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Comment: Re:BLUE ray (Score 1) 162

by swillden (#48470725) Attached to: Jackie Chan Discs Help Boost Solar Panel Efficiency

removed the top plastic layer, exposing the recording medium beneath; cast a mold of the quasi-random pattern; and then used the mold to create a photovoltaic cell with the same pattern

So you use your expensive photo lithography equipment to create a master, make as many molds from that as you like, and then create the photovoltaic cells from those. The mass production of BD-ROM discs is irrelevant, it just makes your master cheap, but when you're making 10,000s of cells the cost of the master is unimportant.

Sure, but the cost is very relevant when you're doing research. This Blu-Ray disc experiment demonstrates that the theoretical work done previously will probably work as well as the theory predicts.

Comment: What's amazing... (Score 1) 107

by swillden (#48452681) Attached to: Google Chrome Will Block All NPAPI Plugins By Default In January

What's amazing is that this 1996-era hack for extending the functionality of the Netscape browser, in a rather kludgy and unsafe way, still exists at all in 2014. I took a class at the Netscape office in Mountain View in 1997 to learn how to write NPAPI plugins and thought then that it was an ugly hack that deserved to go way soon, though I was glad it existed to solve my immediate problems. Not only did it not go away (though MS removed NPAPI support for IE a long time ago), nearly all major browsers today still support it.

Good for Google for deprecating this crap. Firefox (which is to some degree a descendant of Netscape) has also been reducing its support, per the WP article.

Comment: Re:I don't think hydrogen makes sense (Score 1) 280

But don't ignore other advantages of hydrocarbon fuels simply because you don't like the idea of spewing carbon into the atmosphere.

FWIW, I don't worry over much about carbon. My EV purchase was based on purely economic analysis. Having driven an EV for a while, what I really dislike about gas burners is the noise and the smell. This isn't an environmental concern, or not a global environmental concern, anyway. It's about the environment of my garage.

Comment: Re:132 stations is not "blanketing the US" (Score 2) 280

When they get the number of stations into the tens of thousands then I'll concede the point.

I don't think the number needs to be anywhere near that high. Not remotely.

Don't make the mistake of thinking of supercharger stations as analogous to your average neighborhood gas station. They're nothing like that. Supercharger stations are only needed for long-distance travel. They're analogous to the big travel centers you find along the interstates and other highways which carry significant amounts of long-distance traffic, and the numbers required are similar to those of travel centers. If there's one every hundred miles or so along every long-distance travel corridor (which in the US is mostly just the interstates, though there are a few areas with long-distance highways) then coverage will be complete.

With electric vehicles, 95+% of charging is done at places where vehicles spend lots of time parked, primarily homes and workplaces. Such charging doesn't need to be particularly fast. Fast charging only matters when you're driving distances beyond the range of your battery.

You mention North Dakota, for example. Move the slider on that map to 2015 and you'll see they plan to put three superchargers there. That will cover the long-distance travel across ND, and most long-distance travel within ND. Add another supercharger on highway 2, midway between Grand Forks and Minot and you'll have covered nearly all of the rest. Add four of five more and you'll be able to get to any destination in the state without worry.

Comment: Re:Corn Subsidies (Score 1) 183

by swillden (#48449665) Attached to: How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

Throw away Malthus - you have to give up the theory of evolution.

Darwin cites Malthus repeatedly in his books and for very good reason: without Malthus, there can't BE evolution.

Randomly-driven evolution, no. But we aren't very far from being able to deliberately evolve ourselves, to achieve specific purposes.

There's a good argument, though, that deliberate, directed evolution is also evolution by variation and selection... it's just that the variation and selection is carried out in brains and in computers rather than in genotypes and phenotypes. In fact, there's a good argument that all knowledge creation is via variation and selection, including all knowledge created by humans, though there we call the process speculation and criticism and much of it happens internally so that truly bad ideas never get uttered or written.

So, no need to abandon the theory of evolution.

Comment: Re:Corn Subsidies (Score 2) 183

by swillden (#48449601) Attached to: How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

No convincing needed, its happening naturally and just a question of when the peak is Total fertility rate 1950–1955 : 4.95 2010–2015 : 2.36

Yes and no. What you say is true, and further it appears we've already reached and passed the maximum number of children born per year, in absolute terms. But the population is still growing because the world population is youth-heavy. Assuming we stay on the current trend of gradually declining births and assuming we don't start living longer than 100 years in large numbers, this means the world population will stop growing at about 10B, then start a very slow decline, but that will be far above the levels Spy Hunter thinks we should reach.

I don't think I'd want to live in Spy Hunter's world, though. I certainly wouldn't want to live the "hunter-gatherer lifestyle", which was fully Hobbesian (nasty, brutish and short). In some senses perhaps those people were "healthier" than we are today, but they experienced a lot more pain and died a lot sooner. I suppose Spy Hunter is theorizing some world in which we eat like hunter-gatherers but live in a technological civilization, but that seems like a silly approach when we can, instead, continue our research into human biochemistry to understand exactly what humans need (with much more precision than "eat like hunter-gatherers", who almost certainly never got an ideal diet) and into food production, until we can create food that is healthy (ideally so), safe and flavorful.

Comment: I don't think hydrogen makes sense (Score 2) 280

At least, compressed hydrogen gas is really questionable.

Besides the well-known problems associated with containing hydrogen, I'm skeptical that it makes sense to build out a whole new distribution system. We have an extensive network in place for distributing gasoline and smaller ones for distributing compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid propane (LP), but hydrogen gas is very different from any of those three. We also have a network in place for distributing electricity. Granted that it will have to be beefed up in many ways to support a society of all electric vehicles, that still seems like a much easier task. Particularly since with the increasing deployment of home PV generation, the electric grid might not need to be beefed up as much as we think.

It all really comes down to the cost of batteries. The only saving grace of compressed hydrogen vs batteries is that big batteries are expensive. And somewhat heavy, but probably not much heavier than the tanks needed to contain hydrogen. So is it cheaper to build lots of batteries and improve the electric grid where needed, or to build out an entirely new distribution infrastructure?

My money is on electric vehicles. Battery prices are falling just due to small incremental improvements plus scaling, and there are a number of technologies on the horizon that promise to significantly increase the kWh/$ ratio. Yes, yes, many of them have been "on the horizon" for a while, but there are so many promising technologies that it seems very probable that at least one will work out. Note that I'm not talking about recharge times, because Tesla has already solved that problem... given ~300 miles range and a one-hour recharge time, you're good even for cross-country trips.

Another option that might make a lot of sense is fuel cells that run on gasoline or CNG. Those would have many of the benefits of an EV (quiet, powerful electric drive; very simple, low-maintenance drive train), but could use existing fueling infrastructure. They still emit some CO2, but less than ICEs.

(Disclaimer: I own an electric vehicle.)

Comment: Re:Of course not! (Score 4, Funny) 125

by swillden (#48446263) Attached to: 2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

It's reprehensible that they leverage this incredibly popular brand to teach girls to code when they could be using it to sell Happy Meals and next year's landfill fodder. Shame, shame!

You're missing the point: Disney is exploiting the incredible popularity of Hour of Code among young girls in order to boost their poorly-performing movie.

That might be shameful if it weren't so completely ludicrous.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader