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Comment: Radioactivity bogeyman (Score 2) 130

The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales.

Better tell the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to flee their homes. Those locations were also exposed to fresh fission products and other radiological waste just like this carrier.

Comment: Re:They're called trees. (Score 1) 114

by Solandri (#49495061) Attached to: Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate
The referenced source from the wiki lists all the countries by their forested area (in thousand hectares), and in a handy spreadsheet no less. Add in the square km of the countries and you can calculate the percentages:

Country - percent - forested - total
Canada - 31.1% - 3,101,340 - 9,984,670
United States - 33.1% - 3,030,890 - 9,147,593
EU - 36.0% - 1,577,190 - 4,381,376

Austria - 46.1% - 38,620 - 83,855
Belgium - 21.8% - 6,670 - 30,528
Bulgaria - 32.7% - 36,250 - 110,994
Croatia - 37.7% - 21,350 - 56,594
Cyprus - 18.8% - 1,740 - 9,251
Czech Rep - 33.6% - 26,480 - 78,866
Denmark - 11.6% - 5,000 - 43,075
Estonia - 50.5% - 22,840 - 45,227
Finland - 66.5% - 225,000 - 338,424
France - 23.0% - 155,540 - 674,843
Germany - 31.0% - 110,760 - 357,021
Greece - 28.4% - 37,520 - 131,990
Hungary - 21.2% - 19,760 - 93,030
Ireland - 9.5% - 6,690 - 70,273
Italy - 33.1% - 99,790 - 301,338
Latvia - 45.5% - 29,410 - 64,589
Lithuania - 32.2% - 20,990 - 65,200 -
Luxembourg - 33.6% - 870 - 2,586
Malta - 0% - 0 - 316
Netherlands - 8.8% - 3,650 - 41,543
Poland - 29.4% - 91,920 - 312,685
Portugal - 40.9% - 37,830 - 92,390
Romania - 26.7% - 63,700 - 238,391
Slovakia - 39.3% - 19,290 - 49,035
Slovenia - 62.3% - 12,640 - 20,273
Spain - 35.5% - 179,150 - 504,030
Sweden - 61.2% - 275,280 - 449,964
United Kingdom - 11.7% - 28,450 - 243,610

The EU's percentage is skewed up by the Scandinavian, Baltic, and Slovakian countries. Though Germany, Spain, Portugul, Italy, and Austria are right around the EU average. Anyway, can we just drop this stupid penis measuring contest? It's close enough to call it a tie.

Comment: Re:there's a strange bias on slashdot (Score 5, Insightful) 183

by Solandri (#49491007) Attached to: Microsoft's Role As Accuser In the Antitrust Suit Against Google

microsoft is eternal evil , it always does wrong, and google is eternal good, it can never do wrong

this might have made sense 15 years ago, but google has immense power ripe for abuse

While I agree Google has immense power ripe for abuse, they are nothing like Microsoft was. If Microsoft in the 1990s were behaving like Google is today:

  • They would've released Windows as open source. If you wanted to roll your own version of Windows that competed with Microsoft, you could. The only restriction would've been that Office would only run on Microsoft's version of Windows.
  • Windows would be free. So would Office. They'd make money by charging Windows program developers, and selling information to marketers about how Windows and Office were being used.
  • When you first tried to run a web browser, it would list every web browser in existence in order of popularity for you to choose. Internet Explorer may or may not have been placed near the top of that list regardless of its true popularity.
  • Same for every Windows program made by Microsoft. Office, Publisher, etc.
  • If you had your data in the format for Microsoft programs, and decided to switch to a competitor, you could use the Microsoft-provided tools to convert your data into a generic format which could easily be imported into the 3rd party app.
  • They would've made subtle changes to Windows to make sure DR-DOS couldn't run it, like Google is making it hard for Bing to index YouTube. Oh wait, Microsoft did do that.
  • When an internal audit revealed that they had accidentally collected user information beyond what their user agreement allowed, they would've reported themselves to the regulatory agencies for the privaacy violation.

Maybe you weren't using computers back when Microsoft was pulling their shenanigans in the 1990s. Those of us who were see Google as good because despite a few problems here and there, they've been behaving a helluva lot better than just about any predecessor who was in similar positions of market power.

Comment: Re:Holy Stiction, Batman! WTF is hysteresis? (Score 1) 109

by Solandri (#49490105) Attached to: An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure
Stiction and hysteresis are well-known terms in engineering and physics. I think that's part of the allure of Musk. He's not some MBA CEO who has no clue about the minutia of what his company does. He's a scientist/engineer at heart who could with a little training reasonably step in at any grunt-level position at his companies.

Comment: Re:I wonder why he bothers... (Score 1) 109

by Solandri (#49490071) Attached to: An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure
If you post something and later find out it's wrong, the responsible thing to do is to either correct it, or retract it. AFAIK Twitter does not allow you to edit a tweet, so the only responsible choice is to delete it. Leaving it up just allows the wrong info to continue spreading with the air of authority.

Comment: Re:Wow. Just wow. (Score 1) 318

by Solandri (#49489521) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan
This actually was tested with a pilot project. They distributed the iPads to a few schools so they could collect data on how well the devices worked, before approving the deal.

Unfortunately, as you say, they made no attempt to be scientific or statistically rigorous about it. The feedback basically amounted to, "The teachers and students seemed to like it." No measurements to test if student comprehension or information retention improved, or if teachers were able to get through more material in a week. I'm still debating if that was due to incompetence (people who like Apple hardware tend to go ga-ga over the Apple logo, not what the device actually does), or if the whole pilot was just to rubber-stamp the deal. That's probably what the FBI is trying to figure out.

Comment: Re:IBM PC was an open platform (Score 1) 175

by Solandri (#49489417) Attached to: Cyanogen Partners With Microsoft To Replace Google Apps
When someone says "open platform" they're usually referring to the software. The hardware specs for the IBM PC were open - anyone could make PC hardware without getting a license from IBM. Whoop dee doo. The software was locked down with the IBM BIOS, so nobody could sell a PC-compatible because they needed the IBM BIOS to run any software developed for that open hardware platform. And the BIOS had a great big "Copyright IBM" at the beginning without which DOS (and thus any PC software) wouldn't work. That is, if you wanted to sell a PC-compatible, you needed to get a license from IBM. And IBM wasn't selling licenses.

Compaq opened up the platform by reverse-engineering the IBM BIOS in a clean room (i.e. engineers who only had access to the IBM PC BIOS chip in a black box, and they deduced everything in the BIOS by sending in signals and seeing what came out). That's what allowed PC-compatibles and turned the PC into the open software platform it is today.

Apple locks down their Macs with the software license on OS X - you are (aside from OS X server in a VM) only allowed to run it on Apple-sold Mac hardware. The plethora of Hackintosh guides out there demonstrate that hardware compatibility is for the most part not a problem. Thus far the license agreement for OS X has been legally bulletproof. Unlike the copyright protection on the IBM BIOS.

Comment: Re:Erm.. Why a computer? (Score 1) 340

by Solandri (#49472313) Attached to: Allegation: Lottery Official Hacked RNG To Score Winning Ticket
The computer is a lot easier to audit. You can have it run a million drawings in a few seconds, burn the output to a blank CD (since you don't want to be inserting flash drives into it), then have another computer audit those million drawing results for similar randomness.

Auditing a physical random drawing machine means weighing and measuring each part to be sure its still within specs, and making sure there aren't other possible vectors for cheating, like smooth vs rough balls. In one lottery where the balls were drawn by blindfolded kids, they've even heated or chilled the balls which were supposed to be drawn. Which cannot be detected in an audit after the fact.

Comment: Re:Affirmative Action is not the same as sexism (Score 1) 493

Theoretically, affirmative action can accelerate the speed at which you reach a new equilibrium. In terms of a harmonic oscillator, the regular behavior of the system in response to a change in base state (from 1 to 0 in the picture) is overdamped and it can take a long time for the system to reach the new base state. Affirmative action reduces the dampening to an underdamped state, causing the system to arrive at the new equilibrium state (0) much more quickly. i.e. It is sexism, but applied correctly it can speed up the transition to a new steady state equilibrium.

But an underdamped system will overshoot (drops past 0 in the picture). Since we're talking about law here and not a true harmonic oscillator, this can be avoided by putting in guidelines which trigger the end of affirmative action once the new equilibrium state is achieved. In terms of the picture, we raise the dampening back to normal the moment the system reaches 0. There will be a bit of overshoot, but it should quickly settle down.

Unfortunately, I have never seen any affirmative action laws actual specify at what point the affirmative action should cease. So the system will remain underdamped and will overshoot. If it were implemented fairly, at some point it would overshoot so far that affirmative action would call for more hiring of white males, and we'd end up with the oscillations you see in the picture. But I suspect the powers behind it would never allow that to happen, resulting in a permanent skew in hiring practices. Institutionalized sexism and racism - against white males.

Comment: Re:uhh...warm oceans=wet land (Score 1) 173

This is like the other bad science assumption often tossed around by deniers: " Well if there is more water vapor then there will be more clouds and so the world will cool down!". No, it doesn't work like that.

Actually, it does work like that. Warmer temperatures increase cloud cover which increases albedo, helping mitigate the temperature change.

It doesn't offset the change entirely though (else the temperature would never change). Water vapor is on a negative (stabilizing) feedback loop with temperature. But just because you've got a negative feedback loop in place doesn't mean the system is immune to state changes. It'll slow down the rate of change, as well as dampen the degree of change before the system reaches a new equilibrium. But (with very rare exceptions) it cannot prevent the change.

We've got climate change deniers ignoring scientific data to substantiate their position. And we've got climate change proponents ignoring basic control systems engineering and Laplace transform math to substantiate their position.

Comment: School budgets (Score 4, Interesting) 99

With prices generally ranging from $400 to $3,000 for typical desktop 3D printers, they are not cheap, and with budgets within many school districts running dry, both in the United States and overseas, the unfortunate fact is that many schools simply canâ(TM)t afford them

That's a myth. The U.S. spends more than a quarter of a million dollars per K-12 classroom every year (average 20-23.4 students per class). We could easily afford one 3D printer per school. Heck, we could afford one per classroom.

The problem is schools are top-heavy and administrators suck up most of that money, then create an artificial financial crisis every time a budget cut is threatened. This gets teachers and the teachers' union to claim we aren't spending enough on education, when we're already spending way more than we should be.

Yes I'm aware that first link I gave says administration is only $843 per student per year. That's because the administrators have gamed the stats to hide how much money they're sucking up. If you drill down into the numbers (p.56), you find that "In 2008-09, salary and employee benefits for school staff amounted to $8,797 per student." Subtract $843 for administration and that leaves $7954 per student supposedly going to instructional teachers.

For 2010, the average student to teacher ratio was 16.0 (this includes substitutes and assistants). Ask yourself, is the average teacher making ($7954 * 16) = $127,264 per year in salary and benefits? Of course not. The figure is inflated because the administrators have misclassified most of their salary and benefits as "instructional" instead of "administration" to hide how much money their draining from our educational system.

Comment: Re:The obvious answer (Score 1) 332

by Solandri (#49457815) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

That's socialism!! I signed my pledge not to raise taxes etc

The problem isn't socialism nor capitalism. The problem is industry collusion with the politicians calling the shots. The agricultural industry in California has deep political ties stemming back nearly two centuries. Consequently, we've got the opposite of socialism (government regulation for the betterment of society). We've got corruption.

Water is sold to agriculture for a bit over $100 per acre-foot. Looking at my latest residential water bill, the lowest price tier (enough for a family of 4 at 55 gal/person-day) is $3.41 per 100 cubic feet. Which is $1488.47 per acre-foot.

All of California's water problems would disappear if agriculture had to pay the market rate for water. Instead you've got this corrupt pricing scheme where the group using 80% of the water has pushed the vast majority of the water cost onto the other 20%. That regulatory price distortion is what leads to ridiculous situations like alfalfa farmers flooding their fields with water while residential homeowners are told to let their lawns die in order to conserve water.

Comment: Re:Energy use (Score 1) 332

by Solandri (#49457717) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water
Ivanpah is CSP - concentrated solar power. Basically big mirrors which track the sun and focus it on a heating element (usually a salt bath), which turns water to steam, which drives a turbine to generate power. CSP usually has a capacity factor around 30%, and is a viable (efficient) power source albeit roughly double the cost of coal/nuclear/wind per kWh.

OP was referring to photovoltaic solar. PV solar panels have a capacity factor around 14% (18% in the desert southwest). And their unsubsidized cost per kWh is still about 3-5x that of coal/nuclear/wind.

CSP would actually work for desalination. Reverse osmosis is the most energy efficient method of desalination. The problem with RO is that nearly all of that energy needed is electrical. And with CSP you're converting sunlight to thermal energy, which is converted into mechanical energy to drive a generator, which converts it to electrical energy, which is sent to the RO plant, where it's converted back to mechanical energy in motors used to drive pumps, whose pressure forces the water through the RO filters. All those energy conversions are murder on your overall efficiency.

Thermal energy is usually abundant as a byproduct of other energy production or consumption, so can be obtained much more cheaply than electrical energy. So in terms of cost, thermal desalination can actually be competitive with RO even though its overall energy use is higher. If that thermal energy was just going to be vented into the environment anyway as waste heat, then it's essentially free. CSP solar would be much better than PV solar in that respect since it can produce thermal energy directly. The problem being the best source for water to be desalinated is the ocean, while the best location for CSP is the desert. Moving the CSP plant to the ocean shore is probably not the best idea since the shoreline tends to be clouded over every morning til almost noon. And piping corrosive seawater to the desert would make the Keystone pipeline seem like child's play.

Comment: Re:But not to Nestle. (Score 1) 332

by Solandri (#49457571) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

Why wouldn't we use the single most abundant energy source on the planet to power something that is energy intensive? Oh and said energy source has no fuel costs?

Because it's stupid to collect solar energy with PV cells, which convert it to electricity, which gets stored chemically in a battery, which gets converted back to electricity, which gets converted to rotational mechanical energy in a motor, which gets converted to linear mechanical energy in pumps which, which gets converted to pressure mechanical energy for the desalination reverse osmosis filters to operate. All those energy conversions absolutely kill your efficiency. Why bother with all those conversions if you can come up with a way for sunlight to directly drive your desalination?

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