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Comment: Re:We need ...... Solar? (Score 1) 305

by dublin (#47718143) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

And we'll see if it really pays off for him. So far, unless you're on an island and have to ship in your diesel fuel, solar doesn't make economic sense without massive subsidies. (I'm pretty sure even a billionaire like Musk would blanch at backing solar without FITs, RECs, PPAs, etc.)

I work in solar, and it's a technology I'd really like to see succeed, but we're quite some ways away, and in a few important ways, we're slipping backwards - It takes at *least* 20-25 years to make back your investment. But current solar cells (even good ones) will begin to rapidly degrade at that time -(to about 80% output, falling off a cliff to single digits within around another 5 years. So even if everything goes your way, you've got only about five years of positive and rapidly decreasing power production before you have to replace the whole thing and start over.

The race to cheap Chinese panels now has panels lasting fewer than 10 years before delaminating and coming apart (leaching toxic heavy metals in the process...) - if that happens to even a few percent of the panels there's no way you can *ever* break even. Add in big outstanding questions about the lifespan of other expensive components such as inverters and wiring, and it's a good bet that only the most attentive operators of solar plants will ever make thier money back. (On the DC wiring issue, the prevalent PV industry practice of grounding the negative leg effectively *designs* for galvanic corrosion of the wiring, resulting in little more than hollow straws in a few years if things get a little damp - 300-1200 VDC *will* do that!)

Lastly, you don't get much power out of solar on an areal basis - a good figure for perfect siting, etc. puts the max power per panel/year at only a few dozen dollars worth of electricity. (Heck, there's less than 1000 W/m^2 there to start with on a clear day and a LOT less than that if there are *any* clouds, and after conversion and transmission losses, you're down to only a little over 10% of that.)

Solar is starting to make sense in limited cases, but it will be probably at least another decade or two before putting solar panels everywhere makes economic sense - especially in very distributed environments like residential rooftops, where no one is really going to be monitoring or maintaining the system. that's one advantage of Musk's approach - he tends to be focused more on larger sites that he can make sure are performing (or at least not sucking too bad...)

Comment: Re:We put all our eggs into the ITER basket. (Score 1) 305

by dublin (#47717999) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Look, this isn't about a lack of money - well it is, but the reason there's no money there is because there's NO reason for anyone (govt or private) to bet tons of money on somthing that has so little realistic chance of working. If fusion looked doable, we'd have people throwing money around like crazy, and we'd have billionaires tripping all over each other to be the Rockefeller of fusion. It's laughable that the tinfoil hat folks see a conspiracy to protect "big oil" - I work with some oil investors, and I can assure you that if they really thought for a second that they could invest in an alternative that could *really* economically displace oil, gas, and nuclear, they'd do it in a heartbeat.

Comment: Re:Ready in 30 years (Score 1) 305

by dublin (#47717945) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

I am certainly no fan of the F-35 - I think it's one of the worst military boondoggles ever - a plane that is staggeringly bad at everything it does but sucking money and hollowing out American airpower.

That said, it has some limited utility. Spending that money of F-35's gets us F-35s no matter how bad they suck.

On the other hand, there's no real reason to expect that a terabuck thrown at fusion would get us anything at all. Personally, I think lottery odds are better than a big government funded program sure to be rife with corruption actually solving the world's energy problems...

Comment: Re:Ready in 30 years (Score 1) 305

by dublin (#47717899) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Good of you to call BS, now I'm going to... We quite simply DO NOT KNOW what goes on inside the Sun - we only see the outer layers, and are completely guessing about what's inside - your temperature and density figures are most likely wrong, especially if certain uniformitarian assumptions turn out not to hold...

Now, to be fair, those guesses *could* be right, but I kinda doubt it - the universe has this bizarre tendency to be, as Haldane said, "not only queerer than we imagine, but queerer than we *can* imagine"...

Comment: Re:which turns transport into a monopoly... (Score 1) 276

by dublin (#47717607) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

Like a LOT of people, I will NEVER live anywhere that requires an elevator. No claustro- or acrophobia, I just can't imagine anything more soul-crushing than having to get in a smelly sardine tin to ride to my house. And yes, that includes penthouses in highrises. Great place for a party (maybe), but you damn sure couldn't get me to live in one, even if you gave it to me...

Comment: Re:which turns transport into a monopoly... (Score 1) 276

by dublin (#47717559) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

Interestingly, as many cities pursue high-density growth policies and their local governments rant against the manifest evils of suburbs, it's going to turn out that suburban rooftops are the largest and most readily usable area for solar PV power generation (which does after all go well with the idea of electric cars, which make no sense now, but will someday...)

Cities are just too dense to make anywhere near enough power from the clean solar sources all the people say they want.

Distributed renewables generation has problems (max benefit at 15%, and negative value by 30% - See Eleanor Denny's great recent PhD dissertation on the Irish grid), but one thing's for sure - you sure can't distribute generation without someplace to distribute it *to*, and high density development doesn't give you anyplace to do that...

Comment: Re:Any bets on how long before the plug is pulled? (Score 1) 142

The Nanny state has run amok. I think even sadder is that the hacker crowd at Slashdot even a decade ago would have reacted with a collective, "Cool, let's give this a try and see how it works and how we can make it better", rather than with a zillion arguments about how an obviously versatile technology must be banned under the force of law.

We sure have a lot of totalitarians of fascist and other stripes here these days.

In almost all cases, technology is morally neutral - nukes, biotech, radio waves, and gunpowder can all be either murderous and evil or protective and supportive - it depends entirely on the *way* they're used. Laws attempting to force a particular outcome are generally doomed to fail, because people are smarter than their lawmakers and will do what makes sense in their particular situation, which they invariably recognize far better than their lawmakers. (Nobel winner Milton Friedman even went so far as to argue (quite persuasively, I might add) against intrusive government programs such as professional licensing, even for doctors. In today's world of frictionless information, there really is much less call for overly controlling laws.)

Comment: Re:Any bets on how long before the plug is pulled? (Score 1) 142

Wow, Slashdot sure is full of hand-wringing politically correct armchair lawyers these days!

Seriously guys, HUDs are not new and they are quite likely the least intrusive way to present information to driver (or even front seat passengers wanting to avoid motion sickness, for that matter).

Quite a few cars have had a HUD option from the factory - heck, some GM cars (Pontiacs mostly, but not exclusively) had factory HUD options more than 20 years ago.

Nearly 100 years ago, the same kinds of busybodies were trying to outlaw radios in cars, since that was "obviously" a distraction for the driver. News flash - the vast majority of the time, people (yep, even the ones that don't live in your hipster high-rise) are more than capable of enough multitasking to deal with both driving and another task. A good HUD would be far *safer* than today's method of navigating from a phone screen, since everyone has a phone and built-in GPS nav systems suck, add thousands to the cost of a car, and have a technology lifespan even shorter than a lawyer's lease term...

Comment: Re:soekris net6501 (Score 1) 427

by dublin (#47634543) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

Seconding the Soekris approach. I have a couple of networks that have been running on the old net48xx series boxes for more than a decade. These things are flat bulletproof. Since I'm using them strictly as firewalls, and they still route at speeds much higher than the internet connections that feed them, even these older boxes are fine. (As recommended by others here, wireless is a separate router in bridge mode, since wireless standards change every few years and I don't rely on the wireless router's security other than for WPA2 itself - which is now pretty easy to bypass if you know the right things...)

Kris Sorensen builds some good stuff. Do yourself a favor and at least check out Soekris before you decide to buy anything else...

Comment: Re: Finally! (Score 1) 474

by dublin (#47512219) Attached to: World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

So, just wondering, does this mean we eliminate just the DEA, or the FDA, too? (The FDA is in actuality far worse in terms of arbitrarily restricting things for any reason or no reason.)

The most interesting questions aren't along the lines of "What happens when heroin, cocaine, etc. are legal?", but more along the lines of these:

What happens if Viagra and Cialis are now freely available? (Why on earth should they still require a Rx if heroin doesn't, for cryin' out loud? Can't the users see four hours on a clock?)

Does this mean that hemp can finally be cultivated in the US as a valuable natural fiber again? (Personally, I couldn't care less if dope is illegal, but making hemp illegal is just stupid - it's a killer natural fiber with amazing properties, grows like mad, and is dirt cheap.)

More importantly, will this finally allow the sale of unadulterated milk (raw milk and cheeses)? While poor sanitation can produce a risk of tuberculosis, any kind of reasonable cleanliness standards reduce that risk FAR below that of smoking marijauna, even assuming no one will ever drive, boat, or operate heavy equipment while stoned...

The world would indeed be upside-down if heroin is legal and raw milk isn't!

Comment: Re:or don't trust the Internet (Score 3, Insightful) 191

by dublin (#47364535) Attached to: 30% of Americans Aren't Ready For the Next Generation of Technology

Only a fool "trusts the Internet" - especially Wikipedia.

It's funny, the other day, I was hanging out with a group that included several pretty top-level IT and networking folks, including some leading CS academics. Not one of us uses internet banking, or allows access of any kind to any of our financial accounts over the net. On the rare occasions that companies force the use of the Internet, the general response is to enable access only long enough to do the job, then destroy the Inet access account (best), disable net access (2nd best), or set the password to random gibberish that even we don't know or keep a record of. This forces a long, manual process to "reenable" the acccount that cannot as easily be done by an impostor. None of us "trust" the Internet, I guess.

That was a real eye-opener for some of the younger "Internet-savvy" group, who all of a sudden realized that maybe they were opening themselves up far more than they realized, especially in a world where every WiFi network, even with WPA2, is now as open as the one at Starbucks...

Comment: Re:Like Ontario Canada (Score 1) 365

by dublin (#47364399) Attached to: Germany's Glut of Electricity Causing Prices To Plummet

Actually, there's probably more money and effort focused on trying to build grid storage than there ought to be, given that there's really no technology known that's capable of doing the job in a generally viable way. There's a name for that: WOMBAT - Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time.

(Not saying we shouldn't be looking at all, but realistically, grid-scale storage requires technologies we simply don't have, and largely, can't yet even envision or propose. We're a smart society with a few centuries of intense technology and engineering development under our belts, and there is no known viable solution to this problem. If there was, then billions, or even trillions, of dollars would be flowing into it. This isn't like most hard problems, which can be solved by throwing enough effort and money at them - we really just don't know how to do this!

For all its faults, Hydrogen may be the best of the bad options - but the most (only?) economically viable source of hydrogen at large scales today is natural gas. Both environmentally and from an energy loss point of view, you're better off just burning the natural gas (our cleanest fuel in the first place) than taking the hit converting it to H2. Any effort to split water will result in H2 that is *much* more expensive than making it from natural gas, especially given the benefits of the fracking revolution - water is an *extremely* stable molecule...

Comment: Re:WTF? (Score 1) 365

by dublin (#47364149) Attached to: Germany's Glut of Electricity Causing Prices To Plummet

Yeah, sounds simple, right? Just store it! First, even the best solar systems today are not economically viable without huge government subsidies unless you live on an island and have to ship your fuel in, so really, you're upside down before you've spent a dime on storage.

Secondly, with any known and viable technology storage is *really*, *REALLY* expensive on a grid scale. For all practical purposes, it's fair to say that there is NO known way to do it in most locations. (The dangers of gas-pressurized reservoirs may well be orders of magnitude higher than fracking at its worst, and very few places have geography that allow pumped hydro to be even marginally cost-effective.) Batteries, supercaps, and the like still need another couple of orders of magnitude price/performance improvement to be viable.

Do the math, and you'll see that storage isn't even an option - the solar plant is barely viable even with subsidies (here in Texas, with cheap and readily available natural gas, solar costs 4-5 times as much per KWH, according to EIA's LCOE figures). Add in any kind of grid-scale storage at all, and the costs soar through the stratosphere, especially since most storage technologies have relatively short economic lives.

So yes, paying someone to take the power is actually the cheapest thing to do - not only in Germany, but many nights here in the US with wind power, too. There's just more capacity than demand, and since it costs the power companies to deal with that, they justifiably want to get paid to offset the costs and inefficiencies of having to shut down and spin up their conventional plants.

Nothing is faster than the speed of light ... To prove this to yourself, try opening the refrigerator door before the light comes on.