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Comment: Would more money be USEFUL? (Score 1) 105

I mean, is there a good place to PUT IT so that something good can be made to happen? (Instead of pure waste?)

I've regularly seen situations where throwing more money than a certain amount at something simply doesn't help. You can only ramp up programs so fast, bring equipment into operation so fast, get people in, trained, and working productively so fast.

It's quite possible that President Obama asked the people doing the work, "how much money can you absorb right now to accelerate things?" and got told "maybe $30M...?" So he got them $58M.

Adding any more money to their efforts would just be waste. I know that my organization could absorb maybe $20M in "surprise" funding productively in a single year, any more than that and we'd just sit on the money or send it back. (I would hope we wouldn't waste it.)

If we KNEW we were going to get a year-on-year increase, and were given carte blanche to hire people and support so we could write contracts as much as we wanted, we could ramp up over a year or two to use $200M or more productively, but in a single year? No way.

Best,

--PeterM

Comment: Re:Stupid theory... (Score 2) 202

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47760163) Attached to: How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids

It's exactly what he says it is, a stupid theory, and he knows it!
I don't know HOW he got a +5 interesting moderation on it!

At most a +3 funny.

I mean, can you IMAGINE the dam structure you'd need to create a pool of water deep enough to float a block of stone to the top of the pyramid? Hint, it'd dwarf the pyramid!

Now, for getting the BASE of the pyramid really flat, yeah, a big shallow pool of water might have helped a lot with that, but anything above it? Not so much!

--PM

Comment: Re:But would fusion ever be economical? (Score 1) 305

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47715815) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

You have very good points about the safety and waste disposal issues as advantages of fusion over fission.

Actually, I'm not claiming to KNOW that fusion will be uneconomical. I'm just AFRAID that it might forever be uneconomical. The capital costs seem monumental to me. By posing it as a question I was hoping someone who knew better would weigh in on the topic.

Honestly, I don't have a basis of knowledge on the topic to form any conclusion, and it's quite possible that until it is tried, no one *can* know with any certainty. If the answer is "no one knows", I support going on with fusion research until we figure that out.

--PeterM

Comment: Re:But would fusion ever be economical? (Score 1) 305

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47714849) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Actually, I disagree that a fission plant and a fusion plant of the same capacity are "the same" in terms of complexity.

In a fission reactor:
You don't need superconducting magnets to contain the fuel
The fuel doesn't have to be kept in a near vacuum
You don't need lots of gyrotrons to heat up the fuel
The heat flux doesn't have to be kept away from the superconducing magnets
The neutron flux is stopped pretty much right in the reactor, heating the coolant, whereas in a fusion reactor the neutron flux is stopped mostly by the vacuum containment

I think a case could be made that these problems will translate into increased capital and operating costs that might well make fusion completely uneconomical compared to solar or whatever.

--PeterM

Comment: But would fusion ever be economical? (Score 1) 305

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47709227) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

My big worry with fusion is that it'll be shown possible, but the cost per MW of capacity will be so high that you can't pay the interest on the cost of capital by charging competitive rates for electricity. Thus rendering fusion forever uneconomical compared to alternatives.

Nuclear fission seemingly has this problem right now, though much of the expense is due to implacable unreasonable opposition.

--PM

Comment: One's "god's will" the other isn't (Score 1) 1330

There's a moral difference between CAUSING an abortion and ALLOWING one to happen naturally in the eyes of the religious.

To me, the line is more blurry. Is someone who could prevent something but allows it *completely* innocent, really? I mean, we as a society try to prevent deaths by cancer, why not deaths by natural abortion?

Also, some of the religious may argue that to cause an abortion that wouldn't have happened is to thwart God's Plan, but how do these yahoos know that the abortion wasn't God's plan?

And let's go back to the cancer deaths again. Are we not thwarting God's Plan by saving someone with cancer?

In the end, I think there is a fundamental point, the religious pick an arbitrary line between what they like and what they don't, and it doesn't always make rational sense.

I think the rational argument is that no one should be forced to risk their lives to provide life support to another person. My kidneys are MINE thank you very much, don't hook me up to another person as a dialysis machine against my will, even if it saves that person's life. It puts ME at risk and is a great imposition on me. And even if I agree to it at some point, I can change my mind about continuing to risk my life by providing dialysis.

Pregnancy is very much analogous.

--PM

Comment: High IQ is largely an accident of birth (Score 2) 561

by PeterM from Berkeley (#47323391) Attached to: Match.com, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

Right you are!

If you're smart, it's mostly because you're lucky. You got the good genes. Then, you probably had a good upbringing and environment. Neither of which is anything else than luck.

Sure, to maximize your smarts, you have to work. But lots of people work hard.

So what makes high IQ people special, really? Luck.

What kind of asshole gets all hoity-toity because he was, mostly, lucky?

--PeterM

Comment: What money can't buy, the moral limits of markets (Score 5, Interesting) 172

You need to read that book.

Taking money for blood might have the opposite effect on the supply. In the book from the title, Swiss were asked if their community would be willing to host a nuclear waste storage facility for the good of the country. Many Swiss were on board with it--for the good of their country. A subset of Swiss from the same community were asked if they'd store the waste for $. Those Swiss said NO WAY. The good of their country was far more motivating for the Swiss than $.

And take me for example. $5 is in no way compensation for the enduring the needle stick and the time involved. I doubt $20 would motivate me. Maybe not even $100. However, I've donated 2 gallons or more. I do it because of this thought: one small needle stick for me, and a bit of time, and maybe someone gets to live.

And I'm the least-risk group of donors, selected partly by my lack of $ motivation. I don't need money for drugs because I don't take them. D'you really want to give drug addicts motive to donate blood to get money? Sometimes there isn't time for blood to be exhaustively screened before use.

Also, recent experience shows that the most powerful motivator for blood donation is solidarity. Blood donation went through the roof after 9/11 and other disasters. They literally couldn't stick people with needles and drain 'em fast enough.

I really think that if we want more blood supply, we need to beat the solidarity drum, and make it really convenient for people to donate.

Best,

--PeterM

Comment: Re:Humanity is Sick and Twisted (Score 1) 608

by PeterM from Berkeley (#46838281) Attached to: Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

Unfortunately, slave labor and pirates aren't really rare.
Everyone in North Korea except the ruling class is pretty much a slave.

How free are the poor worldwide? I mean really, how free are they? In how many regimes worldwide do people have a really good shot at changing who their masters are?

What chains are YOU wearing that you're not even aware of?

--PM

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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