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Comment: Re:Efficiency? (Score 4, Informative) 234

The conventional piston-and-crankshaft engine forces the variation of cylinder volume over time to follow a specific sinusoidal curve. This is not the most efficient way to convert the energy of a hot expanding gas to motion. Look at the third picture in the slideshow to see the power-over-time graph of the free piston engine to get an idea of how differently this engine runs.

This fundamental difference in thermodynamic cycle performance makes the biggest improvement to the efficiency of this engine. It more than makes up for the inherent inefficiencies in converting the mechanical motion to electricity and back. Using electricity lets you use capacitors and batteries to smooth that spiky but efficient power production to a a smooth supply for the electric motors.

Comment: Nucular power (Score 2) 97

by XNormal (#46582035) Attached to: WHO: Air Pollution 'Killed 7 Million People' In 2012

Take a look at this graph: Nuclear Electricity Production. It's quite easy to spot 1986 on this graph (Chernobyl). That's where the trend of acceleration in nuclear power growth has reversed into deceleration. No such reversal has occured in demand for electric power, of course. The shortfall has been largely picked up by coal.

The number of people that have been killed by air pollution from coal as an indirect result of the nuclear stagnation after the Chernobyl accident is well into the millions.

Comment: Sulfur-based polymer? (Score 1) 131

by XNormal (#46405843) Attached to: Sulfur Polymers Could Enable Long-Lasting, High-Capacity Batteries
In the 1960s there was research into sulfur-based polymers but apparently ran into some problems:

"Recently we found ourselves with an odour problem beyond our worst expectations. During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away. Two of our chemists who had done no more than investigate the cracking of minute amounts of trithioacetone found themselves the object of hostile stares in a restaurant and suffered the humiliation of having a waitress spray the area around them with a deodorant."

Comment: Re:IANL (Score 1) 201

by XNormal (#45197829) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Legal Advice Or Loopholes Needed For Manned Space Program

... and the easiest way for your government to comply with the treaty article about non-government entities is to simply to put in place a law disallowing it. Without a powerful lobby there will be no incentive for your government to set up the regulatory apparatus for legally enabling such activity. Any such regulation is likely to be tailored to the needs of the members of such a lobby, not to a small organization like yours. And if you are thinking of jurisdiction shopping (i.e. finding some government more friendly to such activities) remember that your government may decide that you are under their jurisdiction by being a citizen, regardless of where in the world you happen to be. Also, other countries (most notably the US) are likely to decide that if you are building anything with a range capable of reaching their territory in ballistic flight that makes it their business, too. They will find many creative ways to put pressure on other governments to stop you (see this for example).

Good luck.

Comment: Hardly news (Score 2) 139

by XNormal (#44550145) Attached to: Royal Navy Deployed Laser Weapons During the Falklands War

"The pity was that Plymouth had not had time to turn right around, because she was fitted with the new laser equipment known locally to us as "Flasher" - which could well have stopped the attack in its tracks, because it literally forces any incoming pilot to pull up sharply during the forty-second period in which he cannot see."

from One Hundred Days by Admiral Sandy Woodward (1992)

Comment: I've seen this demonstrated 15 years ago. (Score 3, Insightful) 66

by XNormal (#44539805) Attached to: OmniCam360 Camera Cluster Lets You Choose the Viewing Angle

The application was a video conferencing system. The omnidirectional camera had the exact same arrangement of mirrors and black baffles between them. It was placed in the middle of a conference table and the display was steered automatically by a microphone array that determined the direction of the speaker. This way you always got a nice framing of the speaker's head. It was essential for getting any kind of usable picture in a conference with multiple people back when bandwidth was limited and video compression was crappy. It would still be very useful today but I haven't seen this anywhere.

Comment: Re:Will Tesla buy them? (Score 1) 193

Why would he bother? He has a successful company, why would he want to buy a company that burned through that much money with no noticeable product

As a slashdotter, we are prone to having a bias of looking at everything as a technology development issue. But Better Place was an infrastructure project. They tried to minimize the development of any new technology. And infrastructure requires Big Money. Unfortunately, it was Big Money with the risk profile of a technology development startup. Ouch.

Comment: Slower than the speed of light (Score 1) 364

Superposition, wave function collapse and other quantum effects are supposed to govern everything. But I don't seem to recall any such weird experiments that do not involve any particle traveling slower than the speed of light.

Are there any such demonstrations that involve only interactions between particles having nonzero rest mass?

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.