Star Trek III and War Crimes.

Kirks “surrender” in Star Trek III would be a war crime in a modern war.
Scuttling the ship is one thing. You don’t have to let the enemy take your stuff when you surrender. Scuttling with enemy boarders aboard is also OK to prevent capture of the ship.
But surrendering with the intent of luring enemy personnel aboard when you scuttle, so that you can more easily capture their ship for your own use, is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. Surrender is a way to end hostilities, not a battle tactic.
Kirk might be able to try to play a technicalities game in that there wasn’t a signed instrument of surrender, but even if he could establish having followed the letter of the law, he certainly didn’t follow the spirit.
The Klingons should have added war crimes charges to the charges of assassinating Gorkon in Star Trek VI.  It’s understandable that they might have considered it diplomatically infeasible to push extradition too hard in Star Trek IV, but they had him in custody in VI.  War crimes charges couldn’t be so easily dismissed, because he actually did do it even if he had some technicality to minimize liability.

Conference speaker diversity

So the atheist movement has a problem with speakers at conferences being disproportionately white men, and maybe a couple white women thrown in if you’re lucky. I’m sure isolated counterexamples could be found, but it’s an issue I see a lot of people complaining about, and a lot of jackasses defending on stupid grounds.
Of the 10 announced speakers for Skepticon 9, only two are white men and one of those is trans. One black man, one black woman, the rest white women.
If previous years are any indication, the final list will be just as diverse, they aren’t just holding back to drop all the white men on us in one big shot.
This can’t be all that hard a problem to solve if a conference that doesn’t pay speakers fees(though they do cover travel and lodging) can make it work.

Quora question- asteroid impacts

If we’re looking at something that can actually shatter Earth, we’re screwed.  Pretty much completely.  Even a Mars colony might not save the species, something that big will wreck orbits and cause tidal stresses and all sorts of other crap.  Our best chance in this case is to start with a distress call- just something a passing ship might notice and investigate, and hope to hell they’ve got some ideas and tech to help us out.  Parallel to this, build the largest Orion ship we can, load up the smallest genetically viable founding population we can to crew it, tell them to make babies, and point it at the nearest star that might have an Earth like planet in the habitable zone.  And hope they make it, find a habitable planet, and start anew.  Chances of failure would be incredibly high, but barring helpful aliens with fleets of FTL transports it’s our best, really only, chance of survival.

Now, as for somewhat smaller scale destruction- wiping out all life on the surface- there might be a few additional options.

There’s a good chance we won’t last long enough for the asteroid to kill us. Something this big, there’s no way it could be covered up past maybe the first few months after NASA notices it. Just too many people with telescopes in their backyard, and as it passes through the asteroid belt, too many people with eyes to look up with. There would be panic no matter what governments tried to do.
There may be enough wiggle room in “destroyed” for a crash program to build underground shelters for a large enough population to recolonize the surface eventually.
There might also be time for a crash project to build ships to take people to Mars. Orion ships could do it, and if the aerospace industry went all hands on deck to get it done(to the point of shutting down things like airliner production entirely) we could probably get a few thousand people to Mars. This has the advantage of being completely out of the line of fire, and the disadvantage of having far more unknowns and more points where things can go wrong than underground shelters.
Hopefully, enough people avoid panic that we could attempt both rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket.

A generation ship as in the scenario with Earth actually being destroyed wouldn’t necessarily be a terrible backup plan, but to make the far more plausible Mars attempt work we might not be able to spare the resources.  If the resource situation allows, though, the generation ship should be launched.

It would probably also be a good idea to try to send a distress call into space in this situation too. Coming up with something that aliens would immediately recognize as a distress call would be difficult to say the least, but coming up with something unusual enough to warrant a closer look might be feasible. I wouldn’t put great hope into this working, but we might as well try it if we’re facing extinction.  It’s much more likely, in the event that a passing alien picks it up, that they’ll be able to help mitigate this smaller scale disaster than the Earth shattering scenario above.

What’s an Orion ship you ask?  Nuclear pulse propulsion.  Toss a nuclear bomb out the back of the ship, and ride the shockwave.  The basic principles were proven in the 60s, but bans on nukes in space shut down practical research.  It’s the only tech we have that can achieve the speeds and load capability to give any of this any chance of working.  There are a few ideas discussed in scientific papers that might be better, but we can be sure Orion will work.  Will it work well enough?  Unclear.  But it will work at all, and we can say that with much more certainty than, say, an Alcubierre drive.


So, I have no idea what a tachometer is used for when driving a car, other than “don’t let it get into the red”.  Diagnostics, though, here’s a story.

So I’m driving home, and my car is acting a bit funny.  Engine runs smooth, but every time I let off on the gas power plummets almost fast enough to feel like a stall, but there’s no shuddering as the engine struggles before giving out. Like highway to idle in an instant is what it felt like.  Didn’t notice anything on acceleration.

Running through everything it could be, ruling out all the easy things I can handle on my own, then I catch a glance of my tach.  About 2.7k rpm at about 35mph.

So then I nearly shit a brick.  This held, it wasn’t a brief spike during acceleration.  It was my cruising RPM at that speed.  I was thinking my transmission died and couldn’t reach the gears it was trying for.  Bad news.

Then I remembered that even automatics have some ability to override the transmission and set a specific gear, and sure enough, I was set to 2 rather than D.  Set it properly, and my car ran fine.

I’m not sure I’d have thought to check anything transmission related if not for the tach, which would lead to me being home wondering what the hell was wrong with my car, and being unable to reproduce the problem when my dad came down to look at it.

2.7 at 35, though, makes me wonder how high my engine would go if I went on the highway in 2nd.  I redline at 6.5k(never seen past 4 even in hard acceleration) so I probably wouldn’t immediately break anything, but I can’t imagine sustained driving past the ~2.5k I typically see on the highway would be all that great for engine lifespan.

Cracked Paradoxes- a legal one

Make the assumption that all relevant terms of the contract are specified in the statement of the paradox.
In that case, it only says that Bill has to pay after he wins his first case. Not “upon winning”, at some unspecified point “after”. Strictly speaking, if he wins a case, while he has to pay he’s under no obligation to keep to a specific schedule. One could assume, though, that he has to pay up before the end of time(or arrange for payment to be made by that time), as no payments could possibly be made in any form after that point. If he waits until afterwards, he’s failed to meet his end of the deal. So he could move for a continuance until the end of time has come, as that will be when the actual breach of contract occurs.
Now, if you look at some results in physics, it looks like eventually the universe will spread out into a perfectly even field of matter and energy stretching off into eternity.  But… there’s still activity.  At the quantum level, particles will jump all over the place.  This is a random process, and when one jumps away another is going to take its place in short order, so conservation is maintained.

The thing is, though(I think i read about this idea in A Briefer History of Time), being a truly random process, occasionally it’s going to have a period where it appears to exhibit ordered behavior.  It won’t, but if a given ordered process is possible, a random process will eventually behave very much like it.  This may cause a bunch of particles to jump all to the same place, without other particles jumping out to make room, and staying there long enough for gravity to reassert itself.  Over time, the macro level effects of gravity(and other forces) will dominate over the quantum weirdness, triggering a gravitational collapse- everything in the even field will be pulled into this point gravity source.  It will get bigger and bigger, squeeze tighter and tighter, and then Big Bang.

Granted, this isn’t certain, but it’s one of many possibilities of what may happen.  If Bill has some guts, he could move for dismissal as there will never be a situation where he’s in danger of breaching the contract.  There will be a universe in which the debt can be paid and things in this universe will be able to be collected into a suitable payment, forever.  Though John could counter on grounds that the information about the debt would be lost, rendering Bill entirely unable, even in principle, to ever pay up.  But at the very least, a continuance until heat death(the first time) should be possible, though Bill may be required to take special measures to ensure his heirs remember his obligation.

Wonder why legal language is verbose and painfully precise?  This is why.  So smartasses can’t pull bullshit like I just outlined here.   There’s also vast bodies of case law we keep around to help deal with these sorts of absurdities,  I’m sure something in there would prevent “the end of time” being the payment period unless it was explicitly specified.

Realistically… Unless the judge decided that adjudicating the contract itself does not count as a win for the purposes of the payment clause(not a lawyer, so I have no idea if this is realistic), Bill’s going to be paying up either way it goes.

Greenland and legitimacy of white settlement?

I wonder how long a population needs to be living in a region to be considered indigenous? And how thoroughly abandoned does a region need to be for it to be fairly up for grabs?
I’m mainly thinking of the Norse in Greenland, here. When they moved in originally, that part of Greenland was uninhabited and had been for quite some time, though the Dorset had been in the area previously. Was it thoroughly abandoned enough that they could reasonably claim it for themselves? I should find some books to read and get a better timeline on this than Wikipedia provides(I’m taking recommendations). If the Norse showed up the month after the Dorset left it could be entirely different than if they showed up a millennium after.
Does 500 years of continuous settlement, a couple hundred with a few failed expeditions trying to reestablish contact, and then another 300(to present) years of continuous settlement make Greenland, or at least Southern Greenland, legitimate white people land? Given it wasn’t entirely abandoned(the expeditions I just mentioned) after failure of the original settlement, did the Inuit have a right to move in during that period?
In any event, Greenland is probably the one place in North America where there’s even a debate. Lots of other places might be de facto white people land with insurmountable practical difficulties in righting the historical injustices that lead to that state of affairs*, but there might be an argument that Greenland is legitimate.
*- Insurmountable difficulties in fully righting them.  It’s certainly possible to partially right them and to do more to prevent things from getting even more unjust, and those things should be done.  We can’t fix everything our ancestors fucked up, but the least we can do is not make it worse.

Torchwood Relaunch idea?

I have a fantasy for a Torchwood relaunch.
The Doctor pops into the reactor control room right before Owen’s body is destroyed, gets him out of there. And maybe through some Time Lord superscience properly fixes him(or not- though I think involving the Sisterhood of Karn might have the right feel for Torchwood). Moffatt is on record as being against The Doctor showing up on Torchwood.. but he’s also on record as not wanting to bring The Master back. Moffatt lies, and can be overruled by BBC execs even when he’s being honest.
Then, perhaps, wanting to give Tosh a proper burial, Owen tries to locate her remains. Reviewing reports about the explosion, there’s no sign that her remains were recovered and no detection of her DNA at the site to indicate obliteration. Her body is gone. Owen hypothesizes that it was thrown via the rift to somewhere else, launches a search, gets Jack and Gwen back in the game to help… then they find her, alive due to some combo of rift weirdness and/or Jacks blood(which is known to have regenerative properties in normal humans).
With the team back together, a proper Season 3 can begin.
Ianto is probably gone, reversing all deaths just wouldn’t be Torchwood and his had the strongest emotional impact on the team. It would undercut too much of what happened in the aftermath. Though teasing with an apparent return or a Pet Semetary type “resurrection” story might have potential.