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Comment Solar Panel Not Equal to Spent Fuel (Score 5, Informative) 376

The "300 times more toxic waste than nuclear power" requires considering one kilogram of solar panel as being toxic waste equivalent to one kilogram of spent reactor fuel. This is a preposterous comparison.

Furthermore it treats all solar panels as being as being the same source of hazard. Cadmium telluride panels are a special concern for disposal, but they are 2.5% of the global market and only used in special situations, whereas 95% of production is silicon panel and not toxic at all.

The disposal of solar panels is a valid concern that must be addressed, like the disposal of all electronics, and solid waste generally, but this framing is wildly deceptive.

Comment Re:Can't compete with government-supported monopol (Score 1) 263

Yeah, the very idea of providing affordable phone service to everyone in America. What was up with that? The B-astards!

It would have been much, much better to have private companies only running phone lines to well heeled customers who would have to pay whatever they were charged. The ROI would have been insane! Freedom!

Comment The Title at Least is BS (Score 1) 263

Yeah sure, the only thing holding back cell phones in the 1940s was lack of allocated bandwidth! If there had only been bandwidth allocated specifically for them cell phone systems would simply have burst forth.

In other historical news, the only thing holding back automotive travel in the 1890s was lack of gas stations. I mean there were hardly any! I they had simply built lots of gas stations the roads would have been flooded with cars in 1895.

Also, the only thing holding back popular air travel after the turn of the century was lack of airports. If we had only had lots of airports in 1910 the sky would have been full of airliners.

Comment Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score 2) 163

The Green Revolution actually started in the United States in 1938. That was the time and place that agricultural productivity abruptly shifted from an annual productivity growth of near zero (less than 0.1%) which stretched back hundreds of years, to about 1.5% every year. Here is an illustration of the phenomenon. This USDA chart starts in 1948, setting everything equal to "1", but the trend goes back to 1938. After WWII this trend spread from the U.S. to the entire world, and has (so far) tripled agricultural productivity. The overall trend shows no sign of slowing down yet. This growth rate is actually a bit higher than the economic growth rate introduced by the Industrial Revolution.

The revolution appears to be the synergistic effect of all science-based inputs into agriculture: evidence based practices, scientific breeding, use of fertilizers, pesticides (selectively), etc. The actual level of inputs into agriculture have been essentially flat for half a century, so the growth in the use of fertilizers and pesticides led the way early on, but are no longer a factor, superior practices and breeding now dominate.

Comment Re:More 'climate change' alarmism... (Score 1) 203

... since gas is only a tiny bit cleaner than coal...

Its actually a lot better than coal. CO2 emissions for burning anthracite is 228.6 pounds CO2 per million BTU and 117.0 for natural gas, or almost exactly half as much. And for other pollutants (which affect air quality) the difference is much larger than that - zero sulfur emission, zero particulates.

But offsetting the sharply reduced CO2 emissions is the fact that methane is a potent green house gas itself, so source to furnace leakage must be kept low, but the necessary low rates have been demonstrated in practice (below 3.2% is needed to be superior to coal, 1% had been demonstrated). Natural gas leakage is a much bigger problem with fueling vehicles that stationary power plants (which is why natural gas fueled vehicle is not the way to go - electric is).

Comment Re: Two Words (Score 4, Informative) 350

I just did some googling, looking for more information about their plans and found this which is quite interesting. It puts the plan in a somewhat different light, and answers many of comments made here.

A key reason for this iceberg towing plan is specifically local environment modification. All those desalinization plants are pumping bring into the coastal waters, and the icebergs are going to be allowed to melt in open water to counteract the increased salinity and restoring the ecological balance in those coastal waters. And through feedback effects they anticipate that is will modify the local climate, creating a cool air layer (basically an artificial inversion effect) and increasing rainfall.

Comment Re:Iceberg huh? (Score 1) 350

...Ok, maybe only like 10% of water will come from the iceberg, but it has to go through a water-treatment plant before it'll be used...

Umm... why? Water is treated to bring it up to quality standards - amount of dissolved salts, concentrations of bacteria and so forth. It isn't a ritual required to bless the water for drinking. If water is already up to standards no treatment is necessary. Glacier water is already eminently potable. You can buy glacier ice in stores (a fancy luxury item) and it meets all standards for human consumption.

Comment Re: Two Words (Score 1) 350

The idea of sculping the iceberg to reduce drag is interesting... perhaps less like a sphere and more like a hull would be a bit more efficient. Though it might happen naturally in warmer waters as the iceberg is pushed North and the rougher edges melt away.

Also, the melting ice itself might reduce drag.

Would need to just go ahead and do it once with the ice berg as-is to practically baseline the efficiency.

Your guesses here are very good. Iceberg towing has been studied a lot (though if you look through the many reports about this online there is a curious tendency for people to think they are analyzing this for the very first time and approach it with a blank slate).

Yes, icebergs do naturally assume a hull-shape as they are being towed, and yes melting does reduce drag (if only because it keeps a clean smooth surface).

Shaping an iceberg with a little blasting is straightforward - ice is really easy to drill through to set blasting charges.

A lot of people posting thoughts on this seem to be looking for ways to save the water loss - neglecting the fact that the ice source is free, abundant, and constantly renewed, and thus the only cost associated with any melting is the towing cost incurred thus far for that fraction of ice that melts. As long as the loss rate is tolerable (fairly easy to estimate really) then there is no problem that needs to be "fixed' with more complicated schemes. Most of the suggestions to 'improve' the process drive up costs dramatically (cutting it up and putting it in a supertanker, wrapping it in plastic for the journey, etc.).

Once in place at Dubai the iceberg would be surrounded by a floating plastic containment curtain and seawater pumped out and replaced with fresh as it melts, forming a reservoir.

Comment Re:Ego vs Science (Score 2) 444

You should care about his motivation if you care at all. If his motivation is purely ego driven, then the minute it sinks in that he really isn't going to be around to take the credit, and no amount of executive orders is going to change that, the funding is going to disappear.

Indeed. The funding isn't there now. Did Trump propose a massive increase in the NASA budget in his announced budget plans? No, what he proposed for 2018 was slightly less than the House and Senate plans for 2017. If he had "go to Mars" as a priority, he would have proposed a massive NASA increase in his budget plans announced six weeks ago.

What? You are telling me that this is a new priority for Trump, a major change in thinking over the last six weeks? Well, how likely is it that will still be a priority for him six weeks from now much less eight years from now?

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Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov