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Comment: Re:why is it always comets and asteroids? (Score 3, Insightful) 46

by gewalker (#48552007) Attached to: Asteroid Impacts May Have Formed Life's Building Blocks

IMO, these announcements really don't really contribute anything meaninful. We pretty much know that simple organic molecules can form in a number of ways. Miller-Urey taught us quite a while ago that the basic precusrsor components were easily formed with basic chemistry that exists in nature.

Getting the components to dance together as a living entity is a tremendously more difficult and unsolved problem. According to all we know abiogenisis is very improbable -- even with eons of chemicals doing their thing.

Comment: Re:Antiquated technology (Score 1) 342

by gewalker (#48499915) Attached to: Breath Test For Pot Being Developed At WSU

Age 55. I have never consumed alcohol. Never been at fault in an accident. I could not pass the standard field sobriety test ever -- I have a bad left leg that simply prevents it -- do not have much strength in that leg.

My inability to balance on one leg has nothing to do with my ability to drive.

Thanks, I'll gladly recite the alphabet forwards or backwards, let the cop shine a light in my eye, take a blood test, etc. walking the line heel to toe will always be a fail for me though I am perfectly fine as a driver.

If someone has a BAC of .2 but can still walk a line, he has no business on the road. Reactions and more importantly judgment is impaired, without any question -- at least according to the CDC.

Comment: Re:is it really bad in the first place? (Score 1) 342

by gewalker (#48499595) Attached to: Breath Test For Pot Being Developed At WSU

Yes, people do not enjoy spending time in person, or wrecking their cars or other consequences. So, while they are still sober, they modify their behavior by planning ahead not to drive drunk, e.g., arranging for designated drivers. Of course, this is not universal.

Once drunk, their inhibitions removed, they do not properly consider penalties associated with drunk driving.

Comment: Re: How is that startling? (Score 1) 413

by gewalker (#48483289) Attached to: Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

Your requested evidence

Since you need relatively few fraudulent votes to tip tight elections, how much vote fraud is OK. It is often accepted that Kennedy won over Nixon due to fraud. Likewise for Johnson in Texas. These are old races. How about Gore v Bush in Florida, only a few hundred votes officially -- well within the margin of fraud as documented by many of the examples in the linked article.

The correct amount of fraud is as little as possible. The correct amount of voter suppression is a little as possible. To a certain degree these are conflicting goals. There are some additional methods to help -- such as provisional ballots. Life is not perfect, but voter ID is clearly effective in reducing voter fraud, but it is not necessarily a tool of voter suppression -- and the Supreme Court has supported this.

Comment: Re:In Finland (Score 1) 516

by gewalker (#48465793) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

And the US is primarily serviced by either public utilities (usually owned by the city) or by regulated utilities that regulate the utilities including the profit margin, approval of capital projects, and other things. I.e., not any real reason for their to be a different between US and Finland in this regard.

I guess the real difference is a combination of the following:

1) general philosophy of, good enough, great is not required
2) Electric infrastructure is a little older on the average in the US
3) The regulation that exist probably more optimal for cost than service in the US in comparison.

Of course, cost is the reason why overhead lines are used. Contrary to what several posters have mentioned, maintenance cost on underground lines is actually usually higher on underground lines to overhead, but this factor is relatively minor in comparison to the significantly higher capital costs.

Comment: Re:here we go again (Score 1) 652

by gewalker (#48460195) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

You really need a better economic analysis. You can only do as you say because solar is a small percentage of the grid. If solar was providing say 25% of the total electric kWh, the grid would be saturated with electricity during the solar peaks -- under those conditions, you can barely sell electricity at all -- you, even have to pay to dump the electricity you do produce to the grid -- yes, in the US we have grid conditions where you have to pay to dump the electricity you produce.

When solar collapses around 3-4 pm and people start coming home and cranking up their A/C and other appliances you reach peak electric use after solar has started its collapse. This requires a fast spin up for the non-solar electric sources -- trust me, this will be expensive juice. Government policies like forcing utilities to buy back home-installed solar at retail price just exacerbates the problem as it overemphasizes the economic case for solar -- eventually leading to increased instability in the market.

And then you hit the 2nd week in January where there is essentially no solar or wind for about 10 days straight (you can see events like this in the actually data from the German grid) -- Maybe this is why the Googly guys were saying we can't depend upon renewables for 100% of our energy.

Comment: Re:No the solution is population control (Score 1) 652

by gewalker (#48460039) Attached to: Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

Ok, you've settled on the population control solution. How do you do this?

1) Repressive government control
2) War, disease, etc.
3) Economic success -- The first world countries fertility rate has already dropped below replacement rate (about 2.2 babies per adult women in her lifetime) -- see the fertility rate by country. I believe the only exception is Israel.

And how do you get economic prosperity? Cheap energy and lots of it. This also helps to enable better health, education, and comfortable living.

Comment: Useless rant of an article (Score 1) 127

by gewalker (#48455359) Attached to: Attack of the One-Letter Programming Languages

Although one letter language names have issues for search (as do other generic terms, or other stupid names like .Net), the only useful point is that some programmers like to use less-popular languages and may introduce them into your codebase confusing other developers. Of course you can hire more developers that speak the obscure language in your shop if it is otherwise well-known.

Of course, we already know about that problem. It matters not if the obscure language (for your shop) happens to be R, F#, awk, java, python, etc. with longer and longer names.

For any new language, adoption is a problem. Interesting languages like Eiffel, Smalltalk, etc. never really made the big-time and never will.

Sometimes, you have to choose the obscure language. Javascript being a good example -- as the well started to become dynamic, decent Javascript developers were in very high-demand because there was no real alternative.

Comment: Re:I'm glad there is rioting. (Score 1) 1128

by gewalker (#48455147) Attached to: Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

Stunning example of a straw man argument there -- equating the shooting apparently innocent people (the Walmart shopper and the 12 year old boy) with the shooting of an apparent thug using lethal force against a cop.

I don't know that Brown is innocent, I just know that the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to go to trial. We are supposed to accept that verdict unless there is strong reason to suspect the system was corrupt. I just do see that that exists. I would have said the same had the grand very found against Brown and let is go to trial again without rioting. Brown may be guilty and may have committed the perfect crime and get away with so. Personally, if such is true I hope he suffers the severe punishment in the future.

Like a lot of American's -- I thought O.J. was guilty. When the verdict was announced I did not see this as a reason to riot, though I did not feel the verdict was just.

As far as holding police responsible, I whole-heartedly agree. If you can determine the cops or politicians are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, hang-em-high, Finding them guilty by racial association it beyond stupid

There is no perfect system of justice. Mob rule via riots, lynching, vigilantism, etc. is far worse than what we see in Ferguson.

Comment: Re:remember this.... (Score 1) 137

by gewalker (#48443101) Attached to: Profanity-Laced Academic Paper Exposes Scam Journal

Not to burst your bubble ... O what the hell.

Peer-Reviewed Survey Finds Majority Of Scientists Skeptical Of Global Warming Crisis

Report: 1350+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skeptic Arguments Against Man-Made Global Warming Alarm

No reason to mention the pro-AGW impending doom papers, no one doubts their existence.

My thoughts -- Yes, some GW is related to CO2, at least some fraction of the additional CO2 is due to man's activity, in particular burning of carbon fuels. It may even be a serious problem. BTW, what is the optimal level of CO2 anyway, be sure to show your work.

Comment: Re:Helium shortage (Score 1) 116

Classically, containing hydrogen gas is a worse leakage problem than helium, but this is primarily due to the other properties like flammability and metal embrittlement.

Strictly considering leakage rates, Graham's law of effusion says that the rate of effusion is inversely proportional to the square rate of the molecular weights. So H2 leaks faster than He by a factor of about 1.414. Graham's law is of course an approximation as it ignores that molecular size is not strictly proportional to molecular weight, but it should be quite accurate when molecular sizes of the gas are considerably less than the holes in the container.

Given that He is very much smaller then H2, I would expect somewhat less difference in effusion rates than than predicted by Graham's law, though this may not be measurable as far as I know.

But for unmanned operation, I don't know why Google would not use H2. H2 is much cheaper and can be easily made on site with little technology.

Theoretically, pure He has 93% the lifting capacity of H2 -- but your lifting gas is never pure and structural elements such as the balloon and frame have the same amount of dead weight in either case. So, in terms of payload, H2 is significantly better then He.

A very nice article on lift comparison. points out that the Hindenburg design would simply not work using He as the lifting gas due to the "small difference" in buoyancy of the 2 gases.

Some people claim that the UNIX learning curve is steep, but at least you only have to climb it once.