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Comment: Define airborne (Score 1) 445

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48036813) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

However, the Ebola Reston strain is airborne though only dangerous to monkeys.

I have oftten wondered whether the Reston virus had mutated to be spread by things like sneezes, or if it might be another matter entirely.

A number of monkey species throw feces (and/or other bodily secretions) when under stress and perceived attack. (I don't know if this is one of them, but assume for the moment it is.) Might being confined to cages along with others provoke such behavior? Wouldn't a sick monkey's feces, and tiny particles separated by airflow during the flight, carry an ebola-family virus just fine, without any mutation to make it, say, shed into nasal mucus and be carried by a sneeze?

(Granted this might fit the literal definition of "airborne transmission". B-) )

Comment: You see that with thermoacoustics. (Score 1) 69

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48010589) Attached to: How 3D Printers Went Mainstream After Decades In Obscurity

3D printing was the result of a lot of researchers working on a lot of parts, and when the dust settled, none of them could build a really practical printer without paying off all the other patent holders, most of whom were playing dog-in-the-manger with their patents while trying to elbow out the competition.

You see that with a lot of inventions. They may go through several cycles of invention / related invention / non-conbination / wait / patent expiration until enough necessary parts of the technology are patent-expired that the remaining necessary inventions can be assembled in a single company's product and the technology finally deployed.

Thermoacoustics, for instance, just had its second round of patent expiration and is in its third round of innovation. The basic idea is to make a reasonably efficient heat-engine and/or refrigerator (or a machine that combines, for instance, one of each) with no moving parts except a gas. Mechanical power in the form of high-energy sound inside a pipe is extracted from, or used to create, temperature differences.

There are some really nice gadgets coming out of it, built mainly out of plumbing comparable to automotive exhaust systems and tuned manifolds, maybe with some industrial-grade loudspeakers built in, or their miniaturized or micro-minaturized equivalent. (Example: A hunk of pluming with a gas burner, about 12 feet high and maybe eight feet on a side. Oil fields often produce LOTS natural gas in regions, like big deserts, where it's uneconomic to ship it to market. It gets burned off and vented. (CO2 is weaker greenhouse gas than CH4, by a factor of several). Pipe the gas into the plumbing, light the burner, and it burns part of it to get the power to cool and liquify the rest. As a liquid it's economic to ship and sell it. Then you get to use much of the otherwise wasted energy, displacing other fuel supples and reducing overall carbon emssion.

I hope this is the cycle where things hit the market.

Comment: They can matter if you sell what you make on it. (Score 1) 69

by Ungrounded Lightning (#48010509) Attached to: How 3D Printers Went Mainstream After Decades In Obscurity

Patents don't matter for making a printer for your own use.

They can matter if you build a business on them, like by selling objects built using them.

Especially if they improve make your process cheaper, easier, more convenient, flat-out possible, or produce a better part. (And if there ARE cheaper, etc. ways to do it, why are you using the patented tech anyhow? B-) )

Patents in the US were about increasing innovation by making first mover advantage truump second mover advantage: Giving the little guy with the bright idea time to set up manufacturing, make back his costs, reap some benefits, and get established enough to compete with existing large companies once they expire. Without them, it was thought, the existing big guys with the infrastructure in place could quickly clone the little guy's new invention and out-compete him in the market, but they wouldn't bother until the little guy had proved it was worth the effort. This would suck the incentive out of the little guys, the big guys would have little incentive to improve, and progress would be slow-to-stalled. The short-term inhibition on others deploying the invention was seen as less of an impediment to progress than having most inventions not be deployed, or even made, at all.

The idea was to set the time limit to maximize progress to the benefit of all/the country, and make manufacturing and technology grow like yeast (ala silicon valley B-) ). Part of the intent was to bias it toward innovators and make established processes free to use, because when the country was getting started the established players were owned by foreign interests. The founders wanted the country to develop its own industry, rather than being dependent on, and sending most of the profit to, big businesses in Europe.

But the time was set for heavy manufacturing at the pace of the period. It's a horrible mismatch for, say, software: With the availability of general purpose computing platforms, able to make distributable copies at electronic speed and copyright to prevent verbatim cloning, a person or company with a new software product can go from steath-mode program development to market establishment, profitibility, and even market dominance in a matter of months, before competitors can engineer their own version. So patents aren't necessary to promote innovation, leaving just their retarding effect holding down the blaze of creativity. (Then there's open source, with its alternitive monitization and/or reward strategies. But that's a "new invention". B-) )

It seems to me that:
  - The expiration of patents on stereolithography did help produce the initial explosion of new, and often inexpensive, devices and the improvements in what can be made, how accurately, and how inespensively.
  - The availability of machines suitable for practical industrial prototyping - even before the cheap machine explosion - pretty much forced the high-end CAD software producers to include some form of stereolithography output format, while an open output format made the choice obvious. That's a big benefit to the toolmaker for a small effort. The availability in the high-grade commercial tools is a great synergy and helps a lot. But the hobby machines needed CAD tools and open source was already up to the task: Had the big players not gone along it still would have been done, and those big players not "with the program" would be experiencing major competitive pressure from open source tools and competitors that did provide such output.

And here's the key:
  - The availabitiy of these rapid general-purpose maufacturing tools will bring (is already bringing!) software's high-speed innovation and entrepenurial models to the manufacture of physical objects. Patents could be shortened in term or reduced to "design patents" - the manufacturing equivalent of copyright - and produce a physical-product explosion comparable to the computer revolution. (Or patents, like "content" copyright, could become the tool of obsoleted established players in the suppression of the competing business models.)

Brace yourself for either the physical-manufacture ramp-up to science-fiction's "singularity" or an ongoing RIAA / MPAA / conglomerate - style legal battle.

Comment: For three decades or more. (Score 1) 165

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47990415) Attached to: Rosetta Code Study Weighs In On the Programming Language Debate

So it's telling us just what we already knew? Interesting.

For three or more decades. (Before that some of the classes of things they're comparing didn't exist, with enough deployment, to characterize.)

On the other hand, it's nice to have it confirmed with some rigor and measures.

Comment: Rule of thumb: $1/kW or forget it. (Score 1) 268

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47990009) Attached to: IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC

A dollar capital cost per kW of generation (with a couple decades lifetime minimum) is the ballpark for the breakeven point between grid power and solar generation on mid-US-latitude sunny sites (5ish solar hours/day), with grid power available.

Being remote (so running grid is pricey) or having a small load (so basic connection fees aren't justified) shifts the point to higher dollars/watt, as does an increase in utility rates. Shade, dark weater, and high lattitude shifts it downward. (Forget about solar in Seattle, for instance.)

Solar panels are just starting to drop below $1/W, making them practical in far more places, and making the load size and associated system costs (mounting, inverters, storage) more of a factor.

Over $/W? It needs some exceptional situation to compete with cheap flat panels.

Comment: Farmers != Farm Workers (Score 0, Troll) 122

The headline says farmers. The text says farm workers. Very much not the same thing. A farmer is the owner of the farm. A farm worker is generally a hired hand, often (though not always) a migrant, and if so typically from Mexico or farther south.

The story suggests that the multi-drug-resistant bacteria are the result of antibiotic treatment of the animals at the farm. This misses another possibility:

In Mexico, most antibiotics are over-the-counter, much like asprin here in the US. People who feel ill or have some infection often buy and take them. Typically they use them until they no longer show symptoms - then stop, rather than taking a full regimin and killing off all the bacteria. (Why take more of the non-free drug once the symptoms are gone? Waste of money, right?) This is a recipe for creating drug-resistant bacteria.

Of course if an infection is resistant to one antibiotic, a paitent is likely to try another, and another, and so on until they find one that works. THAT's a recipe for maintaining and improving the bug's resistance to the front line antibiotics while breeding resistance to others.

As a result, a substantial fraction of the workers arriving from south of the Mexican border are carriers of multi-drug-resistant baceria.

Meanwhile, a farming operation is likely to give a limited number of antibiotics continuously, so non-resistant infections are wiped out before they can develop resistance, and if they do develop resistance it will be to the particular drugs used, rather than the universe of antibiotics.

Of course, infected workers can infect livestock, just as livestock can infect workers. And infected workers can trade infections around, just as livestock can. (More so, since the livestock tends to be kept separated, to reduce both disease spread and breeding by unintended pairings, limitations that farmers can't impose on their workers - and would be unlikely to try even if they could.)

So it seems to me that responsible researchers would go a bit farther before reporting: Like by doing genetic testing on the strains of bug in the various workers and the livestock, and running models on the results to try to identfy whether the bugs are from the herd or the workers.

I don't see any such work alluded to in this popularized reporting. It seems to just assume that the bugs were developed on the farm and spread to the workers. I hope this is a disconnect between the actual research and the report, rather than an accurate characterization of the research.

Comment: Especially: The paint. (Score 1) 113

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47895641) Attached to: Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water

The gas bag itself was flammable; it wouldn't have mattered what gas was in it, when it disintegrated

In particular: The paint. It contained a mix of powdered aluminum and iron oxide pigments, in sufficient concentration to maintain a redox reaction.

You and I know this mixture as "thermite". It's really hard to get the reaction started - but an electric discharge can do it. (They tried to tether it with an electrical storm approaching. That would make one hell of a spark when the charged envelope comes near to connecting to the grounded mast - which is about when the fire started.) Once it's started, the reaction is essentially impossible to extinguish. The aluminum steals the oxygen from the iron oxide. The heats of formation of the two oxides differ so much that the energy released leaves the resulting elemental iron as an orange-glowing liquid and the aluminum oxide incandescent white-hot.

Comment: That is a misreading of the Supremacy Clause: (Score 4, Informative) 213

You are bound by the treaties your country signed.

Yes: You, and the states, and their courts, are bound by them (to the extent they are clear or were implemented by federal enabling legislation).

In fact, they have more legal weight in the US than laws passed by your own Congress.

NO! They have EXACTLY the same weight as federal law. Both treaties and federal law are trumped by the Constitution, and both are also creatures of Congress, They can be modulated, and destroyed (at least in how they are effective within the country) by congressional action.

The idea that they're any stronger or more permanent than federal legislation comes from a (very common) misreading of the Supremacy Clause:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

This says that the Constitution, Federal Law, and Treaties trump state law in state and federal courts. It says nothing about the relative power among the three.

The misreading is to interpret "all treaties made ... shall be the supreme law of the land ..." to mean that treaties effectively amend the constitution. This is wrong. You can see it by noticing the same kind of misreading also makes federal law equivalent to a constitutional amendment - which it clearly is not.

In fact the Supreme Court has spoken on the relation between the Constitution and treaties: In Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), the Supreme Court held stated that the U.S. Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Treaties are abrogated, at the federal level, all the time, and there are a number of mechanisms for doing so.

Comment: The had them at least as far back as the '50s (Score 1) 275

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47881071) Attached to: California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Now they have the guide printed on the box but I can remember when i was a kid they didn't.

Some off them had maps at least as far back as the '50s, and probably much further.

A classic was the "Whitman Sampler" - an assortment of their products with a handy map. In addition to being a tasty and relatively low-priced collection of their products, it let a family divide them up according to their individual preferences, and gave you the names of each, so you could (at least hypotheically) buy boxes of just the ones you like.

(I say hypothetically because I never saw boxes of the individual candies being carried in the stores that sold the samplers.)

Comment: Re:containment (Score 1) 296

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47872185) Attached to: WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

But regardless of the pressure, when the helium leaks out, it will not be displaced by air. It will leave behind a vacuum. The helium will leak out, but nothing will leak in to replace it.

(Except maybe hydrogen, but there's not much of that in your local air.)

So your metal parts vacuum-weld and tear themselves apart starting at the contacting surfaces, and adding lots of hydrogen to the air around the drives just makes the parts become brittle on their way to failure.

Comment: And the original AC is wrong. (Score 1) 174

What original AC is saying is that our current medicine doesn't resemble Star Trek style ... We drop blanket bombs into our bodies with the expectation that the evil bits will die a whole lot faster than the good bits, and by the time the evil bits are dead, the good bits are still in a good enough shape to regenerate.

No that is NOT what we do for practically anything but chemotherapy for most cancers (where the difference from normal tissue is very small - a few mutations in signaling systems) and the main difference is that being stuck in reproduction mode makes them somewhat less robust.

Antibiotics are all about targeting one or another chemical mechanism that has one form in the target organism when its equivalen has another - or is absent - in human tissue. There are a LOT of drugs that have been discovered or designed, and the collection consists of enormous numbers of "magic bullets" that each target just one, or a small set, of systems found in particular pathogenic lifeforms, with either negligible, or far lower, side-effects on other systems.

Sure many antibiotics hit a wide range of NON-human life - pathogens and others - because THEY share susceptable versions of the target system or contain systems that are strongly side-effected. Sure the doctors sometimes have to pick drugs with bad side-effects because those are the best choices they have. But the characterization of antibiotic and antiviral drugs as "blanket bombing" has been out of date for more than half a century.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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