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Comment Re:Extraordinary claims require ... (Score 1) 82

Indeed. But Occam's Razor only applies to a conclusion's relation to the information you have at hand. It is conceivable that if you collect enough information the same heuristic can lead you in a different direction.

It should be able to confirm his genetic relationship to his putative great-great-great grandchildren, and thus let a lower limit on his age. That and other documentary evidence of him and his descendants could make his age seem plausible. In a world with seven billion people, outliers can be very unusual indeed.

Comment It's hard to believe. (Score 4, Interesting) 100

The amount of data you need assemble a global navigation system is enormous. You don't hire some intern to transcribe data out of Wikipedia, you license it from companies like Tele Atlas.

Now for geographic place names you'd turn to sources like the USGS GNIS system for the US, whatever the local equivalent of GNIS is, or for places that don't have that datasets like GNIS the DoD's Defense Mapping Agency.

It can't possibly be that Bing gets their place/position data mainly from Wikipedia. The only thing I can think is that they did some kind of union of all the geographic name sources they could find in order to maximize the chance of getting a hit on a place name search, and somehow screwed up prioritizing the most reliable sources first.

Comment A few obvious corrections (Score 1) 49

First, DES is 56 bit (near enough 60). Triple DES as per first mode (the authorised standard) is 168 bits. The article fails to distinguish, implying the authors are just a little bit naff. 3DES seems to be quite safe, as long as not used in DES emulation mode. And who the hell emulates a mode that was broken in the 80s?

Second, Blowfish was replaced by TwoFish, ThreeFish and Speck. Skein, an entrant to the DES3 challenge, makes use of ThreeFish.

Third, the Wikipedia page states it has been known for a long time that weak keys are bad. This particular attack, though, is a birthday attack. You can find all the ciphers vulnerable or free that you should be using. Anything not on the list is something you are solely responsible for.

In other words, this information is about as useful as telling up that Model T Fords weren't good at cornering at highway speeds. Below are some links, I can't be buggered to HTML-ify them.

I do not trust most encryption software these days, but that's because programmers these days are sloppy and arrogant.

Comment Re:Epinephrine cost per dose in about 50 cents (Score 3, Insightful) 326

Well, it's the very fact that the alternative is, possibly, death that makes it possible for a company to do this. This thing occupies a peculiar corner case where the demand is modest, but inelastic.

This means a monopolist can milk the market by raising the price to insane levels, but because the market is small no competitor wants to enter it. Were the market to become competitive it is so small that the newly entered competitors wouldn't make much off their efforts. This is contrasted with statins, which are blockbuster drugs. You don't need a very large slice of that pie for the slice to be very large indeed.

The same thing happened last year with Duraprim. If you have toxoplasmosis, you absolutely have to have it. But how many people get toxoplasmosis?

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 1) 79

Well, to answer your question, of course if we covered the entire ocean, or significant fractions of it, sure there'd be undesirable ecological effects. Just like anything else that is scaled up endlessly without allowance for what economists call "externalities".

If you could internalize all externalities then the market would provide a perfect solution without any kind of regulation whatsoever. But since nobody knows how to do that, then I imagine that you'll get two regimes: (1) do whatever you want as long as you grease the the correct palms (in authoritarian states like China) or (2) go through the rigmarole of doing environmental impact studies before getting permits to beuild (in democratic societies).

Comment Re:Useful for desalination plants? (Score 4, Insightful) 79

I should think not -- at least not in the way you're probably thinking.

The device consists of a wicking layer topped by a light-absorbing layer. This boils water, which produces more or less pure steam. It also leaves the minerals from the water in the wicking layer. If you take distilled water directly away from the device and replace it with fresh seawater, those minerals will build up until the layer is no longer absorbent. On the other hand if all you want is the heat, you run the steam-distilled water through a heat exchanger and return it to the wicking layer, reconstituting the original water.

So it'd probably wouldn't work to use this directly as a steam distiller. However you could use the heat you collect to run a separate steam distiller. That would be very inefficient, but the thing about "renewables" is that conversion efficiency is less important than low installation and operation cost, because you're not paying for your feedstock of energy; any sunshine you don't use would have been wasted anyway. So while it seems physically possible to use this device to power a desalinization plant, whether it makes economic sense depends on whether this is actually the cheapest way to run a plant.

Comment Re:We need this (Score 3, Insightful) 225

we need people actively looking into making those new type of batteries instead of just researching them and never do anything with the research

You haven't been paying attention.

Like photovoltaic solar panels (which can now be had for under a dollar a watt WITHOUT subsidies, more than an order of magnitude improvement over the last decade or so), DEPLOYED battery technology has been improving, drastically.

Of course most of the breakthroughs don't get deployed. That's usually because better breakthroughs come along before they get that far.

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