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Comment EVs weren't always so quiet (Score 1) 531

Early electronic EV controllers operated at ~800-1500 Hz and emitted a quite audible electronic buzz or hum. Bay area folks may remember that same sound in the early BART trains. When 15-20 kHz controllers came out, a major selling point was their silence. I vote that we bring back the 1000 Hz hum, even if artificially, as the official EV sound.

Comment Re:I have been disconnected for about 4 1/2 years. (Score 1) 502

I have never subscribed to either cable or satellite, but when I go on business trips and see what I am missing, I am just astonished that anyone (except perhaps a few hard-core sports addicts) actually pays for that stuff. About a third of the channels are nonstop infomercials and another third are old movies and TV shows. The so-called "news" channels are particularly pathetic, just continuously rerunning the same tired stories you see on network news hour after hour, with even most of the same inbred clan of talking heads giving commentary. You might catch a good cooking or home improvement installment once in awhile, or a decent documentary on History or Discovery channels, but surely any reasonable person can get their fill of that stuff from PBS.

Comment Re:Witless stenographers? (Score 1) 664

At seminars, I found taking notes by hand much more distracting than typing on computer; I had to look away from the speaker and would lose the train of thought. With a computer I am much more engaged; I find myself putting the ideas into my own words. I'm not a great typist, so afterward I would go over the text and correct the errors, which helped to fix the ideas in my brain. I used to do this at scientific meetings but what ended it was that I would have to turn the power-save settings to max and I would wear out hard drives with the constant on-and-off.

Comment Re:Do we really need GPS to track mileage ? (Score 1) 891

It would be difficult to imagine a more equitable and rational revenue source than the fuel tax. It is cheap and simple to collect, and provides all the right incentives. The only problem with the fuel tax is that politicians are too cowardly to increase it even enough to keep up with inflation, much less compensate for more efficient cars. The implicit assumption seems to be that the public would somehow find an increase in a road tax less objectionable, but none of the cited articles ever explains why these experts believe this is true. Not only will a road tax be much more visible and onerous to drivers, but when you factor in all the costs of the infrastructure and bureaucracy needed to monitor all the vehicles and enforce tax collections, owners of small cars, in particular, will have to be paying triple or quadruple what they are paying now in gas tax. And what will have been gained? Surely there will still be the same mini-revolt every time someone proposes raising the road tax. And their estimate of 1-2 cents per mile has to be a ludicrous underestimate. If that's the case, why do tolls (which after all are just another way of paying a road tax) typically run more like 10-15 cents a mile?

Comment Re:Too little too late (Score 1) 173

At this point they are so far behind, it's hard to imagine GM or any American company will ever make money on electrics. To be viable, the cars have got to be small, and Detroit (especially GM) has pretty much ceded production of even their own small car lines to foreign companies. Plus, half the cost of those cars is the batteries, which will almost certainly be produced in China. Though not given much attention by the media, the big breakthrough, LiFePO4 cells, has already been made and further improvements, at GM or elsewhere, will likely be only incremental. China already has multiple companies in brutal competition mass-producing LiFePO4 cells. Unlike the old lead-acids, they are light, stable and easily transported, so there's no reason not to make them in China where labor is cheap and technical know-how will soon surpass the US if it hasn't already. In five years, a lot of electrics will be sold here, maybe even by GM, but they won't be made here.

Comment Re:Good arguments against open access? (Score 2, Interesting) 164

A typical NIH grant is $200,000 per year and if you expect to get your grant renewed, you better be publishing 3 papera a year. Open access fees are now ~$3000 per paper even at nonprofit journals (and they still claim to be losing money on it), so that's $9,000 a year, about 5% of your grant, just to publish your results.

Comment Re:why all the Prius hate? (Score 1) 473

I'm about as pro-environment as anyone, I think gasoline and SUVs should both be taxed to kingdom come, that public transit should be just about free, etc. etc. I drive one of those old 80's eat-your-peas electric cars that only go 40 miles and take a good half-minute to get up to 50 mph. And technically, I admire Toyota for what they've done with the Prius. But honestly, it really is just about the most profoundly UGLY car ever introduced. I know that the design, with the high back and the tiny wheels is for aerodynamics, but aesthetically it is, like no other car I've ever seen, just plain painful to behold. It's the proportions that are all wrong, not the putative smiley face.

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