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Comment: Re:Environmentalists is why we still pump carbon (Score 1) 615

by Capsaicin (#48471617) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

... with the exception of the top link or two that shows a very minor environmental group or small numbers of environmentalists in favor of nuclear, most links demonstrate that the environmental movement is still very much anti-nuclear.

It will surprise no one that a majority of people identifying as 'environmentalists' remain opposed to nuclear energy. But that was not what the post I was replying to was claiming. Instead it was denying that those in favour of nuclear energy could be environmentalists, but were instead "conservationists." As the second (as it was when I searched) link [to the Wikipedia list] shows, that us palbably untrue. Indeed there are a number of very high profile environmentalist who are in favour of nuclear energy as among the most practicable means of reducing fossil fuel use.

Comment: Re:Niche energy (Score 1) 68

by Rei (#48471461) Attached to: WaveNET – the Floating, Flexible Wave Energy Generator

A lot of companies are involved in a lot of renewables tech research. That doesn't mean that any particular one is going to be profitable. The vast majority are going to be big failures.

Wave power's track record so far has been subpar to say the least. And looking at their diagrams, I can't imagine that they're not headed straight for the same fate. Even if we assume that their numbers aren't overly optimistic, their design looks like it would involve several times more steel per nameplate capacity than a wind turbine tower. And they're operating in a much harsher environment. No rotors, but they're dealing with major hydraulic pumping instead. It just doesn't look like a winner to me.

If it was my job to have a go at wave power, I can't imagine going for anything involving large amounts of structural steel or hydraulic pumping; I'd keep it simple and just go for a grid of cables (potentially a high tensile strength UV-resistant plastic), anchored at the edges to keep tension up across the whole grid, with the only slack available involving the grid pulling on regularly spaced springloaded reels (the rotation thereof generating electricity), with any combination of floats, drag chutes and weighs/anchors to cause the needed tug from the movement of water. No pumps, no hydraulic fluid, no large compressive-loaded structures, just a tensile structure that would be (proportionally) lightweight and easy to deploy.

But hey, it's not my industry ;)

Comment: Re:It's a (Score 3, Insightful) 17

by hey! (#48470135) Attached to: Fly With the Brooklyn Aerodrome (Video)

piece of crap with propellor

That's the interesting part.

This is what engineering is about: meeting a need cost effectively. The point of a toy RC airplane is to have fun. Traditionally it was expensive fun that didn't last very very long before you crashed. Having fun for longer with less $$ outlay == better engineering.

Comment: "Steam" is only half the salary equation (Score 4, Insightful) 230

by hey! (#48469173) Attached to: Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam?

Specifically: the demand curve half of the equation. The other half is the supply curve. A platform can have *no steam whatsoever*, but so few programmers that the salaries are reasonably high.

Consider Delphi programming. I see Delphi positions come up once in a blue moon -- it's not used much any longer. But those salaries run from $80K to $110K plus. Sometimes you see a Delphi position come up in the mid 40s, but I suspect they're government positions.

I've seen listings for COBOL or PoweBuilder programmers both in the $60K to $110K plus range. You can bet when a company offers $110K for a PowerBuilder programmer it's because it's having a hard time finding one.

Comment: I blame it on the Moon landing. (Score 3, Insightful) 460

by hey! (#48467757) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

July 20, 1969 was, possibly justifiably, the biggest national ego-validation event in human history. The problem was after that when it came to national achievement, our eyes were firmly pointed back in time. We no longer do things "because they are hard". We're more focused on cashing in on the achievements of past generations.

When you tell Americans we have a backward mobile telephone system, a technologically primitive electric grid and distribution system, and Internet connectivity that lags behind the rest of the developed world, the reaction is usually disbelief. How can that be? We put a man on the Moon -- although by now it should be "grandpa put a man on the Moon."

Comment: Re:Ross Perot is awesome! (Score 1) 120

by hey! (#48467433) Attached to: How the World's First Computer Was Rescued From the Scrap Heap

He was also a conspiracy theorist who had the money to indulge his paranoid fantasies.

He had the phones of his own employees tapped. He hired private investigators to spy on his friends and family, and to dig up dirt on friends of his children he didn't approve of. He went beserk when he found out the designer of the Vietnam Memorial was an Asian American, calling her racial slurs and hiring lawyers to harass the veterans who supported her.

This is a man who thinks that both the Carter and Reagan administrations conspired to hide the presence of hundreds of POW in Southeast Asia.

I often tell my kids "there's no kind of dumb like a smart person's dumb." It's a warning against arrogance. Smart people can get too used to being right when other people around them are wrong. But in truth there is a worse kind of dumb: rich person's dumb. That's because money can give ideas instant credibility with people in a way arguments cannot. There's a strong inclination in this country to idolize rich guys.

Comment: Re:It boils down to energy storage costs (Score 1) 615

by Rei (#48466617) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

And from their numbers, it doesn't look like they're using a reasonable estimate for Chernobyl. There've been some ridiculous estimates out there from both sides, ranging from "only the couple dozen who died directly" to "millions".

One can look at the approximately 10% higher mortality rate within the exclusion zone to get a rough sense of the consequences, but without knowing demographics, it's hard to draw conclusions from that. Probably the best (peer-reviewed) analysis I've seen compared doses with the US military's mortality data from exposure to the nuclear bombings in Japan. You get a figure of about 4000 extra deaths with moderate confidence and 5000 with low confidence (the error bars can be in either direction). So very rough ballpark of 9k deaths, plus the first responders and the like.

Yes, even when you include things like that, nuclear's death toll is lower than coal, no question. But it's not as low as they make it out to be. Their bias is obvious.

The deadliest nuclear accident, Chernobyl, was caused by defense department testing.

Yep, nuclear disasters can happen from both man and nature. That's hardly a comfort. Will "defense department testing" cause the next major nuclear accident? Very unlikely. But there almost certainly will be a "next major nuclear accident" - we just don't know what form it will take. It's a "known unknown".

Whereas Fukushima was all user error?

No. But if you're going to include "dam-induced casualties from storms", then you should include "people spared from storms by dams" also, it's only fair. And thus hydro's death count would be strongly negative.

Perhaps it is possible to offset renewables in such a way that they can provide 90% of our power needs, but no one has ever done it.

Speak for yourself. I live in Iceland where over 99,9% of the grid is renewable (primarily hydro). 99,9% renewable baseload at that. There's even serious preliminary work looking into building the world's longest submarine power cable to export power to the UK.

Again, not saying that hydro is my preference - I've stated my preference above. Just pointing out that your claim is wrong.

(Concerning the power cable: I'd support if A) they'd only be adding geo plants and wind to meet the extra power need, and B) the government would tax the power sales to the point where the cable makes just barely enough profit to economically justify its existence... but I'm sure that A) they'd probably just dam up the highlands some more - who gives a rat's arse that we have some of the world's most abundant and cheap geo and wind power that could easily compete on the European market, hydro gives a tiny bit more profit margin!; and B) the government would hardly push back at all on power export royalties because, hey, JOBS! Jobs damming up the highlands!)

Comment: Re:Next step - Semiconductors (Score 4, Funny) 67

by Rei (#48466211) Attached to: ISS's 3-D Printer Creates Its First Object In Space

Close, but your syllable count is a bit off. Something like this would work:

fuck ink jet printers
fuck all those fucking printers
i fucking hate them

Technically, though, you're supposed to have a connection with nature for it to be proper haiku. So maybe something more like

ink jet printer rests
at the bottom of the bog
piece of shit printer

Comment: Re:Next step - Semiconductors (Score 4, Interesting) 67

by Rei (#48466155) Attached to: ISS's 3-D Printer Creates Its First Object In Space

They did. But first off, to correct the GP: Concrete does not release CO2. It absorbs CO2 (slowly taking back the carbon that was released during the cement's creation). So this messed up their balance equation. Metabolism was supposed to consume O2 and make CO2, while photosynthesis was supposed to consume CO2 and make O2. But with the concrete locking up the CO2, the output of metabolism was being locked up and not being converted back to O2, so the O2 levels declined.

It's a simple oversight, but one that we're very lucky was made on Earth and not on, say, Mars. More foresight could have caught it, but there's always something that slips through the cracks. A number of other issues showed themselves, such as unexpected condensation adding rain to areas supposed to be rainless, less light than anticipated making it into the habitat, certain inspect species proving incompatible with the environment while others proving to be pests, so and so forth. They also had big problems with wild fluctuations in CO2 by time of day and season - they didn't have a massive amount of atmosphere to buffer it, so levels collapsed during the day and shot up at night. A lot of people complained that the project wasn't focused enough on the science, but I think they learned an awful lot of important things that could prove critical if ever trying to grow crops on another planet.

(The psychological aspects and how the crew split into two bitterly divided factions is also a real cautionary tale)

So anyway: after the first Biosphere 2 experiment was terminated, they sealed the concrete and started another one. But the second experiment was more doomed by politics than anything else. The on-site management was foreceably evicted by federal marshals. Former biosphere members broke into the facility so that the people inside could know what was going on outside (in the process, ruining the sealed environment). And then a couple months later the management company was dissolved. Altogether the second mission lasted less than half a year. It was a total disaster.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.