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Comment: Re:Take 'em to small claims court. (Score 1) 334

This is going to go no where unless he can get an independent expert to certify that his measuring technique is accurate.

We're talking small claims court here (where proceures are much more relaxed due to the small amount of the dispute) and civil procedure (where the standard of proof is "preponderance of evidence", not "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Also: A suitable expert shouldn't be THAT hard to find, and (with open source and things like the Raspbery Pi and Beagle Bone available for platforms), independently engineering a meter to check the first one should be quick work - and something a customer of another ISP might want to do, as well.

Heh. Once it's done it could be published open-source, bringing the tool into the hands of the technically-literate masses. A couple thousand small claims cases a month might be more effective than a class action suit for getting their act cleaned up.

Comment: Re:That almost happened a while back. (Score 1) 135

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47774975) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

The Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel "The Songs Of Distant Earth" (1986) used the Case Of The Missing Neutrinos as the opening premise [followed by "the sun is about to nova" and humanity having] a few hundred years to develop interstellar-travel technology before the Sun went nova. 'Twas a good story.

Indeed it was.

In mine, though, there was nothing wrong with the sun at all. It's just that the high neutrino flux makes other physical phenomena more apparent and (by book three) usable at a practical level. FTL interstellar travel IS developed by the fifth book (when things are fully sorted out), which is in hard science fiction space-opera form.

Of course, by that time "magic" is hard science (though its engineering is more like animal husbandry), religion has merged with psychology, and one of the crew members (or is he the FTL engine?) is (and must be) a literal god. (For the engineering crew chief think "Scotty in Druidic Robes"...) Using a god plus a nuclear reactor for the engine leads to complications (but not the ones you're probably thinking of right now).

No, not like Clarke's story at all. More like Keith Laumer collaborates with Larry Niven. B-)

Comment: Take 'em to small claims court. (Score 1) 334

Take them to small claims court.

Ask for the difference between the billing tier your meter says you should be in and the one they charged you for. Dump your data in a reasonably clear format and show and explain it to the judge. Be prepared to swear that it is correct.

If they overcharge you next month, do it again.

Keep it up until they fix the meter so the agreement is close enough for you to be happy with it (or until the judge gets tired of it and issues an order - either to you or them - to make the cases stop.) It's not barratry - no matter how vexing to the utility - if the suits are legitimate, with real grounds asking for restitution for real damages, nor if the the suits are repeated because there are new instances of the tort.

First time through, ask for all the months for which you have data that shows overcharging. (If you can demonstrate a rule for the systematic overcharging, ask for the overcharges back to the instalation of the system, but be prepared for the judge to reject that.) Up to the small claims price and time limits, of course.

Be polite to the judge. Assume he's smart enough to understand this if you explain it clearly. (Judges don't get to be judges without being smart and good at figuring these things out.)

Comment: That almost happened a while back. (Score 2) 135

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47772063) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

The other interesting result would be if the expected neutrino type was not detected by this experiment, invalidating the hypothesis. This would raise further questions such as: is there some other mechanism powering the Sun? Is there something deficient in our understanding of neutrinos that prevented us from detecting them despite them being there?

That almost happened, in the early days of neutrino dectection - before things like old mines full of purified water and 3-D arrays of photodetectors running for months at a time, and you could count the number of detected neutrinos on two hands (in bi-quinary so you could go a bit higher than ten). This was when the detectors could only detect the type of neutrino directly generated by fusion reactions, and before the discovery of neutrino oscillation, when it wasn't yet clear whether neutrinos had no, or very very little, rest mass.

Early numbers, and their error bounds, made it clear that there weren't enough neutrinos being detected. (This was known for years as the "missing neutrino problem".) But the earliest ones WERE about right for a situation where all the stars EXCEPT the sun were running by fusion and the sun was out.

That may sound odd. But there was a very cute explanation that made it plausible:

The gradual gravitatonal collapse of the sun, as heat is radiated away, could power it for millenia. It's nowhere near enough to power it long enough to explain the fossil record, but it IS enough to have kept it running for historic time. Meanwhile, if a fusion reaction were to start up near the center of such a ball of collapsing gas, it would also take many years for the heat to make it to the surface. Neutrinos (which go through the sun like marbles through a light mist) are about the only signature of what's going on in there NOW.

But suppose, instead of fusing continuously, stars were reciprocating engines. They might run without fusion for centuries, or millenia, until they were compressed enough to "light up" at the center. Then the fusion heat and reaction products might make the reaction ramp up. They'd burn for a little while (which would heat them up and expand them mabye a few inches), until the decreased density and/or reduction in fuel and/or accumulation of reaction products "put the fire out" again. Repeat for the life of the star.

In this scenario, if our sun happened to be between "putts (and the very nearest stars didn't happen to have an unusual distribution of where they were in their cycles), you'd see the same neutrio flux from the rest of the sky as if all the rest of the stars were running continuous fusion. That's because it's the average of stars that are "on" and "off", and comes out to the same amount of total fusion and neutrinos.

Of course later data, both larger samples and detectors that could "see" the other neutrino types, put the kibosh on that model. A big part of it was the discovery of neutrino oscillations, allowing a stream of neutrinos that started out as one type in the sun to arrive as a mix of the three types. (This means that neutrinos have a non-zero rest mass, fly slightly slower than light, and thus experience time and are ABLE to change from one type to another.)

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

Comment: Re:And there is the matter of (Score 1) 135

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47771985) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

But, again, neutrino oscillation can't nullify these results, because oscillation only makes neutrinos harder to detect (by changing their "flavor"). It doesn't create neutrino signals where none originally existed (at least not in this sense).

Sure it can: By "oscillating" other flavors of neutrino into the type they're looking for, when they weren't there in the first place (or not in sufficient number).

They'll need to look at the ratio of the various types and back-calculate to eliminate other possible signals, or combinations of them, to see if there is a way for other (possibly unexpected) reactions to produce a signal that looks like the ones expected and/or observed.

Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 191

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47753497) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

This is interesting stuff. Where do you recommend buying thi s equipment?

Since we buy new we have shopped reputable dealers. Since what we wanted was small and self-contained we were able to find a dealer with something suitable already on the lot that he was having trouble unloading, so we got it at a good price.

The trick is to research the manufacturers on the net, first, to find out which have a track record of producing good products.

It's been a while since we last bought one, so our research is out of date and you'll have to do your own. There is some turnover in the industry, so a company that is good for decades may cheapen their product, merge, or go out of business.

Our current one is by Sunnybrook, which has since merged into another company. (Pity: They did great trailers with solid aluminum framing, great layouts, and high quality throughout. Only problem was the imported tires - which we replaced with Goodyears after a few thousand miles.)

Before that we had a Prowler from Fleetwood, which has since gone out of business. (They had had a great rep, but our instance, and others from their last few years, had issues with water leakage.)

Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 191

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47745369) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Considering you're talking about multiple properties already, I dont think your cost scale exactly matches everyone elses.

Even (especially!) in Silicon Valley you don't accumulate multiple properties by being spendthrift.

How much did you spend on your hobby equipment? Or your last couple vacations?

Even in pricey California you can buy a good NEW travel trailer in the 20' range, loaded, for about $15k. That will sleep four if they're friendly, two quite comfortably. If you're willing to go small you can get into the $7k range. Special order skipping the microwave, oven, and air conditioner can drop it further. Buy used for far less, if you know what to look for, are willing to accept the extra maintenance risks or put in a bit of sweat equity fixing it up, and you can get to silly price levels. (I wouldn't, though, due to allergies.)

The trick is "travel trailer", not "RV" or even "Fifth Wheel", and going small. (You can easily drop the price of a medium-sized house for one of the class-A land yacts.) Pickup campers, on the other hand, tend to live on the pickup truck because it's such a pain to remove it, so the rig might as well be an RV.

In addition to the price difference, the trailer/tow vehicle combo beats the heck out of RV in the long run: The house and the runing gear wear out at different rates - with an RV when one dies they both do. Unhooking the tow vehicle gives you a vehicle at your camp. Keeping it small also gives you the ability to camp in a lot more places than something large (like some federal and state parks of the more wilderness sort, which have twisty roads and small campsites tucked into out of the way places.)

The trailer/RV/whtever approach may not make sense JUST for earthquake preparedness. But if you find camping or cross-country travel enjoyable (and are getting a bit too fragile to do it with tents), using the money you'd otherwise have spent JUST stocking earthquake supplies can make the camping budget far more managable. It also lets you get two benefits for ONE chunk of your time getting things set up.

(I also find it's lots of fun to set it up with techie toys. B-) )

Comment: Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 4, Informative) 191

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47743519) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

We have a self-contained travel trailer that doubles as natural disaster supplies. Stocked with canned and boxed food for weeks, 14 gallons of propane (always more than 7, since you swap tanks when one of 'em empties and top 'em off after a trip) can keep the fridge going for months, and we have a couple spare tanks.

40 gallons of fresh water are good for three days of camping WITH showers. In a natural disaster you can skip the showers and stretch it for a month or so. A couple hundred amp-hours of batteries (i.e. two of 'em) can keep things going for a while and can be charged from solar panels (or the vehicle engine) as well. (And we're just starting to convert the lighting to LEDs, for about a 8-16x improvement in power consumption vs. incandescents.)

The townhouse also has canned food for months and a case or two of bottled drinking water (as does the ranch house, which also has a well if we ever get a generator, windmill, or solar panels & inverter that can run it when grid power is out.) It also provides redundancy if the trailer is damaged, just as the trailer provides redundancy if the house collapses or burns.

Travel trailers are not very expensive. Set them up for a weekend's camping, park them far enough from the house that expected disaster cases don't zap 'em both, and they'll give you your "three days until help arrives" in style, or a month's survivalist roughing-it. They also have the advantage that, if they don't get damaged in the initial event or you have warning, you can hook 'em up and move to a safer or more convenient location. All "for free" if you like occasional camping, or cross-country ground travel without having to rent allergenic hotel rooms. B-)

Comment: WELL said. (Score 1) 133

What "we" are worried about is the rich cultural and political elite losing their seaside mansions ...

Well said, sir. (I already commented in the article so couldn't mod that up. I had to settle for "friend"ing you. B-) )

Also: In the spirit of "Never letting a crisis go to waste", it's also an opportunity for the 1% to incrase their power over the 99%, and find ways to rip them off. (Carbon taxes. Government mandated carbon credit exchange schemes, with markets provided, and billions in transaction fees raked in, by "entrepenuers" like Al Gore and Barak Obama.)

Comment: Bigger quakes are longer. (Score 3, Interesting) 133

"Why do Californians think they can "feel" the strength of a quake? It's complete nonsense because you cannot feel its distance."

It's not nonsense at all. Bigger quakes last longer. The duration of the shaking is a good measure of the actual strength, and can be read directly off the seismographs, while more accurate estimates take a while to compute from these and other measurements.

That's why you see initial estimates as "duration magnitude", later revised to "moment magnitude" which more accurately measures the energy from measurements of the distortion of the underground structures due to the stress changes. You'll notice that it's SO good that the adjustment is usually only a couple tenths of a scale point - less than a 2:1 difference in energy.

The rip starts at some point along the fault and propagates along it in fits and starts, much slower than the compression and shear waves from the individual releases, as the motion from the relaxing stresses in the section that let go increases stresses in the next section. This keeps up until the effect reaches a point where the stress isn't enough (at the time) to make it let go. (You get aftershocks when the more gradual readjustments add "straw to the camel's back" and get it going again - or start one on another nearby section or another nearby fault.)

The strength of the wave decays with distance. But the duration increases as the wave takes multiple paths, scattering off underground structure. So a distant earthquake doesn't "feel" shorter than a nearby one. Longer-but-weaker. Also, the P wave propagates much faster than the S wave, is weaker, and doesn't "stretch out in time" much at all. Time separation is greater with distance. They feel very different. (Mnemonic: First the P wave makes you pee, then the S wave ...) So with enough experience one could ballpark both the strength and the distance from the feel of the quake.

For instance: Loma Prieta, a 7.1 moment magnitude (6.9 early duration magnitude estimates), propagated along aobut 22 miles of fault. It lasted 8 seconds, though as you got farther away the shaking got up to 45 seconds before it became too weak to be noticed. I was standing in front of Palo Alto City Hall when it got there, and my perception was first (P wave) "a truck is going over this overpass - wait', I'm not ON an overpass", then (S wave) "being in an airplane experiencing 15 seconds of mild turbulence." (Most ground-bound constructions {except for mobile and modular homes, which are built to be shipped on highways}, weren't built to withstand "15 seconds of mild turbulence". B-b ) I was listening to a San Francisco radio station: Seconds after the shaking started, the announcers got in two sentences (first about feeling an earthquake (P wave), then that it felt big (start of S wave)) before the transmitter failed (a bit into the S wave) - and the shaking was far from over.

The scale is logarithmic base 10, so a 1 point difference in scale is a 10x difference in energy, and thus time. This makes it EASY to guess the magnitude (if your sense of time doesn't distort to much from the excitement). A 6.1 would be 1/10th the energy of Loma P., so also about 1/10th the time, and Nappa to Oakland is comparable to Loma Prieta to Palo Alto, so call it a second and a half of the strong shaking.

On the other hand, for the first quake I felt after moving to CA I was nearly on top of a small one. (I think it was a high 2.x or a low 3.x.) Very sharp single shock - like a car hitting a concrete building while you're inside - followed by "echoes" as the wave moves on rapidly and EVERY building makes the sound of being hit (followed by a chorus of car alarms - shock sensors were common then). Sensation: Being in an elevator when it hit a misaligned section of the guide track. Three-stage perceptual distortion, as I realized that I was standing on the ground and my brain momentarily remapped my motion as a memory of the surroundings moving, as if they were painted on canvas scenery that was being shaken, then I realized it was an earthquake and it all remapped back - though the memory of the remappings was still there. (Next I wondered how much this phenomenon contrubuted to magical thinking among the cults California is noted for harboring.)

Comment: Light but reactive element = high energy density (Score 1) 143

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47718377) Attached to: How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper

"lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."

  I'm wondering if this is a non sequitur for electric batteries.

Not a non sequitur at all.

An important factor for batteries is energy density: How much energy is stored per unit mass. This is particularly important for electric cars: The higher the energy density, the less mass you havce to haul around for a given amount of "fuel", which means the less "fuel" is spent hauling your "fuel" around, so it's a more-than-linear improvement.

Lithium is both extremely light and a very reactive nonmetal. So you're talking about a lot of energy per unit mass for the lithium-based electrode's contribution to the reaction.

The only way to learn a new programming language is by writing programs in it. - Brian Kernighan