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Science

Understanding the 2 Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor In W Africa 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "In June 1972, nuclear scientists at the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant in south-east France noticed a strange deficit in the amount of uranium-235 they were processing. That's a serious problem in a uranium enrichment plant where every gram of fissionable material has to be carefully accounted for. The ensuing investigation found that the anomaly originated in the ore from the Oklo uranium mine in Gabon, which contained only 0.600% uranium-235 compared to 0.7202% for all other ore on the planet. It turned out that this ore was depleted because it had gone critical some 2 billion years earlier, creating a self-sustaining nuclear reaction that lasted for 300,000 years and using up the missing uranium-235 in the process. Since then, scientists have studied this natural reactor to better understand how buried nuclear waste spreads through the environment and also to discover whether the laws of physics that govern nuclear reactions may have changed in the 1.5 billion years since the reactor switched off. Now a review of the science that has come out of Oklo shows how important this work has become but also reveals that there is limited potential to gather more data. After an initial flurry of interest in Oklo, mining continued and the natural reactors--surely among the most extraordinary natural phenomena on the planet-- have all been mined out."

Comment: Re:Here's how to secure your "Internet of things" (Score 1) 106

by jecblackpepper (#46591335) Attached to: Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video)
The point is not that the energy company will be able to cut off your refrigerator's function at a whim, but that you will be able to configure your refrigerator to operate based on the price of electricity to maximise your profit. You could do this off a clock, but as the gpp mentioned, we'll have variable generation based on amount of wind and sunshine that will mean that you can take advantage of flucuating prices as supply and demand vary throughout the day.

Comment: Re:Here's how to secure your "Internet of things" (Score 1) 106

by jecblackpepper (#46591313) Attached to: Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video)
Another option for your fridge/freezer if it is connected to the internet is that it will be able to monitor electricity prices and price futures and decide to cool to a lower temperature when it's cheaper and switch off when the price goes up. Similarly your air con or heating

Comment: Re:Good. (Score 2) 124

by jecblackpepper (#45431437) Attached to: Google Books Case Dismissed On Fair Use Grounds

You can't get the full text of a copyrighted work from google, no matter how hard you try.

You may not be able to get the full text of the copyrighted work, but Google can and has. Google are profiting from an unauthorised copy made of a copyrighted work. If google are allowed to do it, why can't I? I only want to make one copy of each book from the library. I don't intended to sell that unauthorised copy to anyone, heck I don't even intend to let anyone else see even snippets of it. What's the difference? Why are Google allowed to make copies for their own purposes but I am not? Is it because they are a rich company who can afford lawyers to override copyright laws?

Personally, I believe copyright terms are far too long, but if you're going to have them then you should respect them in all cases. It can't be one law for the rich and one law for everyone else. If the term of copyright is too long and causes all these problems with orphaned works, or works being lost to the public domain because there are no copies left when the copyright term expires, then the problem is with the copyright term and we shouldn't allow exceptions for rich companies to circumvent the problems with the law.

Comment: Re:unfortunately (Score 1) 282

by jecblackpepper (#45377705) Attached to: Germany Finances Major Push Into Home Battery Storage For Solar

Also at EU 20-28k, you can pay for decades of electricity usage, and that's not even taking into account maintenance. Waste of money.

Decades only at current prices. Prices having been increasing significantly over the last few years and that trend does not seem likely to change any time soon. If for EUR 20K you can lock in your energy prices for the life of the system (also measured in decades), then you are very likely to make significant savings over that time.

For example, according to UK Department of Energy and Climate Change figures, electricity prices have risen by 63% since 2005, and by over 250% since 1987 (considering 25 years being the typical life of a solar PV installation).

Comment: Re:The econmoics don't make sense (Score 1) 389

by jecblackpepper (#45232283) Attached to: Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives

Except that no-one is going to replace a perfectly good vehicle with an autonomous one unless there is a benefit to them. It will be that pepole just move to an autonomous one next time they replace their vehicle. More likely the trend will actually be more and more automation in "normal" vehicles each generation so that everntually the majority of vehicles are autonomous (or capable of being autonomous).

Alongside that will the people who actually see an economic benefit from an autonomous vehicle. If it means that they can spend more time with their family or doing things that are more productive during their commute/travel then they'll buy an autonomous vehicle.

So it's not just the saving from the purported reduction in accidents that makes the economic case for autonomous vehicles, it's the whole equation

Comment: Re:What does the Self Driving Car do if? (Score 1) 389

by jecblackpepper (#45232255) Attached to: Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives

The autonomous car would be able to quickly decide whether coming to halt in its current lane is safer or if manoeuvering into other spaces to avoid the child/dog is safer - and probably much more easerly than a human driver who can freeze in panic at an unexpected situation. Additionally the computer can potentially make the cold hearted decision that breaking but still hitting the obstacle, because there is not enough stopping distance, is ultimately the least bad thing to do - for example if there is heavy traffic in the on-coming lane and pedestrians besides the road.

It could also, for example, automatically sound the horn to alert people and perhaps enable the child/dog to notice and get out of the way. A human on the other hand is more likely to be still be evaluating the situation and reacting by slamming on the breaks and not have the foresight (or the co-ordination) to do this.

Comment: Re:I like my A4 2T 6 speed (Score 5, Interesting) 389

by jecblackpepper (#45232033) Attached to: Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives

When considering whether someone thinks they are better than average in driving skill you should look at this study

Svenson (1981) surveyed 161 students in Sweden and the United States, asking them to compare their driving safety and skill to the other people in the experiment. For driving skill, 93% of the US sample and 69% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50% (above the median). For safety, 88% of the US group and 77% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%.

Comment: Re:This is a very hard problem (Score 1) 558

by jecblackpepper (#44484377) Attached to: Campaign To Kill CAPTCHA Kicks Off

You seem to have ignored the problem of generating the millions of natural language questions that would then require natural language processing to solve. It's easy to come up with one or two as a human, like the George Washington question above, but unless the majority of questions posed as a replacement for CAPTCHA are unique then all that will happen is that the spammers will use a human to solve the relatively few questions and store the result in a lookup table.

We can see how difficult it is for spam bots to generate to natural language posts so why do you think it would be easy for a computer to generate meaningful natural language questions?

So to paraphrase you: now every web site would need a Watson-class supercomputer to stay in business, being a site operator suddenly doesn't seem very lucrative anymore...

Comment: Re:I tell them I feel the same way! (Score 4, Insightful) 597

by jecblackpepper (#43913503) Attached to: Why Your Users Hate Agile

Errm, that's exactly what waterfall is. You have a big upfront specification phase (essentially your user manual from your example) followed by a design phase followed by development etc.

The problem is that users truly don't know exactly what they need, and even if they did, those requirements will change over time in response to the market changing. So by the time that you've spent months writing a spec, 50% of what you specified will not be what is actually required. Worse you've now spent months writing out of date documentation and have NO software to show for it and opportunity to start getting back any of your investment - paper specifications are not a business asset. Then you spend still more months writing code against that spec, meanwhile another 50% of the remaining correct spec is now out of date meaning that by the end of development you've actually only delivered 25% of what the customer really wants and 75% of what you've developed is wrong. And you've still not got any software into production to be returning on the investment you've made.

That's why people looked at other ways of developing software and why agile gained traction.

It's not a perfect approach, but IMHO it's the least bad approach that we've tried so far.

Comment: Re:You get what you ask for (Score 2) 394

by jecblackpepper (#43217497) Attached to: UK Bloggers Could Face Libel Fines Unless Registered As Press

The UK doesn't even allow you to fight to defend yourself. If someone breaks into your house in the UK,and you have a bat, knife or hunting rifle, and you use either of those to fight off or kill the intruder, you are probably looking at jail.

Not true. You can use "reasonable" force to defend yourself, up to and including lethal force. You will be arrested, but that's standard procedure for anyone who has killed another person whether murder or in self-defence. The definition of reasonable force is exactly that, what any reasonable person might think was reasonable at the time - including what in the cold light of day might be thought of as unreasonable, but in heat of moment, when in fear of the intruder, seemed appropriate.

Comment: Re:I see what you did there... (Score 1) 401

by jecblackpepper (#41968879) Attached to: Wayback Machine Trumps FOI Tribunal
I would expect that they'd suspend impartiality regarding spherical vs flat earth, or gravity vs intelligent falling too. At some point you have to decide that when the vast majority of scientists in the field support one conclusion that giving equal air time to the very few who don't agree is not appropriate. Otherwise you do a disservice to your audience.

"No matter where you go, there you are..." -- Buckaroo Banzai

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