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Comment Not as easy as it seems (Score 1) 131

Academics have been complaining for decades about profiteering publishers and the high cost of publications, but when they've tried to bypass the system, they haven't done much better. When the open-access movement started, estimates were that $1000 or less could easily pay for reviewing, formatting and archiving each article. After all, most of the reviewing is volunteer labor, the cost of data storage is practically zero, and since access is free, you don't have to maintain a paywall. But turns out you still need a full-time well-paid executive editor to oversee the reviews, you have to pay the associate editors something, you still have to pay copy-editors to get everything in a common format, and you still need to pay IT people to keep the site secure from hacking. It's a robust market, with many open-access journals competing, and more starting up all the time, but ~$3000 seems to be the going rate, the cheapest anyone can handle an average article - and even at that, the nonprofits still claim to be losing money on every article they publish. So I wish these folks well with their conference, and more power to them in trying to come up with a cheaper model. But I wouldn't count on it.

Comment Musk is different (Score 1) 273

I am personally more impressed with Musk than Jobs. What Jobs did, with both the Macintosh and the iPhone, was to use his tyrannical leadership to bring developing technologies together faster than anyone else. Without Jobs, we would still have GUIs and we would still have smart phones with touch screens and rounded corners, although they might have come a year or two later than they did. Creating a viable electric car was a much bigger challenge. Sure, Musk couldn't have done it without massive government subsidies, but those same subsidies were available to all the big car manufacturers, and they didn't come up with anything like a Tesla. Without Musk, there still would be nothing like the Tesla.

Submission A second life for EV batteries->

lfp98 writes: When I converted my EV from lead to lithium, I moved the tired old lead batteries to the basement for backup during power outages. Both GM and Nissan are now planning to do the same on a massive scale, developing systems for utility-level power storage based on used Leaf and Volt battery packs. Both companies already have in-house pilot projects, and plan to ultimately market the systems to power companies. Even after 100,000 miles, these batteries retain up to 80% of their original capacity. Though too weak for automotive use, they can find a second life in the much less demanding role of stationary power storage, where the power/weight ratio is nearly irrelevant and the rapid charge and discharge cycles that degrade the battery's performance rarely if ever occur. Finding a new use for old batteries would effectively lower the lifecycle costs and carbon footprints for both EVs and renewable power.
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Comment Niche products for the well-heeled? (Score 1) 356

"solar panels and electric cars . . . . remain niche products for mostly well-heeled customers." I'd agree that might be accurate for Musk's cars, but for EVs and solar panels in general it's at least misleading if not flatly false. The people I know who drive electrics aren't particularly wealthy. Other than Teslas, EVs now sell, after the rebate, at roughly the average price for a new car in the US, about $30,000. Decent used ones can be had for $12-15,000. Plenty of middle-class families manage to come up with that much and more for a car, so the implication that EVs are out of reach of the masses is just wrong. And unlike many tax breaks, the EV credit doesn't increase just because you're in a higher tax bracket, everybody gets the same $7500. A solar panel array actually costs less than the average cost of a new car, even before the tax rebate. And, both EVs and panels actually save the purchaser money in the long run. If they skew toward wealthier folks, it's probably because highly educated people are buying them. As far as states bidding for manufacturing facilities with millions in subsidies, that's now pretty much standard procedure. With China and others subsidizing manufacturing, we have to do it too, or else cede all production to others. When the US went for free trade and let China into the WTO, that's what we were committing ourselves to.

Comment HVDC (Score 1) 597

Seems to me the author is understating his own argument, and missing the point, to some extent. The devices he excludes ("Appliances like electric ovens, electric water heaters, and air conditioners will [still] require 110VAC") are precisely the ones that take most of the power, probably 80% in aggregate. So, if you want significant savings, those would have to be DC as well, but it would have to be 220VDC or at least 110VDC, because for 12 volts you would need at least finger-sized copper bus running all through the house. In fact, the most efficient new air conditioners / heat pumps (e.g. Daikin Altherma) run on DC, i.e., they convert the AC to DC which then powers inverter-controlled synchronous motors. A water heater, even an existing one, could just as easily run on 110/220 VDC, you'd just need to replace the control unit. What you'd probably want is a system with at least 2 voltages, say 24V and 220V, each with its own battery charged by its own solar array, so you don't need to do DC/DC voltage conversion (which also has losses though probably not as much as an inverter). Most of the house would only have 24VDC wiring, 220VDC would only go to the kitchen and utility room, just as it does now in AC systems.

Comment Re:Wind power is not the answer. (Score 1) 256

The noise is not from bad bearings but simply from the blades whooshing through the air. I don't have first-hand experience but those who live near turbines say it can be pretty severe. I can see a place for turbines offshore and in the wide-open spaces of the Great Plains where there is ample wind. But in the more populated east and west coasts, the noise and visual pollution just aren't worth it, especially when the wind is so intermittent. The few remaining undeveloped spaces there deserve to be left alone. Are we to have every Appalachian mountain ridge dominated by turbines even larger than the monsters already in use? In the long term, PV solar with battery storage is the only sensible solution. It's a little too expensive now, but in 10 years if not 5 years it will likely be comparable to wind and cheaper than any fossil fuel. By the time mega-turbine wind gets going, it will already be obsolete.

Comment Children should wear reading glasses (Score 1) 144

Or at least not wear their "normal" prescription when reading. I know for sure what happened to me. I spent plenty of time outside but I read a lot of books too. I acquired nearsightedness by about 5th grade, so of course they gave me corrective lenses to restore 20/20 vision, i.e., perfect focus at something 20 feet away. That meant that for reading, my eyes had to focus even closer than they would otherwise, in order to compensate for the glasses trying to focus farther away, so I got even more nearsighted, got stronger corrective lenses, and it just snowballed. By the time I finished college, I had corrective lenses of roughly -5.0 left and -4.0 right. Now, with no glasses, my natural, relaxed focal distance is about 4 inches in front of my face, anything farther I need glasses. I realize now what I should have done is at least take off my corrective glasses for reading and any close work.

Comment Osteoporosis (Score 1) 304

In my younger years it never occurred to me that I would some day be too old to bicycle, and certainly not in my 60's, but now I realize it is simply too dangerous. Given my bone density, typical of an 80-year-old, a fall, even a minor one, would likely be catastrophic. My case is unusual, but the majority of 60+ seniors have some degree of osteoporosis and most of them probably shouldn't be biking. My father-in-law biked well into his 70s, but had a fall - on a bike path - and was never quite the same after that. I'm just kind of surprised no one talks about this much.

Comment What is the goal? (Score 1) 273

So far, efforts to increase longevity and slow the aging process have indeed extended the number of years over which people can still be productive, healthy and independent, but they have extended by almost as much the subsequent period of decline during which people are still alive but largely unable to care for themselves. Proportionally, we are spending a larger fraction of our lives in disability than ever before, thanks to modern medicine. One can make a pretty good argument that we have already gone too far in increasing human lifespan.

Comment Make your own prescription (Score 1) 464

Progressive lenses take the prize for most useless invention (apologies to Mr. Franklin). To use the reading portion of the lens, you have to cock back your head uncomfortably or put the reading matter down on our chest. It's far easier to just switch glasses when you need to. For computer viewing, they're completely useless. For distance vision, I need very strong corrective lenses (approx. -5.0 left and -4.0 right). Progressive lenses are made by simply adding approximately +2.0 to the reading portion of the lens. So I just added +2.0 to my prescription ordered full lenses with -3.0 left and -2.0 right, resulting in a focal length of about 2 feet, perfect for computer viewing, which is what I got them for, but I'm finding that they are fine for almost everything I do in life, which generally involves focusing on things at roughly arms length. I have a pair with the original prescription specifically for distance vision, but the only time I use them is for driving, and occasionally for watching seminars.

Never trust an operating system.