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Comment Re:Show us the data (Score 1) 415

In any case, as wind gets cheaper its capacity factor is rocketing up too.

I think the arrow of causation is that smoother and more predictable power output causes the price of wind power to drop.

This is why the idea of airborne wind harvesters is such an interesting concept. Those harvesters could have capacity factors in the 40-80% range and the price per unit of energy could be less than half that of conventional wind power, especially if you account for the reduced need for backup power.

Comment Re:GOOD GRIEF! (Score 2) 570

It's often filtered, carbonated and flavored with various fruit flavors, which by the way usually contain small amounts of sugar - something to be aware of if you're on a strict diet. The only thing it's missing is caffeine. I'm sure they'll get around to that if there is sufficient demand for it.

I quit my Coca Cola habit about 12 years ago and haven't looked back.

Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 1) 178

Interesting, but those numbers are deaths per PWh, not per kWh. That means that a 500MW US coal burner and its associated mining kills 0,0075 people per hour, or roughly one person per week.

Imagine the outrage if your average 1000MW nuclear reactor and its associated uranium mining killed two people per week! The president and congress would race to be the first to propose an outright ban on nuclear power.

Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 1) 178

I do think that nuclear is dead, because it takes government money to build it and because you don't win elections by subsidizing something that most people are scared of. Yes, nuclear is significantly more expensive than coal and slightly more expensive than gas and it takes 10-15 years to get a new nuclear plant online, which is longer than for any other power source. No sane capitalist would let any of his money anywhere near that investment unless the government promised to provide lots of subsidies.

With that said, the storage problem for solar and wind is absolutely not solved, nor will it be cheap. The amount of installed wind and solar is still so small that existing hydro dams can handle the storage, but wind and solar are growing fast enough that hydro dams will be completely insufficient.

There are experimental ideas about using excess power to make hydrogen, or methane or other hydrocarbons, but those are highly experimental and it is doubtful whether it will ever make economic sense. There are some very promising developments in turning sunlight directly into hydrogen or hydrocarbons, which will probably make a lot more sense economically. The problem is that none of this is available off the shelf, nor will it be in the next 5-10 years, and when it finally does become available it will take several decades to ramp up production to a level needed to supply 10+ billion people with energy storage.

Energy distribution has been making slow but steady progress over the last 150 or so years. We can easily transmit power 1000-2000 km today. Some day we'll be able to transmit it 3000 km and in the distant future 4000 km and 5000 km, which will be enough that we'll barely need storage. But again we're talking about decades into the future.

The nice ting about nuclear power is that we can build it now. You can call GE and order a plant on Monday, assuming you have the $5 billion (or $10 billion after the usual cost overrun) that they want for one of those and in 10-15 years you, your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will have a clean and safe power plant. Throw in a few hundred millions for a decent sea wall if you decide put it next to the ocean.

If you are concerned about what future generations will do with your nuclear waste storage sites, you should probably be more concerned about what they will do (or rather what they will fail to do) with your hydro dams. I wouldn't trust a government that fails to repair bridges before they collaps to maintain a hydro dam upstream from where I live.

Comment Re:Sigh (Score 1) 103

Well, you typically haven't truly decided to not go to college until you get your first kid...

Any 18-year who wants a career in X would be wise to accept a job offer in that field. They can go to college when they're 19 or 20, or 21. It's great to have some professional experience when you start your studies.

Comment Re:Unintended consequences (Score 5, Insightful) 178

Nuclear power has been a disaster and widespread adoption of clean, renewable energy can't come soon enough.


There have been multiple individual coal mining accidents that have killed more people than the entire nuclear industry has ever killed. Millions of people are estimated to die prematurely every year from pollution-caused heart and lung disease, and coal is one of the main culprits.

Every decision ever made to invest in nuclear instead of coal has been a life saving decision. The same could be said of investment in wind an solar in places where they can partially replace coal, but wind and solar will need to be paired with energy storage or long-range low-loss power distribution. Until we have either a cheap scalable energy storage technology or superconducting power distribution wind and solar will never replace coal.

And don't get me started on hydroelectrical dams. Dam breaches have killed more people than we could ever hope to kill with flawed nuclear reactor designs if we tried on purpose.

Comment Re:Israel hasn't vowed to "wipe Iran off the map" (Score 1) 441

Since Israel has taken an unusual "don't confirm - don't deny" stance we can only assume that the nukes are meant to be revealed, and used if necessary, as a last resort in a scenario where Israel has lost the conventional fight against enemy forces and is about to be conquered and occupied.

If Israel primarily intended to use the weapons as a deterrent they would have revealed that they have them and how may they have, since the deterrent effect is proportional to the amount of firepower that you have. An unconfirmed arsenal with an unknown number of warheads is of course still a tremendous deterrent, so maybe the Israeli leadership thought that it would be overkill to disclose numbers.

Why does the US allow it? The US needs all the allies it can get in the Middle east in order to project influence and power over that region, so it will gladly accept almost anything that its allies do as long as it doesn't go completely against US interests. For example, Turkey is currently bombing the only viable opposition to IS in Iraq, the Kurds. The US needs Turkey in NATO at almost any price (imagine what a disaster it would be for US interests if Turkey aligned itself with Russia and/or with Iran), so Turkey is going to get away with that, even if it means that IS will gain ground in Iraq.

Comment Re:iBore 6.0 (Score 1) 508

Actually, if the latency of the "pencil" and screen is as low as advertised this would be the first time since the invention of the paper notebook that someone has come up with a viable new way to take notes.

This could be pretty cool. I can think of some interesting applications...

Obvious: graphics editing, fun drawing apps for kids, note-taking apps.

Less obvious: a math learning app that has a computer algebra system and a math knowledge database that talk to a canvas. A student would write expressions on the canvas, get hints about where they made a mistake, or instructions about problem solving strategies. The system might say things like "this integral that you just wrote looks like such and such an integral, here is a variable substitution that often works for such integrals."

Comment Re:Good. (Score 2) 226

What other parts of the body does the virus reside in?

Being forced to take a drug forever to keep the virus at-bay with no cure, profitably for the pharmaceutical company, sounds like good fodder for conspriacy theorists.

HIV is a retrovirus, which means that it splices its genome into the genome of the infected human's cells, forcing the cells to produce copies of the virus as part of their normal operation. When the cells divide and produce new human cells the virus producing code gets copied to the new cell and when that new cell undergoes cell division the code gets copied again, and so on and so forth.

I guess you could say that there is an evolution-made conspiracy of evil viruses that makes it hard to cure HIV.

Comment Re:Could Xiaomi take over? (Score 1) 209

The PC industry's race to the bottom seem to have come to an end in 2014. There are all sorts of nice and expensive PC:s on sale now. The average screen resolution probably declined in 2010-2013, but it has gone way up in 2014 and 2015. Just to name one metric.

It does make sense that the PC industry will see a slight recovery (or at least an end of its decline) since the laptops that people bought in 2007, before the smartphone and tablet revolution, will have lost their movable parts to wear and tear by now. It is also increasingly meaningless to talk about laptops and tablets as separate markets now that there are large tablets that run Windows.

I wonder what will happen with the laptop/tablet industry once people have bought sufficiently powerful hardware without moving parts that break after 5-10 years. We could be looking at 15-30 year update cycles for the average consumer.

Comment Modules (Score 1) 149

You could decide to build modules to a standard that people in your state or country use. Use google to find the most appropriate standard for your geographical location and get in contact with people who modules to that standard for guidance on how to get started and what the pitfalls are.

There are meetups where people bring modules and assemble them into temporary model railroads. These meetups often allow visitors and the model railroaders tend to be happy to talk about their hobby with interested visitors. Maybe there's a meetup near you that you could visit?

Comment Re:I could choose to not install Flash. But HTML5 (Score 1) 221

In 2000, you just ran IE 5 or Netscape with no big need to care about shit..

Stuff changes.

I don't know, here is how I remember the web browsing experience of 2000:


Click... Click... Clickety click... Click. Clickclickclick. What? Aw, crap.


Hey, good thing I'm using a download manager.

Comment Re:There have been 4 "Silicon Valleys". (Score 1) 129

This is interesting, but I don't think that hipsters are the culprits.

Let's look back at some history. I would argue that from the time that Hitler came into power in Germany to the failure of the Soviet economy in the 1980's, there was a strong and steady demand for technologies that did awesome stuff with matter (and with information to some extent). The demand for better weapons created a steady stream of spin-offs into the civilian sector. For example, we got satellites because Hitler wanted supersonic revenge weapons and Eisenhower and Khrushchev wanted ICBM:s to point at one another. These spin-offs stopped coming when the Soviet economy failed, because then the US no longer had a technologically advanced enemy.

There have been some mildly impressive weapons programs since the cold war, the F-35 and the Russian PAK-FA come to mind. The F-22 was a formidable plane when it went into service, but the mechanical design was mostly done by the time the Soviet Union dissolved.

Now, this is basically a good thing, of course. The only drawback is that the spin-off effects into the civilian sector have stopped coming and it has taken a long time for the private sector to pick up the slack.

I think this is the reason why the time between 1990 and 2015 has been relatively boring in terms of doing mechanical things, except for a few companies like SpaceX and Tesla that have begun to appear recently. I think there is more to come in the next few decades, and not just From Elon Musk.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (7) Well, it's an excellent idea, but it would make the compilers too hard to write.