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Comment: SSC? (Score 2) 38

by Michael Woodhams (#49756851) Attached to: Protons Collide At 13 TeV For the First Time At the LHC

The Superconducting Super Collider would, if not cancelled, have had 40TeV collisions about 15-20 years ago. The LHC is using computing resources that are very challenging to supply in 2015, exceeding what would have been achievable for SSC by a factor of perhaps 1000 (15-20 years of Moore's Law.)

Had SSC been completed, would the computing and detector technology have been able to make effective use of the collisions? Was it in fact a correct decision to abandon it at that time? Would the much higher collision energy have reduced the detection/computational load in some way? (E.g. higher signal to noise, leading to needing many fewer collisions.)

Comment: Re:Price won't come down (Score 2) 317

by Michael Woodhams (#49608721) Attached to: Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

So I'm looking at the lithium price and I see that for $64M I can make a plant/mine which will give me $8M/year profit, and ROI of 12.5%. This looks pretty good. Then I consider than some bright spark might come up with an aluminium based battery technology which would make lithium ion batteries obsolete and could be in production 4 years from now. If this were to happen, in four years I've made back just $32M and now have a worthless mine. Therefore I decide not to invest in lithium production until I can get ROI of 20% because of the risk.

It seems to me that lithium is bound to be either overproduced (if new technology comes along) or underproduced (if new technology does not, but investors are wary of building facilities for fear it might.)

Comment: He was also the second Governor of New Zealand (Score 4, Interesting) 33

by Michael Woodhams (#49599863) Attached to: The Pioneer Who Invented the Weather Forecast

He quickly became very unpopular with settlers due to trying to be fair to the Maori. In one notable occasion some colonists invaded Maori land in an attempt to seize it and got massacred. (They were a poorly armed militia and on the other side was Te Rauparaha, who was so scary that to this day his haka is used by the All Blacks to intimidate their opposition.) After an investigation, Fitzroy sided with the Maori.

Comment: The grid needs storage - not battery storage (Score 4, Informative) 334

by Michael Woodhams (#49566827) Attached to: Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage

There are many ways to 'store' electricity. Batteries are just one.

I rather like this one, a thermal storage solution. Putting air into and out of bladders under deep water is a very simple method, as is moving water up and down hills. Then there are flywheels and fixed volume compressed air storage. (The air bladders above are fixed pressure compressed air storage.) There other thermal storage possibilities, but getting good round trip efficiency is tricky.

There are non-traditional battery techniques too: flow batteries (liquid electrolytes in tanks, adding storage capacity is as easy as adding tanks full of electrolyte) and molten metal batteries (take the idea of aluminium smelting and make it reversible).

All the non-battery alternatives I can think of work at industrial scale, so if you're looking for a household/small business solution, I think that at least for now batteries are it.

Comment: Re:Managers & HR take note (Score 5, Insightful) 124

by Michael Woodhams (#49557289) Attached to: When Exxon Wanted To Be a Personal Computing Revolutionary

There are three lessons here. One is about arbitrary work requirements, which you've made well.

Second is the problems which arise when vertical integration in your company means that one level's customers are another level's competitors. This conflict of interest is liable to drive away customers. (A company my father worked for many years ago had a similar issue: one branch manufactured and sold refrigeration equipments and spare parts. Another branch maintained and repaired refrigeration equipment, so their competition was the manufacturing branch's customers. The maintenance branch was separated into a new company to avoid this problem.)

Third is when you have a large corporation with an innovative product, that innovative product's potential can easily be crippled by being held hostage to vested interests of other parts of the corporation.

Comment: Re:I Disagree with the Summary (Score 4, Interesting) 342

Someone in the Youtube comments says "The flight profile veers the booster off to the side on purpose so the exhaust from the final burn isn't directed at the barge where it could do damage"

If this was a planned manoeuvre, I'm much happier. Can anyone confirm this statement?

Comment: Re:I Disagree with the Summary (Score 1) 342

I was shocked at how abrupt and extreme the pitch changes were. I think so long as it needs such gross adjustments so close to landing, landings will be unreliable with a significant chance of failure. It is not at all like the tidy landings made by the Grasshopper test vehicle.

Two engineering changes which could make a big difference are lower minimum thrust (so it can approach the landing with lower acceleration) or lateral control rockets (RCS) at the top of the stage.

Comment: Re:Perfect security (Score 1) 460

by Michael Woodhams (#49426117) Attached to: Planes Without Pilots

"... any modern airliner can be specced with options to fly itself from gate to gate on an ordinary day ..."
Can you tell me more about this? My understanding is that taxiing and take off are always performed manually. Unless it surrendered control to a central airport system, I don't see how autotaxi would even be useful, as actions are so dependent on other traffic.

"I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because they sometimes take a rest." -- Alexandre Dumas (fils)

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