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Comment: Legal... sort of (Score 3, Informative) 178

by michael_cain (#47674179) Attached to: Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene
"The hemp we use is perfectly legal to grow."

Yeah, if you're properly affiliated with a university or state department of agriculture, are doing it for research purposes, and have agreed to all of the terms and conditions that the feds and your local state require. If you or I try to do it commercially, it's a federal felony.

Comment: Re:Define:expensive (Score 1) 409

Hydro is out because we're already tapped about 99% of the viable hydro in this country.

The states of the US Western Interconnect have developed about half of their potential traditional hydro. Big dams have their own environmental issues, of course, but there's also quite a bit of run-of-river potential in the Western. For the Texas and Eastern Interconnects, you're about right for traditional hydro. I keep waiting for people to figure out that the US doesn't have a unified grid, it has three almost entirely independent regional grids, and those regions have very different situations. Trying to have a one-size-fits-all national energy policy is going to result in all sorts of problems.

Comment: Re:And when you include end-of-life costs? (Score 1) 409

Could you clarify that "The folks in Nevada who wanted to store that stuff in Yucca Mountain..."? The federal Dept of Energy would like to operate the facility; a small number of locals who believe they would get a big economic boost from having all the facility's staff settle locally like it; polling Nevada-wide runs about 2:1 against operating the facility, and most of the neighboring states are very strongly opposed to transporting the spent fuel through them. Following the late-night closed-door Congressional committee meeting where the list of candidate sites was trimmed to just Yucca Mountain, a reporter asked the committee chairman what had happened at the meeting. "We screwed Nevada," was his answer.

Comment: Re:Why do CS grads become lowly programmers? (Score 1) 637

by michael_cain (#47617881) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?
This illustrates nicely the underlying theme that so many of the commenters are bickering over: CS is used to mean so many things that it's unlikely anyone getting a four-year degree is going to get even a quick look at everything they might end up needing. Just programming spans the range from million-processor-core super computers to fitting five new features into an embedded 16-bit microcontroller with 8K of memory.

Comment: Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (Score 1) 123

Nobody is interested in fixing it, not even the environmental guy.

However, there are millions of people downstream of Hanford who are seriously interested in having the site cleaned up, and politicians who are terrified that at some point the feds will punt and it will all fall to Washington and Oregon to deal with. The lack of trust is understandable; the DOE asserts that it has cleaned up the much smaller Rocky Flats site upwind from Denver, but refuses to allow Colorado to have any independent testing done.

Comment: Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (Score 4, Informative) 123

...point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel...

Unfortunately, much of the waste at Hanford is not in a form that can be easily converted to usable fuel for anything. Think millions of gallons of seriously nasty chemical toxins, that just happen to also have a batch radioactive isotopes dissolved in it. The clean-up plan calls for a one-of-a-kind chemical plant to handle separation and break-down of the stuff. Much of the delay can be attributed to problems with the design of said plant; a lot of experts assert that it simply won't work.

Comment: Re:paper...pencil (Score 1) 170

by michael_cain (#46801395) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?
One of the other functions notebooks occasionally fill is as evidence in patent hearings. If that's a consideration, pencils are a no-no because things can be changed. Yeah, I'm at the "get off my lawn" age these days, but best practice for patent cases is still bound notebooks, numbered pages, ink. If you screwed something up three days ago, you don't erase and fix, you redraw on a new page with the current date and refer back as "corrects version of this on pg 23." For personal use, that's overkill.

I ended up with a piece of home-grown Perl/Tk code that lets me do notes from the keyboard, simple drawings with the mouse, paste in pictures and files, etc. Uses what appears to be the old xterm "fixed" font because at one point I planned to have a version that multiple people could view across the network and I wanted pixel-level sameness across locations. Multiple colors because as you say, sometimes that helps with clarity (and if I go back to add another observation on an existing page, I use a contrasting color for the text). Every line of text or drawn element gets timestamped and recorded -- that's for my own use, and is certainly not good enough to stand up in court. No limit to how far a page can grow down or to the right, which creates its own set of problems. I'm probably the only person in the world that would find it useful, but it does get some of the job done.

Comment: Re:Don't do it. Linux sucks as an XP workgroup (Score 1) 452

by michael_cain (#46718259) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Start With Linux In the Workplace?
Yeah, the OP seems to imply that there are other people who have newer hardware running something other than XP -- he's talking about stragglers. One of the starting points is to go see whoever is responsible for budget planning. In my experience, they're more likely than anyone to be locked into the full-blown Windows version of Excel (full-blown meaning VBA, Solver, particular statistics packages, etc). Ask them how much of the budget data flow is broken if people don't have Excel compatibility at that level. And whether they're willing to rebuild the data flow around a different spreadsheet program (again, my experience is that the answer to that is not only "no," but "Hell, no!").

Comment: Re:Bullshit Made Up Language (Score 1) 512

by michael_cain (#46612147) Attached to: Why <em>Darmok</em> Is a Good <em>Star Trek: TNG</em> Episode
Or enough math to do the physics for warp drive. Ask anyone who's taken math-heavy graduate classes: notation, the language, matters a lot. The British fell behind Continental Europe in terms of advancing analysis, and stayed behind, until they finally tossed Newton's notation in favor of Leibniz.

Comment: Re:Code I consider 'elegant'. (Score 1) 373

by michael_cain (#46585999) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?
My standards for my own code are considerably lower. I settle for, "If I can read it and understand how it all works after not touching it for six months, that's good enough." Once upon a time I had to use APL to to handle a batch of numerical problems, and never managed to reach that bar no matter how hard I tried :^)

Comment: Re:I look forward to the day they ignite (Score 1) 127

by michael_cain (#46233337) Attached to: National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy
No mod points today, but yeah, I think maintaining precision in the process of capturing power output at the level of several hundred megawatts is going to be interesting. I'm getting up there in years; I've pretty much given up on commercial fusion power in my lifetime.

Comment: Re:Do they need it? (Score 1) 212

It's interesting to look at the county-level primary maps prior to the point where everyone else folded and gave the nomination to Romney. In state after state, Romney won the urban and inner suburban counties (that Obama would win in the general). And lost the rural areas, usually to the "more conservative" candidate du jour. There was a steady stream of headlines of the form: "<X and Y> win primaries" with the subhead "Romney increases delegate lead". The Republicans' fundamental policy and demographic problems can be summed up as, "They hate cities, and most of the people who live in cities." Long-term trends suggest that's going to be a serious problem.

If all the world's economists were laid end to end, we wouldn't reach a conclusion. -- William Baumol