At this summer's HOPE, Eben Moglen was one of the most incisive and entertaining speakers. But since only a small fraction of the Earth's population can fit into an aging hotel meeting room, you can watch his HOPE presentation via Archive.org on making the first law of robotics apply to cell phones. Besides being a professor at Columbia Law, former clerk in U.S. federal court as well as to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and a prolific writer, Moglen is founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center as well as the creator of the FreedomBox Foundation, and was for many years general counsel of the Free Software Foundation. Moglen has strong opinions, and a lot to say, about software licensing and freedom, copyright, patents, and (as you can see from the video linked above) about the privacy implications of always-on, always-on-us technology. Next week, I'll be meeting up with Moglen for a short interview. If you have a question for Eben, please post it below; I can't guarantee how many reader questions I'll have a chance to ask him, but the more, the merrier.
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Monday you had a chance to ask Linus Torvalds any question you wanted. We sent him a dozen of the highest rated and below you'll see what he has to say about computers, programming, books, and copyrights. He also talks about what he would have done differently with Linux if he had to do it all over again. Hint: it rhymes with nothing.
Linus Torvalds was (and still is) the primary force behind the development of the Linux kernel, and since you are reading Slashdot, you already knew that. Mr. Torvalds has agreed to answer any questions you may have about the direction of software, his thoughts on politics, winning the Millenial Technology Prize, or anything else. Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep them to one per post. We'll send the best to Linus, and post his answers when we get them back. Remember to keep an eye out for the rest of our upcoming special interviews this month.
He co-founded Apple Computer, he's a programmer and engineer who invented the Apple I and Apple II computers, he's one of our most influential readers, he is known simply as Woz. To kick-off our 15th anniversary month, Woz has agreed to take some time to answer a few of your questions; as with other Slashdot interviews, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please ask them in separate posts. We'll be running a number of other special interviews this month, so keep your eyes open.
Daniel Knight, besides being an actor, D&D fanatic, and collector of He-Man figurines, is the director of a film version of Terry Pratchett's Discworld story Troll Bridge that's been enabled by a massive Kickstarter campaign. Filming has finished (you can see some of the raw and intermediate footage linked from that story) and now all the rest of the work that goes into the finishing and releasing the movie is underway. Why this film? Knight says he "ended up acting a small role in a short film called Star Wars: Broken Allegiance. My performance was terrible. But that introduced me to the world of fan films, and I started wondering if it would be possible to do a Discworld one." The project is clearly a labor of love — it's a massive undertaking on a shoestring budget, with a tough goal: "Troll Bridge aims to be the largest scale short film in history. Using resources garnered over eight solid years of dedication, love, sweat, and tears – Troll Bridge has already begun exceeding expectations as to what should be anticipated from a short form production." The cast and crew (even the caterers) are all volunteers, but it still takes money to construct sets, create costumes, and buy time with needed equipment. Daniel has graciously agreed to answer your questions about the process; as with other Slashdot interviews, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please ask them in separate posts.
You asked questions about the LHC (and in particular, the believed discovery of the Higgs Boson) of physicist Giovanni Organtini. Organtini has responded (answers below), and written a brief introduction to explain what the Higgs boson is and how it provides mass to other particles: "The Higgs mechanism was introduced to explain the fact that experimentally particles have mass. In fact, without the Higgs mechanism, the equations of motion for particles can only be written for massless particles. The actual mechanism is rather difficult to understand without a solid Quantum Field Theory background, but can be understood as follows: most of you know that particles gain some energy when they interact with a field. As an example, consider a book on a table. Since the book is subject to the earth's gravitational field, it has some potential energy that transforms into kinetic energy if it is free to fall. The potential energy depends on the mass of the book and on the intensity of the gravitational field. With the introduction of Special Relativity, however, we have to add an extra term to the energy of the book depending on its mass only (the famous E=mc^2). Introducing a special field (the Higgs field), we can turn this term into something similar to the gravitational potential energy, i.e. something that contributes to the energy of the book because it interacts with a field. The mass of a particle, then, is nothing but its potential energy in the Higgs field. The Higgs field is auto-interacting, i.e. it interacts with itself, as the electric and magnetic fields do. As the electromagnetic field can, the Higgs field can also propagate through space, but since it's auto-interacting, it gains some energy from itself, as the book gains energy from the interaction with it, resulting in the appearance of a mass for such a field, that becomes observable as a particle called the Higgs boson. You can find a more formal, yet simple, explanation of the mechanism here." Read on for his answers to reader questions.
Joseph Palaia is an entrepreneur, engineer and technologist who is working on creating the first permanent settlement on Mars. In 2009, he served as executive officer and chief engineer for a one-month simulated Mars mission at the Mars Society's Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in the Canadian arctic. He has played an integral role in two commercial design studies of the first permanent Mars settlement. He is co-author of technical papers on the topics of Mars nuclear power plant design, Mars settlement architecture, space economics and the economics of energy on Mars. In addition to his work on inhabiting Mars, Joseph is also the Chief Operating Officer & Director of Earthrise Space, Inc. ESI is a research laboratory whose goal is to design, build, and operate spacecraft with the help of students. They are currently working on both a lunar lander and lunar rover for the Google Lunar X Prize. Joseph has agreed to take off his spacesuit and answer any of your questions about building moon machines with students, long-term survival in space, and all things Kuato related. Ask as many questions as you like, but please confine your questions to one per post.
Giovanni Organtini of Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (well, Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare) has agreed to answer questions about the recent observations of a particle consistent with the Higgs Boson. Dr. Organtini is part of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. He is careful to note that while the researchers "[believe] that this new particle, with a mass 125 times that of a proton, is the famous Higgs boson," they "need to study that new particle more deeply in the next months to be conclusive on that. Organtini likes free software (he's written Linux device drivers, too) and has his own physics-heavy YouTube channel, mostly in Italian. Please confine questions to one per post, but feel free to ask as many as you'd like.
Dr. Ramsey Faragher graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2004 with a first-class degree in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He then completed a PhD in 2007 at Cambridge in Opportunistic Radio Positioning under the direction of Dr. Peter Duffett-Smith, a world expert in this field. He is now a Principal Scientist at the BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre specializing in positioning, navigation, sensor fusion and remote sensing technologies in the land, air, sea and space domains. We recently covered his NAVSOP project, an advanced positioning system that exploits existing transmissions such as Wi-Fi, TV, radio and mobile phone signals, to calculate the user’s location to within a few meters. Dr. Faragher has graciously agreed to answer any questions you may have about NAVSOP, the future of GPS, or what a theoretical physicist puts on his business card. Ask as many questions as you like, but please confine your questions to one per post.
NASA's been solicited ideas for exploring Mars, but Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is already planning a different kind of trip than is likely to come from the U.S. government. Lansdorp's Mars One project has the goal of putting humans on Mars in 2022, with a twist that might dampen many people's hopes to be a Mars-exploring astronaut: the trip Lansdorp plans is one-way only. That means dramatically less fuel on board, because unlike typical Mars voyage plans, there would be no need (or ability) to carry the mechanism or the energy storage to return to Earth. If you (and three close companions) are willing to go be the first people to die on Mars, you'll also need to give up more than a pinch of privacy, because the Mars One plan to obtain the necessary funding is straightforward: create a media spectacle, and monetize it through advertising. (Note: If Elon Musk's optimistic sounding predictions are right, maybe one-way Marstronauts can get a return ticket, after all.) Many questions about the proposed journey are answered in the project's FAQ; check there before formulating questions. Ask Lansdorp about the practicalities and impracticalities of reaching Mars with as many questions as you'd like, but (lest ye be modded down) please only one question per post.
Last week, you asked questions of Vermont Senate candidate Jeremy Hansen, running on an unusual platform: Hansen pledges to take advantage of modern communications if elected, and (with exceptions he outlines in his answers) vote based on the opinion of his district's voters on a per-issue basis. Read below Hansen's answers about such a system could work; he addresses concerns about security, practicality, morality, and more. "Before I start with the answers," he writes in introduction, "I want to clear a few things up. I am running as an independent for a Vermont Senate seat, not the U.S. Senate, so questions about classified and similar material do not (for the most part) apply. Also, for everyone's reference, there are 44,000 registered voters in Vermont's Washington County Senate district. Many of the concerns about managing input from very large populations are not as applicable here." Read on for more.
Last week you got a chance to ask the team behind Space Command about their project and all things sci-fi. Marc Zicree, Doug Drexler, David Raiklen, and Neil Johnson were nice enough to put down the blasters and answer a handful of your best questions. David even answered one of his own! Read below to see what they had to say.
Marc Zicree, Doug Drexler, David Raiklen, and Neil Johnson are the guys behind the fastest funded film project ever on Kickstarter, Space Command. The project will feature a number of Star Trek vets behind the camera and a number of Trek actors are also involved, including Armin Shimerman, George Takei, Ethan Phillips and Robert Picardo. The team has graciously agreed to take some time from trying to make a crowd-funded movie, building spaceships, and exploring alien worlds to answer your questions. Ask as many as you like but please confine your questions to one per post.
We mentioned yesterday Jeremy Hansen's run for the Vermont Senate. There are a lot of political races currently active in the U.S.; what makes Hansen's interesting (besides his background in computer science) is his pledge to use modern communication technology to provide a taste of direct representation within a representative democracy. He makes a claim not many candidates (and probably even fewer elected officials) ever will: "A representative should be elected who would work strictly as an advisor and make all policy and voting decisions based on the will of his or her constituents, regardless of personal opinion." To that end, Hansen says that if he's elected, he'll employ "an accessible online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills" for his constituents. He's agreed to answer questions about how such a system could work, and the nature of democracy in today's ultra-connected world, in which distance and communication delays are much smaller than they were even 20 years ago, never mind 200. So ask Hansen whatever questions you'd like about his plans and philosophy; as always, ask as many questions as you please, but please separate them into separate posts, lest ye be modded down.
You recently got the chance to ask a group of MIT researchers questions about fusion power, and they've now finished writing some incredibly detailed answers. They discuss the things we've learned about fusion in the past decade, how long it's likely to take for fusion to power your home, the biggest problems fusion researchers are working to solve, and why it's important to continue funding fusion projects. They also delve into the specifics of tokamak operation, like dealing with disruption events and the limitations on reactor size, and provide some insight into fusion as a career. Hit the link below for a wealth of information about fusion.