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Comment Re:Hydro = from the sun (Score 1) 118

Direct solar may sound nice and work fine in small scale, but collectors would have to cover great areas to be effective

The total world energy consumption is somewhere around 100PWh/year. That's around 274TWh/day. The sunlight hitting the Earth is around 1kW/m^2, so 8kWh/m^2 assuming 8 hours of sunlight. If you assume 100% efficiency in conversion (totally impossible, but we'll start there and refine later), then that means that you need about 3.45E10 m^2 of land devoted to solar power. That's a square about 185km on each side. If you assume 10% efficiency (mass produced photovoltaics are 12-25% these days), then you need an area about 342000km^2, or about the area of Germany, to power the entire world. Now, given the efficiency of power distribution, you probably wouldn't want to put it all in one place, but you could easily fit solar panels enough that, even with transmission losses, you could power all of North America in Utah or Texas without anyone noticing. The difficulty is not the generation, it's the storage.

Comment Re:What happened to Pascal, anyway? (Score 2) 116

The two major Pascal implementations (Free Pascal and Delphi) are fairly compatible with each other so it's not as fragmented as you think.

It's isn't fragmented now, because it's dead other than those two non-standard compilers, all the other implementations having vanished along with their communities...

Comment Re:What happened to Pascal, anyway? (Score 1) 116

The Pascal community fragmented. The 8-bit systems carried on using ISO Pascal or UCSD Pascal, but Wirth and other key Pascal experts went off and created Modula-2, which was much more practical for real world programming. (I used Modula-2 on the Atari ST, it was a much nicer experience than trying to program GEM in C.)

But instead of Pascal or Modula-2, Borland went off and did their own thing, producing a proprietary "Pascal" that wasn't compatible with anyone else.

Then the Modula-2 community split into the Oberon (Wirth) and Modula-3 (everyone else) communities to add OO, and Borland again did their own thing and ignored everyone else.

Now we have Go, which takes C and adds in ideas from Modula and Oberon. And Free Pascal still isn't even compatible with 1982's standard ISO Pascal.

Comment Re: Already solved (Score 1) 107

I bought a new fridge about 5 years ago. I moved house and worked out that the difference in power consumption between the old fridge I had and the new one that I bought meant that the new fridge paid for itself in 2-3 years. Newer utilities are significantly lower power than ones from even the '80s and '90s. I bet that the next set of low-operating-cost white goods will all have some kind of Internet-related insecurity as standard.

Comment Re:How about fixing the systems? (Score 1) 143

Leap seconds are announced months in advance

i.e. with less warning than the revalidation time for a lot of safety-critical systems.

Anybody who knows about problems with leap days?

Well, aside from the Zune infinite looping...

Leap days (which we call leap years, because consistency is hard) are predictable. Software written 40 years ago will have the extra days at exactly the same times and with exactly the same frequency that the designers thought that they would. You never have problems where some parts of a distributed system got the update and others didn't. Either the code is working, or it's broken. It's also really easy to test.

Comment Re:This is stupid ... (Score 2) 143

You do understand that the navigation is ALSO intrinsically tied to the astronomical positioning of things, right?

Today? Mostly (for anything where accuracy matters to the degree that leap seconds will make a difference in under a few hundred years) it depends on the GPS position, or some equivalent. GPS time, unlike UTC, does not have leap seconds.

Comment Re:This is stupid ... (Score 2) 143

If we don't bother with leap seconds, then the distance that the sun will be off from being directly overhead at the equinox is about the same as it is now from being a couple of hundred miles away from the meridian. A simpler solution to the problem would be to, every couple of thousand years, have a one-hour reset. There is basically nothing that depends on the position of the sun in the sky to that level of accuracy, but there are a huge number of things (including all air-traffic control systems) that depend on keeping time in sync to sub-second accuracy and are safety critical. These things all need some special handling for every adjustment and an extra hour would be no more difficult for them than an extra second, so doing one big correction every couple of thousand years would be far, far cheaper. That's of course assuming that we still care much for a time system that's predicated on a single planet's relationship to its star in 2,000 years. It seems likely that we'll either be sufficiently disbursed that we don't, or that we'll have damaged our civilisation enough that we will have far bigger problems to deal with.

Comment Re:Um... (Score 2) 274

Are those numbers by currency unit or by transaction? I probably do about as many transactions in cash as by card (though contactless is reducing that quickly), but they're all very low value. I'll easily spend more in one card transaction than I will in a couple of weeks of cash transactions (I'm in the UK).

Comment Re:High Level Waste (Score 4, Informative) 330

That's almost as silly as Red Mercury. Do you know why no terrorist plots have actually detonated a dirty bomb? It's not because radioactive materials are hard to get hold of, it's because building an effective dirty bomb is really hard. You have to find something that is sufficiently radioactive to be a problem, that is easy to disburse over a wide area, but which won't disburse so far / quickly that it will simply drop to background radioactivity levels.

Comment Re:Star wars missile defense (Score 1) 330

Well, nothing aside from convincing the USSR to spend so much on defence that their economy collapsed, shortly followed by their political system.

Oh, and those intelligence agencies that are now crying for a greater ability to spy on us so that they can protect us from terrorists? They were completely surprised and thought that the collapse of the USSR was a hoax.

The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and does not stop until you get to work.