Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - Pay What You Want for the Learn to Code Bundle, includes AngularJS, Python, HTML5, Ruby, and more. ×

Comment Re:His basic thesis is probably correct (Score 1) 278

I think bottom line is that it is too expensive and therefore not sustainable to settle or explore space much further either funded through taxation, private fundraising or speculative investment. If launch costs come down and other technology makes it easier then either public or private efforts can do it. In terms of speculative investment... I agree there is no prospect for financial returns on any reasonable time frame so things like asteroid mining are not going to attract large investment until the math checks. And there is no business case to be made for investors to fund the settling the moon or mars or anywhere else. But neither is there a real case to be made to the public. Space exploration was the first thing to get axed in the 1970s when the US couldn't afford it. And the likelihood is that there will be additional times where funding for space exploration from the government coffers just won't be viable. Space exploration as a point of national pride only works for missions that can begin and end in a decade or so.

Comment Re:State the obvious, get flamed anyway... (Score 1) 278

The one case of government funded exploration of the moon wasn't even sustained for ten years. I think what we can say now is that with currently available or even planned technology that space colonization just isn't going to happen regardless of the funding mechanism.

Comment Re:His basic thesis is probably correct (Score 1) 278

Yes, but if it isn't eventually economical for private investors then it isn't sustainable for government funded adventurism either. Government needs to have a return on investment more than turning over more rocks on barren worlds. At some point economics really is a reflection of resource utilization and availability and not just some abstract concept where the Federal Reserve can just add a few zeros on the computer for some spreading around money.

Comment Re:A step in the right direction (Score 2) 111

But in the end, these court orders and government actions do little. These organizations are almost clandestine in nature and are just going to do what they want.

The point of the law, as always, isn't about some wishful thinking about those who would choose to violate the law. It applies to how we want to act within the law. Murder, rape, theft, fraud, are all illegal and yet still happen far too often. The point of having a clearly defined line is to let people know when they have crossed over it.

Comment Re:Too Big To Fail (Score 1) 193

I really hope one of the other fusion projects succeeds before then. The earlier we get it, the better.

Lockheed claim they might have a prototype by 2019 and a commercial unit by 2024.

Then you have the likes of the Focus Fusion thing, shooting for the big prize, proton-boron fusion (less neutrons, no need to breed tritium, efficient solid-state energy conversion), that has made more progress (in terms of particle energy * confinement time) in the last 5 years on a few million bucks than ITER has in 8 with billions.

Both approaches are a lot smaller than the aircraft-carrier sized reactor (no, not sized for an aircraft carrier, as big as an aircraft carrier) that tokamak designs predict will be useful ; a bunch of small, municipal reactors the size of shipping containers will make for a more robust, more democratic, less monopolistic and corrupt energy generation system.

In addition to continuing with the big research reactors, I'd like to see more smaller scale funding for this kind of multimillion dollar scale development. Success or failure could come down to very very very minute differences in reactor design and operation and the more teams that are working on this and sharing results and techniques the more likely we can make faster progress.

Comment Re:Cue the flood... (Score 1) 193

This is normal. This is how technological development generally works. You have to gather knowledge and sometimes wait for other technologies to catch up to what you need

A good example in my mind was Leonardo da Vinci's helicopter drawings. He had the concept of a vehicle with an air screw on top pushing air down, but he didn't have a light enough engine to power it. If he had that engine and access to the right materials he would have likely built it or someone would have built it and then proceeded to solve further problems with stability and control through an iterative process. W

With fusion power we are well past the drawing board stage and further development is about making it practical.

Comment Re:In short (Score 1) 73

these attacks rely on the user leaving their device unlocked and unattended.......

What exactly is the story here?

That people might have been under the already clearly false illusion that their data was protected when the laptop wasn't shutdown properly. I could see people closing a laptop lid and the laptop goes to sleep (but not shutdown) and people think they are being protected by an encrypted drive... when really the simple rule to follow with an encrypted drive is that you need to fully shutdown your laptop if you are going to leave it unattended.

Comment What we need (Score 1) 118

What we need is a case like this that does not involve national security where overly broad warrants are issued very much like the warrants that are possibly secretly being issued under the Patriot Act. That is the only way we can get the constitutional issues resolved because at every turn the Federal Courts are running up against state secrets privileges when dealing with these terrorism warrants.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 735

Either way, going with nuclear is a good hedge with multiple benefits. It is also less polluting of the atmosphere which we do know causes lung health issues. It takes up less land area (less arable and livable land area) than pretty much all the other energy sources. It is reliable... you load up with a relatively small amount of uranium fuel rods and you can run a plant for years. And fossil fuels will eventually become harder (and therefore more taxing on the economy) to extract after some number of decades. Yes, with current technology you do start running low on usable uranium fuel after a certain number of decades or centuries, but with new generations of reactors you could stretch out that fuel for millennia. You don't need Global Warming to justify nuclear becoming a larger part of the energy supply, but if you are trying to mitigate Global Climate Change or doing so just in case, then nuclear power becomes essential.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 735

In different words "impose a billion dollars of additional regulations on us and then subsidize us by a billion dollars" is a good deal for a regulated industry.

At this point I'd rather just see it get done rather than worry about sifting through the regulatory process to see what is necessary and what is lining the pockets of regulators and lawyers. It would take years to sift through the red tape just to make what are probably going to be minor improvements.

I think Global Climate Change is either something that we have to deal with right now in an earnest way or we need to just stop all the BS flim flam selling and just hope our grand kids and great grand kids can just live with whatever end up being the consequences. Because causing major societal and environmental disruption with half cocked plans and then not achieving any meaningful result is actually worse than doing nothing.

We know what needs to be done to solve the CO2 problem, it is nuclear now, but most of the people who claim they are fighting Global Climate change also seem to be the same ones fighting to shut down nuclear power plants while new coal plants are being built.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 735

2) We can be carbon neutral in 30 years if we create large scale subsidies in existing state of the art in nuclear power.

The reason nuclear power plants aren't successful or competitive is massive NIMBYism and a suppression of efficient and clean nuclear power technologies because they might be used to generate weapons-grade material. Neither of those can be solved with more subsidies.

Of course, that's still better than "renewables", which simply aren't cost effective at all.

The subsidies are needed because of the cost of delays caused by regulation and lawsuits and to make it competitive with coal and natural gas. Basically most of the private sector capital investment is going into natural gas power generation and natural gas pipelines now because there is a natural gas glut in the market and it doesn't face as much opposition because it isn't as much of a polluter as coal.

Natural gas is better than coal, but it won't get us to the carbon neutrality needed to mitigate Global Climate Change.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 735

None of what you are saying is doable. You can't rest the fate of hundreds of millions of people on a bunch of theoretical wishful thinking. Pick a city of 50,000 people and actually disconnect from the grid and go with 100% solar and wind. You need to disconnect from the non-renewable grid to demonstrate a viable proof of concept because once you force solar and wind to provide base load capacity you explode your costs because you need large scale storage. The cities that are going to "100%" are really just buying the equivalent power from renewable sources which gets dumped into the grid. Which is fine until the fossil fuel power plants start going offline and you can't actually get that electricity all the way from your solar power stations reliably.

With the smart grid where you plan to just somehow have enough solar and wind scattered around the planet to shift electricity around when regions don't have solar or wind.... How long is it going to take you to boot strap using fossil fuels? Probably a couple hundred years.... which is too late for carbon reduction.

  Like I've said before: Just prove me wrong. And prove me wrong without wrecking the environment with more pollution than nuclear would. And prove me wrong now not 30 years from now when it is probably too late to stop another few degrees of warming.

Comment Re:So? (Score 4, Insightful) 735

it is a false statement that only nuclear will meet those needs.
it is equally false that renewables are only pet projects and cannot meet those needs.

Nuclear is the only proven technology. With nuclear power you have France having demonstrated for many decades that nuclear can provide nearly all the electrical power for a large modern country. Hydro is a proven technology, but it has already been largely tapped out in much of the world and hydro can disrupt river ecosystems. Solar and Wind just don't cut it without either some other large scale supplies of energy... which hydro can't provide... or a massive overbuilding of Solar and Wind to account for the variability. Solar and Wind just can't cut it alone by a long shot, so its either Natural Gas, then coal or Nuclear.

If you can't offer a realistic solution then you are part of the problem.

Comment Re:So? (Score 5, Insightful) 735

So what?

1) Global Climate change is disruptive and people will unnecessarily die or live worse-off because of the resulting displacement of peoples.
2) We can be carbon neutral in 30 years if we create large scale subsidies in existing state of the art in nuclear power. (oh and throw in a few renewable sources for up to about 30% of the total requirements)


3) If you think we can be carbon neutral and meet the energy needs of civilization with just subsidized renewables then you are the same as a "climate denier" because pretending to solve a problem (to get your extremely inadequate pet projects funded) is in effect no better than denying the problem and just waiting to run out of economically viable fossil fuels.

"The most important thing in a man is not what he knows, but what he is." -- Narciso Yepes