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Comment Re:that's *nothing* compared to a tank of petrol (Score 1) 603

This comment also made me wonder about the cold-weather usefulness of this sort of device. As I write this, it's -20C outside in the middle of the day. Granted, this sort of weather isn't a problem for much of the world but it's quite common here and affects a nontrivial number of people.

The "inefficiency" of a IC engine gets put to some use in that some the "waste" heat is used to heat the inside of the car, and you don't really get that benefit in an electric car (and any hybrid I've been in ran the combustion engine constantly while the heater was on). This problem has existed in the past with air-cooled engines (old Volkswagens come to mind). At the time, it was common to have a separate heater that burned whatever fuel the vehicle ran on. I'm thinking that the same wouldn't work too well on an electric car -- running an electric heater would probably put a really big dent in your range, and it would be a real bummer to freeze to death on the side of the highway because your car's heater killed the "battery". This would be a problem with any sort of electric car, but probably not an insurmountable one.

Probably more serious than that, though, might be the impact on the function of the engine itself. Most IC engines will run fine in cold weather assuming you can get them started. A common problem is that the car's battery (particularly older ones) can't deliver enough power at low temperature to turn the engine. I am a long way from an expert in the effects of temperature on various battery chemistries, and even less of one on how low temperature would impact the capacitor-like devices described in the article. I do know that it would be a fairly serious end-user problem if your car just wouldn't work on a cold day.

Does anyone have any insight into the temperature sensitivity of this kind of scheme, and how it would stack up versus comparable battery-based technologies?

It sounds like a promising idea, but it would be a non-starter in many places if it doesn't perform well in very cold (or very hot) weather.

Comment Re:Other than cushioning, how is this better? (Score 1) 425

I used to ride on SkyTrain in Vancouver BC, which is maglev, but only enough to provide propulsion, not a float cushion.

Wrong. The SkyTrain in Vancouver is NOT maglev.

MagLev = Magnetic Levitation

Being maglev *implies* the levitation, or "float cushion" as you describe it.

I think you are confusing maglev with linear induction motors
which the SkyTrain does use. While these type of motors are often (usually?) used in a maglev system, they are also used for more conventional railed systems like the SkyTrain.

Is the lift and reduced friction worth the extra energy to actually levitate it?

Anectodally - Yes. Why else would they bother? The company is obviously not going to spend trillions of yen building a line that they know will be less profitable than the existing one.

More concretely, an earlier poster provided a link to the math, however I can't seem to find it just now. The point was that eliminating the friction is a very big deal.

And, if we put the new invisibility cloaks on these ... won't they kill stray cows and small boys and girls trying to flatten pennies on the tracks?

I realize you're kidding, but just because they'd be invisible wouldn't make them silent. The air displacement alone would ensure that these trains would make a nontrivial amount of noise. Furthermore, placing pennies on the tracks wouldn't be too effective in flattening them since the train isn't touching the track. That being said, in the highly unlikely event that I'm ever asked for my opinion in the design of these sort of trains, I'll be sure to suggest that they keep "invisibility cloak" off the feature sheet.

(meanwhile in the US, we get zilch)

The problem in North America is that the vast majority of it lacks the concentrated population centers in fairly close proximity to make this sort of thing even approach economically viable. There are some exceptions to this. In those cases, we're left with:

1. Lack of political will to foot the massive up-front cost for something that won't be completed until someone else's term.

2. Rampant NIMBYism which would make it next to impossible to come up with a viable route through a populated area without getting sued into oblivion.

3. An irrational societal addiction to the automobile despite higher cost and risk to life and limb.

Given enough time, #3 will probably be overcome for one reason or another. #1 might be overcome by some visionary. #2 is a tough one because it either pushes costs even higher, or forces you into a route that is far away from where it's needed. Anything is possible, I suppose.

Basically: I wouldn't hold your breath.


How NASA Prepares To Rescue Hubble, In Photos 37

Jamie pointed out a fantastic set of photos up at The Boston Globe, illustrating the painstaking preparations underway for the Shuttle mission to rescue the Hubble telescope. "This will be the final servicing mission to Hubble, the 30th flight of the 23-year old Atlantis, and one of the final 10 flights of the Space Shuttle program, which will be retired in 2010." Refreshingly, they've decided to include a many of the behind-the-scenes techies and the equipment they steward, rather than just the launch vehicles and crew.

Submission + - - 'blocked and flogged' at work

SwankDude writes: I am a web developer at a large financial corporation. I mostly use Firefox when at work for the obvious reasons. I recently upgraded my PC at work and needed to download some Firefox extensions — only to discover that has been blocked at the proxy. My request for an exception has been rejected because 'Unauthorized, unlicensed software is not to be installed...'. I had a similar experience earlier this year when Google Groups was blocked because of the potential for NSFW discussions. How many of you run into similar road blocks that interfere with your ability to do your job and what (if anything) do you do about it?

Submission + - Apple launches iPod Touch, revamps Nano, iTMS wifi (

tRSS writes: "Apple just right now launched iPod touch, with similar interface as the iPhone and new iPod nano with video and coverflow. iPod touch start from $299 whereas iPod nano start from $149. They have also revamped the iPod shuffle with new bright colors. Apple has added the capability of buying and downloading music wirelessly from the iTunes Music store on iPod touch and iPhones now as well."
The Courts

Submission + - RIAA Accused of Extortion & Conspiracy

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: "The defendant in a Tampa, Florida, case, UMG v. Del Cid, has filed counterclaims accusing the RIAA record labels of conspiracy and extortion. The counterclaims (pdf) are for Trespass, Computer Fraud and Abuse (18 USC 1030), Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices (Fla. Stat. 501.201), Civil Extortion (CA Penal Code 519 & 523), and Civil Conspiracy involving (a) use of private investigators without license in violation of Fla. Stat. Chapter 493; (b) unauthorized access to a protected computer system, in interstate commerce, for the purpose of obtaining information in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030 (a)(2)(C); (c) extortion in violation of Ca. Penal Code 519 and 523; and (d) knowingly collecting an unlawful consumer debt, and using abus[ive] means to do so, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692a et seq. and Fla. Stat. 559.72 et seq."

Submission + - AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350 45W CPU Reviewed @ Viper Lai (

VL writes: "AMD's latest sports a new name and a much lower voltage. We test the BE-2350 with a combination of real-world and synthetic tests. "It's important to put into perspective what we're looking at today. If you're looking to build a high-end gaming PC or some sort of high-level video editing workstation, this processor isn't going to be for you. The intended market will be corporate workstations and the silent PC or HTPC market. We have a forum thread going on debating the benefits of energy efficient processors and energy bills. Unless you're a home user who leaves their PC on 24/7, you probably won't see much in the way of savings, but this won't be the case for cubicle farms." 50/"

Submission + - Radio wave on Saturn's moon hints at hidden ocean (

SleepyHappyDoc writes: "The European Space Agency has announced that a mysterious radio wave may indicate the existence of a hidden ocean underneath the surface of Titan. The Cassini-Huygens spaceprobe, which entered Titan's atmosphere over two years ago, collected evidence and information which has led to this potential discovery. This technology may lead to entirely new ways of finding out information about other planets."

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