Ask The Bad Astronomer 412

Astronomer, author, columnist, and successful populizer of science Phil Plait, perhaps best known as The Bad Astronomer, is a regular sight on Slashdot for his unusual ability to find lucid explanations of esoteric scientific claims and controversies. Phil has graciously agreed to answer Slashdot readers' questions, so ask him below about space, science, debunking conspiracy claims, and anything else that makes sense. Asking more than one question is fine (and encouraged!), but please separate unrelated questions into separate posts, lest your questions be moderated down.
The Internet

Ask Internet Visionary and Pioneer Vint Cerf 109

As co-designer of TCP/IP (along with Robert E. Kahn), and former chairman of ICANN, it is no exaggeration to say that Vint Cerf is certainly one of the fathers of the internet, and is often referred to as simply the father. His lifetime of network engineering accomplishments — meriting, among many other laurels, the Turing Award — leaves little doubt as to why he's now a full-time internet visionary for Google (and formerly with WorldCom) as well as a Google VP. Now, Cerf has graciously agreed to answer Slashdot readers' inquiries about the past and future of this little thing called the Internet, and his role in it thus far. This short call for questions is inadequate to sum up his contributions to engineering the data flows that entangle and enlighten us in 2011, but read through a few of these capsule descriptions to get a sense of them. In accord with the interview guidelines, please try not to lump together unrelated questions. (You may find that your questions are moderated downward if they aren't concise; if you have several distinct questions, simply submit separately as many as you'd like.)

William Shatner Answers, in 826 Words 189

You asked William Shatner questions, and Shatner replied. It's not the first time he's answered questions for Slashdot (that was in 2002), but Shatner's given a bit more insight this time into what makes an 80-year-old actor-author-sportsman-father-filmmaker tick as fast as ever. Did he mention that he's got a one-man show about to open? And a new album? Note: Typically Shatner, he's also chosen to ignore (or transcend) the usual Slashdot interview structure, and written his answers in his own style, which is why the format looks a little different from most of our interviews. Thanks, Bill. (Read on for his answers.)

Ask Derek Deville About High-Altitude Amateur Rocketry 148

A few days ago, we posted about Derek Deville's mind-blowing high-altitude rocket-launch in the Nevada desert. His 14-foot, GPS-equipped (four GPS units, actually) home-made rocket ("Qu8k") managed to hit 121,000 feet, an effort that took more than a trip to the store for more Estes "D" engines. Derek has graciously agreed to answer questions about Qu8k and other rocketry projects. Please confine your questions to one per post, but ask as many as you'd like.

Ask William Shatner Whatever You'd Like 368

He's Canadian, he's proven himself a successful comedic actor and writer, filmmaker, and musician, but (no matter what else he does) in many people's minds he will always be James Tiberius Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise. Now, William Shatner has agreed to answer your questions. We'll pass on to him a selection of the best reader questions; you might want to read up on Shatner's official home page (and the Wikipedia link above) to knock out some of the most obvious ones. We'll pass on to him a selection of the best questions. Note: it's tempting to pile them on, but please try to follow the interview question guidelines by posting one question per post — ask as many questions as you'd like, though. Shatner is on vacation right now, but will work on answering your questions when he gets back.

Ask They Might Be Giants About Almost 30 Years of Music 188

Back in 1982, John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and a drum machine formed They Might Be Giants. Over the last 29 years TMBG have released 15 studio albums, won 2 Grammy Awards, and have become one of the most nerd-loved bands ever. In addition to projects like Dial-A-Song, TMBG were one of the first bands to create their own online music store, and have been making podcasts on a semi-monthly basis since 2005. The band has agreed to answer all your questions about the naming conventions of Turkish cities, building spiritual bird houses, and the music business. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep it to one question per post.

Ask Jonathan Koomey About 'Koomey's Law' 52

A few weeks back, we posted a story here that described Koomey's Law, which (in the spirit of Moore's Law) identifies a long-standing trend in computer technology. While Moore's prediction centers on the transistor density of microprocessors, Jonathan Koomey focuses instead on computing efficiency — in a nutshell, computing power per watt, rather than only per square nanometer. In particular, he asserts that the energy efficiency of computing doubles every 1.5 years. (He points out that calling this a "law" isn't his idea, or his doing — but it's sure a catchy turn of phrase.) Koomey has agreed to respond to your questions about his research and conclusions in the world of computing efficiency. Please observe the Slashdot interview guidelines: ask as many questions as you want, but please keep them to one per comment.

Ask Jennifer Granick About Computer Crime Defense 114

Attorney Jennifer Granick has defended many high profile hackers, including researcher Christopher Soghoian, creator of a fake boarding pass generator (2006); Michael Lynn versus Cisco/ISS (2005); Jerome Heckenkamp; and Luke Smith and Nelson Pavlosky in Online Policy Group v. Diebold Election Systems (now Premier Election Solutions), a copyright misuse case related to electronic voting. Granick also won an exemption from the U.S. Copyright Office in 2006 allowing phone unlocking despite the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which set the stage for renewal of the exemption and for the jailbreaking exemption in 2009. At Stanford, Granick worked with Lawrence Lessig on constitutional copyright cases and taught six years worth of law students about computers, technology and civil liberties. While Civil Liberties Director at the EFF, Granick started the Coders' Rights Project and participated in litigation against ATT and the federal government for violation of surveillance regulations. Now an attorney at ZwillGen PLLC, Granick assists individuals and companies creating new products and services. And now, she's graciously agreed to answer your questions. Please, as usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but confine each question to a separate post.

Kevin Mitnick Answers 161

Last week, you asked Kevin Mitnick questions about his past, his thoughts on ethics and disclosure, and his computer set-up. He's graciously responded; read on for his answers. (No dice on the computer set-up, though.) Thanks, Kevin.

Ask Director Eben Upton About the Raspberry Pi Foundation 194

When Eben Upton isn't working as an ASIC architect for Broadcom, he is the Director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The foundation is a UK registered charity which exists to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level. Raspberry Pi plans to develop, manufacture and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. Their first product is about the size of a credit card, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 for a baseline Model A device, and $35 for a Model B device with integrated 2-port USB Hub, 10/100 Ethernet controller and 128MB of additional RAM. Eben has agreed to answer your questions about what it takes to make an ultra-low-cost computer, running an educational charity, or anything else. The usual Slashdot interview guidelines apply: ask as many questions as you want, but please keep them to one per comment.

Kevin Kelly Answers Your Questions 65

Kevin Kelly ("Senior Maverick for Wired Magazine," among many other things) is back with answers to a selection of the questions posed to him by Slashdot readers. Read on below for his take on travel, the Long Now Foundation (including the 10,000-year clock — clocks! — that is among the foundation's projects), the future of fusion, and what to do about inevitable widespread suckage.

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