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Comment What is the amount burnt to build coal plants? (Score 3, Informative) 835

For a given power generation capacity, there is no intrinsic reason why the energy cost for building windmills / solar cells should not be a fixed ratio of that of building coal plants. Maintenance costs for wind/solar are very low, but even if you don't believe me on this one, ask yourself, again, whether coal plants require no maintenance -- they do.

After that, solar/wind cost nothing in energy, while coal plants need to be fed coal, that also has to be transported.

Comment I've never understood this line of argument (Score 5, Insightful) 835

Coals plants also need to be built, they also need generators that require rare earth elements, they also need plenty of steel and concrete. And not only do they obviously spew shitloads of CO2, you also need to build the roads, railways or ships and ports to carry the coal around, as well as mine the damn thing.

So what is the argument? That since it's just merely much better, and not simply perfect, we should just give up on them?

Comment Silicon simply cannot be the limiting factor (Score 1) 835

They might be secretive (or not, I've never heard that claim before) because purer sources should require less work. In any case microelectronics grade silicon needs to be extremely pure, and the industrial processes involved are very advanced; finding a good source of raw materials is likely to be a trivial problem in comparison.

But that is rather moot because the total amount of Si used is rather small compared to its economic value. Chips and solar cells are etched on extremely thin discs. Considering that there are enormous amounts of the element in the crust (it's the 2nd most common element there after oxygen, 28% in mass), there's bound to be plenty of places where you can find it in the right configuration.

Comment We really, really don't know. (Score 1) 128

But the reaction you describe reeks of closed mindedness.

Anyway, we really have no idea what's out there. The Drake equation has been criticized for being of little use; what it does very well though is point out how much we don't know. The great thing though is that we're progressing very rapidly; if life (not necessarily intelligent) is rather common, we will find out in less than 3 decades, possibly earlier. The upcoming 30m and up telescopes are getting close to the point where we could do spectral analysis on some extrasolar planets.

Comment Sarkozy is (was) very pro-Israel. (Score 1) 411

When he gained the presidency he got rid of the more pro-Arab foreign service hired by his predecessor. He bowed to all US desideratas he could get away with without angering the local populace too much. His early career in Neuilly was largely started through his good relations with the strong Lubavitch community there. He also happens to have Jewish ancestors.

In other words, yes, it's real news if you know the slightest thing about Sarkozy. Here's a hint, if you want to know things, Fox News is probably not the way to go.

Comment It's actually more efficient (Score 1) 136

Internal combustion engines have about 25% efficiency at best.

Large scale thermal power plants achieve twice as much. You have some transmission loss, but since batteries, their chargers, electric motors and power electronics each have nearly 95% efficiency, you still come out ahead. Plus electricity can come from renewable sources, and on top of that battery charging can be deprioritized to accomodate for their intermittent nature.

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