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Comment Re:Environmental concerns (Score 1) 263

This is not a particularly good example of the economics of solar. For starters, it's a concentrated solar thermal plant, which is significantly more expensive than a photovoltaic plant. There's a reason most everybody has given up on solar thermal. So sure, this plant cost $9 billion, but two years ago SunPower sold a 579 MW photovoltaic power plant to Warren Buffet's Mid-American energy company for $2-2.5 billion -- and aside from being two years ago, that's with solar panels guaranteed for 25 years from a company widely regarded as one of the most expensive in the business. Based on similar deals and using solar modules from a cheaper supplier, that same plant now would likely cost more like $600-700 million to build and sell for something like $800-900 million.

And when you're talking about the footprint of nuclear, don't forget to count the land dedicated to mining uranium, much of which comes from land-hungry strip mines, and processing waste (both from the plant and the mining operations). Those plots of land are just as useless as the ones the plant itself sits on. Also, don't forget that nuclear uses an enormous amount of water, rendering it rather impractical in many desert regions.

Comment Re:Mobile communications experience in the US (Score 1) 142

My wife and I have unlimited phone/4G Data/texting, plus 5gb hotspot data apiece, for a total of $100/month through T-Mobile. If US was really that bad, why the need to make shit up?

I don't think there's a lot of "making shit up" going on here. I live in France and for $100/month my wife and I could each have 20 GB mobile data with unlimited texting and free calls to 100 countries, unlimited hotspot data, blazing-fast fiber-optic internet service with VOIP (also with free calling around the world) at home, and TV service with more premium channels than we would watch. As it stands, we pay 38€/month and get all of that except the mobile data (because my wife doesn't have a smartphone and I get mine through work) and the premium TV channels. They throw in my wife's dumbphone service for free.

When I last lived in the US I paid $80/month for our mobile service, plus another $100/month for cable and internet with no premium channels, no VOIP, and no free global calling. I know things have changed -- smartphones were just starting to appear when we moved -- and $100/month for what your getting is a big improvement over what I was getting for $80/month. Still, that you consider it a good price is all I need to know to confirm that the American telecom industry is still in sad shape compared to the rest of the world. (And it doesn't help that in the course of this year I got better mobile service in a small town 5 hours outside of Shanghai than I did in central Michigan.)

Comment Re:Is my time free too? (Score 2) 654

I pay less than 90 euros/month to get most places in Paris and its suburbs (and that's about to go down to 77 euros/month with access to a much wider area). I can't even get a parking space that cheap. Add in the cost of insurance, gas, the car itself and it's a no-brainer. In the rare case that getting somewhere 10 minutes faster is important to me, or I'm going home after most transit has stopped and I won't spare the time for the night bus, I've saved plenty to spring for a taxi.

But it's not just that it's an urban environment. I used to live in a small town in Belgium and I managed to get almost everywhere I needed to in the country -- not the town, but the entire country -- on public transit, and often faster than if I'd had a car (i.e., pretty much anytime I had to travel through Brussels during rush hour or an event that attracted international dignitaries).

Contrast that with Atlanta, where I owned a car primarily so I could travel less than 4 miles to work along a route that was served by a bus that often, but not always, showed up. Even when it showed up, it only showed up once an hour. And if I wanted to use MARTA (Atlanta's version of a subway), I needed that bus, since MARTA hardly goes anywhere. Granted, Belgium is a small country, but it still seems wrong that I could travel halfway across it -- the whole country -- in the time it took me to get from Virginia-Highland to Midtown on public transit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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