting efforts that don't quite measure up for one reason or another), as opposed to one story. I'm inclined to be optimistic, given the quality of some of the mods I've seen -- there's real talent in our community.
  3. Woomerang launch site

    I agree with your desire for more detail at Woomerang, but I find this comment to be interesting given the number of revisions to the artwork of KSC and the bugfixes needed to keep it operating the way people expect as they explore it in the history of the software. 'Course, I don't know the first thing about creating the kind of artwork we're talking about here, but these lead me to believe that it's kind of a big deal. Maybe they'll add onto it in future releases.
  4. So I bought KSP on March 29th, 2013.

    I bought it back in April 2012. (Any donation above $7 would get you the game at the time.) The download link for Making History isn't showing up in my account on the web store, though, so I've sent them an email.
  5. Nope. Daylight Saving Time. We moved our clocks an hour ahead last weekend.
  6. Are they running 1.4.1 in this stream? If so, the bug where the tops of the depictions in the top row of parts (as seen in the side menu in the VAB) are cropped off is still there. EDITED TO ADD: Yes, it is -- I just saw the introductory splash screen.
  7. Bad science in fiction Hall of Shame

    I meant to refer to the weight Bullock's exhausted hand was taking. Of course, if you go back to the multiple exposure or the clip, you can see that she wasn't the center of rotation, either... which lessens the weight on her hand as well as the angular displacement she has to go through. I tend to think Clooney was rotating much faster than that 5 deg/s, though, if you watch the stars in the background during the close-ups; I suspect that that's because the station was rotating some amount itself, possibly because it had some initial non-zero angular velocity after being abandoned (which seems likely; what are the odds that it was left at exactly zero?) and/or possibly because some angular velocity was imparted to it by Clooney's and Bullock's interactions with it. But these seem like trifles. From one point of view, attempts to punch holes in this scene seem like attempts to make petty complaints; from the other, attempts to defend this scene seem like attempts to imagine things that aren't there. Since space is a place where motion can be deceptive and counterintuitive to senses honed with long experience on Earth, maybe I gave it more credit than it deserves. Or maybe things that seem poorly-shot are a matter of subjective taste. Or something. I have to admit that this particular bit didn't break my mimesis, though; even seeing it in the theater, I thought they were rotating right away and that Clooney was in trouble. I also tend to see switching back-and-forth between close-ups less as sequential and more as "Here are the expressions the other person was making while the camera was looking away", for whatever little that matters, and maybe that factored into the duration of the scene bothering me less. (What did break my mimesis was the station-hopping. But then, I guess, you'd have a much less engaging story, or at least a much less lengthy one. "One day, debris hit the Shuttle in the middle of a servicing mission. Every crew member died. The End." Ninety minutes between debris encounters also seemed pretty bogus.) (P.S. Apparently, the mass of a dry MMU was 136 kg, if that helps with figuring out the force on Bullock's hand; we'd have to add that to the mass of the EMU and Clooney. So 350 kg total? )
  8. Bad science in fiction Hall of Shame

    That seems drastically small, considering that Clooney is wearing a spacesuit. The Shuttle EMU alone massed 115 kg without an occupant, and Clooney had his magic thruster pack on top of that. Add Clooney's mass to that -- let's say 250 kg total, just to be generously small. That brings us to 95 N at 5 deg/s, about two and a half gallons of milk held by one hand. It's not trivial to exert that kind of force, especially when you're drained from adrenaline and oxygen-starved and maintaining a grip in a spacesuit against vacuum -- and you've already been on EVA for several hours. (Story Musgrave will happily tell anyone who will listen how quickly EVAs can become exhausting, especially trying to maintain a grip, even with much smaller forces than this.) Honestly, she sounded kind of groggy and sluggish even while servicing the panel on EVA before the real action got started. Because he saw that the lanyard around her foot was slipping. That's pretty clear in the movie, too -- there are several shots directly on her boot with the lanyard slipping before he grimaces, decides to unhook himself, apologizes, and lets go. For me, it's the feel. They got the feel of space right -- it's not like being submerged in water or like anything we're familiar with. It's alien. And that alien nature is what will kill you if you don't watch out. That said, I think the movie gets a lot more grief than it deserves. True, there are a decent helping of things that they got obnoxiously wrong, but they clearly tried, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of other "space" movies.
  9. Bad science in fiction Hall of Shame

    ... and in that clip, you can actually see the rotation between 2:15 and 2:19 if you're watching for it. The only shots I see that show orientation with respect to the planet have Bullock in the frame, and she's much closer to the center of rotation and doesn't move a whole lot. Plus, you know, it's a long tether. And it's hard to determine how the axis of rotation lines up with views of the planet below (perspective is hard in this scene, and in space generally). I can't contest that, because a lot of people seem to miss that it's there. Still, it seems to me that the fact that the force is there should be the sort of thing that makes people look for what they might have missed if they can't find it, not flatly state that there's nothing. Are you sure? Such a rotation would be very gentle, as we've discussed. Also, it's not the only way to pick up rotation. If you speed towards the end of something much heavier than you are, and give yourself a kick in some random direction as you leave, but are restrained to the end by a tether, you'll pick up rotation. (So will the heavy thing, but much less noticeably so.)
  10. Bad science in fiction Hall of Shame

    He was rotating. If we superimpose several screen captures, you can see that clearly. (That doesn't mean that the orbital mechanics of the movie wasn't garbage, of course. It's just that this particular objection has a fairly mundane explanation.)
  11. Excitonium!

    No, it's not the stuff generated by hype while waiting for another version of KSP to drop. Apparently, scientists have just discovered a form of matter that was only hypothetical for fifty years. From what I've been able to gather, here's the basic idea: When electrons leave valence shells, they leave "holes". The "holes" are considered to be positively charged(*). "Holes" and electrons even attract each other; they act exactly as if they're positively charged particles. Excitonium is matter made up purely of electrons and "holes", held together by their mutual charge. There are no atomic nuclei. An "exciton" is an atom without a nucleus; excitonium is made up of excitons. --- (*) Just ask an electrical engineer. "Holes" are considered to be the charge carriers in semiconductors, which are electronic components of everything from diodes to transistors to microchips. The math works out the same as it would if we tracked electrons instead (the "real" charge carriers in circuits); the only difference is a change in sign.
  12. Physics question

    Well, right, and you can see that if you take the time to simplify the expression of force on the ball into a constant times the distance of the ball from the center -- which is a spring equation. Springs follow sinusoidal motion. (The "spring constant" is equal to m*g/r, where m is the mass of the ball, g is the acceleration felt by the ball at the height from which you drop it, and r is the radius at which you drop the ball.)
  13. Physics question

    Not only that, but the time it takes to get to the other side is exactly the same as it would take for the ball to orbit to that point at that altitude. Either way, the time to get to the other side is pi*sqrt(r/g), where r is the radius you drop it from and g is the acceleration due to gravity at that radius. I can do the math if you like.
  14. Yes, possibly, but not because the Sun is going to go supernova; it's not massive enough for that. Some five billion years or so hence, the Sun will turn into a red giant. Its radius may grow large enough to swallow Earth.
  15. Sorry to be a troublemaker, but as usual, it's not that simple -- especially if we're talking about selecting a species' tendency to be social. That involves both natural and artificial selection, especially if we're talking about a tendency towards altruism.