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Comment Re:History says otherwise (Score 1) 388

Wind and solar have minuscule costs over the long term (just maintenance on the machines and lines).

Please then explain the massive fields of dead turbines in California and the southern tip of Hawaii.

Long term history teaches us that wind power plants shut down after just a decade or two. Why is that? If the long term cost is minuscule why would they have been decommissioned?

Of course there's tremendous cost to birds also but fuck wildlife, right?

Wow. The Big Lie, big time. The explanation for those "massive fields of dead turbines" is that they do not exist, and everything you posted above is a work of fiction.

Possibly you have seen the turbine fields, in pictures or in person, when the wind was not blowing (a regular, expected occurrence) and then combined ignorance with fantasy to produce the above nonsense.

Did you forget to log out and post as AC?

Real data show the installed wind capacity, and actual annual wind production growing rapidly, year after year. I drive through one of the major California wind farm areas regularly and have watched the steady expansion of the windmills, and older designs being replaced by ever larger and more powerful models.

(This is the only occasion when right-whiners show much concern for the environment - those 300,000 or so annual wind turbine bird kills, which is 0.01% of the number of birds killed by domestic cats every year. Feer bird kills are better than more, but America's birds are not being endangered by wind turbines.)

Comment Re:NSA vs NASA (Score 1) 182

You make an interesting and valid point about U.S. spending on domestic surveillance because terrorism. But you overstate the risk of terrorism.

Since 2001 there have been on average 5 terrorism deaths in the United States per year, and annual rate of 1 in 60 million, and it is a hazard with no potential for fatalities of more than a few thousand people (the deadliest attack since 2001 killed 13 people). Yet this is deemed dangerous enough that billions are spent annually on domestic spying.

Comment Re:The odds are very low... (Score 1) 182

There is also the problem with impactors we don't know about. NASA has a pretty good handle on the major potential impactors, true, but from the article you link to:

NASA has said that roughly 95 percent of the largest asteroids that could endanger Earth — space rocks at least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide — have been identified through these surveys.

95% is not 100% (or 99.9%), so there is some significant distance to go yet.

One problem though that asteroid charting projects will not help with this that ~20% of the potential threat comes from long period comets that we only see for the first time as they fall in past the outer planets, a matter of months, rather than years before they cross Earth's orbit. To deal with this threat we need to develop a good deflection technology, and ready launchable hardware, and plans to conduct an interception if a likely threat is detected. Some of these comets put the "dinosaur killer" to shame. The impactor that formed Chixulub Crater was only about 10 km wide. Comet Hale-Bopp that was only detected 20 months before it reached Earth's orbit in 1997 was 60 km wide, 200 times the mass of the "dinosaur killer". (If a threat is that big not even nuclear weapons can take it out, but there are many more comets that are smaller, yet still represent a major threat. It is possible that a Hale-Bopp sized comet might have caused Earth's greatest extinction event 252 million years ago.)

Comment Re: An interesting option (Score 2) 149

The moon has one interesting feature, and it's not colonization. Aluminum has about the same concentration there as on Earth, but the gravity is significantly lower. Iron has a slightly higher concentration than aluminum.

A railgun can achieve lunar orbital speed (2.4km/sec). We have the technology. General Dynamics has a gun that can shoot at 2.55 km/sec.

This technology is more commonly known as a mass driver.

The thought is that a mining operation could use the 14-day light cycle to orbit refined metal or construction components. Since very little propellant would be necessary, a lot of material is attainable. Metal is the heaviest and therefore costliest material to move out of a gravity well.

Proposals like this show a profound misunderstanding of space flight costs. The two principal costs in space flight are the costs of making the space flight hardware, and the cost of maintaining and managing the vast ground-based infrastructure of a space flight program. Launch costs are relatively unimportant, and the focus on launch and orbital velocity changes is completely misplaced.

Currently, with SpaceX, we are at point where we can project $1000/lb launch costs. At that price point, space exploration would be essentially unchanged in its cost structure if launches were free. Any type of aerospace hardware costs several thousand dollars a pound to build. Look at an undemanding commercial system like the Boeing Dreamliner. Here you have a competitive marketplace, well proven technologies and designs, a benign operating environment, and the cost the plane is $1000/lb. Any spaceflight hardware costs an order of magnitude (or more) more than this. The SpaceX Dragon capsule for example weighs 7000 lb, and is expected to have a unit cost around $140 million, of $20,000/lb.

The aluminum on the moon would be extremely expensive aluminum, considering the cost of the fully automated factory that would have to be designed from scratch, built on Earth, launched to the Moon, and installed there. Yet, even if the aluminum produced there were free, it would do little to reduce the real costs of spaceflight.

Comment Re:Pointless (Score 1) 162

all state-owned companies everywhere are significantly less efficient than their private sector competitors

Except when they aren't. Railway systems, health care systems, and prisons all show clear evidence to the opposite.

That is the problem with taking something that may often be true, and then pretend it is an iron law of nature, never broken, and then apply this imagined 'law of nature' indiscriminately. Bad results will obtain on occasion, perhaps many occasions. But the rule purveyor, who insists it is a revealed truth, like Gospel, will never test it for validity, or believe any evidence to the contrary.

Belief in the absolute inferiority of government and the public sector is a type of cult, a very large on in the U.S.

Comment Re:EPA standards (Score 5, Insightful) 569


Something is seriously messed up there.

There is indeed. It is the fruit of corporate lobbying.

Domestic vehicle makers have maintained a relative advantage in the SUV and sport truck marketplaces, practically alone among all vehicle categories. They also (not surprisingly) have their highest profit margins on these vehicles. Accordingly they have worked hard to make sure that special favors to promote those vehicle categories are written into law. The regulatory-industry turnstile ensures that favorable interpretations by (soon to be industry consultant) regulators.

Some years back there was actually a tax credit for heavy SUVs and trucks, which were classified automatically as "commercial vehicles" which in turn got an automatic "commercial vehicle purchase" tax credit without needing any showing of commercial use so that the tax payer was subsidizing the sale of gas guzzling toys to the well off (but they were American! toys.)

Comment Re:No one is asking YOU (Score 1) 684

...the litter most hikers leave on the mountain (including garbage, human waste, etc. which especially befouls the most popular -- and now frequently crowded -- routes), etc.

You leave off my favorite human litter left on Mt. Everest dead bodies, some of them popular milestone markers used by climbers.

But this site assures us the "The number of climbers who have died on Everest is 6.5% of the 4,042 climbers who have reached the summit since it's 1953 first ascent is 6.5%, not necessarily an alarming number." Perhaps, but a one-in-15 chance of dying in a hobby jaunt, might well be an alarming number to most people.

Comment Re:Their own scientists weren't even close (Score 1) 295

So you are saying that Heisenberg was uncertain?

Well, his momentum was low, we know that, so that means that his position was indeterminable. Which is a fair match which history actually. :-)

By the eponymous principle, if his momentum was low then we should know his position with good accuracy.

Comment Re:There are more important things... (Score 1) 60

Okay, so we get them internet access, meanwhile the people "taking care of the other problems" have made 0 headway on securing clean water, healthcare, and infrastructure.

We seem to have a particularly stupid AC here today. Why on Earth would "0 headway" be made by other people working on other problems? Because everyone has to stop doing anything in the entire country until the Internet is installed? Because the guy doing the Internet is the only guy who can do anything at all in Africa?

But hey, they can log in to facebook to complain about their dysentery, so they got that going for them. Oh right, they can't afford the internet access that was just installed.

Because the only thing the Internet is good for is Facebook? Are you twelve years old? (A smart 12 year old would know better, but we already covered that.) Gee, being able to distribute health information, check the status of villages during epidemics, arrange for medical supply deliveries, provide on-line education, etc., etc. might seem somehow useful. Good communications are essential for economic development everywhere, Africa is no exception.

Comment Can You Say "Software Factory"? (Score 4, Informative) 289

This idea is an old one, and has been tried. It is known as the "software factory" and was a central part of Japan's Fifth Generation Computer (FGS) initiative from 1982 to 1992, 30 years ago. The FGSI probably holds the record for the most spectacular computer project failure in the history of computer science, with a total of $700 million spent in 2015 dollars.

Comment Re:Demand segmentation 101 (Score 2) 379

Actually, airlines in the USA are generally running almost all their flights at full capacity right now. Especially the major carriers. Competition has made them run with nearly 100% load factors nearly every day of the week.

Business travelers dominate Sunday, Monday, Friday and Saturday leaving Tuesday - Thursday for non-business travelers. Middle of the week is where the deals are now, but because they have reduced capacity so much, business travel is being squished into these days as well.

The 2015 domestic load factor is 83.68% right now - which is indeed extremely high. Many flights are full at such a high load factor, but not all of them are. There are still "red-eyes" and other off-peak flights that have loads well below 50%, and the fact that they don't charge high fares (to cover the full cost of flying the plane) for those flights - the rates are discounted in fact - shows that the principle of some flights subsidizing others is still in place.

Comment Re:Demand segmentation 101 (Score 1) 379

It's entirely likely that the airlines are losing money on some flights, and making that money up during peak demand times, so that they can keep their entire fleet going all year.

It is not "likely" - it is a simple fact that this is the case.

Consider the cost of flying an aircraft. The cost of operation does go up when the flight is full compared to nearly empty due to the increased fuel consumption, but the weight difference between a fully fueled airliner with no passengers and baggage, and one with a full passenger/baggage load is only about 25% of added weight. Fuel consumption is close to a linear function of aircraft weight. So the empty airliner has only a 25% fuel savings over a full one, and all other costs are equal (amortization of the plane, flight crew costs, gate fees, etc.).

If they charged the actual cost of operation per passenger for each flight then nearly empty airliner ticket prices would be fantastically expensive while full flights would be very cheap. Yet the empty flights are empty due to low demand, and the full ones are full due to high demand. This is obviously a topsy-turvy pricing model that would mean the demise of the airline, or airline industry if followed. And canceling scheduled flights simply due to low numbers of passengers does not, shall we say, "fly" - people expect scheduled flights to actually be there if they choose to buy a ticket at the last minute.

So nearly empty flight seat prices are low (and the fares come no where near paying for the cost of flying the plane) since they want to get some people on the plane to reduce losses on the flight, while full flights with higher seat prices pay the bills and make all of the profits.

Comment Re:It's Entirely Feasible (Score 1) 147

Mars One is a not for profit foundation.

"Non profits" are perfectly capable of paying their officers huge salaries for doing nothing. All "not for profit" means is that there are no share holders and they can collect money with many tax exemptions. "Non profits" that are run for the profit of the founder and his/her cronies is one of the oldest scams in the book.

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology. - C. K. Chesterton