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Comment Nuclear Fusion (Score 1) 224

If we really took this problem seriously, we'd be pushing hard on nuclear fusion research. I suspect we could have had fusion plants up and running before 2000 if there had been research funding. Now it's 2015 and we've got lots of fusion research projects limping along on shoestring budgets, plus ITER which is paralyzed by bureaucracy and international politics. (Remember the 20 years they wasted arguing over where to build it?)

If we managed the Apollo Program the way we've managed ITER, people today would still be laughing at the idea of space travel and joking that "A moon landing is thirty years away -- and always will be!"

Comment My High-Tech Car (Score 1) 417

My car came with an Alpine head unit in a double DIN slot. Out on the highway, road noise makes listening to music no fun. Although it has USB, I've given up trying to get my iPod to work reliably with it. The navigation is lame. There is a backup camera, but I haven't even been bothering with that lately. I've thought about replacing it with a better unit, but really I can't be bothered. When I'm in the car I want to drive, not fiddle with electronic gadgets.

There's probably some kind of feature to work "hands free" with my phone, but I haven't really looked into it. Not worth the effort.

The car's interior is spartan. It doesn't even have power steering, and I like it just fine that way. I guess I'm just living in the past.

The car. . . A 2011 year model Tesla Roadster.

Comment Did it kill VR? (Score 1) 43

I'm tempted to blame the Virtual Boy for strangling the first wave of VR development in its cradle.

The problem. . . Virtual Reality is being researched around the world. VR is being hyped in the media. Everyone is excited. Then a major, high-profile game company releases, with much fanfare, a game machine with "virtual" in the name -- but it isn't actually Virtual Reality. At all. People look at it and shake their heads. "That's it? Wow, what a let down! I thought VR was going to be something cool." And then everything just dies. Coincidence?

For what it's worth, I played Dactyl Nightmare in the arcade around that time. It was crude, but it was, in fact, virtual reality, and it was fun (at least to me). But it was something like $4 per game, at a time when most kids were balking at shelling out $0.50 per game instead of the traditional quarter. Maybe that had a hand in killing off enthusiasm for VR too.

Comment Coal is losing the War On Coal (Score 1) 466

quote: "Most power in the US is generated by burning coal..."

Coal dropped below 50% several years ago and is falling rapidly. Alpha Natural Resources -- one of the giants of the American coal industry -- has filed for bankruptcy. They're sitting on $3 billion in debt while coal prices have plummeted as a result of utilities switching over to natural gas.

As for the whole DC power thing... If you have rooftop solar, and you are generating your own DC power, then converting it to AC and then back to DC again (which most appliances actually use) is not efficient. As rooftop solar continues to spread, I suspect we'll see more appliances designed to bypass the AC grid.

Comment Re:Smart (Score 1) 291

Silly me... I had just assumed that consumers -- who buy the cars with their hard earned money -- would be the ones who decide what is or is not competitive in the marketplace. I guess CARB will make those decisions for us from now on?

Personally, I think that convenience is what generally wins out, at least in the USA. Electric cars have a huge advantage here, since they can be charged at home overnight. I don't know how gasoline or hydrogen is going to compete with that.

Comment Re:Smart (Score 5, Insightful) 291

The top range Tesla now is 270 miles per charge. How often do you drive more than 270 miles in a day? Be honest now. . . Because most of us rarely do that.

Recharging time. . . It takes 20 seconds to plug in your car in the evening. In the morning you have a full charge. That's way more convenient than going to the gas station.

If you're on the highway, taking that epic road trip, then yeah. . . You're screwed. It's gonna kill your soul when you have to stop for a 20 or 30 minute quick charge a couple of times during the long day's driving. And you totally weren't going to stop like that in your gas car, because you are a superhuman who never needs to rest, eat or use the bathroom.

I have no idea what "shitty little cars with no cargo" you are referring to. I thought the topic was Tesla? The Model S is a full-sized car with enormous cargo space, front and back. You can haul your drum kit in it.

Comment Re:The future of electric could be much brighter i (Score 1) 291

Battery swapping seems to me like an elaborate and costly solution to a non-problem. Most electric cars are simply going to be charged at home anyhow, most of the time, because that's most convenient. In the marketplace -- especially in the USA -- convenience usually wins out.

Comment Re:Snark on Detroit? (Score 1) 291

I wonder why people keep talking about how awful cars were in the 1970s? I'm old enough to remember those cars, but maybe I was too young to appreciate what was wrong with them.

To me the true automotive dark age was the 1980s, when most cars looked like a box stacked on top of a larger box with woefully underpowered motors, squeaked like a sack full of mice, and periodically left you stranded on the side of the road.

Comment Re:Smart (Score 5, Interesting) 291

CARB was convinced that Tesla demonstrated the ability to swap batteries, and CARB sets the rules for ZEV credits. Tesla have done exactly what they needed to do in order to meet CARB's bizarre diktats.

Now, can anybody explain to me why battery swapping is worth additional credits in the first place? CARB's mandate is supposed to be cleaner air. Swapping batteries doesn't make the air cleaner. They give three times the ZEV credits for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as they do for battery electric vehicles -- even though both produce the same amount of pollutant emissions: none. Where's the logic?

Oh yeah. . . The logic is that Toyota -- by some measures the largest car company in the world (effectively tied with VW, last I heard) -- unloaded a truckload of cash to lobby CARB board members.

Comment Future Shock (Score 1) 484

We did wait about a century for battery technology to get better. Then NiMH batteries came along, and then the entire Li-Ion family of chemistries came along, and battery technology got a whole lot better.

I wonder if this is a case of future shock? Sometimes technology leaves ingrained, conventional wisdom in the dust, and some people are very slow to acknowledge it. Example. . . I still encounter those who say solar power will never be anywhere near cost competitive with fossil fuels. For about fifty years solar was wildly expensive, then solar panel prices fell off a cliff. Some folks still haven't got the memo.

It'll probably be the same with fusion power. We sometimes forget in these discussions that fission plants are merely a stopgap technology until fusion is up and running. We've repeated the joke -- "Fusion power is 40 years in the future -- and always will be!" -- so often that we've all begun to believe it's more than a joke. We've got to the point where the only thing Joe Sixpack knows about fusion is that it's never really going to happen. Joe is going to get a big surprise someday.

Comment How much electricity do refineries use?? (Score 1) 188

I have to wonder if this study took into account the vast amounts of electrical power used to refine gasoline? Those refineries are some of the biggest users of grid power in the country. I've even heard it suggested (though I haven't seen a by-the-numbers breakdown) that it takes, on average, as much electrical power to refine a gallon of gasoline as it would take to power a BEV the same distance driven. If that's true -- or even in the ballpark -- then it could turn the conclusions of this study upside-down.

After any salary raise, you will have less money at the end of the month than you did before.