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Comment: Re:Life? I doubt it. (Score 1) 51

by Dasher42 (#46661229) Attached to: Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean

It does matter, though, where life starts and evolution takes it. Life is unlikely to emerge initially from the conditions most hostile to it, but given enough of an incubator, it can get started and incrementally evolve through natural selection to survive wherever there is something to feed it. Given that, Viol8 could be right. The energy and nutrient input isn't immediately obvious. ...Unless the tidal motion supplies energy, and organic compounds are widely spread throughout the universe and are present in the materials the solar system was formed from.

Comment: Pick your battles (Score 1) 1482

by Dasher42 (#46636203) Attached to: OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

I think marriage is medieval property-transferring bullshit, but I really don't agree with anyone who thinks only straight couples should be allowed a screw-up.

However, the NSA is already spying on everyone, so I think you'd be stupid to write off the leading open-source browser for a machine with anything of importance on it. Choose some goddamn battles! I'm going to put basic privacy from abusive power higher on my list.

Comment: Re:Agriculture for nerds. Stuff that matters. (Score 1) 116

by Dasher42 (#46505825) Attached to: Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

But, being a closed loop system, any contaminants (such as nitrites, which is toxic to plants) produced are retained and tend to build up in the system. And ask anyone who keeps fish tanks how much work it is to keep a fish tank clean and balanced, even if you have a well established bacteria and plant system.

That's exactly why you should research this. A definitive aspect of aquaponics is that it includes a combination of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria which successfully convert ammonia and nitrites into nitrates which the plants consume. This means that the system takes a bit of time to ramp up to bring the fish, bacteria, and plants into balance, but once it is going, it is very low maintenance. There's a significant difference between this and the typical aquarium.

This kind of closed loop is definitely going to shake up agriculture in some form, not only because of its much smaller water consumption and higher density, but because the current state of agriculture is extremely oil-dependent for both its machinery and its fertilizer and pesticide production. Reducing that dependency is going to matter a great deal.

Comment: Eric, look... (Score 1) 281

by Dasher42 (#46501237) Attached to: Eric Schmidt On Why College Is Still Worth It

Everyone assumes similarity to themselves and their lives.

This is why rich people look at poor people and don't see how poor people live, but how absolutely lazy or irresponsible someone who grew up rich would have to be to wind up in those straits. They cannot assess the huge differences in opportunity, education, social connection, or positive expectation. They can't imagine seeing the world from a place of limited opportunity. Even the best-hearted of them can take a "poor vacation" and try to live the subsistence life, but growing up feeling you can't just walk away from that is one of the biggest aspects.

So what to Eric is expensive college tuition is ridiculously impossible for many others, especially considering that jobs aren't even available to that many college graduates anymore.

Higher education has been made the tool of class stratification. You're lucky to be born with the funds to have the odds on your side. And even if you give education all you've got, heaven help you if you're one of those who doesn't have health care coverage - recent changes being a bit late for those I know who tried to bootstrap when college was all they could afford.

Comment: Agriculture for nerds. Stuff that matters. (Score 4, Interesting) 116

by Dasher42 (#46481209) Attached to: Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

The part of this story that the Slashdot audience could most easily get in on is aquaponics, which is producing huge yields in some cases and holds a lot of promise for the local food movement.

Aquaponics is a system you can use indoors or outdoors, on large or small scales. It is a closed loop wherein ponds full of fish, usually tilapia, have their water pumped through hydroponic grow beds full of food-growing plants. The all-important third ingredient is a bacteria which converts the ammonia of the fish waste into nitrates which nourish the plants. The water goes back to the fish clean and livable. Once the bacteria are established and in balance to keep this conversion going, the only investment this needs are the energy to keep the pumps going, stable temperatures, and fish food.

Because the density of available nutrients is quite high, the plants can be so too. Their roots mostly just need to grow straight down, so typical planting distances don't apply. The fish too get a cleaner environment, and the usual equations for how many fish per gallon of water can be exceeded. A stabilized, intelligently planted aquaponics system can grow a lot of food - this site (http://portablefarms.com/2013/part-one-sizing-your-aquaponics-system/) claims that 25 to 30 square feet of grow bed is enough to completely meet one adult's supply for table vegetables, and given that you keep the water quality high, the tilapia will make for very tasty protein too.

Because the water is in a closed loop system, very little of it is lost, and aquaponics is radically less demanding of water than traditional agriculture. Because you can grow this stuff indoors, chemical pesticides are neither needed nor desirable, for your sake and the fishes'.

Leafy green plants are the easiest to grow in this way, root vegetables some of the hardest. Tweaks on this system do keep expanding the options, however, like microgreens, wherein you harvest plants in the first two weeks after they've sprouted for a nutrient density four to forty times that of typical mature vegetables. So the question is, how could we make this the most easy thing to get started, so that people with little experience and limited time can skip the refrigerator and east straight from their greenhouse?

Done rightly, this system can shake up food supply as surely as 3D printers are going to shake up industry.

Comment: Re:454 / 16 (Score 1) 116

by Dasher42 (#46479533) Attached to: Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

Actually there are a lot of ways that they could make this happen. Vertical farming, interplanting, and aquaponics all are producing very high yields. They can be more labor-intensive, but there's a lot of pay-off in having a local, resilient food system.

This place, for example, is growing a million pounds of food per year on two acres, even through the winter: http://growingpower.org/

Comment: Re:Downsides to Austin (Score 2) 285

Sad to say, I know people who are working intimately with the water issues of Barton Springs and San Marcos, and what they tell me gives me great concern.

My advice: don't move into a house in or near Austin without rainwater catchment or a cistern. It'll be difficult just a few years down the road, and you'll be a drain on thinning resources. And for the love of god, don't expect to keep a standard issue green grass lawn through the summer. Native grasses and orchards, rainwater harvesting, even xeroscaping if you run out of ideas would all be better. People have got to respect that land more than the developers are presently.

Comment: Downsides to Austin (Score 5, Insightful) 285

Austin is *not* ready to be a big city. Its infrastructure wasn't designed for it. Its traffic jams are some of the worst in the country, its aquifers are in serious trouble owing both to desertification and fracking around the Colorado River's headwaters, and much of its distinctive nature is being destroyed by new development. This is why you see signs reading, "Welcome to Austin! Don't move here."

Comment: Fancy technology (Score 1) 96

by Dasher42 (#46093797) Attached to: Device Mines Precious Phosphorus From Sewage

But rapid-composting systems will render sewage into safe, non-smelly fertilizer in a year, provided you're not full of medications or using any fiendish chemicals. It'll get all the rest of the nutrients too. Really, all we need to do is replicate and rev up a natural system, and reclaim *all* the nutrients. There's a reason we aren't all drowning in dinosaur shit.

Seriously, a fancy jig to get just one nutrient back sounds like a money grab rather than a working whole system.

Comment: Re:Fixing literally everything (Score 1) 96

by Dasher42 (#46093609) Attached to: Blizzard Releases In-House Design Tools To <em>Starcraft</em> Modders

Actually, have you played it? The UI is highly unintuitive for single player. Even if you think you're creating a single player game, it will still set you up with a game that will quit out if the internet connection fails. You have to get right-clicky and dig around for "play offline" options on the map listing.

So, they're ramming their options down player's throats: playing with the net-speaking kiddies over the internet for goofy achievement badges, or play a linear railroaded single-player campaign that feels as if it were written by a thirteen year old. I hope these releases make some change, because this isn't the Starcraft I remember.

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.

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