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Comment The China Syndrome movie didn't kill nukes. (Score 1) 254

And it sure has hell wasn't Greenpeace or the Clamshell Alliance.

It was the 1980s oil glut that did the deed. That was especially devastating following on the heels of the 1970s oil crisis, because so many companies who entered the alternative energy business in the late 70s only to have the floor cut out from under them in 1980. I had a good friend who quit his job at a software company in 1980 to go to work for a company developing a seasonal thermal energy storage scheme. He was an accountant and according to him the numbers were solid as long as oil prices were north of $100/bbl. That was in May of 1980 when oil was trading at $114/bbl. 13 months later the price of oil had fallen to $60/bbl. For the next five years the Saudis tried to prop up falling oil prices by cutting back production, but in '85 they gave up, opened the spigots, and oil prices dropped to $23/bbl.

The economic reaction was entirely what you'd predict with oil prices at a 40 year low. The development of new energy technologies stalled. Cars got bigger again and SUVs of unprecedented size and low fuel economy became wildly popular. And new nuclear plant starts dried up. Oh, the industry pointed the finger at the big, bad environmental movement, which is laughable because so far as I know they only nuclear power plant ever canceled due to protests was the monumentally stupidly sited Bodega Bay in 1964. Imagine for a moment the Clams and all those guys didn't exist; it wouldn't have mattered in the least. Nobody is going to invest in new nuclear power plants when oil is priced at $18/bbl. But it sounds better to say that the Greens have put you out of business than to say the prices you used in your revenue projections were off by an order of magnitude.

Comment Re:Missing the point a bit? (Score 2) 99

i'm really curious about what could possibly be the use case for this. it seems like a giant pain-in-the-ass way to do symbolic algebra, so i'm trying to figure it out. apparently you need to regularly perform symbolic derivations which mma can do, but the free alternatives (octave, sage, etc.) cannot; however, your uptime and latency requirements are low enough that you are willing to deal with a duct-tape ssh solution. i really have no idea why anyone would want to do this. care to enlighten me?

Comment Re:There needs to be a very detail visual 4D sim (Score 1) 101

The length is relevant because all of that dust, seen straight on, blocks a lot of light

Right, I see. I was thinking you meant that the huge length, seen lengthwise, would block a lot of light just because of the sheer length, but this makes more sense since lengthwise it wouldn't be that dense.

How about the other poster's brown dwarf idea? Could this be caused by a brown dwarf in orbit around the star? Those things can get really big. Effectively, it'd be a multi-star system. Or do brown dwarves emit enough light (probably in IR) to still be seen? And why is my stupid spell-checker telling me that "dwarves" is misspelled?

Submission + - Bill Gates to Headline Paris Climate Talks

theodp writes: The NY Times and others report that Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of the two-week long Paris Climate Change Conference. The climate summit, which will be attended by President Obama and 100+ world leaders, is intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions. The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire. A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Let's hope it goes better than BillG school reform!

Comment Re:There needs to be a very detail visual 4D sim (Score 1) 101

Yeah, but isn't the length of the tail irrelevant, because the tail would be pointed directly towards Earth (since it's blown by the stellar wind from the star, and the presumed comet is directly between that star and Earth)? I thought comet tails always pointed directly away from their star.

Comment Steve Jobs was abusive, but good at marketing. (Score 1) 212

You think you found an outlet for your anger! You feel superior!

Stories like this Slashdot story did not happen when Steve Jobs was running Apple. Why? Jobs was very careful to assure secrecy until he was ready to announce a finished product.

What happened in this case? Apparently someone at Apple was negotiating with LG. From one of the articles: "In light of the decision, South Korea's LG Display is already planning capacity upgrades." Whoever was negotiating didn't make clear that no information should be made public.

There have been other seriously bad communications errors at Apple since Tim Cook has been in charge. Apparently, even though Tim Cook worked with Steve Jobs for years, Mr. Cook did not learn about marketing from Mr. Jobs.

Comment Re:unpossible software hack? (Score 1) 241

No, not really. They didn't pay for any software at all; that's the whole problem. They paid for a service. If they paid for some software, they could just stick with what they have instead of pissing off users by divulging their identities when the users had never agreed to that before, at least until they could get the software made so that old comments used the pseudonyms while newer comments switched to the new policy.

Instead, they bought a service which apparently doesn't offer this ability. I don't know if there's a legal case to be made here, but it seems to me that their website had a policy before where people could make posts anonymously (or pseudonymously), and now they're changing to a real-name policy. That would be OK, except they're making it retroactive, which is certainly wrong ethically, and quite possibly legally, depending on the wording of their prior user agreement policy. You can't just go change agreements like that retroactively. And the fact that the SaaS vendor doesn't support this is no excuse. Either they need to switch to a new vendor, get the vendor to change, or eliminate the service (and comment section) altogether.

Comment Re:There needs to be a very detail visual 4D sim (Score 1) 101

Well again, given that a gas giant can only block 1-2%, this would have to be a really friggin' huge comet, right? A comet bigger than Jupiter? That doesn't sound likely. Sure, the tail might help, but still comet tails don't block light the way a planet does, they're just a collection of dust.

Comment Re:unpossible software hack? (Score 1) 241

Now you're talking about absurd and unaffordable amounts of money. Can you imagine how much money you'd need to pay Microsoft to make a custom version of Windows 10 for you without Metro? It's just not something they want to do. They might not even do it for any amount of money, unless you buy out the company outright, because it goes directly against their corporate vision.

With FOSS, this isn't a problem; there's always someone willing to do the work for you. And you don't have to buy out the original company to get what you want.

Comment Re:Books thesis (Score 3, Insightful) 145

Well, having worked in both the non-profit sector and in public health, I think the criticisms of the Gates Foundation's public health efforts are malarkey. It's basically an opportunity cost argument and by that standard virtually every charitable foundation is wanting. Why are you spending money on the ballet when there are kids who can't read? Why are you spending money on literacy education when there are kids who don't have enough to eat etc. The problems of the world are endlessly varied and complex, and you can't ask much more of anyone than that they pick a spot and take a whack.

That said, the idea that spending money on infectious diseases is wasteful is particularly inane. Sure, in some places obesity may result in more premature deaths than malaria, but the fact is nobody really knows how to effectively fight an "obesity epidemic", whereas malaria is clearly eradicable -- and once it's gone, it's gone forever, because P. falciparum has no natural host other than humans. The same goes for communicable diseases for which we have vaccines; we know how to fight those cost effectively, even eradicate them in many cases. The missing piece of the puzzle is money.

Now criticism of the foundation's education efforts is a lot more warranted. Just like everybody thinks they're qualified to design a website because they have opinions about which sites they like and don't like, everyone thinks they're qualified to redesign the educational system because they went to school. The difference is that Gates has the money to make his bad ideas materialize. It may be hacker philanthropy, but most attempts at "hacks" result in kluges.

So overall it's a mixed bag. While you do have to give props to Gates for being "the man in the arena", sometimes, unlike in Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech, the man in the arena's failings don't fall exclusively on himself. So while philanthropy is admirable in itself, where the philanthropist's activities impinge on areas of public policy like education his actions should be held up to scrutiny like anyone else's.

Comment Re:There needs to be a very detail visual 4D sim (Score 1) 101

The thing I don't get is how comets could possibly block 20% of the star's output. From what I remember, some astronomer said that if there were a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting the star, that would only block 1% of the star's output. If a Jupiter-sized planet would only block 1%, how the heck would some comets block 20 times more?

Comment Re:unpossible software hack? (Score 0) 241

If it's possible to do with "free" (open) software, it's possible to do with proprietary.

Absolutely wrong.

If it's proprietary, and you ask the vendor to make a change, and they say "no", then you're out of luck. They have total control over the software, so if they refuse, even with you waving money in front of their noses, there's nothing you can do. Proprietary companies frequently refuse to do custom work or listen to customer feedback, because they're selling to lots of people and don't want to deviate from their corporate direction or invest the resources necessary to please a single customer.

With open-source/Free software, you don't have this problem. You have access to the source code, so worst case, you can hire someone to make custom changes for you. It probably won't be that cheap to get a freelancer or some small software house to do it for you, since they're working with unfamiliar code, but it's better than nothing.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.