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Comment: 40% lower? (Score 0) 226

One is taken to wondering how power prices can drop 40% when there are tons of new infrastructure being bought and labor being paid to install it. Wind power isn't *THAT* much cheaper to run. I have a funny feeling there are significant tax breaks being given to the companies installing the stuff and tax increases being levied on citizens to make this 40% drop happen...which, if true, means it's not really 40% cheaper, it's just those savings are being offset by higher costs elsewhere.

Comment: Re:hmmm (Score 0) 139

by prisoner-of-enigma (#49138229) Attached to: 12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered

People used to say the same thing about the "luminiferous aether," you know.

Personally, I think "dark matter" and "dark energy" don't really exist. Instead, I think there's something wrong with our understanding of the fundamental forces of the universe. Perhaps gravity doesn't behave with the inverse-square law across vast distances like we think. Perhaps there's a subtle force out there we've yet to discover that only acts over extreme distances. After all, quantum mechanics is only observable at extremely small scales, and a century ago nobody even suspected it existed. What's to say there's not something else that acts in an observable fashion only at galactic scales?

Comment: Re:On loan??? (Score 1) 118

by prisoner-of-enigma (#49025417) Attached to: Neil Armstrong's Widow Discovers Moon Camera In Bag

The original story goes that Buzz Aldrin was supposed to be the first one to walk on the moon, but during the trip, an order from mission control came in that said that Neil Armstrong was supposed to be the first.

This is pure drivel and has been debunked on numerous occasions. Armstrong was the first out because there was not enough room in the LM cabin for Aldrin to get out first when both were wearing suits. Further, the mission was practiced for months on Earth and every action was scripted and planned down to the minute. To suggest that Mission Control would alter this plan while the astronauts were on the way to the moon -- thus invalidating months of training and safety protocols -- is ludicrous. Armstrong got out first because he had to, and everybody -- including Aldrin -- knew this before they were even strapped into the CM.

Comment: Re:Audiophile market (Score 5, Insightful) 418

As a non-American I am surprised as you Americans allow criminals freely sell products that are clearly scams like this.

As an American, I can say I'm glad the government *doesn't* stop this kind of activity. A functioning society requires its citizens to be at least marginally responsible for their own conduct. If they're stupid enough to be taken in by this crap, they deserve what they get. We neither need nor want a "nanny state" looking over our shoulder all the time, telling us what we can and cannot buy.

Comment: Re:The sad part? (Score 1) 577

And it doesn't mean they do exist, either. I have no right to drive without a license. By your logic, I'd have the right to drive without a license because the Constitution does NOT mention it.

Actually, you're both right and wrong. You do have the right to drive without a license, as fast as you want, not wearing a seatbelt or helmet, drunk as a skunk...if you do it on private land. Doing the same on a public road is prohibited because you implicitly enter a contract with the State to obey certain rules in order to make use of shared public infrastructure.

The GP's statement remains true and correct. The Constitution does not grant rights to citizens. Indeed, it goes out of its way to do the exact opposite: it limits what the government can do. As a governing charter, it is unique in that respect.

Comment: Re:Science... Yah! (Score 1) 958

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48967739) Attached to: Science's Biggest Failure: Everything About Diet and Fitness

Nothing in your statement invalidates the OP's original claim, mainly that if you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. During your anecdotal hospital stay, you consumed fewer calories than you burned and suffered the symptoms you described. You probably lost weight, too. Hence, what the OP said is both true and correct.

Comment: Re:Expensive (Score 1) 183

Your claims of "up to $12,000 per month" appear to take the absolute worst case scenario. Wikipedia notes roughly 90% of Xyrem consumers get this via insurance, with co-pays under $50 and a significant number get it for under $25. Admittedly, insurance companies are getting stiffed, but one suspects they're negotiating lower than worst-case pricing with the supplier in the first place.

Being an Orphan drug, development costs are amortized over a very few patients, making costs high. It's like saying a B-2 bomber costs billions of dollars to build when, in fact, a huge cost of "building" the plane is the amortized R&D costs. The actual labor and materials is much less. That's why the fewer planes are built, the more expensive each one becomes.

There is no good solution to this problem. If you fix prices such that R&D costs can't be recouped, you remove incentive for pharma to R&D the drug in the first place. If you allow them to recoup the costs, the end user must pay them. There is no other way. Pharma R&D dollars don't just fall from the sky.

Comment: Re:Shrug, yawn. Have you read it? (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48960177) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

You should dig up a 2011 Associated Press article about tritium leaks at nuclear plants across the country.

And how many people died from said tritium leaks? What, exactly, was the body count? Oh, that's right...zero. And how much damage was done? How many baby seals and spotted owls were killed? Oh, that's right...zero. The tritium leaks were so small as to be insignificant on any meaningful scale. They were regulatory violations, yes...but the regulations are such that it takes almost nothing to exceed them. I'm not arguing that we don't need such regulations. I'm saying that you're making it out to be far worse than it actually was just because there was a violation. For example, a plant I worked at last year was nearly shut down by the NRC for a violation of "adverse working conditions." Specifically, the union workers felt unappreciated. That was it. Was it a violation that got the NRC's attention? Sure. Did it have any measurable impact on safety? Nope.

Hell, there have been 2 nuclear plants that SCRAMed recently.
One on Christmas and the other last week, during the big north east blizzard.

This statement alone shows how little you understand what you're talking about. Just because a plant SCRAM'd doesn't mean there was a safety issue. For example, one of the plants I worked at a few years ago had to SCRAM. Why? Maintenance was being done on a backup generator, one of several in a triple set of backup generators. Regulations, however, say that a certain number of generators must be available if utility power failed. And guess what? Utility power from the grid did decide to fail during that generator maintenance period. Just bad luck, really, but it happens. So what did the plant operators do? They shut down the plant, in accordance with regulations. Could they have kept operating safely? Almost certainly. There were still two more generators available, a double redundancy that went unused, but regs say triple redundancy or nothing. A plant I worked at this year SCRAM'd when a tornado hit the switchyard and damaged it. The reactor itself was never in any danger, but regs said it had to be shut down because of the switchyard issue. Again, you make mountains of out molehills to prove a point.

Comment: Re:Shrug, yawn. Have you read it? (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48959975) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. But then some existing plants would have to be reexamined and maybe even receive some upgrades to their safety measures. Which would affect somone's bottom line, and we can't have that, now can we?

Careful. Your class-warfare wealth envy ideology is showing.

If you knew anything at all about how a "bottom line" works, you'd know that any increases in costs to the power industry -- or any industry that isn't completely government regulated -- gets passed on to the consumer. You, my dear bottom-line-hating friend, would pay those higher costs in the form of higher utility bills. Or did you think the power industry is someone blessed with an immunity to profit and loss statements? If their operating costs go up, either profits must come down or prices must go up. Profits can only come down so far before you're unable to re-invest in your business, attract and pay high-value talent, and all manner of things that make a business work. So prices will go up. That means you.

Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.

Comment: Re:I don't know about the US government's stance.. (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48959899) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

To start with, how about we make CEOs personally responsible for any and all negligence that occurs on their watch? Start with liquidating their assets, with no "trust fund" safe harbors permitted, as ill gotten gains. And then proceed to criminal penalties.

Do that and no competent CEO will ever take the job. You'll end up with CEO's that are either so stupid, so incompetent, or so desperate that nobody else wants them. Is that who you want running things?

This "kill the rich" mentality has consequences, you know. Suppose you were a lead programmer and you were held responsible for any and all errors for anyone on your team, forever. Your wages, your home, your savings...all of it could be forfeit if, say, there was a security breach that resulted from one coder making one mistake in one subroutine one day. Would you want that lead programmer job? Doubtful. If you had any sense you'd avoid any leadership position entirely, as would most other smart people. You'd be left with just the idiots running the show, those too stupid or too desperate to appreciate the risk.

Comment: Re:Who has a financial interest in this one then? (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48959849) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

It's probably not a simple "increase safety" vs. "don't increase safety." The specifics matter. Were the safety measures actually going to be helpful? Or would it just create more bureaucracy to wade through and just make it harder to build more power plants?

Having worked at several nuclear plants in the last few years, I can definitely say that many of these "Fukushima mods" projects are far more theater than substance. For example, one idea that (thankfully) got shot down was "tsunami protection" for pretty much every nuclear plant in the US...regardless of where it's actually located. The plants I worked were with TVA, and their plants were near rivers, not oceans or seas. Ever hear of a river tsunami? No? Didn't think so. And don't get started with saying "but rivers can flood!" because there are already extensive anti-flood measures in place. Have been since the plants were built. Building a seawall around a river-based reactor is just idiocy. But hey! It sounded good to somebody, otherwise it wouldn't have even made it past the planning stage.

There are some potentially useful improvements being made. One is pre-staging more emergency gear (pumps, generators, etc.) onsite in quake-proof, flood-proof, explosion-resistant bunkers. But it's extremely unlikely these things will ever be needed. The generals are trying to fight the last war, as the saying goes. Fukushima was a very unusual event, a quake followed by tsunami in a densely-populated urban area. There are few -- if any -- plants in the US that have these same conditions. Wasting money on security theater distracts us from spending money where it could do more good.

Comment: Re:Regulation, more regulation, only lawyers win (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48959647) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

Uh...perhaps you're unaware all three reactors shut themselves down in response to the quake, just as they were designed to do. The problem wasn't that the reactors didn't shut down; the problem was even a shut down reactor generates significant residual heat for almost a month after it's shut down. This heat may be only 1%-3% of total reactor power, but if not removed it's more than enough to melt the reactor core over time.

Removing this heat is the job of the Residual Heat Removal System, a fancy name for something that essentially just circulates coolant through a shut down reactor. The coolant picks up heat in the reactor, goes to a heat exchanger to get rid of that heat, and repeats the cycle. But these pumps require power, and power was knocked out (a) when the plant shut down, (b) when local utility power was cut due to the quake, (c) when the tsunami destroyed the backup diesel generators, and (d) when the emergency batteries finally ran out of juice.

So, your initial premise that Fukushima was not shut down correctly is...well, incorrect. It was shut down correctly, automatically. The meltdowns occurred not due to human error but due to a disaster that ran the gamut of all the safety systems and backups and contingencies that the plant was designed to handle. When you inflict a situation on an engineered system that exceeds its design specifications, failure is not only likely, it is the expected outcome. Build a higher seawall? There's still a tsunami that could top it, given the proper -- if unlikely -- circumstances. Build it for a 9.0 quake? You could still get a 9.1 quake. And even if you mitigated all of these events, what about asteroid strikes? Space aliens? No matter what you do, it is impossible to eliminate all risk from any complex system. You design for the most probably cases, add in a healthy safety margin, and that's the best you can do.

Comment: Re:Site selection (Score 1) 224

by prisoner-of-enigma (#48959349) Attached to: Nuclear Safety Push To Be Softened After US Objections

The first thing would be tougher rules for nuclear site selection.

Perhaps you're unaware that they can't just put these plants anywhere. Plants have to be near large sources of water to cool the (non-nuclear) condensers. They also must be situated relatively closely to where that power will be consumed, otherwise transmission losses will eat you up. They must be in non-active earthquake areas. Transportation to/from the site (for construction and ongoing maintenance) must be available, and able to accommodate the huge equipment needed.

When you get right down to it, there aren't a lot of places that meet the above requirements to begin with. Exactly how much stricter do you think they can get?

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