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Comment: Re:Fission is Dead (Score 5, Insightful) 217

by Smidge204 (#48171765) Attached to: Fusion and Fission/LFTR: Let's Do Both, Smartly

Safer than hydroelectric.

Including Chernobyl, there have been something like 56 direct fatalities, 4000+ deaths from cancer attributed to the radiation, and 350,000+ displaced peoples due to fission reactor failures. I'm not aware of any deaths *directly* attributed to Fukushima but let's round that off to an even 60.

Banqiao hydroelectric dam collapse: 26,000 drowned, 145,000 dead from disease and famine, 11+ million displaced.

Adjusted for GW capacity, hydroelectric power (970GW) is an order of magnitude more dangerous than nuclear (372GW).

Ban hydro power! ;)

Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 315

by Smidge204 (#48106899) Attached to: Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

But the problem is that it's not just NG and peanuts, there's also soy, sunflower, corn oil, all sorts of things. And soy will always be cheaper than peanuts.

This is demonstrably false, otherwise any power plant ever built would use the cheapest and ONLY the cheapest source of fuel. Clearly that is not the case, is it?

You said it yourself: "And you don't use inferior tech if you have a choice." The problem is you might not fully appreciate what makes a particular technology "inferior" or "superior." Hydro electric power is by far the cheapest electricity there is, so by your reasoning every power plant would be a hydro plant... except that's not really the case. The reason why has to do with the more nuanced underpinnings of what makes a particular technology superior in a given situation.

To whit:

Got a lot of vacuum tubes that need replacement? None? Maybe because transistors are cheaper, more reliable, smaller and more powerful?

Vacuum tubes are still widely used in new equipment. For some applications their performance is unrivaled by silicon devices. And I don't mean audiophile bullshit either;

While lighter-than-air vehicles have largely (but not completely) been displaced for human and cargo transport, blimps and balloons are still used routinely because they are more practical and economical for certain situations. Balloons can reach altitudes that are extremely difficult for heavier-than-air craft and can do so for a fraction of the cost.

The only example you mention that has any merit is punchcards - but paper based scan sheets for data entry is still widely used because it's practical for some situations. The ubiquitous "scan-tron" exam answer sheet is an immediately recognizable example, and voting machines still use literal punch cards as a means to store information for later input into a computer. Even some electronic voting machines use scanned ballot sheets.

That's the problem when you speak in absolutes; it's very easy to prove them wrong.

And you have utterly failed to demonstrate that fusion power would necessarily be more expensive than any particular alternative, so even if the very premise of your argument worked in the real world, you still can't apply it to fusion.

Not there's only one: raising prices. Unless you are going to weasel-word your definition of "value", of course.

No weaseling here; you increase the value of a commodity by refining it into higher-valued commodities.

Let's use peanuts as your example. Not sure where you got $1/kg - probably another number you just made up - but they actually sell for about $420/ton. But why do they sell for even that much? Because they have a use! And if we increase the number of uses and/or the value of those uses, then the price will necessarily go up because of demand, barring government intervention/market manipulation.

Electricity is just like every other commodity. If you come up with new ways to use electricity that are otherwise superior to existing technologies, then the value of electricity is increased.

Value, of course, is not to be confused with price. They are related but not the same. Higher value can command a higher price, though...

Building a device that produces energy for higher prices does not lead to cheaper energy.

You haven't demonstrated that it would be at a higher price. Such a determination is impossible until we have a working technology, and even then it would be a tentative conclusion since future innovation might bring the cost down.

You're probably going to try to make a point about the billion-dollar price tag of ITER, but you'd be wrong for doing so because it's a research project and not a commercial endeavor. Thought I'd save you the trouble.

BTW, thanks for your post, I got a definite uptick in readers as soon as you posted it, Mr Streisand.

0 + 1 = 1. That's like an infinity-squared increase in viewership! But hey, at least you admitted to what's really important in this discussion.

Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 315

by Smidge204 (#48104593) Attached to: Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

No design *ever* made can demonstrate that it can generate more *money* than it takes to run. This is important.

I assume you mean this statement only pertaining to fusion devices, and not in general... otherwise you deserve mockery. However, even if you did intend such a narrow application of that statement, you're still likely to be wrong as nearly everyone who made bald assertions about the limits of technology have been, given enough time.

The device does not need to have an economic value exceeding the value of the energy it produces, it just needs to be more advantageous than available alternatives within its lifespan. This argument is kind of absurd in its own right - there are lots of ways to make the energy it produces more valuable, and cheaper energy will actually tend to increase consumption as more applications become economically viable.

As for your sucky blog; I'll just point out one major nit to pick... there is no hard and fast rule that says you have to use tritium as a fuel. Most of what you wrote kind of hinges on tritium being a factor, and the ITER design in particular, and things start to fall apart once you explore other options.

I also like how you picked, seemingly arbitrarily, the highest dollar value for lithium ($4,500/t) you could find even from your own citation-less source article. You also completely gloss over the fact that if using lithium as a fuel source you'd need to use Lithium-6, which may or may not need to be enriched for natural Lithium.

But all that aside, best I can figure, one tonne of metallic lithium consumed in an ideal D-T fusion reaction will yield about 78 TWh. That's more than the daily consumption of *all* energy types in the US. $4,500 per day seems cheap when you put it that way.

There are a lot of very genuine technical reasons why fusion power might never come to be. It's a real shame you dropped out of your degree in physics or you could have stuck with those and had a blog post worth reading.

Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 315

by Smidge204 (#48095555) Attached to: Fusion Reactor Concept Could Be Cheaper Than Coal

Or... maybe we don't have fusion reactors because nobody has really made one work on any scale with any real power.

That takes money.

Raising money almost always requires some promise of payback.

Since working, sustained, energy-positive fusion has never been demonstrated, there is little promise of payback.

Chicken vs. Egg. You're going to have a tough time raising sufficient funding to build a working demonstration if a working demonstration is a prerequisite for raising money.

Comment: Re:Good luck with that. (Score 1) 652

by Smidge204 (#48091889) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Homes made in the 30s though the 50s all fall under the "30+ years" critera. It's also not so much how well they were built at the time, but how well they've held up. In either case, there are absolutely improvements that can be made without going too crazy.

Old single-glaze aluminum frame windows replaced with double glaze vinyl. Old, settled insulation in exterior walls and attics replaced or augmented with new. Using a gas furnace for a hot-air system? Replace it with a condensing furnace will bump the efficiency from ~78% to ~95% and you'll make that investment back in savings in just a few years... should be able to get one purchased and installed for ~$2k. (There's probably government incentives to help pay for it, too.) LED lighting can easily take a chunk out of your electrical bill.

If one does feel inclined to go crazy, then PV on the roof is the first and obvious choice with a payback typically 5 years or less. Heat pumps for domestic hot water and home heating and replacing gas-fired with electric appliances... savings are multiplied with PV since you're not paying much extra for the electricity. Radiant floor heating (hydronic or electric) to replace forced air or baseboard hydronic systems. Heat or energy recovery ventilation. Passive heating/cooling. Sky's the limit, really!

Comment: Re:Good luck with that. (Score 1) 652

by Smidge204 (#48076087) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Better insulation to curb heat loss?

Better construction standards to reduce or eliminate infiltration of unconditioned air?

More efficient heating appliances? (Anything over ~10 years old can absolutely be upgraded)

More efficient heating/cooling strategies? (e.g. zoning)

There's absolutely more that can be done with a typical suburban home to reduce energy use. A 60% reduction on an older (30+ year old) home could actually be pretty easy if it hasn't already been renovated.

Comment: Re:Good luck with that. (Score 2) 652

by Smidge204 (#48075267) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

A typical american could use 1/3rd or down to 1/4th of the energy he uses and the whole country could cut down to 1/10th and no one would realize any difference.

This, I think, is the most important thing to keep in mind; When discussing "quality of life" in terms of energy, we can reframe it of in terms of energy*efficiency. We can lower energy use without reducing QoL by improving efficiency.

Not impressed? Was not meant to impress you. That is per year not per month.

I'd be more impressed if that was per month... it would be nearly three times as much energy as my entire house uses, which is roughly four times the size of your apartment. And I have all electric appliances!

Anyway, at some point in time your energy will be green, and your energy demand will drop and then you have to fight the power companies about: why can it be that my electricity is so expensive when YOU get it for 'free'?

An argument easily won: I'm charging you for "free" green power because it costs me money to build and maintain the infrastructure that harnesses and delivers it to you.

It's kind of like asking why gasoline is so expensive when the oil is available for free, just sitting under the ground.

Comment: Re:So? (Score 1) 488

by Smidge204 (#48027811) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Our government has backed an expensive and inefficient renewable energy tech - that's the only reason we're even having this conversation.

As opposed to our government backing an even more expensive and inefficient incumbent system?

By subsidizing solar power for domestic installations, that tax money is effectively being put back into the hands of the general public through savings, rather than into the coffers of multi-million dollar, often international corporations where it can further corrupt the system.

And I'd be happy to pay a "road use tax" even though I don't drive an EV (yet...). I figure I pay about $130/yr in gasoline tax, which if I switched to an EV I'd save about four or five times that easily.

Comment: Re:Americans trust science too much (Score 2) 460

by Smidge204 (#48019353) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

If you can cite a study to prove your point you have won the argument.

That's not trusting science too much, that's laziness. Usually the person citing the study has a tenuous grasp of what it really says, and in all but a handful of cases they are betting on the fact that few people will bother to look it up and read it themselves.

You can tell this is what's going on, because it only further polarizes people; if the "study" reinforces their existing view, then it's the best thing ever, and if not then the scientists who did it are clearly corrupt or they're just plain wrong. No attempt to understand, nothing changes, just reinforcement of bias.

Comment: Re:Maybe citizens saw duplicity? (Score 1) 460

by Smidge204 (#48019265) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

For starters, please provide citations for everything you put in quotes.

If scientists were so desperate for money, so easily bought by whoever was willing to pay them, we'd have volumes of studies saying that burning fossil fuels is good for everything from water quality to sex drive, that dumping toxic waste into rivers makes fish taste better, and that tobacco smoking curse cancer.

But we don't. For every study that suggests (or is construed to suggest even though it clearly doesn't) that climate change isn't occurring there's at least a hundred that says it is.

The best explanation I can come up with is that the scientists are not chasing paychecks like some people claim, but are doing their best to honestly study a subject they feel is important and are interested in.

Comment: Re:3D plotter (Score 1) 69

by Smidge204 (#48012989) Attached to: How 3D Printers Went Mainstream After Decades In Obscurity

I'm willing to bet that machine costs more than $1000 complete, and probably doesn't use belt drives for the axes.

Also, 230mm/sec is 13.8 meters per minute. And that's while extruding - I'd be genuinely impressed to see a mill that can do a cutting operation (not just move) at that speed.

Comment: Re:3D plotter (Score 2) 69

by Smidge204 (#48006733) Attached to: How 3D Printers Went Mainstream After Decades In Obscurity

What kind of machine is it?

I agree a teacup should not require support, unless the handle has a loop that dips below the attachment point. But even then only the underside of that loop would need support.

The layering can leave stripes, but a nice material with good print settings on a well made and tuned machine it's more of a texture than actual visual artifacts. They're like grooves on a record; you can feel the individual grooves but unless you look closely or get the light at just the right angle it just appears as a matte finish.

I've only printed an object intended to be liquid tight once, and it worked fine. Again, it comes down to print settings, calibration and good quality material.

So in the interest of improving your 3D printing experience, I'd like to know what machine you have, what material you use and what the settings are.

As for speed, that's also generally a limit of the material... but I've gotten mine up to ~230mm/sec before the heater in the nozzle couldn't provide enough power to melt the filament at that rate.

In practice you have a lot of moving mass which limits your top speeds on complex parts - the forces from accelerations can overwhelm the cheap belt drive systems most hobby-level printers use. Of course, if you want to shell out for better parts you can make something a lot better :)

Comment: Re:I dunno about LEDs, but CFLs don't last (Score 2) 602

by Smidge204 (#48002537) Attached to: The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

I've been using the twirly type CLFs in a ceiling fan "glass ball" light for years (upside-down and enclosed, expressly against the manufacturer's warnings to not use them inverted in enclosed fixtures!).

In fact I've gotten into the habit of dating them with a sharpie before I install: Nov 2011. Since this is in my bedroom it's used for several hours a day, every day. Coming up on 10,000 hours, which is the rated life of the bulb, despite the warranty-voiding installation.

That said, the early generations of CFLs were absolute shit. Don't let that turn you off on the tech, and a few extra bucks for buy a decent brand is worth it.

Comment: Re:The article is more extreme than the summary (Score 1) 795

by Smidge204 (#47981407) Attached to: How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

Your entire thesis hinges on the premise that there's a difference between "truth" and "Truth."

If you are unwilling or unable to justify that premise, then you have no argument, and you're just talking out of your ass.

Bald assertions aren't allowing in science or philosophy.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.