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Comment: Erm, not so much. (Score 4, Informative) 142

by stomv (#47685887) Attached to: Delays For SC Nuclear Plant Put Pressure On the Industry

First of all, nuclear power plants are far more complex than coal plants. Sure, the steam to electric part is identical, but controlling a nuclear reaction requires far different parts than crushing and burning coal.

Secondly, coal fired power plants are not "popping up everywhere" in America. No new coal plants will be built anytime soon, because 111(b) prevents new sources of electric generation that emit more than ~1200 lbs CO2 per MWh (coal is ~2000 lbs). A few plants have opened in the past five years; we won't see any more.

Thirdly, it isn't "red tape" that caused this latest delay -- it's the inability for suppliers of key components of the power plant to deliver the materials on time. The parts are specialized, the vendors capable of building (some of) those parts few and far between, and the list of parts that must be assembled in order rather long. Any delay ripples through the project, and the loan (plus interest) needs to get paid back, even if the plant isn't operating yet.

The big risk in nuclear construction is a financial risk. It isn't until much later that the nuclear reaction itself becomes a challenge.

Comment: Re:Not a bad deal (Score 1) 343

... FWIW: Three Mile Island (Shutdown in 1979) still hasn't been completely decommission. in 2011 they invested another $30 Million to retrofit the Spent fuel pool cooling system. These Plants are incredibly difficult and costly to dismantle and clean up.

If the $4.4 billion price tag for the San Onofre facility is anywhere near the right ballpark, a $30 million expenditure 35 years down the road would be, in today's money, a rounding error.

It also should go without saying that we do have 30+ more years of experience with decommissioning nuclear facilities now than we did in 1979. And San Onofre, unlike TMI, was not the site of a significant accident that damaged its core and contaminated the facility.

Comment: Re:Whelp. (Score 2) 139

You can always take the So Long and Thanks for All the Fish view:

Mrs E. Kapelsen of Boston, Massachusetts was an elderly lady, indeed, she felt her life was nearly at an end. She had seen a lot of it, been puzzled by some, but, she was a little uneasy to feel at this late stage, bored by too much. It had all been very pleasant, but perhaps a little too explicable, a little too routine.

With a sigh she flipped up the little plastic window shutter and looked out over the wing.

At first she thought she ought to call the stewardess, but then she thought no, damn it, definitely not, this was for her, and her alone.

By the time her two inexplicable people finally slipped back off the wing and tumbled into the slipstream she had cheered up an awful lot.

She was mostly immensely relieved to think that virtually everything that anybody had ever told her was wrong.

Or the obligatory: http://xkcd.com/1104/

Comment: Re:Short-Lived? (Score 1) 778

by Idarubicin (#47494695) Attached to: States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

...and that money taken from McDonalds will result in higher prices at McDonald's making everyone's earnings seem less driving wage increases, ad infinitum,.

Wages - and especially that subset of wages which are paid at the legal minimum - represent only a fraction of the total costs of operating a McDonald's restaurant. All wages together are about 25% of the total costs, and that includes a non-trivial number above-minimum management and support staff. So even if we make the unreasonable worst-case assumptions that a) all employees do earn minimum wage, and b) that increased wages don't result in any improvement in average employee productivity (because employees are physically healthier and because of reduced turnover) then a 1% increase in minimum wage only makes for a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac.

And a 0.25% increase in cost-of-Big-Mac doesn't actually equate to a 0.25% increase in actual cost-of-living. The effect will be smaller or negligible for businesses where staff costs represent a smaller share of total costs, and where dealing with businesses in which employees are already better paid than minimum wage.

And finally, there are a number of costs associated with minimum-wage workers that you're already paying out of your own pocket, without realizing it. Wal-Mart and McDonald's know perfectly well that minimum wage isn't a living wage. Food stamps, state-subsidized health insurance programs, school lunch programs--that's money you're paying because Wal-Mart isn't. Forcing McDonald's to pay its employees a living wage (or closer to one, at least) means that your Big Mac's price is (less) subsidized by the government.

Comment: Re:Railroads killed by the government... (Score 2) 195

by Idarubicin (#47474635) Attached to: The Improbable Story of the 184 MPH Jet Train

Most of the Interstate is supported by fuel taxes. Fuel taxes are paid for by drivers. Who use the Interstate. So, I'd say that it's a pretty good case of 'user pays'.

Used to be more true, not so much today. The Highway Trust Fund - which is funded by a combination of federal fuel and vehicle taxes - has been bailed out before ($35 billion between 2008 and 2010) and is out of money again this year. And the federal government has turned over responsibility for the interstate highways to the individual states, so a big chunk of the construction, maintenance, and repair bills actually comes from the states.

Looking at 2010 numbers, total spending nationwide on highways was about $155 billion. The federal gas tax brought in $28 billion; state and local fuel taxes amounted to another $37 billion; plus state and local governments picked up another $12 billion from tolls and non-fuel taxes. All in all, that's about $77 billion in revenue for $155 billion in expenditures. Drivers are paying about...51% of the cost of the highway network.

For comparison, I note a comment below that shows in fiscal 2012 Amtrak spent $4.036 billion and had revenues of $2.877 billion. In other words, Amtrak riders paid 71% of their costs out of pocket--a much bigger share of the costs than highway users.

Comment: You started so well, then went downhill (Score 0) 710

by stomv (#47455515) Attached to: People Who Claim To Worry About Climate Change Don't Cut Energy Use

In terms of criteria air pollutants (CO, NOx, SO2, PM2.5, PM10), it's certainly true that modern cars are cleaner, even an F150. But that 150 gets 12 mpg, less than half of the U.S. average mpg for new cars. Since climate change is a thing, since automobiles are collectively a significant emitter of CO2, and since the F150 emits twice the CO2 per miles as an average new car, and since those average new cars also emit small amounts of those criteria air pollutants, no a 2011 F150 is not a green car.

Then you just slip into some strange piece of climate change denier and anti-tax zealot. There's no question that the impacts of climate change are systemic, pervasive, and real. Parts of Miami and Norfolk VA are under water during high tide. Hell, there are island nations preparing to no longer exist. Somehow, these "local" disasters are hand-waved, along with the hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc. But you call high gas taxes ruinous for the economy and claim that they have no impact on the environment, despite the facts that (a) most Western European nations have high gas prices, (b) most have higher mpg fleet averages, and (c) most have economies that are functioning just fine.

We get it. Regardless of your actual age, you behave like the old Brits referenced in the summary. That doesn't warrant a 5: interesting, except that it's interesting that old British-type dudes who are entirely wrong on the science and implications of climate change (and foolish about tax policy) are on slashdot.

Comment: Re:Just an opinion... (Score 5, Informative) 123

by Idarubicin (#47445365) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Given how relatively time-consuming research is(and how negative results, however valid, tend to have difficulty moving papers), it would be...surprising... to hear that one percent of the scientists are co-authoring 41 percent of the papers on sheer productivity.

Actually, not so surprising, depending on how the analysis is done. And it also depends a lot on how you want to measure "sheer productivity". A supervisor who helps design the experiment, interpret the data, write the paper, and communicate with journal editors probably spends fewer hours than the trainee (grad student or postdoc) who actually does all the bench work--but that doesn't mean that the supervisor hasn't earned an authorship credit.

If Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave, and Elsa are all graduate students in Dr. Frink's lab, and each of those students publishes two papers over the course of their PhD programs, then all of those students are going to be authors on 2 papers each, and Frink will be an author on 10 papers. Dr. Frink is 1 out of 6 scientists - a bit less than 17% - but is on 100% of the papers. If you have a big lab in a relatively hot (or well-funded) field, then your name is going to be on a lot of papers.

And papers these days - especially the high-impact, widely-read, highly-cited papers - tend to have a longer list of authors. If you look at the table of contents for the most recent issue of Science, the two Research Articles have 26 and 12 authors. Out of the dozen or so Reports, one has 4 authors, two have 5, all the rest have more. Speaking personally and anecdotally, my last three manuscripts (in the biomedical sciences) had 8, 3, and 7 authors.

Going back to "1% of scientists are on 45% of papers"--well, if those are all six-author papers, then that top 1% is only responsible for a 7.5% share (45 divided by 6) of the "output". Given that there is a very long tail of authors who only have 1, 2, or 3 authorships in their lifetime (the majority of PhD graduates never end up conducting research as university faculty; there just aren't enough jobs), I am willing to believe that there is a small fraction of productive, top scientists whose names are on a disproportionately large share of papers.

Comment: Re:Just an opinion... (Score 5, Interesting) 123

by Idarubicin (#47444885) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

The intellectual penury that comes with serving with a leader in a given field seems to be gladly endured by most young researchers. This story ignores the fact that, although the senior researcher's name may be at the top of the paper, the junior researcher's name is right there below it.

Actually, in many of the sciences (mathematics and parts of physics are notable exceptions, where authors tend to be listed alphabetically) it is usually the graduate student or postdoc who did most of the work who is the first author on the paper. The senior researcher - a principal investigator who actually has the academic appointment, who may have secured the funding, and who is ultimately responsible for the lab - is generally listed as the last author on the manuscript. ("Middle" authorship has the least cachet by far.)

Broadly speaking, young scientists and trainees want to accumulate as many first-author papers as possible, to demonstrate their scientific productivity. Faculty members - senior scientists - want to accumulate last-author papers, to demonstrate that their labs are productive.

Comment: Re:WTFis "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs" (Score 2) 144

by Idarubicin (#47415289) Attached to: Physicists Spot Potential Source of 'Oh-My-God' Particles

WTF is "as much energy as well-thrown baseballs"?

That should technically be something like "as much kinetic energy as a well-thrown baseball". In other words, about 50 joules: what you get from a baseball at about 60 miles per hour. So, not major-league fastball fast (90+ mph) but quite a respectable velocity.

And we're not going to talk about assorted forms of chemical or nuclear potential energy in the baseball. If you set fire to a baseball, you could get quite a bit more thermal energy. And you could get a heck of a lot more energy out of a baseball if you fused all its component atoms down to iron.

If all the world's economists were laid end to end, we wouldn't reach a conclusion. -- William Baumol

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