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Comment Re:Original NASA article (Score 2) 50

When you have a layer of soap bubbles floating on water, the various forces will lead to a situation of lowest-energy / lowest forces needed to maintain structures / least material in 'cell walls' etc. Which -on a surface- happen to be hexagonal structures.

Probably something similar is going on here? And sometimes -given the right conditions!- perhaps the same may even happen for 'permanent' structures like rocks or mountain ridges?

Comment Re:The key is right here. (Score 5, Insightful) 182

Scientific value != social value != economic value.

We can argue all we want about how interesting, promising, or (potentially) useful a research project may be. Or how much $$ should go to project X, and how much to project Y.

But whenever there's proper scientific research done, the money invested will yield a return: answers. Answers in terms of facts, measurement data, what works and what doesn't, perhaps even the odd conclusion about what seems best to try next. Some answers come cheap, some answers come only at great expense. Even if you find nothing: if you looked everywhere, properly, that means you now know there's nothing there, when before you could only guess what was there. Read: you still got answer(s).

Given the enormous size of the energy market, damage to our environment that's currently done as a result of extraction and burning of -mostly- fossil fuels, and huge benefits to mankind if cheap(er) energy sources were developed, imho we (as mankind) aren't spending nearly enough on fusion-related research. But hey that's just me.

Comment Re:Solar Roadway Bull$it (Score 1) 407

Dave at EEVblog has already covered the concept in depth.

Laying the panels horizontal, also maximizes the chance of a micro-meteorite hitting a panel. Besides all the other problems with this concept, if that doesn't kill it...

Nothing wrong with an experiment here or there, even if it doesn't make much sense. But for example in the NL, at least we'd try this on a bicycle lane first, not on a regular road where trucks drive over it. Come to think of it: parking lot would be even better. Parking lot full - low power. Parking lot mostly unused - high power. Nice for parking lots that are big but fill up only now & then. Roof or dedicated plot of land still better though.

Comment Android? (Score 1) 456

Guessing this puts MS for the choice whether they want to:

a) Keep flogging a dead horse, and push phones with their OS on it even if they sell poorly. Or
b) Just call it a day, enlist the help of their 'arch enemy' Linux, and make some phones that actually sell.

In short: is MS in the OS-pushing business, or in the phone-selling business? Tough one... :-)

Comment Cool stuff (Score 5, Informative) 38

Didn't RTA, but even the only thing this mr. Fischer ever did in his life was design the cool stuff known as Fischer Technik, then imho he would have earned a nice life & retirement.

Owned a set of those construction boxes myself, and it was among the best stuff I had to play with. Not in the least because the same parts can be recombined in an endless number of ways. And more so than -for example- common Lego blocks, making stronger connections, moveable/rotating parts, shovels, cranes, you name it. Right up there with Meccano, which was more before my time. Just wish all those electronics / pneumatics parts would have been on offer back in the day... (and more pocket money to get it :-). I had to 'make do' with blocks, plates, strips, hinges, belts, wheels, chains, axles, gears and one or 2 motors.

For parents reading this: don't shy away from giving construction sets like this to your daughter(s) ! Might be exactly what she needs to get interested in the tech side of things. And certainly not as boring as many of today's single-use-throw-away-toys.

Comment EDITORS need to look at recent stories posted (Score 1) 108

Stories are submitted, read: "please look at this!", or "wouldn't this be a nice subject to discuss?"

Of course it's always possible there are multiple submitters, or submitters (part of the public, after all) that missed a previous story. THAT IS OKAY.

But with those submissions in hand, it would be the editor's job to check for previously posted stories, non-working links, spelling errors (well... at least obvious ones :-), etc. In this case, that would have been Timothy's job. Except on /., obviously...

Comment Re:They can't afford it (Score 5, Insightful) 412

Whenever the subject of a basic income comes up, this same argument is made. But it's simply not true:

There's already scores of people who -for whatever reasons- aren't part of the work force. Usually they do have an income. Be it a retirement allowance (65+), some disability provision, some temporary allowance between jobs, etc, etc. Replace that with a basic income, and the net financial result is the same. Minus the overhead.

People who do have a job, often get various allowances too: low-income rent subsidies, health care benefits, child support, the list goes on. Replace that with a basic income, adjust tax levels such that [previous net income + allowances] = [basic income + new net income], and again net result is the same. Minus the overhead.

As a poster in a previous discussion remarked: this can be done gradually by giving a basic income to select group(s) of people, and then one-by-one, roll various other groups into the same regime. Reducing the governments' administrative overhead at each step along the way.

Bottom line: yes, western countries can afford this, period. Because in one way or another, they already do. Plus the overhead, that is. What's missing is the political will (or balls ;-) to turn it into reality.

Comment Re:What else is searched for (Score 2) 284

Once the government has the ability to scan files belonging to hundreds of millions of users (..)

Depends on who does the searching, read: who determines how exactly that search is done. Compare with the situation where somebody wants your help in looking up something on the internet. There is a significant difference between:

a) You being handed a clue on what to look for, followed by you using your own computer / software / internet connection to look for answers, and hand back results. Versus

b) You stepping aside, and letting the other person use your computer / software / internet connection to look for answers. Possibly with little supervision if any.

In the case of a), you have full control over how the search is done, where files go etc, and you see what's happening. In the case of b), you don't. While you're not looking, the other party may do something you wouldn't approve of, quickly save other/unrelated files on an USB stick etc. You'd either have to permanently look over that person's shoulder to watch what is being typed or clicked, or you'd have to trust that person but -in the end- simply not know what (s)he did.

As user/client of a number of internet companies, I have few problems with governments submitting requests for assistance to a company, company judging those request(s) for their merit and legal standing, and providing answers to such requests where deemed necessary or 'the right thing to do'. After all, as user/client of that company you place -some- trust in them. Likewise, you choose what company you trust in which way, and what data you hand to each.

But I have a lot of problems with governments being provided uncontrolled access, backdoors / data taps etc (both for stored data and communication lines), with little/no supervision on what is being looked for, how, where results go, or how long that's stored in 3-letter agency's archives.

Comment Re:What's the lifetime of the bulb? (Score 3, Interesting) 338

If this was such a good solution, it could probably be used for LED lights as well, since they throw off a non-negligible amount of heat as well.

Unfortunately that is mostly in the form of heating of the LED semiconductor die, relatively little in the form of infrared radiation. So the method presented in the article would have only a small effect on a LED's efficiency (if at all).

And yes, there's a relation between the temperature of an object and how much IR it radiates. But unlike glowing-hot-wires, operating temperatures of LEDs are not in a range where this is a big factor.

Comment Re:Good for them (Score 4) 474

Your two statements have no financial differnce so where does the extra money come from?

Ehm... that was kind of my point. Choose the numbers right, and the financial end result is the same. There is no 'extra' money needed.

But in the old situation, people might be more or less forced to take some job, and you'd need a lot of bureaucrats to keep tabs on people's affairs. Costs for the latter can be cut, and those bureaucrats can go do something more productive.

In the new situation, nobody would be forced to take some job just to have food on the table or a roof over their head. Just a very low minimum standard, not to be confused with: "enjoying the good life" @ other people's expense. Employers may enjoy a lower minimum wage, so they'll be able to get their work done for less. At the same time, they'd lose much of their power to abuse employees simply because they can.

Comment Wealth re-distribution (Score 1, Interesting) 474

That's overlooking at least one thing: research has shown that when income inequality is kept in bounds, everybody gets happier. Including the rich folks.

Some difference is okay. It motivates people to go out & earn money by producing stuff, or provide useful services.

Too much difference just causes trouble. Poor folks who are struggling every day to make ends meet, rich folks who have waaaayy more than their fair share of the overall wealth. Enjoying that share less than the poor folks would enjoy it if distributed more equally. Take rich <-> poor differences too far, and you get riots in the streets or even all-out war. Which makes everybody worse off. Including the rich folks.

This holds both for differences between people in one country, as for between countries as a whole.

Secondly: as the poor folks become richer, their increased buying power adds new customers to the economy. We're seeing that right now with countries like China. They used to be mostly poor people who scraped a living by producing goods for western countries. In return, their average wealth / middle class has grown, making them potential buyers for a lot of western countries' products. Win-win.

Comment Re:Good for them (Score 5, Interesting) 474

Amazing how often people seem to think this would be a net "money sink" by definition. Compare the following situations:

Person A is unemployed, and receives, say € 700 as benefits.
Person B has a job, and makes € 2000 per month. Versus

Person A is unemployed, but gets a basic income of € 700.
Person B gets a basic income of € 700, and has a job to earn an additional € 1300 a month.

It's simply a matter of choosing the numbers appropriately, and adjusting tax levels (and -perhaps- hourly wages etc) as necessary to compensate. Oh wait, that's not counting the large # of government bureaucrats who aren't needed anymore because the rules are simplified. So those bureaucrats can go do something that's more productive than count beans and meddle in other people's private affairs.

In short: there is money to pay for this, period. If only the political will exists. Especially in modern, wealthy western countries.

Personally I'm a big believer in this. For one, it could help greatly to equalize the power balance between employers and employees. In a largely capitalist society, that balance is skewed strongly towards employers. Employees are like water in the ocean, so employers can pick & chose at will. In theory employees can do the same. But in practice, they can't. If they refuse a job offer, they may be unable to put food on the table, lose the roof over their head, etc. A bureaucrat may be breathing down their neck, threatening to cut benefits if they don't take a job. So in practice, they often don't have much of a choice.

When worries about job security (and income security that comes with it) are gone, that could have huge positive effects on the mental well-being of the population. Less fighting between spouses over money, fewer troubles between low-income tenants and their landlords, drug addicts that don't have to go out stealing to pay for their habit, etc, etc, etc. And that's not even taking into account that people will have greater job satisfaction when given the freedom to pursue the jobs they want.

I think over time, the way things are currently done, simply won't work anymore and something will have to change if large-scale social unrest is to be avoided. A basic income would be a big step in the right direction, with potentially huge positive effects on society. The time is ripe for it, let's hope experiments like this will show it's a good idea and actually works.

Comment Re:End of the advertising-era for the web? (Score 2) 189

It could be an excuse to develop even more intrusive / difficult to filter ads than what we've seen so far. But unlike other arms races, I think -over time- that's a dead end. Unless you want to chase all visitors away.

The other choice is re-evaluate how costs are covered. Some options: (mix & match as needed)

Put up a paywall - subscribers only. Or a partial paywall: some stuff free, premium stuff for paying subscribers.

To keep a lid on hosting costs: a return to low(er) bandwidth content. Fewer scripts, images cut to appropriate size / linked through thumbnail vs. full-size directly in each page. More text or pictures vs. stupid video with just a talking head. Plain image ads (hosted on your own site not 3rd party-provided) vs. animated gifs or Flash content. Etc, etc. Read: better content / fluff ratio.

For material that's not self-produced: more linking back to original site(s). Versus (for example) dozens of copies of the same video smeared across dozens of other sites that add little or no content themselves.

For sites with deep-pocketed owners: simply pay (as owner) to get your message out there. If audience and/or bandwidth requirements are modest enough, pockets need not be deep.

Sell physical products, with website regarded as a cost of doing business.

Explore donation / crowdsourcing options.

Increased interest in micro-payment options.

Come to think of it, any of the above sounds fine to me. The "everything free, payed for with ads" model was broken to begin with, imho. It just grew that way because workable alternatives didn't exist. These days, alternatives may exist. And what's more: the numbers have changed dramatically. What used to buy you a few GB hosting traffic per month, may now by you 1000x that amount. If you're in a business where contents changed such that bandwidth requirements went up the same: tough. But if not: serve 1000x more visitors for the same $.

Comment Re:Ah, but it's the effort to deter that counts. (Score 5, Insightful) 188

You might have been right if the DRM applied aligns 100% with legal boundaries. That is, allow what's legal and prevent illegal uses. And keeps doing so as circumstances / place / time changes.

But in practice, it never does. DRM on an e-book that prevents copying period, also prevents copying small snippets to use as quote. Which is perfectly legal - see "fair use".

Unlike author claims, the DRM on Blu-rays is far from broken. If it were, playing them on open source operating systems like Linux would be as easy as playing DVD's on there. But that's not the case. There's databases of per-disk decoding keys floating around. There's libraries that emulate some sort of virtual machine that's built into 'authorised' playback devices. There's other libraries that cut through parts of the DRM bullshit, or attempt to streamline the process.
But all of these are kludges, there's no 100% guarantee that a random Blu-ray will play (using open source, at the moment), and it's a lot of hassle for users who are just trying to play discs they legally purchased. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the DRM on Blu-rays will be as irrelevant as that on DVD's, but we're not there yet and in any case it doesn't change the annoyance factor one bit.
What's more: these issues mostly bother legal users, those who download movies illegally couldn't care less. But the DRM will still be in place as long as the discs itself. Regardless of legalities.

There's countless examples like that. The technical measures are practically never capable of following legal developments, nor do they adapt to local jurisdiction. Or have a built-in kill switch that 'frees' a product when legal restrictions end. In my personal opinion: DRM simply lowers the value of products that it's applied to, PERIOD. Sometimes to the point of making those products worthless. Some DRM is just more annoying or difficult to circumvent than others.

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