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Comment: What's more, utilities should have predicted this (Score 1) 451

by Paul Fernhout (#48035903) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Back around 2003, I was arguing on the SSI list against space-based solar power satellites, pointing out that with trend towards ever cheaper ground-based solar power, solar power satellites were making less and less economic sense, even if they might have made more sense in the 1970s if built from lunar materials. I also pointed out the with decentralized roof-based solar power, and with likely predictable improvements in power storage (compressed air, hydrogen and fuel cells, better batteries), fairly soon it would no longer make sense for many people to connect to the grid even if the production cost of the electricity was nearly free (like from SPSS), because roughly half the then-current cost of electricity was for "distribution" via a grid of wires, not for "production". The grid is costly to maintain with falling trees, hurricanes, and so on. So, at some point, it is cheaper to have local solar panels than to get even free electricity from space if you need to use a grid to distribute it. (Solar power from SPSS beamed directly to airplanes in flight or to big industrial plants or laser launching rocket systems might be a different economic story.)

One idea I suggested back then is that if you looked at these trends, and factored in a future decommissioning cost for the grid to remove poles and power lines and such, and also sunk costs of debt being repaid for previously built coal and nuclear plants, some utilities might already be effectively bankrupt? Of course, you need to weigh the value of the copper in the wires as well as the value of the power line right-of-way for communications, so that idea is a stretch -- but it shows what these cheap solar PV trends could mean to the utility industry.

But even in the 1980s, just as Reagan took office and took the solar panels off the White House, people were talking about these solar trends. Amory Lovins is another person good at general big predictions on energy (including oil prices in the 1970s, when you factor in risks like wars and supply disruption).

Anyway, all this issue with solar PV reaching grid parity something utility company planners should have seen coming a long way off. Instead, it seems most people (including on Slashdot) have been completely ignoring these cost trends towards grid parity, and are only now acting on the fact that it has finally been (or is about to be) reached for solar PV. That is kind of like ignoring the fact that a car engine is leaking oil until it actually seizes up.

Or in other words:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Of course, I'm not sure what you could tell most utilities to do even if they had seen this trend. If their only response is to try to disrupt cheap solar, then maybe it is for the best that they ignored this trend? An alternative might have been for utility companies to get into a Sears-like appliance relationship with homeowners and their solar panels and batteries, or to do something like Solar City did with funding such systems?

The only thing I can see that would affect this trend towards dirt-cheap solar is even cheaper power from hot or cold fusion or something similar. It's true that people can fall off roofs installing solar panels, and that ground-based solar not on roofs can look cluttery and cover up ground otherwise usable for growing plants, and that batteries in the home need to be maintained and can be a hazard, and that some solar panels could in theory have run-off with some heavy metals (like lead or cadmium). So, nothing is perfect, and utilities might have been able to supply something better if they had thought hard about it and invested in R&D.

Comment: Basic income from a millionaire's perspective? (Score 1) 382

by Paul Fernhout (#48035471) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

As I wrote here:
"Right now, a profit driven health care system has sized emergency rooms for average needs, and those emergency rooms are often full. With a basic income and more money going on a systematic basis to the health care system, the health care system emergency rooms will no longer be overrun with people there for reasons they could see a doctor for. So, emergency care would be better for millionaires. Millionaires with heart attacks won't be as likely to end up being diverted to far away hospitals because the local hospital emergency room is full. Likewise, emergency rooms might, with more money going to medicine, become sized for national emergencies, not personal emergencies, so they might become vast empty places, with physicians and other health care staff keeping their skills sharp always running simulations, learning more medical information, and/or doing basic medical research, with these people always ready for a pandemic or natural disaster or industrial accident which they had the resources in reserve to deal with. So, millionaires who got sick or injured in a disaster could be sure there was the facilities and expertise nearby to help them, even if most of the rest of the population needed help too at the same time too. In that way, some of this basic income could be funded by money that might otherwise go to the Defense department, because what is better civil defense then investing in a health care system able to to handle national disasters? So, any millionaires who are doctors (many are) would benefit by this plan, because their lives as doctors will become happier and less stressful, both with less paperwork and with more resources."

Maybe someday...

Comment: The general issue is decentralization & resile (Score 4, Interesting) 174

by Paul Fernhout (#48035393) Attached to: Elon Musk: We Must Put a Million People On Mars To Safeguard Humanity

As I discussed here (~25years ago):
"As outlined in my statement of purpose, my lifetime goal is to design and construct self-replicating habitats. These habitats can be best envisioned as huge walled gardens inhabited by thousands of people. Each garden would have a library which would contain the information needed to construct a new garden from tools and materials found within the garden's walls. The garden walls and construction methods would be of several different types, allowing such gardens to be built on land, underground, in space, or under the ocean. Such gardens would have the capacity to seal themselves to become environmentally and economically self-sufficient in the event of economic collapse or global warfare and the attendant environmental destruction. "


And here:

But many others have discussed similar things, so just another voice in the choir in that sense. If Musk really reflects on these issues (other than being another Mars fanboy) he will see that there are many possible avenues to decentralization and resiliency, of which Mars is just one. As we gain knowledge and experience in creating such systems, then we can disperse farther and farther to deal with bigger and bigger possible disasters (including the ones you point out about gamma ray burst or wandering neutron stars).

More ideas in that direction:

And by others:

Also something I've been involved with, but has since became more broadly "Open Manufacturing" and the maker movement:

So, generation ships etc. are interesting ideas, and they all fit into a large general picture of possibilities.

Still, for all that, making the Earth work well for most everyone (zero emissions cradle-to-cradle manufacturing, better healthcare and nutrition, a global basic income, better education for all, indoor agriculture, new power sources like dirt cheap solar and hot and cold fusion, and so on) is a good first step towards knowing how to live in space, especially given we are already on what Bucky Fuller called "Spaceship Earth". So, I see no big incompatibility between trying to make the Earth work for everyone and preparing for a future where there are quadrillions of people living in self-replicating space habitats throughout the solar system and ultimately the galaxy and beyond -- perhaps even into other dimensions and realities and simulations? Of course, there are philosophical issues still about all this about meanings in life and so on.

Comment: Re:Start menu usage dropped in lieu of what? (Score 1) 259

by mcgrew (#48031855) Attached to: Microsoft's Asimov System To Monitor Users' Machines In Real Time

I tried Lo but it wouldn't do full justification, so it was a no-go for me; I need to format printed books. Oo seems to work like any other Windows program, except it loses it's "last used files" list in the start menu whenever it's upgraded (they really need to fix that).

Comment: Re:We must nuke Texas from orbit, (Score 1) 382

by PopeRatzo (#48031299) Attached to: Ebola Has Made It To the United States

I don't think you'll have to use Nukes. Once Texans figure out that there's Ebola running loose around their state, they'll get out their shooting irons and go full survivalist. If the guy who's the first ebola case turns out to be a black man, I've got a feeling there are going a whole lot of people of color heading for Oklahoma and New Mexico tonight.

By the end of the week, Texas will look like an episode of Walking Dead. In other words, nobody in the rest of the country will notice.

Comment: Re:In school: BAN EVERYTHING outside public domain (Score 1) 402

by Reziac (#48031057) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

Yep, I know the conflict. I'm glad to have had that aspect of my education (dull as it was at the time), but I was already a compulsive reader, so they didn't discourage me. What happens with kids who aren't into reading in the first place?

My high school understood this -- the classes for remedial readers were so much fun that regular students sometimes took them too, and nearly all the kids came out of them with more desire to read, not less.

Comment: Re:Survival (Score 1) 451

by PopeRatzo (#48030809) Attached to: Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

I've been reading up about that story, and the city officials didn't really mention anything about the fact that it was a connected domicile. If their rationale was based, as the officials said, on the International Building Code, there's no mention of connected vs standalone domiciles in the IBC. So I really don't know what this was about.

It seems like they were looking for a reason to cite this homeowner, who has had other run-ins with housing before, mostly for capping off her sewers.

Comment: Steal? So the army no longer has the software? (Score 3, Interesting) 42

by bzipitidoo (#48030639) Attached to: Four Charged With Stealing Army Helicopter Training Software

Did the perps really steal the software, or only copy it?

Not that it matters much. The army loves to go ape on "bad" guys. The army's reputation for paranoid overreaction to any threat involving computers is such that it wouldn't be surprising if the perps end up spending a very long time in Gitmo if the army gets hold of them. They'll be held without trial as, what do they call it, an imminent threat? They'll also be "aggressively interrogated" to find out how they did it. If the army has to hold a trial, they'll be found guilty of stealing, espionage, and of course (cue dramatic music) Hacking.

Comment: Re:Asimov system? (Score 2) 259

by mcgrew (#48030435) Attached to: Microsoft's Asimov System To Monitor Users' Machines In Real Time

Overrated?? Asimov wrote over 500 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His stories were between the covers of all the science fiction magazines every month. And the trilogy you rate so poorly won a Hugo award (the most respected science fiction award there is, with the possible exception of the Nebula). He, Heinlein, and Clarke are are often considered to be the "Big Three" of science fiction authors.

Sheesh, judge the author of over 500 books on three. That's pathetic.

Oh, and in case you didn't figure it out, I've been a huge Asimov fan for fifty years (as well as Heinlein and Niven and most of the rest). I didn't care for Clarke, but I'd not call him unimpressive, I just didn't care for his style. If I cared for that style I'd probably love his work, but I don't.

Comment: Re:Which users? (Score 1) 259

by mcgrew (#48030233) Attached to: Microsoft's Asimov System To Monitor Users' Machines In Real Time

Couldn't agree more. Not restoring the (useful) start menu for W8, even as an option, goes to show how much they really care about it's customers.

You're not their customer unless you're buying boxed sets of their OS and apps to install on your home brew machine. Acer, Dell, etc. are their customers. You didn't buy that OS from Microsoft, the OEM did. You bought it from him, and he's the one you should complain to.

Comment: Re:Which users? (Score 1) 259

by mcgrew (#48030149) Attached to: Microsoft's Asimov System To Monitor Users' Machines In Real Time

I'm hoping W7 is it for me, but I'd said that XP was it; I've been mostly using Linux for a decade. Then about 3 years ago I bought this notebook and have been too lazy to install kubuntu (which I had on the older one that had been stolen). Despite its annoyances W7's still there.

Nothing succeeds like success. -- Alexandre Dumas