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Comment Re:the race (Score 1) 333

American passenger rail is dreadful largely because rail can't compete with air over the distances Americans want to travel. There are some plausible high speed rail routes, like Boston to Washington and maybe LA to San Francisco, but rail can't compete on speed with the longer routes people routinely want to take. Air travel has a substantial advantage over rail for travel from the East Coast to the Midwest, and utterly crushes it for travel from coast to coast.

At the same time, American freight rail is substantially faster and more efficient than European freight rail. That isn't a coincidence, either. On both continents, there's a lot of shared rail that has to serve both passengers and freight. In Europe, passengers take first priority, and in the US freight takes first priority. Passenger service in the US supposedly got much better during the worst of the Great Recession because there was enough less freight that it made a big difference for passenger trains' speed and reliability.

Comment Wrong choice (Score 1) 373

Yeah, but typical office PCs are already plenty fast for the things they typically do, so they aren't in need of a big boost. That's why PC manufacturers have been concentrating on making them smaller and cheaper rather than more powerful. It's those data sensitive applications that are atypical of office PCs that are the market for high performance drives.

Besides, if you only need 9.5 GB of unique data per day, you're probably better off upgrading your RAM rather than your hard drive. The stuff you access most will get cached, and you'll have plenty of memory on the odd chance you ever do need to do something that requires a lot.

Comment Re:From the laundromat (Score 2) 88

The problem with nuclear power comes in two forms:

The increased regulation isn't a separate thing; it's just a reaction to the potentially catastrophic results of a failure. When a small mistake can lead to a catastrophic failure that leaves the region around the plant uninhabitable for decades at the very least, people within the potentially affected area will demand regulations to make sure even small mistakes don't happen. This happens in any field where small mistakes can have terrible consequences on bystanders.

Comment Re:Natural Gas & Coal (Score 2) 88

With all the talk of Santa Ana Winds I think there's an opportunity to build some of these wind farms in SoCal.

The Santa Anas are the wrong kind of wind for power generation because they blow only part of the time but very strongly when they are blowing. That means you need to build the turbines to be very strong to resist the peak winds, but you won't get to benefit from that strength most of the time. The ideal winds for power generation are more or less constant speed.

That said, there is a fair amount of wind power generation in Southern California. There are large wind farms built to take advantage of the wind funnel effects of the San Gorgonio and Tehachapi passes.

Comment Re:I guess he started to stink . . . (Score 4, Insightful) 145

For honored dead, it was called lying in state, for dishonored it was parading the body, but in both cases the reason was the same: to get as many witnesses as possible to the fact the person was well and truly dead. Otherwise, there would be persistent rumors that they were still alive, people pretending to be them (or their children born after their official date of death), and the like. So it was gruesome but completely practical.

And it's not as if the need for this kind of thing has completely gone away. There are still people who are rumored to be alive long after their deaths, like Elvis Presley. In the fight against terrorism, there have been several cases where the US has published pictures of the obviously dead bodies of prominent enemies as a way of proving they're actually dead, and there was considerable speculation among conspiracy theorists about why Osama bin Laden's body was disposed of so quickly.

Comment Re:Hold it right there (Score 2) 51

It's not as much the manufacturer as it is the statistics for the light. Look for lights with the color temperature you like, an acceptable Color Rendering Index (CRI, 90+ is best, 80+ is OK, below 80 is not worth considering), and then efficiency in lumens per watt. Any LED light that meets US EnergyStar requirements will be acceptable, since they require a CRI of at least 80, but I'd try to find higher than that.

The lights I'm so happy with are fluorescent tube replacements, rather than screw-in bulb replacements. They require you to bypass the fluorescent ballasts, which involves some electrical skill and may mean replacing your existing tube holders. They give almost 100 lumen/watt in a daylight balanced tube (a bit less in warm white) that seems to have an acceptable CRI. Their biggest drawback is that their light is a bit less diffuse than the T12 fluorescent tubes they replaced, so I needed to upgrade my diffusers as well as my lights.

That said, I think the biggest change is going to be in new forms of lighting that aren't drop-in replacements for existing bulbs and tubes. LEDs are different technology, and they have different inherent strengths and weaknesses from existing lighting technology. Specifically, they are individually small and produce only a bit of light, and they are more heat sensitive than other light sources. That means they do best when they're spread over a large area to provide diffuse light and avoid overheating. Cramming them into an incandescent bulb replacement makes them immediately useful, but it doesn't play to their strengths as light sources. That will only happen when we design completely new light sources that take full advantage LEDs' inherent advantages.

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