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Comment: Re:Anonymous sees the logical flaw, right? (Score 1) 509

by Squirmy McPhee (#48780793) Attached to: Anonymous Declares War Over Charlie Hebdo Attack

Removing the freedom of speech of those who would seek to remove the freedom of speech ....

I'm not sure that's an entirely accurate way to characterize the statement by Anonymous. The way I read it, they're not trying to silence the jihadists, but merely disrupt the channels they use to communicate with one another. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way, it seems to me to be a bit of poetic justice, a well thought-out way to target the perpetrators of violence in a peaceful, yet disruptive manner without offending the billion or so peaceful Muslims on the planet (which, honestly, is the route I expected them to go...).

Comment: Re:How can you (Score 3, Insightful) 171

by Squirmy McPhee (#48077757) Attached to: Apple Sapphire Glass Supplier GT Advanced Files For Bankruptcy

A lot of companies used CIGS or CdTe.

"Used" is the key word here.

Because you can more easily use print and roll technologies and get fabrication costs down.

In theory. In practice, almost everybody who has tried it has failed. Thin film PV requires very large sheets of very thin layers that are also very uniform. It's not an easy task, and those who have solved it have not been eager to share how they did it. Nor have they been able to maintain their cost advantage against silicon PV.

Examples include FirstSolar and NanoSolar.

I'll grant you that First Solar is doing just fine, but not only has Nanosolar been unsuccessful, it doesn't even exist anymore. The only reasonably successful CIGS manufacturer to date (as defined by having a production volume similar to that of mid-sized silicon PV companies) has been Frontier Solar, and they ain't exactly cheap.

What the Chinese managed to do was lower the costs enough using conventional technology pushed to the limit that the advantages of low temperature manufacturing without requiring silicon ingot formation

Huh? Low-temperature manufacturing? No ingots? I monitor Chinese PV manufacturing practices like it's my job. Because it is my job. I've been inside the fabs. I know the people who develop the technology. I assure you that they process their silicon and their wafers at the same temperature as everybody else, and that every single one of them is using ingot-based wafers. What the Chinese managed to do was develop an extensive local supply chain, then squeeze the crap out of everybody's profit margins when times got tough. Low labor cost played a role too, though with rapid wage inflation, the low labor intensity of solar cell production, and the increasing automation of solar module production, labor cost is not really much of a factor anymore.

Comment: Re:He's right (Score 3, Interesting) 276

by Squirmy McPhee (#43513613) Attached to: Terrible Advice From a Great Scientist

And from my experience, publishing dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles, your experience is the exception. In fact, many sciences do not even utilize technicians. In the ten or so laboratories that I have worked in/with and the labs of the numerous professors that I talk with about their publication policies, exactly zero will allow someone authorship on a paper that they don't see until it's "basically finished." I'm sure some fall through the cracks, though certainly not the majority. However, I would not generalize my experiences and neither should you.

My experience -- also publishing dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles -- is quite different from yours and much more like that of the poster to whom you were responding. More than once I've found out that I was a co-author on an article when the publishing company contacted me to let me know that my article had been received for submission. That's even a step beyond what the first poster mentioned -- I didn't even see the article that I supposedly co-authored until after it was submitted for publication! I've also had my authorship credit manipulated so as to imply collaboration where there was none. It was accidental, I think, but afterward there was actually a story in the press about our non-existent collaboration.

Comment: Re:Well the ultimate value of Bitcoin is (Score 1) 605

by Squirmy McPhee (#43416819) Attached to: BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Good luck going to Safeway and buying your Jeno's frozen pizza with Euros, Yuan, or Yen, but they're all "real" money.

Good luck going to Safeway and buying your Jeno's frozen pizza with gold or silver, but a lot of people would have you believe that those are the only "real" money.

Comment: Re:Why focus on solar? (Score 3, Interesting) 129

by Squirmy McPhee (#41345121) Attached to: Towards a 50% Efficient Solar Cell

Why would the military focus so heavily on solar power?

It's not just solar, they are also very interested in wind, geothermal/ground source, and biofuels. But they think solar and wind have the most potential for their purposes (it's mostly only the Air Force interested in biofuels, for fueling their planes).

As for why, well, 80% of the convoys run in Iraq and Afghanistan are fuel convoys. On average, a soldier died or was wounded in one of every 46 of those convoys in 2010. And by the time you take into account the cost of the fuel and the expense of moving it, the military is paying something like 5-10 times the price you pay at the pump when you fill your gas tank.

What is this fuel used for? Some of it is used to power vehicles, of course, but the vast majority of it is used to provide electricity at remote and forward bases. They dump it in a generator, burn it, and wait for another convoy. On the other hand, the sun and the wind come to many of their locations without the need for a convoy.

The upshot of all of this is that with sufficient energy densities, the military could spend a whole lot more on solar panels and wind turbines that would seem justifiable to the average homeowner and still have it be economical -- I mean, just think of the money and lives that could be saved if a base could reduce the number of convoys it needs by 80%.

For all of that, you probably don't need cells with 50% efficiency, and I guess that's why TFA focuses on soldiers' gear instead of base power.

Your concern about a soldier contending with solar panels hanging off his back is a bit misplaced, I think. TFA says that at 50% efficiency, a 10-cm square panel is all that would be needed. That is already smaller than a single standard silicon cell in production today (standard is 15-cm square). And if you're worried about bad weather, sandstorms, and distractions then I would think that the last thing you want is a mechanical device with moving parts like foot pedals.

Comment: Re:No. (Score 2) 129

by Squirmy McPhee (#41345065) Attached to: Towards a 50% Efficient Solar Cell

It concentrates light from the entire sky into a narrow beam which is then split into different wavelengths. It says that right in the summary.

No, it doesn't say that in the summary. It says (incorrectly) that dichroic films are used to concentrate sunlight 20-200X, but nothing accurate about how it achieves that concentration. TFA says that for the concentrators to work, they would have to be pointed at the sun.

This is consistent with my personal experience. I've never seen a concentrator that can collect light from the entire sky and deliver it in a tight, focused beam. It's part of the reason concentrator systems have never quite managed to live up to their economic promise -- the diffuse portions of the solar spectrum go unused, reducing available energy by about 20% even in cloudless locations, and output drops to near zero as soon you have a few clouds or some haze.

And the dichroic films are used to split the light into its constituent parts, a bit like a prism. They play no role in the concentration of the light (though that is not your error).

Comment: Re:Isn't this expected behavior? (Score 3, Interesting) 131

by Squirmy McPhee (#39387763) Attached to: Websites Can Detect What Chrome Extensions You've Installed

If you don't like the behavior, you have quite a few options: Remove the extension, disable it, go incognito when you don't want your extensions detected, or simply use another browser

Hmm ... it seems I may have been a little too quick. When I visit the site running the extension-detection script in icognito mode, it is still able to detect my extensions. Now I wonder if disabling is even effective.

That said, I don't really think there's anything anybody can learn about me from the extensions I have installed -- at least, not anything that I wouldn't tell a total stranger. Since there are few extensions that don't interact with at least one website, I think that's a good policy to follow even if you're a Firefox user.

Comment: Isn't this expected behavior? (Score 1) 131

by Squirmy McPhee (#39387733) Attached to: Websites Can Detect What Chrome Extensions You've Installed

This "exploit" looks more like begging the question to me. As far as I can remember, every single Chrome extension I have installed warned me that it might share data with the websites I visit before I installed it. It stands to reason that if an extension can share data with a website, that website can detect the extension, does it not?

I'm not saying that it's ideal behavior, only that it seems to me that Chrome users have already been warned about it by Google itself. If you don't like the behavior, you have quite a few options: Remove the extension, disable it, go incognito when you don't want your extensions detected, or simply use another browser come immediately to mind.

Comment: Re:Good (Score 2) 261

by Squirmy McPhee (#37362528) Attached to: Power Demand From US Homes Expected To Fall For a Decade

Now maybe they can reverse that ridiculous incandescent light ban.

There is no incandescent light ban, despite what Joe Barton (who co-sponsored the "ban" in the first place) would like you to believe. There is only a mandate for lights to become more efficient -- there is nothing in the law mandating that a particular lighting technology be phased in or out. In the end, it is likely a moot point anyway as market forces (partly as a result of European regulations, which the US Congress can do nothing about) have been pushing incandescent bulb manufacturers to close factories. In other words, with or without the law, incandescents are on the way out.

Like others, I would suggest LEDs. The prices are coming down fast, and the quality (and directionality, or lack thereof) is improving fast. Right now you still have to be pretty careful about what brand you buy and such -- the cheapest available bulb is likely to disappoint -- but by the time you have a hard time finding the incandescents you need I suspect LEDs will be much more viable.

Comment: An MS will get you farther than two BS degrees (Score 1) 296

by Squirmy McPhee (#37301830) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Second Major For a Mechanical Engineer?

If I were in your position, I would stick with the ME for now. For one thing, you can do a BS + MS in the same amount of time (or less) that you can do a double-major BS, and the MS will get you farther in the job market than a double BS. When you become an upperclassman, you will have the opportunity to choose electives from other departments, and maybe even some grad-level courses, which will allow you some limited space to explore your interests. If you're interested in controls, look to EE departments -- where I did my MS and Ph.D., the EE controls classes were filled with students from other departments. Perhaps other universities offer those in the CS department, but I doubt it. And don't limit yourself to controls: If you're interested in biofuels, maybe look for some relevant chemical or bioengineering courses. You should also look for undergraduate research opportunities, summer internships, and student projects that coincide with your interests (e.g., a solar-car-racing team, if you're going to a university that has one).

When you finish your BS, you will have a lot more opportunities to specialize during an MS year. Not only can you switch fields if you like (e.g., switch to CS if you think it is really the way to go), but many universities offer specialized multi-disciplinary MS and certificate programs that are targeted to specific skill sets. My university offered quite a few of those -- off the top of my head, I remember computer-aided manufacturing, a multidisciplinary semiconductor processing program, and a business certificate aimed at succeeding in the global (as opposed to American) business environment. Universities are now adding similar programs targeted at biofuels and other alternative energy technologies.

Comment: Re:Not exactly "free". (Score 1) 119

by Squirmy McPhee (#36341986) Attached to: National Academies Release Over 4,000 Free Science Books

I assume that you are aware that all these books were produced at US Government expense?

What gives you that idea? The National Academies are private organizations and the books they publish do not all result from federally funded research. Even so, the only publications that are automatically public domain are those of US government employees, regardless of the funding source.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil