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+ - NASA: Our Technology-Dependent Lifestyle is Too Vulnerable to Solar Flares->

Submitted by peakprosperity
peakprosperity (3463567) writes "In 1859, a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) known as the Carrington Event slammed into Earth. Aurorae, normally observable only near the poles, appeared in the sky as far south as Hawaii and Cuba, providing enough light to read by at night. The then-new global telegraph systems in Europe and America were brought down. Reports of sparking pylons and operators receiving electric shocks abounded — there were even accounts of people being able to send and receive messages over wires that had been disconnected from their power supplies. Fast-forward to 2013. Our planet is orders of magnitude more dependent on its technology systems. And a solar event the size of the Carrington Event has not recurred since. How vulnerable are we, should another one arrive?"
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Comment: We will never run out completely (Score 1) 663

by wiwa (#43599371) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What If We Don't Run Out of Oil?

Of course we're never going to run out of fossil fuels. It becomes uneconomical to extract the stuff long before we run out. It never completely dries up, it just gets more and more scarce expensive and plays a lesser and lesser role in our lives. Take methane hydrates: we've known that there were massive quantities of energy stored in this stuff for decades, but we're only now getting to the point where anyone would think about using these incredibly hard-to-access, hard-to-process resources as fuel. Going back a few years, the same was true for shale gas, oil sands, deep-water offshore oil, etc. This is a point that Charles Mann unfortunately missed in his article: we're exploring this stuff because we're desperate.

This could be an okay thing if we replace oil with sustainable sources of energy (as the techno-utopians would predict) or a disastrous thing leading to the downfall of civilization (as the doomers would predict). I find myself in the middle camp: we will partially replace our fossil fuel use with renewables and increased efficiency, but the increasing cost of fossil fuel use will also force us to reduce the amount of energy we use and, consequently, our standard of living.

Comment: Incandescents still much, much more convenient (Score 1) 1080

by wiwa (#41531783) Attached to: Light Bulb Ban Produces Hoarding In EU, FUD In U.S.

So I've tried an awful lot of energy efficient bulbs, and I use them for most of my lighting, but I still find incandescent bulbs indispensable. The biggest problem with these other bulb technologies is that they lack the de facto standardization that has come from many decades of incandescent use. Sure, if I just want a 60-watt equivalent bulb for a regular light fixture, that's great. But what if I need something a bit brighter, for my enclosed ceiling fan? I can never seem to find a bulb that is bright enough and fits in the enclosure. Same goes for my dining room chandelier, and the lighting for the vanity in my bathroom. And even if I do manage to find a bulb that is bright enough and fits properly, there's a good chance it'll be an odd colour, and now when I stand in front of my bathroom mirror I will look an odd shade of green. Sure, maybe there are bulbs out there that are perfect replacements for the incadescents I know and love, but they probably don't have them at the store I was at, or it's hard to figure out which one to buy. So I might go through two or three different $5 bulbs before I'm happy with the result. Or I could buy a $0.50 soft white incandescent and get exactly what I want every time. At $0.12/kWh, it's not worth the effort to replace a 25-watt bulb that I use for 30 minutes a day (even considering that I'll have to replace it every year or so).

Comment: Vote counting is the least of the USA's problems (Score 5, Insightful) 500

by wiwa (#41280737) Attached to: Election Tech: In Canada, They Actually Count the Votes

Of all the things Canadians can mock about U.S. elections, your difficulty in counting up the votes isn't even the top of the list. The most mind-boggling thing is that your election campaigns take most of a year, ensuring that for about 20% of the election cycle, any given politician (including the president) is basically unable to engage in their actual job of governing the country and is instead campaigning. In Canada, election campaigns typically last about six weeks; before the election is officially called, campaigning is prohibited. The result is that politicians can spend vastly more time doing their jobs and campaigns cost vastly less money.

Oh, and don't get me started on how incredibly bad an idea it is to have elected judges, prosecutors, sheriffs, etc. Here (Ontario) I think there are only five officials we actually vote for: representatives in federal and provincial legislatures, city councilor, mayor, and school board trustee. Everyone else is appointed, usually de facto by committee.

Comment: Re:Moral? (Score 1) 299

by wiwa (#41189813) Attached to: If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We?

There's more to being domesticable than being tasty though. Galapagos tortoises were, according to historical accounts, incredibly delicious, so much so that they never managed to get one back to Europe because the sailors would eat them. The problem is that while most domestic animals are ready to eat in a year or less, tortoises take decades to mature. Even if we managed to hold off eating them for long enough to get a tortoise farm started, it wouldn't be economical. Hence, delicious tortoises are on the verge of extinction.

Comment: Time vs. Quality Tradeoff (Score 1) 342

by wiwa (#40750073) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Value of Website Design Tools vs. Hand Coding?

There's always a tradeoff between doing a job well and doing a job quickly, and clients generally want something in the middle of the spectrum, i.e. they aren't willing to pay through the nose to get it perfect when they could get something "good enough" for much less. If you are doing a site that's getting millions of hits a day, you might want everything hand-coded and optimized; but bandwidth and processor time is cheap compared to the labor required to optimize a website, so most of the time you're better off quickly throwing something together that works using an editor. The less hours you work to get the job done, the higher hourly rate you can charge: the clients will still end up paying less overall, and you'll have more time for other projects.

Comment: Other ways movies are different (Score 2, Insightful) 378

by wiwa (#30324314) Attached to: Why Movies Are Not Exactly Like Music

I can download an album in less time than it takes to listen to it. I can barely tell the difference between the downloaded version and what I would buy at a record store. And it's already in the format I want, either for listening to it on the computer or putting it on my iPhone.

A movie, on the other hand, I'm probably going to have to leave to download overnight. It still won't be quite as good quality as the DVD version, and it will certainly be inferior to the BluRay version. If I want to watch it on my TV, I have to go to the hassle of burning it to a DVD. (If I want to watch it on my iPhone, I have to go to the even greater hassle of transcoding it.) It's probably easier to just walk to the video store around the corner and shell out the $4 to get 3 movies right away.

What's more, that 200 MB album I downloaded is probably going to get listened to dozens of times. The 2 GB movie might get watched twice if it's REALLY good.

Contemptuous lights flashed flashed across the computer's console. -- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy