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Comment You're right, it's bogus. Dang! (Score 1) 118

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_detector mentions none of this.

You're right, it's bogus.

I was told that decades ago. But a little research (in the online patent databases) shows that there were ionization smoke detectors for decades before that (back in the tube era, even, when beta emitters were easily available to the common man). NASA says their only involvement with smoke detector design was (in collaboration with Honeywell) coming up with a variable-sensitivity design to stop annoying false alarms in Skylab.

Sorry to have repeated a myth. B-b

Comment Heroes in more ways than one. (Score 4, Interesting) 118

The Appollo I martyrs are heroes in more ways than one.

One of NASA's responses to the fire was to design a detector for miniscule amounts of smoke particles, to provide an early warning of electrical problems that might lead to a fire - in time to evacuate the capsule if on the ground or hunt down and fix the problem if in space.

The detector used a miniscule amount of radioactive material to ionize the smoke particles and then detected the current conducted by the ions. (Radioactive materials were for NASA, a government agency, to design with, difficult for random inventors or corporations to even consider.)

The first, space-rated, low-volume prototypes were pricey. But the circuitry and the detection chamber were dog-simple and could be dirt-cheap when manufactured in volume.

So this was plowshared, and became the ionization-type smoke detector, the first practical, affordable, smoke detector suitable for broad deployment in residences. Even when this was the only type in use, it was quickly saving, first hundreds, then thousands of lives per year.

Modern detectors, combining ionization and photoelectric mechanisms, are credited with cutting the death toll from fires by somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2. They detect different types of fires, and the one detected by ionization accounts for somewhat less than half of them - which is still an enormous number.

So the loss of those three lives has been repaid with enormous interest in the decades that followed. The benefits are still flowing.

Comment Such sites would RATHER be boycotted. (Score 1) 118

Even better if they boycotted all sites which block ad-blocking viewers, ...

If you're blocking ads, you don't contribute to their revenue, but do contribute to their resource consumption. So the operators of such sites would RATHER be boycotted by people using ad-blockers.

Sounds like a win-win. B-)

Comment They should have argued it was a "Taking". (Score 0) 84

But the rule has meant millions in lost profits for utilities. Those companies argued that the program impermissibly targets retail customers.

They should have argued that it was a "taking" and the government had to reimburse them for their losses.

The tail end of the Fifth Amendment reads:

[...] nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

and the Supremes have already ruled that new laws and regulations, and changes to existing ones, that suck part of the value out of property (in this case, the value of the power generation and transmission infrastructure, which is based on the profit it creates) constitute a "partial taking" and require the government to pay for what it took.

Getting the Supremes to recognize that a rule change which imposes a change in the flow of money from customers to the investors in a busines can constitute a fifth amendment taking of the value of the latter's investment would inhibit arbitrary economic winner-picking regulations and move the US economy away from Fascism (alias "crony capitalism) and toward (free-market) Capitalism.

Comment But how about BeagleBone? (Score 1) 147

So happy to see the Raspberry Pi 3D support. Thanks for the goodies!

Goes double.

Is anything similar planned for BeagleBones - especially BeagleBone Black, which is the current cutting edge?

I have to deal with them, and the last time I looked their kernels were coming out of a separate project - which distributes an archive of script to be applied to the corresponding version of the packages, to be overlaid on and applied to the corresponding kernel sources, to hack them into shape for the Bones. It would be far easier to keep up with kernel fixes if the Bones (or at least the Black) were supported directly by the official kernel distributions.

Comment Retry: Re:Why retail? (Score 1) 298

(Stupid Lenovo touchpad just hit "submit" before I was done. Fortunately, it did it when the first part of the post was pretty clean. Reposing with the rest - unless it does it again B-b )

Why should you be paid retail for generation? That totally ignores the part the grid takes in handling your energy...

You also pay a monthly "be connected to the grid" fee, which pays your share of the ongoing expenses of maintaining the grid, along with a one-shot "get connected to the grid" fee, often amounting to thousands of dollars, which literally pays for installing the infrastructure - poles, drop transformer, etc - to bring the grid to you.

(When the contractor building my rural retirement house connected it to the grid, without my orders, I paid many thousands - money I'd intended for a solar system. Part of that was half the price of the existing transformer that I now shared with my next-door neighbor, who had paid the whole price and was now rebated half of it.)

Utilities are very good at dividing the service into appropriate chunks and billing you reasonably fairly for what you actually use. The bulk of the background costs are already covered (with the standard profit margin), so sellers to the grid are not so much the parasites you might think.

Net metering was a cheap hack - based on the common, low-end, pre-"smart" mechanical meters, which ran equally well forward and backward. It doesn't account for the losses in transmission - but (as was mentioned elsewhere) in the case of distributed generation the power doesn't travel very far, so the losses are far lower than those for power shipped from major power plants to widely distributed residences (and since much of those losses are proportional to the square of the currents, local generation reduces them more than in proportion). Billing a rate that doesn't vary by time of day is ALSO a hack based on those meters: Solar and wind tend to produce surplus power when it's expensive and have a shortage when it's cheap, so net metering (when few enough are using it to not substantially affect grid management) is actually a good deal for the power companies.

Having said that: With arbitrarily capable smart meters available a truly fair pricing scheme would involve some offset between the "buy" and "sell" prices - but the "buy at wholesale" level is far too low.

Utilities, though sometimes privately owned, are generally regulated monopolies with pricing schemes imposed by governments in the interests of their citizens. Attempting to apply free market arguments to them is disingenuous. We're dealing with Fascism, not Capitalism, here.

Comment Re:Why retail? (Score 1) 298

Why should you be paid retail for generation? That totally ignores the part the grid takes in handling your energy...

You also pay a monthly "be connected to the grid" fee, which pays your share of the ongoing expenses of maintaining the grid, along with a one-shot "get connected to the grid" fee, often amounting to thousands of dollars, which literally pays for installing the infrastructure - poles, drop transformer, etc - to bring the grid to you.

When the contractor building my rural retirement house connected it to the grid, without my orders, I paid many thousands - money I'd intended for a solar system. Part of that was half the price of the existing transformer that I now shared with my next-door neighbor, who had paid the whole price and was now rebated half of it.)

Comment Re:Distinctions (Score 1) 166

I was thinking the same thing in regards to the Flint Michigan disaster. This isn't a natural disaster by any means. Someone in the state government should be tossed in jail, for 30-life.

(Speaking of "distinctions"...)

Why should somebody in the STATE govenment be locked up? Isn't the Flint debacle solely the result of actions by, and solely the responsibility of the, CITY government?

(Honest question here. I haven't been following it, and am curious as to why a city water screwup is being reported as the fault of a different level of government. Did the higher levels really have some responsibility? Is it just faulty reporting? Is it maybe the media cooperating with those actually responsible to blame it on their political opponents?)

Comment My consultation algorithm: (Score 1) 82

1) Confer with the client. Find out what he wants. (He'll tell you what he wants ADDED to what he is replacing.)
2) Research the client's current operation: Consult his underlings, especially the front-line workers, who know what's REALLY going on. Make friends with them and try to help them out, too. Find out what he currently has. Figure out what (you think) he needs.
3) Propose to the client that he should want what you think he needs.
4) After he's had a chance to think about it, design and build what he NOW wants (which may be what he wanted before, what you think he needs, some mix, or something off in never-never land that he thought up after seeing what you came up with).

  * Maybe he'll come around to your design and think you're the best and brightest consultant to ever come along. Build the spiffy thing and everybody's happy.
  * Maybe he'll want something other than you think he needs. If so:
          * Maybe he's right and you're wrong, because he understood something about his operation that you didn't. Doing it his way might turn out to be better than doing it your way.
          * Maybe you're right and he's wrong, but it's his company and he's paying the bill. He had his chance and rejected your suggestions, so it's on his head. Build the goofy thing and laugh, or sigh, all the way to the bank.

Comment Offering a quid pro quo? (Score 1) 276

Why is he getting involved in this at all? We already have several companies working toward this goal. The only answer that makes sense is that he wants to fund those companies closest to him or his party.

Well, there's picking winners - more importantly, designating losers. Government subsidies slow development by putting the non-subsidized at a market disadvantage - so they tend to drop and NOT innovate - while reducing the need of the subsidized to innovate to achieve market penetration.

And there's the opportunity to turn another 4 billion dollars of the taxpayers' money into a slush fund for looting by cronies, using operations on the model of Solyndra.

But my guess is that he's offering the money to bribe selected hi-tech companies, in trade for installing backdoors for US intelligence - both in their current and future products.
  - It would (allegedly more than) cover their losses due to lower sales and usage of their products (especially internationally) .
  - It would pay for installing the infrastructure to TRACK everyone using driverless cars - and forwarding this info to the government.

Comment Worst headline, too. (Score 3, Funny) 432

I read "What Spotlighting Harassment in Astronomy Means" to say they were going to explain some harassment of astronomers by people with spotlights.

The headline should have said something about Sexual harassment, and "Implications of ..." rather than "What ... Means".

Is the headline's author not a native speaker of English?

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